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    Coronavirus update: COVID-19 has a new epicenter, ICU patients getting younger

    Goldman Sachs is calling for a nationwide mask requirement

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

    Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,600,727 ( 2,557,980)

    Total U.S. deaths: 129,545 (125,864)

    Total global cases:  10,350,645 (10,189,350)

    Total global deaths: 506,827 (502,719)

    Los Angeles is the new epicenter

    Early in the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, New York City emerged as the epicenter of the virus while Los Angeles reported relatively few cases. Those roles have now reversed.

    The Los Angeles County Health Department reports more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the virus so far, with nearly 3,000 new cases a day. The largest number recorded so far among any age demographic is among young people between 18 and 40.

    Barbara Ferrer, the director of public health for Los Angeles County, calls the increase in cases and hospitalizations “alarming.”

    Younger patients occupying Houston’s ICU

    Texas has experienced a huge increase in coronavirus cases during June, and intensive care units (ICU) in Houston hospitals are starting to fill up. But the patients are significantly younger than those who pushed New York hospitals to the tipping point in April.

    The New York Times reports that nearly one-third of the ICU patients in Houston’s Methodist Hospital system are under the age of 50. It’s a similar situation in nearby states. A significant number of new infections are of people in their 20s and 30s.

    An economic case for masks

    The idea of wearing a face-covering in public has become a contentious issue in some circles, infused with politics. But an economist at Goldman Sachs suggests that the economy would heal faster if everyone would wear a mask in public places.

    Jan Hatzius, the bank’s chief economist, worked with his team to probe the link between face masks and COVID-19 health and economic outcomes. They determined that a national requirement for everyone to wear a mask could cut the daily rate of infections by a full percentage point.

    That result, Hatzius said, could prevent another shutdown order that would eliminate more jobs and shave 5 percent off the nation’s economic growth rate.

    Fauci says follow strict guidelines critical to stopping the virus

    Health officials are testifying before a Senate committee today, providing updates on the coronavirus and the outlook for the next few weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID), testified that municipalities that continue to follow safety rules will have the best chance of safely reopening schools this fall.

    “If we adhere to guidelines that have been carefully laid out, that will help to keep the level of infection down and make it easier to get the children back to school,” Fauci said.

    Fauci said the states where cases are surging may have reopened too quickly and may have needed to follow stricter rules as they reopened.

    What happens in Vegas…

    Just two weeks after casinos on the Las Vegas strip reopened with social distancing rules in place, some casino employees have filed a lawsuit, saying their health and safety aren’t being protected.

    The suit was filed against the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand, and Bellagio casinos. Specifically, the complaint alleges the casinos were slow to shut down food and beverage facilities on their premises after some employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

    The suit was filed in federal court by Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165.

    Around the nation

    • New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy has rescinded his order that would have allowed restaurants to resume indoor dining this week. Murphy took the action over concerns about a spike in new cases of the virus. 

    • Illinois:  Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says she’s keeping a close eye on spikes of virus cases in other states. So far, she says Illinois is showing progress in its Phase 4 of the reopening. However, she says residents should err on the side of caution.

    • Oregon: Oregon has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases, though not at the level of some other nearby states. Still, Gov. Kate Brown is taking no chances, announcing a statewide mask requirement within public indoor spaces. “I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing,” Brown said. “If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face-covering when out in public.”

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,600,727 ( 2,557,9...
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      Senators call for investigation into nursing homes’ acceptance of COVID-19 positive patients

      Lawmakers say hospital overcrowding may not have been the only issue prompting governors to issue the order

      A pair of U.S. senators are calling for an investigation of five states that ordered nursing homes to accept patients who had recently tested positive for COVID-19 and been discharged from hospitals. 

      In a letter to Christi Grimm, Principal Deputy Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Republican senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Greg Walden of Oregon said they were concerned “that a number of states are pressuring nursing facilities to admit residents who may be infected with the COVID-19 virus.”

      “With over 50,000 deaths in nursing homes now linked to COVID-19, such facilities remain hotspots for the coronavirus,” the senators wrote. “One in five nursing homes have reported COVID-19 cases and at least a third of all deaths attributable to the coronavirus have occurred in long-term care facilities.” 

      Nursing home spread 

      Grassley and Walden added that the data suggests deaths in nursing homes could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 fatalities in more than a dozen states. The senators said they were seeking to determine if a handful of states violated federal health care guidelines and regulations in choosing to admit the patients. 

      The senators said the governors of five states -- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, and Michigan -- cleared nursing homes to “accept patients with active COVID-19 infections who were being discharged from hospitals.”

      “These state directives were issued as the COVID-19 fatality rate in nursing homes soared. In Pennsylvania, which reportedly has the seventh-highest death rate for residents of these facilities,12 69 percent of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities are now attributable to nursing and personal care homes,” the letter said. 

      “Similarly, in New Jersey, the rate was roughly 52 percent as of last month; 14 in New York, at least 6,000 deaths are attributable to nursing homes; and in Michigan, where the governor’s directive has yet to be rescinded, 34 percent of COVID-19 deaths reportedly are linked to nursing homes.” 

      Investigation requested

      The governors’ orders for nursing homes to accept individuals who recently tested positive for COVID-19 were originally issued to keep hospitals from being overrun with COVID-19 patients. However, the senators said in their letter that hospital overcrowding may not have been the sole factor in the decision.

      “It appears that at least one governor reportedly reinforced this requirement well after the period in which COVID-19 cases at hospitals peaked—suggesting that its imposition on nursing homes was not entirely due to hospital overcrowding.” 

      Amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections that could crop up this fall, the senators are calling on the Inspector General to complete an investigation into the matter by September 30.

      “We request that the Office of Inspector General initiate an investigation into whether the decision by these states to pressure nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients from hospitals violated, or was in any way inconsistent with, guidelines or requirements for participation in Federal health care programs.”

      A pair of U.S. senators are calling for an investigation of five states that ordered nursing homes to accept patients who had recently tested positive for...
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      Netflix announces multi-million cash commitment to help Black communities

      The company says it wants to help address systemic racism

      Netflix has announced that it will put 2 percent of its cash holdings towards supporting the economic development of black communities. The company said its initial commitment will be as much as $100 million.

      In a blog post on Tuesday, the video-streaming giant said the money will go toward narrowing the financial divide between Black and White families created and perpetuated under the nation’s long history of systemic racism.

      “Banks that are Black-owned or led represent a mere one percent of America’s commercial banking assets. This is one factor contributing to 19 percent of Black families having either negative wealth or no assets at all,” wrote Aaron Mitchell, a Netflix director of talent acquisition, and Shannon Alwyn, Netflix’s treasury director. 

      To start, Netflix will move $25 million to the Black Economic Development Initiative, a fund recently set up by a non-profit called the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. The non-profit will invest the fund in financial institutions serving Black communities. Another $10 million will be deposited at Hope Credit Union, which focuses on obtaining funding outside of the underserved regions it serves. 

      “Over the next two years, HOPE estimates the Netflix deposit will support financing to more than 2,500 entrepreneurs, homebuyers, and consumers of color,” the company said.

      Supporting Black communities

      Mitchell and Alwyn noted in their blog post that 19 percent of Black families have “either negative wealth or no assets at all,” while just 9 percent of White households fall under that category. 

      “Black banks have existed to fight this for generations, spurring economic growth by extending credit in often underbanked communities,” the company wrote. “But they’re disadvantaged in their access to capital, especially from large multinational companies, when compared to other banks.”

      Earlier this month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife Patty Quillin pledged $120 million to Black colleges in response to the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement.

      “Both of us had the privilege of a great education, and we want to help more students — in particular students of color — get the same start in life,” Hastings and Quillin said in a joint statement.

      Netflix has announced that it will put 2 percent of its cash holdings towards supporting the economic development of black communities. The company said it...
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      Amazon hands out $500 million in thank you checks to front-line workers

      The one-time bonuses range from $150 to $3,000

      In the midst of all the coronavirus-related push-and-pull between Amazon and its employees, there’s a new one to add to the positive side of the equation.

      Late Monday, a memo was sent to the company’s front-line employees and partners with the promise of a sizeable monetary bonus as thanks for all the workers have done during the COVID-19 pandemic -- including getting orders in and out the door, helping customers in stores, and anything that’s part of the Amazon-to-customer relationship.

      “Our front-line operations teams have been on an incredible journey over the last few months, and we want to show our appreciation with a special one-time Thank You bonus totaling over $500 million,” wrote Dave Clark, Amazon’s Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Operations.

      Rewards for employees and partners

      Amazon stated that all front-line employees and partners who were with the company throughout the month of June (June 1 – June 30, 2020) will receive a bonus of:

      • $500 for full-time Amazon employees, Whole Foods Market employees, and Delivery Service Partner drivers

      • $250 for part-time Amazon employees, Whole Foods Market employees, and Delivery Service Partner drivers

      • $1,000 for all front-line Amazon and Whole Foods Market leaders

      • $3,000 for our Delivery Service Partner owners

      • $150 for each Amazon Flex driver with more than 10 hours in June

      “Again, my thanks and gratitude for the truly remarkable commitment to customers you have shown throughout this journey. I have never been more proud of our teams,” Clark concluded.

      Amazon employees took to Reddit to express their gratitude, although there were a few who grumbled about supposedly having to wait until the end of July to see the money in their account. There was also some dissatisfaction coming from Amazon employees who work from home and appear to be cut out of the bonuses.

      In the midst of all the coronavirus-related push-and-pull between Amazon and its employees, there’s a new one to add to the positive side of the equation....
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      Amazon’s brand value jumps amid the coronavirus shutdown

      The online retailer sits atop a ranking of the most valuable brand

      As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to shut down large parts of the U.S. economy in March, some companies struggled while others did quite well. Amazon is a prime example.

      In their annual ranking -- BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands -- WPP and Kantar keep Amazon at number one, reporting that the last few months have only served to enhance its position atop the retail food chain.

      Amazon has moved up the rankings since 2006. In this year’s evaluation of businesses, the Amazon brand increased in value by nearly $100 billion, growing 32 percent. Amazon’s brand value of $415 billion accounts for a third of the Top 100's total growth.

      The ranking is based on a number of factors, including its stock price performance from April 2020 to reflect the impact of COVID-19. A handful of companies, most of which are highly valued by consumers, were able to consistently invest in longer-term marketing and make their brands even stronger during the health and economic crisis.

      A strong showing by tech companies

      In addition to Amazon, other technology brands are clustered at the top of this year’s ranking.  Apple maintained its position as the second most valuable global brand, growing 14 percent to $352.2 billion. 

      Microsoft moved back up to the number three position, turning in a 30 percent gain in value to $326.5 billion. Google slipped to fourth place, growing its brand by 5 percent to a value of $323.6 billion.

      Microsoft benefited from the shift to a work-from-home environment, enjoying strong growth in its cloud-enabled workplace ecosystem that incorporates Office365 and Microsoft Teams to allow people to maintain 'business as usual' during the lockdown.

      Other technology companies improving their brand standing this year include Netflix, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Xbox.

      "The continued growth in value of the BrandZ Top 100 shows that strong brands are in a much better place than they were in the global economic crisis of 2008-2009,” said David Roth, chairman of BrandZ. “While the impact of COVID-19 has impacted every business regardless of size or geography, consistent investment in marketing can and will help carry you through a crisis."

      With most consumers ordering everything from dinner to household supplies from home, payment systems also improved their brand values during the shutdown. Visa held onto 5th place with 5 percent growth and Mastercard moved from 12th to 10th place in the rankings.

      In the top 10, Facebook and McDonald’s were the only brands to lose ground this year. Facebook saw the value of its brand decline by 7 percent while McDonald’s lost only 1 percent.

      As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to shut down large parts of the U.S. economy in March, some companies struggled while others did quite well. Amazon is...
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      Ford recalls Super-Duty F-250, F-350 and F-550 diesel pickups

      The transmission torque converter damper plate may fracture

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 13 model year 2020 Super-Duty F-250, F-350 and F-550 diesel pickups.

      The transmission torque converter damper plate was not tempered, resulting in a brittle damper plate that may fracture and cause the engine to stall or require increased brake pedal effort in order to stop the vehicle.

      An engine stall or requiring additional braking effort to stop the vehicle can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the transmission assembly free of charge.

      This recall is expected to begin July 6, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S33.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 13 model year 2020 Super-Duty F-250, F-350 and F-550 diesel pickups. The transmission torque converter damper plate was ...
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      Coronavirus update: HHS delivers dire warning, things get dicey in Texas

      Gilead Sciences has put a price on remdesivir

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,557,980 (2,510,323)

      Total U.S. deaths: 125,864 (125,539)

      Total global cases: 10,189,350 (10,005,970)

      Total global deaths: 502,719 (499,306)

      Somber warning from HHS Secretary

      Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar says “the window is closing” on America’s ability to control the coronavirus (COVID-19). Appearing on CNN, Azar said the surge in new cases in the South and Southwest threatens to overwhelm hospitals, echoing a fear that was expressed in New York in April. Cases have since declined in the Northeast.

      "Things are very different from two months ago,” Azar said. “So it is a very different situation, but this is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control." 

      On the positive side, Azar suggested the U.S. is in a better position than it was early in the pandemic thanks to improvements in testing, contact tracing, hospital capacity, supplies of personal protective equipment, and advancement in treatments.

      A ‘dangerous turn’ in Texas

      Texas is one state where cases of the virus have skyrocketed during June. Gov. Greg Abbott says the number of cases in the state has more than doubled in a short period of time.

      “We need to understand that COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” he said.

      Abbott has backtracked on Texas’ reopening, ordering bars to close down again and limiting restaurant capacity to 50 percent.

      Remdesivir’s price tag

      Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company making the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, has priced the COVID-19 treatment prior to receiving final government approval.

      A Wall Street Journal analysis shows the typical hospital patient with commercial insurance would be charged $3,120 for an average course of treatment, but what the consumer ends up paying would depend on their health benefits coverage.

      Public Citizen has argued for a drastically lower price, maintaining that the drug was developed with the aid of federal funding and expertise.

      FDA grants emergency approval for another antibody test

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use clearance for an antibody blood test made by medical device manufacturer Danaher. The test is designed to show whether someone has been infected with the coronavirus.

      The FDA has recently tightened rules for the manufacturers of these tests, warning that there are many fraudulent products on the market. Danaher says the test is extremely reliable and has virtually eliminated the chance of a false-negative result.

      Reuters reports the company has shipped tests to about 400 hospitals and is poised to turn out 30 million test kits per month.

      Three more symptoms

      The symptoms of the coronavirus can vary widely, from raging fever to hallucinations. Health officials have now added three more.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports some people who have tested positive for the virus have also exhibited congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea. 

      The CDC says symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

      Around the nation

      • Arizona: State health officials are struggling to keep up with the surge in new cases of the coronavirus, which set a single-day record on Sunday. The Arizona health department reported 3,858 new coronavirus cases and 9 additional deaths. 

      • Florida: Florida is another state reeling from the rapid increase in hospitalizations. The state logged 8,530 new cases Sunday, only slightly fewer than Saturday’s record of 9,585.

      • California: Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered bars to close again in seven counties and imposed other restrictions on public gatherings as cases have recently surged. Newsom says the number of patients in intensive care units at California hospitals shot up 4 percent in one 24-hour period.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,557,980 (2,510,32...
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      Consumers use rewards credit cards to help get by during the pandemic

      The type of card you have has never been more important

      If you have a travel rewards credit card in your wallet, you may be asking yourself just how useful that will be in the midst of a pandemic

      Air travel has plunged since the coronavirus (COVID-19) swept the world, and cruises have been canceled. Many countries are temporarily closing their borders to travelers from other countries, another inducement to stay home. In the U.S., some states where coronavirus cases are low are discouraging travelers from states where cases have spiked.

      For travel rewards cardholders, that may mean a lot less travel in the months ahead. Not only are they missing out on racking up rewards points, but they are also likely paying a hefty annual fee for the privilege of having the card.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that major banks are taking steps to discourage customers from canceling these highly profitable cards, noting that JPMorgan Chase is delaying a $100 increase to its $450 annual fee on its flagship Sapphire Reserve Card.

      Chase has joined Citibank and other major card issuers in adding other non-travel rewards to their cards to keep them in consumers’ wallets. However, consumers should carefully measure the value of those potential rewards against the annual fee.

      Cash may be king

      Having a rewards card that provides points or cashback on routine purchases like gasoline and groceries may make more sense in these times, and these types of cards rarely carry an annual fee.

      In a new report, PayPal offers research showing that a significant number of consumers are using their credit card rewards to stretch their budgets. Nearly a third of consumers have used rewards to purchase the things they need most, such as groceries. 

      "More and more people across the country are turning to their credit card rewards as a helpful and easy way to make their dollars go farther, and in the current environment, two-thirds of Americans now view these rewards balances as a way to buy the things they need such as groceries and other essentials," said Jill Cress, vice president of consumer marketing at PayPal.

      Unaware of their rewards

      At the same time, the research found that 39 percent of people with rewards credit cards were completely unaware of their rewards balance. Cress says it’s not only important to incorporate those rewards into the household budgets, but consumers should also think carefully about the credit cards they have and the kinds of spending they reward.

      "With travel and luxury items still less of a priority for many right now, our research shows that people are instead tapping into their rewards balances to support small businesses in their community and to give back to causes," Cress said.

      Replacing a travel rewards card that carries an annual fee with a no-fee card providing cashback on everyday purchases may be a prudent step in this new environment, and there are many of these cards to choose from.

      ConsumerAffairs has researched the best cashback credit cards here.

      If you have a travel rewards credit card in your wallet, you may be asking yourself just how useful that will be in the midst of a pandemicAir travel h...
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      States pause reopening to combat surge in coronavirus cases

      Many states have reported record rises in cases

      Amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the nation, at least 12 states have opted to pause their reopening plans.

      More than 30 states are seeing rises in coronavirus cases, and daily coronavirus case reports hit a new national high of nearly 40,000 on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

      Arizona reported 3,858 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, which set a single-day record. Florida hit a record on Saturday, logging 9,585 new cases. Ahead of July 4 celebrations, Florida officials have restricted access to beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach. 

      In California, the number of patients in intensive care units at hospitals rose 4 percent in one 24-hour period. In an effort to combat the increase in cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars to close again in seven counties and imposed other restrictions on public gatherings.

      In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said the number of cases more than doubled in a short period of time. Abbott ordered bars to close down again and limited restaurant capacity to 50 percent in light of the “very swift and very dangerous turn” the virus has taken over the past few weeks. 

      Follow the guidelines

      Governors in many states -- including Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina -- have announced that they’re halting plans to move ahead to the next phase of their reopening plans. 

      As states attempt to drive down case numbers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s infectious disease expert, implored everyone to continue heeding the guidance of the CDC. 

      "For goodness sakes: avoid crowds, wear masks. Those are the fundamentals that -- when you look at the television clips, when you see pictures in the newspapers -- people are not doing that. That's a recipe for disaster," Fauci told CNBC.

      Vice President Mike Pence struck a more optimistic tone about the recent surge in cases, saying "we've all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again."

      "To one extent or another, the volume of new cases coming in is a reflection of a great success in expanding testing across the country," Pence said Friday.

      Amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the nation, at least 12 states have opted to pause their reopening plans.More than 30 states are seeing rises i...
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      Boeing 737 MAX planes set to begin key certification tests

      The tests will intentionally trigger the software that was found to be a factor in both fatal crashes

      Boeing’s 737 MAX jets, which have been grounded for more than a year, are set to undergo three-days’ worth of key test flights starting June 29. 

      Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that pilots and test crew members will run through a series of “methodically scripted” scenarios designed to intentionally push the reprogrammed MCAS stall-prevention software to its limits.

      The MCAS software was found to be a factor in the two fatal 737 MAX crashes that occurred just five months apart. The tests will focus on ensuring that the changes have sufficiently increased the safety and reliability of the software. 

      Federal Aviation Administration officials told Reuters that the tests “will include a wide array of flight maneuvers and emergency procedures to enable the agency to assess whether the changes meet FAA certification standards.”

      If the initial round of testing doesn’t reveal any issues, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will board the plane to personally verify its safety before issuing approval. The FAA would then need to approve new pilot training procedures and might not allow the 737 Max to resume passenger flights until September.

      While it’s possible that the aircraft could be cleared to resume operations before the end of the year, the recertification process has historically been long and beset with delays.

      “Based on how many problems have been uncovered, I would be stunned if the flight tests are ‘one and done,’” a source told the publication. 

      Boeing’s 737 MAX jets, which have been grounded for more than a year, are set to undergo three-days’ worth of key test flights starting June 29. Source...
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      BMW recalls vehicles with possible steering issue

      The steering gear tie rods may become damaged

      BMW of North America is recalling 2,779 model year 2019 Z4 sDrive30i, 2019-2020 330i xDrive, M340i & M340i xDrive, model year 2020 X3M & X4M, and Toyota Supra vehicles.

      Under certain driving conditions, such as high temperatures and rough road surfaces, a steering gear tie rod may become damaged, possibly resulting in a fractured tie rod.

      A damaged or fractured tie rod may affect vehicle handling and control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW and Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering gear tie rods, free of charge.

      This recall is expected to begin August 7, 2020.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417 or Toyota customer service at (888) 270-9371.

      BMW of North America is recalling 2,779 model year 2019 Z4 sDrive30i, 2019-2020 330i xDrive, M340i & M340i xDrive, model year 2020 X3M & X4M, and Toyota Su...
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      Beyond Better Foods recalls Chocolate Peanut Butter Pints

      The product may contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label

      Beyond Better Foods is recalling select pints from a single production run of Enlightened brand Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream pints.

      The product may have been packaged in Dairy-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter containers, but may contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product is in a base container labeled “Dairy-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter” and a lid labeled “Chocolate Peanut Butter” without a “Dairy-Free” callout, and s “best by” date of November 5, 2021, printed on the bottom of the container.

      It was sold in grocery stores nationwide.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the firm at (800) 819-2998 Monday – Friday between 9AM and 5PM (ET), or by email at recallhotline@beyondbetterfoods.com.

      Beyond Better Foods is recalling select pints from a single production run of Enlightened brand Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream pints. The product may...
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      Coronavirus update: The worst may be yet to come, doubt cast on vaccine effectiveness

      Texas is reclosing bars as cases skyrocket

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,425,814 (2,382,702)

      Total U.S. deaths: 124,509 (122,020)

      Total global cases: 9,643,999 (9,478,266)

      Total global deaths: 490,055 (483,461)

      Health experts say it’s only going to get worse

      The surge in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) -- there were 40,000 reported on Thursday -- will only get worse in the months ahead, health experts warn. 

      "Every epidemiologist was telling, screaming as loud as we could, that three weeks after Memorial Day, we'd have a peak in the cases, and five weeks after Memorial Day we'd begin to see a peak in hospitalizations and deaths," epidemiologist Larry Brilliant told CNN

      Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s very likely that millions of people have had the virus without knowing it or having the illness diagnosed.

      A vaccine might not help that much

      The race is on among pharmaceutical companies to develop an effective vaccine against the coronavirus, but at least one virus specialist is voicing doubt that a vaccine based on antibodies will stop people from being infected.

      In an interview with CNBC, Robert Lambkin-Williams, a virologist at Virology Consult Ltd, said he has yet to find evidence that antibodies in patients who have recovered from the virus provide any protection against being reinfected with COVID-19.

      “The vaccine is not going to be a cure-all,” he said. “We have not had a successful vaccine against this type of virus ever.” 

      Texas bars closed again

      Florida and Texas were among the states that reopened their economies fairly early in the pandemic. Arizona didn’t have that many cases at the beginning of the outbreak.

      All three are now among states in the South and Southwest that have experienced a sharp increase in cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals and have caused state officials to rethink reopening plans.

      Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has now ordered bars to close once again and has placed tighter occupancy limits on restaurants. 

      “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars," Abbott said. "The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."

      Carnival faces suit over virus exposure

      Plaintiffs seeking class-action status have sued Carnival Cruise Lines, claiming the company exposed over 1,000 people to COVID-19 on a Holland American ship that sailed out of South America in March.

      Leonard Lindsay and Carl Zehner, two passengers on the cruise, allege in their complaint that the company did not use proper screening or other precautionary measures prior to boarding the ship on March 7, even though company executives were aware of outbreaks on other company-owned ships.

      Holland America said it does not comment on pending litigation. But in a statement to the media, company officials said they have always placed the safety of passengers and crew as a top priority and operated within World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

      Biden would require masks in public

      As president, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he would seek a national policy requiring all Americans to wear masks in public. 

      In a taped interview with KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, the former vice president said the U.S. government should support all efforts to reduce the number of cases of the virus. Biden actually wore a mask during the interview.

      “The one thing we do know is these masks make a gigantic difference,” he said. “I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.” 

      Around the nation

      • Maryland: Maryland’s death toll from COVID-19 has gone over 3,000, but the state has not suffered a serious outbreak like some southern and western states. Health officials credit Maryland’s slower, more cautious approach to reopening. 

      • Indiana: Housing advocates in Indianapolis are expressing concern that unemployed renters could be facing eviction in the months ahead. They’re asking for an extension of Indiana’s coronavirus eviction moratorium put in place March 19.

      • New Mexico: New Mexico is one of the latest states to put its reopening plans on hold amid an outbreak of the coronavirus in the Southwest. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took the action, citing a spike in the COVID-19 transmission rate and a record number of cases reported by neighboring states.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,425,814 (2,382,70...
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      CDC says millions may have had coronavirus in the past without ever knowing it

      Officials say people are getting lackadaisical, so stricter actions may be needed

      The COVID-19 infection numbers continue to rise in the U.S. -- 2,422,312 confirmed cases as of Friday morning. If you break that down, the big culprits are some 30 U.S. states which have produced a 54 percent hike in the last 14 days. 

      But federal health officials caution that those numbers are likely to underestimate the total number of people who’ve been infected with the coronavirus -- possibly as much as 10 times over.

      Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that total comes from antibody tests showing more than 20 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, most of them without ever knowing it.

      Antibody tests -- which may detect active infections and whether a person had been infected in the past -- have become a nationwide focus for health officials in the last month. Redfield says his rough estimate is now 10 to 1. 

      The numbers vary on exactly how many Americans have been infected, but most experts agree that number is somewhere between 5 and 8 percent, with higher numbers in some regions such as New York. 

      For Redfield, that 5-8 percent number means that 90 percent or more have not been infected but are vulnerable to the virus, and the U.S. needs to pick up its pace in trying to keep that number from growing further. 

      People are getting lax

      The sudden surge in confirmed cases comes as no surprise to at least one health expert.

      "Every epidemiologist was telling, screaming as loud as we could, that three weeks after Memorial Day, we'd have a peak in the cases, and five weeks after Memorial Day we'd begin to see a peak in hospitalizations and deaths," epidemiologist Larry Brilliant told CNN late Thursday.

      "If you let everybody out without face masks and without social distancing in the middle of a pandemic, this is what was predicted."

      Brilliant has plenty of company for his opinion. In New Mexico -- one of nine new states hesitating over its plans to reopen -- the state’s governor, Lujan Grisham, also took her citizens to task for failing to wear face coverings and maintaining social-distancing measures. “New Mexicans have actually gotten really lax about wearing masks and taking this seriously,” she said.

      Stricter actions needed

      Calling off concerts, parades, or baseball games helps, but officials say it’s going to take more than that to curb new cases of COVID-19.

      The new developments mark a "heartbreaking situation" that calls for stricter actions ASAP, Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told CNN. "We have to save lives at this point,” he said.

      Down the road in Austin, mayor Steve Adler said hospital beds keep filling up with virus patients. If the rate keeps up, he says local hospitals will be at maximum capacity in the middle of July.

      "Pausing will not make things better," Adler told CNN. "We need to do something that's different than that. The status quo will not protect us."

      The COVID-19 infection numbers continue to rise in the U.S. -- 2,422,312 confirmed cases as of Friday morning. If you break that down, the big culprits are...
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      American Airlines to begin fully booking flights starting July 1

      The airline said it has increased health and safety measures

      American Airlines announced Friday that it will sell tickets for every seat on its planes beginning July 1. Previously, the airline was filling its aircraft up to 85 percent capacity in an effort to promote social distancing amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

      "As more people continue to travel, customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1," American Airlines said in a press release. 

      The airline said it has enhanced its cleaning procedures and will require passengers to wear face coverings while on board. The company previously said it would deny boarding to customers who don’t comply with the rule. 

      American will be asking travelers whether they have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 in the past two weeks. Online and airport check-in kiosks will include a symptom checklist. The company said it will notify customers if their flight will be full and allow them to switch to less crowded flights at no extra cost through September 30. 

      “Our customers trust us to make every aspect of their journey safe. We won’t let them down,” said Alison Taylor, American’s chief customer officer, in a statement. “We will continue to refine and update our practices based on the latest information from health authorities and our own Travel Health Advisory Panel.”

      Other airlines are taking a more cautious approach to resuming normal operations. Southwest, Alaska, Delta, and JetBlue still have restrictions on passenger capacity. Many airlines are also suspending alcoholic beverage service in response to the pandemic. 

      American Airlines announced Friday that it will sell tickets for every seat on its planes beginning July 1. Previously, the airline was filling its aircraf...
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      California becomes first state to mandate shift to zero-emission trucks

      A landmark regulation will increase sales of these vehicles starting in 2024

      California has become the first state to require truck manufacturers to ramp up their zero-emission truck sales. Starting in 2024, the state’s auto manufacturers will be required to gradually increase the percentage of zero-emissions truck sales.

      The “Advanced Clean Trucks” regulation, first introduced in 2016 under former Gov. Jerry Brown, received unanimous approval from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Thursday.

      Under the rule, the percentage of light- and medium-duty trucks sales will be increased to 55 percent. The percentage of heavier duty electric trucks sold will be increased to 75 percent by 2035. By 2045, every new truck sold in the state will be zero-emission.

      The regulation will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve quality in a state with particularly poor air quality. However, the impact of the regulation is expected to extend beyond state lines. Experts have noted that zero-emissions trucks sold in California engage in commercial travel across the nation, so emissions in other states will likely drop as well. 

      A racial justice issue

      Toxic air pollution is tied to the nation’s current push to achieve racial justice, since pollution from heavy-duty vehicles has been shown to disproportionately impact communities of color. CARB noted that trucks are responsible for 70 percent of smog-causing pollution. 

      In an interview with Gizmodo, Costa Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, called the regulation a “huge deal” with the potential to promote air quality equity in the state.

      “The reduction and eventual elimination of diesel emissions near where people live is an equity issue. It’s an environmental justice issue,” Samaras said. “These pollutants, they cause real health damages. And lots of times, it has been communities of color who have borne the brunt of these types of emissions. Electrifying all segments of transportation and having a very clear electric grid are two issues that we can’t wait on any longer.”

      CARB said its goal is to facilitate the creation of “a self-sustaining zero-emission truck market,” similar to the one it has for passenger vehicles. The estimated emissions reduction from the new rule will help the state reach its emissions goals of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. 

      “For decades, while the automobile has grown cleaner and more efficient, the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “Diesel vehicles are the workhorses of the economy, and we need them to be part of the solution to persistent pockets of dirty air in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Now is the time – the technology is here and so is the need for investment.”

      California has become the first state to require truck manufacturers to ramp up their zero-emission truck sales. Starting in 2024, the state’s auto manufac...
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      Gasoline prices continued to creep higher this week

      Most states see gradually rising prices in spite of falling demand

      Gas prices are still rising, partly a result of consumers leaving the house more and partly the result of prices returning to their normal seasonal pattern.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.17 a gallon, about six cents higher than last Friday. But that’s still 50 cents a gallon less than at this time in 2019. The average price of premium gas is $2.77 a gallon, five cents more than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.44 a gallon, two cents more than last week.

      Prices are still rising even though gasoline demand isn’t anywhere near its normal summertime levels. GasBuddy reported at midweek that demand was down 0.2 percent from the previous Wednesday but 13.3 percent higher than a month ago. Measured year-over-year, however, demand is down 18.2 percent.

      “Demand levels are likely to ebb and flow in the coming weeks as people continue to be cautious about travel,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “As a result, pump prices will likely continue to increase, but at a slower rate through the end of the month.”

      Prices at the pump were slightly higher in just about every state over the last week, with few states seeing a spike. Colorado saw one of the biggest weekly increases, with the average price rising 10 cents a gallon.

      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 ($3.19)

      • California ($3.06)

      • Washington ($2.71)

      • Nevada ($2.60)

      • Oregon ($2.59) 

      • Alaska ($2.48)

      • Colorado ($2.44)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.42)

      • Illinois ($2.37)

      • Idaho ($2.33)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($1.81)

      • Louisiana ($1.83)

      • Arkansas ($1.87)

      • Alabama ($1.87)

      • Missouri ($1.87)

      • Texas ($1.88)

      • Oklahoma ($1.90)

      • South Carolina ($1.93)

      • Kansas ($1.94)

      • Tennessee ($1.94)

      Gas prices are still rising, partly a result of consumers leaving the house more and partly the result of prices returning to their normal seasonal pattern...
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      Model year 2020 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators recalled

      The middle row seat headrest may be not be welded properly

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,620 model year 2020 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators.

      The attachment bracket for the driver's side second-row seat headrest may not have been sufficiently welded to the seat frame.

      An improperly welded headrest bracket may have reduced strength and may not adequately restrain an occupant in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the seat structure and replace it -- as needed -- free of charge.

      This recall is expected to begin July 6, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20C12.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,620 model year 2020 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators. The attachment bracket for the driver's side second-row s...
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      How to make your home more comfortable after quarantine

      6 items for a more pleasant space

      Quarantine has taught us a lot about how meaningful our own spaces can be. With a few additional products, your time at home can be just as exciting as going out — and much comfier. Here are some of our top picks for sprucing up your daily home lives.

      A houseplant (or two)

      Indoor plants come with several health benefits, including carbon dioxide and pollutant reduction. Plus, they look amazing and may even brighten your mood. Find one that fits your space, character and skill level — try starting with a succulent and work up from there!

      • Online houseplant decor and care tips
      • Succulents available

      Shop on 1-800 Flowers

      A neck massager

      A neck massager might not make your space cozier, but it can help you relax. No need to visit a masseuse when you feel stressed; instead, pop this handy massager onto your neck and enjoy.

      • Ergonomic and compact
      • 1-year exchange policy

      Buy on Amazon

      Furry seat cushions

      Being at home more has made some of us realize exactly how uncomfortable our chairs are. Add a touch of fancy with faux-fur seat cushions! Your back (and future guests, eventually… ) will appreciate it.

      • Select from 8 different colors
      • Available in 2 sizes

      Buy on Amazon

      Blackout curtains

      Blackout curtains have many functions. They help limit outside light, insulate your home and keep noise from entering through the windows. Use them to put an end to screen glare or take the perfect mid-afternoon nap.

      • Blocks 85% - 99% of UV light
      • Multiple colors to choose

      Buy on Amazon

      A colorful tapestry

      Artless walls were fine when you rarely stopped to sit down in your living room. These days, though, all that white space can leave you feeling empty on the inside. A tapestry is a cost-effective way to fill the colorless void in any room.

      • 60” x 40”
      • Suitable for indoors and outdoors

      Buy on Amazon

      At-home movie projector

      As studios premiere more films on streaming services, why not elevate your movie-watching experience at home? You can have your own little theater outside or in your living room with a mini-projector. Stay in, pop some popcorn and enjoy!

      • Optional protection plan
      • Compatible with TV Stick, PS4, HDMI, TF, AV, USB

      Buy on Amazon

      Some businesses are starting to open their doors, but many consumers are still avoiding crowds and staying at home. With these products, we hope to help you keep your home comfortable, functional and fresh. And if you want a more significant upgrade for your home, check out our smart home automation guide.

      6 items to make your life more comfortable during lockdown...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. sets record for single-day infections, unemployment claims higher than expected

      Some states may backtrack on their plans to reopen

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,382,702 (2,348,956)

      Total U.S. deaths: 122,020 (121,279)

      Total global cases: 9,478,266 (9,295,365)

      Total global deaths: 483,461 (478,289)

      U.S. sets record for one-day case total

      The U.S. set a one-day record for new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases Wednesday as doctors confirmed 45,557 new infections. The previous record was set on April 26, when it was believed the virus had hit a peak.

      Health officials have said many of the latest cases can be traced to Memorial Day weekend, when states began to loosen restrictions on gatherings. Others have suggested the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd have contributed to the surge in new cases.

      Tight restrictions on activity don’t seem to play a role in the new outbreak. California recorded its biggest single-day tally of new cases Wednesday with more than 7,000 new cases. 

      Unemployment benefit claims are still troubling

      Unemployment claims caused by the coronavirus are still stubbornly higher than expected. The Labor Department reports 1.48 million people filed for benefits in the previous week. Economists had predicted 1.35 million.

      The number is a decrease of 60,000 from the previous week's revised level, so at least the number is falling. The previous week's level was revised up by 32,000 from 1,508,000 to 1,540,000. 

      There was another bright spot. Continuing claims for benefits fell last week by 767,000, suggesting more people are finding work. Some analysts point to that number as evidence that the labor market is beginning to recover.

      States reconsider reopening as cases rise

      New outbreaks of the virus in some states are causing officials to reconsider plans for reopening businesses. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suspended plans to reopen shopping centers, gyms, and movie theaters over heightened concerns about the ease in which the virus spreads indoors.

      Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the surge in new cases there is heavily weighted among people age 18 to 34. He also notes that the increase has come at the same time testing in that age group has risen. The Walt Disney Company said it would indefinitely delay the reopening of its Walt Disney Resort that had been set for mid-July.

      In Texas, where cases have skyrocketed, Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to stay home. "Because the spread is so rampant right now, there's never a reason for you to have to leave your home," Abbott told a TV station.

      Gyms take extra precautions as some are allowed to reopen

      Most gyms and fitness centers across the U.S. were forced to close in March as the coronavirus swept across the country. Now that some are being allowed to reopen, these facilities are taking extra steps to keep patrons safe.

      Jason Reinhardt, owner of five Go M.A.D. fitness centers in two states, says clubs will be ready and able to provide a great exercise experience in a safe, clean, and thoughtful manner when gym-goers are ready to return.

      "Those of us who chose the fitness industry as a career believe in the health benefits of exercise and want to deliver a healthy option to our communities," said Reinhardt. "Therefore, the health and safety of our members, staff, and community is our top priority."

      Kentucky Derby will run with fans in the stands

      The Kentucky Derby, ordinarily the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, has been postponed from its traditional first Saturday in May to September 5. Unlike other major sporting events scheduled to resume later this year, there will be spectators in the stands -- just not as many as usual.

      Churchill Downs, after consulting with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, announced that the 146th run for the roses will take place with a reduced number of spectators who will be operating under strict social distancing guidelines.

      “Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery.

      Around the nation

      • Louisiana: Officials in New Orleans are cracking down on businesses that don’t comply with coronavirus safety rules as the state sees a spike in new cases. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has appointed a task force to help enforce the guidelines. 

      • Ohio: Ohio is one of the states that has not experienced a surge in new cases since reopening, but the state health department reports that there were 20 deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. At the same time, 68 hospitalizations were reported, with 11 admissions to intensive care units.

      • Kansas: A Kansas couple decided how to spend their $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks. They divided up the money and gave it to their favorite restaurants, hard hit by the shutdown. “It was really nice to know that there were nice people out there that cared about us reopening,” said Twin Cities Tavern owner Kim Moffitt, who received $200 from the couple.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,382,702 (2,348,95...
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      U.S. economy won’t rebound anytime soon, economist says

      The recession is closer to a ‘depression-like’ crisis

      The economic devastation brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) can’t be underestimated, according to an economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and the impact of March’s economic shutdown may be felt for years to come.

      Wall Street is near all-time highs on the belief that the economy will experience a so-called “V-shaped” recovery. The latest forecast from UCLA Anderson says that’s unlikely to happen. In a revised economic forecast, they say the country is in a “depression-like crisis.”

      "To call this crisis a recession is a misnomer,” said Anderson Forecast senior economist David Shulman. “We are forecasting a 42 percent annual rate of decline in real GDP for the current quarter, followed by a 'Nike swoosh' recovery that won't return the level of output to the prior fourth quarter of 2019 peak until early 2023." 

      That means many of the jobs that were quickly eliminated when the pandemic struck won’t be coming back anytime soon. The UCLA economists say the economy simply can’t support it.

      "On a fourth-quarter-to-fourth-quarter basis, real GDP will decline by 8.6 percent in 2020 and then increase by 5.3 percent and 4.9 percent in 2021 and 2022, respectively," Shulman said.

      More damage to come

      The prevailing narrative has been that the virus is waning and local economies across the country are opening back up. While that’s true to some extent, it is also true that cases of the virus have spiked, leading some states to consider slowing things down again.

      The UCLA economists say that could add to the economic damage that has already been done. Shulman goes on to write that U.S. employment will not recover until "well past 2022" and that the unemployment rate, forecast to be about 10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, will still exceed 6 percent in the fourth quarter two years later. 

      "For too many workers, the recession will linger on well past the official end date," Shulman writes.

      More stimulus may be needed

      Shulman said the $1.8 trillion in funds Congress injected into the economy through the CARES Act was needed, but he says more help for consumers -- especially those out of work -- is going to be necessary this summer.

      A recovery may be in the works, but Shulman says its effects may be moderate and it may not be that long-lasting. He worries that a huge number of small businesses will fail, eliminating millions of jobs.

      Even if pharmaceutical companies come up with an effective vaccine over the next few months, Shulman says it may take a long time for consumers to return to their old shopping habits.

      The economic devastation brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) can’t be underestimated, according to an economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Managemen...
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      Amazon creates new Counterfeit Crimes Unit to wipe out fake products

      The company says it will go to the ends of the earth to track down the fakers and bring them to justice

      Amazon has been fighting counterfeit goods for years, but now it’s going after the fakers hard and heavy. 

      On Wednesday, it announced that it has established a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit -- an initiative with a dual purpose: to keep the fake products off their platform and bring the hoodwinkers to justice.

      As shopping moves online, consumers need more protection

      Any consumer who’s sought out the “deal of a lifetime” has probably come across fake, counterfeit products. As consumer habits move from brick and mortar retailers to online ones, the problem has gotten worse. 

      Especially hard hit is the clothing product sector. As of 2020, annual sales losses from counterfeiting in the clothing sector alone amounted to nearly $27 billion -- an amount nearly equal to the $30 billion in sales that Amazon rings up in that category.

      Another concern is consumer safety. Rarely thought of as a side-effect of a counterfeit product, just last year, an investigation indicated that thousands of items on Amazon’s site were either banned or declared unsafe by federal agencies.

      Attack mode

      Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit is a far cry from the typical Amazon warehouse jobs we read about. Rather, it’s a brigade of former federal prosecutors, veteran investigators, and data analysts.

      Amazon says its first order of business is to prevent a counterfeit from ever being listed on its platform. The company says its current anti-counterfeit programs have ensured that 99.9 percent of all Amazon products viewed by customers did not have a valid counterfeit complaint. Still, that tiny tenth of a percent that makes it through without getting caught is a problem. 

      The new unit will have a cocked eye aimed at any bad actor who has tried to get past Amazon’s gatekeepers before. Those fraudsters may have gotten off with no more than a slap on the wrist when they first tried to get a counterfeit good listed, but Amazon says it’s going to more effectively pursue civil litigation against bad actors this time around.

      Getting as close to the source as possible

      Finding the counterfeiters won’t be easy. Since China came down on its infamous counterfeit industry, many of its fakers have taken to promoting their knock-offs on social messaging networks like WeChat, Instagram, and Tik Tok. Buyers then order and pay through private messaging apps.

      Amazon realizes that it must go everywhere, not just underground, to catch these bad actors. Just last month, Amazon identified counterfeiters based in Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

      To get to square one, the new unit is enhancing its engagement with authorities like the National Intellectual Property Rights Center (U.S.), Europol (EU), and relevant enforcement authorities in China and around the world. And while it doesn’t have jurisdiction in all those places, it says it will turn over each and every fake to relevant national authorities.

      “Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President, Customer Trust and Partner Support, Amazon. 

      “We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement – through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets – is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”

      Amazon has been fighting counterfeit goods for years, but now it’s going after the fakers hard and heavy. On Wednesday, it announced that it has establ...
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      Toyota recalls Prius and Prius v vehicles

      The vehicle could lose power and stall

      Toyota is recalling about 267,000 model year 2013-2015 Prius and model year 2014-2017 Prius vehicles.

      The vehicles were designed to enter a failsafe driving mode in response to certain hybrid system faults, but in rare situations, the vehicle may fail to do so.

      If this occurs, the vehicle could lose power and stall. While power steering and braking would remain operational, a vehicle stall while driving at higher speeds could increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will update the hybrid system software at no charge. Additionally, if the vehicle has experienced an inverter failure with certain hybrid system faults related to this condition, the inverter will be repaired or replaced at no charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in late August 2020.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 331-4331.

      Toyota is recalling about 267,000 model year 2013-2015 Prius and model year 2014-2017 Prius vehicles. The vehicles were designed to enter a failsafe dri...
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      Model year 2014-2017 Jeep Cherokees recalled

      The Power Transfer Unit Input Splines may break

      Chrysler is recalling 67,248 model year 2014-2017 Jeep Cherokees with a two-speed Power Transfer Unit (PTU).

      Relative movement in the PTU between the differential input splines and the transmission output shaft may cause some input spline teeth to wear off, which may eventually cause a loss of engagement between the transmission and the differential inside the PTU.

      If this occurs, power cannot be transferred between the front wheels and the transmission which results in a loss of drive while the vehicle is in motion and a loss of the Park function while stationary.

      A loss of drive can cause a vehicle crash without warning. A loss of the Park function can cause unintended vehicle rollaway which can increase the risk of a crash or injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will perform a software update that will maintain vehicle propulsion by engaging rear wheel drive and prevent rolling in Park by activating the electronic parking brake if a failed input spline occurs.

      This recall is expected to begin July 31, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W47.

      Chrysler is recalling 67,248 model year 2014-2017 Jeep Cherokees with a two-speed Power Transfer Unit (PTU). Relative movement in the PTU between the di...
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      What you need to spruce up your bathroom

      Here are some exceptional items to make your bathroom your happy place

      Everyone wants to have a fantastic bathroom, but a full remodel can take more time, effort and cash than you might want to spend on a small space. If you want to get organized and feel happy about the way your bathroom looks, we can help. Below are some of our favorite items to make your bathroom feel like a new space.

      Makeup organizer

      One of the most challenging things to manage in a bathroom is all the clutter. An excellent first step to revitalize any room is getting organized. This organizer can declutter your counter, keep your things arranged and give the room more space.

      • Clear, acrylic material
      • Money-back guarantee

      Buy on Amazon

      Shower curtain

      Who likes a dirty, dreary old shower curtain? Brighten up your bathroom with a sparkling new one! We love this plant-themed shower curtain for its modern look, and it’s a simple way to bring a new vibe into your space.

      • Shower hooks included
      • Various sizes available

      Buy on Amazon

      Memory foam bathroom rug

      You probably stand in your bathroom far longer than you realize, so why not upgrade your experience with a foam bathroom rug? These matching rugs come in several colors and help keep your feet comfy.

      • Multiple colors available
      • Machine wash and dry

      Buy on Amazon

      Bathroom towel rack

      These floating shelves are a classy and functional addition to any bathroom. They have a space for your towels and other bathroom items, as well as handy hooks and a rack for wet items and your robe.

      • 2 shelves included
      • Money-back guarantee

      Buy on Amazon

      Toothbrush holder and sanitizer

      Take cleanliness to the next level with this toothbrush sanitizer. This device sanitizes and dries your toothbrushes every four hours using UVC rays. It’s also a handy way to store your brushes off the counter and save space.

      • Cleans up to 5 brushes
      • 99.9% sterilization rate

      Buy on Amazon

      Bathroom canvases

      The easiest way to liven up a room is through artwork, so why not hang some new canvas art on the walls? These matching prints will introduce some great colors and a new feel to your space.

      • 12” x 12”
      • Includes all 4 canvases

      Buy on Amazon

      Shower organizer

      An organized shower is a huge part of having a functional bathroom. Put away all those random bath bombs, shampoos and soaps with this hanging organizer. Not only is it practical, but it has a classic finish for a high-end look.

      • Rust-resistant steel
      • 10" x 4" x 22"

      Buy on Amazon

      Full-length mirror

      Having a full-length mirror is a fantastic way to make a smaller bathroom feel more open. It’s also an excellent tool to help you get ready and feel confident before starting your day.

      • 65" x 22"
      • Shatterproof glass

      Buy on Amazon

      Storage for bathroom products

      Unsure where to put cotton balls, Q-tips or other daily products? These clear canisters are perfect for organizing these small items. Plus, they have an upscale style that makes your bathroom look like a whole new space.

      • 3 canisters included
      • Shatterproof

      Buy on Amazon

      When sprucing up a bathroom, remember to think about what style you’re looking for and the best ways to get organized. For significant bathroom projects that need more elbow grease, read our guide on bathroom remodeling contractors.

      Here is our list of items that can bring new life into your bathroom....
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      Coronavirus update: Cases are surging, the spike could be bigger than April’s

      Death rate rises on U.S. highways in spite of the shutdown

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,348,956 (2,313,445)

      Total U.S. deaths: 121,279 (120,451)

      Total global cases: 9,295,365 (9,131,445)

      Total global deaths: 478,289 (472,856)

      Coronavirus cases are surging again

      It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. By the end of June, coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. were supposed to be on the decline, after most of the country shut down for several weeks and stopped the economy in its tracks.

      Instead, new cases are surging in regions of the country that previously had been spared the worst effects of the pandemic. Cases are higher in Arizona to the point that there is concern about hospital capacity being overwhelmed. There are similar concerns in parts of Texas. The seven-day average of new cases nationwide is up 30 percent in a week.

      The spike in new cases has finally gotten Wall Street’s attention. After weeks of rising back to pre-pandemic levels, stocks opened lower this morning.

      The current spike could be bigger than April’s

      The sudden and growing increase in coronavirus cases could turn out to be the biggest of the pandemic so far. Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb was been watching the daily numbers and now thinks the current surge in cases will be larger than the one in mid-April, which at the time was considered the peak.

      “We’re going to eclipse the totals in April, so we’ll eclipse 37,000 diagnosed infections a day,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “But in April we were only diagnosing one in 10 to one in 20 infections, so those 37,000 infections represented probably half a million infections at the peak.“

      The rise in cases is causing government officials to reconsider decisions to reopen. This morning, organizers of the New York City Marathon announced this year’s race is being canceled.

      Traffic death rate jumps in April

      Major auto insurance companies announced temporary rate cuts in March on the belief that fewer drivers on the road would mean fewer traffic accidents. That might have been a miscalculation.

      The National Safety Council reports that the highway fatality rate jumped 36.6 percent in April, in spite of an 18 percent drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to April 2019. However, motorists were driving 40 percent fewer miles compared to a year ago.

      "Even without traffic, our roads were no safer," said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "These numbers underscore our urgent need to change the culture of safety on our roads."

      CVS getting people back to work

      CVS Health is introducing Return Ready, a customizable coronavirus testing solution designed for use by employers and colleges. The system is aimed at helping offices reopen and helping students safely return to campus.

      Testing can be done on-site or using drive-thru testing capability at CVS Pharmacy locations. Using the system, CVS says organizations can design a customized testing strategy to meet their unique needs. 

      Return Ready is based on a customized COVID-19 testing strategy guided by clinical consultation that allows organizations to choose who, how, where, and when to test employees or students. 

      For travelers, safety is top-of-mind

      TripAdvisor is offering a suite of tools to help consumers travel more safely. Specifically, the tools can be used to find, filter for, and validate health and safety information to feel more confident while on the move.

      Called “Travel Safe” tools, the features are available in all 49 markets where Tripadvisor operates, and more than 13,850 properties have already activated the feature set.

      A recent TripAdvisor survey found that consumers may not be ready to travel, but they’re already thinking about it. Ninety-two percent said cleanliness is the most important factor in selecting accommodations. More than eight in 10 said they want to see evidence of compliance with government sanitation standards.

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: Public schools may get some extra financial help to reopen in the fall. Michigan Republicans have proposed a $1.3 billion aid package for public K-12 schools, saying districts should have the flexibility to react to local conditions.

      • Missouri: The state’s surge in new coronavirus cases appears to be coming from a concentrated area. More than half of Missouri’s record number of new cases are in one rural southwestern county. McDonald County reported 235 new cases last weekend.

      • Washington: Washington is the latest state to require people to wear face coverings in public. "Any covering that will cover the nose and mouth will do in this case," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "What you choose is your choice. We're just appreciative if everyone could think of this as the new part of etiquette in our state." The order takes effect Friday.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,348,956 (2,313,44...
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      Our top 5 reasons to work with a financial advisor

      Financial advisors may help you take control of your cash

      Financial advisors are experts that examine your finances. They may help you plan for retirement and help with cash management, investments and any financial problems you may have. There are many reasons to hire a financial advisor — here are our top 5.

      1. You’re thinking about retirement

      If you are close to or thinking about retirement, an experienced financial advisor may be able to help. By looking at your current situation, discussing your retirement goals and specific planning, you can better prepare for your golden years.

      2. Handling finances can be difficult

      Most of us don’t have the advanced education and financial background to understand the most prudent way to invest your money. Finding a knowledgeable financial advisor with all the appropriate Financial Industry Regulatory Authority licenses lets you leverage their experience to your advantage.

      3. They can help you make the right choice

      There are many investment options, including more than 10,000 mutual and exchange-traded funds alone. Navigating a sea this vital for your future can be confusing and put a lot of pressure on you. Sometimes, an experienced financial advisor can make these decisions simpler.

      4. You’re embarking on a major life decision

      Planning a family, going through a divorce or changing careers are just a few major life events you may experience in the future. When dealing with major life decisions, it may be worth listening to expert opinions from a financial advisor.

      5. You have a sudden windfall of money


      If you have a sudden influx of money — such as a raise, settlement or lottery win — it could be beneficial to speak with an expert financial advisor to help you make level-headed plans. You may be able to secure a comfortable future by putting your money into a great investment early.

      When making a significant life decision, it can be helpful to talk to the right people. When investigating advisors, be sure to do your research and find a company that makes you feel comfortable and is aligned with your goals.

      If you're looking to find a financial advisor, click through below to connect with our partners at SmartAsset.

      And if you have financial questions you would like answered, check out our partners at JustAnswers.

      Looking for reasons to work with a financial advisor? Here are our top 5....
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      IRS moves filing deadline for storm victims in the South

      There are some specifics, so make sure you read the fine print

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is extending the tax filing deadline to victims of the April storms and tornadoes.

      The extension applies to certain counties in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee and gives residents in those impacted areas until October 15, 2020, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

      The IRS is using areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as its basis for qualifying for the extension. At present, those counties include:

      • Mississippi: Clarke, Covington, Grenada, Jasper, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lawrence, Panola and Walthall counties.

      • South Carolina: Aiken, Barnwell, Berkeley, Colleton, Hampton, Marlboro, Oconee, Orangeburg and Pickens counties.

      • Tennessee: Bradley and Hamilton counties.

      If any county or locality is added to the disaster area list, the IRS says those residents will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. If you live in South Carolina, Mississippi, or Tennessee, you should make a note to check the list of eligible localities on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov, weekly.

      The fine print

      The IRS notes that there are some specific items taxpayers should pay attention to, including:

      • Dates: Any individual or business affected by the storms and lives in the approved locales still have to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due on April 15. This includes 2019 individual and business returns that, due to COVID-19, were due on July 15. 

      • IRA contributions: The extension also means that affected taxpayers will have until October 15 to make 2019 IRA contributions.

      • Estimated tax payments: The October 15 deadline also applies to estimated tax payments for the first two quarters of 2020 that were due on July 15 and the third quarter estimated tax payment normally due on September 15. This also includes any quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on April 30 and July 31.

      • Penalties due: If you had penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after April 12 and before April 27, they will be abated as long as the deposits were made by April 27.

      • Uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses: For any individual or business in a federally declared disaster area that suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses, they can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2020 return normally filed next year) or the return for the prior year. 

      • Do not contact the disaster agencies: The IRS says it automatically provides filing and payment relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. The agency says taxpayers in those areas do not need to contact the agency to get this relief. However, there is one hitch. If an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment, or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty decreased.

      • Put a note on any return claiming a loss: The IRS asks people in affected areas to write the appropriate FEMA declaration number on any return claiming a loss. The numbers are 4536 for Mississippi, 4541 for Tennessee, and 4542 for South Carolina. See Publication 547 for details.

      • Living outside affected areas but doing business within them: There are certain instances where a taxpayer may live outside the affected area but does business in one of the disaster zones. In those cases, the IRS says it will work with taxpayers in extending the deadline. Those taxpayers who want to qualify for relief should contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. 

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is extending the tax filing deadline to victims of the April storms and tornadoes.The extension applies to certain c...
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      Coronavirus update: Report says contact-tracing apps aren’t ready, Delta wants national mask policy

      Sanofi is working on two vaccines

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,313,445 (2,281,903)

      Total U.S. deaths: 120,451 (120,036)

      Total global cases: 9,131,445 (8,999,645)

      Total global deaths: 472,856 (468,907)

      Are contact-tracing apps ready for prime time?

      With state after state reopening businesses and allowing people to shop in stores and eat outside at restaurants, health officials will be dependant on contact-tracing to keep track of the disease and stay ahead of spikes, such as those now occurring in several states.

      However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the apps health officials need for contact tracing aren’t ready yet.

      “What is emerging across the country so far, however, is a patchwork of buggy or little-used apps, made by partners ranging from startups on shoestring budgets to academics to consulting firms,” the Journal reports. “Some are working with location-tracking firms that have been under fire from privacy advocates.”

      The Journal reports that, as of now, none of the apps appear ready for a major roll-out, even as more people are trying to get back to normal.

      Delta won’t drag you off the plane for not wearing a mask

      All the major airlines are now requiring passengers to wear a face covering during flights, but what if a passenger refuses? Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian says Delta won’t make a federal case out of it, although he wishes the U.S. government would make masks a federal policy.

      "If you take your mask off, no, we will not forcibly remove you from the plane," Bastian told Axios. "If the government were to mandate it, I think that would help, because if the government mandated it, then you could enforce it."

      Sanofi working on two vaccines

      Sanofi’s CEO is sounding a hopeful note on the company’s work on COVID-19 vaccines. Paul Hudson, interviewed on CNBC, said the drugmaker has two vaccines in development and early results suggest both could be successful candidates against the virus.

      “The world needs billions of doses. We want to make sure every country, everybody that needs that protection, can get it,” Hudson told the network. “We think we’ll definitely play a part with one, and maybe even both of our vaccines.”

      Sanofi is working with U.S. biotech firm Translate Bio to develop one vaccine while partnering with GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceutical giant, to produce another.

      Scientists: 80 percent of people with the virus in March were not diagnosed

      More than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, but some scientists believe that may be a vast undercount. Writing in Science Translational Medicine, they say as many as 80 percent of those who got the virus in March were never diagnosed.

      “Detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections to date has relied heavily on RT-PCR testing,” the authors wrote. “However, limited test availability, high false-negative rates, and the existence of asymptomatic or sub-clinical infections have resulted in an under-counting of the true prevalence of SARS-CoV-2.”

      The researchers said they relied on outpatient surveillance data on people complaining of flu-like symptoms to calculate the undercount.

      The pandemic’s other toll

      Some public health officials are reportedly resigning from their jobs, saying their actions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has made them the targets of potential violence. 

      Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s public healthy director, said someone posting a comment on her live Facebook briefing suggested that she should be shot. She said she did not see the message but was distressed that members of her family did.

      According to the National Association of City and County Health Officials, at least 24 public health officials have either been fired or voluntarily left their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. 

      Around the nation

      • Vermont: Now that state health officials have lifted restrictions on out-of-state visitors, hundreds of people from New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are flocking to Vermont swimming holes to escape the heatwave. State officials have expressed concern that many of the visitors aren’t wearing masks.

      • Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert is under growing pressure from health policymakers to shut the state down again if coronavirus cases don’t stop. Utah is one of the western states that has seen a spike in new cases in recent weeks.

      • California: California has hit yet another new high in coronavirus hospitalizations, exceeding the previous high recorded in mid-April. At the beginning of the week, more than 3,700 COVID-19 patients were in California hospitals, with about a third in intensive care units.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,313,445 (2,281,90...
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      Amazon announces new climate change investment

      An initial $2 billion will go to companies developing technology to combat climate change

      Amazon on Tuesday announced that it’s pledging $2 billion to invest in startups working on “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.” 

      The Climate Pledge Fund will funnel $2 billion into companies developing technologies that will help Amazon reach its goal of becoming net carbon neutral by 2040. Amazon said the $2 billion is just a starting point; more could be added to the fund at a later date. 

      “This dedicated investment program—with an initial $2 billion in funding—will invest in visionary companies whose products and solutions will facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy,” the company said in a statement. 

      CEO Jeff Bezos added that companies of “all sizes and stages will be considered, from pre-product start-ups to well-established enterprises.” 

      “Each prospective investment will be judged on its potential to accelerate the path to zero carbon and help protect the planet for future generations,” Bezos said. 

      Investing in clean energy

      Last fall, Amazon announced that it would be committing to dramatically reducing its impact on the environment. Under its “Climate Pledge,” the e-commerce giant vowed to go carbon neutral within the next two decades. In a sustainability report on Tuesday, the company said it now expects to operate exclusively on clean energy by 2025.

      Amazon also pledged to meet the standards established under the Paris climate agreement by 2040, a full ten years ahead of the Paris accord’s timeline. The company has also agreed to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from EV startup Rivian. Bezos said he expects the vans to be on the road by 2024. 

      Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it launched a new “Bezos Earth Fund” which aimed to fight climate change. Bezos pledged $10 billion to start the fund, through which climate-focused scientists and activists would receive grants. 

      “We can save Earth,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”

      Amazon on Tuesday announced that it’s pledging $2 billion to invest in startups working on “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.” The Climate Pl...
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      Cardiac arrhythmias are 10 times as likely in COVID-19 patients

      Those in intensive care are at the greatest risk

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine explored the risks common to COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

      Their work revealed that these patients are 10 times as likely to experience cardiac arrhythmias. However, the researchers also learned that there’s more to these episodes than just the viral infection, and it’s important for health care experts to continue doing research on the virus. 

      “In order to best protect and treat patients who develop COVID-19, it’s critical for us to improve our understanding of how the disease affects various organs and pathways within our body -- including our heart rate abnormalities,” said researcher Dr. Rajat Deo. “Our findings suggest that non-cardiac causes such as systemic infection, inflammation, and illness are likely to contribute more to the occurrence of cardiac arrest and arrhythmias than damaged or infected heart cells due to viral infection.” 

      Trends in the ICU

      The researchers evaluated 700 COVID-19 patients who were admitted into the hospital between March and May; roughly 11 percent of the patients were in the intensive care unit (ICU). 

      While patients in the ICU were the only ones who had suffered cardiac arrest, arrhythmias were common among those who spent any time in the hospital with COVID-19. The researchers noted that there were three types of arrhythmias that were most common among COVID-19 patients: a racing heart rate that slows in under one minute, an irregular heart rate, and a slower than usual heart rate. 

      Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, occurred most frequently among the participants in the study; out of 53 cardiac episodes, nearly half were classified as atrial fibrillation. 

      Though the researchers explained that these risks were most often attributed to patients in intensive care, they also emphasized the need for continued work in this area to ensure that patients stay up-to-date on any potential long-term risk factors. 

      “More research is needed to assess whether the presence of cardiac arrhythmias have long-term health effects on patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19,” said Dr. Deo. “In the meantime, it’s important that we launch studies to evaluate the most effective and safest strategies for long-term anticoagulation and rhythm management in this population.” 

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine explored the risks common to COVID-19 patients in intensive car...
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      Federal and state officials warn of spreading COVID-19 scams

      The FTC is suing a company that is misleading Florida residents

      Federal and state officials are warning consumers that coronavirus (COVID-19) scams are spreading as fast as the virus itself.

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed suit in federal court to stop a company it accuses of using a mailer to mislead consumers. The agency says the mailers were sent by Traffic Jam Events, LLC, and were labeled “IMPORTANT COVID-19 STIMULUS DOCUMENTS.” They allegedly directed consumers to “relief headquarters” to “claim these stimulus incentives.” 

      The mailers reportedly targeted Florida residents and directed recipients to an address in the state where they could apply in person for benefits.  The impression was clear that going to that location could mean additional federal stimulus payments since the mailer bore the Great Seal of the United States and a mock-up of a stimulus check.

      However, those who arrived at the address complained to the FTC they did not find a government office but instead were ushered into a used car sale.

      Phony contact tracing calls

      Florida, with its large population of seniors, appears to be a hotbed of COVID-19 scams. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning consumers to be careful when responding to COVID-19 contact tracing calls. 

      These tracing calls are real since public health officials are calling up people who may have come in contact with someone with COVID-19. In fact, they are an important tool in efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

      But in recent days, there have been reports that some of the people making these contract tracing calls don’t work for the state and are only trying to run various types of scams.

      “Unfortunately, we can’t trust the voice on the other end of the phone to always be truthful—even in the face of a deadly pandemic,” Moody said. “I want to encourage all Floridians to engage with legitimate health professionals working to contain the spread of COVID-19, but to be cautious before providing information.”

      Moody says you can tell real contact tracers from fakes by the questions they ask. Real contact tracers will limit their questions to your recent travels and contacts, or whether you have displayed symptoms.

      A scammer will ask for personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or other information that can be used to steal your identity. If you get those kinds of questions, Moody says you should immediately hang up.

      Federal and state officials are warning consumers that coronavirus (COVID-19) scams are spreading as fast as the virus itself.The Federal Trade Commiss...
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      Apple’s iOS 14 to include tracking protection, new digital car key

      The company announced several improvements at its Worldwide Developers Conference

      Apple announced on Monday that its upcoming iOS 14, which is set to launch this fall, will include a number of new privacy features. 

      At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which was online-only due to the coronavirus crisis, the tech giant said iOS 14 will include new protections against user tracking on apps and websites. 

      The new software will feature indicators that let users know when an app is using their microphone or camera. If either is activated, users’ iPhones will show an orange dot in the upper right corner of the screen.

      "All of our product work is grounded in a set of privacy principles," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering. 

      New labels for app permissions 

      Apple has also integrated new labels for app permissions. Users will see how much data an app requests before downloading it, as well as what developers plan to do with their data. Under iOS 14, app developers must self-report whether the information they will collect falls under the category of "Data Linked To You" and "Data Used to Track You." 

      "For food, you have nutrition labels," said Erik Neuenschwander, Apple's user privacy manager. "So we thought it would be great to have something similar for apps. We're going to require each developer to self-report their practices."

      With this feature, users can choose to grant permissions for a day, when in use, or forever. 

      CarKey function

      Apple also revealed that iOS 14 will allow some users to unlock their car using a functionality called CarKey. Those with vehicles that support the new feature will be able to pair their phone with their car and use the device to unlock and start it. 

      For the feature, near-field communication (NFC) will be used to securely communicate with a user’s car. The information collected for this functionality will be stored in the same place that Apple stores credit card information in iPhones, meaning it’s protected by Face ID or Touch ID and Apple won’t know when a user locks or unlocks their car. 

      Federighi said car keys have “been around for over 100 years but they've become big, bulky and ripe for reimagining.” The new digital key will first be available for the 2021 BMW 5 Series, and Apple plans to expand it to other car models after that. 

      Apple announced on Monday that its upcoming iOS 14, which is set to launch this fall, will include a number of new privacy features. At its annual Worl...
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      3 things to consider when shopping for homeowners insurance

      Before purchasing homeowners insurance, here are some tips to get you started

      Buying a home is a significant step in your life, and protecting your purchase is vital. Homeowners insurance protects you financially if your home, possessions or some surrounding buildings are lost or damaged by disasters like burglary and fire. You can also protect your finances from personal liability in case someone injures themselves on your property.

      However, when committing to protect your investment through homeowners insurance, you should always carefully consider all the available options. Here are 3 things to remember when you shop for homeowners insurance.

      1. Contact multiple companies

      Finding the right policy takes time and research. After looking into several companies, contact at least 3 to discuss which coverage options you need, the cost of deductibles, the liability coverage and the maximum replacement cost. This is also a good time to decide whether you like the company’s customer service. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes you can refer to later.

      2. Consider your needed coverage

      Like any other insurance plan, you have different options for homeowners insurance coverage. Along with several coverage options for homes, there are policies for co-ops, condominiums, mobile homes and older homes. For most homes, the most common types of coverage include:

      • HO-1: This is considered a “bare-bones” policy that covers 10 perils outlined in the policy.
      • HO-2: This is a broad policy that covers 16 perils outlined in the policy.
      • HO-3: This policy covers all perils but those excluded in the policy.

      If a policy doesn’t have a specific type of coverage, ask whether the company has riders available. Riders are additions to your coverage for things like antiques that may cost more to replace than regular items listed as personal property.

      3. Always check for discounts

      There are several discount options that insurers may offer, such as discounts for bundling policies and lower rates for seniors or military personnel. Some insurers may even give you discounts for upgraded home security or installing a discount-qualifying new roof.

      If you’re interested in homeowners insurance, make sure you check out our homeowners insurance guide for more information.for more information. To get started on your shopping, you can contact Allstate or EverQuote for quotes and coverage information.

      When searching for homeowners insurance, try to remember these 3 things....
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      Coronavirus update: New cases are surging, home sales are plunging

      Gilead is working on an inhaled version of remdesivir

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,281,903 (2,255,119)

      Total U.S. deaths: 120,036 (119,719)

      Total global cases: 8,999,645 (8,809,872)

      Total global deaths: 468,907 (464,572)

      U.S. cases surge over the weekend

      It was a bad weekend for Americans in terms of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, who have become the unofficial tracker of the virus, report cases surged by 30,000 on Friday and by approximately the same number on Saturday.

      New cases appear to be rising the most in states that initially had the fewest number, mostly in the South, West, and Midwest. A handful of states, including Florida and South Carolina, reported record-breaking single-day spikes. 

      The sharp increase in cases is worrying to health officials since the pandemic was expected to begin to diminish over the course of the summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now predicts there will be between 129,000 and 145,000 total reported COVID-19 deaths by July 11.

      Coronavirus sends May home sales skidding

      With most of the country still under fairly tight lockdown during part of the month, perhaps it’s no surprise that sales of existing homes plunged by nearly 10 percent in May. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is interpreting the dismal numbers that way, predicting that will turn out to be the bottom of the housing market.

      “Sales completed in May reflect contract signings in March and April – during the strictest times of the pandemic lockdown and hence the cyclical low point,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Home sales will surely rise in the upcoming months with the economy reopening, and could even surpass one-year-ago figures in the second half of the year.”

      When homes did sell, they went for more money. The median existing-home price was $284,600 -- 2.3 percent higher than in May 2019.

      Gilead working on an inhaled version of coronavirus drug

      Gilead Sciences, which is currently conducting clinical trials with its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, has announced it is exploring the use of an inhaled version of the potential coronavirus treatment.

      Remdesivir is currently given to patients intravenously through daily infusions in a hospital setting, meaning it is normally given only to severely ill patients. 

      “An inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside the hospital, at earlier stages of disease,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day wrote in an open letter. “That could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic.”

      Report: Ride-sharing faces bleak post-pandemic future

      Just a few months ago, Uber, Lyft, and other new and potential ride-sharing services appeared to be the wave of future mobility. A new report suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has turned that prediction upside down

      A new report from the Strategy Analytics’ In-Vehicle UX (IVX) service, “Cars in the Time of COVID-19: Consumers Weigh In”, has found consumers will be less likely to use all mobility services once COVID-19 passes. Instead, consumers say they’re likely to hang on to their personal vehicles and may be more likely to buy one.

      Derek Viita, the report’s author, says that doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in new car sales. “Instead, consumers could end up holding on to their current cars or buying a used car,” Viita said.

      Kids seem to handle it better

      The younger you are, the milder COVID-19 symptoms appear to be. A report from researchers at Children’s Hospital of Chicago shows that infants under 90 days of age who tested positive for COVID-19 tend to be well, with little or no respiratory involvement. 

      Fever was often found to be the primary or only symptom. Findings were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

      Health officials still worry about the large number of young people contracting the virus from bars and parties in recent days, saying they can easily spread the virus to a more vulnerable population.

      Around the nation

      • Texas: Two Houston bars have had their liquor licenses suspended after being charged with violating social distancing rules. In all, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission cited more than a dozen establishments across the state for violating safety rules. Texas has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

      • Wisconsin: The state’s coronavirus numbers continue to improve. There were 280 new cases confirmed on Sunday but no deaths from the virus. The state health department reports the number of positive test results Sunday was the second-lowest over the last two weeks.

      • Tennessee: Officials in Shelby County, which includes the city of Memphis, are considering a return to Phase 1 restrictions after a troubling spike in cases last week. Tennessee is one of several states experiencing a sharp increase in coronavirus cases after lifting some restrictions.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,281,903 (2,255,11...
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      Fresh Express recalls Southwest Chopped Kits

      The product contains wheat, soy, cashews and coconut, allergens not declared on the label

      fFresh Express is recalling a limited quantity of Fresh Express Southwest Chopped Kits.

      The product contains wheat, soy, cashews and coconut, allergens not declared on the label.

      No illnesses are reported to date.

      The following product, sold from June 12 –18, 2020, in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, is being recalled:

      Brand

      PRODUCT NAME

      SIZE

      UPC

      PRODUCTION CODE

      BEST IF USED BY DATE

      POSSIBLE DISTRIBUTION
      STATES

      Fresh
      Express

      Southwest  Chopped Kit

      11.5-oz.

      071279 306025

      G163B10A

      G163B10B

      Jun-29

      AL, DE, FL, GA, KY, MD, NC,
      SC, TN, VA, WV

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact Fresh Express toll-free at (800) 242-5472 Monday through Friday from 7 am. to 5 pm (ET).

      Fresh Express is recalling a limited quantity of Fresh Express Southwest Chopped Kits.The product contains wheat, soy, cashews and coconut, allergens n...
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      La Bodega Meat recalls beef products

      The product product were not presented for import re-inspection into the US

      La Bodega Meat of Farmers Branch, Texas, is recalling approximately 83,038 pounds of raw beef products.

      The products were not presented for import re-inspection into the U.S.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following items imported on June 2 and June 3, 2020, are being recalled:

      • “BONELESS RIBEYE ROLL”
      • “FLANK STEAK”
      • “FRESH BONELESS BRISKET”
      • “FRESH EYE OF ROUND”
      • “FRESH FLAP MEAT”
      • “FRESH INSIDE SKIRT”
      • “FRESH OUTSIDE ROUND”
      • “FRESH TOP SIRLOIN”
      • “INSIDE ROUND”
      • “OUTSIDE SKIRT”
      • “PEELED KNUCKLE”
      • “SHOULDER CLOD”

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “ESTABLISHMENT 5” inside the foreign mark of inspection and shipping marks 0671-20 or 0627-20.were sent to distributors in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas for food service and retail sales. Products at the retail level do not have any unique identifying labels.

      What to do

      Consumers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact Jose Torres at (214) 402-4966.

      La Bodega Meat of Farmers Branch, Texas, is recalling approximately 83,038 pounds of raw beef products. The products were not presented for import re-in...
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      8 gift ideas for the college graduate in your life

      Looking for a great graduation gift? We can help

      Graduation ceremonies may have been canceled, pushed back or performed with limitations, but you can still celebrate your graduate's accomplishments. Here are some recommendations to help you find the perfect gift to let them know how proud you are of all of those late study nights.

      Glasses that help with screen time

      These days, we all spend too much time on our computers, and living a postgraduate life is no different. Blue-light glasses help to block blue light rays that cause eye strain and fatigue when using electronics.

      • Two-pack
      • Block 99% of harmful blue light

      Buy on Amazon

      A smartwatch

      A smartwatch is a great gift option for tech-lovers. This Apple Watch has several functions to help you perform tasks ranging from tracking your exercise routine to answering texts on the run. With a smartwatch, you help ensure your grad is fully connected in this new remote world.

      • Built-in compass and GPS
      • Option to add AppleCare

      Buy on Amazon

      Meal subscription service

      Your grad is about to become an adult, and they might just feel a little intimidated by learning the ins and outs of cooking. Set them up for success with a meal subscription service that sends precooked meals or ingredients with detailed cooking instructions right to their door.

      Find out More

      A fancy coffee machine

      Nothing says adulting like a French press sitting on the counter. Help your grad take on those early mornings of adulthood with better coffee made with a sleek new brewer.

      • Stainless steel
      • Duel filter

      Buy on Amazon

      An inspirational book

      Sometimes, an inspirational book can help a graduate acclimate to their new surroundings. In her memoir, “Becoming,” Michelle Obama tells her story of growing up. She asks tough, thought-provoking questions and shares her experience of breaking expectations and striving for excellence.

      • New York Times bestseller
      • Oprah’s Book Club pick

      Buy on Amazon

      A Nintendo Switch Lite

      Maybe you want to buy your grad a gift that’s more fun and less functional. If so, the hand-held Nintendo Switch Lite is an excellent choice. Grads can play games on the go and virtually with their friends with this device.

      • Available in yellow, grey or pink
      • Optional protection plan

      Buy on Amazon

      An Instant Pot

      An Instant Pot is like the Crock-Pot’s cooler, faster cousin. The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker and more in one device. It can seriously cut back on food-prep time and is an excellent tool for beginning cooks.

      • Stainless steel cooking pot
      • Optional 4-year protection plan

      Buy on Amazon

      Amazon Echo

      “Alexa, play pomp and circumstance.” Get your grad the perfect gift for their new place: a smart speaker. Amazon’s Echo can play music, set timers and give weather forecasts. It can also control compatible thermostats, lightbulbs and locks.

      • 4 different colors
      • Warranty available

      Buy on Amazon

      Picking out a college graduation gift can be fun — focus on what your grad loves and what could help them transition best from lecture halls to weekly laundry loads. The class of 2020 may be celebrated virtually, but they should still be rewarded for their hard work.

      Show your graduate how proud you are of their accomplishment with these gifts....
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      Some employees feel guilty about taking a lunch break despite federal rules

      A study revealed that it’s not always related to productivity

      Though many consumers are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from Staffordshire University are exploring the psychology behind employees taking their lunch breaks. 

      They learned that many employees skip out on their daily break time for any number of reasons. While staying busy and productive does come into play, the researchers also found that some employees feel self-conscious about taking breaks if their colleagues aren’t doing the same. 

      “The legally required minimum time for a lunch break at work is 20 minutes, however there is a growing trend nationally for large numbers of people not to take breaks at work, with surveys reporting that between 66 percent and 82 percent of workers don’t always take their breaks,” said researcher Dr. Mike Oliver. 

      “So, how have we got to the point where some people feel guilty about taking their legally allowable break? We were curious to look at the psychological and social behaviours of office workers to understand the enablers and barriers.” 

      Why are breaks disappearing?

      To better understand the culture behind taking or skipping lunch breaks, the researchers conducted several focus groups, each with nearly 30 office employees in the U.K. 

      The researchers learned through interviews that there’s more to the debate than many may realize. Several different components come into play when employees are deciding to step away from their work for part of the day; however, a common theme emerged: having co-workers’ support in taking a break led employees to put work down for lunch. 

      “We found that one of the best ways to make sure that you take breaks is to take them with your work colleagues, or to be encouraged to take them by your boss,” said Dr. Oliver. “If they are not physically near you, we may find it harder to act on these social prompts.” 

      However, the researchers also learned that co-workers’ decisions can have an adverse effect. Just as co-workers can help encourage each other to take a break for lunch, many of the employees noted that the opposite was also true -- they were less likely to take a break if their co-workers weren’t taking that time. 

      Issue of productivity

      The study also revealed that many employees prioritize their work over taking a break, and this typically stems from nerves over what to do when lunch time happens. Many workers want to take the time to themselves but don’t want to appear as though they’re not productive or valuable employees. 

      These findings are troubling to the researchers for several reasons. Not only can sitting at a desk for extended periods of time be troublesome for consumers’ health, but having time throughout the day to talk or think about things outside of work is a respite that all employees need. 

      “This paper highlights the complex relationships that people have with taking breaks, with others and their physical environment,” said Dr. Oliver. “Some participants did not recognize the importance of taking a break in the middle of the day, but others appeared to convince themselves that by doing a less intense work activity, such as responding to emails, whilst eating lunch at their desk, would actually be taking a break.” 

      “There is mounting concern about the amount of time people spend sitting down at work and not being physically active, so it is really important that people don’t put work ahead of breaks and their own physical and psychological health.”  

      Though many consumers are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from Staffordshire University are exploring the psychology behind emp...
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      COVID-19 may be affecting young people's sexual and reproductive health

      Researchers say there are still resources available to young adults during the pandemic

      A new study conducted by researchers from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health found that the COVID-19 pandemic could be affecting young people’s sexual and reproductive health. 

      According to the researchers, quarantine has limited access to reproductive health care -- like abortions, STD tests, and contraception -- for many young adults. Moreover, it has changed the way that young people typically socialize and go about their regular routines, which can put a strain on both romantic and platonic relationships. 

      “Young people are supposed to be gaining independence at this time in life, so for those who have had to return home after a period of being away, maintaining relationships with friends and romantic partners at a distance may be particularly challenging,” said researcher Dr. David Bell. “Our view that constant digital connection was negative is now a positive for them at this time.” 

      Losing independence

      The researchers explained that extended family time and limited resources during the pandemic are the two biggest causes for concern when thinking about young people’s reproductive health. 

      Telemedicine services have expanded since the start of COVID-19, and many of these kinds of visits allow for STD testing or treatment and birth control. These services are always important, but they are essential during the pandemic when the availability of necessary services has been compromised. 

      The researchers also learned that virtual services have been incredibly beneficial for LGBTQ youth, who may be struggling at home with unsupportive family members. Though many in-person support services have had to close, and the researchers worry about the effect quarantine can have, there are still digital sources available for young people to connect with each other and seek out support. 

      However, the researchers’ work also revealed the limits of telemedicine services. They learned that abortion access continues to be hard to come by in many states, as legislators are still working to limit that accessibility even further. 

      Though these are uncertain times for everyone, and telemedicine certainly comes with limitations, the researchers predict that these services could continue to grow in popularity beyond the pandemic  -- particularly for young people and reproductive health. 

      “If telemedicine remains as widely available as it has been during the coronavirus pandemic, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare may actually improve for young people,” said researcher Leslie Kantor. 

      A new study conducted by researchers from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health found that the COVID-19 pandemic could be affecting young people’s sex...
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      HON Company recalls office chairs

      The chair’s back can break, posing fall and injury hazards

      The HON Company of Muscatine, Iowa, is recalling about 13,400 HON office chairs.

      The chair’s back can break, posing fall and injury hazards to the user.

      The firm has received reports of 11 chair backs breaking including two reports of minor injuries.

      This recall involves HON’s Gateway office chairs with model numbers HGTMM and HGV1MM and manufactured from February 2019, through February 2020.

      It also involves the Maxon MXMO series chairs, model numbers M-SEMO201 and M-SEMX101.

      The manufacturer’s name, model number and manufacture date are printed on a label located on the underside of the seats.

      The office chairs have a black mesh see-through back and a five-star base with wheels. HON or Maxon is printed on a label underneath the seat.

      The chairs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at HON or Maxon dealers nationwide as well as online stores including Staples.com and OfficeDepot.com from February 2019, through February 2020, for between $135 and $250.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and contact HON for a free replacement back including installation instructions.

      Consumers may contact The HON Company at (800) 833-3964 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at HONTeamBox@honcompany.com or online at HON.com for more information.

      Or, for Maxon chairs, (800) 876-4274 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at service@maxonmail.com, or online at www.maxonfurniture.com.

      The HON Company of Muscatine, Iowa, is recalling about 13,400 HON office chairs. The chair’s back can break, posing fall and injury hazards to the user....
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      5 ways to spoil your new kitty

      You got food, litter and catnip — what else is there?

      In June, the American Humane Society encourages people to adopt shelter cats, partly because the kitten population surges each spring. If you've been on the fence about adopting a companion pet this far into 2020, now is the best time to commit.

      One of the best ways to enrich your new little friend's environment is with an empty cardboard box (convenient for online shoppers!). Additional low-cost options include laser pointers, ping-pong balls and catnip. However, for more out-of-the-box ideas, here are our suggestions.

      1. Outdoor bird feeder

      The window is basically your cat's TV, and an outdoor bird feeder is their subscription to Netflix. Cats love looking at birds. It's great because you get to hear those cute chattering-chirping noises when they click their teeth together really fast — it only happens when cats get really excited!

      Platform, perch and window bird feeders appear to be most loved by felines. To decide which feeder is right for you, think about what types of birds are most common in your area. Remember to get quality birdseed and keep your feeders clean.

      • 100% clear acrylic
      • Guaranteed for all weather

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Window perch

      Window perches work miraculously to enhance your kitty's environment, especially in tandem with an outdoor bird feeder. We like the Kitty Cot Original World's Best Cat Perch because it's American Humane Society approved and has excellent customer reviews.

      • Easy to clean
      • Sturdy support cables.

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Interactive robotic cat toy

      Even cats with the most independent personalities need mental stimulation. If your work schedule keeps you busy most of the day or you spend large portions of time away from home, you can buy robot cat toys to help keep your cat happy. Robot cat toys, like the one below, are battery operated and run for hours to keep your kitty busy.

      • 360-degree self-rotating ball
      • Built-in spinning LED light

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Indoor climbing tree

      Sometimes called cat condos, climbing trees are great because they let your cat exercise and reduce stress. Kitty can climb, stretch, scratch and nap. We like the 64-inch Feandrea cat activity tree because it comes with sisal-covered scratching posts, a detachable bowl and plenty of places for your cat to nap or play.

      • Includes hammock and cave
      • Anti-toppling design

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Fancy water bowl

      Cats love running water. It keeps them hydrated, healthy and happy. We like the Veken cat water fountain because it lets you easily track how much water your cat is drinking. You must be realistic as a cat owner, though — there’s a chance kitty will still drink out of your toilet.

      • Triple filtration system
      • Includes silicone mat

      Buy on Amazon

      In addition to these fun toys and accessories, you can spoil your new cat with special cat treats and food. For more information, check out the American Humane Society's cat adoption checklist and be prepared for most cat health issues by reading our guide to pet insurance.

      5 ways to spoil your new kitty | ConsumerAffairs...
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      Hurricane season could heighten the impact of COVID-19

      Researchers believe there’s still time to combat these potentially severe consequences

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Central Florida explored what kind of impact the upcoming hurricane season could have on the COVID-19 pandemic

      According to the researchers, there’s room for a great deal of chaos and destruction if experts don’t act fast. These combined disasters could affect how relief organizations operate and further ramp up hospital stays, among several other concerns. 

      “The COVID-19 crisis will very likely increase the impacts associated with the climate extreme events that will inevitably occur somewhere across the globe over the next weeks or months or already have occurred,” said researcher Thomas Wahl. “For example, shelters cannot operate at full capacity, health care systems are already under pressure, and emergency funds are depleted.” 

      Preparing ahead of time

      Wahl, whose specialty at UCF is in Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering, joined forces with experts in several departments to determine the impact that both a hurricane and COVID-19 could have on the country. They focused on four main points of concern for their work: infrastructure, water, health, and food. 

      The researchers determined that much of the devastation that occurs when natural disasters hit is connected, which makes the after-effects that much more problematic. Moreover, it’s the systems that are already weak that tend to get hit the hardest, making the destruction that much harder to come back from. 

      The team predicts that the same will happen when a hurricane hits during the current pandemic; however, because of already limited resources, there is an even greater concern. 

      Wahl says typical avenues for relief and assistance are already compromised because of the pandemic, and trying to aid both efforts will be difficult. The researchers hope that these findings, and the interdisciplinary approach they took to get to them, inspire lawmakers to prepare ahead of time to mitigate the damages as much as possible. 

      “It’s important to recognize and treat connected extremes as such, and for scientists from different fields to engage directly with stakeholders and decision makers to develop new, robust, and flexible policies to better combat their negative impacts,” said Wahl. 

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Central Florida explored what kind of impact the upcoming hurricane season could have on the CO...
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      Housing market flashes mixed signals

      But lately, most of them have been bullish

      Like nearly every industry, real estate got hammered by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Showings, listings, and sales slammed to a halt in March and April.

      But with the lifting of stay-at-home restrictions, the real estate market appears to be on a strong rebound. In fact, a number of recent signs point to the market making up for lost sales, and then some.

      Confidence is surging among home builders. The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) index that tracks builder confidence jumped 21 points this month to 58. Any reading above 50 indicates a positive market.

      “As the nation reopens, housing is well-positioned to lead the economy forward,” said NAHB Chairman Dean Mon, a home builder and developer from Shrewsbury, N.J. “Inventory is tight, mortgage applications are increasing, interest rates are low and confidence is rising. Buyer traffic more than doubled in one month even as builders report growing online and phone inquiries stemming from the outbreak.”

      Fewer homes for sale

      Inventory dried up during the shutdown, but so did the demand for houses. Now, it appears home buyers are out in full force at the tail-end of a mostly wiped out spring home-buying season.

      That’s caused some regions of the country to experience a sharp rebound in sales. West Penn Multi-List, a real estate services firm serving Western Pennsylvania, reported that sales in four counties amassed a combined $135.5 million in May -- even with real estate offices open in only the second half of the month.

      “It’s the hottest market I have ever seen,” Tom Hosack, president of West Penn Multi-List, told Trib Live.

      Bidding wars

      Redfin, a real estate brokerage service, is seeing the same signs of a rebound on a national level. It reports that nearly half of its agents’ sales in May had multiple offers, a sign that there are more buyers than sellers presently.

      "We're seeing a frenzy," Boston Redfin agent Delince Louis said. "Any home below $500,000 is receiving multiple offers; we just don't have the supply to meet the demand."

      "Bidding wars also jumped in May because homebuyers felt they were starting to get more clarity around where the economy was headed, with cities around the nation lifting stay-at-home orders. This gave house hunters more confidence to compete," said Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr. 

      But Marr isn’t convinced the resurgence is sustainable, saying it all depends on whether the coronavirus stays under control or spikes up in states that have lifted restrictions. It’s also possible that we’re seeing sales that were simply delayed by the pandemic. Future sales could face some hefty headwinds.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported last week that there was a significant drop in the amount of available credit for mortgages as lenders tried to limit risk. Even though mortgage rates are at record lows, it’s increasingly challenging to qualify for a mortgage, with lenders demanding larger down payments and higher credit scores.

      If you’re in the market for a home, ConsumerAffairs has collected thousands of reviews of mortgage companies here. To determine what your monthly payments would be, check out our mortgage calculator here.

      Like nearly every industry, real estate got hammered by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Showings, listings, and sales slammed to a halt in March and April....
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      Ford recalls model year 2014-2017 F-150 pickup trucks

      The brake master cylinder may leak fluid into the brake booster

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 292,311 model year 2014-2017 F-150 pickup trucks with 3.5L Ecoboost engines.

      The brake master cylinder may leak brake fluid into the brake booster.

      A loss of brake fluid may result in a change in brake pedal travel and feel, increased pedal effort and reduced front brake function, possibly requiring greater effort and distance to stop the vehicle. This can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake master cylinder and inspect the brake booster, replacing it -- as necessary -- free of charge.

      This recall is expected to begin June 29, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S31.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 292,311 model year 2014-2017 F-150 pickup trucks with 3.5L Ecoboost engines. The brake master cylinder may leak brake fl...
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      NOW Real Food Raw Macadamia Nuts recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      NOW Health Group of Bloomingdale, Ill., is recalling NOW Real Food Raw Macadamia Nuts.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following item, sold online and in retail stores nationwide, is being recalled:

      Item Number

      Description

      Lot Number

      Best By Date

      7119NOW Real Food® Raw Macadamia Nuts, Unsalted, 8 oz. pouch314105501/2021

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop using it immediately and return it to place of purchase for a full refund. A receipt is not required for refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact NOW’s customer service department at (888) 669-3663 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CT).

      NOW Health Group of Bloomingdale, Ill., is recalling NOW Real Food Raw Macadamia Nuts. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses ...
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      G. Brandt Meat Packers recalls Mini Smoked Farmer Sausage

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      G. Brandt Meat Packers is recalling Mini Smoked Farmer Sausage that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported.

      The following items, sold in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, are being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      BrandtMini Smoked Farmer Sausage0.450 kg0 773321 2046092046
      Best Before 20JL08
      BrandtMini Smoked Farmer Sausage0.375 kg0 773321 2045002043
      Best Before 20JL08
      BrandtMini Smoked Farmer SausageVarious weightsN/A2045
      Best Before 20JL08

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (905) 279-4460 or by email at info@brandtmeats.com.

      G. Brandt Meat Packers is recalling Mini Smoked Farmer Sausage that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported. ...
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      Dating while socially distant

      Dating while staying distant is difficult, but these tips can help

      If you’re single and wanting to mingle, the pandemic can be a problem — but it doesn’t have to be. Now is a great time to sharpen communication skills, slow down and get to know potential partners on an intellectual level. We created a list of what we believe are the top things to help you find love during COVID-19.

      Try dating apps:

      If you haven’t done much dating online, some of the most popular apps to try are Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble and Hinge. To get started with these apps, you write a quick biographical message, answer some questions relating to what you want and add a few pictures of yourself. Your success on these apps depends on a few factors, including the population of your area, but their basic functions are generally free, so there's minimal risk if you want to check them out.

      Tinder is a simple app that focuses on fast searching. It is mostly known as the platform where you swipe right to match with people you like and left to avoid ones you don’t. Unlike other apps, the written information you give is a small part of your profile, so searching for a partner is focused on the images you provide.

      OkCupid is a more detail-oriented dating app. In addition to providing a more detailed profile page, the app lets you answer as many questions as you want from a list of thousands. OkCupid designs these questions for an algorithm to find a partner that matches your personality.

      Bumble has a swiping system similar to Tinder, but the company designed the matching method with female users in mind. With heterosexual couples, the female has to make first contact within 24 hours of a match, while either person can be the first to connect in a same-sex couple. Bumble also differentiates itself by having a friend and a business mode for making new friends or networking — both great features for the current pandemic.

      Hinge skips the swiping process and tries to make connecting more natural. The app believes dialogue is easier to start by letting you comment on a prospective partner's photo or part of their bio. If the partner matches with you, you can then converse in chat.

      If you want to avoid the uncertain and endless cycle of swiping and meeting people who may or may not be a good fit, you could join a matchmaking service like LoveAndMatchMaking.com.

      Video or phone date:

      Once you’ve made a virtual connection, consider moving to a video or voice call. Most dating apps have rolled out video and voice chat features since the pandemic began, so here are a few tips that can help make the best of these forms of contact.

      • Dress to impress: You don’t need to wear a suit, but at least put on a clean, stylish shirt or top. If you look good, you’re going to feel more confident and likely make more of an effort to make a date.
      • Clean up your space: You never know where the conversation could go. You might end up showing off your collection of house plants, an adorable pet or a recent home improvement project. Take some time to clean your home before your date.
      • 40-minute run time
      • Cord-free

      Buy on Amazon

      • Be on time: Being on time shows you care and take the person on the other side of the conversation seriously and can treat them with respect. Life happens, though — I’m late to things all the time. When I can see I may be late, I just shoot the other person a message saying, “So sorry! Running five minutes behind!” It’s also a great idea to add your dates to your calendar app, so you don’t forget.
      • Have good lighting: This might sound unnecessary, but virtually everyone looks better under warm, slightly dimmed lighting. It hides blemishes a bit and generally feels more romantic. Not too dim though — you’re not a cave dweller. I’m a big fan of dimmable and adjustable-warmth smart lights from Wyze. I usually start my video dates out on my balcony so I can show off the sunset view and turn a smart bulb through the Wyze app once the light gets dark. I also have Lutron Caseta Smart dimmers for my living room. If you really want to show off your face, you might take the opposite approach and get a Ring light.
      • Find a quiet space: Many of us are sheltering from home with family or roommates. Just let everyone know that you need a quiet space and want a room to yourself. Most people will respect that. If you can’t ensure a tranquil area, be sure to let your date know someone else is around or may make a sudden burst of noise. Some people might be offended to find out someone else could hear their call if they aren’t told up front.
      • Camera and audio equipment can also be important: The 2 most common ways to have a video date are on your phone or your laptop. If you’re using your phone, get a stand or something else to prop it up. Your arm is going to get tired after 20 minutes if you try to hold it. I recommend a simple cradle stand if you’re sitting at a table; if you’re elsewhere, a bendable, clamp-based stand is helpful. If you’re on a computer, I recommend sitting at a table — computers can get quite hot while video chatting. You might also want to upgrade your computer video with an external webcam. A good choice is the Allinko 880, but many 720p or 1080p webcams will offer a better image than the built-in webcam on your laptop.

      If you get a second date, it’s time to be more creative.

      It’s tough to form relationships without some sort of shared experience. So after the first date, you might have to go a little further than just talking with each other.

      • Consider a date night where you order each other takeout, have it delivered at the same time and eat together. There are some great food delivery apps that can help.
      • Try a movie night. Watching a show at the same time and chatting with an app like Netflix Party can be fun and spur conversations about a movie, show or other topics.
      • You can even play games with apps like Houseparty and Jackbox. The one caveat here is that most games are made for more than 2 players, so this is perfect if you want to expand into having a double date with another couple. And you get the added bonus of seeing how well your date interacts with your friends or if you like their friends.

      Even with the safety measures put into place, socially distant dating can be an interesting experience. It may even become a great story of how you first met your significant other!

      Looking to date while remaining socially distant? Check out our tips....
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      Coronavirus update: Steroid drug saved lives in trial, flushing toilets singled out as a threat

      Being hospitalized with COVID-19 carries a big financial cost

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,118,798 (2,096,902)

      Total U.S. deaths: 116,191 (115,755)

      Total global cases: 8,075,962 (7,949,973)

      Total global deaths: 437,604 (434,181)

      Existing steroid drug may help severely ill patients

      Existing drugs may prove useful in saving lives of coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. For example, Reuters reports that trials of the steroid drug dexamethasone have been shown to save the lives of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

      The drug is often used to reduce inflammation in patients suffering from a variety of infections. In the just-completed trial, researchers say it reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital. The researchers say the results suggest that the drug should immediately be used in caring for patients with severe cases of the virus. 

      “This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor and co-leader of the trial.

      Study: Flushing the toilet can spread the virus

      You don’t seem to be safe from the coronavirus, not even in the restroom. Researchers writing in the journal Physics of Fluids used a computer simulation to show how a flushing toilet can create a cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets that is large and widespread and lasts long enough that the droplets could be breathed in by others.

      The simulations show that nearly 60 percent of the ejected particles rise high above the seat for a toilet with two inlet ports. A solution to this deadly problem is to simply close the lid before flushing since this should decrease aerosol spread, the researchers said.

      “Toilet flushing creates a great deal of turbulence, and qualitative evidence suggests this can spread both bacteria and viruses,” the authors wrote.

      The financial cost of COVID-19

      Since the pandemic began, most of the emphasis has rightly been on the health toll the coronavirus is taking. But for people who get the virus, researchers say there is also a significant financial cost.

      A study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed out-of-pocket costs for pneumonia and other upper respiratory illness hospitalizations, suggesting a correlation with potential costs of treating COVID-19.

      The researchers found that these out-of-pocket costs were particularly high for so-called consumer-directed health plans, which typically feature lower premiums compared to standard plans but higher deductibles that can be paid via tax-advantaged health savings accounts.

      Powell warns of the virus’ economic toll

      Besides causing financial hardships for people hospitalized with the virus, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warns of “significant uncertainty” about how quickly the U.S. economy will recover from the virus’ impact. He says small businesses and lower-income and minority Americans face the greatest risks.

      In testimony before Congress today, Powell said the recovery so far has been uneven, with some areas of the economy rebounding while others are still suffering. His assessment? We still have a long way to go.

      “The levels of output and employment remain far below their pre-pandemic levels, and significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery,” he said.

      AstraZeneca ready by October

      Drugmaker AstraZeneca has not only produced a vaccine against COVID-19, but the company’s CEO says it will provide protection for up to one year. He told a radio station in Belgium that doses will be ready for distribution in October.

      According to Reuters, AstraZeneca has contracts to supply the vaccine in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the European Union.

      Around the nation

      • Ohio: State health officials are expressing cautious optimism that they have flattened the curve of new cases of the coronavirus. They report that the number of new cases has remained below 500 for 17 consecutive days.

      • Pennsylvania: The housing market has roared back to life in Western Pennsylvania after the state began lifting restrictions on movement. Industry sources report that home sales in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, and Westmoreland counties sold for 13 percent more in May than May 2019, and the number of homes sold increased by 10 percent.

      • Colorado: Colorado researchers have used data from cell phones to better understand how the coronavirus is transmitted and what role leaving the house plays in spreading the illness. Preliminary conclusions suggest that the end of stay-at-home orders did not lead to an increase in cases.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,118,798 (2,096,90...
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      European Commission announces two Apple investigations

      The EU wants to make sure Apple isn’t breaching competition rules through its App Store rules or Apple Pay service

      On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that it will launch two new antitrust probes: one into Apple’s App Store rules and another into Apple’s “Apple Pay” platform. 

      The watchdog group said the investigations will focus on determining whether Apple’s rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules. 

      Apple charges companies that put their apps on the app store 30 percent from in-app purchases and 30 percent on subscriptions for the first year. Companies are then charged 15 percent from there on out. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said it appears that Apple “obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices.” 

      Ensuring compliance with competition rules

      Spotify, one of Apple’s competitors, has taken issue with Apple’s policies in recent years, saying in a March 2019 complaint that the tech giant deliberately limits consumer choice and stifles innovation. 

      Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said Apple essentially acts “as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.” A complaint on the matter was also lodged by Kobo, an e-reader company that competes with Apple Books.  

      Vestager said the EU is looking to ensure that Apple’s rules don’t “distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books.” 

      Apple Pay investigation

      In an effort to ensure Apple isn’t breaching EU competition rules through its Apple Pay service, the group will be looking into Apple’s terms and conditions for integrating Apple Pay in apps and websites, the company’s limitation of access to NFC technology, and alleged refusals of access to Apple Pay. 

      “It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites,” Vestager said. “It also reserves the ‘tap and go’ functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices.”

      The EU reserves the right to shut down tech services and charge U.S. tech firms 10 percent of their annual revenues. Separately, the Commission is planning to file an antitrust charge against Amazon in the coming weeks for allegedly using data from third-party sellers to directly compete against them.

      On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that it will launch two new antitrust probes: one into Apple’s App Store rules and another into Apple’s “Appl...
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      Retail sales rise to record levels, suggesting rebound from coronavirus slump

      May sales grew by more than double the 8.4 percent analysts expected

      Following two months of low sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, retail sales rose by a record 17.7 percent in May, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. 

      The rebound, which was more than double the 8.4 percent increase economists had expected, suggests that consumers are beginning to shop the way they used to before the pandemic. Analysts say the U.S. economy may be on track to make a V-shaped recovery. 

      "The key point here is that it's now pretty easy to imagine a full reopening of the economy taking all components of retail sales back to their pre-Covid level by, say, July," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. 

      "After July, much depends on what Congress does to the enhanced unemployment benefits, currently scheduled to end at the end of the month. If that happens, with millions of people still unemployed, sales will drop back."

      Numbers suggest rebound

      The largest increase in sales during May was seen in clothing and clothing accessory stores (a 188 percent jump); there was also an 88 percent increase in sales in sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores. Sales of motor vehicles rose 44.1 percent, and restaurant sales increased by 29.1 percent. 

      Sales of furniture and home furnishings increased by 89.7 percent, and sales in electronics and appliance stores rose 50.5 percent. Overall, total spending is still sitting at a year-over-year level that is 6.1 percent lower than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

      While the numbers suggest that the economy is recovering from the coronavirus sales slump, health experts are concerned that the reopening of states could lead to flare-ups in COVID-19 cases. As states proceed to gradually reopen, researchers say face masks will play a key role in mitigating the spread of the virus. 

      Following two months of low sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, retail sales rose by a record 17.7 percent in May, the Commerce Department reported Tues...
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      Chrysler recalls Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

      The 12 volt connector post may overheat causing a fire

      Chrysler is recalling 22,449 model year 2017-2020 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles ("PHEV").

      The 12 volt isolator post located behind the driver's seat may develop high resistance.

      A high resistance electrical connection may result in the connection overheating, increasing the risk of a fire with the vehicle on or off.

      What to do

      The recall remedy is currently under development.

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will perform an interim inspection of this joint. If the inspection indicates the joint is compromised, owners will receive a loaner vehicle, until a final remedy is developed.

      Interim notifications are expected to begin around June 22, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W46.

      Chrysler is recalling 22,449 model year 2017-2020 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles ("PHEV"). The 12 volt isolator post located behind the drive...
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      American Pacific recalls Gladiator X-Comp A/T tires

      The sidewall may separate from the tire

      American Pacific Industries is recalling 1,226 Gladiator X-Comp A/T tires, size LT285/75R16, Load Range E and with DOT date codes 0718 to 0420.

      A manufacturing issue could cause the sidewall to separate from the tire leading to tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      American Pacific will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires free of charge.

      American Pacific has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact American Pacific customer service at (661) 702-0988.

      American Pacific Industries is recalling 1,226 Gladiator X-Comp A/T tires, size LT285/75R16, Load Range E and with DOT date codes 0718 to 0420. A manufa...
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      9 items to take your camping trip to the next level

      Save yourself some headaches by bringing these items on your next camping trip

      Camping is an excellent way to vacation for a quick weekend or extended holiday, and the most successful camping trips are the ones in which you have the right gear. Here's our list of products that help provide a more enjoyable camping experience.

      1. Portable fan

      A portable fan has multiple uses around your campsite. You can use it to create white noise while you sleep and to circulate air inside your tent. Additionally, you can use it to direct smoke from your fire in one direction. With a portable fan, you can keep yourself cool from every angle.

      2. Lanyard hanger

      Instead of hanging your clothing on trees, bring a lanyard hanger to keep your clothes and towels dry. With this line, you can also hang items you do not want to leave on the ground, including jackets, supplies and cookware.

      3. Folding table

      Make meal prep and meal distribution easier with a small folding table. It’s much easier to cut and serve off a table than your lap or the ground, and you can use it for games when you and your friends stay up late.

      4. Coffee maker

      We all know that coffee is an essential part of the morning, so why change things while camping? Sleeping in a different environment can be difficult, so be sure you start your day right with your favorite cup of joe. By using a portable coffee maker, you don't have to leave all the comforts at home!

      5. Canopy tent

      Sitting outside in the sun can take its toll on you. If you have a foldable and easy-to-carry canopy, you always have shade on your trip. It's lightweight and portable so that you can move it around your campsite with ease.

      6. Indoor/outdoor mat

      It's always nice to step on something soft when you wake up in the morning. Whether you sleep in a camper or a tent, a mat lets you avoid stepping on rocks, twigs and mud when you put on your shoes outside. A mat also helps everyone's shoes and living space stay clean.

      7. Water carrier

      Water is a staple for any camping trip. Having a jug of drinking water is always a great idea because you don't know what the water quality will be at your campsite. You can also use this large jug to refill your water bottles all weekend.

      8. Portable charcoal grill

      Not good with fires? Just bring along a portable grill for all your cooking needs. It's easy to start and lightweight, so you can take it anywhere around the campsite.

      9. Electric skillet

      Don't want to make a fire? You won't have to worry about propane or charcoal if you bring along an electric skillet. You can use it for bacon and eggs in the morning or hamburgers and potatoes in the evening.

      Camping is fun, even if it is in your backyard. If you're into RV camping, make sure your insurance is up-to-date by checking our RV insurance resource. And if you have any other camping suggestions, let us know in the comments below.

      Ready for a big camping trip? Check out our list of items to help make that trip memorable....
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      FDA revokes emergency use authorization for Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine

      The agency will continue its testing of other drugs in hopes of finding a cure for COVID-19

      On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rescinded the emergency use authorization (EUA) that permitted chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate to be used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients when a clinical trial was unavailable, or participation in a clinical trial was not feasible. 

      Drawing from its ongoing analysis of both the EUA and emerging scientific data, the FDA determined that the effectiveness of the two drugs in treating COVID-19 is suspect at best. On top of that, the upsides of using the drugs no longer outweigh the known and potentially severe side effects like heart complications.

      Balancing risks

      Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House coronavirus task force had earlier warned against assuming that hydroxychloroquine is a "knockout drug" in the battle against the coronavirus.

      "We've made clear throughout the public health emergency that our actions will be guided by science ... and consider the balance of risks versus benefits of treatments for COVID-19," said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs Anand Shah, M.D. 

      "The FDA always underpins its decision-making with the most trustworthy, high-quality, up-to-date evidence available. We will continue to examine all of the emergency use authorizations the FDA has issued and make changes, as appropriate, based on emerging evidence."

      While Fauci or others may have considered chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine longshots, the FDA had a responsibility to take a long, hard look at any research associated with the emergency uses for authorized products.

      At the end of the road, though, the clinical trials proved that hydroxychloroquine "showed no benefit on mortality or in speeding recovery." The FDA also noted that the likelihood that dosing regimens for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine would kill or inhibit the virus was also unrealistic. 

      Both drugs still used for other conditions

      The agency is not entirely scuttling chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. It said that both meet FDA benchmarks to treat or prevent malaria, but not COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine is also approved to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus-related illnesses and rheumatoid arthritis

      "We remain committed to using every tool at our disposal in collaboration with innovators and researchers to provide sick patients timely access to appropriate new therapies," said Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation. 

      "Our decisions will always be based on objective and rigorous evaluation of the scientific data.This will never change."

      On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rescinded the emergency use authorization (EUA) that permitted chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychlo...
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      Coronavirus update: Worries about new hotspots, Red Cross tests for antibodies

      An anonymous donation has given RVs to California’s homeless

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,096,902 (2,026,073)

      Total U.S. deaths: 115,755 (113,883)

      Total global cases: 7,949,973 (7,550,933)

      Total global deaths: 434,181 (422,136)

      Concern about emerging hotspots

      Cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are falling in areas of the Northeast that were hit hard in the early days of the pandemic. But now they’re growing up in the South and West, regions of the country where the virus was slow to take hold.

      Several states in these regions, including Texas and Arizona, are seeing a sudden spike in cases. Dr. Scott Gottleib, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says he’s concerned cases could easily get out of control.

      In an interview with CNBC, Gottlieb said these states should be conducting more aggressive contact tracing. “We’re going to need to try to isolate the sources of these outbreaks and take targeted steps,” Gottlieb said. “If we can’t do that, these will get out of control.”

      Red Cross is testing donated blood for antibodies

      Here’s another good reason to roll up your sleeve and make a blood donation. The Red Cross says that it will test each blood, platelet, and plasma donation for coronavirus antibodies for a limited time.

      The test will help determine whether the donor has been exposed to the virus. Antibodies form in the blood to help fight the infection and remain after the patient has recovered. In some cases, someone may have never developed symptoms, so they may not know that they’ve had the virus.

      Blood supplies have reached a critically low level because so many blood drives have been canceled due to the coronavirus. Red Cross donation centers remain open and are accepting blood donations. 

      Homes for California’s homeless

      Homeful Foundation is using a $500,000 donation from an anonymous donor to purchase RV trailers to temporarily house some of California’s homeless population, who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

      Many homeless people are avoiding homeless shelters since the virus is most likely to spread when groups of people are together in close quarters. Homeful says it has purchased 28 trailers to provide temporary housing so far.

      Homeful is coordinating the effort with a number of California state agencies. Presently, the RVs are housing families in Northern and Southern California towns, including Salinas, San Bernardino, and Santa Cruz.

      Feds investigating sharp rise in post-pandemic meat prices

      Meat processing plants were hit hard by the coronavirus, with many workers who were operating in close proximity to one another getting sick. As many of these plants shut down temporarily, meat prices rose sharply higher.

      Bloomberg reports that the Trump administration is investigating beef companies, and regulators are said to be looking for possible price manipulation. The Justice Department is also launching a criminal probe of major players in the poultry industry.

      Farmers and ranchers have been on record for years in their concerns about the dominance of a few large companies in the beef and poultry markets. To date, there has been no significant antitrust action in that area. 

      Study pinpoints personality traits common to toilet paper hoarders

      Just who were those people who filled their shopping carts with toilet paper in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic? Researchers have concluded that they all share common personality traits.

      The international study published in PLOS ONE determined that the people who were most frightened by the COVID-19 outbreak rank highly on scales of emotionality and conscientiousness and were most likely to stockpile toilet paper during March.

      The researchers say it appears to have been an international phenomenon and not confined to the U.S. Some companies reported an increase of up to 700 percent in toilet paper sales, despite calls from governments to refrain from “panic buying.”

      Around the nation

      • Missouri: Gov. Mike Parson has announced that his state will be reopening this week as some restrictions are being eased more slowly in the St. Louis area. “All remaining businesses in the county can reopen. That includes places like gyms, casinos, pools, and banquet halls,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said. “However, they’ll be capped at 25 percent capacity until June 29.”

      • Virginia: Cases in the state continue to rise despite a cautious approach to reopening. The Virginia Department of Health reports that the number of cases rose Sunday in nearly every Virginia county in which the virus is present.

      • Tennessee: Nursing homes have been an area of special concern everywhere during the coronavirus, but Tennessee announced today that is beginning to allow limited visitation. Facilities will also have to meet certain requirements, including being in counties with a low number of cases.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,096,902 (2,026,07...
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      Supreme Court rules LGBTQ workers can’t be discriminated against

      The court determined that discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status are forms of sex discrimination

      In a landmark ruling on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to make it illegal for gay, lesbian, and transgender workers to be discriminated against.

      The Trump administration previously argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, under which discrimination based on sex is illegal, didn’t apply to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation.

      By a vote of 6-3, the court ruled that the federal law does cover sexual orientation and transgender status. The ruling represents a victory for millions of LGBTQ workers and advocates nationwide. 

      Landmark case

      The historic ruling was written by President Trump's first Supreme Court appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Comprising the rest of the majority was Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal justices.

      "An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids," Gorsuch wrote.

      "There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decisionmaking," the opinion read.

      Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden celebrated the ruling, saying the court “confirmed the simple but profoundly American idea that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity. That everyone should be able to live openly, proudly, as their true selves without fear.” 

      Major LGBTQ victory

      Gay rights advocates said the ruling was a long-awaited and overdue victory.

      “The Supreme Court’s clarification that it’s unlawful to fire people because they’re LGBTQ is the result of decades of advocates fighting for our rights," said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. "The court has caught up to the majority of our country, which already knows that discriminating against LGBTQ people is both unfair and against the law.”

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the ruling "a victory for the LGBTQ community, for our democracy and for our fundamental values of equality and justice for all."

      In a release published by the Human Rights Campaign, Gerald Bostock -- one of the petitioners who claims he was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator after joining a gay softball team -- said there were “no words to describe just how elated I am.”

      “Today, we can go to work without the fear of being fired for who we are and who we love," Bostock said. "Yet, there is more work to be done. Discrimination has no place in this world, and I will not rest until we have equal rights for all.”

      In a landmark ruling on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to make it illegal for gay, lesbian, and transgender workers to be discriminated against.T...
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      Former FDA head says states seeing surges in COVID-19 cases need to take immediate action

      Scott Gottlieb says ‘targeted mitigation steps’ are crucial to curbing rising case numbers as states reopen

      States that fail to take steps to mitigate spikes in COVID-19 could see outbreaks “quickly get out of control,” former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday on CNBC’s Squawk Box. 

      At least 20 states are seeing rises in cases as lockdowns lift and more people venture out. In states where numbers appear to be rising, Gottlieb says it will be important to take “targeted steps” such as contact tracing to drive the numbers back down. 

      “We’re not going to be able to shut down the country again this summer. We’re probably not going to be able to shut down the country again this fall,” he said. “And so we’re going to need to try to isolate the sources of these outbreaks and take targeted steps. If we can’t do that, these will get out of control.”

      Need for action

      Despite the fact that the virus is still infecting roughly 20,000 people each day, Gottlieb said people seem to be getting laxer with precautionary measures. 

      “We seem to be complacent, to some degree, with 20,000 cases a day. That’s an awful lot of infection,” he said. “That’s why we’re seeing these flare-ups and these outbreaks. This is going to become the new norm — these kinds of sprawling outbreaks — if we continue to have this level of infection around the country.”

      Going forward, he believes contact tracing, isolating the source of the outbreak, and widespread testing will be the best line of defense in the United States. Without swift action, surges in cases “could quickly get out of control,” Gottlieb warned. 

      He says states and cities seeing rising numbers of cases need to enact “good contact tracing, not to find every individual who’s infected, but to find the sources of infection, the activities that lead to the infection and take targeted mitigation steps.”

      States that fail to take steps to mitigate spikes in COVID-19 could see outbreaks “quickly get out of control,” former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb...
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      Despite rock-bottom rates, it’s still getting harder to get a mortgage

      An industry report shows mortgage credit availability shrank in May

      The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low -- below 3 percent -- last week, but unfortunately, it is also getting harder to be approved for a mortgage.

      A report by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) shows mortgage credit availability -- a measure of the amount of money mortgage companies are willing to lend -- fell even more during May.

      Credit availability began shrinking in late March when the economy shut down and millions of people lost their jobs. Mortgage companies immediately tightened their lending standards, fearing the surge in unemployment increased the risk of mortgage defaults.

      ‘Increased risk and uncertainty’

      Each month MBA analyzes data from Ellie Mae's AllRegs Market Clarity business information tool to arrive at a number that indicates which way standards are moving. That number fell by 3.1 percent to 129.3 in May, indicating that standards for getting a mortgage are getting tougher.

      "Mortgage lenders in May responded accordingly to the increased risk and uncertainty in the economy,” said Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Credit availability continued to decline, with MBA's overall index now at its lowest level since June 2014."  

      Kan says there was a reduction in supply across all loan types, driven by a further pullback in investors' appetites for loan programs for consumers with low credit scores. But credit also got tighter for more affluent borrowers, who take out larger loans to finance more expensive homes.

      Lenders began demanding higher credit scores and larger down payments, requirements that affected first-time buyers as well as those moving up to expensive homes.

      Implications for buyers and sellers

      This trend carries broad implications for both buyers and sellers. Buyers may not be able to secure financing to buy the home they want. With fewer buyers, sellers may see their homes sit on the market for far longer than usual. Fewer buyers also mean less competition that would normally make homes sell for more.

      While some 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are still below 3 percent to start the week, Bankrate reports that the average is 3.39 percent, down 13 basis points from a week ago. In mid-May, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was higher, at 3.52 percent.

      Consumers who fail to qualify for a mortgage because of tighter standards have time to improve their position. The Federal Reserve predicts rock bottom mortgage rates are likely to last for at least a couple of years.

      In the meantime, prospective buyers can raise their credit score by making sure they pay every bill on time and reducing the amount of their credit card debt.

      The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low -- below 3 percent -- last week, but unfortunately, it is also getting harder to be approved f...
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      Ford recalls 2.1 million model year 2011 – 2015 vehicles

      The doors may open while the vehicle is being driven

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2.1 million model year 2011-2014 Fiestas, model year 2013-2014 Fusions, model year 2015 Mustangs, model year 2013-2015 Escapes & C-Maxs, model year 2012-2015 Focus vehicles, model year 2014-2016 Transit Connects, model year 2013-2014 Lincoln MKZs, and model year 2015 MKs.

      These vehicles were previously recalled and repaired under in 2015, 2016 and 2017. However the repair may not have been completed properly.

      A component within the door latches may break making the doors difficult to latch and/or leading the driver or a passenger to believe a door is securely closed when -- in fact -- it is not.

      A door that is not securely latched could open while the vehicle is in motion, increasing the risk of injury to an occupant.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the latch date codes to confirm if the repair was done correctly, and replace the side door latches if necessary free of charge.

      Owners will also have the option to inspect their own vehicle's door latches and enter the date codes into a website to determine if the latches are correct.

      This recall is expected to begin July 20, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S30.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2.1 million model year 2011-2014 Fiestas, model year 2013-2014 Fusions, model year 2015 Mustangs, model year 2013-2015 Esca...
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      GM again recalls Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500s and 3500s

      The vehicle's hood may open unexpectedly

      General Motors is recalling model year 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500s & 3500s, and GMC Sierra 2500s & 3500s that were previously recalled.

      The hood-latch striker wires on replacement hoods installed in the earlier recall may not have been heat-treated properly, possibly causing them to fracture.

      If a striker wire fractures, the hood may open unexpectedly while the vehicle is being driven, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the hood assembly free of charge. For hoods sold over the counter, dealers will contact customers with instructions for hood replacement.

      The recall is expected to begin July 20, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020 or GMC customer service at (888) 988-7267. GM's number for this recall is N202306490.

      General Motors is recalling model year 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500s & 3500s, and GMC Sierra 2500s & 3500s that were previously recalled. The hood-latc...
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      Lakeside Refrigerated Services recalls ground beef

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7

      Lakeside Refrigerated Services of Swedesboro, N.J., is recalling approximately 42,922 pounds of ground beef.

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following items, produced on June 1, 2020, are being recalled:

      • 1-lb. vacuum packages containing “MARKETSIDE BUTCHER ORGANIC GRASS-FED GROUND BEEF” and a use or freeze by date of 07/01/20 and lot code P-53298-82.
      • 1-lb. vacuum packages containing four ¼ lb. pieces of “MARKETSIDE BUTCHER ORGANIC GRASS-FED GROUND BEEF PATTIES” and a use or freeze by date of June 27, 2020 and lot code P-53934-28.
      • 3-lb. vacuum packages containing three 1 lb. pieces of “MARKETSIDE BUTCHER ORGANIC GRASS-FED GROUND BEEF 93% LEAN / 7% FAT” and a use or freeze by date of 07/01/20 and lot code P53929-70.
      • 1-lb. tray packages containing four ¼ lb. pieces of “THOMAS FARMS GRASS-FED GROUND BEEF PATTIES 85% LEAN / 15% FAT” and a use or freeze by date of 06/25/20 and lot code P53944-10.
      • 4-lb. tray packages containing 10 ¼ lb. pieces of “THOMAS FARMS GRASS-FED GROUND BEEF PATTIES 80% LEAN / 20% FAT” and a use or freeze by date of 06/25/20 and lot code P53937-45.
      • 1-lb. vacuum packages containing four ¼ lb. pieces of “THOMAS FARMS GRASS-FED GROUND BEEF PATTIES 85% LEAN / 15% FAT” and a use or freeze by date of 06/27/20 and lot code P53935-25.
      • 1-lb. vacuum packages containing “VALUE PACK FRESH GROUND BEEF 76% LEAN / 24% FAT” and a use or freeze by date of 07/01/20 and lot code P53930-18.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 46841” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact the Lakeside call center at (856) 832-3881.

      Lakeside Refrigerated Services of Swedesboro, N.J., is recalling approximately 42,922 pounds of ground beef. The products may be contaminated with E. co...
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      Products to keep your lawn looking great this summer

      Summertime has its own lawn problems, so check out these tips for a little help

      Your lawn is the first thing people see when they pull up to your house, so why let it deteriorate during the summer? The following are some summer-specific tips that can help keep your front yard looking fantastic.

      Water in the morning or evening

      As the season warms, so does the ground. If you water during the regular daytime hours, the heat can evaporate water on your lawn's surface before it has a chance to soak into the ground. Choose a time in the morning or evening to water your garden — it saves water and keeps you out of the heat.

      • Made of durable steel
      • Weather-resistant

      Buy on Amazon

      Water deeply

      With the rising heat in some areas, you want to water a little deeper than most times of the year. During the morning or evening hours, water your lawn like usual, then take a trowel or screwdriver and make sure the water reaches a depth of around 5 inches.

      • Sprays up to 90’ in diameter
      • Gooseneck connection

      Buy on Amazon

      Keep your mower blades sharp

      As we already mentioned, retaining moisture during these warmer months is critical. If your lawnmower blades are dull, they can tear up the grass instead of cutting it, making it difficult for your lawn to retain water.

      • 2.3” x 2.5”
      • Made with double layer corundum

      Buy on Amazon

      Don’t throw out those lawnmower clippings

      With higher heat and humidity during summer, keeping the clippings on your lawn may help feed your grass. The summertime weather breaks down the cuttings better than the weather in other seasons, leaving you with a mulch-like treatment.

      • 28.5” x 17” x 21.3”
      • Made of high-quality, durable plastic

      Buy on Amazon

      Leave your grass higher

      There are 2 reasons you want to mow high:

      • It promotes root growth, which is needed in a time where grass should be more robust.
      • It creates slightly more shade, which helps prevent water evaporation.

      Until the season is over, you should definitely leave the grass a little higher when you mow your lawn.

      Feed your lawn

      The summer months are about keeping your lawn lush, and a growing lawn needs food. You can research your own feeding system, or you can discuss lawn feeding plans with your lawn care service company.

      • Made with EdgeGuard Technology
      • Holds enough fertilizer for 5,000 square feet

      Buy on Amazon

      Summer is a crucial season to prepare for the fall and winter months, so take your time, understand your lawn and get to work!

      Check out these fantastic products for your summer lawn...
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      Products to help you get a good night's sleep

      If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, these products may help

      We all have times where we struggle to fall asleep. There are several reasons you might be suffering from insomnia: heightened stress, a changed sleep cycle or even allergies can affect your rest. However, there are things that may help.

      Blackout curtains

      Sometimes light can disrupt your sleep. Many sources state errant light can affect a person's circadian rhythm, which makes sleeping difficult. If you sleep in a room exposed to natural light, you may want to look into purchasing blackout curtains. Blackout curtains can block a large percentage of outside light, and some even help reduce energy consumption through thermal insulation.

      • Blocks out 100% of sunlight
      • Insulated

      Buy on Amazon

      A white noise machine

      For some people, background noise may be preventing you from sleeping. A white noise machine helps mask noises from a dripping faucet to night birds chirping. Plus, some white noise machines have separate sounds to choose, including rain showers or ambient sounds of a forest.

      • 10 fan sounds and 10 ambient noises
      • Precise volume control

      Buy on Amazon

      Weighted blanket

      There is a theory that the slight pressure from a weighted blanket can have a calming effect, so a weighted blanket may help ease you to sleep. Although professionals are researching the details, you can test the theory yourself with a weighted blanket. There are several types to choose from, including ones that are designed for children or people who get hot at night.

      • Machine-washable
      • 4 - 25 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      Blue light glasses

      Experts are finding correlations between blue light from the various screens we use all day and sleeplessness. One way to lower the exposure is by using blue light glasses. Blue light glasses cut a majority of blue light exposure and may also help with strained vision and headaches.

      • Cut 90% of the blue light
      • Lifetime warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      A new mattress

      An old and uncomfortable mattress can affect your sleep. The discomfort you feel at night may keep you awake and ruin a good day, so check out our mattress guide to see several options.

      Here are some great products that may help you sleep...
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      Coronavirus update: Could the polio vaccine work against COVID-19? Oregon pauses its reopening

      Restaurants appear to be rebounding

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,026,073 (2,009,238)

      Total U.S. deaths: 113,883 (113,209 )

      Total global cases: 7,550,933 (7,432,275)

      Total global deaths: 422,136 (418,052)

      Polio vaccine could help against COVID-19

      Health experts writing in Science Magazine say it’s possible that an existing polio vaccine could prove effective against the coronavirus (COVID-19). They point out that the vaccination given to children also protects against some other infections.

      The authors say the polio vaccine, which is given orally, uses a weakened version of the polio virus. They say these types of vaccines normally produce a strong and long-lasting immune response.

      Should the polio vaccine prove to be effective against the coronavirus, experts say it could be quickly deployed since it’s cheap and widely available.

      Oregon hits the pause button

      Gov. Kate Brown has announced a seven-day pause on reopenings in the state after a spike in new coronavirus cases. The state is experiencing an increase in positive cases after easing restrictions on outdoor activities in early May and reopening retail stores on May 15.

      “This one-week pause will give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus,” Brown said in a statement on Twitter. “I will use the data we see in the next week to determine whether to lift this pause or extend it.

      Restaurant sales are rising

      From fast food to the priciest steak house, restaurants got hammered by the coronavirus. While most were able to pivot to take-out and delivery only, sales haven’t come close to what they enjoyed before the pandemic.

      That may now be changing. In states that have begun to lift restrictions, restaurants are reopening dining rooms, but at reduced capacity and with other health safety measures in place. 

      An NPD Group report shows restaurant transactions at the end of May were 18 percent below the year before, the first time the decline has been below 20 percent.

      Alaska offers alternative to 14-day quarantine

      Alaska hasn’t had that many cases of the coronavirus, and state officials want to keep it that way. They’ve been requiring people entering the state to self-quarantine for 14 days.

      The Alaska Department of Health has now revised that mandate, saying travelers entering the state may enter Alaska without undergoing a 14-day quarantine if they:

      • Provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure; tests taken up to five days from departure will be accepted, but travelers need to take another test upon arrival; or

      • Test upon arrival in Alaska, maintaining quarantine at their own expense until test results are known; or

      • Belong to the critical infrastructure workforce and follow their company's protective plan on file with the state; or

      • Previously had COVID-19, are recovered, and can provide evidence of both.

      Consumers give the Postal Service some love

      People love to complain about the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) but the USPS is getting some respect during the pandemic. When The Harris Poll asked consumers to name the most essential companies during the shutdown, the USPS was number one.

      The rest of the top 10 essential companies selected by consumers are, in order;  Clorox, Google, United Parcel Service, Walmart, Amazon, Purell, Microsoft, FedEx, and CVS.

      "When they needed it the most, Americans put their trust in the business community to help them through COVID-19," said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll. "We've seen widespread approval of the corporate response to the pandemic – whether pivoting to different goods and services, reinforcing supply chains, or seeking cures for the deadly virus."

      Around the nation

      • Florida: Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued a consumer alert about a new scam targeting seniors with offers of fake COVID-19 grants. Scammers are contacting seniors via Facebook Messenger, email, and text message to offer these sham grants and request upfront payment as insurance for the expedited delivery of grant money.

      • Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp has renewed the public health state of emergency, which will continue through July 12. That means the state’s price-gouging regulation is back in force. “Our office will not tolerate attempts to use this public health crisis to exploit consumers,” said Attorney General Chris Carr.

      • Minnesota: Movie theaters in the state are now allowed to reopen but are limited to 25 percent capacity. Mann Theatres plans to reopen its 12 theaters on June 26 after establishing social distancing protocols.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,026,073 (2,009,23...
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      Starbucks to allow employees to wear apparel supporting Black Lives Matter movement

      The decision follows backlash over its original decision that forbid wearing BLM attire

      After initially barring its employees from wearing Black Lives Matter attire, Starbucks has changed course and decided to allow team members to wear clothes with the message. 

      On Friday, the coffee chain announced that not only would it be lifting the restriction, but that it would make 250,000 shirts supporting the movement. 

      Starbucks told employees in a memo last week they would not be permitted to wear clothing or accessories that mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement out of concern that it could be misconstrued and increase the risk of confrontation. 

      The company just recently penned a new memo to employees that read, "we've heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or t-shirt."

      "We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity," Friday's statement said. "We trust you to do what's right while never forgetting Starbucks is a welcoming third place where all are treated with dignity and respect."

      Supporting Black Lives Matter movement

      In the new memo, titled “Standing together against racial injustice,” Starbucks said it would be designing new t-shirts to “demonstrate our allyship and show we stand together in unity.” 

      Until these shirts arrive, company executives encouraged employees to express their support of the movement through apparel of their own. 

      “These are alarming, uncertain times and people everywhere are hurting,” the company said. “You’ve told us you need a way to express yourself at work, asking: ‘Do you understand how I feel!? Do you understand the black community is in pain?’” 

      “We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change,” the company said. 

      After initially barring its employees from wearing Black Lives Matter attire, Starbucks has changed course and decided to allow team members to wear clothe...
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      Amazon enacts one-year ban on police use of its facial recognition technology

      The company says tougher and more ethical rules need to be put in place

      Amazon announced on Thursday that it’s banning police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for one year. The company said it’s halting the use of technology until officials establish tougher rules regarding its use. 

      “We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology,” Amazon said in a blog post

      The e-commerce giant didn’t exactly say why it was suspending use of the technology, but it noted that Congress “appears ready” to create more stringent regulations pertaining to the use of facial recognition. 

      Establishing rules

      Amazon’s statement comes just two days after IBM announced that it would be exiting the general-purpose facial recognition game, mainly due to its potential to be used for racial profiling and mass surveillance. IBM said Thursday that facial recognition or analysis software could be used by police to violate "basic human rights and freedoms, which would violate its values. 

      “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested,” Amazon said in a blog post. 

      In its brief announcement, Amazon didn’t specifically mention the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. However, the company’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the incident. Floyd’s death set off numerous protests against police brutality and racism and sparked a nationwide push for change. 

      Amazon will still allow facial recognition to be used for commercial purposes and organizations like the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help find victims of human trafficking. 

      Amazon announced on Thursday that it’s banning police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for one year. The company said it’s halting th...
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      Mercedes-Benz vehicles with left-rear seatback issue recalled

      The left-rear seatback electric latch may fail

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,352 model year 2020 E450s, AMG E63Ss, GLC300s, AMG GLC43s, AMG GLC63s, AMG GT53s and AMG GT63s with rear seatbacks that can be electrically unlatched.

      The left-rear seatback latch may not be strong enough to withstand certain loads. If cargo were to strike the left-rear seatback, the latch may fail.

      Failure of the latch in a crash can increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the left-rear seatback latch free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 4, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,352 model year 2020 E450s, AMG E63Ss, GLC300s, AMG GLC43s, AMG GLC63s, AMG GT53s and AMG GT63s with rear seatbacks...
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      Amazon may soon face antitrust charges over its treatment of third-party sellers

      An EU investigation has reportedly revealed that the company uses data from third-party sellers to compete against them

      Following a lengthy investigation into Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, the European Commission (EC) plans to lodge formal antitrust charges against Amazon, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

      Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Journal said the charges will likely come sometime within the next two weeks. The watchdog group reportedly intends to accuse Amazon of using data from third-party sellers to compete against them.

      EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last year that Amazon “appears to use competitively sensitive information – about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace.” 

      "Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace," the EU said in July 2019, when it first launched the investigation. 

      Scrutiny over business practices

      During the course of the probe, Vestager said the EU would "take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules."

      In April, more than 20 former Amazon employees told the Journal that Amazon had used seller data to help design and price its in-house products. Amazon maintained that it "strictly prohibt[s]" its employees from using that data and said it had launched an internal investigation into the matter. 

      A decision on whether the company violated competition laws is "expected to take at least another year," according to the report. If Amazon is ultimately found to have violated competition laws, it could face a fine of 10 percent of its annual revenue, the report says. 

      Following a lengthy investigation into Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, the European Commission (EC) plans to lodge formal antitrust charges agai...
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      Island Wear Recalls Strollers

      The strollers violate the federal Carriages and Strollers Safety standard

      Island Wear of Ocean City, Md., is recalling about 940 Umbrella strollers.

      The strollers violate the federal Carriages and Strollers Safety standard as the location of the restraint system creates a large gap between the restraint and the seat. The child can slip through the gap, posing a fall hazard.

      In addition, the covering on the grab bar can detach and expose foam, posing a choking hazard to children.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves Island Wear umbrella strollers with a grab bar and footrest sold in blue and multi rainbow colors.

      The strollers, manufactured in China, were sold at Paradise Island, Outrageous Outlet, and Grand Resort Wear in Ocean City, Md., from April 2019, through October 2019, for about $20.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers and contact Island Wear for instructions on how to receive a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Island Wear toll-free at (844) 449-4144 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or by email at Islandwearoc@gmail.com.

      Island Wear of Ocean City, Md., is recalling about 940 Umbrella strollers. The strollers violate the federal Carriages and Strollers Safety standard as ...
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      Model year Mercedes-Benz 2020 GLE450s, GLS450s and GLS580s recalled

      The rear shock absorbers may fail prematurely

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 38 model year 2020 GLE450s, GLS450s and GLS580s.

      The seal in the rear shock absorber piston chambers may leak and allow the rear shock absorbers to fail prematurely.

      Worn-out rear shock absorbers can affect vehicle handling and control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear shock absorbers free of charge.

      This recall is expected to begin August 4, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 38 model year 2020 GLE450s, GLS450s and GLS580s. The seal in the rear shock absorber piston chambers may leak and...
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      6 great weight alternatives you have in your home

      Looking to do some strength training without the store-bought weights? Here are some great alternatives

      Weight training is an excellent way to burn calories, reduce fat and get stronger. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Strength training is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone.” However, some of the equipment available can be a bit pricey. If you don’t have access to weights or just want to test the waters, you can find weight alternatives lying around the house.

      1. Dumbbells

      Dumbbells are an important part of strength training and have several benefits, such as increasing lean muscle and adding strength. There are many items you can find as a dumbbell substitute — you simply need to look around. For instance:

      • A larger, 72-ounce bottle of laundry detergent is almost equal to 5 pounds.
      • A gallon milk jug is a little over 8 pounds.
      • A 12-pack of soda is about 10 pounds.

      2. Weighted vest

      If your usual cardio is boring you, you should add some weight to your body. There are many excellent weighted vests online, but you can start by using a backpack and flour sacks. Get a comfortable, well-padded backpack and weigh it down with measured household items. For instance, add a 5-pound bag of flour and increase or decrease at your own pace.

      • 16" high
      • 15" shoulder drop

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Weight bench

      We all have several strength exercises that involve a weight bench, from a dumbbell bench press to the row. Although the back angle will be fixed, any kind of bench will work. Use a picnic, kitchen or even a piano bench. Another tip is to add a cushion or mat on the top for comfort.

      • 71” long X 24” wide
      • Moisture-resistant

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Resistance bands

      Resistance bands are an excellent option for weight training. They share similar weight lifting benefits while taking the pressure off your joints, allowing you to exert more power with less fear of injury. Although there are several inexpensive resistance bands online, you can test the workout by tying together any stretchy material — like pantyhose — and finding your favorite exercise.

      • 14 tension levels
      • 53" Color-coded bands

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Medicine ball

      Several benefits come with using a medicine ball for weight training. For instance, it can improve your power, help with coordination and increase muscle mass. Unfortunately, we may not have one on hand, but we can make it with an old sports ball:

      1. Make sure the ball is empty
      2. Cut a small hole into one side of the ball
      3. Fill it with sand to the desired weight
      4. Reseal the new opening with heavy-duty tape
      • 27.5”, 28.5" and 29.5” sizes available
      • Designed for grip and comfort

      Buy on Amazon

      • Works indoors or outdoors
      • Good for smooth, rough and uneven surfaces

      Buy on Amazon

      • 50 pounds
      • Multi-purpose

      Buy on Amazon

      6. Barbell

      Like the dumbbells, barbells are a staple of weight training. If you don't have a bar and weights for bench press, overhead press or squats, try various sizes of dog food bags. These bags are generally pretty tough, evenly weighted and you can shift the for comfort. Start with a 20-pound bag and move up from there!

      Remember, weight training is a lifelong exercise. Take your time, increase weight at your own pace and always speak to your doctor about any change in physical activity. If you want to up your home gym experience, check out our guides on exercise equipment and exercise bikes.

      Here are 6 ideas for weight alternatives you can find around your house...
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      Coronavirus update: Arizona becomes a hot spot, prices are still falling during pandemic

      The University of Nebraska is donating hand sanitizer to meat plants

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,988,491 (1,962,982)

      Total U.S. deaths: 112,311 (111,097)

      Total global cases: 7,283,709 (7,156,598)

      Total global deaths: 412,745 (407,326)

      Arizona hospitals implementing emergency plans

      A number of states are loosening coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and reopening, but health officials in Arizona are on alert after a spike in cases of the virus. Hospitals have been ordered to implement emergency plans after the state appeared on its way to becoming a coronavirus hotspot.

      Banner Health, Arizona’s largest hospital network, warns that it is approaching capacity in its intensive care units (ICU). The Arizona Department of Health told hospitals to “fully activate” emergency plans, something that hasn’t been done since the beginning of the pandemic.

      This week, Banner Health reported that the number of coronavirus patients on ventilators has quadrupled since May 15, when stay-at-home orders were lifted.

      Consumers continue to see lower prices

      The Labor Department reports that its Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell again in May as COVID-19 lockdowns continued to crush demand. The CPI fell 0.1 percent, much less than April’s 0.8 percent drop.

      But not all prices were lower. Consumers continued to pay more for food last month, as the food index rose 0.7 percent, propelled by higher prices at the supermarket. Rent also went up.

      Consumers saved month last month on cheaper car insurance, gasoline, and clothing. 

      More hand sanitizer headed for meatpacking plants

      Most meatpacking plants that shut down in April are back open, and food supplies are flowing to supermarkets again. The bad news is that coronavirus cases among employees have spiked.

      A team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is sending a new supply of hand sanitizer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for distribution to meat processing plants. The university has obtained large quantities of the product through its relationship with ethanol producers in the state.

      “This project represents the true grit of Nebraskans and the innovative ways the agriculture community joins together to take care of one another,” said Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman. 

      Travel high on consumers’ list of post-shutdown objectives

      A Tripadvisor survey of consumer sentiment and online searches reveals that consumers are eager to hit the road again. Just over 40 percent of consumers are optimistic that they will take the same or more trips than last year.

      Some travel patterns may shift, however. The survey finds shorter trips to destinations closer to home are a recurring theme, with nearly half of consumers saying they are more likely to take a road trip.

      "We're encouraged to see positive signs of recovery and are here to help our travelers and partners understand the pathway through this pandemic with clear insights and tangible data," said Kanika Soni, chief commercial officer for Tripadvisor, Inc. "Our path to recovery will depend on the steps the industry takes to prepare for the road ahead.

      Johnson & Johnson speeds up vaccine testing

      Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical unit is stepping up the start of human clinical trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, Ad26.COV2-S, recombinant. Initially scheduled to begin in September, the trial is now expected to get underway in the second half of July.

      "Simultaneously, we are continuing our efforts to build important global partnerships and invest in our vaccine production technology and manufacturing capabilities,” said Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson. “Our goal is to ensure we can deliver a vaccine to the world and protect people everywhere from this pandemic."

      Around the nation

      • Kansas: Summer is just getting started, but educators in Kansas are already thinking about the new school year. The state Department of Education has put together a set of guidelines on how schools should reopen, in some cases providing step-by-step instructions.

      • Maryland: State health officials are reporting 500 new cases of the coronavirus, but, in an encouraging note, the number of hospitalizations continues to go down. Officials say the number fell below 1,000 on Monday for the first time since April and has gone down each day since.

      • New Hampshire: While the state begins to reopen businesses closed by the pandemic, municipalities are considering strict requirements to wear masks in public. Nashua, however, faces a lawsuit after it enacted such an ordinance. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,988,491 (1,962,98...
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      COVID-19 pandemic continues to rise in nearly 20 states, putting a strain on hospital beds

      There will be plenty of vaccines available, but will people take them?

      Too much too soon? Possibly. The downward trend of the COVID-19 pandemic holds true for 24 states, is flat in seven states, but it’s still on the rise in 19 others, leading one -- Arizona -- to put all hospitals on emergency alert.

      At the pandemic’s apex in Arizona, the level of intensive care unit beds in use was at 78 percent. But, as medical professionals noted, things can change quickly with COVID-19. The number of Arizona’s confirmed cases doubled in the last two weeks of May, keeping pressure on available hospital beds. 

      It also forced Arizona's Director of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ, to change her tune. On May 26, she blogged that “Arizona’s capacity is sufficient to meet the projected need for hospital beds and ventilators.” Now, however, she’s asking that hospitals "be judicious" in elective surgeries to ensure bed capacity.

      Arizona’s not alone

      The U.S. is dotted with pockets of spikes in cases of the coronavirus, putting the crunch on hospital space. The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in North Carolina is the highest it’s ever been at 774, according to the North Carolina Healthcare Association. 

      While New Jersey’s number of positive cases is going in the right direction, CNN reports that Gov. Phil Murphy is cautioning his state’s residents that they’re not out of the woods quite yet. 

      Across the country in California, the city of Los Angeles also asked its residents to hit the pause button. With the countless thousands of people who attended protests over the death of George Floyd and the possibility that the virus could spread even further in that setting, the city is asking everyone to keep a close watch for any of the typical COVID-19 symptoms.

      "You could have an exposure and it will not come through a contact tracing system. Nobody knows that you were there, nobody has your name," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a press conference on Monday.

      An accident waiting to happen

      As Dr. Anthony Fauci warned in early May, reopening too soon could cause future COVID-19 outbreaks. Researchers also waved the caution flag, saying that restrictions should be eased gradually.

      While states are starting to lower the number of restrictions, the fact still exists that there is no vaccine in place to curb a reemergence. That, added to people starting to congregate in public places and throngs of people protesting shoulder-to-shoulder across the country, raises the potential even higher.

      Vaccines will become available, but will people take them?

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) disease experts are all on the same page about coronavirus vaccines. They think that there won’t be just one single vaccine -- such as remdesivir -- but multiple. As a matter of fact, by the Milken Institute’s count, there are 161 vaccines currently in development. That’s the upside of the situation. 

      The downside according to Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Centers for Biologics Evaluation and Research, is that there won’t be enough people taking advantage of the availability of vaccines, therefore putting herd immunity at risk.

      "If 30 percent or 40 percent of the population will not take this vaccine, even if the vaccine effectiveness is 70 percent to 80 percent, we will not be in a position to have herd immunity," Marks said.

      Too much too soon? Possibly. The downward trend of the COVID-19 pandemic holds true for 24 states, is flat in seven states, but it’s still on the rise in 1...
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      Nintendo says 300,000 accounts were hacked

      The company says it discovered additional breached accounts after continuing an investigation started in April

      Nintendo disclosed on Tuesday that 300,000 accounts have been compromised by hackers since the beginning of April. 

      In a statement on its website, originally written in Japanese, the company said a higher number of malicious attackers used users’ Nintendo Network IDs without their permission than previously believed. 

      In April, the company said 160,000 accounts were breached. On Tuesday, the company said it found, after continuing its investigation, that the figure is actually around 300,000. However, Nintendo said only a small number of hacked accounts were used to make purchases or to buy items on Nintendo's platform.

      Nintendo says credit card information wasn’t exposed, but multiple reports said hackers gained access to “PayPal funds linked to the Nintendo eShop and used them to purchase game currencies like Fortnite’s ‘V-bucks’ and, in some cases, hundreds of dollars worth of games,” the Deseret News reported in April.

      Emailing affected users

      Nintendo said it is almost done issuing refunds to customers whose accounts were used to make fraudulent purchases. 

      Affected users will receive an email from the company urging them to update their passwords. Users can also set up two-factor authentication for additional security. People who previously used a Nintendo Network ID to log in are now urged to use their Nintendo account email address instead. 

      When Nintendo first announced the breach, it promised to “make further efforts to strengthen security and ensure safety so that similar events do not occur.” 

      Nintendo disclosed on Tuesday that 300,000 accounts have been compromised by hackers since the beginning of April. In a statement on its website, origi...
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      Our Favorite 11 Items For Any Road Trips

      Be prepared for any and all car trips with the below packing list items

      Summer is an excellent time for road trips; they are a great way to spend time with your family or friends and allow you to see parts of the country you wouldn’t see otherwise. Although road trips come with their own challenges and setbacks, taking a road trip is something you will not forget. To help you feel more comfortable in your journey, we put together a list of 11 essential items to include in your vehicle for these travels.

      Hand sanitizer

      After everything that has happened during the recent COVID-19 crisis, this is a must for 2020. One of the CDC's approved methods to stay healthy and keep clean is using an alcohol-based hand rub that is greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. Not everything along the way will be as clean as you want. However, implementing hand sanitizer and regular hand-washing can help ensure you keep those germs off you and out of your car.

      Travel pillow

      Auto manufacturers do not design cars for a comfortable sleep, so a travel neck pillow will come in handy — as long as you are not the driver! Getting yourself a travel pillow is a must-have for the trip. Spending hours in the vehicle can get very uncomfortable, and a neck pillow can help keep you feeling relaxed and calm as you snooze.

      Blanket

      Similar to how bread and butter go together, so does a blanket and a pillow. You can wedge the blanket against the window or use it to cover your legs if the air conditioning is blasting on you. Additionally, you can use the blanket when you reach the destination, whether that be a campsite, hotel or a family member's house!

      USB phone charger and external battery

      Our cellphones are our lifelines, and a low battery can spell doom for any road trip. GPS, social media and Bluetooth connectivity can suck the battery right out of your phone, so make sure to carry with you a car charger and external battery. You may also want to grab a plug adapter to the charging cord so you can charge when you get to your destination.

      Roadside emergency kit

      It is always best to be prepared for anything, and you never know when you run into a problem on the road. One should not be taking any long trips in their car without an emergency roadside kit. Some day you may need jumper cables, a flashlight or even a whistle to signal help if emergency responders cannot see you.

      Swiss Army knife

      An excellent swiss army knife can be useful in a variety of situations. You can use it to open cans, bottles, cut kindling and even tighten some screws. Between this knife and your emergency kit, you should be covered for most roadside issues.

      Car cooler

      Snacks and drinks are essential in any good road trip. Having a car cooler that has a 12v DC car adapter for use in a vehicle can ensure all your snacks and drinks are kept cool. A cooler like this will also allow you to save money and time because you won’t be stopping to purchase supplies at mini-marts. Also, your options will probably be healthier than those at a gas station!

      Road trip games

      Do you or a group of bored kids need to pass the time in the car but are done with electronics and books, then bring yourself some entertaining road trip games! There are several games you and your family or friends can play on the road — from tic-tac-toe to battleship. Who says you don’t have fun without electronics?

      First aid kit

      People tend to get hurt when they least expect it, so prepare for any bruises or pains you may encounter along the way with a first aid kit. You never know when you will need a bandaid, aspirin or tweezers. Every car should have a first aid kit, even if you aren't on a road trip.

      Tissues

      One item you should always have in your car is a box of tissues. You never know when someone will sniffle or need to blow their nose! Additionally, they can be used as a quick solution for spills, extra napkins or emergency toilet paper if nature calls!

      Reusable water bottle

      Staying and being hydrated is critical while you are traveling, especially in warmer areas of the country. A water bottle is a perfect choice for getting the water your need; plus, it's helpful to have in case you are traveling with your pet. Some bottles provide a large cap to serve as a bowl in case you can’t leave your vehicle.

      The key to success about any road trip is to plan ahead and think through all the items you may need. This list will help ensure the essentials are there, but the more you prepare, the more successful your road trip will be. Make sure your auto or RV insurance is up-to-date and obey all traffic laws!

      Here is our list of excellent buys for your next road trip....
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      Coronavirus update: WHO backtracks, new treatment gets clinical trial

      Many states may be undercounting their cases

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,962,982 (1,951,722)

      Total U.S. deaths: 111,097 (110,771)

      Total global cases: 7,156,598 (7,068,144)

      Total global deaths: 407,326 (404,142)

      WHO clarifies comments about asymptomatic spread

      The World Health Organization (WHO) raised some eyebrows when it issued guidance saying that it doesn’t appear that many coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are spread by people who are asymptomatic.

      The health agency has now clarified its statement, saying how the disease spreads is a “complex question” that needs more study. But the original statement is in line with a previous study suggesting most people with the virus are not contagious.

      “The majority of transmission that we know about is that people who have symptoms transmit the virus to other people through infectious droplets. But there are a subset of people who don’t develop symptoms,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit. “To truly understand how many people don’t have symptoms, we don’t actually have that answer yet.” 

      Racing for a cure

      The pace of drug development to fight COVID-19 infection has surprised even many health researchers. Gilead’s remdesivir is already being administered to patients with good results.

      AstraZeneca has announced plans to move two potential COVID-19 antibody-based therapeutics into clinical trials in the next two months. Antibodies come from the blood of patients who have recovered from the virus, and the treatment has been shown to be effective in helping sick patients recover.

      AstraZeneca said it obtained antibodies from Vanderbilt University with a plan to turn them into a potential combination therapy for both the prevention and treatment of the virus

      There may be more cases than we think

      At just under 2 million, the United States has significantly more cases of the coronavirus than any other country. But some health officials think there may be many more sick people than what is estimated in the official count.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 28 states are not following CDC guidelines, which include reporting “probable” cases and those that have been confirmed. Probable cases are those that show evidence of infection but have not been confirmed by a test.

      The CDC says some of the largest states -- including California, Florida, New York, and Texas -- are among those not recording probable cases.

      Macy’s leads retail resurgence

      Retail stores have bounced back from the coronavirus shutdown, and Macy’s so far is leading the parade. The retailer reported preliminary first-quarter earnings today, noting sales have risen faster than initial estimates.

      In spite of temporarily closing all of its stores, Macy’s online channel continued to rack up sales that kept the chain afloat while shoppers were homebound.

      “By June 1, we had approximately 450 stores reopened, with the majority opened in their full format,” said Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chairman and CEO. “Our reopened stores are performing better than anticipated. Importantly, we are receiving positive feedback on the curbside pickup experience and our efforts to create a safe and welcoming shopping environment."

      Airbnb benefits from uptick in travel

      Not only are hotels and airlines seeing their business pick up as consumers -- cooped up at home for weeks begin to travel -- Airbnb bookings have surged in recent weeks. 

      In an interview with Bloomberg News, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the company saw more nights booked for U.S. listings between May 17 and June 3 than the same period a year ago. 

      Chesky says that while global and domestic bookings aren’t on the same pace, they’re getting close in places like Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, and South Korea. 

      Around the nation

      • New Jersey: The state health department has issued guidelines for the operation of summer day camps. Gov. Phil Murphy approved the camp reopenings to help parents who are returning to work obtain child care during the coronavirus.

      • Texas: Cases of the coronavirus have spiked in the last week after the state reopened for business. There was a record number of hospitalizations on Monday as the governor plans to reopen more businesses this week and increase capacity.

      • Ohio: Amusement parks in the state are scheduled to begin reopening July 2, but some safety groups are expressing concern about that timetable -- not because of the virus but because of safety. They point out that many of the state employees who inspect amusement park rides have been laid off.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,962,982 (1,951,72...
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      CDC says states aren’t reporting ‘probable’ COVID-19 cases

      Undercounted figures make it harder for officials to get an accurate picture of where the virus is spreading

      As states begin reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says at least 28 states aren’t reporting probable new COVID-19 cases.

      The CDC defines “probable” cases as those where individuals are showing symptoms of the virus but haven’t gotten confirmation that they have it through a lab test. “Probable” also applies in cases where coronavirus was named as a cause or contributing cause of death but not definitively named as the cause of death due to lack of lab test confirmation.

      Health officials say these cases should be included in the total case count for mapping purposes. However, some states aren’t reporting probable cases. The Trump administration’s three-phase plan to reopen states is underway, but now the CDC says 26 states are seeing an increased or steady rate of new cases. 

      Tracking the spread as lockdowns lift

      More than 1.9 million Americans have been infected in the past four months, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The number of U.S. deaths from the virus has risen to 110,771. 

      An accurate tally of cases is critical because it helps officials track the virus’ spread and make reopening decisions. States that haven’t reported probable cases include California, Florida, New York, and Texas, which are among the more densely populated states.

      Over the last week, Texas and Arizona reported seeing an uptick in new cases. Utah’s state Rep. Suzanne Harrison said she was very concerned about the recent increase in cases in her state. On June 6, she tweeted that the positive test rate had doubled from the day prior -- from 9.4 percent to 18.5 percent. 

      “Please be careful. Practice social distancing. Avoid crowds. Use masks where appropriate. Wash your hands,” she said. 

      In California, state officials are gearing up to begin reopening the economy on Friday. Only counties that have met certain thresholds on the number of cases, testing, and preparedness will be allowed to start reopening.

      On Tuesday, Michigan reopened significant areas of business activity. Consumers in the state can now go to bars and restaurants, neighborhood swimming pools, and the zoo for the first time since March.

      As states begin reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says at least 28 states aren’t reporting probable new COVID-19 cases....
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      More than 20 percent of COVID-19 patients in the ICU also have diabetes

      Researchers emphasize the importance of minimizing the risk of infection for health care workers

      A new study conducted by researchers from The Endocrine Society found that a good number of patients in the ICU with COVID-19 are also struggling with diabetes. 

      According to the study, over 20 percent of patients in the ICU have both coronavirus and diabetes. One of the biggest concerns is ensuring that health care workers are administering all treatments safely and are taking all the precautions necessary to reduce the spread of infection. 

      “This manuscript provides guidance for healthcare providers caring for patients hospitalized for COVID-19 who also have a prior history of diabetes or who have high blood sugar levels at the time of hospitalization,” said researcher Dr. Mary T. Korytkowski. “These healthcare providers are at risk for contracting COVID-19, and while glycemic management in the hospital improves patient outcomes, it also intensifies the amount of time with direct patient contact.” 

      Managing infection risk

      The researchers became interested in this topic after learning how frequently diabetes patients were being admitted into the ICU with COVID-19. They discovered that patients with diabetes made up anywhere from 25 to 34 percent of ICUs nationwide. 

      Nurses and doctors are already at an increased risk of exposure to coronavirus, and that risk of infection is intensified because of how extensive diabetes treatment protocols typically are. Moreover, protective equipment for frontline workers has been in short supply, so it’s important that those administering medical care take as many precautions as possible. 

      The researchers’ goal was to establish protocols that would help keep health care professionals safe and healthy while still offering patients the treatment and care that they need. 

      For starters, they noted that popular medications used to treat COVID-19 can create fluctuations with glucose levels. Previous studies have highlighted the side effects associated with hydroxychloroquine, so it’s important that health care providers are aware of potential interactions. 

      They also explained that many patients are capable of monitoring their diabetes without assistance. While every patient’s condition -- both diabetes and COVID-19 -- are different, when it’s possible, health care providers can ask their patients what their typical diabetes maintenance entails and have those patients stick to their regular routine. 

      Using technology to provide treatment

      The researchers recommend that health care professionals take advantage of technology. 

      Glucose can be monitored with wearable, remote devices that those in the hospital can access without having to be face-to-face with patients. This will cut down on the number of IV infusions while still giving nurses and doctors the data they need on their patients. 

      The researchers hope that this work is beneficial for health care providers. By adopting some of these strategies, the team thinks workers can reduce their risk of infection. 

      A new study conducted by researchers from The Endocrine Society found that a good number of patients in the ICU with COVID-19 are also struggling with diab...
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      Federal Reserve survey finds consumers’ expectations are rising

      The country’s recent reopening may be lifting spirits

      While the economy faces enormous challenges in the months ahead, consumers seem to think things will get better sooner than most experts have predicted.

      The Federal Reserve’s May Survey of Consumer Expectations shows small signs of improvement in households’ expectations compared to April. Consumers expect prices to rise over the next year but think the labor market will get slightly better in the months ahead.

      As the stock market surged, even in the absence of encouraging data, consumers' mood seemed to reflect that optimism. Consumers are more upbeat about employment opportunities, even as company after company warned that its earnings would slide.

      At the same time, consumers’ outlook was not completely rosy. Their perceived and expected availability of credit continued to worsen. Median inflation expectations increased at the one-year horizon and remained stable at the three-year horizon.

      Inflation expectations

      The expectation for inflation at the one-year horizon increased by 0.4 of a percentage point to 3.0 percent in May. Median expectations for inflation three years from now remained unchanged at 2.6 percent. 

      The expectation for home prices improved slightly. In April, there was not much sentiment for rising home prices; however, consumers improved their outlook in May, suggesting prices could rise by 0.6 percent. The slight increase was driven mostly by respondents who live in the West and Northeast Census regions.

      In spite of the widespread layoffs and surge in unemployment, consumers appear to believe the employment picture is improving. Median year-ahead household income growth expectations increased from 1.9 percent in April to 2.1 percent in May after declining for three consecutive months. 

      Even so, that number is considerably lower than its year-ago level of 2.8 percent. A quarter of respondents expect a decrease of at least 0.3 percent in their household incomes over the next 12 months.

      A return to household spending

      But in spite of all the headwinds to the economy that have increased over the last three months, consumers expect their median household spending to increase by 0.7 percent, even as it remains below its year-over-year average of  3.5 percent.

      Most consumers don’t expect to see an improvement in access to credit anytime soon. Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago deteriorated for the third consecutive month, with almost half of respondents reporting that credit is harder to get today than a year ago. 

      Expectations for year-ahead credit availability also worsened, with fewer respondents expecting credit will become easier to obtain.

      While the economy faces enormous challenges in the months ahead, consumers seem to think things will get better sooner than most experts have predicted....
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      GM recalls Chevrolet 4500HD, 5500HD, and 6500HD medium duty trucks

      The ABS malfunction indicator may not light

      General Motors is recalling 12,200 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet 4500HD, 5500HD, and 6500HD medium duty trucks.

      If the vehicle's body control module (BCM) loses communication with the vehicle's electronic brake control module (EBCM), the EBCM software programming may not illuminate the vehicle's ABS malfunction indicator light (MIL).

      If a driver is unaware that the ABS system is malfunctioning, there may be an increased risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will update the software calibration for the body control module (BCM).

      This recall is expected to begin July 13, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020. GM's number for this recall is N202305070.

      General Motors is recalling 12,200 model year 2019-2020 Chevrolet 4500HD, 5500HD, and 6500HD medium duty trucks.If the vehicle's body control module (B...
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      Vee Tyre recalls Taiga A/T tires

      The sidewall may separate from the tire

      Vee Tyre and Rubber Co., Ltd. is recalling 522 Taiga A/T tires, size LT285/75R16.

      Due to a manufacturing issue, the sidewall may separate from the tire, which can lead to tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Vee Tyres will notify and reimburse owners the cost of the tires along with any service fees.

      This recall is expected to begin June 30, 2020.

      Owners may contact Vee's customer service at (917) 863-2422. Vee's numbers for this recall are 6MSLD8 2117 and 2217.

      Vee Tyre and Rubber Co., Ltd. is recalling 522 Taiga A/T tires, size LT285/75R16. Due to a manufacturing issue, the sidewall may separate from the tire,...
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      Helpful items for first-time parents

      Here are the must-haves to make navigating parenthood a little easier

      When you're expecting to add a new family member, things can get overwhelming. There are many types of strollers, car seats, cribs and other necessities on the market. To save you money and time, here are some must-have items for first-time parents that make life a little easier chosen by ConsumerAffairs' own new mom, Lizzie Bolt.

      Easy-to-use travel system

      This one is a given — you can't bring a baby home without a car seat! Having the right travel system for your family is essential to making life a little easier when getting in and out of your car. The Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System comes with the base, car seat and stroller. Chicco designed the car seat for infants from 4 - 30 pounds and comes in 4 different patterns with the matching stroller. So stylish!

      • Parent tray with 2 cup holders
      • One-handed, free-standing quick fold

      Buy on Amazon

      Safe sleeping area

      Much research has gone into the "back is best" sleeping method for infants. It’s essential to have a nice, firm mattress in a safe sleep space, such as this Delta Bentley S Series Convertible crib. Made with easy assembly in mind, the Delta Bentley crib will also grow with your baby, converting from a crib to a toddler bed, day bed and even a full-size bed with a head and footboard. Don't forget the final touch: Graco's Premium breathable, foam crib mattress. Graco's mattress will fit any standard full-size crib.

      • Available in 3 colors
      • Adjustable mattress height

      Buy on Amazon

      • Removable and machine washable cover
      • GREENGUARD Gold certified

      Buy on Amazon

      Something soothing

      We know parenting is overwhelming, but being a baby isn't a life in paradise (only according to them, though). When your sweet baby can't seem to settle outside of your arms, and you want to get some things done or even need a break, having a swing is a lifesaver! The Safari Dreams Cradle n' Swing from Fisher-Price lets you create the best environment for your baby to hang out. Packed with 16 tunes, a motorized mobile and 6 different swinging speeds, your baby will be in awe for sure!

      • 2-position recline
      • 3 adjustable seat positions

      Buy on Amazon

      Be ready for bath

      Bath time is a fun time for everyone! Who doesn't love splashing and singing with their baby? Fisher-Price's 4-in-1 Sling 'n Seat Tub will stay with you until your tot is ready for the big tub. This bath center comes with a squeeze bottle to make washing hair easier, a soft mesh sling for newborns, an insert aid for unsteady sitters and a toy whale for playtime.

      • Easy to store hook
      • Useful for newborn to toddler

      Buy on Amazon

      Spyware

      Getting your baby to sleep is the best part of the night, so why wake them up when you just want some quiet time? Sneaking into your baby's room is a thought of the past with today's incredible camera systems. Having a video baby monitor like the Summer Infant Explore baby monitor will ease your mind as your little one sleeps. The wireless monitor has a digital color screen with automatic black and white night vision. With the press of a button, you can also zoom, talk back to your baby and even change the night light with 2 color options.

      • Room temperature display
      • Remote camera steering from handled device

      Buy on Amazon

      Parenthood is anything but smooth sailing, but with these items, it’ll make life a little easier. Now that the little ones are entertained, why not get something for the older kids?

      The Most Helpful Items to Have as a First Time Parent...
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      Supply of promising COVID-19 drug will soon run out

      Its manufacturer says it’s aiming to produce more than 1 million treatment courses by December

      The government’s supply of remdesivir, an antiviral drug that emerged as a viable COVID-19 defense, will run out at the end of the month, CNN reports. 

      Dr. Robert Kadlec, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official, told the media company that the last shipment of the drug will go out the week of June 29. Its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, is aware of the situation and is gearing up to make more. However, no one is sure how much of the drug will be available in the coming months. 

      "Right now, we're waiting to hear from Gilead what is their expected delivery availability of the drug as we go from June to July," Kadlec said. "We're kind of not in negotiations, but in discussions with Gilead as they project what the availability of their product will be."

      “Whatever the supply may be, there may not be enough for everyone who may need it,” he added.

      Breakout drug

      In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency approval to remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19. Following two clinical trials, researchers said they were optimistic about the drug as a potential treatment. 

      While not enough to combat the virus by itself, a study showed that remdesivir could shorten the length of a hospital stay from 15 days to 11 days. 

      “These two rigorously done trials provide really the first evidence of the efficacy of any therapeutic for this disease,” said Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “I think this is very encouraging in terms of the future.”

      Last month, the government began distributing a supply of remdesivir donated by Gilead. However, the free supply has nearly run out, and now fears about high prices are setting in. 

      "The price that Gilead can charge, as with any pharmaceutical in America, appears to be the sky's the limit -- whatever sick and dying people will pay," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means health subcommittee.

      Gilead has said it plans to have more than 500,000 treatment courses available by October and more than a million by December, according to CNN. 

      “The production of remdesivir is a long, linear chemical synthesis process that must be completed sequentially and includes several specialized chemistry steps and novel substances with limited global availability,” Gilead Sciences explained on its website

      “Every day we are improving processes, shortening timelines and increasing volumes as we work to bring remdesivir to patients as soon as possible,” the company said.

      The government’s supply of remdesivir, an antiviral drug that emerged as a viable COVID-19 defense, will run out at the end of the month, CNN reports....
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      Former FDA head says protests are likely to bring an uptick in COVID-19 cases

      Protestors should wear masks to reduce transmission

      Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview on Friday that there’s “no question” that the protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis will lead to the transmission of coronavirus cases. 

      “We’re certainly going to see transmissions coming out of these gatherings, there’s no question about that,” Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He added that the prevalence of coronavirus infection in the U.S. is currently about one in every 200 people. 

      Demonstrators can take several precautions to reduce the risk of spreading or catching the virus, he said, noting that reducing the risk from these protests is a “shared responsibility.”

      Beyond wearing masks, people participating in protests can practice social distancing and avoid coming into contact with the elderly or other vulnerable individuals. Gottlieb said law enforcement can mitigate the spread of the virus by de-escalating situations when possible.

      "The protesters understood the risks, many of them,” he said. “I think that's evidenced by the fact that they wore masks and they made a judgment that they were worth the risk in terms of going out and protesting what are legitimate underlying grievances."

      Reducing risk at protests

      In terms of things authorities can do to reduce risk, Gottlieb said the best science comes from a recent study out of Germany involving transmission at a large outdoor festival.

      “They looked at what the spread was coming out of those gatherings,” he said. “The science showed there was about a two-and-half-times increase in the rate of transmission as a result of bringing people together in large gatherings. So we have some scientific basis to understand that these kinds of settings do create risk.”

      On average, symptoms of COVID-19 show up in a newly infected person about five days after contact. Gottlieb said that because of the incubation period, it’s “hard to judge” just how much of an uptick we’re going to see.  

      “It’s going to take a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’re probably going to have to get a few transmission cycles out to really judge what the impact was. I think what the protesters can do is try to take precautions. Wear masks.” 

      Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview on Friday that there’s “no question” that the protests stemming from the killing of George Floy...
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      Dunkin’ to hire up to 25,000 workers as businesses reopen across the U.S.

      The jobs come with the added perk of an online education

      With Americans starting to emerge from the pandemic and jumping back in line at stores and restaurants, Dunkin’ franchisees are on a hiring binge. 

      Word came from Dunkin’ HQ on Monday that up to 25,000 new restaurant employees will be hired at U.S. locations. Jobs will include everything from front-counter to restaurant management.

      New education perks for employees

      While Dunkin’ -- or any fast-food chain for that matter -- is not out of the COVID-19 woods yet, its foot traffic is picking up. Still, unemployment is at a runaway pace, and the company wants to be ready when normalcy returns.

      It may also be sensing that students might be looking to get their degree online because colleges are unsure about how on-campus education will play out this fall.

      To that end, Dunkin’ is beginning a new partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to offer an online college education to franchise employees. This is similar to what Chipotle, UPS, and Walmart have offered. Thanks to an aggressive marketing effort, SNHU has become a big-time player in online education, with over 135,000 students online and on campus.

      “Dunkin’ is committed to keeping America running and working. We are proud to support our franchisees who offer much-needed job opportunities, in a welcoming environment where people can feel appreciated and rewarded for serving both customers and their communities during this critical time,” said Stephanie Lilak, Dunkin’ Brands’ Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. 

      “With the brand’s new partnership with SNHU, new advertising campaign, and in-store safety measures, our franchisees are providing both new and current restaurant employees a great workplace, and the chance to gain experiences and skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.”

      With Americans starting to emerge from the pandemic and jumping back in line at stores and restaurants, Dunkin’ franchisees are on a hiring binge. Word...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2013-2015 Altimas

      The secondary hood latch may bind and not latch

      Nissan North America is recalling 846,000 model year 2013-2015 Altimas manufactured March 6, 2012, to December 31, 2014.

      The secondary hood latch may bind and remain in the unlatched position when the hood is closed.

      If the primary latch is inadvertently released and the secondary latch is not engaged, the hood could unexpectedly open while the vehicle is being driven, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

      What to do

      These vehicles were previously included in recalls in 2014 and 2015, however the previous remedy plan may not have been performed consistently to remove the safety risk.

      To correct this issue, Nissan will re-notify all affected owners and dealers will replace the hood latch with a new one, free of charge.

      The recall began on February 17, 2016.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 647-7261.

      Nissan North America is recalling 846,000 model year 2013-2015 Altimas manufactured March 6, 2012, to December 31, 2014. The secondary hood latch may bi...
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      What the dads at ConsumerAffairs are asking for this Father's Day

      Hear what ConsumerAffairs dads want and get some ideas for your own dad

      Just like mothers last month, the dads of the world are anxiously awaiting Father’s Day this June — perhaps more so than ever due to the pandemic. With kids’ schools, daycares and after-school programs mostly closed nationally, they have put in more hours without much rest over the past few months. It’s time to say thanks to their tireless efforts.

      If your dad is tough to shop for, we’re here to help. Rather than blindly suggesting ideas we think the father in your life might enjoy, we went straight to the source and polled the dads here at ConsumerAffairs to find out what they want this year. Curiously, not a single dad mentioned any electronics, typically a safe standby gift for any dad — not AirPods, not a soundbar, not a new TV. So, what do these dads have in mind instead?

      R&R

      A day off

      One dad summed it up in three short words — a day off — to which many others agreed. What does a day off look like for the dad in your life? For many, that could mean others are pitching in for a day while dad lounges in the backyard hammock, relaxed, refreshed, recharged and ready to jump back into action on Monday.

      • 59” wide x 78” bed length
      • Soft polyester rope

      Buy on Amazon

      A solo hotel stay

      A solo stay takes the “day off” idea a step further. One dad has an agreement with his wife that each year on Mother’s and Father’s Day, the parent of honor will be sent away for a night to a local 5-star hotel. Dad can order room service, crank the AC down as cold as he wants, turn on the TV and unwind. He is guaranteed to be uninterrupted, then sleep in the following morning before returning home rejuvenated.

      Dad gathering

      Similarly, one dad is considering a safe, socially-distanced boat outing with some other dad friends. Renting a boat and heading out on the water might be just the refresher he needs after months of exhausting quarantining.

      Quality time

      Food and drink

      BBQ set

      One ConsumerAffairs dad is looking to up his grill game with a new deluxe BBQ accessory set that includes a spatula, scraper and tongs. Are grilling utensils a stereotypical Father’s Day gift? Sure. But it turns out, he’ll probably like them a lot, and they will no doubt get plenty of use. It’s also a win-win for the rest of the family, as dad can prepare delicious meats for everyone to enjoy.

      • 21 pc
      • Durable stainless steel

      Buy on Amazon

      A good meal and favorite brew

      The best way to thank several ConsumerAffairs dads is in the form of food and their favorite beverage. One employee wants nothing more than to bite into a “nice, thick-cut ribeye” and to wash it down with their beer of choice. Multiple ConsumerAffairs dads mentioned that they would love to receive top-shelf liquors. If you’re familiar with Parks & Rec, you’ll likely remember Leslie’s winning gift for Ron’s birthday. She set him in front of a TV with his favorite movie, a giant steak and a bottle of Scotch, plus, she ensured he was uninterrupted.

      Fun and games

      Cornhole set

      For the dad who enjoys backyard or tailgating games, look no further than a quality cornhole set. The popular game involves tossing bean bags onto a slightly elevated board with a hole in it. Land on the board and get one point; sink a bean bag into the hole for 3 points. If you’re handy with a saw, you could try to make a set yourself. Otherwise, sets can be found online, many with team colors or logos.

      • Weatherproof
      • Built-in bean bag storage

      Buy on Amazon

      Guitar

      A musically inclined father is always trying to get his hands on a Gibson Les Paul guitar. However, few families have several thousand dollars to commit to a Father’s Day gift. Otherwise, a less expensive guitar or maybe even lessons could be a delightful gift for the dad looking to take up a new hobby or resurrect an old one.

      • Ultimate starter kit
      • Includes digital tuner and 6 extra strings

      Buy on Amazon

      Motorized skateboard or scooter

      The dads in our office have mentioned that they would love one of the small motorized scooters we all see zipping around. Motorized skateboards or even scooters are fun and surprisingly fast, reaching top speeds of 18mph. Such a gift might be ideal for the adventurous dad looking for some fun, or an energy-efficient way of getting around.

      • Motorized skateboard
      • Made of maple wood and bamboo

      Buy on Amazon

      • 15.5 mph max speed
      • Folds up in 3 seconds

      Buy on Amazon

      Practical and useful gifts

      Tools

      One of our resident ConsumerAffairs' dads also asked for tools. Before buying tools, it’s best to get a feel for what exactly he needs. If you want it to be a surprise, try scouring the garage or tool shed to see what he already has. Most dads probably have essential tools, so something a little more specialized like a specific power saw or impact drill may be high on his list.

      • Mechanical 2-speed transmission
      • Optimized battery usage

      Buy on Amazon

      Lawn tools

      If the dad in your house enjoys an immaculately maintained lawn, he may be happy to receive an upgrade to his existing equipment. One dad cited “new lawn tools” as his go-to gift. Left to interpretation, that could mean anything from a push mower to an edger to a leaf blower. Many consumers with smaller, urban yards enjoy the battery-powered tools from Greenworks, which come equipped with a reasonably long-lasting rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

      • Trimmer and blower
      • 45-minute run time

      Buy on Amazon

      Auto tools

      For the do-it-yourself car maintenance dad, consider items that can help him around the shop. One dad needs a new creeper — essentially, a board on wheels that allows a mechanic to slide underneath a car on his back — and a reliable floor jack.

      • Padded bench
      • Adjustable headrest

      Buy on Amazon

      • 7,000-pound lift capacity
      • Lifts up to 22”

      Buy on Amazon

      Home upgrades

      Another dad had a very unusual, specific request — 6 ½” round gutters in black. Although your dad will most definitely have a different request, items that make some of his chores easier can make excellent gifts. Simple things like energy-efficient light bulbs, a stockpile of various batteries or even a new garage door are great options.

      Garden aesthetics

      Along the same lines, one dad is asking for a new oak tree to be planted in his yard to replace one that had recently died and been removed. A tree can be one gift that will never be forgotten years down the road.

      Health and hygiene

      Home gym

      One ConsumerAffairs dad is missing his gym during the pandemic, so he decided to build a home gym instead of returning to his fitness center when it reopens. There are dozens of possibilities to begin a home gym without breaking the bank. A good starting point might be some dumbbells of various weights or even a punching bag.

      • Anti-rolling design
      • Use as dumbbells or barbell

      Buy on Amazon

      • Heavy-duty stitching
      • Comes with needed accessories

      Buy on Amazon

      Running shoes

      On the same wavelength, another dad is interested in upgrading his very worn running shoes. If you’re going to buy shoes, you probably want to do your homework. Not all running shoes are created equal, so it might be best to ask what shoes he wants before ordering. One ConsumerAffairs dad mentioned you can find a great shoe for under $60.

      • Lightweight
      • Rubber sole

      Buy on Amazon

      For the bearded dad

      Did the dad in your life grow out a quarantine beard and decide to keep it? One ConsumerAffairs dad mentioned he would enjoy a beard grooming kit from his kids. Most bearded men love beard accessories, from balms and leave-in conditioners to combs and clippers.

      • Shampoo and balm
      • Scissors and beard brush

      Buy on Amazon

      • 5-in-1 trimmer
      • 60 minutes shaving time

      Buy on Amazon

      Permission or sign-off

      Sign-off on dad’s project

      One thing that stands out between our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day lists is that the dads seem to ask for more “outside the box” gift ideas. This one barely qualifies as a gift at all, but one dad mentioned he’d love his wife to sign off on a landscaping project he conjured up. This dad is happy to do all the work himself; he just wants an okay to move forward with the project.

      A round of golf

      Along the same lines, another ConsumerAffairs office dad asked for, “A leisurely morning on the golf course.” Unless you want to add a new club or two to his bag, this gift requires little effort or monetary commitment on your part, just the thumbs-up to get away for a few hours. If he is a beginner golfer, or perhaps in need of a whole set of clubs, Callaway’s entry-level brand Strata is a great way to start.

      • Complete golf set
      • Financing available

      Buy on Amazon

      Handmade gifts

      Memories to cherish

      Moms aren’t the only ones who appreciate a handmade gift. One dad suggested he wanted, “A framed document listing all of my fatherhood achievements from the past year.” Joking or not, the idea could bring a chuckle to the dad in your life. It may take some brainpower to formulate a list of his achievements, but it may be a winning gift.

      • Free personalized message
      • 8 x 10 pictures

      Buy on Amazon

      Surprise!

      Sorry, this one isn’t going to be helpful for those looking for inspiration. Not every dad had something specific in mind. One dad, tired of making decisions, said he doesn’t want to have to think about a gift request. The idea of having to put hours of thought into a “perfect day” or ideal gift can be stressful for some. Put your heads together and surprise him with a gift you think he’d like.

      Keep it simple

      Sometimes, you’ll hear dads say they don’t want anything. If your dad’s response to receiving gifts is often, “I told you not to get me anything,” consider perhaps a simple card. Dad may just want a mere acknowledgment of the day.

      So, now that you know what the dads of ConsumerAffairs want this Father’s Day, will you follow their lead or go your own way? Tell us in the comments what you’re getting Dad. For more great advice on Father’s Day gifts and many other consumer decisions, check out our podcast The Confident Consumer.

      What the dads at ConsumerAffairs are asking for this Father's Day | ConsumerAffairs...
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      Coronavirus update: Protests may lead to a spike in cases, more stimulus a possibility

      Fewer homeowners are asking for forbearance

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,876,922 (1,856,118)

      Total U.S. deaths: 108,334 (107,281)

      Total global cases: 6,682,531 (6,551,290)

      Total global deaths: 392,321 (386,795)

      Protest marches trigger health worries

      In the last 24 hours, health officials have counted just over 1,000 additional deaths from the coronavirus (COVID-19), and they fear the number of cases may follow deaths higher within days. That’s because of the widespread protests across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death while being arrested by Minneapolis police officers.

      Health experts worry that the protests will serve to spread the virus. They point to tightly packed groups of marchers, often not wearing masks, and shouting -- which more easily spreads the infection.

      Worse still, they say people who have been arrested have been packed into tight quarters where an infected person could easily spread the infection to others. Experts say they’ll be watching the case numbers a week from now to see if their worst fears have been realized.

      Vice President Pence doesn’t rule out more stimulus aid

      The Labor Department’s shocking May employment report has convinced some economists that the U.S. is recovering from the coronavirus shutdown much faster than anyone expected. But that doesn’t mean Americans won’t be getting more help from the government.

      Appearing on CNBC this morning, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration will continue to negotiate with House Democrats about the need for coronavirus relief.

      “We’re going to work in good faith to put the interests of the American families and American businesses first,” Pence said.

      The government reports that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May when economists expected the number of job losses to be in the millions.

      Fewer homeowners asking for mortgage forbearance

      The number of homeowners enrolled in mortgage forbearance programs as of Tuesday was 4.73 million, according to data analytics firm Black Knight. That’s a decrease of 34,000 over the past week, marking the first weekly decline since the crisis began.

      "The decline was actually greater among government-backed mortgages, which saw 43,000 fewer total forbearance plans than last week, but this was partially offset by an increase of 9,000 new plans on mortgages held in bank portfolios and private-label securities," said Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour.

      Despite the good news, Jabbour says the report shows a drop in the number of homeowners making their mortgage payments on time in May than in April.

      CDC chief ‘very concerned’ Americans’ behavior could cause cases to spike

      As the economy opens up across the country, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said he’s “very concerned” that Americans are abandoning precautions put in place over the last three months.

      In a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, Redfield said he has seen “a lot of people” not wearing masks in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he expressed concern that Memorial Day, recent protests, and Saturday’s SpaceX launch have led to the formation of crowds. 

      Apple reportedly testing returning staff for COVID-19

      As Apple employees begin returning to offices, the company is reportedly testing them for the coronavirus. Bloomberg News cites people knowledgeable about the policy as saying the testing is optional, but wearing a mask at work is not. Office snack rooms are also being closed.

      Apple began reopening the main Apple Park office in May, bringing back some hardware and software engineers. If they choose, they can undergo a nasal-swab test to check for the virus, according to people familiar with the process. Temperature checks are required.

      Around the nation

      • Kentucky: Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, is asking state lawmakers to place limits on the emergency powers Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has used over the past few months to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Cameron said there are currently inadequate checks on the governor’s emergency power.

      • Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf says that more counties will be allowed to enter the “green” phase of his pandemic reopening plan, which allows greater public activities. That’s in addition to the 16 that he already announced will enter that phase today. So far, 34 counties are under the “green” phase.

      • Virginia: Most of the state entered Phase 2 of coronavirus restrictions today as Virginia sees its number of cases rising toward 50,000. Under Phase 2, restaurants can have outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity and gyms can have indoor workouts and classes at 30 percent capacity.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,876,922 (1,856,11...
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      CDC director says public behaviors could lead to more coronavirus cases

      Protests could be a ‘seeding event’ for future