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Current Events in June 2020

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    Coronavirus update: No quick economic recovery, more trouble for the PPP loan program

    Coronavirus spells the end for two older aircraft

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

    Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,812,742 (1,793,780)

    Total U.S. deaths: 105,262 (104,450)

    Total global cases: 6,309,107 (6,206,773)

    Total global deaths: 376,445 (372,752)

    CBO: It’ll take 10 years for the economy to recover

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has put a projected price tag on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and it’s huge. Government accountants believe it will take the U.S. economy 10 years to fully recover, and economic activity will go down by nearly $8 trillion during that time.

    In a response to a written inquiry by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the CBO said the pandemic will reduce nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 3 percent from January’s estimates. In the short run, the fallout could be even worse.

    Last month, the CBO estimated that real GDP will contract by 11 percent in the second quarter of this year, which is equivalent to a decline of 38 percent at an annual rate. That means the number of people employed will be almost 26 million lower than the number in the fourth quarter of 2019.


    The popular Payroll Protection Program (PPP) under the CARES Act may have been a good idea on paper, but its execution has been riddled with glitches, from big loans going to big companies to small companies getting left out.

    Now, Reuters reports that some companies that applied for loans received their money twice. The news agency cites nearly a dozen people with knowledge of the matter as saying a “technical glitch” caused a number of applicants to receive their requested loans more than once.

    The sources say the “glitch” may have caused excess payments of hundreds of millions of dollars. Efforts are reportedly underway to identify the businesses that received multiple loans and recover the money.

    Delta parks its older jets

    The airline industry is still reeling from the plunge in passenger traffic during the pandemic and has canceled hundreds of daily flights. Delta has taken that opportunity to prioritize its fleet, sending older planes into retirement.

    Specifically, the airline is discontinuing the use of MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft that it had used for short-hop and regional flights. The twin-engine jets were never popular with passengers since the narrow-bodied configuration made for a cramped cabin.

    Residents of neighborhoods near airports didn’t like them much either since they tended to be much noisier than more modern jets.

    Farmers slightly more optimistic

    Small businesses and restaurants have borne the brunt of the coronavirus’ economic damage, but farmers have gotten more than their fair share of pain as well. 

    The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer shows farmer sentiment improved slightly in May after falling sharply in both March and April, but it’s still near record lows. The index was up 7 points from April to a reading of 103, but it remained nearly 40 percent below its all-time high of 168 set in February, just before the pandemic hit.

    "This month's survey was conducted the same week that USDA announced the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) so awareness of that program's details could be one of the key reasons for this month's barometer improvement," said James Mintert, the barometer's principal investigator and director of Purdue University's Center for Commercial Agriculture. "Yet some farmers remain worried about their bottom line and are still looking for options to alleviate those concerns."

    Employees decry the loss of the office’s social culture

    The work-from-home movement brought on by the coronavirus has its advantages, including avoiding a stressful commute and being able to work, in some cases, in sweatpants. But a survey shows many employees miss the office’s social culture.

    A new survey by Clutch, a business ratings and review firm, shows 63 percent of employees are spending less time socializing with their colleagues, both in-person and virtually.

    "When working remotely, there's not really the option to have a quick chat with your co-workers by the coffee machine," said Sara Bandurian, human resources coordinator at Online Optimism, a design agency.

    Around the nation

    • Michigan: The state is beginning to open up after two months, entering phase 4 of its reopening plan. State officials have lifted the stay-at-home order and will reopen bars and restaurants next week. Starting Thursday, retailers can reopen.

    • Maine: The state continues to lift restrictions on a county-by-county basis. Gov. Janet Mills’ latest move allowed some restaurants in the heart of Portland’s Old Port to reopen for outdoor dining this week. Restaurants in other areas were permitted to open for dine-in service on May 18.

    • Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee has suspended distribution of free face masks after a news report raised safety concerns about an antimicrobial agent used to treat the black, knitted cloth coverings."We have paused further distribution of free masks to county health departments while further inquiry is pursued," Gillum Ferguson, the governor's spokesman, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.) Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,812,742 (1,7...

    Airline executives say major changes could be ahead as the industry recovers from the pandemic

    A removal of change fees and low fares lead the list of predictions

    As airlines find their way out of the pandemic-driven detour, industry executives are again calling for changes to help travelers feel good about flying.

    Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Washington Post, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes predicted that some of the old ways of doing things won’t work in the new normal.  

    Hayes said airlines will find it difficult to resume their previous practices for change and cancellation fees when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

    Change fees may be going away

    At the top of Hayes’ predictions is a rethinking of how airlines sell ticketed products.

    “It’s not going to be acceptable, I don’t think, for somebody who is unwell to feel that they are being made to fly,” Hayes speculated. “And so, I think airlines are going to have to think about how they monetize their fare structure, how they create products that give people the ability to change flights more easily than in the past.” 

    To Hayes’ point about fare structure, one thing he thinks should be tossed out is the as-much-as $200 change fees, much like they did during the COVID-19 outbreak and Hurricane Florence. That change would surely be a blow to airlines. In 2019, the major U.S. carriers took in nearly $3 billion in reservation and cancellation fees according to the Department of Transportation -- $195 million for the Hayes-run JetBlue alone.

    Low fares could become the norm

    Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly predicts that at the end of the industry’s pandemic recovery, consumers will see low airfares as the norm. Speaking in his weekly video update to employees, Kelly laid out his vision in no uncertain terms.

    “We’ll compete hard for customers, understanding it will be a brutal, low-fare environment as there are far more airline seats, and there will be for some time, than there are customers,” he said.

    “Our low-cost philosophy, strategy and structure will serve us very well. We’ll continue to offer low fares with no change fees, no bag fees and a safe environment when our customers are ready to fly."

    Consumers should expect a lot of variables

    One aviation consultant agrees that getting to that win-win spot where both the airlines and the consumers are happy will be a rollercoaster ride.

    In comments made to the Dallas Morning News, David Banmiller predicts two things: one, that airlines will be inclined to fill up seats to substantiate the monstrous overhead costs of getting a plane in the air and passengers from point-to-point. And, secondly, much of the rebound will be dependent on how aggressive airlines will get in fighting for routes they compete with others for.

    “Fares will be all over the place,” Banmiller said. 

    ConsumerAffairs is already seeing Banmiller’s predictions come true. In a sample Google Flights search for a roundtrip from Austin (AUS) to New York LaGuardia (LGA) leaving on June 18 and returning on June 22, we found airfares as low as $293 and as high as $697.

    As airlines find their way out of the pandemic-driven detour, industry executives are again calling for changes to help travelers feel good about flying....

    Most people have used stimulus money to pay bills, survey suggests

    Twenty-two percent of millennials are paying off credit cards

    The $1,200 per person stimulus payment under the CARES Act was designed to stimulate the economy, battered by the coronavirus (COVID-19) layoffs and economic shutdown.

    Undoubtedly, a majority of recipients quickly spent the money on rent and other necessities. But among the most financially responsible millennials, a new survey shows a significant number used the money to pay down credit card debt.

    A Harris Poll survey conducted for TD Ameritrade found that 22 percent of millennials, ages 24 to 38 who received a stimulus check have used it, or are planning to use it, to pay down credit card debt.

    The survey covered only those with at least $10,000 in investable assets, so it must be assumed that this group is more affluent and more fiscally responsible than consumers in general, since other surveys have shown most people don’t meet that criteria.

    Millennials also appear to have suffered fewer negative economic effects from the coronavirus. Twenty percent said their financial position has improved, compared to 10 percent of the entire sample of investors. Forty-six percent of millennials said their household had been negatively affected, about the same as the entire survey sample.

    Changes in spending patterns

    The survey also found that Americans in the survey had significantly altered their spending patterns during the pandemic shutdown, with 43 percent saying they were saving money by not traveling and 34 percent saying they had cut back on major purchases.

    At the same time, many said they had increased spending in some categories over the last three months. Twenty percent said they were spending significantly more on groceries, and 19 percent found themselves spending a lot more on cleaning supplies.

    In addition to millennials, nearly everyone receiving a stimulus check was planning to use at least some of it to pay bills. Overall, 34 percent had earmarked the money for rent or mortgage payments, but the percentage was about 10 points higher for both millennial and GenX recipients.

    While the mental health toll on parents has been well documented, the TD Ameritrade survey shows parents have also faced extra financial costs. Forty-seven percent say they have spent an average of $104 extra on their children’s entertainment. Forty-one percent reported spending an extra $147 on educational materials.

    The $1,200 per person stimulus payment under the CARES Act was designed to stimulate the economy, battered by the coronavirus (COVID-19) layoffs and econom...

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      Competition among cell phone providers heats up over 5G claims

      The Better Business Bureau sides with AT&T in the latest spat

      Cellular companies are battling for market share in the next big telecom arena -- 5G services. The major players are keeping close watch over their competitors’ advertising and have been quick to cry “foul.”

      The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has determined that two Verizon TV commercials about its rollout of 5G service were “not supported by the evidence in the record.”

      Verizon has disputed the finding and has said it will appeal the finding to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

      NAD took issue with the claim that "Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America." NAD has recommended that Verizon discontinue the claim that it is delivering "the most powerful 5G experience for America." 

      NAD also recommended that Verizon modify the challenged advertising to ensure that it makes full and clear disclosures regarding 5G coverage both inside and outside the touted sports venues. NAD said Verizon should make clear that its 5G service will be available in parts of the sports venues, and that it is available only in parts of select cities. 

      AT&T complained

      Verizon’s advertising claims were challenged by AT&T, Verizon’s chief competitor, which is rolling out its own 5G service.

      The chief complaint has to do with the advertising’s use of the present tense. NAD says the statement "Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America" reasonably communicates an unsupported message.

      NAD says Verizon needs specific evidence to support a claim that is delivering the best 5G service. It says the ads also make unsupported claims about the customer experience when using Verizon’s 5G mobile service.

      While AT&T brought the complaint against Verizon, it was the target last year when Sprint, now T-Mobile, complained about AT&T labeling portions of its LTE network as “5G Evolution.” Later, it updated the LTE icon on three Android smartphones to make them read “5GE.”

      "AT&T is blatantly misleading consumers -- 5GE is not real 5G," Sprint’s chief technology officer Dr. John Saw complained to Engadget at the time. 

      Sprint sued AT&T over the issue but the two companies eventually settled out of court. 5G remains in its infancy, in part because it is complicated and expensive to deploy. 

      Cellular companies are battling for market share in the next big telecom arena -- 5G services. The major players are keeping close watch over their competi...

      Facebook to let users batch-delete aging content

      The site's new ‘Manage Activity’ feature lets users ‘curate’ their Facebook presence

      Facebook has announced a new tool that will give users the ability to delete old posts in bulk. The platform’s new “Manage Activity” feature will allow users to select and either delete or archive old content in order to align their Facebook presence with who they are today.

      As Facebook has gotten older, so has its user base -- and Facebook is aware that users may not want some of their older content remaining online. 

      “Whether you’re entering the job market after college or moving on from an old relationship, we know things change in people’s lives, and we want to make it easy for you to curate your presence on Facebook to more accurately reflect who you are today,” Facebook said in an announcement.

      Deleting in bulk

      Users can delete a number of old posts by browsing their entire history of Facebook posts using filters for dates, tags, and content type (i.e. whether it’s a photo, video, or text update). Content marked for deletion will stay in the trash for 30 days before being deleted permanently, unless a user decides to manually delete or restore the content before then. 

      “This gives you some wiggle room in case you change your mind about deleting old posts,” the company said. 

      Alternatively, Facebook users can opt to archive their old posts instead of deleting them. Archived posts won’t be available for others to see, but the creator can still access them. Facebook said, for example, that the archive option could be used to hide from a public view “a post you made when you were in high school that you still find amusing but that you’d rather not be seen by anyone else on Facebook.”

      The social media giant said the new tool is now available to some users on the Facebook app, and it will be rolled out more widely in the coming weeks. The company added that it will keep expanding on this new feature “to ensure it meets people’s needs to manage their digital footprint on Facebook.” 

      Facebook has announced a new tool that will give users the ability to delete old posts in bulk. The platform’s new “Manage Activity” feature will allow use...

      Costco in-store food sampling to return mid-June

      It won’t be the same experience shoppers remember, but it’ll be one that makes sure the customer’s safety comes first

      If you’re a Costco member, this might make you happy -- food sampling is returning to company stores this summer.

      During the company’s recent earnings call, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said the plans are to do a slow rollout starting in mid-June but with a slightly different twist so Costco can address safety concerns. 

      "I can't tell you anymore, but it's needless to say not going to be where you go and just pick up an open sample with your fingers," he said. “But sampling and both food and non-food items are popular. And road shows, as well. I think you'll see a little bit more excitement on the roadshow side. So things that we can do to get people excited about coming in.”

      The discount chain pressed pause on in-store sampling in March and reportedly severed its relationship with its main sampling vendor as a follow-up. But food sampling is an integral part of the Costco experience for the consumer. It’s good for Costco too, as the one-two punch of psychology and sampling often leads to a sale.

      Customer safety first

      Among big box retailers, Costco has handled the pandemic with great care for its customers. Customers are required to wear a mask, and it’s strongly recommended that they take a cart along to help out with social distancing.

      The mask mandate has turned into a political football as people start venturing out again, but Galanti said most shoppers adhere to the policy and appreciate it. 

      "When you talk to people anecdotally, they feel frankly more comfortable coming into Costco, which is bigger, more wide open, with certainly the 6 feet apart that we’re all doing,” he said. “With the mask requirements, there are few people who don't like it, but most people do.” 

      If you’re a Costco member, this might make you happy -- food sampling is returning to company stores this summer.During the company’s recent earning ca...

      Warmer temperatures could slow COVID-19 transmission

      Researchers say major changes aren’t expected during the summer months

      As experts continue to brainstorm ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, a new study has explored the effect that higher temperatures could have on the virus. 

      Researchers from Mount Auburn Hospital found that consumers can expect to see slight downward trends in COVID-19 transmission as the summer ramps up. However, the heat isn’t likely to lead to any major breakthroughs. 

      “While the rate of virus transmission may slow down as the maximum daily temperature rises to around 50 degrees, the effects of temperature rise beyond that don’t seem to be significant,” said researcher Dr. Shiv T. Sehra. “Based on our analysis, the modest associations suggest that it is unlikely that disease transmission will slow dramatically in the summer months from the increase in temperature alone.” 

      What to expect in the heat

      To understand what effect temperature could have on the spread of COVID-19, the researchers analyzed reports of nationwide temperatures, UV index, and precipitation and compared those metrics against the number of cases of the virus. 

      This analysis began towards the end of January, and the researchers tracked this information on a daily basis. The research concluded at the beginning of April. 

      The study revealed that cases weren’t as widespread when the temperature was consistently in the 50 degree Fahrenheit range. Similar findings occurred when the UV index remained high. Several days in a row of these temperatures yielded the lowest total cases. 

      The researchers also observed that the opposite was true. After several days at the temperature in the lower range -- around 30 degrees Fahrenheit -- cases increased the most. 

      This confirms what many fear will be a resurgence of the virus in the coming winter months. According to Dr. Sehra, that is a valid concern based on their findings. 

      “We also caution that the disease may get worse in the fall and winter months,” Dr. Sehra explained. 

      While the researchers noted that this work was collected before the weather really heated up, and changes are possible, it is unlikely that warm weather alone will work in slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

      As experts continue to brainstorm ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, a new study has explored the effect that higher temperatures could have on the virus...

      Apple releases update with patch for recently discovered jailbreak

      The company has released iOS 13.5.1, which it says ‘provides important security updates’

      Apple has released a patch for a jailbreaking tool uncovered last week by hacking group Unc0ver. The group recently found that Apple’s just-released iOS 13.5 could be the target of a new jailbreak which could unlock all iPhones running iOS 11 and above. 

      In its release notes for the update, Apple said it “provides important security updates and is recommended for all users.” 

      The jailbreak was shared at the end of May, just a few days after Apple released iOS 13.5. The hacking group that discovered it said it utilized exceptions that enabled security to remain intact; programs would keep running separately so they couldn’t access unauthorized data. 

      "This jailbreak basically just adds exceptions to the existing rules," the jailbreak’s lead developer told WIRED. "It only enables reading new jailbreak files and parts of the file system that contain no user data."

      Experts say jailbreaking -- or the process of hacking an iOS device to get around software restrictions put there by Apple for security purposes -- can potentially open a device to security risks. Jailbreaking a device removes Apple’s security protections and can allow hackers to steal personal information, damage your device, attack your network, or introduce malware, spyware or viruses.

      The jailbreak discovered by Unc0ver was said to be the first zero-day jailbreak release since iOS 8.

      Apple has released a patch for a jailbreaking tool uncovered last week by hacking group Unc0ver. The group recently found that Apple’s just-released iOS 13...

      Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash temporarily suspend operations in some cities

      The firms are complying with guidance from local officials in cities where curfews are in effect

      Food delivery service DoorDash and ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft have announced that they are temporarily halting service in certain U.S. cities in order to comply with government-imposed curfews. 

      The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday set off a wave of protests over the weekend, some of which turned violent. Stores and restaurants sustained damage, and in some cities, police used tear gas and rubber bullets against protestors.

      At least 40 cities put curfews into effect in light of the events, and several large retail chains -- including CVS, Target, and Apple -- opted to shutter certain stores to protect employees and customers. 

      Following local guidance

      Lyft and Uber now say they will suspend operations in some cities to comply with local curfew orders. Uber and Lyft didn’t provide a full list of cities that will be affected by the service suspension. Each firm said they are continuing to assess the situation. 

      Uber said it suspended operations over the weekend during curfew hours in Minneapolis, Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In other cities across the U.S., Uber was asked to continue providing services during curfew hours to help transport essential workers lacking other modes of transportation. 

      “Our teams on the ground are working closely with each individual city to best support them based on their needs and the local situation,” an Uber spokesperson said, adding that the list of affected cities could change. 

      Similarly, DoorDash said it would be pausing service in cities with curfews in place, but it hasn’t said which cities were affected. 

      Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted Sunday that Uber intends to donate $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative and Policing Equity "to support their important work in making criminal justice in America more just for all."

      Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer said Lyft would be “providing $500,000 in ride credit to national civil rights organizations who have been working to facilitate essential transportation and equitable access during the recent crises."

      Food delivery service DoorDash and ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft have announced that they are temporarily halting service in certain U.S. cities in o...

      Taurus Footwear recalls safety shoes

      The steel plate used in the shoe is not CSA certified

      Taurus Footwear of North York, Ontario, Canada, is recalling about 1,945 pair of Taurus branded safety shoes.

      The steel plate used in the shoe is not CSA certified as indicated by the tags, posing a potential impact hazard.

      No injuries are reported.

      The shoe has a white rectangle Omega logo and the shoe tongue has a green CSA triangle logo. The style number is located on the product's packaging.

      The shoes, manufactured in China, were sold throughout Canada from sold from April 2019, to April 2020.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop using it and immediately contact Taurus Footwear for a replacement.

      Consumers with questions may contact Taurus Footwear at (416) 270-1988, Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (EST), or by email at contact@taurusgroup-bd.com.

      Taurus Footwear of North York, Ontario, Canada, is recalling about 1,945 pair of Taurus branded safety shoes. The steel plate used in the shoe is not CS...

      New pet at home? Read these 5 tips

      If you’re thinking of getting a new pet or currently have one exploring your home, here are 5 tips to help the transition

      We all love bringing home that new pet. Watching them run around the house, find their favorite spot and enjoy time with you is why we adopt. However, there are plenty of responsibilities that come with our new little friends. Here is our list of things you should do when you have a brand-new pet.

      Pet-proof your home

      When you have a new animal around the house, young or old, take the time to make sure the space around them is secure. If you have houseplants, make sure they aren't harmed if they decide to chew a few leaves. You may want to roll up expensive rugs to avoid any “accidents” that ruin the item. If you feel your animal is in danger by entering another space in your home, keep them corralled in an appropriate area with a pet gate.

      • 60” width x .75” depth x 24” height
      • Folds down to 2.25”

      Buy on Amazon

      Give your pet a safe space

      It’s a good idea to provide your new little guy or gal a space of their own. It doesn’t need to be complex, but if you want to spoil them, now’s the time to do it! Create their personal area with a cushion and toys, and keep them company while they get used to their zone. This saves the time and heartbreak of training them to stay off the furniture or your bed. Just make sure their cushion is fluffy and comfy!

      • 2.5” memory foam base
      • Cover is machine washable

      Buy on Amazon

      Get plenty of proper food

      It goes without saying that you’ll need some pet food, but now is a good idea to explore your options and stock up. Depending on the species, age and breed, there may be several options for you to select. Get a leg up on what you should feed your buddy and speak with your vet about the best choice. For some ideas, check out our favorite dog food brands and high-quality cat treats.

      • High-protein dog food
      • Natural ingredients

      Buy on Amazon

      Purchase all the supplies you need

      Depending on what you choose as your new pet, you could need anything — from litterboxes to leashes to the proper tank warming light. Do a little research and see what’s expected to make your pal’s stay as comfortable as possible. It’s better to have and not need than need and not have.

      • 20-gallon tank
      • 30” wide x 12” deep x 12” tall

      Buy on Amazon

      Put some money aside for care

      If you’re anything like us, you want to take the best care of your pet if they get sick or hurt. However, that can happen when you least expect it, and it may be expensive. Take some time to put aside a little money in a special fund to ensure you can cover the cost, and keep contributing to the fund at regular intervals. Our pet insurance guide helps consumers choose the right plan for them and their pets.

      Here are the 5 things every new pet owner should know....

      7 essential tools for the first-time homeowner

      Start adding to your toolbox with these must-have items

      Owning your first home is exciting, but before you start buying new furniture, you should ensure you have some essential tools. These necessary tools will help you make basic repairs or improvements in your home whenever needed.

      Screwdriver set

      A high-quality screwdriver set is a must! You will use the screwdriver to put new furniture together as well as pry and chisel, and a cheap set may break in the process. Make sure your set contains both Phillips and flat head screwdrivers as different projects will call for various types.

      • 56 bits
      • Easy-to-transport kit

      Buy on Amazon

      Cordless drill & drill bits

      A cordless drill will become your new best friend. We recommended the cordless option because they are super convenient and you’ll be able to use them anywhere in your new home. Additionally, you will need a variety of drill bits for various home repairs.

      • Compact design
      • Variable speeds

      Buy on Amazon


      You will need a hammer for several tasks in your home. It's best to choose a good quality hammer that is the proper weight, so it's easier to swing and pry.

      • ProTouch grip
      • Hammers things

      Buy on Amazon

      Stud finder

      Soon as you start to decorate your home, you will need a stud finder. A stud finder finds the solid studs in your drywall, ensuring you save time and reduce damage to both the structure and artwork you intend to hang.

      • 5 scanning modes
      • Clear display

      Buy on Amazon

      Tape measure

      A tape measure is vital for several house-related tasks. If you want to measure the distance between two pieces of art, mark straight lines for painting or measure doors or windows for replacements, you need one of these.

      • Self-locking tape mechanism
      • Nylon coated blade

      Buy on Amazon

      Wrench set

      Everyone, especially new homeowners, needs a wrench set — you'll be surprised with how many nuts and bolts you will need to tighten throughout your home. Aim to have a variety of sizes to ensure they can handle most projects in your house.

      • Strong chrome vanadium steel
      • Long body for better leverage

      Buy on Amazon


      The light on your cellphone may be enticing, but a good LED waterproof flashlight can be lifesaving. Flashlights are fast, simple to use and you don't need to worry about a dead cellphone battery.

      • Can light up objects 1000 feet away
      • Waterproof

      Buy on Amazon

      Every homeowner wants to be prepared to take care of their new home. Ensure you invest in quality tools to guarantee you can handle any adjustments or projects along the way. And while you're at it, you may need to safeguard your home with a home warranty that will help you when more significant projects arise.

      These are our suggested tools for every first-time homeowner...

      Our 8 favorite kayaks and rafts for hitting the water

      Our picks range from inflatable to traditional, plus one unconventional vessel

      It’s summer, and many of us will be hitting the water with family and friends on rafts and kayaks. A raft or kayak is a fantastic way to explore your favorite waterway or relax to the gentle sway of the water. Have fun on the water this summer, and remember: always wear a life jacket.

      Inflatable, affordable raft

      There’s nothing quite as relaxing as rafting down the river with friends. This nifty inflatable raft holds up to four adults and comes with inflatable cushions. Grab handles make it easy to get in and get out. At the time of publication, this raft was just over $100, a great deal for such a sturdy rig.

      • Fits 4 adults
      • Puncture-resistant PVC

      Buy on Amazon

      Bargain inflatable kayak

      At just under $100 at the time of publication, this inflatable kayak for two is a true bargain. It even comes with a paddle for each occupant. Although it’s a low-priced kayak, its vinyl is puncture-resistant and surprisingly durable. Seats are removable and adjustable, and the kayak supports up to 400 pounds.

      • Comes with paddles and pump
      • 220-pound capacity

      Buy on Amazon

      4-person relaxing raft

      This 4-person raft is a good pick for a lazy river with minimal rowing needed. The seat setup is more about facing your friends and having a good time than paddling intensely through rapids. The raft comes with a gear pouch, repair kit and a convenient carrying bag for transport and storage.

      • 725-pound limit
      • Puncture-resistant vinyl

      Buy on Amazon

      Traditional kayak

      We’re big fans of this sit-in kayak. It has a classic, sleek look and several color options. There’s also lots of storage for your paddling gear and supplies on your outing. The seat is adjustable and has some nice padding to keep you comfortable during long kayaking sessions.

      • Blue, orange or red options
      • Gear storage

      Buy on Amazon

      Mid-range inflatable kayak

      This 2-seater inflatable kayak and is in the midrange of prices for the same item. It seats 2 and is made of laminate PVC. We like the built-in seats with backs so you can truly relax and avoid aches and pains. There’s also storage space in the bow to keep towels, snacks and water bottles.

      • Laminate PVC with polyester core
      • Supports up to 400 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      High-end inflatable kayak

      Some outdoor adventurers worry about the durability of inflatable kayaks. It’s not as big of a worry to lose a cheap kayak, but what about pricier models? For a kayak priced like this one, it’s natural to ask, “How long will this it hold up?” The reviewers attest to the long-lasting, durable nature of this kayak. We also like that it supports up to 550 pounds.

      • Aluminum ribs
      • Supports 550 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      Youth kayak

      Kids love kayaking. If they’re old enough, it might be time to let them paddle on their own, although it’s still important to keep an eye on them. This teeny six-foot kayak comes with a paddle and weighs just 18 pounds. If your kids are a fan of the water, this kayak may be perfect for them.

      • Supports 130 pounds
      • Several footrest positions

      Buy on Amazon

      Pontoon boat

      Maybe you aren’t feeling a raft or kayak. Have you tried a pontoon boat? This pontoon boat has removable gear bags, two drink holders and loads of pockets to hold your stuff. The footrests and seat mounts are adjustable, and the boat comes with two 7-foot aluminum oars.

      • 2-year warranty
      • Supports 400 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      Our picks range from inflatable to traditional, plus one unconventional vessel...

      Coronavirus update: Protests could spread the virus, new antibody drug gets a trial

      More motorists on the road are not drawing down fuel supplies

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,793,780 (1,725,656)

      Total U.S. deaths: 104,450 (101,706)

      Total global cases: 6,206,773 (5,851,494)

      Total global deaths: 372,752 (361,270)

      Health officials worry protests will spread virus

      Nationwide protest marches erupted in violence in many cities. But in addition to the destruction to property, health officials worry that the mass gatherings will lead to a spike in new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      “I think there’s going to be a lot of challenges coming out of the events of the past week,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner (FDA) Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC.  “One of them’s going to be that probably chains of transmission will have gotten lit by large gatherings. I don’t think there’s really a question about that.”

      The protests began in Minnesota, where a black man named George Floyd died after a police officer knelt on his neck while arresting him. Gottlieb said Minnesota is already struggling to contain an outbreak of the virus.

      Eli Lilly starts trial on new drug

      Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has announced the first clinical trial of a new drug made from antibodies taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. The drug takes advantage of the molecular defenses developed by recovered patients.

      Part of a future test will determine whether administering the drug to the at-risk population before they get sick could prevent them from getting the virus, or have only mild symptoms if they get sick.

      The Eli Lilly experimental drug is just one of several in development that uses proteins in the blood called antibodies. These proteins are part of the body’s immune system that fights off viruses and other diseases.

      Gas supplies are plentiful despite more drivers on the road 

      The recent rise in gasoline prices has been tied to more states reopening after a two-month coronavirus shutdown, but industry analysts say they have yet to see signs of a surge in demand that would drive prices much higher.

      In fact, just the opposite appears to be the case. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, has been following the gasoline supply numbers closely. Over the weekend, he reported on Twitter that GasBuddy’s gasoline demand numbers showed a 5 percent drop from the previous Friday, when demand for fuel should have been rising.

      “While gasoline demand has rebounded off lows, yesterday's U.S. demand was down 29.25 percent from a year ago,” he tweeted on Saturday.

      Report: Workers remain resilient during the shutdown

      A new survey of workers conducted by the ADP Research Institute shows that an initially significant decrease in worker confidence appears to be leveling off despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      The survey explores employee sentiment after workers suddenly had to begin working from home, looking at how the abrupt change affected their productivity, their confidence about how long they may experience the effects of the crisis, and how their employer responded to the pandemic. 

      The survey found that stress levels, work/life balance, and productivity are starting to stabilize instead of getting worse. In fact, the majority of workers believe their financial concern is short term, even for those not working right now.

      Frontier is taking passengers’ temperature

      Frontier Airlines has become the first domestic carrier to check the temperature of all passengers boarding its aircraft, looking for signs of fever. The company said it’s taking that step to increase peace of mind in the traveling public. The policy began today.

      “Screening will be done via touchless thermometers,” the company said in a statement. “Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed to fly, including crew members.”

      Previously, the airline required all passengers and flight crews to wear face masks, and it increased disinfection procedures and added antibacterial hand soaps.

      Around the nation

      • Ohio: Romance rules in Ohio where state officials have lifted some restrictions on weddings. Up to 300 wedding guests will be allowed, but there is to be no dancing or mingling at the reception.

      • Louisiana: State health officials may decide this week whether to proceed to phase 2 of the state’s reopening. That step would allow non-essential travel, reopening of summer camps, and large event venues that maintain distancing protocols.

      • Wisconsin: The state health department reports that there were just 173 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Sunday, the lowest one-day total in two weeks. Four more people have died from the virus across the state, significantly fewer than the number announced in any of the past few days.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,793,780 (1,725,65...

      Retailers and restaurants suffer heavy damage in weekend violence

      Mom and pop stores, as well as national chains, have been looted and burned

      Stores and restaurants were frequent targets of fire, damage, and looting over the weekend as protests over the death of a black man named George Floyd in police custody sparked a wave of protests, with many turning violent.

      The damage hit many small stores and restaurants trying to reopen after being shut down by the coronavirus (COVID-19) for the last two months. But damage was also inflicted on major chains across the country.

      Walmart said about a dozen of its stores suffered damage from violent protests. The company closed some of its stores over the weekend to make them less of a target.

      In a statement to employees, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the events are a reminder that the country must remain vigilant against racism and discrimination.

      “Doing so is not only at the heart of the values of our company, it’s at the core of the most basic principles of human rights, dignity, and justice,” McMillon said.

      Communities in pain

      The violence began in Minneapolis where four police officers have been charged in the death of Floyd, who died when one of the arresting officers knelt on his neck, cutting off his supply of oxygen. Violent protests erupted in the city and quickly spread during the week to other cities, reaching a peak over the weekend.

      “We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities—it extends across America,” said Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, which is based in Minneapolis.

      Target stores suffered significant damage in violence across the country, prompting the company to close some stores to protect the safety of employees. Target store locations temporarily closing their doors include:

      • Broadway Oakland, Calif.

      • Buckhead South Atlanta, Ga.

      • South Loop Chicago, Ill.

      • Lake Street Minneapolis, Minn. 

      • Uptown Minneapolis, Minn.

      • Washington Square W Philadelphia, Pa.

      Months before it can reopen

      Target said the Lake Street Minneapolis store was heavily damaged and looted, and the company had not been able to safely send in teams to inspect the damage as of Sunday. The company said it would try to reopen the store before the end of the year.

      “We’re providing community support and prioritizing the rebuilding of our Lake Street store, which is near where George Floyd was killed,” the company said in a statement. “We are now boarding the store up until we can survey the location and begin recovery efforts.”

      The Wall Street Journal reports that small stores and restaurants bore the brunt of the damage in some cities. Next door to the Lake Street Minneapolis Target store, a family-owned liquor store, an Indian restaurant, a chiropractor, and several other businesses were also reportedly looted and damaged. 

      Stores and restaurants were frequent targets of fire, damage, and looting over the weekend as protests over the death of a black man named George Floyd in...

      Pier 1 is officially closing its doors

      Walmart, Target, and even Lowe’s are primed to benefit from the closure, says one analyst

      Say goodbye to Pier 1. The Fort Worth, Texas-based omnichannel retailer is closing its doors for good this October. 

      The imperiled home goods chain has been losing market share to TJX's HomeGoods chain for years and, financially, is on life support. But the sales blow it suffered during the COVID-19 outbreak was just too much. The company tried finding a buyer through a bankruptcy auction, but taking that route during the pandemic proved to be too much, so the company called it off.

      Let the liquidation begin

      Pier 1 was given the all-clear to begin liquidation sales at its 500 remaining stores once they can reopen in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines from local government and health officials. At present, the company plans to conclude its liquidation sales by the end of October.

      "This is not the outcome we hoped for when we began this process, and we are deeply saddened to move forward with winding down Pier 1," said CEO Robert Riesbeck in a news release.

      Pier 1 intends to sell everything it has -- from its famous papasan chairs down to its intellectual property and e-commerce business. 

      Who benefits from Pier 1’s closure?

      ConsumerAffairs reached out to Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai, who has been tracking the impact of COVID on the retail landscape. From Chernofsky’s perch, his analysis of the situation begins at the crossroads of Pier 1 customers’ shopping patterns.

      A visit to Pier 1 was a strong element of being part of a consumer’s ‘multi-trip’ journey. Placer.ai’s data tracking showed that 30 percent of Pier 1 visitors were coming from another retailer directly before visiting a local Pier 1, while over 33 percent visited one immediately after. 

      “When attempting to identify the brands with the highest likelihood to gain from these closings … the obvious starting point is Walmart and Target,” Chernofsky said. 

      After Walmart and Target, the next level of stores primed to take some of Pier 1’s lost customers are Home Depot and Lowe’s, which both see over 40 percent cross-shopping with Pier 1. “Though the ready-made element of Pier 1 isn’t the core focus for these brands, there is still something to be said for a potential uptick in traffic,” Chernofsky said. But, it’s the next tier that the he thinks is the most interesting -- Home Goods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. 

      “[Both] see very high levels of cross-shopping with the average actually weighed down by pandemic closures and shopping patterns in 2020. The result is that both brands have a powerful opportunity to leverage these closures as a means of targeting these audiences to try and fill areas of the gap Pier 1 will leave,” he said.

      Say goodbye to Pier 1. The Fort Worth, Texas-based omnichannel retailer is closing its doors for good this October. The imperiled home goods chain has...

      CVS closes stores in 20 states following protests

      Consumers will still be able to get their prescriptions filled at closed stores

      In the wake of protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, CVS has opted to temporarily close some stores across 20 states in an effort to protect employees and customers. 

      Retailers and restaurants across the country were rocked by fire, damage, and looting over the weekend. CVS said some of its stores sustained damage during the events, but none of its employees were hurt. 

      CVS hasn’t released a complete list of the closed stores, as it’s “continually monitoring” the situation. A spokeswoman said customers will still be able to get their prescriptions filled at closed stores. Pharmacies at shuttered locations will reroute customers to a nearby CVS to pick up their prescriptions. 

      "Each closed pharmacy’s phone system has been rerouted to a nearby CVS Pharmacy that is open so all patients will continue to have access to pharmacy care," said Amy Thibault, senior manager of corporate communications for CVS Health. "We are continually monitoring protests as they occur in the communities we serve and will close stores, if needed, to help ensure the safety of employees and customers."

      Target also decided over the weekend to close some of its stores to protect employees and customers. The retailer said it either adjusted hours or temporarily closed more than 200 of its stores. Most were scheduled to reopen either Sunday or Monday. 

      Amazon decided to limit deliveries and adjust delivery routes in certain cities -- including Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minneapolis -- in an effort to keep its drivers safe. 

      In the wake of protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, CVS has opted to temporarily close some stores across 20 states in an eff...