Current Events in June 2020

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    Chrysler recalls Two-Speed Power Transfer Units

    The Power Transfer Input Splines may break

    Chrysler is recalling 2,669 Two-Speed Power Transfer Units (PTU) sold as replacement parts for certain Jeep Cherokees, part numbers 68090605AJ, 68090605AK, 68090605AL, 68282447AA, 68282447AB, 68282447AC, 68307403AA and 68307403AB.

    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. 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. If the subject part is not installed in a vehicle, it will be exchanged with a new part. All repairs will be conducted free of charge.

    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 W48.

    Chrysler is recalling 2,669 Two-Speed Power Transfer Units (PTU) sold as replacement parts for certain Jeep Cherokees, part numbers 68090605AJ, 68090605AK,...

    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....

    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, 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...

      Fauci says some parts of the U.S. are seeing a ‘disturbing surge of infections’

      COVID-19 cases are on the rise in dozens of states

      During a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said state reopenings have given way to a “disturbing surge” in COVID-19 infections in some parts of the nation. 

      “A couple of days ago, there were 30,000 new infections. That’s very disturbing to me,” Fauci said Tuesday, adding that the next few weeks “are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges.”

      States seeing rises in new cases include Texas, Florida, and Arizona, among others. Fauci said a rise of at least 5 percent is happening in 26 states, and it’s mainly due to an increase in community transmission. 

      More testing to come

      Fauci seemed to disagree with President’s Trump’s recent statement asserting that the increase in infections was due to an increase in testing. 

      “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said at a campaign rally over the weekend. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test.”

      "To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing," Fauci said.

      In light of the concerning increase in COVID-19 cases, Fauci encouraged young people to remain vigilant with health and safety precautions. While it’s unlikely that younger people will get critically ill from the virus, he said it’s important for everyone to consider their potential impact on the pandemic as a whole. 

      “Even though the overwhelming majority then do well, what you can’t forget is if you get infected and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak,” Fauci said. “What you might be propagating, perhaps innocently, is you infect someone, who infects someone, who then infects someone who is vulnerable.”

      Fauci said at the hearing that he expects a vaccine to be ready by early next year. 

      During a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said state reopenings have given way to a “di...

      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...

      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...

      Google to start fact-checking images

      Consumers may see a fact check label on certain photos when browsing online

      The old idiom that every picture tells a story is causing concern at Google. With all the graphic manipulation tools the world has at its fingertips, the tech giant is taking a deeper, under-the-covers look at the authenticity of the visual media that pops up on Google Images to make sure that every picture tells the correct story.

      It’s taken nearly two years to get the message that consumers are skeptical of online photos, but effective immediately, Google is implementing fact checks into its image-posting process so people are aware of any issues and can make more informed decisions. 

      Look for the “Fact Check” label

      Going forward, when someone searches Google Images, they may see a "Fact Check" label under the thumbnail image results. Tapping on that label gives the user a quick overview of what Google found in its fact check, both for specific images and articles that include a supposedly fake image.

      Google says that it already fact checks on regular Search and in Google News, but for this venture, the company is relying on results from ClaimReview, an open-source method Google already employs for YouTube and one used by web publishers to denote fact check content to search engines. 

      “Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what’s going on in the world. But the power of visual media has its pitfalls⁠ -- especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image,” commented Harris Cohen, Google’s Search Group Product Manager.

      Fact-checking continues to grow

      Google’s not the first -- and certainly won’t be the last -- company to employ fact-checking. Weeding out fake news, videos, and photos has become a must for every Big Tech member that wants to remain in good standing with its user base. 

      However, there’s no company as proactive about that work as Facebook. The social media platform bumped up its fact-checking in the aftermath of the 2016 election and also went on a tirade earlier this year to bust myths about the coronavirus.

      In a recent Washington Post Live interview, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki remarked that the company yanks videos that violate its policies, including hate speech, inciting violence, or any type of manipulated media that could cause disinformation. 

      Wojcicki said it doesn’t matter if those doctored videos are from a politician or anyone else, but she said that YouTube’s new rules keep some of the videos available if they are presented in context, by a news report, or for educational purposes.

      The old idiom that every picture tells a story is causing concern at Google. With all the graphic manipulation tools the world has at its fingertips, the t...

      Type 2 diabetes increases risk of heart failure and death, study finds

      Researchers are calling on health officials to create new interventions for at-risk consumers

      While researchers have found how factors like diet and even certain medications can increase consumers’ risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study explored how those already struggling with the disease can be at risk for several other health conditions. 

      According to researchers from the American Heart Association, consumers who have type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of heart failure, which increases the risk of premature death. The team hopes that these findings can help medical professionals identify those who need different treatments or more personalized care. 

      Identifying at-risk groups

      The researchers analyzed over 153,000 patients who had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as part of the study. The team tracked the participants’ health over the course of a decade and determined how the diabetes diagnosis affected their health overall. 

      By the end of the observation period, almost half of the participants had developed either kidney or heart disease. Ultimately, the patients struggling with both type 2 diabetes and either kidney or heart disease were at an increased risk of death. 

      The researchers learned that heart failure and type 2 diabetes together posed the biggest risk for death, as these patients were nearly three times as likely to die within five years of diagnosis. Moving forward, the researchers hope that medical professionals can better monitor patients with both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as preventing and treating such conditions can increase the overall quality of life. 

      “With the emergence of novel treatments such as SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor antagonist medications for type 2 diabetes, some of which are proven to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, clinicians are able to focus on cardiovascular disease and heart failure prevention in patients with type 2 diabetes,” said researcher Dr. Bochra Zareini. “Our study highlights which subgroups of patients need and could benefit from targeted risk evaluation, prevention, and treatment.”  

      While researchers have found how factors like diet and even certain medications can increase consumers’ risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study explored how...

      Consumers face big security risks in shift to working from home, study finds

      Personal data could be more at risk in this new environment

      Millions of Americans have been working from home since late March and are likely to continue doing so well into next year.

      While the threat from scammers targeting individuals has been quick to emerge, a new IBM study has found a host of security issues resulting from this new trend that pose risks to corporations and consumers’ personal information.

      At the office, employees usually work on highly secure networks with robust safety protocols. At home, the IBM study found employees are using their home WiFi and are often completing work on personal laptops.

      ‘Long-lasting reality’

      Businesses and employees were thrust into the work-at-home world suddenly, with little to no time for planning. The study authors found that most of the employees now working from home had little to no experience doing so before the pandemic closed their offices.

      The study authors worry that cybercriminals will have a much easier time breaching an employee’s home security network than they would breaking into a corporate network. They point out that customer service agents who worked in closely managed call centers are now managing sensitive customer data at home.

      "Organizations need to use a risk-based approach with work-from-home models, then reassess and build from the ground up," said IBM’s Charles Henderson. "Working from home is going to be a long-lasting reality within many organizations, and the security assumptions we once relied on in our traditional offices may not be enough as our workforce transitions to new, less controlled surroundings."

      Henderson says businesses need to be playing catch-up. IBM found that most employees now working from home are confident in their company's ability to keep personally identifiable information secure in this new environment. But 52 percent said they are using personal laptops to work at home, and 45 percent said they haven’t received any specific training.

      Policy lapses

      The study contains a virtual catalog of additional policy lapses that could expose business and consumer data. Specifically, the study found that:

      • More than half of employees have not been provided with new guidelines on how to handle highly regulated data while working from home;

      • More than 50 percent of respondents don't know of any new company policies related to customer data handling, password management, and other sensitive information;

      • More than 50 percent of new work from home employees are using their own personal computers for business use, but 61 percent say their employer hasn't provided tools to properly secure those devices; and

      • Sixty-six percent of employees have not been provided with new password management guidelines, which could be why 35 percent are still reusing passwords for business accounts.

      While there have been no major data breaches reported since employees began working from home, the current trends are not encouraging. A recent analysis by researchers at cybersecurity company Tessian found just over half of home-bound employees are engaging in riskier behavior, such as using email to share sensitive files instead of more secure means of communication. 

      Millions of Americans have been working from home since late March and are likely to continue doing so well into next year.While the threat from scamme...

      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...

      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...

      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....

      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...

      Will COVID-19 result in even higher drug prices?

      A poll shows that most people think it will

      Pharmaceutical companies have stepped up their efforts in the last three months to develop effective treatments and vaccines to stop the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

      While most people applaud that effort, a new poll shows that there is widespread concern for what that might do to the price of all kinds of medications. A survey by the Gallup Poll and West Health found that 90 percent of the Americans interviewed are “very” or “somewhat” worried that COVID-19 will cause high drug prices to go even higher.

      In spite of drug companies’ high-profile donations of COVID-19 treatments and increases in research & development (R&D), the survey finds deep-seated suspicions among consumers. The overriding fear expressed among participants is that Big Pharma will leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to raise drug prices. T

      A 2019 survey by Consumer Reports found that 30 percent of patients on prescription medication paid more in out-of-pocket drug costs the previous year, and 12 percent of them said the increase was $100 or more.

      Similar fears about health  insurance premiums

      The survey shows that consumers are also concerned -- but to a lesser extent -- that the pandemic will ultimately result in higher health insurance premiums. Rates have yet to go up; in fact, they have actually gone down in some cases.

      As we reported in early June, a number of major health insurance companies have lowered premiums temporarily for the same reasons auto insurers offered rebates on car insurance policies. The pandemic, with its intense health care focus on treating it, resulted in an overall drop in health care spending.

      Anthem is one of the latest major health benefits provider to announce a premium reduction. The company said it is returning $2.5 billion to its policyholders and health care providers with premium credits of up to 15 percent next month.

      Other major providers have already instituted customer rebates. UnitedHealth Groupannounced last month that it was cutting premiums by 20 percent in the month of June, citing fewer health care expenses. The company estimated that the move will put $1.5 billion back in customers’ pockets.

      The Gallup survey shows a majority of consumers support federal intervention to negotiate prices for drugs that are developed to treat the coronavirus. In some cases, pharmaceutical companies have received direct federal grants to conduct R&D.

      Eighty-eight percent of consumers in the survey support that position, and it’s one area where it brought equal agreement from both Democrats and Republicans.

      Pharmaceutical companies have stepped up their efforts in the last three months to develop effective treatments and vaccines to stop the coronavirus (COVID...

      Delta to restart flights between U.S. and China this week

      The airline has increased its health and safety measures

      On Monday, Delta Air Lines announced that it will resume flights between Seattle and Shanghai on June 25 following a suspension of nearly four months due to COVID-19 concerns. 

      The airline said a flight between Seattle and Shanghai-Pudong, China (through Seoul-Incheon, South Korea) will operate twice a week. 

      “With a mission to connect the world, Delta is committed to getting our customers to their destinations safely and confidently, especially at this critical time. We are implementing unprecedented health and safety measures and practices, so customers are assured of ease and safety at all points of their journey,” Wong Hong, Delta's president of Greater China and Singapore, said in a statement on Monday. 

      New health measures

      To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Delta will require all passengers to wear face coverings both in the airport and while in the cabin. The airline said it will also be sanitizing all aircraft, changing its boarding process from back to front, and requesting that customers bring their own food and beverages to minimize contact with employees.

      Additionally, Delta won’t be selling tickets for middle seats and will limit its passenger capacity to 60 percent capacity in the main cabin to promote social distancing. Delta added that it’s “constantly updating best practices and improving the new standard of care based on expert medical advice and the feedback of customers.”

      The restarting of Delta’s service between the U.S. in China comes a week after the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that airlines could continue four flights per week between the two countries. 

      The DOT said it will “continue to press for the full restoration of passenger air travel between the United States and China,” in part to allow Chinese students impacted by the flight shortage to fly home. 

      “As the Chinese government allows more flights by U.S. carriers, we will reciprocate,” the agency added. 

      Delta is the first airline to resume flights to China. United Airlines is expected to restart flights to the country soon.

      On Monday, Delta Air Lines announced that it will resume flights between Seattle and Shanghai on June 25 following a suspension of nearly four months due t...

      Cyclospora outbreak linked to bagged salad products

      Cases of the foodborne illness are being reported in six Midwestern states

      Federal and state safety regulators investigating a nationwide outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses are warning consumers about certain store brands of bagged salad.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local partners have linked the outbreak to ALDI Little Salad Bar Brand Garden Salad from ALDI grocery stores, Hy-Vee Brand Garden Salad from Hy-Vee grocery stores, and Signature Farms Brand Garden Salad from Jewel-Osco.

      Cyclospora is a microscopic parasite that can affect the intestinal tract and cause diarrhea in people who get infected. The parasite can be found in both food and water.

      The investigation is ongoing, but a CDC analysis has traced the outbreak to the suspect salad products. The FDA has initiated a traceback investigation to identify supplier and distributor information to help find the cause and source of the outbreak.

      "The FDA is working with the companies to determine the source of the products, but in the meantime, we are issuing a public warning to consumers to avoid the identified products to prevent additional infections," said  Frank Yiannas, The FDA’s deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response. "While there is no widely available method to DNA-fingerprint Cyclospora, the epidemiologic investigation has identified grocery stores and products linked to illnesses caused by this parasite."

      More products could be implicated

      The agency said it is in the beginning stages of the investigation, and there may be more retailers and products that are implicated in the outbreak. 

      “As this outbreak investigation continues, the FDA will provide additional updates to this advisory as more information becomes available,” the agency said.

      According to the CDC, the outbreak has caused 76 confirmed illnesses, sending 16 victims to the hospital. The illnesses have been reported in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

      Over the weekend, Jewel-Osco said it was voluntarily recalling bagged Signature Farms Garden Salad sold in its stores in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.

      Federal and state safety regulators investigating a nationwide outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses are warning consumers about certain store brands of bagged...