Current Events in June 2020

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    Cruise lines suspend all cruises out of U.S. ports until September 15

    A trade group has voluntarily extended the CDC’s July 24 no-sail order

    Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a cruise line trade organization, announced Friday that all member cruise ships departing from the U.S. will remain docked until at least September due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. 

    CLIA said it will voluntarily suspend all sailings from U.S. ports until September 15, which will give it time to make sure its health safety measures are sufficient when departures eventually resume. CLIA represents cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had originally set an expiration of July 24 for its no-sail order. CLIA said it’s taking extra time out of an abundance of caution. That extra time will go toward helping to ensure that all measures “will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations."

    "Although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” CLIA said in a statement

    Preparing for safe cruises

    The organization added that it’s “confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures.”

    "This voluntary suspension applies to all CLIA members to which the No Sail Order applied (vessels with capacity to carry 250 persons or more)," the statement continued. "CLIA member cruise lines will continually evaluate the evolving situation and make a determination as to whether a further extension is necessary."

    "CLIA member cruise lines will continually evaluate the evolving situation and make a determination as to whether a further extension is necessary,” the group said. 

    Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a cruise line trade organization, announced Friday that all member cruise ships departing from the U.S. will...

    Supreme Court restricts SEC’s ability to recover dishonest profits

    The agency warns consumers that the pandemic has brought about its own crop of investment scams

    The U.S. Supreme Court put new limits in place on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) routine practice of forcing defendants to surrender any profit they gained through fraud if that profit came about as part of the SEC’s carrying-out of investor-protection laws in federal courts.

    The 8-1 ruling (with Judge Thomas the lone dissenter) came with two caveats: 

    1. The court reasserted that the SEC indeed has the authority to pursue disgorgement -- the act of giving up something (such as profits illegally obtained) on demand or by legal compulsion -- a common remedy used in U.S. securities law. 

    2. The ruling puts a cap on the scope of how much can be sought by means of disgorgement. The new limit can be no more than the net profits of the supposed misconduct, and as a general rule, disgorgement should go to investors.

    “Today’s decision allows us to continue to strip wrongdoers of their ill-gotten gains and return money to its rightful owners,” an SEC spokesperson said.

    Origins of the decision

    The case dates back to 2016 when the SEC brought civil action against husband and wife Charles Liu and Xin “Lisa” Wang. The couple amassed a $27 million fortune by raising money from foreign investors under the pretext that the investors would be helping to capitalize a cancer treatment center and that their investment would lead to them procuring U.S. visas under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.

    The EB-5 program offers a way for eligible Immigrant Investors to become lawful permanent residents (aka “green card” holders) if they invest a minimum of $900,000 toward subsidizing a U.S. business that will employ at least 10 American workers. 

    Unfortunately, the immigrants are focused on citizenship and have little control over the investment process, even though they themselves bear the burden of compliance with program requirements.

    In their promotion materials, the pair hawked that the project would create some 4,500 new jobs and have a substantial impact on the local economy. But 18 months into the couple’s offer and investment collection, the SEC discovered that no construction had taken place at the proposed site. Meanwhile, Liu had transferred $11 million in investor funds to three firms in China and diverted another $7 million to his and his wife's personal accounts.

    With those facts in hand, the SEC ordered the couple to disgorge $27 million, the amount they raised -- an amount Liu and Wang felt was well beyond the $8 million a trial judge had determined they had gained from their scheme.

    Gregory Rapawy, a lawyer for Liu and Wang, had argued that a court of equity “will not inflict a penalty; it will make the person no worse off than they were had they not committed the wrong.” He said he was pleased the court “clarified that traditional equitable principles limit the SEC’s authority to seek an award of net profits for the benefit of victims.”

    The SEC warns the public of coronavirus-related investor scams

    The Liu and Wang case is a good reminder that investing consumers should pay particular notice to any claims that a company’s products or services will be used to help stop the coronavirus outbreak.

    “Fraudsters often use the latest news developments to lure investors into scams,” the SEC reminds consumers. “We have become aware of a number of Internet promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.”

    What should consumers be on the lookout for? The SEC says the coronavirus-related promotions regularly take the form of so-called “research reports” and make the play of a specific “target price.” 

    “We urge investors to be wary of these promotions, and to be aware of the substantial potential for fraud at this time,” the agency said.

    If a consumer suspects that a promotion smells fishy, the SEC says they should contact the agency and submit any tips, complaints, or referrals they might have.

    The U.S. Supreme Court put new limits in place on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) routine practice of forcing defendants to surrender any pr...

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      Fresh Express recalls Southwest Chopped Kits

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

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

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

      No illnesses are reported to date.

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

      Brand

      PRODUCT NAME

      SIZE

      UPC

      PRODUCTION CODE

      BEST IF USED BY DATE

      POSSIBLE DISTRIBUTION
      STATES

      Fresh
      Express

      Southwest  Chopped Kit

      11.5-oz.

      071279 306025

      G163B10A

      G163B10B

      Jun-29

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

      What to do

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

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

      Fresh Express is recalling a limited quantity of Fresh Express Southwest Chopped Kits.The product contains wheat, soy, cashews and coconut, allergens n...

      La Bodega Meat recalls beef products

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

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

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

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

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

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

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

      What to do

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

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

      La Bodega Meat of Farmers Branch, Texas, is recalling approximately 83,038 pounds of raw beef products. The products were not presented for import re-in...

      8 gift ideas for the college graduate in your life

      Looking for a great graduation gift? We can help

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

      Glasses that help with screen time

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

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

      Buy on Amazon

      A smartwatch

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

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

      Buy on Amazon

      Meal subscription service

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

      Find out More

      A fancy coffee machine

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

      • Stainless steel
      • Duel filter

      Buy on Amazon

      An inspirational book

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

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

      Buy on Amazon

      A Nintendo Switch Lite

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

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

      Buy on Amazon

      An Instant Pot

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

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

      Buy on Amazon

      Amazon Echo

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

      • 4 different colors
      • Warranty available

      Buy on Amazon

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

      Show your graduate how proud you are of their accomplishment with these gifts....

      Coronavirus update: Economic damage continues, some states may be losing control

      Complaints about financial companies are on the rise

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,168,497 (2,141,306)

      Total U.S. deaths: 117,832 (117,033)

      Total global cases: 8,391,551 (8,214,571)

      Total global deaths: 449,695 (444,853)

      New unemployment claims holding steady

      The economic pain from the coronavirus (COVID-19) isn’t over yet. The Labor Department reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled 1.5 million, about the same as the previous week, showing the unemployment rolls have yet to shrink.

      Economists had expected the number to go down significantly, especially since May’s employment report showed the economy added jobs last month. Last week’s claims were lower than the previous week, but not by much.

      “The 58,000 drop in claims this week is very disappointing, given that the level still remains so high; the worst single week after the crash of 2008 saw claims at 665,000,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told CNBC.

      ‘Some states about to lose control’

      Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb appears on CNBC each morning to discuss the latest coronavirus developments. Lately, he’s voiced increasing concerns about outbreaks in the South and West, where many states have lifted restrictions.

      “They’re on the cusp of losing control of those outbreaks in certain parts of those states. Arizona, Houston, Austin, parts of Florida certainly look very concerning right now,” Gottlieb said this morning.

      Cases in these regions have been rising since the Memorial Day weekend when many people began gathering at beaches, lakes, and parks. Meanwhile, cases in some of the hardest-hit areas, such as New York, have declined sharply in recent days.

      Complaints about financial companies rising

      In spite of forbearance programs put in place by the CARES Act, consumers apparently are having a harder time dealing with financial services companies. A survey by NerdWallet shows that complaints against financial institutions are on the rise amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

      According to the analysis, which looked at all complaints filed with the CFPB from Jan. 1 through May 31, the bureau received 142,782 complaints -- 31 percent more than in the first five months of 2019.

      Coronavirus-related complaints about credit or prepaid cards were the second most commonly cited financial product -- accounting for 23 percent of complaints.

      Health care workers infected less than you might think

      A study of antibody test results in Colorado shows that health care workers have had a lower rate of coronavirus infection than the general public, despite working in close proximity to infected patients

      The results come from recent tests conducted by UCHealth -- Colorado’s largest health care system -- which showed its staff and providers actually showed lower infection rates than the general public.

      Since UCHealth began antibody testing two weeks ago, over 15,000 people have opted to find out if they have been exposed to COVID-19. The results revealed that 4.1 percent of the general public tested positive, compared to a 2.45 percent positive rate of UCHealth staff and providers.

      Watch out for work-at-home scams

      Just about everyone who still has a job is working from home these days, and there are plenty of people who are out of work and stuck at home. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody warns that this is a perfect situation for scammers.

      Moody has gotten reports of students receiving emails that appear to come from a college or university looking for people to work from home. While posing as a representative from the university, the scammer collects highly sensitive personal information from the victim.

      She says other scams try to get victims to pay upfront fees in order to get the job, which she says should be a red flag that you’re dealing with a scammer.

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: State education officials say they plan to hold summer school despite the coronavirus, but each district will implement tailored mitigation measures. In Detroit, schools will offer the option of online and in-person classes starting July 13.

      • Arkansas: Since the state began its Phase 2 reopening on Monday, Arkansas health officials report that there have been more than 1,100 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus. On the bright side, only a third of the state’s nursing homes now have any confirmed cases.

      • Georgia: As a result of an executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp, more restrictions have been lifted throughout the state. At restaurants, there is no longer a party maximum for the number of people who can sit together at one table. There is also no longer a limit on the number of people allowed per square foot.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,168,497 (2,141,30...

      Some employees feel guilty about taking a lunch break despite federal rules

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

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

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

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

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

      Why are breaks disappearing?

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

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

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

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

      Issue of productivity

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

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

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

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

      Though many consumers are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from Staffordshire University are exploring the psychology behind emp...

      FCC Commissioner has issues with Trump’s social media order

      Trump ‘cannot instruct the FCC to do this or anything else,’ says Commissioner Starks

      Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks says the FCC is ultimately in charge of taking action against online companies, not President Trump. 

      Last month, Twitter fact-checked two of Trump’s tweets. The president promptly accused the platform of treating him unfairly and interfering with the 2020 presidential election. 

      Trump said he would sign an executive order targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which acts as a liability shield for online companies. Without Section 230, online companies could face lawsuits over content posted by users.  

      In an interview with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, Starks said the FCC has looked over Trump’s executive order and has issues with it — namely, the fact that Trump isn’t legally permitted to make such a decision. 

      “The executive order definitely gets one thing right, and that is that the president cannot instruct the FCC to do this or anything else,” he said. “We’re an independent agency.”

      Debate belongs to Congress

      Starks said there are policymakers who believe it’s time for Section 230 to be updated, but it’s not the president’s place to make that call. 

      “The broader debate about section 230 long predates President Trump’s conflict with Twitter in particular, and there are so many smart people who believe the law here should be updated,” he said. “But ultimately that debate belongs to Congress.” 

      “That the president may find it more expedient to influence a five-member commission than a 538-member Congress is not a sufficient reason, much less a good one, to circumvent the constitutional function of our democratically elected representatives.”

      “There are good reasons for the FCC to stay out of this debate,” he added. “The decision is ours alone.”

      Section 230 in question

      Trump’s disagreement with Twitter has given way to several developments on the issue. Earlier this month, a group of Republican senators called on the FCC to examine the proposed order closely and “clearly define” the protections social media companies would receive. 

      “This request was made in light of recent troubling activities by social media companies, including partisan attempts to silence political speech and efforts to silence critics of the Chinese Communist Party,” the senators wrote in the letter. 

      This week, the Justice Department outlined its own plan for updating Section 230. The Department said its proposed changes would go into effect when platforms “purposefully promote, solicit, or facilitate the posting of material that the platform knew or had reason to believe would violate federal criminal law.” However, like Trump, the Justice Department doesn’t have the authority to change or create responsibilities for the FCC. 

      Legal limitations

      Starks said Trump’s plan also doesn’t account for the legal limitations of the FCC. 

      “The first amendment allows social media companies to censor content freely in ways the government never could, and it prohibits the government from retaliating against them for that speech,” he said. “So much — so much — of what the president proposes here seems inconsistent with those core principles, making an FCC rulemaking even less desirable.”

      “The worst case scenario, the one that burdens the proper functioning of our democracy, would be to allow the laxity here to bestow some type of credibility on the executive order, one that threatens certainly a new regulatory regime upon internet service providers with no credible legal support,” he stated. 

      Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks says the FCC is ultimately in charge of taking action against online companies, not President Trump. Last m...

      Lyft sets its sights on being all-electric within 10 years

      It’s a long hill to climb, but the payoff could be worth it if it happens

      In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rideshare world’s bridesmaid, Lyft, has announced that its entire fleet will be all-electric by the time 2030 rolls around.

      While taking that route isn’t going to cure the coronavirus, Lyft is looking at the tipping point the environment is in and trying to get out in front of reversing its decline.

      The company says that it alone could prevent tens of millions of metric tons of GHG emissions from finding their way into the atmosphere, not to mention reducing gasoline consumption by more than a billion gallons over the next decade.

      “Now more than ever, we need to work together to create cleaner, healthier, and more equitable communities,” said John Zimmer, co-founder and president, Lyft. “Success breeds success, and if we do this right, it creates a path for others.  If other rideshare and delivery companies, automakers and rental car companies make this shift, it can be the catalyst for transforming transportation as a whole."

      The long road ahead

      The shift to 100 percent electric vehicles for Lyft will take 10 years, and it’s got its to-do list all ready.

      The company’s transition plans include cars in the two-year-old Express Drive rental car partner program for rideshare drivers, its consumer rental car program for riders, its autonomous vehicle program, and its drivers’ personal cars used on the Lyft platform.

      The big question is whether the company can pull this off or if the idea is just a passing fancy. Lyft tried going carbon-neutral once, but the ballyhoo far outweighed the impact. With its new sights on all-electric, the road to success is considerably steeper.

      “Getting the millions of people who drive for Lyft to switch to electric vehicles will arguably be the hardest part of Lyft’s plan,” says The Verge’s Andrew J. Hawkins. “Lyft drivers are classified as independent contractors, and many use their personal cars to drive for not just one but several gig economy companies.”

      Hawkins reminded us all that Lyft’s biggest competitor, Uber, has been down this road before…and lost. Back in 2018, Uber looked into offering cash incentives to North America-based drivers if they would make the switch to electric vehicles, but the idea never made it past the pilot phase. 

      In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rideshare world’s bridesmaid, Lyft, has announced that its entire fleet will be all-electric by the time 2030 ro...

      Hertz shelves plan to sell $500 million in stock during bankruptcy proceedings

      The SEC said it had ‘comments’ on the plan

      Following pushback from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), rental car company Hertz announced in a filing that it was dropping its plan to sell $500 million worth of stock.

      Before the decision was reached, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) let the company know that it had “comments” regarding its plan to sell stock in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. Before the regulatory check, the company had warned potential investors that common stock in the company "could ultimately be worthless” once its bankruptcy proceedings are concluded. 

      “Although we cannot predict how our common stock will be treated under a plan, we expect that common stockholders would not receive a recovery through any plan unless the holders of more senior claims and interests, such as secured and unsecured indebtedness (which is currently trading at a significant discount), are paid in full,” the company said in a filing.

      Still conducting business

      Late last month, Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection due to the hardships it had endured during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company cited a huge downturn in travel business that severely cut into its bookings and revenue. 

      Despite the filing, Hertz is still operating its mainline business and all of its subsidiaries. Promotional offers, vouchers, and loyalty program perks are also still active. CEO Paul Stone says that he hopes the company’s decision will put it in a stronger position to thrive following the pandemic.

      Following pushback from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), rental car company Hertz announced in a filing that it was dropping its plan to sell...

      COVID-19 may be affecting young people's sexual and reproductive health

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

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

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

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

      Losing independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      HON Company recalls office chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      What to do

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

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

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

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

      5 ways to spoil your new kitty

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

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

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

      1. Outdoor bird feeder

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

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

      • 100% clear acrylic
      • Guaranteed for all weather

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Window perch

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

      • Easy to clean
      • Sturdy support cables.

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Interactive robotic cat toy

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

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

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Indoor climbing tree

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

      • Includes hammock and cave
      • Anti-toppling design

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Fancy water bowl

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

      • Triple filtration system
      • Includes silicone mat

      Buy on Amazon

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

      5 ways to spoil your new kitty | ConsumerAffairs...