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    Coronavirus update: Hopeful vaccine news, recognizing an important symptom

    Experts are having second thoughts on the pandemic’s economy impact

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

    Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,194,922 (7,156,562)

    Total U.S. deaths: 206,252 (205,268)

    Total global cases: 33,719,865 (33,431,133)

    Total global deaths: 1,009,349 (1,003,168)

    More positive vaccine news

    Two pharmaceutical firms, Moderna and Regeneron, are reporting encouraging news about their coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine efforts.

    A study shows that Moderna’s vaccine candidate was about as effective in older adults as it was with young people. Researchers said the vaccine also showed minimal side effects.

    Regeneron reported that its COVID-19 antibody cocktail reduced levels of the virus in patients with the illness and eased symptoms in people who had milder forms of the virus. The company reportedly plans to step up efforts to win approval for the drug from regulators.

    Researchers say loss of smell should be an official symptom

    Symptoms of the coronavirus can vary widely, but researchers say one of them is nearly universal. They say four out of five people experiencing a recent loss of smell and/or taste tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

    Of those testing positive, 40 percent did not have cough or fever, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine by researchers from University College London.

    The researchers say the findings are important for policymakers around the world because most countries do not currently recommend self-isolation and testing based on acute loss of smell/taste. This study suggests that an overreliance on cough and fever as the main symptoms of COVID-19 may be flawed and that loss of smell needs to be urgently recognized globally as a key symptom of virus.

    Maybe the economy isn’t so bad

    The initial reaction to the coronavirus pandemic in March, including a shutdown of the economy for weeks, produced a number of doomsday scenarios from economists. But it’s possible that those worries were overstated.

    The UCLA Anderson Forecast has gone from classifying the event as a “depression-like crisis” in June to this week revising its forecast to say the economy could have “a better than expected outcome.” But a lot depends on whether an effective vaccine is found.

    Meanwhile, layoffs continue to hammer the economy. The Walt Disney Company is laying off 28,000 theme park workers, and cuts continue to the oil and gas industry.

    The pandemic changed hiring practices

    The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop companies from hiring new talent, but it did change the way they went about it, according to a study by staffing firm Robert Half.

    A survey of more than 2,800 senior managers showed that prospective employees were mostly screened and interviewed remotely using video conferencing services like Zoom, taking the place of face-to-face meetings that were standard practice before the pandemic.

    "Despite an overall slowdown in business, companies continue to hire for critical roles during the pandemic," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. "In many cases, employers have adjusted their recruiting strategies to accommodate new, virtual work realities and are seeing immediate benefits, including faster and more successful hires."

    New York City workers slow to return to the office

    New York City is first in a lot of things, but not when it comes to employees returning to offices. The Wall Street Journal reports that many other cities are bouncing back at a faster rate.

    Real Estate brokers say a significant number of bankers have returned to the office. But they say offices housing lawyers, media outlets, publishers, and tech firms are mostly empty. 

    The Journal cites CBRE Group, a commercial real estate services firm, as saying only 10 percent of the city’s office workers had returned by Sept. 18. Nationally, nearly a quarter of American workers are back in the office.

    Around the nation

    • Illinois: Chicago has added four more states to its quarantine list. Travelers from Kentucky, Texas, Wyoming, and Nevada will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine before entering the state.

    • Iowa: Despite a rise in coronavirus cases, Iowa is loosening some mitigation regulations. Residents will no longer have to self-quarantine for 14 days after being exposed to someone with the virus

    • North Carolina: The outlook is uncertain for more than 1,000 bars in the state that have been closed since March. An order requiring them to shut their doors expires this week, but it’s not clear how many are still in business.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,194,922 (7,156,56...
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    Walmart announces sales event to rival Amazon’s Prime Day

    The event will take place in mid-October

    Walmart has announced that it plans to offer its own online deals in October, the same month Amazon is holding its Prime Day sales event. 

    The retailer announced on Monday that it will hold a “Big Save” online sales event Oct. 11-15. During those days, Walmart says it will offer “Black Friday-like savings.” Price cuts will be applied to thousands of items in categories including electronics, toys, beauty items, and more. 

    Walmart said some orders over $35 will be eligible for free two-day shipping, and others may be eligible for free next-day delivery or in-store pickup. 

    Amazon confirmed on Sunday that it’s annual Prime Day event will take place on Oct. 13-14. The event is normally held in July, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced Amazon to postpone this year’s event.  

    Walmart’s rival sales event will kick off Sunday, October 11, at 7 p.m. EST and end Thursday October 15. Some of the deals the company says it will offer include: 

    • JVC 55" 4K HDR Roku Smart LED TV – $248 (was $399, $151 savings)

    • Super Mario Party video game for Nintendo Switch – $39.99 (was $59.88, $19.89 savings)

    • Roku Ultra LT Streaming Media Player – $69 (was $79, $10 savings) 

    • Pioneer Woman 6 Quart Instant Pot – $49 (was $99, $50 savings)

    • Tzumi Ion Robotic Vacuum – $99 (was $179.88, $79.89 savings) 

    • Best Choice Products 250-Piece Kids STEM 3D Magnetic Building Blocks Play Set (Marketplace Item) - $64.99 (was $114.99, $50 savings)

    • Hunter Women's Original Tall Rain Boots (Marketplace Item) – $59.99 (was $79.99, $20 savings)

    • Scoop Women’s Printed Maxi Shirt Dress – $39.99 (was $59, $19.01 savings) 

    Walmart has announced that it plans to offer its own online deals in October, the same month Amazon is holding its Prime Day sales event. The retailer...
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      Seattle approves law to ensure Uber, Lyft drivers make minimum wage

      Ride-hailing firms will be required to pay drivers in the city at least $16.39 per hour

      Under a new law approved by Seattle’s City Council, Uber and Lyft will be forced to pay their drivers a minimum wage of at least $0.56 per minute and $1.33 per mile driven when there’s a passenger in the vehicle. 

      The new law, which is set to go into effect in January, will help to ensure that drivers in Seattle earn the city’s minimum wage of $16.39. The minimum wage requirement assumes that drivers will spend about half their time waiting for ride requests or driving to pick up passengers. 

      “The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in our systems of worker protections, leaving many frontline workers like gig workers without a safety net,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan in a statement.

      Seattle’s new law will also require Uber and Lyft to give all tips to drivers and not have those tips counted toward the minimum wage. Drivers must also be reimbursed for any gear they had to purchase for health and safety purposes, like masks and other protective equipment. 

      Uber, Lyft oppose the policy

      The new law was passed unanimously by city officials with a vote of 9-0. It was based on a similar law passed in New York in 2018, which implemented new pay rules and put a limit on the number of ride-hailing cars from services like Uber and Lyft that can be on city streets. 

      California has also pushed for better pay and protections for Uber and Lyft drivers by requiring the companies to classify their drivers as employees rather than gig workers. However, the ride-sharing companies have argued that such laws could actually lead to job losses and increased rates for consumers.  

      "The City's plan is deeply flawed and will actually destroy jobs for thousands of people -- as many as 4,000 drivers on Lyft alone -- and drive ride-share companies out of Seattle," Lyft said in a statement.

      In a letter to the Seattle City Council, Uber contended that the policy would have a negative impact on drivers. 

      "Uber may have to make changes in Seattle because of this new law, but the real harm here will not be to Uber," Uber said. "It is the drivers who cannot work and the community members unable to complete essential travel that stand to lose because of the ordinance."

      Under a new law approved by Seattle’s City Council, Uber and Lyft will be forced to pay their drivers a minimum wage of at least $0.56 per minute and $1.33...
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      Ventilation systems could increase consumers' exposure to COVID-19

      Experts worry about how this could affect infection rates during the upcoming winter months

      With outdoor gatherings beginning to dwindle down as the weather changes, experts are thinking about how greater numbers of indoor events will affect the spread of COVID-19

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge found that current ventilation systems could make exposure to the virus more likely. Though these systems are designed to create optimal temperatures, they also contribute to the spread of airborne particles that can carry infections. 

      “As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere and people start spending more time inside, understanding the role of ventilation is critical to estimating the risk of contracting the virus and helping slow its spread,” said researcher Paul Linden. 

      “While direct monitoring of droplets and aerosols in indoor spaces is difficult, we exhale carbon dioxide that can easily be measured and used as an indicator of the risk of infection. Small respiratory aerosols containing the virus are transported along with the carbon dioxide produced by breathing, and are carried around a room by ventilation flows. Insufficient ventilation can lead to high carbon dioxide concentration, which in turn could increase the risk of exposure to the virus.” 

      Tracking air flow

      To better understand how ventilation can affect consumers’ exposure to COVID-19, the researchers analyzed two primary factors: human exhalation and ventilation types. 

      “In order to model how coronavirus or similar viruses spread indoors, you need to know where people’s breath goes when they exhale and how that changes depending on ventilation,” Linden said. “Using these data, we can estimate the risk of catching the virus while indoors.” 

      The researchers assessed how actions like talking or laughing -- both with and without a mask -- can affect air quality. They learned that several variables come into play in indoor settings. For example, though laughing was found to emit the greatest number of potentially infectious particles, opening and closing doors, placement of vents, and increased movement in a space can also increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

      This is why it’s also important to think about ventilation. The researchers explained that displacement ventilation is one of the better alternatives in large indoor spaces, as this allows hot air -- like exhaled breath -- to be filtered out through the top of the room without the risk of other people breathing it in. Though this is ideal, every space is designed differently, and there’s no way to guarantee that ventilation systems will properly filter out airborne infections. 

      Masks are working

      While ventilation systems are out of consumers’ control, the study also found that wearing a mask is one of the best ways to protect against COVID-19. Regardless of any external factors, masks were found to protect consumers from both spreading or contracting any germs. 

      “One thing we could clearly see is that one of the ways that masks work is by stopping the breath’s momentum. While pretty much all masks will have a certain amount of leakage through the top and sides, it doesn’t matter that much, because slowing the momentum of any exhaled contaminants reduces the chance of any direct exchange of aerosols and droplets as the breath remains in the body’s thermal plume and is carried upwards towards the ceiling,” Linden said. 

      “Additionally, masks stop larger droplets, and a three-layered mask decreases the amount of those contaminants that are recirculated through the room by ventilation.” 

      With outdoor gatherings beginning to dwindle down as the weather changes, experts are thinking about how greater numbers of indoor events will affect the s...
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      Treasury Department closes CARES loans for seven major U.S. airlines

      The industry is at the eleventh hour and hoping for an extension of the loan program

      The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it has closed loans to seven major passenger airlines as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

      The seven carriers are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, and United Airlines. 

      Officials say it’s likely that the initial loan amounts the airlines applied for in its pool of $25 billion will be increased because some major airlines may opt to secure financing in the private market instead of through the Treasury Department. 

      “The payroll support and loan programs created by the CARES Act have saved a large number of aviation industry jobs, and kept workers employed and connected to their health care, during an unprecedented time,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.  

      “We are pleased to conclude loans that will support this critical industry while ensuring appropriate taxpayer compensation. We call on Congress to extend the Payroll Support Program so we can continue to support aviation industry workers as our economy reopens and we continue on the path to recovery.”

      The eleventh hour

      A key element of the CARES loan package -- particularly for airlines -- is a commitment to maintain employee levels through the end of September. Now that the commitment is in its eleventh hour, both airlines and employees are waiting for word of a COVID-19 relief package extension.

      “This is no time for governments to walk away,” Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “The industry is grateful to those governments that have already provided support, but new job-saving measures are needed -- including financial measures that do not add to overstressed balance sheets.”

      The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it has closed loans to seven major passenger airlines as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Econom...
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      Disney to lay off 28,000 employees due to coronavirus impact

      The company called the decision to cut jobs ‘heartbreaking’

      Due to the impact of COVID-19, Disney has announced that it is making the “difficult” decision to lay off 28,000 employees. The lay-offs will mainly affect those working at the company’s U.S. theme parks, but the company will also lay off some employees working at its consumer products division. 

      Josh D’Amaro, head of parks at Disney, said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to months of theme park closures. The closures have led to billions of dollars in operating income loss during the second and third quarters. 

      While Disney’s Florida parks have reopened with new safety measures, Disneyland in California remains shut down. D’Amaro said California’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen has only made Disney’s problems worse. 

      "We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels," D'Amaro said in a statement. 

      Toll of the outbreak

      D’Amaro noted that the open parks are operating under limited visitor capacity. Unfortunately, there is still uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last. 

      “For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company,” D’Amaro said in a memo to employees on Tuesday. “We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.”

      In the memo, D’Amaro called the decision to lay off employees “heartbreaking” but said that it was the “only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business.”

      Disney’s parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris aren’t affected by the announcement.

      Due to the impact of COVID-19, Disney has announced that it is making the “difficult” decision to lay off 28,000 employees. The lay-offs will mainly affect...
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      Consumer confidence took a surprising turn higher in September

      The Conference Board report shows consumers think September was better than August

      Consumers appear to be feeling a lot more confident heading into the fall months, despite an uncertain election season, spiking cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and the prospect of more businesses falling victim to the pandemic.

      The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index for September leaped higher after falling in both July and August. The September index was 101.8 compared to 86.3 in August.

      "Consumer Confidence increased sharply in September, after back-to-back monthly declines, but remains below pre-pandemic levels," said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "A more favorable view of current business and labor market conditions, coupled with renewed optimism about the short-term outlook, helped spur this month's rebound in confidence. 

      But where did that confidence come from? During the month, schools wrestled with the question of whether to return children to the classroom, creating more uncertainty for working parents.

      September’s headwinds

      Congress essentially gave up on efforts to reach agreement on a new round of pandemic relief measures after Democrats and Republicans found themselves trillions of dollars apart on how much to spend.  

      Throughout September, there were more than 800,000 Americans each week applying for unemployment benefits, suggesting the labor market wasn’t getting much better.

      Despite all that, consumers expressed greater optimism about their short-term financial prospects, which Franco says may help keep spending from slowing further in the months ahead.

      The report suggests that, from the average consumer’s perspective, September was a lot better than August. The percentage of consumers claiming business conditions are "good" increased from 16 percent to 18.3 percent, while those claiming business conditions are "bad" decreased from 43.3 percent to 37.4 percent. 

      Brighter view of the job market

      Consumers even think the job market is getting better. The percentage saying jobs are "plentiful" increased from 21.4 percent to 22.9 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" decreased from 23.6 percent to 20.0 percent.

      Consumers are even more optimistic about the short-term future. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased from 29.8 percent to 37.1 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased from 20.7 percent to 15.8 percent. 

      Consumers even expect the labor market will improve in the coming weeks. We’ll find out Friday if the labor market improved in September when the Labor Department releases the month’s employment report. The unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent in August.

      Consumers appear to be feeling a lot more confident heading into the fall months, despite an uncertain election season, spiking cases of the coronavirus (C...
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      Ford recalls model year 2020 Mustangs with automatic transmissions

      The brake pedal bracket may fracture

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 38,005 model year 2020 Mustangs with automatic transmissions.

      The brake pedal bracket may fracture during sudden stopping, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake pedal bracket assembly free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 16, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S52.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 38,005 model year 2020 Mustangs with automatic transmissions. The brake pedal bracket may fracture during sudden stoppin...
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      Honda recalls Genuine Accessory Tonneau Covers

      The Tonneau Cover panel may detach from the vehicle

      American Honda Motor Co. is recalling all Honda Genuine Accessory Tonneau Covers, part number 08Z07-T6Z-100F, sold for installation on 2017-2020 Ridgeline trucks.

      If the tonneau cover is not properly secured in the open or closed position, wind resistance may cause the cover to flip and buckle. If this occurs, the hinges between the center and rear panel may deform, possibly allowing the rear panel to separate from the vehicle.

      A separated panel may become a road hazard, posing the risk of crash or injury.

      What to do

      Honda will notify all registered owners of 2017-2020 Honda Ridgelines, and dealers will install tethers onto any Honda Genuine Accessory Tonneau Cover to prevent panel separation and apply warning labels free of charge.

      In addition, an updated accessory user's information manual will be provided.

      The recall is expected to begin October 26, 2020.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at (888) 234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is F8M.

      American Honda Motor Co. is recalling all Honda Genuine Accessory Tonneau Covers, part number 08Z07-T6Z-100F, sold for installation on 2017-2020 Ridgeline ...
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      Coronavirus update: 1 million deaths worldwide, response by most states was lacking early on

      Democrats are outlining another aid package

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,156,562 (7,122,754)

      Total U.S. deaths: 205,268 (204,825)

      Total global cases: 33,431,133 (33,173,176)

      Total global deaths: 1,003,168 (998,867)

      Global deaths top 1 million

      Just days after the U.S. recorded a total of 7 million cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the world’s death toll from the pandemic exceeded the 1 million mark, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University.

      The U.S., by far, has recorded the most coronavirus deaths of any nation, with more than 205,000. Brazil is next, with 142,000 deaths and India is third, with 96,318.

      Deaths have not risen as quickly as new cases of the virus in recent weeks because treatments have improved and doctors have learned more about the virus and how it attacks the body.

      States get poor marks in controlling the coronavirus

      A report by the National Safety Council says 39 states failed to take sufficient action early in the pandemic to protect citizens from COVID-19. Despite the fact that the virus killed more people than accidental drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes, and falls combined, the report uncovered what it calls “an inconsistent approach that has jeopardized safety.”

      Only 12 states received an “on-track” rating in the report, with New Mexico, New York, California, Rhode Island, and Washington leading the pack with the highest overall ratings. Ten states received an 'off-track' rating, with Mississippi and South Dakota receiving the lowest overall ratings. 

      "Many states have shown ingenuity and grit when it comes to protecting citizens, while others fell short," said Lorraine M. Martin, CEO of the National Safety Council. "This report is intended not as a condemnation but as a challenge to states to learn from each other and do better.”

      Democrats take the wraps off another relief package

      Democratic Congressional leaders have unveiled a $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package after approving a $3.5 trillion bill in May that was a non-starter with Republicans. Whether this goes anywhere is unclear.

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met today with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to outline the provisions of the bill, which would provide enhanced unemployment benefits and make direct payments to Americans.

      It may be a difficult sell. While the two parties are closer to an agreement, the Trump administration so far has only committed to spend $1.3 trillion.

      Saliva testing promoted as a defense

      Japanese researchers say they have demonstrated a quick and effective mass testing approach using saliva samples that can effectively detect people who have been infected with COVID-19 but are still not showing symptoms. Their findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

      "Rapid detection of asymptomatic infected individuals will be critical for preventing COVID-19 outbreaks within communities and hospitals," says Hokkaido University researcher Takanori Teshima, who led the study.

      The researchers say the speed with which the test yields results could help the world avoid a severe second wave of the virus over the winter months.

      Doctors report positive results with laser treatment

      Physicians in Massachusetts say a second COVID-19 patient has responded favorably to laser therapy. They describe what they call a “remarkable decrease” in inflammatory markers, IL-6 and Ferritin, and marked improvement in radiological findings after supportive treatment with Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT).

      "Not only did the chest X-ray dramatically clear, but important markers of inflammation, IL-6, and Ferritin, decreased after four days of treatment. Photobiomodulation Therapy is known to have anti-inflammatory effects but in this case, it effectively treated the patient's respiratory symptoms," said Dr. Scott Sigman.

      Sigman said he hopes other physicians with COVID-19 patients will consider PBMT as an adjunct treatment option.

      Around the nation

      • Connecticut: COVID-19 numbers are rising throughout the state again, causing officials to step up preventative measures. However, the rate of positive tests is barely over 1 percent, much lower than in most other states. Connecticut officials say they are receiving 1 million rapid-result tests from Washington.

      • Nevada: The Division of Industrial Relations conducted initial observations of 359 businesses during the week of Sept. 21 to 26, checking on compliance with the state’s coronavirus mitigation rules. It found 94 percent of restaurants were compliant, but only 84 percent of bars met the same standards.

      • Louisiana: Local officials in New Orleans are expressing outrage at a report showing that the state has only paid out $115,000 in rental assistance after receiving $5.6 million for that purpose. Officials say 40,000 people in the city have applied for assistance.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,156,562 (7,122,75...
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      Target announces Oct. 13-14 as dates for Target Deal Days

      Once again, the retailer will go head-to-head with Amazon’s Prime Day event

      Target has announced Oct. 13 and 14 will be the dates for its Target Deal Days, a pre-holiday sale on thousands of items that can be purchased online. If those dates sound a little familiar, they should. On Monday Amazon officially disclosed those dates for its annual Prime Day sales event, delayed from its normal time in July.

      No one should be that surprised that the two retailers chose the same days for their online sales events since the same thing happened last year. Target’s Deal Days debuted in July 2019, coinciding with Prime Day.

      For consumers, the overlap is convenient since shoppers can toggle back and forth between the two platforms comparing prices, availability, and delivery options. Amazon moved Prime Day back this year after a surge in business caused by the pandemic disrupted supply lines and delivery dates.

      ‘Holiday season unlike any other’

      In announcing its sales event, Target said it would feature nearly 1 million more deals than last year and offer Black Friday pricing throughout November.

      "This year, in a holiday season unlike any other, we know it's more important than ever for our guests to get great deals in a convenient and safe shopping environment," said Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Target. “We're letting guests know they don't need to wait or face the crowds to get the best deals, all with no membership fees required."

      Target is using the event to encourage shoppers to sign up for its Target Circle loyalty program, which it says provides access to the best deals. The company also says all the deals will be available both days of the event, giving customers more time to shop.

      With availability and delivery schedules being a potential issue this year, Target is urging shoppers to use the retailer’s contactless drive up and order pickup service. It also says an increased number of items will be available using same-day delivery with Shipt. 

      Target’s Price Match Guarantee is usually offered for a two-week period during the holiday shopping period. This year, the company says it will be in force from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Shoppers can request a price adjustment for any item advertised as a "Black Friday deal" if it is offered for a lower price at Target or Target.com. 

      Target has announced Oct. 13 and 14 will be the dates for its Target Deal Days, a pre-holiday sale on thousands of items that can be purchased online. If t...
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      Retailers and consumers are both getting a head start on holiday shopping

      A survey shows that October will be a big month for holiday spending

      ConsumerAffairs can report that there was at least one Christmas tree display at a Lowe’s store in Richmond, Va. over the weekend, suggesting retailers are getting an early jump on the 2020 holiday shopping season before the Halloween displays have been put away.

      Analysts at RetailMeNot.com confirm that retailers are wasting no time in trying to attract consumers in what may be the most uncertain holiday shopping season since the financial crisis. But the shopping site predicts that consumers may spend as they normally would, just in different ways.

      Most of the people in the survey said they will probably do most of their shopping online this year, continuing a trend that began with the initial coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown. An increased number of shoppers also said they will start shopping earlier than in years past in order to avoid delivery delays and retailers being out of stock.

      An overwhelming number of respondents -- 88 percent -- said they will not shop for traditional door-buster deals on Thanksgiving Day.

      Amazon’s decision to delay Prime Day until Oct. 13 and Target deciding to hold its sales event on the same days may be fortuitous for both the companies and for shoppers. The survey shows that 41 percent of consumers plan to start shopping in October, with some saying they hope to do nearly all of their shopping during that month.

      Little pullback in spending

      While many Americans have been thrown out of work by the pandemic, a surprising number of people in the survey -- 66 percent -- expect to spend the same amount of money, or more, on the holidays this year. In fact, some said it’s important this year to create a sense of normalcy and keep traditions alive.

      To help stretch holiday budgets, RetailMeNot’s shopping and trends expert Sara Skirboll suggests taking advantage of sales and paying with a cash back rewards credit card, a way to save money while you’re spending it. 

      If you’re shopping online, she also likes the option of ordering for in-store or curbside pickup instead of having items shipped directly to your home. 

      "With more people shifting to shopping online, an important option to keep in mind is buying online and picking up in-store or curbside,” she said. “With curbside being a safe way for shoppers to handle their holiday shopping this year and staying out of stores, it also helps ensure timely delivery of gifts."

      As with any major purchase, it also pays to check out reviews on sites like ConsumerAffairs, to find out what other consumers have experienced.

      ConsumerAffairs can report that there was at least one Christmas tree display at a Lowe’s store in Richmond, Va. over the weekend, suggesting retailers are...
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      Disney+ launches new co-watching feature

      Participants can synchronize video viewings

      With the pandemic still keeping consumers at home, Disney+ has added a new co-watching feature to enable friends and family to watch movies together while in different places. 

      The streaming platform’s new GroupWatch feature was already in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, but company officials said they sped up its timeline for deployment in light of the circumstances.  

      The new Disney+ feature will let people synchronize movie viewings, enabling friends and family to stay connected even while physically apart. The technology doesn’t require a browser extension and will work on any device. 

      Watching with other subscribers

      Jerrell Jimerson, chief product officer for Disney’s streaming services, said the co-watching feature was designed to be “super easy for consumers to use.” After selecting “GroupWatch” from the Details menu of a movie or show on Disney+, users can invite up to six other Disney+ subscribers to participate in the viewing. 

      Once the movie or show has started, participants can play, rewind or fast forward the video for the whole group and share emojis in response to what’s happening. Jimerson said that although the feature doesn’t have a chat option, other communication capabilities could soon be added.  

      “There are other opportunities to integrate communication capabilities, but we haven’t shared any timing on those things,” he told TechCrunch.

      The new co-watching feature was launched Tuesday. It works on the Disney+ website, smart TVs and connected devices, and on the Android and iPhone apps. 

      With the pandemic still keeping consumers at home, Disney+ has added a new co-watching feature to enable friends and family to watch movies together while...
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      Google’s acquisition of Fitbit appears likely to receive approval

      The company has made new promises regarding data use in order to appease regulators

      Google appears poised to obtain regulator approval for its acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit after promising not to personalize advertisements based on user data for the next decade. 

      Previously, the company pledged not to use Fitbit health data to aid its ad targeting for five years. Now, reports indicate that the tech giant has extended the data pledge in a bid to receive approval from the European Union.

      Google announced its intention to buy the Fitbit in November 2019. Citing sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reported on Tuesday that Google’s plan to buy the company for $2.1 billion looks set to be approved thanks to the company’s new concessions. 

      ‘About devices, not data’

      In August, the EU launched an investigation into the company’s proposed acquisition of the wearables maker in order to determine whether the deal might allow Google to exploit Fitbit's health and location datasets in order to get an edge over competitors. 

      Fitbit has health data on more than 28 million users. In July, Google assured regulators that the deal was “about devices, not data” and promised not to use Fitbit data if the deal was approved.

      “We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that safeguards consumers’ expectations that Fitbit device data won’t be used for advertising,” Google said in a statement at the time.

      In addition to promising not to use data for ad targeting purposes, Google also reportedly agreed this week to allow other devices to use Fitbit’s health data if a user consents. Additionally, the company said Fitbit devices will still work with competing services, like Map My Run and Strava.

      The EU has until the end of the year to make a formal decision on whether to approve the deal. 

      Google appears poised to obtain regulator approval for its acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit after promising not to personalize advertisements based on...
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      Amazon introduces contactless payments with Amazon One

      The company says it’s got the security angle well in hand

      With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for events, gyms, office buildings, etc. that allows people to simply hold their hand over a scanner for a couple of seconds and gain admission or pay for items. 

      At present, the technology is available only at two Amazon Go stores, but the world can expect a more robust rollout if the pilot phase proves to be successful.

      Working backwards

      You might think that Amazon One came out of surface contact health safety issues related to COVID-19, but the idea’s genesis is the time drag that it takes consumers to slide a credit card in, approve a purchase, enter in PIN numbers, and the like.

      “As with everything Amazon does, we started with the customer experience and worked backwards. We solved for things that are durable and have stood the test of time but often cause friction or wasted time for customers,” wrote Amazon’s Vice President of Amazon Physical Retail, Dilip Kumar in a blog post. 

      “We wondered whether we could help improve experiences like paying at checkout, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or even badging into work. So, we built Amazon One to offer just that—a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

      How it works

      Interested consumers have the option to enroll at stores and venues using Amazon One; all it takes is scanning one palm or both. Simple as that. For customers to actually use the service, Kumar says that the technology requires an “intentional gesture” -- one where a person holds their hand over the device with the palm of the hand working as a biometric identifier. 

      Privacy advocates will be watching Amazon like a hawk given the earlier concerns its foray into facial-recognition software raised with shareholders, employees, and the ACLU, but the company is ready to face the fire.

      Kumar says that the palm images will be encrypted on a “highly secure area in the cloud” and not on a scanner at the location. To add a little more security, anyone can delete their personal Amazon One-related data any time at one.amazon.com. Interested consumers can also sign up for the service at that same website.

      With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for ev...
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      Universal Health Services targeted by likely ransomware attack

      Some hospitals were forced to file patient information with pen and paper due to the issue

      Universal Health Services (UHS), one of the nation’s largest health care providers, disclosed Monday that its systems were affected by a highly coordinated ransomware attack. Employees at a major U.S. hospital chain said over the weekend that they couldn’t access their computers. 

      UHS, which operates about 400 health care facilities across the U.S. and U.K., said an “IT security issue” was responsible for the issue.

      “We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible,” UHS said in a statement. “In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods. Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively.” 

      The company added that “no patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied or misused.” 

      Forced to file information manually

      A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that the attack “looks and smells like ransomware.” Hackers often wait to deploy ransomware over the weekend to take advantage of reduced staff members, NBC News noted.

      The attack forced some UHS hospitals to file patient information manually, using pen and paper. In other instances, ambulances were redirected to other nearby hospitals. 

      This isn’t the first time a hospital chain has been the target of a cyberattack. Earlier this month, Duesseldorf University Hospital in Germany was hit by a ransomware attack that resulted in a patient in critical condition having to be transferred to another hospital. The patient ended up dying while en route to the other facility. 

      Universal Health Services (UHS), one of the nation’s largest health care providers, disclosed Monday that its systems were affected by a highly coordinated...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2019 Titans with LED headlights

      The headlights may have incorrect aiming marks

      Nissan North America is recalling 82 model year 2019 Titans with LED headlights.

      The headlights may have incorrect aiming marks.

      The incorrect marks may cause the headlights to be aimed incorrectly during servicing, resulting in insufficient illumination of the road while driving at night, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and -- as necessary -- replace the headlight assemblies free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin on October 20, 2020.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 867-7669. Nissan's number for this recall is PC751.

      Nissan North America is recalling 82 model year 2019 Titans with LED headlights. The headlights may have incorrect aiming marks. The incorrect marks ...
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      Coronavirus update: 7 million U.S. cases, children less likely to get the virus

      Researchers have found a way to safely recycle N95 masks

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,122,754(7,089,611)

      Total U.S. deaths: 204,825 (204,566)

      Total global cases: 33,173,176 (32,919,487)

      Total global deaths: 998,867 (995,352)

      Cases in the U.S. cross the 7 million mark

      Over the weekend, the U.S. reached a significant milestone, recording coronavirus (COVID-19) cases that pushed the total over the 7 million mark. At the same time, the world came close to 1 million deaths from the virus.

      Cases of the virus began to rise in June and have not let up, especially after college students returned to campus. A Reuters analysis shows that outbreaks are particularly bad in the Midwest, with 25 percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive.

      Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients set records last week in Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

      Children less likely to get the virus

      Does the virus causing COVID-19 discriminate? Apparently it does. Researchers at Britain’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report that the chance of a child getting the virus is 44 percent lower than an adult’s. However, that protection only lasts up to a certain age.

      “There is preliminary evidence that those younger than 10 to 14 years have lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection than adults, with adolescents appearing to have similar susceptibility to adults,” the researchers wrote in their analysis.

      Researchers find a way to recycle N95 masks

      While there are plenty of face coverings available for consumers, professional-grade N95 masks are still in limited supply. Researchers at Stanford and the University of Texas say they have found a way to effectively clean the masks so they can be reused.

      Using a combination of moderate heat and high relative humidity, the team was able to disinfect N95 mask materials without reducing their ability to filter out viruses. They say it may be possible for the cleaning process to be automated.

      “This is really an issue, so if you can find a way to recycle the masks a few dozen times, the shortage goes way down,” said Stanford physicist Steven Chu, a senior author on the new paper.

      Old life-support treatment saves lives

      A study shows an existing life-support option known as ECMO, used in lung-damaging pandemics in the past, is helping severely ill COVID-19 patients survive.

      The study followed the cases of 1,035 patients who were given little chance to survive because ventilators and other treatments were ineffective. But after they were placed on ECMO, their actual death rate was less than 40 percent, researchers said. 

      ECMO is a process that channels blood out of the body and into a circuit of equipment that adds oxygen directly to the blood before pumping it back into regular circulation. Small studies published early in the pandemic had cast doubt on the technique’s usefulness.

      NFL investigating team over safety protocols

      The Las Vegas Raiders are under investigation by the NFL for allegedly breaking the league’s COVID-19 safety rules. The alleged infraction goes back to last Monday night’s victory over the New Orleans Saints.

      According to media reports, an unauthorized employee was able to enter the team’s locker room after the game without the required credentials. League rules limit the number of people who can be in the locker room in order to reduce potential exposure to the virus.

      This isn’t the first time the Raiders have been under NFL scrutiny for a pandemic-related issue. Head Coach Jon Gruden and the team were fined the previous week for failing to wear masks on the sidelines.

      Around the nation

      • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning residents in his state that the coronavirus is “still a force to be reckoned with.” Cuomo has voiced concern over New York City’s recent increase in new cases of the virus.

      • Arizona: Pima County has reported a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases, which health officials say is not that surprising. “I attribute the uptick in Pima County to the situation on the University of Arizona (UA) campus,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, an associate professor with the UA’s Zuckerman College of Public Health. “Our mitigation efforts didn’t work as well as we had hoped.”

      • Michigan: It’s prime apple harvesting time throughout the state, but agriculture officials worry that the coronavirus can pose a serious problem. They say an outbreak among the apple picking labor force would disrupt the industry.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,122,754(7,089,611...
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      United reaches deal with pilots’ union to avoid thousands of worker furloughs

      The airline will drastically reduce flying schedules to preserve jobs

      United Airlines announced on Monday that it’s come up with a plan that will allow it to avoid having to furlough thousands of employees. 

      Under an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association, United will reduce flying schedules and maintain pay rates as it seeks to weather the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the carrier planned to furlough 2,850 pilots after its federal aid ran out. The furloughs were set to take effect on Thursday. 

      United and other airlines have said the lack of new federal support has made it necessary to enact cost-cutting measures, like furloughs. While United has reached an agreement that it will allow it to avoid some furloughs, the airline is still planning to cut nearly 13,000 jobs beginning in October. 

      The airline’s pilots’ union said the deal will allow United to stay afloat until flying demand returns. However, United executives have said they don’t expect to fully recover until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is widely available.

      The furloughs that United is still planning would affect flight attendants, mechanics, and other union employees. In an effort to make it easier to bounce back once demand returns, pilots -- who have to go through a lengthier training process -- will be kept on during the health crisis. 

      “Our members understood that in order to protect pilot jobs, we needed to approve this agreement,” said Todd Insler, chairman of the union’s United Airlines council.

      United Airlines announced on Monday that it’s come up with a plan that will allow it to avoid having to furlough thousands of employees. Under an agree...
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      Amazon confirms Prime Day event to begin October 13

      The online retailer is offering deals on millions of products and supporting businesses impacted by the pandemic

      As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations in categories like toys, TVs, electronics, fashion, home, and, of course, Amazon devices.

      Amazon says it’s collected more than a million deals to offer shoppers, including brand-specific items from adidas, Coleman, Under Armour, Keurig, Lacoste, and Panasonic.

      Get a head start on the bargains

      Prime Day has become more like Prime 15 Days because of the carrots the retailer started dangling on Tuesday. Below is a list of some deals shoppers can expect to see. (*All deals are accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change.)

      • Amazon Devices: Shoppers can buy two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 and Fire TV Recast for $129.99 so people can store up to 75 hours of programming. There’s also a deal on smart home security with Amazon’s Blink Mini indoor cameras, which will be discounted to $24.99 per unit.

      • Amazon Music: Amazon is still woefully behind Spotify in the number of paid subscribers, but it’s not giving up yet. For just 99 cents, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited (being a new subscriber is key, apparently) can get four free months of the premium, ad-free streaming tier.

      • Audible: Book lovers who like taking their books on the go in audio form can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus.

      • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50 percent off a 6-month subscription.

      • Amazon Fashion: The newest niche Amazon is shooting for is high fashion, so it’s no surprise that it’s rolling out some larger deals here. Fashion lovers can save up to 30 percent on select Vineyard Vines clothing for men, up to 15 percent on select fall fashion from Shopbop, and up to 30 percent on select styles from Calvin Klein.

      • Home: Deals include up to 20 percent or more off on furniture brands like Lane Home Furnishings, Walker Edison Furniture Company, and Nathan James. 

      • Tools: If Dad likes playing handyman, Mrs. Claus can get a head start on Christmas by saving up to 20 percent on select DEWALT saws and drills and up to 15 percent on select DEWALT impact driver and drill combo Kits.

      • Toys: Parents who like the “green” approach to life can save up to 30 percent on select toys from Green Toys.

      Alexa, how do I pay for all of this?

      Being the crafty retailer that it is, Amazon knows that a little extra grease won’t hurt; it’s offering a $100 gift card for consumers who sign up and are approved for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.. 

      Prime member Echo Dot users can find daily deals by asking “Alexa, what are my Prime Day deals?” As a bonus, effectively immediately and lasting a limited time, new Prime members who sign up using the Echo Dot can get a $5 Amazon credit simply by saying, “Alexa, sign me up for Prime.”

      Amazon is also taking a QVC-ish angle with Amazon Live. Pitching everything from kitchen appliances to fashion wear, the hosted Amazon Live stream will show off products and take advantage of special deals the instant they go live. To watch, visit Amazon’s site here and via the Amazon Shopping app on Fire TV.

      Prime Day 2020 also has a kind gesture to all the small businesses who pushed forward through COVID-19. In support of those efforts, Amazon is investing an additional $100 million in special Prime Day and holiday promotional programs by offering a $10 credit to use on Prime Day to members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.

      As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations...
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      AT&T adds new unlimited data plan option

      The carrier now allows customers to pick a different unlimited plan for each line

      AT&T has announced that it’s giving customers the option to combine different unlimited plans on each line of their account. 

      On Monday, the carrier said its new “Unlimited Your Way” program will let customers choose either the Starter, Extra, or Elite unlimited plan for each line instead of requiring all lines to have the same plan. 

      "We recognize that individuals have different wireless needs and not all family members want the same rate plan," said David Christopher, executive vice president of AT&T Mobility, in a release. "With the launch of Unlimited Your Way we're making it simple – now customers can pick the best combination of unlimited wireless plans for each family member – all with access to fast, reliable and secure nationwide AT&T 5G included at no extra charge."

      Greater flexibility 

      The company said that allowing customers to mix and match unlimited wireless plans could result in savings by better accommodating the wireless needs of each line user. 

      For example, if a person who works from home went with the Unlimited Extra plan for its hotspot data, another line user could use Unlimited Elite for HBO Max entertainment; another two lines could stay on Unlimited Started if they don’t need those features. That combination would cost $160 per month while keeping everyone on Unlimited Elite would cost $200 per month. 

      The three plans on AT&T’s new program for those with multiple lines are the Unlimited Elite, which has up to 100GB of “premium” data for $45; the $35 Unlimited Extra plan, which has up to 50GB of premium data; and the $30 Unlimited Starter, which has up to 30GB of premium data. 

      AT&T’s new mix and match unlimited plan option for families is available starting today. 

      AT&T; has announced that it’s giving customers the option to combine different unlimited plans on each line of their account. On Monday, the carrier sa...
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      U.S. government places restrictions on China’s largest chipmaker

      Officials say the company’s equipment could be used for military purposes

      The United States has added China’s largest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), to its blocked entity list. 

      U.S. officials concluded that there is an “unacceptable risk” that equipment supplied by SMIC could be used for military purposes, Reuters reported. 

      In the interest of protecting national security, the Commerce Department has decided to make it necessary for American companies to apply for individual export licenses in order to do business with the Chinese firm. 

      Tightening trade restrictions

      A spokesperson for SMIC said the company hadn't heard anything about the restrictions in the form of an official notice. It maintained that it’s not linked to the Chinese military in any way. 

      “SMIC reiterates that it manufactures semiconductors and provides services solely for civilian and commercial end-users and end-uses,” the chip maker said. “The Company has no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for any military end-users or end-uses.”

      The U.S. previously blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei in an effort to prevent China from accessing critical chipmaking technology. The nation’s addition of SMIC to the blocked entity list will keep the semiconductor producer from getting key equipment and design tools from the U.S. 

      The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security didn’t comment specifically on the decision regarding SMIC. However, it said more broadly that it was “constantly monitoring and assessing any potential threats to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.” 

      The United States has added China’s largest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), to its blocked entity list. U.S. o...
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      Specialized Bicycle Components recalls Sirrus bicycles

      The crank arm can disengage and cause the rider to lose control,

      Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 38,200 Sirrus, Sirrus X and Sirrus Sport bicycles with alloy cranks sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The crank arm can disengage and cause the rider to lose control, posing fall and injury hazards.

      The firm has received 56 reports of crank arm disengaging, including seven reports of injuries. One injury involved a torn bicep tendon and the other six were minor injuries, such as road rash.

      This recall involves the 2019-2020 model year Sirrus, Sirrus X and Sirrus Sport bicycles sold in 27 different colors.

      Consumers can determine if their bicycle is part of the recall if “Sirrus” or “Sirrus X” is written on the top tube of the bicycle and the model name (e.g. “3.0”) is written on the seatstay of the bicycle. A list of the recalled models may be found here.

      The bicycles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Specialized retailers nationwide and online from September 2018, through June 2020, for between $850 and $1,700.

      What to do

      Consumers should stop using the recalled bicycles immediately and contact their nearest authorized Specialized retailer for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Specialized Bicycle Components at (800) 722-4423 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at ridercare@specialized.com or online at www.specialized.com and click on “Safety Notifications” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 38,200 Sirrus, Sirrus X and Sirrus Sport bicycles with alloy cranks sold in the U...
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      Coronavirus update: Democrats back compromise aid package, Uber enforces mask rule for riders

      Men have a higher death risk from the virus than women

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,990,568 (6,941,248)

      Total U.S. deaths: 203,047 (202,170)

      Total global cases: 32,345,456 (31,944,038)

      Total global deaths: 984,590 (977,881)

      Democrats reportedly offering a compromise aid package

      Democrats in the House may be ready to offer a slimmed-down coronavirus (COVID-19) aid package in hopes of attracting enough Senate Republicans to pass it. Published reports say the package totals $2.4 trillion in spending.

      Sources say it would include extra unemployment benefits, direct stimulus payments to Americans, another round of small-business loan funding, and aid to airlines.

      At $2.4 trillion, it’s still a trillion dollars more than Republicans have been willing to spend. But pressure on both parties is growing after aid contained in the original CARES Act expired at the end of July. 

      Uber will enforce mask rule for riders

      Uber riders who hop in the car without wearing a mask will have to prove they’re wearing one before they take their next ride. The company previously installed a system to make sure drivers were wearing masks. It’s now making sure riders have one.

      “If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they’re able to take another trip with Uber,” the company said in a blog post. “With the addition of this new feature, one driver’s feedback can help ensure the safety of Uber for the next driver.”

      The mask verification feature will roll out to the U.S. and Canada by the end of September. It will take effect across Latin America and other countries after that.

      Researchers say men have a higher death risk

      Anecdotal evidence suggests that men are more likely to have more severe coronavirus symptoms than women. Now, new research suggests that they are also more likely to die from the virus.

      The researchers at University Hospital Regensburg in Germany say men have a 62 percent higher risk of a COVID-19 associated death when compared to women. The scientists believe it may be due to higher levels of inflammation among male coronavirus patients.

      The study also shows that men have more admissions to an intensive care unit (ICU) when admitted to a hospital than women. In all, male patients spent more time in the hospital than females due to the virus.

      Severe cases linked to immune system weak spots

      Why do some people shake off COVID-19 like it was a bad cold while others fight for their lives in the hospital? We know that underlying health issues can be a factor, and that may provide a clue to the larger picture.

      Chronic illnesses like cancer can weaken the immune system, and it now seems clear that a strong immune system is needed to fight off the coronavirus. Two new analyses suggest that some life-threatening cases can be traced to weak spots in patients’ immune systems.

      One analysis showed that at least 10 percent of patients with a severe form of the disease created “auto-antibodies” that attack the immune system instead of fighting the virus. Seeing these harmful antibodies in so many patients – 101 out of 987 – was “a stunning observation,” said Jean-Laurent Casanova, a medical researcher at The Rockefeller University.

      Report shows increase in demand for travel insurance

      The coronavirus has changed a lot of things about travel, but one thing that hasn’t changed is travel insurance. Travelers are still seeking it, and according to travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, consumers are specifically looking for a policy that covers cancellation or medical coverage in the event that they come down with COVID-19 before or during their trip.

      Cancellation protection remains a top priority, with 81 percent of policies purchased during the pandemic including trip cancellation benefits. Consumers are willing to pay more for it, with pricey “cancel for any reason” policies accounting for 22 percent of all policies, a 552 percent increase over last year.

      Around the nation

      • Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamala Northam have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the governor’s office. At midweek, a member of the governor’s mansion staff was diagnosed after developing symptoms. 

      • Oregon: Clatsop County officials reported that dozens of workers at a seafood processing plant have tested positive for the coronavirus. The 77 affected employees are mostly members of the night shift.

      • Florida: Florida has struggled with spikes in coronavirus cases, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says restaurants will soon be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity; they currently operate at 50 percent capacity. DeSantis said he doesn’t think closing restaurants has been particularly effective in controlling the coronavirus.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,990,568 (6,941,24...
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      Younger adults account for 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases

      Americans in their 20s now account for more cases than people in any other age group

      People in their 20's now account for 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

      The CDC said this age group surpassed all others in terms of groups with the highest percentage of confirmed cases over the summer. The agency said this was especially true in the southern regions, which were heavily impacted by spikes in cases in June. 

      Health officials said the figures suggest “younger adults likely contributed to community transmission of COVID-19.” The emerging trend highlights the need to protect those who are more vulnerable to developing severe complications from COVID-19, the CDC said. 

      "Younger individuals, who may not require hospitalization, spread the virus to older, more vulnerable persons," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. "This change in infection patterns underscores the need to fortify vulnerable populations, especially those in nursing homes and assisted living centers, to insulate them from chains of viral transmission."

      Shifting trends

      As of May, the median age of people infected with COVID-19 was 46, according to the CDC’s data. Infected individuals between 40-49 accounted for 16.4 percent of the country’s cases while the 20-29 age bracket which made up 15.5 percent of COVID-19 positive patients in the U.S.

      By June, the 20-29 year old age group had surpassed the 40-49 year old age group in terms of numbers, making up 20.3 percent of cases. Older patients accounted for 16.0 percent. The next month, 20-somethings accounted for 23.2 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 cases, and the 40-49 bracket accounted for 15.2 percent.

      "This report provides preliminary evidence that younger adults contributed to community transmission of COVID-19 to older adults," the CDC wrote. "Across the southern United States in June 2020, the increase in SARS-CoV-2 infection among younger adults preceded the increase among older adults by 4–15 days (or approximately one to three incubation periods).” 

      Similar observations have been reported by the World Health Organization, the CDC added.

      Vulnerable to infection 

      Experts say the lifestyles and behaviors of younger adults could translate to a heightened vulnerability to COVID-19. Younger adults often work in places that could put them at greater risk of being exposed to the virus, and reports indicate that they generally tend to be more lax about adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

      Although a case of COVID-19 contracted by a younger person may not lead to complications that are as severe as those experienced by an older individual, health officials have stressed that some people in this age group will become seriously ill.

      The CDC continues to recommend that everyone practice "strict adherence to community mitigation strategies"  -- such as wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene -- to curb the spread of the virus.

      People in their 20's now account for 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (...
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      Anxiety about job security and finances have increased during the pandemic

      Study findings emphasize just how much of a mental toll the coronavirus has had on consumers

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and anxiety have been at an all-time high for consumers and their families. And while there are plenty of reasons to feel anxious during these uncertain times, a new study is looking at one of the major sources of stress that has emerged since the start of the pandemic. 

      According to researchers from the University of Connecticut, the pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety around job and financial security -- particularly for those who have remained employed since the start of COVID-19. 

      “We definitely are seeing, within our employed participants, higher rates of anxiety than in individuals who indicated they were not employed,” said researcher Natalie J. Shook. “Controlling for demographics, controlling for income level, and also taking into account participant health and concerns about COVID -- and the extent to which people were engaged in social distancing or quarantine -- we are seeing that job security and financial concerns are the significant predictors associated with anxiety and depression.” 

      Monitoring anxiety levels

      The study findings are part of an ongoing survey to understand how consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and feelings have changed since the start of the pandemic. Roughly 1,000 participants are involved in the project, and they are routinely surveyed about a variety of different topics. For this study in particular, the surveys focused on the things that have been the most anxiety-inducing since the start of the pandemic. Researchers also asked participants specific questions about their jobs and finances. 

      The researchers identified links between those who were feeling the greatest stress about finances and job security with those who were experiencing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Based on responses to the surveys, the pandemic has specifically made participants’ question the viability of their positions at work and their financial status. Because there is so much uncertainty, it’s hard for consumers to plan for the future or predict what the next year will bring in terms of employment and finances, which is ultimately what leads to the increase in anxiety and depression. 

      While it can be difficult to cope with stress and anxiety, the researchers think there is an opportunity for employers to step up and ease some of the mental burden consumers are facing during these challenging times. 

      “Based on these findings, for those experiencing depressive symptoms during the pandemic, it may be particularly important for employers to be mindful and try to minimize feelings of uncertainty for the employees, as well as instilling hope or agency in employees,” the researchers explained. “For those experiencing anxiety symptoms, employers could attempt to reduce financial concerns by allowing employees to continue to work (e.g. telework), even with reduced hours and income, to ensure that employees do not lose their entire income.” 

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and anxiety have been at an all-time high for consumers and their families. And while there are plenty of...
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      Gas prices remarkably stable over the last week

      Even Gulf Coast storms have failed to have any impact on prices at the pump

      Americans simply aren’t driving as much as they used to, and entering the fall months when refineries are switching over to winter gasoline blends, gas prices have continued to drift lower in many states.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.19 a gallon, a penny more than last week but a penny less than two weeks ago. The price is still 47 cents a gallon less than this time last year.

      The average price of premium gas is $2.80 a gallon up from $2.79 last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.40 a gallon, the same as a week ago.

      Gasoline demand remains seasonally low. In the last week, it totaled 8.39 million barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s nearly a half-million barrels a day less than what consumers were using a year ago.

      Even the spate of Gulf Coast storms hasn’t done much to impact prices at the pump. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, tweeted at midweek that CITGO's Lake Charles, La., refinery is not expected to return to full operation until mid to late October.

      “They're in no rush with weak demand,” he wrote.

      Prices were mostly stable across the country. Delaware and Florida saw the average pump price fall three cents a gallon while prices rose three cents a gallon in Illinois.

      The states with the most expensive gas

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

      • Hawaii ($3.24)

      • California ($3.22)

      • Washington ($2.81)

      • Nevada ($2.65)

      • Oregon ($2.63)

      • Alaska ($2.53)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.50)

      • Utah ($2.43)

      • Idaho ($2.43)

      • Illinois ($2.33)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($1.84)

      • Texas ($1.87)

      • Arkansas ($1.88)

      • Louisiana ($1.88)

      • Missouri ($1.88)

      • Alabama ($1.90)

      • Oklahoma ($1.90)

      • South Carolina ($1.94)

      • Tennessee ($1.93)

      • Kansas ($1.97)

      Americans simply aren’t driving as much as they used to, and entering the fall months when refineries are switching over to winter gasoline blends, gas pri...
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      Hyundai recalls Genesis G70s with 2.0L GDI engines

      The engine may receive an insufficient fuel supply

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 319 model year 2021 Genesis G70s with 2.0L GDI engines.

      The fuel pump's jet nozzle may have a plastic burr remaining from the manufacturing process, possibly causing a blocked nozzle and an insufficient fuel supply to the engine.

      Insufficient fuel supply can result in an engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair the fuel pump assembly jet nozzle free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 13, 2020.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 005G.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 319 model year 2021 Genesis G70s with 2.0L GDI engines. The fuel pump's jet nozzle may have a plastic burr remaining ...
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      Sunshine Mills recalls dog food

      The products may contain elevated levels of aflatoxin

      Sunshine Mills is recalling three dog food products that may contain elevated levels of aflatoxin.

      Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mold by-product from the growth of Aspergillus flavus and can be harmful to pets if consumed in significant quantities.

      Symptoms of illness include sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, or diarrhea.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      A list of the recalled products, sold in retail stores nationally, may be found here.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should discontinue using them and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Sunshine Mills customer service at (800) 705-2111 from 7AM to 4PM (CT) Monday through Friday, or by email at customer.service@sunshinemills.com.

      Sunshine Mills is recalling three dog food products that may contain elevated levels of aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mold by-product fr...
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      Caravan Global recalls chairs

      The chair’s plastic bracket can bend or fail

      Caravan Global is recalling about 2,700 Caravan Sports Armed/Padded Arm Bagged Chairs.

      The chair’s plastic bracket can bend or fail, and cause the fabric seat to rip apart from the frame, posing fall and injury hazards.

      The firm has received reports of six incidents where the seat fabric separated from the chair frame. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves the Caravan Sports Armed/Padded Arm Bagged chairs sold in blue, and measuring 24.4” x 23.2” x 36.2.”

      The chair image and product name is printed on the hang tag attached to the chair.

      A tag labeled “SNY-XZ” is sewn into the back of the chair.

      The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold at H-E-B stores in Texas throughout May 2020 for about $20.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and contact Caravan Global for instructions on how to receive a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Caravan Global toll-free at (877) 922-6679 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email info@caravanglobal.com and online at www.caravanglobal.com and click “Safety” at the bottom of the page.

      Caravan Global is recalling about 2,700 Caravan Sports Armed/Padded Arm Bagged Chairs. The chair’s plastic bracket can bend or fail, and cause the fabri...
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2020 Passats

      The passenger front airbag may be folded incorrectly

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 1,829 model year 2020 Passats.

      The passenger front airbag may have been folded incorrectly affecting its deployment force.

      An incorrectly folded airbag can deploy with too much force, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger front airbag free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 30, 2020.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (888) 241-2289. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 69AY.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 1,829 model year 2020 Passats. The passenger front airbag may have been folded incorrectly affecting its deploy...
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      CDC says 10,000+ travelers may have been exposed to COVID-19 onboard flights

      One airline executive says many people won’t fly again until a vaccine is found and distributed

      Despite the best-laid plans of the airlines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more than 10,000 travelers on commercial flights may have been exposed to the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

      In a statement emailed to CNN, the CDC says it was briefed that there were 1,600 flights between January and August in which a passenger may have been infected by COVID-19, potentially exposing 10,900 people "within a 6-foot range for droplet transmission" to the coronavirus.

      "CDC identified and notified relevant health departments about these 10,900 on-board close contacts," the agency said.

      The CDC said it acquired reports of positive coronavirus cases among people who have been identified as contacts on flights. However, the agency noted that this data might be rudimentary because of incomplete contact information, any resulting coronavirus-related illness for contacts, delayed notification of an infectious traveler, and incomplete information about testing.

      The wait and see game

      Try as they may, domestic air carriers haven’t been able to get travelers to buy into the positive spins about safety measures that have been put in place. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be hope for a rebound to normalcy anytime soon.

      “This is lasting longer and is deeper than most people thought,” says Scott Kirby, chief executive officer of United Airlines Holdings Inc. told Bloomberg News. “And our view is demand is not coming back. People are not going to get back and travel like they did before until there’s a vaccine that’s been widely distributed.”

      Despite the best-laid plans of the airlines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more than 10,000 travelers on commercial flight...
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      Coronavirus update: 21 states see cases rise, United offers passengers a COVID-19 test

      Scientists are reporting a concerning virus mutation

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,941,248 (6,902,930)

      Total U.S. deaths: 202,170 (201,120)

      Total global cases: 31,944,038 (31,673,086)

      Total global deaths: 977,881 (972,372)

      Nearly half of states see an increase in cases

      A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 21 states have reported an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, raising concern among health officials that the fall and winter could bring about a new wave of illnesses.

      CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate committee this week that an estimated 90 percent of the U.S. population could still get the virus, meaning there can be no let-up in virus-mitigation efforts.

      U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn also testified at the hearing, telling lawmakers the agency would approve a vaccine as quickly as possible but would not “cut corners.”

      United Airlines will offer passengers a COVID-19 test

      United Airlines says it will test a program where passengers can be screened for the coronavirus (COVID-19) before their flight. It’s designed to help travelers avoid quarantine periods that some destinations require before visiting.

      The pilot program will first test passengers on flights from San Francisco to Hawaii starting October 15. Passengers can choose from taking a rapid-results test at the airport or a self-administered test, taken at home, in the days before the flight.

      The airline said it worked closely with Hawaii officials to ensure that any United customer – both visitors and Hawaiian residents returning home – who tests negative on either test would not be subjected to the state's current 14-day quarantine requirement.

      Doctors in Houston say the virus has mutated

      Scientists at Houston Methodist Hospital are reporting a disturbing find. When the second wave of the coronavirus hit the city in mid-May, their analysis showed a mutated virus strain linked to higher transmission and infection rates than the coronavirus strains that caused Houston’s first wave. 

      Their research reveals that the virus has been capable of adapting, surviving, and thriving since early March – making it more important than ever to get a handle on its evolution as the medical community works to discover effective vaccines and therapies.

      While this mutation has been linked with increased transmission and infectivity -- as well as a higher virus load in the nasopharynx that connects the nasal cavity with the throat -- the mutation did not increase disease severity, researchers said.

      Unemployment claims remain stubbornly high

      Initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled 870,000 last week, much higher than most economists predicted. Wall Street analysts were looking for a number closer to 850,000.

      The Labor Department report suggests that the job market is recovering from the pandemic at a slower rate than expected. While a number of businesses are hiring, it’s evident that just as many are still laying off employees.

      The report also revised the previous week’s jobless claims upward by 6,000 to 866,000. The four-week moving average was 878,250, a decrease of 35,250 from the previous week's revised average. 

      Are asymptomatic patients fueling the increase in cases?

      A new study by researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara is suggesting a possible reason why the U.S. is experiencing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. The scientists began their research in early summer when they noticed cases in Santa Barbara surging unexpectedly.

      They determined that the source of many of the new cases was asymptomatic patients -- people who carried the virus but didn’t have symptoms and who were unaware they were sick.

      “Because they never feel sick, they could unknowingly transmit the virus to others as they circulate in the community,” said UC Santa Barbara biologists Carolina Arias.  She said the same applies to presymptomatic individuals — those who do not have symptoms at the time of the test but develop them later.

      Around the nation

      • South Carolina: The state legislature has come to an agreement on a proposal to spend $693 million in federal pandemic aid. The plan calls for using the bulk of the money -- $420 million -- to replenish the state’s unemployment benefits fund. 

      • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker is warning counties in the state’s northwest region that a spike in new coronavirus cases could mean new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. The area includes Rockford and Northern Illinois University.

      • Wisconsin: The issue of classroom safety is reaching a boiling point in suburban Milwaukee as school district officials accuse some parents of knowingly sending their infected children to school. “When you have parents lying to contact tracers, refusing to get kids tested, that’s just beyond the pale,” Washington County Board member Don Kriefall told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,941,248 (6,902,93...
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      United Airlines to give passengers rapid COVID-19 tests

      For now, it’s only available for Hawaii-bound travelers and is not free

      United Airlines has made probably the biggest chess move yet in making travelers feel safe about flying. On Thursday, the carrier announced that it will launch a COVID-19 testing program for travelers that will give both airline and passenger the results in 15 minutes. In turn, that makes it easier for the airline to manage quarantine requirements and entry conditions for popular destinations around the world. 

      The program will begin on October 15 for passengers traveling on United from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii. In addition, the airline will offer a self-collected mail-in test to passengers ahead of their trip.

      For both visitors and Hawaiian residents flying from San Francisco to the islands, United was able to strike a deal with Hawaii’s government to remove the state’s current 14-day quarantine requirement for those who are negative on either test. Hawaii will be able to verify those results as flights come in.

      The players, the process, and going forward

      United has several testing partners that will be used in the process. The rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and its partner Dignity Health. The mail-in test option will be administered by Color. The airline has had success in using GoHealth’s testing program. In July, United began using GoHealth to test its international flight crews at SFO. 

      GoHealth Urgent Care's dedicated COVID-19 testing area will be available at the San Francisco airport from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT daily, right before United’s last outbound Hawaii flight at 7:30 p.m.

      For travelers who prefer the mail-in option, United recommends they initiate the testing procedure at least 10 days prior to their trip and return their sample no later than 72 hours before their scheduled departure via overnight mail or to a drop box at SFO. 

      According to CBS, the tests are not free. The rapid test at SFO will “initially”cost $250. The at-home kit will cost $80 (plus shipping). As flight capacity increases, it’s possible that the $250 price tag will go down. If this beta test works, United hopes to propagate the program further. 

      "We'll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and our hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems," said Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer at United. 

      United Airlines has made probably the biggest chess move yet in making travelers feel safe about flying. On Thursday, the carrier announced that it will la...
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      Amazon announces new climate initiative to help consumers shop for sustainable products

      Shoppers will see a new label on products that meet the pledge’s standards

      Eco-conscious consumers who shop online with Amazon will soon have a better way to pick products that adhere to their high environmental standards. The company announced this week that it is rolling out “Climate Pledge Friendly,” a new initiative that will place a label on products that meet at least one of 19 sustainability certifications. 

      To start, Amazon says the initiative will add labels to over 25,000 eligible products. The initiative will cover products from multiple categories, including grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics.

      “Climate Pledge Friendly is a simple way for customers to discover more sustainable products that help preserve the natural world,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “With 18 external certification programs and our own Compact by Design certification, we’re incentivizing selling partners to create sustainable products that help protect the planet for future generations.”

      Building on sustainable promises

      The move builds upon the company’s previous commitment to meet standards set under the Paris Climate Agreement, which would bring the company to net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2040. 

      In a press release, Amazon said it has already gone above and beyond those standards by committing to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, using fully-electric delivery vehicles, and donating billions to programs that support reforestation and a transition to a low carbon economy.

      “Amazon’s initiative will drive scale and impact for more sustainable consumption by helping customers easily discover products that are Climate Pledge Friendly and encourage the manufacturers to make their products more sustainable,” said Fabian Garcia, President of Unilever North America.

      To learn more about the Climate Pledge Friendly, consumers can visit Amazon’s website here.

      Eco-conscious consumers who shop online with Amazon will soon have a better way to pick products that adhere to their high environmental standards. The com...
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      Walmart reveals holiday shopping plans that will be a little different this year

      The pandemic-era holidays will feature more online shopping and more practical gifts

      Halloween is more than a month away, but Walmart is already rolling out its plans for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. But then, this holiday season is likely to be like none other.

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way consumers shop and what they buy, so Walmart says those factors have been taken into consideration. Instead of expanding store hours to accommodate shoppers, the retailer is maintaining its reduced schedule as a safety feature.

      At the same time, it’s staffing up its e-commerce division to meet the expected surge in online holiday shopping this year. Fulfillment centers around the country will hire more than 20,000 seasonal workers, in jobs ranging from filling orders to operating power equipment. Walmart says some of these jobs will likely become permanent positions.

      “As more people turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer’s everyday needs,” said Greg Smith, executive vice president for supply chain for Walmart U.S. “We’re also proud to be able to continue to provide employment opportunities across the country when it’s needed most.”

      Changing habits

      Walmart says customers’ buying habits have changed over the last six months and it expects that to be reflected in the choice of holiday gifts. It’s stocking up on things it expects to be in high demand, such as athleisure, loungewear, and sleepwear for the family, outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment, and outdoor sporting equipment. 

      Noting that millions of families have adopted pets since the pandemic began, the company said it has increased its assortment and supply of pet products in its stores and online. For example, it has acquired more than 3 million pet beds.

      Since baking and cooking have become pandemic trends, Walmart said it’s expanding its Holiday Bake Center to more of its stores and is increasing its inventory of popular kitchen appliances, like the KitchenAid Plus Stand Mixer.

      Walmart said it’s also stocking up on traditional gifts, such as TVs, laptops, and video games, as well as 1,300 new toys, games, and puzzles.

      Shopping differently

      “Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year – the holidays,” said Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S.

      As for Black Friday, McCall says that’s going to be different too. It’s going to start earlier and offer a wider selection of merchandise.

      Walmart also expects a significant portion of its Black Friday shopping will take place online, in the safety and comfort of the customer’s home. Stores will continue to be closed in the overnight hours to allow for cleaning and restocking. 

      In-store shoppers will use separate entrances and exits to minimize contact. Social distancing floor decals will remind shoppers to stay apart and the public address system will air constant safety reminders.

      Halloween is more than a month away, but Walmart is already rolling out its plans for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. But then, this holiday...
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      Pedego recalls electric bikes

      The bicycle may accelerate unexpectedly, posing a fall hazard

      Pedego of Fountain Valley, Calif., is recalling about 11,600 electric bicycles.

      An improperly manufactured electrical cable can cause the bicycle to accelerate unexpectedly, posing a fall hazard to the user.

      The firm has received five reports of the bike’s electrical cable malfunctioning, causing the bike to unexpectedly accelerate. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves six models of Pedego electric bikes. Models include the Interceptor (Including Platinum Edition), City Commuter (Including Mid Drive Edition and Black Edition), Boomerang Plus, Ridge Rider, Trail Tracker (Including Gorilla Edition) and Stretch (Including Dual Drive Edition).

      The model name is printed on the chain guard or chain stay of the bike. The bikes were sold in various colors. Pedego is printed on the bike frame.

      The bikes, manufactured I China and Vietnam, were sold at bicycle stores nationwide and online at www.pedego.com from January 2018, through August 2020, for between $3,000 and $4,700.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact a local Pedego dealer to arrange for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Pedego toll-free at (888) 871-7115 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday through Saturday, or online at www.pedegobikerecall.expertinquiry.com and click on “FAQ” at the top of the page for more information.

      Local Pedego dealer contact info can be found at: www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/dealers.

      Pedego of Fountain Valley, Calif., is recalling about 11,600 electric bicycles. An improperly manufactured electrical cable can cause the bicycle to acc...
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      BMW recalls various X class vehicles

      The headlamps may allow a blue light to illuminate

      BMW of North America is recalling 307 model year 2020-2021 X5 sDrive40i, xDrive40i, xDrive50i, X5 M50i, X5M, X6 sDrive40i, xDrive40i, X6 M50i, X6M, X7 M50i and model year 2021 X5 xDrive45e vehicles.

      The headlamps may allow a blue light to illuminate.

      Oncoming drivers may be confused by the blue light of approaching vehicles, which could potentially increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the headlamps and -- if necessary -- replace them free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October, 26, 2020.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 307 model year 2020-2021 X5 sDrive40i, xDrive40i, xDrive50i, X5 M50i, X5M, X6 sDrive40i, xDrive40i, X6 M50i, X6M, X7 M50i...
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      Top 10 dog cones and recovery collars

      Check out our tips to make your dog cone more comfortable for your pet

      Most of the time, a vet recommends a cone to keep dogs from licking and scratching a wound or surgical incision. Also known as Elizabethan collars, or E-collars, these help your furry friend recover a little quicker. Keep reading for ways to make the collar more comfortable.

      1. ZenPet ZenCone Soft Recovery Collar

      ZenCone is made of durable canvas and features built-in windows. Its design makes it easier for dogs to eat, drink and sleep. As of publishing, these are priced between $12.54 and $19.99, depending on size.

      • Adjustable fuzzy fastener strap
      • Easy to wash

      Buy on Chewy

      2. Well & Good Inflatable Collar

      We like that Well & Good Inflatable Collars feature a hook and loop enclosure to achieve a snug fit. As of publishing, collars are priced between $14.99 and $32.24, depending on size.

      • Includes canvas jacket
      • Ships next business day

      Buy on Petco

      3. Calm Paws Dog Caring Collar

      Calm Paws Caring Collar combines a soft, fuzzy inner layer with a more durable outer layer. Velcro straps let you adjust the fit so that it’s snug and secure. As of publishing, these E-collars are priced between $20.64 and $23.96, depending on size.

      • No-fuss, fixed elastic loops
      • Patented “Easy Feed” feature

      Buy on Petco

      4. GoodBoy Inflatable Donut Collar

      This alternative to a traditional dog cone is made with cozy fleece material. As of publishing, GoodBoy inflatable donut collars are priced between $15.49 and $16.99, depending on size.

      • Adjustable neck size
      • Warranty covers chew damage

      Buy on Amazon

      5. ARRR Dog Comfy Cone

      The UFO-inspired design is made with soft and flexible fabrics. There’s foam on the inside, so it doesn’t require inflating. It’s a good pick for dogs who are sensitive to noises. As of publishing, Comfy Cones are priced between $22.99 and $26.98, depending on size.

      • Soft recovery collar
      • Waterproof

      Buy on Amazon

      6. Depets Recovery Collar

      Depets adjustable collar is affordable and multifunctional. We like that it’s designed with breathable, lightweight PVC plus flannel material. As of publishing, Depets cones are priced between $4.99 and $7.99, depending on size.

      • Secured by velcro
      • Use for beauty or medical care

      Buy on Amazon

      7. All Four Paws Comfy Cone

      This E-collar combines All Four’s patented nylon fabric with a half-inch of foam. It’s designed to allow dogs to comfortably eat and drink while wearing it. As of publishing, Comfy Cone E-collars are priced between $11.15 and $23.99, depending on size.

      • Adjustable fit
      • Includes reflective binding

      Buy on Petco

      8. Alfie Pet Zumi Soft Edge

      This dog cone is lightweight, comfortable and cute. We like that the padded edges are trimmed with gingham-print fabric. As of publishing, this Alfie recovery cone is priced between $10.99 and $15.99, depending on size.

      • Sturdy yet flexible PVC material
      • Available in blue and red

      Buy on Chewy

      9. Vivifying Pet Cone, Adjustable Lightweight Elizabethan Collar

      For an affordable alternative to hard plastic cones, the Vivifying Elizabethan collar combines lightweight PVD material with soft flannel rims. As of publishing, this collar comes in one size and costs $8.89.

      • Suitable for small dogs and puppies
      • Available in pink and blue

      Buy on Amazon

      10. Bencmate Inflatable Recovery Collar

      We like that this Bencmate collar is lightweight and designed for comfort. However, this collar may not prevent large dogs from chewing or scratching their tails. As of publishing, this inflatable collar is priced between $11.03 and $25.98, depending on size.

      • Does not block dog’s vision
      • Available in blue and gray

      Buy on Amazon

      How to make dog cone more comfortable

      It’s never fun watching your pup recover from surgery or a wound. It’s even worse if they just hate their cone. The most important thing is making sure the cone fits properly. Your dog will be uncomfortable if it's too tight, but the cone won't do its job if it's too loose.

      To reduce stress after a surgery or injury, you might consider a calming patch. The one below combines essential oils and can help minimize anxiety after surgery. As of publishing, it costs $12.99.

      • Lasts up to 14 days
      • Made with French lavender oil

      Buy on Chewy

      A cone extender is designed to ensure that your pet’s snout can’t reach their wounds or hot spots. If you have a larger breed, this might be necessary to keep them from aggravating a wound on their tail. The extender below can be used with extra-large and medium-extra long Comfy Cone collars. As of publishing, it costs $12.

      • Soft, durable design
      • Water-resistant

      Buy on Chewy

      Nobody likes putting the “cone of shame” on their pup, but it’s important to do in order to help your dog recover after a surgery or injury. If you’re worried about paying for future vet bills, read about how to find the best pet insurance companies next.

      Top 10 dog cones and recovery collars...
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      Coronavirus update: Johnson & Johnson vaccine enters phase 3 trial, lawmakers push for more stimulus checks

      Dr. Fauci says that a fully approved vaccine will still take some time

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,902,930 (6,861,211)

      Total U.S. deaths: 201,120 (200,005)

      Total global cases: 31,673,086 (31,374,796)

      Total global deaths: 972,372 (965,893)

      Johnson & Johnson vaccine enters Phase 3 trial

      Johnson & Johnson has announced that its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine has entered into Phase 3 clinical trials. The company said it is seeking to immediately enroll 60,000 subjects to test the drug.

      If all goes well, the company said it hopes to have its vaccine ready for emergency use authorization (EUA) by early next year. It promised to quickly publish the results of its Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials.

      “As COVID-19 continues to impact the daily lives of people around the world, our goal remains the same – leveraging the global reach and scientific innovation of our company to help bring an end to this pandemic,” said Johnson & Johnson chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky.

      Lawmakers renew push for second stimulus check

      There was renewed optimism today that Republicans and Democrats might be able to agree on a measure that would send a second $1,200 payment to every American adult. Aid contained in the original CARES Act, passed in March, expired at the end of July.

      While the two parties couldn’t agree on a second comprehensive aid bill last month, both sides said they backed sending Americans another stimulus check. In a congressional hearing today, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration is in favor of another $1,200 payment. The problem, he said, is getting everyone on the same page.

      “We obviously can’t pass a bill in the Senate without bipartisan support,” Mnuchin said. “Our job is to continue to work with Congress to try to get additional help to the American public.”

      Approved vaccine ‘may take some time’

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, tried once again today to temper optimism about a COVID-19 vaccine. He told a congressional panel that it may “take some time” for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant final approval to a vaccine.

      President Trump has suggested in public statements that there could be a safe and effective vaccine, approved under emergency authorization, by the end of next month.

      Fauci counters that there is “no guarantee” that scientists will be able to develop an effective vaccine against the virus that has now killed more than 200,000 Americans. Even if they do, Fauci says, it will take some time to get it right.

      What CEOs think about working from home

      The conventional wisdom is that remote work -- ditching the commute and working from home in your PJs -- is here to stay, even after the pandemic. Employees seem to like it, and some studies have suggested that there’s no loss in productivity.

      But what does the boss say? The Wall Street Journal quizzed several well-known corporate leaders and found mostly negative views. 

      Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, says he doesn’t think his company will ever be 100 percent office-bound. But Netflix CEO Reed Hastings isn’t a fan, calling the remote workforce “a pure negative.” Rajat Bhageria, CEO of tech startup Chef Robotics, says “you just can’t get the same quality of work.”

      Study suggests kidney damage increases COVID-19 death risk

      The coronavirus is most closely linked to lung damage, but other vital organs can also be negatively affected -- particularly the kidneys. A new study has found when a COVID-19 patient’s kidneys are damaged, there is a significantly increased risk of death.

      The study in Wuhan, China followed 1,392 patients who tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The patients who experienced acute kidney injury (AKI) as a result were more likely to die while in the hospital.

      The study found that 10 percent of COVID-19 patients without AKI died while the mortality rate for patients with AKI was 72 percent.

      Around the nation

      • Pennsylvania: The state senate has approved a bill that relaxes Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions on bars and restaurants. It would permit bars and taverns to operate at 50 percent of capacity if they meet state and federal virus mitigation standards. 

      • Iowa: Schools in Des Moines are defying Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order to resume classroom instructions, instead continuing to teach remotely. Officials say the rebellion puts the district’s funding at risk.

      • Louisiana: Nursing homes in the state have begun to allow in-person visits for the first time since the pandemic hit in March, posing the most serious threat to the elderly. The state is taking it slow, with one family visiting one resident at a time.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,902,930 (6,861,21...
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      Amazon Prime Day 2020 will likely kick off on October 13

      Shoppers can expect deals on everything from the Apple Watch to Amazon Alexa-based products

      It’s Prime time, Amazon shoppers. Reports are circulating that the online retailer has marked Tuesday, October 13 as the kickoff for Prime Day 2020. This year’s date comes a little later than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      CNET cites people with knowledge of Amazon’s plans as saying that the company has blocked off October 13-20 as an all-hands-on-deck week for its warehouse workers.

      When asked for confirmation, an Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the specific date. “Stay tuned for more details on Prime Day. Customers can also say, 'Alexa, keep me posted on Prime Day,” they said.

      Best guesses on what consumers can expect

      Amazon has always used Prime Day as a launch pad for things like gadgets, and this year should be no different. To whet consumer appetites, the odds are that Amazon will roll out those items this Thursday, September 24, the date for its annual fall product launch. 

      If Prime Day 2019 is any indication, tech lovers can expect even more Alexa-equipped products. There's currently no indication of what exactly to expect, but it's safe to assume that Alexa-equipped gear will take center stage. 

      The New York Times tech savants’ best guesses were for heavy discounts on Amazon-owned Ring and Eero, kitchen appliances from OXO and Instant Pot, home appliances like robot-vacuums, and devices like the Apple Watch Series 5.

      One thing almost sure to get some time in this year’s Prime spotlight is Amazon’s new foray into the high fashion game. Just last week, the global retailer announced that it has teamed up with fashion and beauty brands to launch Luxury Stores, a new shopping experience offering both established and emerging fashion and beauty lines. Oscar de la Renta was tapped as the first brand to be featured in the rollout. 

      It’s Prime time, Amazon shoppers. Reports are circulating that the online retailer has marked Tuesday, October 13 as the kickoff for Prime Day 2020. This y...
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      Most babies born to women with COVID-19 aren’t negatively affected by the virus, study finds

      Researchers say newborns are typically healthy and well

      Experts previously determined that the likelihood was low for mothers transmitting COVID-19 to their infants during pregnancy, and now a new study is reinforcing those results. 

      According to researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, most newborns born to women with COVID-19 showed very few negative health effects in the first weeks after birth. 

      “The babies are doing well, and that’s wonderful,” said researcher Dr. Valerie J. Flaherman. “When coronavirus first hit, there were so many strange and unfortunate issues tied to it, but there was almost no information on how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their newborns. We didn’t know what to expect for the babies, so this is good news.” 

      Health outcomes generally not affected by virus

      The researchers analyzed infant health outcomes from 263 mothers and infants who were part of the Pregnancy Coronavirus Outcomes Registry (PRIORITY). Of those women, 179 tested positive for coronavirus and 84 tested negative. The researchers assessed the infants’ health outcomes in their first eight weeks after birth.

      Overall, the majority of the infants born to women with COVID-19 didn’t experience any adverse health effects. Just 1.1 percent of the infants born to mothers with the virus tested positive, and none showed any symptoms. Factors like birth weight, preterm birth, or breathing difficulties were similar among all of the infants involved in the study, regardless of the mothers’ COVID-19 status. 

      There were instances of postpartum complications, though COVID-19 didn’t appear to play a huge role. Roughly 60 infants were evaluated for upper respiratory infections, and out of three confirmed cases, two were born to women who had tested positive for the virus. 

      The researchers did find that neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admissions were higher when women tested positive for COVID-19 in the final weeks of pregnancy, but it’s also important to note that less than 17 percent of all of the infants involved in the study were admitted into the NICU after birth. 

      Reassuring results

      While these findings are an encouraging place to start, the researchers note that the PRIORITY study is ongoing. The team hopes that the results can continue to provide good news to women who are having children during the current pandemic. 

      “Overall, the initial findings regarding infant health are reassuring, but it’s important to note that the majority of these births were from third trimester infections,” said researcher Dr. Stephanie L. Gaw. “The outcomes from our complete cohort will give the full picture of risks throughout pregnancy.” 

      Experts previously determined that the likelihood was low for mothers transmitting COVID-19 to their infants during pregnancy, and now a new study is reinf...
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      Smaller housing markets see higher sales and higher prices

      An industry report suggests that changes caused by the pandemic continue to affect real estate

      Housing markets where buyers get more value for their money than in a major metro have seen some of the fastest price appreciation over the last year, a trend accelerated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

      A new report from real estate brokerage firm Redfin suggests that a migration from large cities to smaller ones has increased the price of homes in relatively affordable places like El Dorado County, Calif., and Camden County, N.J. This has attracted a new category of buyer as house hunters take advantage of remote work and record-low interest rates.

      The report shows that seven of the 10 markets that have cooled the most in the last year are located in New York, including four of the five New York City boroughs. Not surprisingly, seven of those markets have median sale prices above $500,000.

      ‘Influx of buyers’

      Meanwhile, home prices are rising fastest in California’s El Dorado County, where buyers are moving from other parts of the state because they can work remotely. The region has seen home sales skyrocket by nearly 60 percent over the last year as buyers have flocked from the San Francisco Bay Area.

      "We're seeing a huge influx of buyers coming to El Dorado County from the Bay Area," said local Redfin agent Ellie Hitchcock. "With so many large tech companies allowing employees to work from home for the foreseeable future, homeowners in San Francisco are selling their two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo and buying a 5,000-square-foot home with five bedrooms and five bathrooms on an acre of land here for the same price. It's simply a no-brainer."

      Activity in smaller housing markets may be driving overall home sales higher. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that sales of existing homes rose in August for a third straight month despite declining inventories.

      While many smaller cities had plenty of homes for sale at the start of the summer, buyers have snapped up many of them. NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun says home builders need to produce more houses, especially in areas that have suddenly gotten popular.

      Remote work a continuing factor

      NAR's recent study, the 2020 Work From Home Counties report, predicted that remote work opportunities will likely become a growing part of the nation's workforce culture. Yun believes this reality will endure, even after a coronavirus vaccine is available.

      "Housing demand is robust but supply is not, and this imbalance will inevitably harm affordability and hinder ownership opportunities," he said. "To assure broad gains in homeownership, more new homes need to be constructed."

      But homebuilders have produced only about half the number of new homes per year they built before the 2008 housing crash. They blame rising land, labor, and materials costs, as well as the cost of meeting local regulations.

      Housing markets where buyers get more value for their money than in a major metro have seen some of the fastest price appreciation over the last year, a tr...
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      Cooper Tire recalls CS5 Grand Touring and Mastercraft LSR Grand Touring tires

      The tires may have low tread gauge which can cause tire failure

      Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 1,983 CS5 Grand Touring 225/55R17 and Mastercraft LSR Grand Touring 225/55R17 tires with DOT codes 2920 through 3220.

      The tires may have low tread gauge in the shoulder slot area which could cause tread separation and tire failure.

      This may cause the tire to rapidly deflate, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Cooper Tire will notify registered owners, and dealers will inspect and -- if necessary -- replace the tires free of charge.

      Cooper Tire has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification.

      Owners may contact Cooper Tire customer service at (800) 854-6288. Cooper Tire's number for this recall is 177.

      Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 1,983 CS5 Grand Touring 225/55R17 and Mastercraft LSR Grand Touring 225/55R17 tires with DOT codes 2920 through 3220....
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      CDC recommends skipping door-to-door trick-or-treating this Halloween

      The agency says there are safer activities that consumers should try this year

      Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that Americans avoid Halloween celebrations that involve in-person interactions this year.

      The agency says traditional in-person Halloween festivities -- like having an indoor costume party, going to a haunted house, or giving out candy to trick-or-treaters going door-to-door -- should be avoided this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

      “Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the CDC said. “There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.”

      Safer alternatives

      While group gatherings and giving out candy in the traditional way aren’t recommended this year, the CDC says Americans can enjoy Halloween in a number of low-risk ways, including: 

      • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household;

      • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends;

      • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space;

      • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance;

      • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest;

      • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with; and

      • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house-to-house.

      Halloween activities categorized by health officials as “moderate risk” include: 

      • Participating in “one-way trick-or-treating,” where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance;

      • Having a small-group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart;

      • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart;

      • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced and people can remain more than 6 feet apart;

      • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing; and

      • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart.

      Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that Americans avoid Halloween celebrations...
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      Coronavirus update: 200,000 U.S. deaths, Lowe’s expands touchless service

      The CDC's recent missteps are being called ‘deeply disturbing’

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,861,211 (6,816.046)

      Total U.S. deaths: 200,005 (199,552)

      Total global cases: 31,374,796 (31,110,407)

      Total global deaths: 965,893 (961,544)

      U.S. death toll exceeds 200,000

      The death toll from the coronavirus (COVID-19) has moved past the 200,000 mark, with 200,005 fatalities currently being reported by the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University.

      While the number of new cases of the virus exploded over the summer, the number of deaths has appeared to slow down. It only took from March to May 28 to record the first 100,000 deaths. It took more than three and a half months for it to reach 200,000.

      After peaking at more than 57,000 deaths in April, the U.S. death toll fell every month through July. It rose slightly in August.

      Lowe’s installing lockers for ‘touchless’ pickup

      Lowe’s has announced that it will install lockers at all of its home center stores for “touchless” pickup. The retailer says this will make it easier to shop for consumers who are worried about COVID-19. The installation is scheduled for completion by March 2021.

      "Our No. 1 priority is making sure we are keeping things safe for our associates and customers while continuing to provide additional options to make it even easier to shop with us," said Joe McFarland, Lowe's executive vice president of stores. 

      The move is an extension of the store’s curbside pickup service, which McFarland says is popular with Lowe’s customers. He also says more than 60 percent of online orders are now picked up in stores, so the installation of lockers adds one more layer of protection.

      What’s going on at the CDC?

      When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated coronavirus guidance -- only to walk it back a day later, saying its release was a “mistake” -- it raised more than a few eyebrows in the medical community.

      “It’s really hard to believe that this was an accidental posting of draft guidance that they had to subsequently pull down 48 hours later that they didn’t realize they had put it up over the course of the weekend,” former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC Tuesday.

      Gottlieb went a step further, saying the CDC’s recent missteps are “deeply concerning” and could “ruin the credibility” of the agency.

      Children’s stronger immune response protects against the virus

      Kids seem to have a much easier time handling the coronavirus, and now scientists think they know why. Children seem to have a stronger immune response than adults.

      A study involving scientists at several different institutions found that children with COVID-19 fared significantly better than adults. While 37 percent of adult patients required mechanical ventilation, only 8 percent of children needed the same intervention.

      “Our findings suggest that children with COVID-19 do better than adults because their stronger innate immunity protects them against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease,” said co-senior author Dr. Betsy Herold.

      How to avoid COVID-19’s worst symptoms

      It’s been well established that some people have more severe COVID-19 symptoms than others who are infected with the virus. Scientists who have studied the data now have advice for people before they become infected.

      Scientists at the Rush Center for Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery say it is critically important to maintain good health in order to keep your body’s natural defenses in fighting shape. Obesity is a major risk factor, so a change in lifestyle could improve your chances of a speedy recovery if you get infected.

      Their advice? Cut out sugars, including non-starchy vegetables, and get plenty of protein. Dr. Naomi Parrella, medical director at the Rush Center, also says it’s important to stay physically active. “The most important thing is to break up the sitting down,” she said.

      Around the nation

      • Tennessee: Tennessee’s active caseload is rising, and many of those cases of the coronavirus are behind bars. The Department of Corrections reports that there are 609 active cases of the virus in Tennessee prisons, with one new death reported Monday.

      • New York: New York City schools have reopened their classrooms for as many as 90,000 students -- a small fraction of the city’s school-age population. But it was a milestone of sorts since it was the first classroom instruction in the city since March.

      • Wyoming: After months of avoiding the worst of the coronavirus, Wyoming is experiencing a surge in cases. State health officials say 772 people are currently infected, nearly double from the previous week. The University of Wyoming appears to be a hotspot.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,861,211 (6,816.04...
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      Reopening of colleges likely increased COVID-19 numbers by thousands each day

      Some schools are shifting back to remote learning

      Researchers estimate that the reopening of colleges and universities led to around 3,200 more COVID-19 cases a day in the U.S. than there likely would have been if these institutions had not reopened for in-person classes. 

      The Wall Street Journal cites a new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington, and Davidson College which suggests that there is a link between the return of students and a significant increase in case numbers. 

      The report is set to be published online Tuesday on the preprint server medRxiv. 

      “We’re not saying it was a terrible mistake to open,” Ana Bento, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Indiana University and co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal. “Just that the influx of individuals, which was much greater where there is face-to-face [instruction], is correlated with a larger increase in cases.”

      Rise in cases

      The researchers said their estimate of 3,200 extra cases a day could potentially be influenced by other trends that weren’t accounted for in the study, like the fact that more tests were being conducted in counties where students had returned to campus. 

      However, those cases “likely would have shown up quickly, and then at least plateaued if not declined after,” the WSJ noted. The increases in cases came about two weeks after in-person classes picked back up at colleges and universities, and the numbers have continued to increase ever since.

      Spikes in cases have prompted some schools to shift to remote learning. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana said Thursday that 304 students tested positive for COVID-19. The school announced Tuesday that it will have undergraduates switch to remote learning for the next two weeks. 

      "The objective of these temporary restrictions is to contain the spread of the virus so that we can get back to in person instruction," said Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins.

      North Carolina State University has also decided to have undergraduates switch to online classes, with school officials saying that parties led to clusters of cases. 

      Perfect student behavior isn’t realistic

      Since the resumption of in-person classes, the number of COVID-19 cases among students, faculty, and staff at U.S. colleges and universities has risen to more than 40,000, according to a CNN tally released earlier this month. 

      Experts contend that the outbreaks are primarily caused by poor planning on the part of colleges. Telling college students to refrain from socializing isn’t enough to prevent outbreaks, Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard Medical School, told CNN in a recent interview. 

      “Any public health plan that requires radical changes in behavior and perfect compliance is doomed to fail,” Marcus said. “And that’s exactly what’s happening.”

      Researchers estimate that the reopening of colleges and universities led to around 3,200 more COVID-19 cases a day in the U.S. than there likely would have...
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      Ford recalls Edge, Transit Connect, Escape, and Lincoln MKX & Corsair vehicles

      The transmission may leak fluid

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 97 model year 2019-2020 Edge, Transit Connect & Lincoln MKX, and model year 2020 Escape and Lincoln Corsair vehicles.

      The start/stop accumulator endcap may have missing or loose bolts, which could result in a transmission fluid leak and progress to a loss of transmission function.

      A transmission fluid leak in the presence of an ignition source may increase the risk of fire.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the start/stop accumulator free of charge.

      The recall was expected to begin September 21, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S49.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 97 model year 2019-2020 Edge, Transit Connect & Lincoln MKX, and model year 2020 Escape and Lincoln Corsair vehicles. Th...
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      Coronavirus update: CDC issues new COVID-19 guidance, cruise lines getting ready

      Colleges are being called ‘reservoirs’ for the coronavirus

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,816.046 (6,767,634)

      Total U.S. deaths: 199,552 (199,268)

      Total global cases: 31,110,407 (30,815,617)

      Total global deaths: 961,544 (957,633)

      CDC: COVID-19 spreads mostly through the air

      We’re six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and health officials are still learning about the virus. In new guidance, the CDC says it has determined that the coronavirus spreads mostly through tiny droplets that can remain suspended in the air for an extended period of time and be inhaled by others.

      The CDC says the droplets are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or even breathes. “These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection,” the CDC says. “This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

      Originally, health experts believed the virus spread mostly by an infected person touching a surface, which was later touched by a healthy person.

      Update: The CDC announced Monday that this guidance was erroneously published to its website. The agency is reportedly in the process of updating its guidance and will publish an update soon. ConsumerAffairs full coverage of this revision can be found here.

      Cruise lines submit health protocols

      Cruise lines were among the hardest-hit businesses when the coronavirus (COVID-19) began spreading across the globe, but the industry is planning ahead for better times. A group set up by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line has submitted a report to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that outlines the health and safety steps for cruise ships when they start sailing again.

      The companies outlined 74 measures they said would protect passengers and crew from the virus. They include practicing extra sanitation protocols, tightly controlling on-shore visits, and enhancing protection measures for crew members.

      The plan also calls for rigorous screening measures that will require passengers and crew members to be tested for the virus before they board the ships.

      Colleges called ‘reservoirs of COVID-19’

      In many states, colleges have been responsible for a recent upsurge in coronavirus cases. College officials have had difficulty enforcing social distancing rules among students, many of whom live in close quarters in dormitories.

      Now, health officials are wondering what will happen at Thanksgiving when all those students go home for the holiday. Will they take the coronavirus with them and spread it in their home communities? Gavin Yamey, director of Duke University’s Center for Policy Impact in Global Health, says it was a mistake to bring students back to campus.

      “This is beyond our wildest nightmares,” Yamey told Bloomberg. “It has been a debacle, a national catastrophe and, in many ways, you could consider it a third wave. The third wave is a university reopening wave. It was a self-inflicted national wound.”

      Don’t confuse cold symptoms with COVID-19

      We’re entering cold and flu season, but health experts say those symptoms should not be confused with COVID-19. They are very different.

      Yale University scientists have emphasized that COVID-19 is often associated with fatigue, shortness of breath, and fever, whereas the common cold is not. Sneezing happens a lot when you have a cold but is rare when you have the coronavirus.

      Doctors say there is no evidence that symptoms of a cold and COVID-19 are similar. They caution that social media posts making these claims have provided no supporting evidence. They also point out that COVID-19 cases can be confirmed by a specific test.

      Researchers blame the virus for a rise in stress

      Feeling stressed lately? Researchers at the University of California Irvine say they aren’t surprised, and they blame most of the rising tension on COVID-19.

      The coronavirus, they say, has produced multiple stress triggers. Many people have lost income and are wondering how they’ll make ends meet. Millions are consuming way too much coronavirus news. And then there’s simply worrying about whether you or your family will get sick.

      The research highlights the connection between mental health and exposure to media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that there may be a need to step away from the television, computer, or smartphone to protect psychological well-being. 

      “The media is a critical source of information for people when they’re faced with ambiguous, ongoing disasters,” said Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychological science and one of the study’s principal investigators. “But too much exposure can be overwhelming and lead to more stress, worry, and perceived risks.”

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says a GOP-led effort to challenge her emergency powers threatens to allow the coronavirus to make a comeback in the state. Whitmer said enforcing mitigation rules has sharply reduced the number of cases in Michigan.

      • Arizona: A group called Accountable Arizona is attempting to recall Gov. Doug Ducey, claiming he mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus. The group has to collect more than 594,000 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

      • Virginia: St. Catherine’s and St. Christopher’s Upper School divisions in Richmond have closed after some students tested positive for the coronavirus following a party attended by 60 students. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,816.046 (6,767,63...
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      Walmart rolls out new 'Free Assembly' clothing line

      The retailer has been down this road before with little to no success

      Say hello to “Free Assembly,” Walmart’s newest attempt to gain the attention of fashion-conscious consumers. 

      The product line comes complete with items for both men and women at a $9 to $45 price range, which the big box retailer hopes is a sweet spot and produces more uptake than its previous fashion endeavors.

      Starting out, Free Assembly will focus on a fall collection with more than 30 items for women and 25 items for men.

      “Customers will discover well-designed, high-quality pieces at prices below other American clothing brands – including a $45 structured blazer with an updated silhouette, a $39 viscose tiered maxi for women and a $30 fishtail parka at a fraction of the price found at specialty retailers,” wrote Denise Incandela, SVP Women’s Group, Elevated and Online Brands at Walmart. “What I’m most proud of though is the $40 organic selvedge denim that retails at an incredibly low price.”

      To help Walmart gain some traction in the fashion space, it’s tapped Dwight Fenton, who’s worked his magic at Old Navy and J. Crew. 

      But will it work this time?

      The words “Walmart” and “fashion” haven’t proven to be a winning combination for the company. Some 10 years ago, it came up with "Project Impact" to try and upgrade the persona of its apparel, but that idea died hard and fast. 

      In 2018, the company rolled out four other clothing lines and went on a buying spree of direct-to-consumer labels that included the menswear line Bonobos, the plus-size women’s line Eloquii Elements, and ModCloth, which took its cues from indie- and vintage-inspired women’s clothing. In 2019, Walmart sold ModCloth and downsized Bonobos. Eloquii is still part of the store’s brand lineup.

      “Through our ongoing strategy of expanding our assortment for our customers, we’ve shown that we’re serious about establishing Walmart as a fashion destination,” wrote Denise Incandela, SVP Women’s Group, Elevated and Online Brands at Walmart.

      “And, now we’re doubling-down to offer customers something they couldn’t find at Walmart before – a fashion essentials-inspired brand for both men and women created by our in-house design team.”

      Say hello to “Free Assembly,” Walmart’s newest attempt to gain the attention of fashion-conscious consumers. The product line comes complete with items...
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      CDC says revised guidance on airborne COVID-19 particles was published in error

      The agency said a ‘draft version of proposed changes’ was mistakenly posted Friday

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that COVID-19 guidance posted late last week on its official website was posted in error. 

      On Friday, the CDC published guidance saying that the virus spreads through airborne particles that can remain in the air and travel distances beyond six feet.

      ''A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website,” the agency in a statement. “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.” 

      Mistakenly published

      The now-removed guidance originally claimed that there is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that droplets and airborne particles can linger in the air and be breathed in by others.

      “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” the deleted guidance said. “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.”

      The World Health Organization (WHO) contacted the CDC about the guidance, saying it hadn’t seen any “new evidence” regarding the nature of airborne particles. The WHO currently says the virus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets ejected when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or breathes. For this reason, health officials continue to recommend that people wear face masks. 

      The CDC has now reverted its mistakenly posted revision to its original guidance. 

      “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person,” the CDC states. The agency mentions that the virus “may be spread in other ways,” but it no longer mentions anything about it being airborne. 

      More CDC guidance changes

      To date, the U.S. has more than 6.8 million cases and nearly 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

      The CDC’s admission that it erroneously published draft guidance comes on the heels of a controversial change to its guidance for testing asymptomatic individuals. The agency had modified its guidance to state that people who had been exposed to an infected person but weren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19 did “not necessarily need a test.” However, it also walked back that guidance after health officials expressed concerns.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that COVID-19 guidance posted late last week on its official website was posted in error....
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      CISA issues emergency warning over Windows security flaw

      Government agencies have been told to install a patch immediately

      The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has warned of a critical security vulnerability affecting Windows Servers used by federal officials.

      CISA said a recently discovered flaw in Windows Netlogon Remote Protocol could allow an attacker with network access to “completely compromise all Active Directory identity services.” 

      In its advisory, CISA urged government agencies to install a patch as soon as possible. Failure to patch the vulnerability, known as CVE-2020-1472, could have a “grave impact,” the agency said.

      “We do not issue emergency directives unless we have carefully and collaboratively assessed it to be necessary,” CISA said. “Left unpatched, this vulnerability could allow attackers to compromise network identity services.” 

      Requires immediate attention

      The flaw affects systems running Windows Server 2008 R2 and later, including recent ones using versions of Windows Server based on Windows 10. Government agencies have until September 21 to install the patch.

      “We have directed agencies to implement the patch across their infrastructure by Monday, September 21, and given instructions for which of their many systems to prioritize,” CISA said.

      Microsoft said it’s dealing with the vulnerability through a phased two-part rollout. The first phase will involve the installation of a security patch released last month, which will provide the first layer of protection. Another patch to further boost security will be released February 9, 2021.

      “These updates address the vulnerability by modifying how Netlogon handles the usage of Netlogon secure channels,” the company said in a statement

      The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has warned of a critical security vulnerability affecting Win...
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      Ford recalls model year 2020 Explorers

      The rear center seat belt buckles may not be secured properly

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 29 model year 2020 Explorers.

      The vehicles are equipped with second row center seat belt buckles that may not be properly secured to the seat.

      Vehicles with seat belt buckles that are not properly secured may fail to restrain an occupant in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the second row center seat assembly free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 2, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S50.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 29 model year 2020 Explorers. The vehicles are equipped with second row center seat belt buckles that may not be properl...
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      12 camping essentials for fall

      Here are the things you need for an easy weekend vacation

      Now is the time to take full advantage of the cool weather to get out and explore. Even if you've never camped before, you can have a fantastic experience with just a little bit of gear and some preparation. Below are some of our favorite camping essentials to get ready for a few nights away from it all.

      1. Quality tent

      Let’s start with the obvious — the tent is important, especially if you’re camping in the fall. We like that the Marmot Limelight has good wind protection and steep walls. Depending on where you use it, it could be suitable through the winter.

      • Waterproof floor
      • Built-in mesh to keep bugs out

      Buy on Backcountry

      2. Camping chairs and table

      A good table makes for more convenient cooking, card games and happy hours. In addition to camping, you can use it for tailgating, cookouts or any other occasion that calls for a convenient outdoor setup.

      • Chairs have built-in cup holders
      • Includes adjustable-height bamboo table

      Buy on Backcountry

      3. Cozy sleeping bag

      There’s nothing better than snuggling into your sleeping bag after a full day of outdoor adventures. We like that this Rogue bag has a durable cotton-canvas shell on the outside and a soft cotton-flannel lining on the inside.

      • Suitable for year-round camping
      • Attached straps and buckles

      Buy on Bass Pro

      4. Pocket knife

      A reliable blade comes in handy dozens of times over a day of camping. If you can, bring a good multitool with at least a knife and scissors. We like that this Leatherman comes with those and more, including bottle and can openers, a screwdriver and wire cutters.

      • Stainless steel with nylon sheath
      • 25-year warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Compass or map

      Even if you bring your smartphone, it’s a good idea to have a compass or map on you. You can find a quality compass for around $20 or less, but we like how the pocket compass below has a little more style. You could get it as a gift if you’re camping with a sweetheart. That way, they have a sentimental reminder of your trip together.

      • Swivel-style lid and mirror
      • Classic turn-of-the-century design

      Buy on Backcountry

      6. Firestarter

      If there’s not a fire, are you even really camping? We like that Western Red Hot Fire Starters are made with food-grade wax and dried hardwood sawdust. They’re suitable to use for campfires and wood stoves for cooking. Whatever you do, just don’t forget the campfire safety rules.

      • Includes 4 starters per pack
      • Safe, convenient and nontoxic

      Buy on Bass Pro

      7. Versatile light source

      A lantern or flashlight is handy to have to light up your campsite at night and during early mornings before sunrise. Just remember to stock up on fuel or batteries.

      We like that the Goal Zero Lighthouse battery can be charged by USB, hand crank or solar panels (not included). You can also use the USB port to charge small electronics.

      • Provides up to 400 lumens
      • Collapsible legs and built-in handle

      Buy on Bass Pro

      8. Water bottle and extra water

      Even as the temperature gets cooler, it’s important to stay hydrated. Bring at least 1 gallon per person for each day you plan to camp.

      We like that this Hydro Flask is made with a slip-free design that’s easy to hold while hiking. You can also use it to carry coffee and other beverages. It keeps liquids cold for up to 24 hours or hot up to 12 hours.

      • Stainless steel construction
      • Available in a variety of colors

      Buy on Backcountry

      9. Toiletries and meds

      Nature can get dirty, sweaty and sticky. That’s part of the fun, but you don’t want to be totally uncomfortable over your weekend getaway. Be sure to bring toilet paper, a toothbrush, toothpaste and any over-the-counter or prescription medications you’ll need while you’re gone. Combat Wipes are an excellent multipurpose cleansing cloth that you can use on your face and body.

      • Eco-friendly and 100% biodegradable
      • Made with natural aloe and vitamin E

      Buy on Amazon

      10. Insect repellent

      Don’t underestimate what a nuisance mosquitoes can be into the late summer and early fall; those pesky buggers are enough to ruin your weekend. A good insect repellent can help keep your campsite free of pests.

      • Odorless spray for clothes, tents and bags
      • Repels mosquitoes, ticks and more

      Buy on Bass Pro

      11. Camp cookware

      Even a simple camp cookware set can make your meals a lot more interesting with soups, steaks and coffee. The GSI cookware set below comes with a pot, frypan, strainer lid, two mugs, two bowls, two tops and a folding pot gripper. The welded stuff sack can also double as a sink.

      • Durable, scratch-resistant aluminum
      • Lightweight plastic is dishwasher safe

      Buy on Backcountry

      12. First-aid kit

      Sure, this one might seem like a no-brainer -- but don’t forget to pack a first-aid kit for the scratches, falls and other minor scrapes that will inevitably come with a weekend camping trip.

      • Good for 1 to 2 people
      • Lightweight and waterproof

      Buy on Bass Pro

      Getting out of the house might seem like a lot of work, but a weekend camping trip might be exactly what you need to recharge. Whether you want to do some hiking, go fishing or just hang out, now is the time to take full advantage of the new season.

      Check out our tips for glamping if you like the idea of nature but want to spice it up with a few more amenities.

      12 camping essentials for fall...
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      Coronavirus update: More optimism from Dr. Fauci, continued travel restrictions

      Researchers find a safer UV light to use against the virus

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,681,251 (6,640,540)

      Total U.S. deaths: 197,763 (197,091)

      Total global cases: 30,241,377 (29,925,969)

      Total global deaths: 947,266 (942,076)

      Dr. Fauci is betting on a vaccine in 2020

      If Dr. Anthony Fauci were a betting man, he’d lay odds on a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to be ready by November or December. In testimony before a Congressional panel this week, the director of the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) said he based that position on the latest data from vaccine clinical trials.

      Fauci told lawmakers that researchers conducting the trials need to see no more than 150 infections to conclude that a vaccine is effective. Previously, he cautioned against rushing a vaccine to final approval, but now he thinks researchers are making good progress.

      “Right now, the trials are over two-thirds enrolled – really close to full enrollment on one, and over full enrollment on the other,” Fauci said.

      North American travel restrictions to continue

      The United States, Mexico, and Canada have jointly agreed to extend the current travel restrictions between their countries until at least Oct. 21. The borders closed on March 21 as all three nations began shutdowns to contain the coronavirus.

      The U.S. government announced its decision to extend limits on non-essential travel through Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who posted the news on Twitter.

      Mexico’s coronavirus cases are about 10 percent of the U.S. total while Canada has had far fewer -- around 142,000 at last count. U.S. cases number about 6.6 million.

      Researchers employ a safer ultraviolet light against the virus

      There’s new data on the effectiveness of ultraviolet (UV) light in killing the coronavirus. 

      Researchers in Japan found that using Ultraviolet C light with a wavelength of 222 nanometers, which is safer to use around humans, effectively kills SARS-CoV-2. It’s the first research to prove its efficacy against the virus that causes COVID-19.

      Scientists say a wavelength of 222 nm UVC cannot penetrate the outer, non-living layer of the human eye and skin, so it won't cause harm to the living cells beneath. This reportedly makes it a safer but equally potent alternative to the more damaging 254 nm UVC germicidal lamps that are increasingly being used to disinfect health care facilities.

      Study: cancer patients not necessarily at higher risk

      People with underlying health conditions are known to be at higher risk if they are infected with the coronavirus. But new research suggests that cancer patients may not be at as high a risk as initially believed.

      The study conducted by researchers at Rambam Medical Center revealed that cancer patients may not be associated with the broad range of at-risk groups of people suffering from morbidities in connection with COVID-19.

      Researchers say this finding is important since anecdotal evidence suggests that many cancer patients have reduced their treatment over the last six months out of fear of contracting the coronavirus at a health care facility.

      Why hospitals were nearly overwhelmed by COVID-19

      Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers are still trying to understand why hospitals were nearly overwhelmed as the disease spread through major population centers.

      A lack of precautions is just one answer. An analysis by The Wall Street Journal found for-profit hospitals had spent years reducing staff and facilities to prevent waste and maximize efficiency -- and profits. When the virus hit, many hospitals didn’t have enough doctors and nurses.

      The report said many hospitals overworked their existing nursing staff, had to quickly train others, and relied heavily on rapidly hiring temporary staff. The report said that had the effect of draining resources away from poorer hospitals.

      Around the nation

      • Minnesota: Schools in six more counties have been recommended for distance learning because of rising coronavirus cases. Five of the counties have been recommended for “full distance learning.”

      • Connecticut: After “flattening” the curve of coronavirus cases, the virus seems to be making a comeback. The rate of positive tests has risen to 1.6 percent, according to state health officials. The number of patients in Connecticut hospitals is the highest since mid-July.

      • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has loosened restrictions on businesses, allowing more of them to reopen. Under the governor’s latest order, restaurants, retail stores, and office buildings may operate at 75 percent capacity.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,681,251 (6,640,54...
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      Amazon looks for gig workers to pick up and deliver orders at Whole Foods

      One industry watcher is questioning how well gig drivers know their way around a store

      With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. Amazon is now recruiting contract workers to both shop for and deliver groceries for Whole Foods Market customers who order their groceries online.

      According to a Bloomberg report, drivers can easily sign up for the Shop and Deliver program by simply reviewing an online tutorial about how Whole Foods products are picked, packed, and handled, as well as scoring a passing grade on a quiz.

      Until now, Whole Foods relied on its own employees to assemble online orders, but the program model is akin to Amazon Flex, an initiative the company rolled out several years ago that relies on independent contractors to deliver packages. 

      Inherent issues

      From its catbird seat, various grocery industry watchers raised questions about Amazon’s move. 

      “By entrusting gig workers to put orders together for Whole Foods customers, Amazon is potentially increasing the risk that items could be damaged, spoiled or delivered late that is inherent in grocery e-commerce,” GroceryDive’s Sam Silverstein wrote.

      Another question raised was that while delivery service is an easy thing to learn, in-store tasks like picking aren’t.

      “Delivery from A to B is a beautiful on-demand task because it’s very straightforward, very repeatable and you don’t need a lot of training, [but] tasks in stores are often much more complicated,” Jordan Berke, a former Walmart executive and e-commerce expert who runs Tomorrow Retail Consulting, told GroceryDive.

      “A person that comes to your store once a day or once every two days to pick two orders is always learning, while a person that picks 50 orders five days a week” has a better opportunity to become familiar with the lay of the land inside a grocery store, and is more likely to know where items are located and how they should be handled.

      Potential good news for consumers

      Online grocery shopping is growing in leaps and bounds. The segment is expected to grow from about $38 million in 2018 to nearly $60 billion by 2023. Amazon and Walmart are in a pretty secure place for the moment -- and keep upping the ante -- but more and more companies are trying to elbow their way in like Uber and DoorDash. The upside for consumers is that companies are constantly trying to find ways to keep prices as low as possible. 

      “They’re always going to look for ways to keep their cost of service as low as possible, and always look for ways to be super responsive in fulfilling customer demand,” Tom Furphy, former Amazon vice president of consumables and Amazon Fresh, told GroceryDive. 

      “Those are three constants that will always exist as long as Amazon’s around, and they will absolutely look to deliver on that in the grocery environment.

      With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. A...
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      Walmart announces pay increases for hourly employees

      Around 11 percent of the company’s employees will receive a pay bump

      Walmart announced on Thursday that it’s raising wages for 165,000 of its hourly employees across the U.S. 

      In a statement, Walmart chief operating officer Dacona Smith said the retailer is implementing a more “team based” staffing model. New hourly and salaried leadership roles will be created at its supercenters. 

      Pay for these new “team leader” positions will range from $18 to $21 an hour, and some will pay up to $30 an hour. The new system will result in a boost in pay for tens of thousands of the company’s hourly workers, Walmart said.

      “We’re investing in new roles and skills training to give us the flexibility to serve customers anytime and anywhere. In turn, associates will have more room for career and pay growth,” Smith said.

      Pay increases 

      Pay for bakery and deli employees will increase to $15 an hour from $11 an hour. Many employees in Walmart’s auto care centers will see $1 per hour added to their pay. The changes will be reflected in workers’ pay starting in October.

      "We are re-investing in several ways to provide associates with higher and more consistent base pay," the company said.

      In announcing the changes, the retailer said "associates have done an incredible job serving customers and making a difference in their communities," especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      “They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure customers have access to the items they need while making health and safety a top priority,” Walmart said.

      Walmart announced on Thursday that it’s raising wages for 165,000 of its hourly employees across the U.S. In a statement, Walmart chief operating offic...
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      Falling demand is keeping gas prices in check

      Hurricane Sally had little effect on prices at the pump this week

      Motorists seem to have parked their cars now that the summer driving season is over. Even a hurricane slamming the Gulf Coast failed to overcome a big drop in fuel demand.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.18 a gallon, two cents less than last Friday. The average price of premium is $2.79 gallon -- also two cents less than last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.40, down from $2.42 last week.

      Hurricane Sally stormed ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, forcing a shutdown of oil rigs in the region early in the week. But there was apparently little damage and operations resumed by Thursday.

      Crews returned to at least 30 offshore oil and gas platforms. Chevron Corp. began restaffing its Blind Faith and Petronius platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Reuters.

      The brief interruption had little lasting effect on oil prices and should have even less on what consumers pay for gasoline. AAA reports gasoline demand this month is at levels that haven’t been seen since mid-June when the country was just beginning to reopen from the long coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown.

      While demand was low this week, so were supplies, at least compared to recent weeks. But AAA’s Jeanette Casselano says that balance favored consumers.

       “Despite the steady supply dip, continued low levels of demand helped push the national gas price cheaper on the week," Casselano said.

      The states with the most expensive gas

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

      • Hawaii ($3.25)

      • California ($3.22)

      • Washington ($2.82)

      • Nevada ($2.67)

      • Oregon ($2.64)

      • Alaska ($2.54)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.49)

      • Utah ($2.45)

      • Idaho ($2.45)

      • Colorado ($2.31)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($1.85)

      • Texas ($1.86)

      • Arkansas ($1.88)

      • Louisiana ($1.89)

      • Missouri ($1.89)

      • Alabama ($1.90)

      • Oklahoma ($1.90)

      • South Carolina ($1.91)

      • Tennessee ($1.92)

      • Kentucky ($1.93)

      Motorists seem to have parked their cars now that the summer driving season is over. Even a hurricane slamming the Gulf Coast failed to overcome a big drop...
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      Save big with these September deals and discounts

      These are the offers you don’t want to miss

      Between Labor Day, back-to-school deals and end-of-season sales, September is one of the best months for shopping. Keep reading to see the deals we love this month — all deals are accurate as of the time of publication.

      Mattress deals

      If you’ve been dreaming about a new mattress all summer, now might be the time to finally upgrade. Check out some of the limited-time offers from a few of our favorite mattress brands.

      Purple

      To show appreciation to health care professionals, Purple is offering a 10% discount to doctors, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists and people working in other fields related to public health.

      • Health care professionals get 10% off any Purple order*
      • Must verify eligibility

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Nectar Sleep

      You can get a free cooling pillow, sheet set and mattress protector when you purchase the Nectar Memory Foam Mattress for a limited time. Nectar values the free accessories at $399. You also get free shipping and a 365-night trial.

      • Free accessories with mattress purchase
      • Expires 9/20

      Shop Now

      Cocoon by Sealy

      This product is perfect for those who get hot when they sleep. Cocoon by Sealy is made with premium memory foam, and the cover is infused with a proprietary material that dissipates heat to help keep you cool all night. Cocoon is available in medium-soft and extra-firm comfort levels.

      • 35% off any Chill mattress*
      • Expires 9/28

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Weight loss programs

      With the holidays just around the corner, you might be putting off weight loss goals until next year. However, a flexible weight loss program can help with portion control — even if you have a few cheat days.

      Nutrisystem

      Order a Nutrisystem four-week meal plan now and get a 45% off in savings. New sign-ups get a week of protein and probiotic shakes, plus free shipping. If you don’t love it, you can return the remaining food for a full refund within 14 days.

      • Free week of shakes*
      • Free FedEx shipping

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      BistroMD

      BistroMD is a meal delivery service that helps you lose weight. It offers a special deal for new dieters — when you sign up, you get 25% off your order and free shipping for the first week.

      • 25% discount*
      • Free shipping

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Medifast

      Medifast meal replacements and healthy snacks are designed to support weight loss. For a limited time, new dieters can use the code KEEP35 for $35 an order.

      • Use KEEP35 for $35 off Medifast
      • Expires 12/30

      Shop Now

      Pet food deals

      Keeping our pets healthy is a huge priority for many of us. Luckily, there are plenty of options for healthy food at a reasonable price. For more information, research how to find the best food for dogs or cats.

      Chewy

      Chewy offers a 30% discount when you sign up for autoship for the first time. With autoship, you can get regularly scheduled deliveries of pet food, treats and supplies. Select from products for dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, horses and other pets.

      • Save 30% on your first autoship
      • Free one- to three-day shipping on orders over $49

      Shop Now

      Petco

      Petco customers can save 10% when they buy online and pick up their order either in-store or curbside. Select from food, treats, supplies and accessories for dogs, cats, fish, small pets, reptiles and birds.

      • Save 10% when you buy online
      • Pick up in-store or curbside

      Shop Now

      Health product deals

      Vitamins and supplements help some people feel better and think clearer. See below for discount codes and free shipping deals.

      Vitacost

      Vitacost has different discounts every day, plus free shipping on orders over $49. Select from vitamins, probiotics, supplements, herbs, botanicals, feed and beverages, diet products and more.

      • Multiple discounts on website*
      • Valid within the contiguous U.S

      Shop Now

      *Partner terms and conditions apply

      Lucky Vitamin

      For a limited time, you can get an extra 5% off Lucky Vitamin brands with the code LUCKY5. Select from vitamins and supplements, beauty care products, groceries and more. The company also offers free shipping on orders over $49.

      • 5% off with code LUCKY5
      • Expires 9/30

      Shop Now

      Online shopping deals

      Not only is online shopping safer than crowded malls, but it’s also easy to find the items you’re looking for at reasonable prices.

      Honey

      Honey is a Chrome app extension that automatically searches for promo codes whenever you’re shopping online. You can find coupons and discounts for more than 30,000 websites.

      • Free
      • Easy to install

      Shop Now

      Academy Sports + Outdoor

      For a limited time, you can get free shipping if you sign in and spend at least $25 on your order. If you don't sign in, you can still get free shipping if you spend $35 or more on your order. Select from clothing, shoes, sports and exercise equipment, camping gear and more. 

      • Free shipping on orders over $25 when you sign in
      • Excludes California, Alaska and Hawaii

      Shop Now

      September deals and discounts...
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      Coronavirus update: Mixed messages on vaccines, Eli Lilly ramps up drug production

      New jobless claims are still falling

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,640,540 (6,600,566)

      Total U.S. deaths: 197,091 (196,103)

      Total global cases: 29,925,969 (29,624,865)

      Total global deaths: 942,076 (936,313)

      Mixed messages on vaccine availability

      As we reported in this space Wednesday, the Trump administration promised a speedy, nearly overnight rollout of any approved vaccine. But that message was contradicted the same day by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who told Congress it might be next summer before a vaccine is widely available.

      President Trump said at a press briefing that Dr.Robert Redfield was mistaken when he said it might be a year from now before a vaccine is readily available to the general population. 

      Redfield said that while a vaccine might be available by the end of this year, it will first be given to first responders and the most vulnerable population. He said it will take several months to produce and distribute enough for the entire country.

      Lilly to team with Amgen to produce antibody drug supply

      After reporting positive results for its antibody drug to treat the coronavirus (COVID-19), Eli Lilly is now figuring out how to produce a lot of it. Today, the drug company announced a deal with Amgen to work together to significantly increase the supply capacity available for Lilly's potential COVID-19 therapies. 

      The two companies say their collaboration will allow them to quickly scale up production and serve many more patients around the world should one or more of Lilly's antibody therapies prove successful in clinical testing and receive regulatory approval.

      "Increasing the manufacturing capacity for our neutralizing antibodies through this collaboration with Amgen is a crucial next step, and together we hope to be able to produce many millions of doses even next year," said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer.

      New unemployment claims continue to fall

      The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 33,000 last week, with total claims still well below 1 million, at 860,000. More importantly, continuing claims also went down, falling by nearly 1 million to 12.6 million.

      Both numbers hit record highs in the early spring as the coronavirus pandemic led to a nationwide shutdown. Businesses have been slow to reopen, and many are working with fewer employees.

      Economists say a number of factors may be holding back the labor market, including offices that remain closed in major cities. The sharp reduction in the downtown population on workdays has made it hard for many businesses to operate.

      Expert: holiday travel will be different this year

      People planning to travel to see friends and family over the holidays are likely making their plans now. But Dean Headley, co-author of the Airline Quality Rating, cautions that a lot can change between now and then because of the coronavirus

      Headley says airlines have already said that they plan to furlough thousands of pilots before the end of the year. As a result, many carriers may reduce the number of flights they’re offering. That creates a potential headache for those who book passage on those flights.

      Beyond the concern for safely traveling, Headley says the issues of fewer flights, altered schedules, and dropped destinations should be considered when thinking about holiday travel.

      Play ball!

      The Big Ten Conference, one of two major conferences to cancel its football season earlier this year because of the coronavirus, has decided to play some games after all.

      According to the conference’s announcement on Wednesday, the shortened season will begin Oct. 23 and consist of eight games, lasting until a conference championship in December. The conference presidents said they reversed their previous decision after considering new medical data.

      According to ESPN, the Big Ten can still finish its season and crown a champion in time to be considered for a semifinal spot, but it has to be approved by the playoff's management committee.

      Around the nation

      • New York: The New York City Council has approved a measure to help struggling restaurants hampered by the coronavirus. The measure allows restaurants to tack on a 10 percent surcharge to each restaurant check.

      • Indiana: College students are fueling coronavirus numbers in some states, but health officials in Indiana are raising concerns about high school students. They say high school students account for about 19 percent of the most recent cases in the state.

      • Florida: Despite the spike in cases in states that have loosened regulations, the backlash against face masks continues, at least in Florida. A group of anti-mask protestors recently marched through a South Florida Target playing the song “We’re Not Going to Take It.”

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,640,540 (6,600,56...
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      Analysts predict a big shift to online shopping this holiday season

      But overall spending may barely rise

      Consumers have done a little more of their Christmas shopping online in recent years, but a new survey shows a likely surge in online shopping this year.

      For example, last season consumers made about 51 percent of their holiday purchases online. This year, CreditCards.com estimates that 71 percent will shop mostly online, both for convenience and to avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      “Holiday shopping is going to look very different this year,” said CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman. “COVID-19 is accelerating the existing trends toward e-commerce and digital payments.”

      Millennials appear to be the shoppers most likely to avoid stores this holiday season. In fact, 74 percent of millennials plan to shop online -- compared with 70 percent of Gen Zers, 70 percent percent of Gen Xers, and 70 percent of baby boomers. 

      The oldest group, the Silent Generation, appears to be the group most likely to visit brick and mortar stores to do their shopping, even though they generally face the highest risk from the virus.

      Deloitte also predicts a sharp rise in online spending

      A separate report suggests that consumers will spend a little more this holiday season, despite the pandemic. Deloitte’s annual holiday forecast also predicts a significant increase in online shopping, with e-commerce sales rising as much as 35 percent.

      In breaking down projected spending, Deloitte predicts that overall spending will rise by less than 2 percent, with consumers who haven’t been economically impacted by the coronavirus making up for reduced spending by those who have.

      "The lower projected holiday growth this season is not surprising given the state of the economy,” said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte's U.S. economic forecaster. "E-commerce is likely to be a big winner because consumers have shown a clear movement towards buying online rather than at brick and mortar stores."

      Debit cards over credit cards

      The CreditCards.com survey also found a shift in the way consumers plan to pay for their holiday purchases, with an increase in a preference for debit cards and less reliance on credit cards.

      While avoiding holiday debt is always a sound move, credit cards offer more consumer protections, along with other benefits like warranty and purchase protection.

      Luis Rosa, certified financial planner and founder of Build a Better Financial Future, suggests using your credit card as though it were a debit card by paying off each purchase as you go, making a payment as soon as the purchase posts on your account.

      “This way you don’t let the credit card balance rise and sneak up on you,” he said.

      Consumers have done a little more of their Christmas shopping online in recent years, but a new survey shows a likely surge in online shopping this year....
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      CDC director says face masks are currently the best defense against COVID-19

      Health experts say the protections a vaccine can offer may initially be limited

      As drugmakers race to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, CDC director Robert Redfield contends that a different prevention method is more effective. 

      Face coverings are “the most powerful public health tool” the nation has against the virus, Redfield told lawmakers on Wednesday. “We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense,” Redfield said. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine.” 

      On Wednesday night, Redfield clarified that masks are currently the best defense against the virus and reaffirmed the importance of a viable vaccine.

      Vaccine not yet available

      Redfield’s remarks come as scientists work to develop a vaccine to combat the deadly virus. Companies including Pfizer have claimed they are on track to deliver one before the end of the year. 

      Speaking to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Redfield said any vaccine that may be rolled out in the coming months may only have an “immunogenicity” -- or the ability to build up an immune response to the virus -- of about 70 percent. He also said a vaccine would only be initially available in limited quantities.. 

      His comments are similar to those made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Fauci said that the likelihood of scientists creating a COVID-19 vaccine that provides 98 percent or more guaranteed protection is “not great.” 

      “The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach,” Fauci said in early August. “You’ve got to think of the vaccine as a tool to be able to get the pandemic to no longer be a pandemic, but to be something that’s well controlled.” 

      Fauci added that scientists are aiming to release a vaccine that is at least 75 percent effective. Even when a vaccine that delivers that level of protection is released, Redfield said face masks will be more of a sure bet in terms of protection. 

      “If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Redfield told lawmakers. He predicted that the process of getting every American vaccinated will take roughly six to nine more months. The nation should see a return to “regular life” by the third quarter of 2021, he said. 

      As drugmakers race to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, CDC director Robert Redfield contends that a different prevention method is more effec...
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      FTC shuts down charity scam that defrauded consumers out of millions

      The agency is reminding consumers to do their research before giving money

      The holidays are just around the corner, which means the season of giving is nearly upon us. But a recent action taken by the FTC shows just how important it is for consumers to be cautious when it comes to the organizations and causes they choose to donate to. 

      This week, the agency -- in coordination with regulators from New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Virginia -- secured a settlement with a charity funding operation that allegedly defrauded consumers out of millions of dollars in donations. 

      The settlement names four defendants who ran several charities that were supposed to raise money for veterans, retired and disabled law enforcement officers, breast cancer survivors, and others in need. However, they allegedly pocketed up to 90 percent of these donations to pay themselves. Regulators say the sometimes less than two percent of proceeds went to the groups that were supposed to receive the funds.

      As part of the settlement, the charity fundraising business is being forced to shut down and the defendants will have surrender tens of millions of dollars to the aforementioned states. The FTC says these funds will then be redistributed to legitimate charities “that perform services that mirror those promised by the sham charities.”

      “This action puts fundraisers on notice: the FTC will not only shut down sham charities, it will aggressively pursue their fundraisers who participate in the deception,” said Andrew Smith, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. 

      Do your research before donating

      This case highlights just how important it is for consumers to do their research before donating money to a charity. New York Attorney General Letitia James says that establishing trust with a charitable cause through proper vetting can ensure that your generosity isn’t being exploited.

      “My office will continue to work with partners such as the FTC and other states to take action that protects donors and charitable entities,” she said. 

      Smith says consumers can use the FTC’s website at this address to learn how to spot a potential charity scam.

      The holidays are just around the corner, which means the season of giving is nearly upon us. But a recent action taken by the FTC shows just how important...
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      Pine-Sol approved by FDA as an effective disinfectant for COVID-19

      Clorox is playing up the product to Black American frontline workers

      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added Pine-Sol to its list of disinfectants that are effective against the coronavirus. 

      The common household cleaner is the 66th Clorox product that has met the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Before it could meet EPA standards, Pine-Sol was tested in an independent lab where it showed that it could meet its effectiveness within a 10-minute contact time on hard, flat surfaces.

      Clorox sees a unique angle with Black Americans

      In its homework on how to posture the product as a COVID-19 deterrent, Clorox happened upon data that showed that nearly three in five Black American millennial women (age 26-38) are essential workers who, in all estimation, have come closer to situations where the coronavirus has been found to exist. 

      Of those essential workers, Clorox found that more than half were worried about their health and the health of their family and friends. Another 40 percent expressed concern about access to necessary cleaning products. Given Pine-Sol’s widespread availability, the company feels that the EPA approval negates that concern. 

      "(Pine-Sol has) a long-standing history of being a powerful cleaner and disinfectant, and the trusted brand choice within the Black community,” said Chris Hyder, Vice President and General Manager of the Cleaning division at Clorox said in a statement. "We hope this new Pine-Sol kill claim will increase access to disinfectants that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19."

      Clorox recommends that consumers use Pine Sol at its full strength and apply it with a clean sponge or cloth to hard, nonporous surfaces. The company added that people should let the product remain wet on the surface for 10 minutes before rinsing.

      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added Pine-Sol to its list of disinfectants that are effective against the coronavirus. The common h...
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      GM recalls Buick Encore GXs and Chevy Trailblazers

      The front seat rear attachment bolts may be missing

      General Motors is recalling 105 model year 2020 Buick Encore GXs and model year 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazers.

      The rear attachment bolts of one or both front seats may not have been installed.

      An occupied front seat missing the rear attachment bolts may move during a crash, increasing risk of injury to the occupant.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect seat attachments for both front seats and install attachment bolts as needed free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 19, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 630-2438 or Buick customer service at (800) 521-7300. GM's number for this recall is A202304380.

      General Motors is recalling 105 model year 2020 Buick Encore GXs and model year 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazers. The rear attachment bolts of one or both fr...
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      BMW recalls Z4s and Toyota Supras

      The headlamps are able to be adjusted horizontally

      BMW of North America is recalling model year 2019-2020 Z4 sDrive30i, Z4 M40i and model year 2020 Toyota Supra vehicles.

      The headlamps are able to be adjusted horizontally.

      This could increase glare and reduce visibility for oncoming drivers, or reduce visibility for the vehicle operator, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the headlamp vertical and horizontal adjustment plugs, correcting them as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 19, 2020.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling model year 2019-2020 Z4 sDrive30i, Z4 M40i and model year 2020 Toyota Supra vehicles. The headlamps are able to be adj...
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      Fall Pest Control Advice for 2020

      5 things we learned from a board-certified entomologist

      The following company participates in our Authorized Partner Program: TruGreen

      It’s spooky season, and you know what that means — spiders, rats, bats and creatures with exoskeletons are scoping out your house for the winter.

      We asked John Bell, a board-certified entomologist (BCE) with 32 years of experience, for some advice on how to prevent pests in the colder months. Bell is currently the regional technical manager at TruGreen, a national pest control and lawn care maintenance company.

      1. At this point, murder hornets are the least of your problems

      According to Bell, we don’t need to be very worried about murder hornets. As temperatures turn brisker, Bell suggests keeping an eye out for the following creepy crawlies:

      • Roaches: Cockroaches that live in mulched areas during the spring and summer are pushed closer to the house. They can make their way in through small openings in your structure.
      • Ants: Insects that live on or beneath the ground, such as ants, move to higher ground during the rainy season — and that higher ground is typically where your house is.
      • Beetles: Asian lady beetles seek warmer areas to live during the winter months. These pests may enter your attic or main living areas to wait out the winter months. Lady beetles can stain curtains and furniture if crushed.
      • Stink bugs: The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive pest that threatens crops across the middle Atlantic region. They also present a seasonal nuisance to homeowners in that part of the U.S. during the warmer days of fall when they search for protective overwintering sites. The good news is, stink bugs don’t bite or spread disease.
      • Kudzu bugs: Kudzu bugs are related to stink bugs and also release an unpleasant odor if squashed. If you live in Southeastern states, particularly Georgia and the Carolinas, watch for Kudzu bugs and their eggs in the fall.
      • Cluster flies: Cluster flies like to hibernate en masse. As summer comes to a close, they look for cozy spots in attics and crawl spaces to spend the winter.

      Bell mentioned that murder hornets are actually called Asian giant hornets (they get the more homicidal name thanks to their annihilation of honey bee colonies).

      “This pest was introduced to Washington state from Canada and has not moved outside of the state at this point,” Bell said. Many people confuse the Asian giant hornet with its European counterpart, which is common throughout the United States.

      • Accurate fly-killing machine (up to 3 feet)
      • No batteries required

      Buy on Bass Pro

      2. Watch out for bloodsuckers

      Depending on the problem pests of your state, you might be better off worrying about ticks and mosquitoes. They may not be as trendy as vampires, but they still vant to suck your blood!

      “Summer rains produce more mosquito breeding areas and thus more of these biting pests,” Bell said. “Female mosquitoes, for instance, will find an area to stay through the winter, such as tree cavities or other protected spots, then lay her eggs as temperatures rise in the spring.

      Luckily, many ticks aren’t active during the fall and winter. However, a few species “can remain active in their adult stage from fall to spring as long as the temperature is above freezing,” according to the TickEncounter Resource Center at the University of Rhode Island.

      • Comes with 12 hours of repellent
      • Up to 110 square feet of protection

      Buy on Bass Pro

      3. Secure all entry points

      According to Bell, eliminating entry points is the best way to keep pests out of your home. He emphasized how different a bug’s exoskeleton is from the one we have: It lets them “compress their bodies and get into cracks and crevices that are much smaller than they are."

      So, if you looked at a small crack and thought there’s no way a pest could enter there — think again. We suggest the following exclusion techniques:

      • Caulk small entry holes
      • Seal cracks, gaps, holes and crevices with caulk and steel wool
      • Screen attic vents
      • Replace and repair loose mortar around foundation and windows
      • Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens
      • Spray indoor/outdoor pesticides around the perimeter of your home

      4. Set traps (just in case)

      Most common pest control products keep these bugs out of your home, but they must be applied properly or in the right areas. It’s not a bad idea to set up glue boards in your basement and garage to trap rats, centipedes, silverfish and other critters that might sneak in. It’s better to find them in the glue trap than your bedroom.

      • Works for rats, mice and snakes
      • Nontoxic and safe to use around pets

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Hire a pro

      Even with chemical and physical barriers, pests will continue to probe for a way in. It may be wise to get advice from a pest control professional.

      Pest control professionals have experience spotting signs of pest invasions and locating likely entry points. Many companies also have monthly plans that help keep insects and rodents out of your home.

      Remember that winter pests are only a problem if you allow them into your home during the fall months. Luckily, winter temperatures in many areas cause most pests to go dormant or die. Still, pest prevention now will keep them from overwintering in your home and decrease initial spring populations. For more information, research how to find the best pest control companies.

      Fall Pest Control Advice for 2020...
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      Coronavirus update: Another antibody drug shows promise, Yelp cites the rising toll on businesses

      Research sheds new light on the link between obesity and coronavirus severity

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,600,566 (6,559,527)

      Total U.S. deaths: 196,103 (194,203)

      Total global cases: 29,624,865 (29,355,527)

      Total global deaths: 936,313 (929,613)

      Eli Lilly’s antibody drug shows positive results

      Eli Lilly reports its experimental drug treatment using antibodies has shown positive results when treating coronavirus (COVID-19) patients who were recently diagnosed and had only mild to moderate symptoms.

      In a trial, the drug reduced the number of patients taking the drug who required admission to the hospital. The trial tested three different doses of the drug, one of several antibody drugs currently in development within the industry

      The researchers reported the middle dose of 2,800 mg met the trial’s target of significantly reducing the presence of the COVID-19 virus after 11 days. Health experts have recently stressed the need for effective treatments while the world waits for an effective vaccine.

      Yelp says 60 percent of closed businesses won’t reopen

      Yelp’s monthly report shows the number of businesses that have closed has begun to increase again, even as more states loosen restrictions. In its Economic Average Report, Yelp shows 163,735 businesses on its platform have closed, a 23 percent increase since mid-July.

      “In the wake of COVID-19 cases increasing and local restrictions continuing to change in many states we’re seeing both permanent and temporary closures rise across the nation, with 60 percent of those closed businesses not reopening,” the company said.

      It follows a report from the National Restaurant Association that nearly 100,000 restaurants have either closed their door permanently or shut down for the foreseeable future.

      Why obesity is a big risk factor

      Researchers now think they know why COVID-19 patients who are obese appear to be at higher risk of severe symptoms and death. They say obese patients tend to be vulnerable to inflammation and leaky gut, leaving the lungs of obese patients more susceptible to COVID-19.

      Scientists at the UT Southwest Medical Center in Dallas suggest that drugs used to lower inflammation in the lungs could prove beneficial to obese patients with the disease.

      “It’s all about the system already being primed,” said Philipp Scherer, PhD., a professor of internal medicine. “When the virus comes into this system, the lungs are already at risk. More damage and more inflammation could push these patients over the edge and cause a perfect storm.”

      Government promises fast distribution of approved vaccine

      Just how fast will an approved coronavirus vaccine get to the U.S. population? Pretty darn fast, says the Trump administration.

      Officials pressed on a timeline said the U.S. government has plans in place to ship the vaccine to distribution centers across the country within 24 hours of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today unveiled a plan to make the coronavirus vaccine free for all Americans. The CDC said it expects the FDA will grant Emergency Authorization Use for a vaccine before it issues final approval.

      Wedding linked to seven deaths

      The tragic tale of a wedding in Maine underscores the advisability of avoiding crowds in indoor settings. Public health experts say the virus spread among people who attended the ceremony and reception, and who then spread the disease to others.

      According to contact tracing, the wedding is linked to 176 cases and the deaths of seven people who didn’t even attend the wedding. About 65 people attended the August 7 wedding, according to Maine health officials, who said it violated limits on public gatherings.

      Health officials also say that in addition to wearing masks and observing social distancing, avoiding crowds is one of the best ways to avoid becoming infected.

      Around the nation

      • Colorado: State health officials are sounding the alarm over the growth of coronavirus cases, especially among the state’s college-age population. Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said there have been “very substantial increases” in cases among people 18 to 22 years old. 

      • Michigan: New coronavirus cases are up sharply over the last month. Health officials report the number of diagnosed patients has surged 32 percent since September 1, now averaging 895 cases per day.

      • Georgia: Officials in Georgia are still playing it safe. Gov. Brian Kemp has extended the state’s coronavirus restrictions for another 15 days. The governor’s order extends the current COVID-19 restrictions - including limited occupancy - in place for businesses, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and others. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,600,566 (6,559,52...
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      Only 2 percent of Red Cross blood donors have coronavirus antibodies, study suggests

      More evidence is needed before an objective insight can be achieved

      The results from the American Red Cross’ million-plus coronavirus antibody tests are in, showing that not quite 2 percent of the people who donated blood over the summer months actually had coronavirus antibodies.

      That metric is particularly interesting because it could prove that relatively few people in the U.S. have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, but that <2 percent number is more than half of the percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other pandemic watchers.

      The main limitations of the study include that testing results represent cross-sectional findings over a relatively short period, and American Red Cross collection areas in the U.S. underrepresented areas such as New York City, south Florida, and some Western states. Also, reactive results were not confirmed, and thus the data may overrepresent blood donor seropositivity. Even so, the results do indicate that having the antibodies is fairly uncommon.

      More evidence is needed

      When the Red Cross first began offering antibody tests, its number one goal was to find out exactly how many people in the U.S. had been exposed to the virus. To make its research as valid as possible, it was counting on a large number of people to donate blood in the interest of knowing where the country stood. But, like any other study, the Red Cross’ research has shortcomings.

      When the donation study kicked off, the organization was encouraged by the initial response. Donor appointments jumped by 150 percent during the first two weeks of the campaign, and the number of first-time blood donors climbed from 11 percent to 17 percent. However, the percentage of blood donors is not an accurate reflection of the general population because while everyone can donate, blood donors have to qualify as healthy. 

      Overall, the virus’ full impact remains a difficult number to nail down for researchers and public health officials because the number of people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms. Researchers at OurWorldData also think that etching any particular metric in stone is problematic. 

      “Where the number of confirmed cases is high relative to the extent of testing, this suggests that there may not be enough tests being carried out to properly monitor the outbreak. In such countries, the true number of infections may be far higher than the number of confirmed cases,” the group’s COVID-19 research team wrote.

      The results from the American Red Cross’ million-plus coronavirus antibody tests are in, showing that not quite 2 percent of the people who donated blood o...
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      Southwest Airlines updates COVID-19 policies for both passengers and employees

      Travelers who haven’t flown the airline lately should make note of what to expect

      With an end-all and be-all of the COVID-19 pandemic still undetermined, Southwest Airlines is renewing its vow to support the well-being and comfort of both its customers and employees by continuing to limit the amount of seats sold on every flight to allow middle seats to remain open.

      People flying together as family and friends still have the option of sitting together and will be allowed to occupy a middle seat if they like.

      Health-conscious Thanksgiving holiday travelers will be happy to know that the airline’s commitment will last through Nov. 30. As part of its COVID-19 plan, the airline will continue to require face masks to be worn at all times. It will also enforce physical distancing measures in airports and onboard aircraft and rigorously clean its facilities and aircraft every single day.

      Southwest updates what travelers can expect 

      • Face Coverings Required: All airline employees and any passenger over the age of two are required to wear a covering over their mouth and nose from the moment they board the plane until they’re out of the gate area when they land. All travelers are required to a) acknowledge an awareness of the carrier's face covering policy; and b) wear a face covering. If a passenger doesn’t have a mask, Southwest will have them available at the airport and onboard to ensure compliance with the policy.
      • Customer Health Declaration: All travelers are required to confirm they do not have symptoms of COVID-19; nor have they been diagnosed with, or exposed to, COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to travel; and that they do not have a fever at travel time.
      • Physical Distancing in Airports: If you haven’t flown Southwest lately, boarding a Southwest flight in the COVID-19 heyday, the process may be new to you. To allow for distancing, the airline boards in smaller groups of 10 and only on one side of the boarding poles in the gate areas. In addition, the airline has installed Plexiglas at ticketing and gate counters and baggage service offices to further insure protection during in-person transactions and interactions.

      For a complete rundown of Southwest’s updates and policy changes, you can find them here.

      With an end-all and be-all of the COVID-19 pandemic still undetermined, Southwest Airlines is renewing its vow to support the well-being and comfort of bot...
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      Getting more sleep helps consumers better handle positive and negative events, study finds

      More sleep benefits consumers’ overall emotional well-being

      There are countless reasons why getting enough sleep is crucial to consumers’ health and well-being, but getting quality sleep can be difficult -- especially during stressful times

      Now, researchers from the University of British Columbia have found that feeling well-rested can affect how consumers respond to both good and bad news. According to their study, a lack of sleep can make positive events less enjoyable, as well as make bad events even more difficult. 

      “The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” said researcher Nancy Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.” 

      Prioritizing better sleep

      The researchers analyzed over 2,000 diary entries, which were part-sleep log and part-daily record keeper. Participants recorded how long they slept each night, the events of their days, and how they responded to such events for eight consecutive nights. 

      The researchers learned that not getting enough sleep changed the way the participants’ reacted to both positive and negative events in their lives. Getting less sleep made the participants more irritable and stressed, which made them more likely to lash out due to family or work stressors. Moreover, even positive moments -- like time spent outdoors -- were harder to enjoy. 

      “When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” said Sin. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.” 

      Encouraging better health outcomes

      These findings are important for countless reasons, but particularly from a health standpoint. Recent studies have found that a lack of sleep can have negative impacts on consumers’ heart health, memory, and diet habits, among several other health concerns. 

      However, the researchers from this study encourage consumers, especially those with chronic health conditions, to prioritize getting more sleep each night, as being well-rested can have benefits for both physical and emotional wellness. 

      “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep -- compared to one’s usual sleep duration -- led to better positive experiences on the following day,” Sin said. 

      There are countless reasons why getting enough sleep is crucial to consumers’ health and well-being, but getting quality sleep can be difficult -- especial...
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      Eli Lilly claims its antibody drug significantly reduced hospitalization rate in COVID-19 patients

      Participants who got the drug had a 72 percent lower risk of hospitalization

      Eli Lilly, one of several drugmakers working on developing antibody drugs for COVID-19, said Wednesday that its antibody drug reduced the rate of hospitalization in patients recently diagnosed with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms. 

      The company said data from its mid-stage clinical trial on 450 newly diagnosed patients showed that a 2,800 mg dose of the drug reduced the viral load in patients after 11 days. 

      “These interim data from the BLAZE-1 trial suggest that LY-CoV555, an antibody specifically directed against SARS-CoV-2, has a direct antiviral effect and may reduce COVID-related hospitalizations,” Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly's chief scientific officer, said in a news release. 

      "The results reinforce our conviction that neutralizing antibodies can help in the fight against COVID-19.”

      Helps neutralize the virus

      Across the globe, roughly 29 million people have contracted COVID-19, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. GlaxoSmithKline and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals are also working on developing antibody drugs to help combat the pandemic. 

      Eli Lilly produced its monoclonal antibody drug candidate, LY-CoV555, using neutralizing antibodies collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. The experimental treatment works by preventing the virus from entering into human cells. 

      The company said the rate of hospitalization and emergency room visit was 1.7 percent for patients taking the drug. By contrast, the rate of hospitalization and ER visits for patients taking the placebo was 6.0 percent. 

      Eli Lilly plans to eventually expand the study to involve 800 patients of all ages and in all risk categories.

      Eli Lilly, one of several drugmakers working on developing antibody drugs for COVID-19, said Wednesday that its antibody drug reduced the rate of hospitali...
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      Mercedes Benz parent company will pay $1.5 billion to settle diesel emissions charges

      In its agreement to the settlement, the company denies that it cheated

      Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes Benz, is putting its diesel emissions cheating allegations behind it with a $1.5 billion settlement with the U.S. government and the state of California.

      Two federal agencies and the California attorney general’s office charged the German automaker with using a “defeat device” to make it appear that its diesel engines were in compliance with emissions standards when they were not.

      Another German carmaker, Volkswagen, was the first to face these charges when it was revealed the car employed software that reduced emissions only when the vehicle was being tested. As it turned out, the engines could not meet emissions requirements and deliver the promised fuel economy.

      In early 2017, Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties to the U.S. government and spent billions more buying back affected vehicles from consumers.

      According to the Daimler settlement, the company sold close to 250,000 diesel-powered vehicles in the United States with engines that failed to comply with state and federal laws.

      Officials say the settlement, which includes civil penalties, will also require the automaker to modify vehicles so that they meet emissions requirements.

      Payment to California

      The agreement will pay around $700 million to settle numerous lawsuits filed by consumers. It will also compensate the state of California with a $300 million payment that includes $17.5 million to the California Department of Justice for future environmental enforcement, monitoring, and investigation.

      “Longterm, if you cheat, you're going to get caught,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Daimler is finding that out today. But they’re not the first — nor likely the last — to try.” 

      In a statement issued to news outlets, Daimler said it disputes allegations that it cheated and said the settlement does not reflect any admission of guilt on its part. It said the settlement resolves the civil proceedings without making any determination that Daimler vehicles used “cheat” devices.

      “By resolving these proceedings, Daimler avoids lengthy court actions with respective legal and financial risks,” the company said in its statement.

      Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes Benz, is putting its diesel emissions cheating allegations behind it with a $1.5 billion settlement with the U.S. go...
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      BMW recalls X7 xDrive40i and M50i vehicles

      The tire information labels may contain incorrect information

      BMW of North America is recalling 397 X7 xDrive40i and M50i vehicles.

      The tire information labels may contain tire size and cold tire inflation pressure information that does not match the specific tires that were installed on these vehicles.

      The vehicle operator may be confused by the information on the label, leading to the installation of an inappropriate size tire and/or inflation pressure, potentially increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tire information label free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 19, 2020.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 397 X7 xDrive40i and M50i vehicles. The tire information labels may contain tire size and cold tire inflation pressure...
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      Royal Gourmet recalls deluxe gas grills

      The grill’s plastic regulator hose can melt and catch fire

      Royal Gourmet Corporation of Norcross, Ga., is recalling about 1,100 Patio 2-Burner Propane Gas Grills with Side Shelves.

      The grill’s plastic regulator hose can melt and catch fire, posing a fire hazard.

      The firm has received six reports of incidents involving grill catching on fire. No injuries have been reported

      This recall involves Royal Gourmet Patio 2-Burner deluxe gas grills with a porcelain cast iron firebox that houses two stainless steel burners, delivering 24,000 total BTUs and two shelves.

      The model numbers of the recalled units are GG2004, GG2005, and GG2006 with date codes EBA20170525D-1, EBA20170525D-2, and EBA20170525D-3.

      The recalled gas grills include Model Number GG2004 in red color, GG2005 in black color and GG2006 in silver color.

      The model numbers can be found on the rear base of the gas grills.

      The grills, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively online at Wayfair.com from August, 2017, through November 2019, for about $240.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled grill and contact Royal Gourmet for a free accessory repair kit.

      Consumers may contact Royal Gourmet at (800) 618-6798 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at service@royalgourmetusa.com or online at royalgourmetusa.com and click on “Recall” at the top of the page for more information.

      Royal Gourmet Corporation of Norcross, Ga., is recalling about 1,100 Patio 2-Burner Propane Gas Grills with Side Shelves. The grill’s plastic regulator ...
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      Cycling Sports Group recalls front racks for Cannondale Treadwell bikes

      The front racks can detach and cause the front wheel to stop abruptly

      Cycling Sports Group of Wilton, Conn., is recalling about 2,000 front racks with bamboo trays sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The front racks can detach and cause the front wheel to stop abruptly, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received two reports of of the tray detaching and contacting the bicycle wheel -- one resulting in a fall involving minor cuts and bruises, and the other involving both bruising and a concussion.

      This recall involves the front rack with a bamboo tray for Cycling Sports Group Cannondale Treadwell bicycles. The rack has a black metal frame and a bamboo tray.

      “ISO11243:2016 YUENI MAX 10KG” is printed on the bamboo tray.

      The racks, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Cannondale dealers nationwide from April 2019, through June 2020, for between $950 to $2,750 for the bicycles sold with the front racks, and $100 for the racks sold separately.

      The front racks were included as original equipment on some bicycles. On other bicycles, they were sold separately as ad-on equipment.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop riding the bicycle until the front rack is removed, and contact their local authorized Cannondale dealer or Cycling Sports Group to arrange for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact a local authorized Cannondale dealer, or Cycling Sports Group at (800) 245-3872 (800-BIKE USA) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET), by email to ridersupport@cannondale.com, or at www.cannondale.com and click on “Recalls and Notices” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Cycling Sports Group of Wilton, Conn., is recalling about 2,000 front racks with bamboo trays sold in the U.S. and Canada. The front racks can detach an...
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      Hyundai recalls model year 2019-2021 Tucsons

      An Anti-lock Brake unit may cause an engine compartment fire

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 180,000 model year 2019-2021 Tucsons.

      The Anti-lock Brake Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU) could corrode internally and cause an electrical short, possibly resulting in an engine compartment fire.

      An engine compartment fire can increase the risk of injury or crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will replace the HECU free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 30, 2020.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (855) 371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 195.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 180,000 model year 2019-2021 Tucsons. The Anti-lock Brake Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU) could corrode inte...
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      Coronavirus update: Lawmakers pitch a compromise aid package, COVID-19 linked to drug abuse

      Fourteen percent of Americans have tested positive or think they’ve the coronavirus

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,559,527 (6,528,077)

      Total U.S. deaths: 194,674 (194,203)

      Total global cases: 29,355,527 (29,075,608)

      Total global deaths: 929,613 (925,284)

      Bipartisan lawmakers push for more relief and stimulus

      With talks between Republicans and Democrats deadlocked over extending coronavirus (COVID-19) aid and stimulus to businesses and consumers, some bipartisan lawmakers in the House are offering a compromise.

      The lawmakers, who call themselves “the problem-solver caucus,” say they have tried to come up with a plan that they think can pass the Democrat-controlled House and the GOP Senate before the election.

      Fox News reports that the package contains $120 billion for extra unemployment benefits, at a rate of $450 per week, for an eight-week transition period. It also contains $500 billion for state and local governments.

      Substance abuse may make COVID-19 more likely

      A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concludes that people with a substance use disorder (SUD) may be more likely to become infected with the coronavirus. The research shows that people suffering from substance abuse account for about 15 percent of coronavirus cases despite only making up 10 percent of the U.S. population.

      The researchers’ analysis revealed that those with a recent SUD diagnosis on record were more likely than those without one to develop COVID-19, an effect that was strongest for those suffering from opioid addiction.

      “The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services. 

      One in seven Americans think they’ve had COVID-19

      With the semi-official case count approaching 7 million, a new survey from the Pew Research Center doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Taken in early August, it found that 14 percent of American adults have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are “pretty sure” they’ve had the virus.

      Americans in lower-income families have been disproportionately affected, with 5 percent saying they have received at least one positive test result, compared with 2 percent of adults in middle- and upper-income homes. Having a higher education was also associated with fewer cases.

      The survey also finds a sharp increase since the spring in the share of Americans who say they know someone else who has been hospitalized or died due to COVID-19.

      Harsh but effective

      The economic lockdown imposed within the United States in the early stages of the pandemic was painfully harsh, but a new study from Columbia University suggests that there is no doubt it was effective in curtailing the spread of the coronavirus in New York City.

      The researchers report that school closures and voluntary or mandated stay-at-home measures contributed to around a 70 percent reduction in the transmission of COVID-19 in New York City during the spring pandemic wave from March to the June reopening. 

      When most people wore a mask or other face covering, the researchers found there was another 7 percent reduction in the spread of the virus.

      Lowe’s offers a hand to battered businesses

      After six months of the pandemic, many businesses and industries are still reeling. The National Restaurant Association reported this week that nearly 100,000 restaurants have closed in the last six months, many to never reopen.

      Meanwhile, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison has announced a new program to help small businesses get their products on Lowe’s store shelves and website. The new program, called “Making It... At Lowe’s,” will solicit pitches from small business operators that will compete for slots.

      “The demand from this program led us to understand that there’s a lot more that we should be doing,” Ellison told CNBC. “So we came up with an idea to try to get more products on our shelves and on Lowes.com that originate from diverse entrepreneurs.”

      Around the nation

      • Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf says the state will appeal a federal court ruling that struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on large gatherings. The governor says his order was not that different from those issued by governors in other states.

      • Texas: Bars in the state are still closed, but owners are pressing Gov. Greg Abbott to lift the order because coronavirus cases have declined. Abbott ruled that bars must remain closed as long as the rate of positive tests in Texas remained above 10 percent. It’s been below that since Sept. 1.

      • New Hampshire: New Hampshire’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development is bracing for the annual influx of visitors to gawk at the autumn foliage. This year, state officials are advising visitors to go online and review all the state’s coronavirus restrictions before their arrival.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,559,527 (6,528,07...
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      Inadequate regulations for glass tables cause severe injuries for consumers, study finds

      Experts are calling for more widespread use of tempered glass

      A new study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University has found that many consumers are experiencing severe injuries at the hands of glass tables. They explained that while tempered glass is the standard when making doors, regulations for tables aren’t as strict. In the event of an accident, the team says injuries tend to be more serious with untempered glass. 

      The researchers are hoping that these findings prompt changes to current regulations regarding glass-made items so that fewer consumers are hurt by these products.

      “It is imperative to push for stricter regulation as consumers of glass tables should not be incurring life-threatening trauma injuries due to neglect of manufacturers in not using tempered glass,” said researcher Stephanie Bonne. 

      A safer option

      To understand the severity of the injuries incurred from untempered glass, the researchers analyzed injury data from two sources: two dozen cases at a level 1 trauma center and over 3,200 cases from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. With more than 2.5 million glass-related injuries occurring each year, these types of incidents are certainly a cause for concern and can affect consumers’ in countless ways.

      Surgery was necessary for half of all of the injuries involved in the study, while 15 percent were classified as severe injuries. The researchers explained that young kids and men were the most likely people to receive these types of injuries. 

      Regardless of whether someone falls from a glass table or is by glass shards when the table breaks, these types of injuries shouldn’t be taken lightly. Patients experienced everything from organ damage to minor lacerations, and eight percent of all these injuries ended in death. 

      A new study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University has found that many consumers are experiencing severe injuries at the hands of glass tables. T...
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      Hershey launches safety tips website to ‘save’ Halloween

      The holiday is six weeks away and candy makers are worried

      With its biggest season of the year at risk because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Hershey is offering advice to consumers on how to safely trick-or-treat in a time of social distancing.

      The company says it has consulted with both public health experts and retailers to produce a website that tells consumers what they should and should not do on Halloween night, depending on where they live. 

      In areas where there are few cases, the website suggests Halloween can be a little more normal, with precautions. In areas where the virus is raging, Halloween will admittedly look very different.

      “We’re taking a proactive approach,” Phil Stanley, Hershey’s global chief sales officer, told The Wall Street Journal. “We’re really focused on helping consumers find creative ways to celebrate with treats, even though trick-or-treating is going to look different this year.”

      Black Friday for candy makers

      The stakes for Hershey and other candy makers are extremely high. Halloween is their Black Friday, a season that is normally responsible for about 10 percent of annual sales.

      To cope, Hershey is not only attempting to help worried parents safely make the most of the holiday for their children, it’s also making adjustments to its business. This year, the company has changed the variety of its Halloween candy lineup and gotten products to retailers even earlier than normal.

      The Hershey Halloween 2020 website features a color-coded map of the U.S. By hovering over the county where you live, you’ll see the county is ranked either “green,” “yellow,” “orange,” or “red,” with green being the lowest risk and red being the highest.

      For each of the four categories, the website offers tips on safe Halloween celebrations. In green areas, Hershey says it's safe for traditional trick-or-treating, with social distancing and other safety precautions.

      But in red areas, the site suggests small holiday gatherings of just a few close friends and family members or celebrating with friends on Zoom. Hershey said the tips it offers are in line with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      Some public health officials are skeptical

      What Hershey and other candy makers are trying to prevent is a wholesale cancellation of Halloween this year. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County Department of Health put a scare into candy makers when it banned Halloween activities, including trick-or-treating. It later revised its edict, saying activities are permitted but not recommended.

      Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at University of California Davis Health, told USA Today that he advises against trick-or-treating this year. He says the risk is too great, even in areas with low transmission rates.

      "I just don’t see how it’s feasible to do this safely," he said in an interview with the newspaper. “It's not realistic to think children will be able to maintain social distancing recommendations, as they walk around in groups and are handed treats.”

      With its biggest season of the year at risk because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Hershey is offering advice to consumers on how to safely trick-...
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      Personal information for 46,000 veterans exposed in data breach

      The Department of Veterans Affairs says hackers were able to infiltrate its systems

      The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said Monday that around 46,000 veterans had their personal information exposed in a data breach

      The VA said that hackers gained unauthorized access to their systems with the aim of stealing payments that were meant to go to health care providers who provided treatment to veterans. Some veterans may have had their social security number leaked.

      "The Financial Services Center (FSC) determined one of its online applications was accessed by unauthorized users to divert payments to community health care providers for the­ medical treatment of Veterans,” the Department said in an announcement. “The FSC took the application offline and reported the breach to VA’s Privacy Office.” 

      Investigation in progress 

      The VA added that hackers were able to breach the system by “using social engineering techniques and exploiting authentication protocols.” The agency said it’s launching a security review. 

      "To prevent any future improper access to and modification of information, system access will not be reenabled until a comprehensive security review is completed by the VA Office of Information Technology," it added.

      The Department said it’s notifying veterans whose information was exposed in the breach. In cases where the affected veteran is deceased, the Department will notify the next-of-kin. 

      “The department is also offering access to credit monitoring services, at no cost, to those whose social security numbers may have been compromised," the VA said. "Veterans whose information was involved are advised to follow the instructions in the letter to protect their data. There is no action needed from Veterans if they did not receive an alert by mail, as their personal information was not involved in the incident.” 

      The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said Monday that around 46,000 veterans had their personal information exposed in a data breachThe VA said that...
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      Delta employees escape more furloughs due to buyouts and shorter schedules

      Flight attendants and ground workers will also take on new tasks such as catering and refueling

      Delta Air Lines has been busy this week. On Monday, the carrier found a creative way to finance operations for the near future by securing loans by exchanging frequent flier rewards. Its workers caught a break on Tuesday, saving tens of thousands from the unemployment line. 

      In a memo to staff, Delta CEO Ed Bastian reported that thanks to shorter work schedules and other cost-saving measures more than 40,000 employees agreed to accept, the furlough wolf is away from the carrier’s door for the time being.

      Bastian said that a 25 percent reduction in work hours for its ground-based employees also played a significant role in protecting jobs. The airline still plans to furlough close to 2,000 pilots as of October 1, but the company said it is working around the clock to cut the best deal possible with the pilots union.

      Delta’s new focus

      Bastian laid out the company’s new priorities in the memo. He said Delta wants to protect workers’ health, safety, and jobs; preserve the company’s liquidity and cash balance to get it through the crisis; and position the carrier for success in the future.

      “The work our teams have done to ensure a safe environment on our planes, at the airport and in our workspaces is nothing short of remarkable. We have also made great strides to protect Delta jobs amid an unprecedented drop in our revenues,” Bastian wrote.

      “We had an enormous response to the enhanced early retirement and departure packages that were offered this summer, with 20 percent of our people choosing voluntary exits,” Bastian said. “While it is difficult to see so many of our colleagues leave, every one of those departures helped save Delta jobs.”

      Bastian said Delta’s flight attendants and ground-based frontline employees in the U.S. will likely avoid involuntary furloughs, but they’ll be performing some new tasks. Flight attendants will support the airline’s catering processes and take part in its rotating month-on, month-off Fly On/Off program. Ground workers will also take on new responsibilities such as wheelchair handling, plane refueling, and cargo handling. 

      Delta Air Lines has been busy this week. On Monday, the carrier found a creative way to finance operations for the near future by securing loans by exchang...
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      Amazon moves into the high-fashion game with Luxury Stores

      The online giant may smell opportunity with many high-end retailers closing because of the pandemic

      Amazon has raised bar after bar in the online shopping world, but now it’s raising the bar in the fashion industry. 

      On Tuesday, the global retailer announced that it has teamed up with fashion and beauty brands to launch Luxury Stores, a new shopping experience offering both established and emerging fashion and beauty lines viewable in 360-degree detail.

      Oscar de la Renta has been tapped as the first brand to be featured. The eponymous fashion house will show off its Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections, inclusive of ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume, with children's wear to follow.

      Upping the game with new technology

      The Luxury Stores app debuts with a technology innovation that will certainly benefit clothing sellers. “View in 360” allows customers to explore styles in 360-degree detail to better visualize fit, which Amazon hopes will make shopping for luxury more alluring and as close to an in-store experience as possible. 

      “With collections sold directly from the participating brands as a ‘store within a store’ experience, brands independently make decisions regarding their inventory, selection, and pricing – and Amazon offers the merchandising tools for brands to create and personalize content in each of their unique brand voices,” the company said in a news release. 

      Amazon sensed change in the fashion world

      Seeing a raft of high-end retailers -- Ann Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, et al -- go out of business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has to be smelling an opportunity, particularly in the realm of distribution.

      Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette recently spoke with CNBC about the opportunity he saw in the luxury apparel space, given the spate of high-end stores going belly-up and leaving customers waiting to be had. 

      “Bloomingdale’s is having a moment,” he said about Macy’s higher-end department store banner. “We have brands in our arsenal that we didn’t have before that are looking for additional distribution.” 

      For the time being, Luxury Stores is available in the Amazon app by invitation only. Eligible U.S. Prime members have been the first to be invited to experience Luxury Stores. Prime members who have not yet received an invitation via email can request one by visiting the company’s website here.

      Amazon has raised bar after bar in the online shopping world, but now it’s raising the bar in the fashion industry. On Tuesday, the global retailer ann...
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      Gaming hardware vendor Razer suffers data leak affecting up to 100,000 customers

      Security researchers warn that scammers could launch phishing attempts using leaked information

      Gaming hardware manufacturing company Razer accidentally leaked the data of as many as 100,000 customers, according to security researcher Bob Diachenko. 

      Diachenko said in a report that the company misconfigured one of its Elasticsearch servers, leaving information available to the public and indexed by public search engines since August 18. The information leaked included customers’ full names, emails, phone numbers, and shipping addresses. 

      It took Razer several weeks to respond to Diachenko, but the company finally responded and said it fixed the misconfiguration on September 9. The company claims that passwords and credit card information weren't involved in the leak.

      "We would like to thank you, sincerely apologize for the lapse and have taken all necessary steps to fix the issue as well as conduct a thorough review of our IT security and systems," the company told Diachenko. "We remain committed to ensure the digital safety and security of all our customers."

      Watch for suspicious emails

      Improperly accessed information could be used by scammers to carry out phishing attempts, so Diachenko urges gamers to “be on the lookout for phishing attempts sent to their phone or email address.” 

      “Malicious emails or messages might encourage victims to click on links to fake login pages or download malware onto their device,” he noted. “Razer customers could be at risk of fraud and targeted phishing attacks perpetrated by criminals who might have accessed the data.” 

      Razer said customers with any questions about the leak can send a message to DPO@razer.com.

      Gaming hardware manufacturing company Razer accidentally leaked the data of as many as 100,000 customers, according to security researcher Bob Diachenko....
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      Top tools and equipment to take your garage to the next level

      Having the right tool on hand can help you conquer any DIY or home improvement project

      Having the right tool can make all the difference when it comes to tackling whatever job is at hand. Sure, you might have some of the essentials like hammers, saws, and ladders -- but which pieces of equipment could really take your handyman skills above and beyond where they are now? Below are our top choices for the tools that can beef up your garage and prepare you for any project you set your mind to.

      1. Table saw

      A table saw is essential if you’re cutting lengths of wood for a fence, deck or a treehouse. Make sure you have a secure, level area to place it. You can also purchase a separate stand for mounting.

      • 24.5” rip capacity
      • 15-amp motor

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Miter saw

      For closer cuts that need an exact angle, a miter saw is the right tool. They’re great for things like framework, crown molding and even homemade furniture. A miter saw is a must-have tool for many DIY projects.

      • 21.8 pounds
      • 3-year limited warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Nail gun

      With a nail gun, you can take care of all your fastening needs quickly and efficiently. You can adjust nail depth, choose the nail size and save strain on your knees and back when you nail down a new deck.

      • Cordless
      • 3-year limited warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Tool storage

      An organized garage makes life easier, and a tool organizer helps get all your random tools in order. Another great thing about a quality tool organizer is that they lock, which helps keep your tools secure.

      • 28" x 18" x 34.5"
      • Key-lock security

      Buy on Amazon

      5. Wet/dry vacuum

      When it’s time to call it a day and clean up your shop, a wet/dry vac can be your best friend. The awesome power of this vacuum can suck up most work messes, including sawdust and nails.

      • 6-gallon container
      • 4-peak-horsepower motor

      Buy on Amazon

      6. Air compressor

      From filling up tires to giant pool floaties, an air compressor is a must-have garage tool. You can buy several tools that work with an air compressor, including narrow-crown staplers, orbital sanders or automatic ratchet wrenches.

      • Variety of accessories included
      • 1-year limited warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      7. Power sander

      A power sander can help you with several projects, from cleaning up a Bondo job to smoothing out older wooden furniture. A power sander may not be on the top of your list, but you shouldn't overlook its many uses.

      • Dust-sealed switch
      • 5” orbital pad

      Buy on Amazon

      With these valuable additions, there won't be any need to borrow your friends' tools. With a little bit of work, your garage can be a handyman’s dream workspace.

      If you can't figure out which tool is the right one, check out our list of the top tools every garage should have....
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      Coronavirus update: Author claims Trump could have saved lives, cases rise in 11 states

      An existing drug seems to help patients recover faster

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,528,077 (6,513,489)

      Total U.S. deaths: 194,203 (194,018)

      Total global cases: 29,075,608 (28,850,901)

      Total global deaths: 925,284 (921,619)

      Woodward: Trump could have saved lives

      Journalist Bob Woodward, the author of a new book based on hours of interviews with President Trump, says the president possessed specific knowledge in late January about the coronavirus (COVID-19) but did not warn the American people or mobilize the government to act.

      In an interview with NBC’s Today Show, Woodward said Trump got a briefing from his national security adviser in late January that informed him that the coronavirus would come to the U.S. and create a pandemic. Woodward says Trump could have mentioned the threat in his State of the Union address February 4 but didn’t.

      “It is one of those shocks, for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives and historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years,” Woodward said.

      New cases increase in 11 states

      The coronavirus picked up momentum in 11 states over the weekend as cases of the virus continued to mount. 

      An analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins shows Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all saw their number of new cases go up. Wisconsin posted a 32 percent increase, a record high for the state.

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, calls the new data disturbing, telling NBC’s Andrea Mitchell “we’re plateauing at around 40,000 cases a day and the deaths are around 1,000.”

      Eli Lilly reports treatment progress

      Drug giant Eli Lilly reports that its existing arthritis drug baricitinib, marketed under the brand name Olumiant, reduced recovery time from the coronavirus when taken with Gilead’s remdesivir. The trial showed patients recovered about a day faster than if they took remdesivir alone.

      Lilly says it plans to seek emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the drug to be included as a treatment against the virus. Remdesivir gained that status early in the outbreak.

      Health experts dealing with the pandemic say treatments against the virus are just as important as an effective vaccine since people who get the virus need protection from its most severe effects.

      Study confirms efficacy of social distancing

      This might seem fairly obvious, though a number of states don’t seem to have grasped it. A new study confirms that strictly practicing social distancing is associated with a significantly lower risk of getting the coronavirus.

      At the same time, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conclude that using public transportation, visiting a place of worship, or otherwise traveling from the home is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of testing positive.

      People reporting frequent public transport use were more than four times as likely to report a history of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, while those who reported practicing strict outdoor social distancing were just a tenth as likely to report ever being SARS-CoV-2 positive.

      Poll shows 70 percent of Americans would take the vaccine

      Recent media reports have suggested a majority of Americans would not be willing to be among the first to be inoculated with an approved coronavirus vaccine. But a new poll shows just the opposite.

      Researchers from Ohio State University surveyed more than 2,000 Americans and found that seven out of 10 said they would be interested in receiving the vaccine whenever it becomes available. The poll was conducted among 1,000 people in May.

      “The interest here is higher than what we typically see for the flu vaccine and other vaccines where there is a strong public health need for widespread protection,” said lead researcher Paul Reiter.

      Around the nation

      • New York: After its early caseload nearly overwhelmed hospitals, New York has seen its numbers improve every week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports that the state’s infection rate, based on the percentage of positive tests, has remained under 1 percent for 37 straight days.

      • Florida: Bars in the state can reopen starting today as the number of cases slowly declines. Bars have been closed since late March, except for three weeks in June, after which cases spiked.

      • Massachusetts: The state observed a grim milestone over the weekend, reporting more than 9,000 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Health department officials reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 and confirmed 14 more people have died from illness linked to the virus as of Sunday.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,528,077 (6,513,48...
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      Pfizer to prepare for ‘likely scenario’ of vaccine distribution before end of year

      The company’s CEO says it should know if the vaccine is effective by the end of October

      Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said over the weekend that “hundreds of thousands” of his company’s COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed before the end of the year if found by the FDA to be safe and effective. 

      The results of Pfizer’s late stage clinical trial on the potential vaccine should be available by the end of October, Bourla said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He said his company is “preparing” for a scenario where the vaccine would roll out before the end of the year.  

      “I don't know if they have to wait until 2021,” Bourla said, responding to a question on when the public will be able to get a coronavirus vaccine. “Because as I said, our studies, we have a good chance that we will know if the product works by the end of October. Then it’s the regulator's job to issue a license or not.”’

      Already started manufacturing

      Pfizer, which is working with drug maker BioNTech, has invested $1.5 billion into the development of its vaccine candidate, which contains genetic material called messenger RNA (or mRNA). Scientists hope the vaccine will prompt the immune system to fend off the virus. 

      Bourla said his company is preparing for the “likely scenario” that the vaccine will be deemed safe and effective by the FDA and that Pfizer will be cleared to move forward with distribution before the end of the year. 

      “I can not say what FDA will do, but I think it's a likely scenario and we are preparing for it,” he said. “We started already manufacturing and have manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses, so just in case we have a good study read out, conclusive, and FDA plus the advisory committee feels comfortable that we will be ready.”

      Other companies that are currently in late-stage testing for a vaccine include Moderna and AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca, which paused its trial recently after a study participant experienced an adverse health event, announced over the weekend that it would be resuming its trial. 

      Bourla said Pfizer has already started manufacturing its vaccine. 

      “We have already manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses, so just in case we have a good study readout, conclusive and FDA, plus the advisory committee feels comfortable, that we will be ready,” Bourla said.

      Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said over the weekend that “hundreds of thousands” of his company’s COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed before the end of the ye...
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      People feel more connected to others when talking on the phone instead of texting

      A study found that hearing another person’s voice made communication more personal

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult for consumers to gather with their friends and loved ones face-to-face. Though gathering virtually has become easier than ever, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin explored what types of virtual communication left consumers feeling the most connected to the people in their lives. 

      The study revealed that phone calls were the best way for consumers to feel connected and bond with their friends or family, more so than any type of texting-based communication. 

      “People feel significantly more connected through voice-based media, but they have these fears about awkwardness that are pushing them towards text-based media,” said researcher Amit Kumar. “When it came to actual experience, people reported they did form a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on the phone versus email, and they did not feel more awkward.” 

      Building connection

      The researchers conducted two experiments to determine what form of communication best served consumers who were trying to stay connected to their family or friends. One experiment paired strangers with various types of communication -- including video chat, phone call, or texting -- and had them ask deeply personal questions to one another. The other experiment gauged how participants felt reconnecting with an old friend via phone call or email, and then had them do just that. 

      In both instances, phone calls came out on top in terms of building connection. Whether with a stranger or an old friend, hearing someone’s voice was an integral component of feeling a real connection, which is something that was lost over text or email. 

      For both tests, the researchers asked participants about various styles of communication, both in terms of what they preferred and what they believed would produce the best results. All of the participants felt that the form of communication wasn’t as important as what was being said, which made these results all the more surprising. 

      Moving forward, the researchers hope that consumers use these findings to feel more connected to their loved ones, especially as in-person gatherings are still limited. 

      “We’re being asked to maintain physical distance, but we still need these social ties for our well-being -- even for our health,” said Kumar. 

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult for consumers to gather with their friends and loved ones face-to-face. Though gathering virt...
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      Google says it has offset its carbon legacy

      The company did so through the purchase of ‘high-quality carbon offsets’

      In a blog post on Monday, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said his company has offset its entire “carbon legacy.” 

      The company said it has purchased enough “high-quality carbon offsets” to eliminate the emissions produced by its campuses and data centers prior to becoming carbon neutral in 2007. Pichai said Google’s latest action brings its net carbon footprint to zero as of today.

      The executive vowed to have Google running on completely carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030. 

      "This is our biggest sustainability moonshot yet, with enormous practical and technical complexity. We are the first major company that's set out to do this, and we aim to be the first to achieve it," Pichai said.

      Aiming for a carbon-free future 

      The CEO noted that Google is the “first major company to make a commitment to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy.” 

      “This is far more challenging than the traditional approach of matching energy usage with renewable energy, but we’re working to get this done by 2030,” Pichai said. 

      Google also announced that it will bring five gigawatts worth of carbon-free energy to its key manufacturing regions by 2030. The move should help hundreds of cities shift toward greener power. 

      The company is also helping commercial building and data center owners use artificial intelligence to reduce heating and cooling costs. Google said the technology enabled it to reduce energy consumption at its own data centers by 30 percent.

      “We’re optimistic that by harnessing new technologies, investing in the right infrastructure and tools, and empowering partners, nonprofits and people, this can be the most decisive decade for climate action yet,” Pichai concluded. “We’re proud to do our part, and to help move the world closer to a carbon-free future for all.”

      In a blog post on Monday, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said his company has offset its entire “carbon legacy.” The company said it has purchas...
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      Delta becomes fourth major airline to secure loan with frequent flyer miles

      Analysts say it’s an aggressive but necessary move in light of the pandemic

      Delta Air Lines is going to use its frequent-flier SkyMiles program to secure $6.5 billion in cash so it can make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

      While it seems like an unusual use of collateral, Delta isn’t the first airline to take this route. In recent months, United Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue all announced plans to do the same.

      Delta has been brutally honest about its financial situation. Officials stated that the company was sitting on about $16 billion in cash but burning through somewhere in the neighborhood of $27 million a day. At that rate, its coffers would be bare in less than two years. 

      Airlines and banks both win

      It’s not only a good deal for the airlines, which can quickly net billions of dollars, but also for banks that can turn the miles into perks for their own credit card customers.

      Frequent-flyer programs “are really the golden goose of the airlines. They’re the reason why North American airlines have historically...only had about 20 percent of global capacity but half of global airline profit,” said Morningstar equity analyst Burkett Huey in an interview with the Financial Times.

      Huey went on to say that the miles-for-money swap is one of the most aggressive moves he’s seen so far.

      Delta Air Lines is going to use its frequent-flier SkyMiles program to secure $6.5 billion in cash so it can make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.Whil...
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      Amazon to hire 100,000 workers to handle increased e-commerce demand

      The company wants to be prepared for the coming holiday season

      To help deal with steeper-than-normal e-commerce demand stemming from the pandemic, Amazon is bringing on even more workers. 

      The company announced Monday that it will hire 100,000 more workers -- its fourth hiring spree this year. The positions are for both full and part-time work in the U.S. and Canada. Amazon said the positions that are available are also at 100 package sorting centers and other facilities it is opening in September.

      “We are opening 100 buildings this month alone across new fulfillment and sortation centers, delivery stations, and other sites,” Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations at Amazon, said in a statement.

      The positions have a starting wage of at least $15 per hour. In select cities, Amazon will give new hires sign-on bonuses of up to $1,000. 

      Increasing hiring

      Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon has struggled to keep up with the surge in demand. With the busy holiday season just ahead, Amazon is bracing for yet another spike in online orders. 

      In addition to hiring more workers, Amazon said it will also be adding automation at its new buildings to speed up operations.  

      “We will continue to deploy technology where appropriate, starting from a safety perspective” and “where we can improve our overall operation,” Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment, told CNBC. 

      In announcing its latest recruitment drive, Amazon reiterated its commitment to keeping its workers safe during the pandemic. 

      “Collectively, our new team members have already completed more than 1,200,000 hours of safety training, with over 500,000 more hours expected, to ensure that in addition to fast and efficient delivery for our customers, we’re providing a safe and modern environment for our employees and partners,” Clark said

      To help deal with steeper-than-normal e-commerce demand stemming from the pandemic, Amazon is bringing on even more workers. The company announced Mond...
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      Verizon strikes deal to buy Tracfone for $6.25 billion

      It’s good news for Tracfone customers, especially when it comes to network upgrades

      Verizon has cut a deal with America Movil to acquire Tracfone, the leading stateside prepaid mobile provider in the U.S. The $6.25 billion price tag includes $3.125 billion in cash and $3.125 billion in Verizon common stock. The deal should close sometime in mid-2021.

      Thanks to mergers made in the past few years, like the one between T-Mobile and Sprint, the wireless industry has gradually become smaller. The number of players is shrinking, and those that remain are becoming more powerful.

      This deal is no different. With the single stroke of a pen, Verizon gains a tremendous amount of prowess from what Tracfone brings to the table. The purchase means Verizon will add another 21 million subscribers under its corporate banner, more than 90,000 retail locations in businesses like CVS, Family Dollar, and BestBuy, and a firm foothold in the value wireless market. The ledger addition is even more impressive since Tracfone raked in $8.1 billion in 2019.

      Good news for Tracfone customers

      Verizon says that once the acquisition is put to bed, it expects to bring its 4G LTE and 5G networks to Tracfone customers. It also plans to further develop Tracfone’s distribution channels and expand the brand’s market opportunities.

      The complete portfolio of Tracfone brands -- Tracfone, Net10 Wireless, SafeLink Wireless, Straight Talk, Page Plus Cellular, GoSmart Mobile, Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Walmart Family Mobile, and Total Wireless -- will also get the benefit of being in the Verizon family.

      “Since its launch, Tracfone has developed strong consumer brands and has established itself as a clear leader in the value mobile segment. This transaction firmly establishes Verizon, through the Tracfone brands, as the provider of choice in the value segment, which complements our clear leadership in the premium segment,” commented Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and Group CEO, Verizon Consumer Group. 

      The deal may also be good news for Tracfone’s employees. Verizon says it will welcome into its fold each and every one of Tracfone’s nearly 850 valuable workers.

      Verizon has cut a deal with America Movil to acquire Tracfone, the leading stateside prepaid mobile provider in the U.S. The $6.25 billion price tag includ...
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      Home prices surged in August, industry report shows

      Changes brought on by COVID-19 are fueling the increase

      Six months into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, structural changes are occurring that continue to drive up the price of a home.

      Real estate brokerage firm Redfin reports that the median price of homes selling in August rose 13 percent year-over-year to a record $319,178 -- the largest increase since 2013. In the last six months, a growing imbalance between buyers and sellers has ignited housing inflation. 

      The necessity to work from home has suddenly made many apartment dwellers -- especially those with families -- decide they need more space. And because many people expect to continue working remotely for the foreseeable future, there has been a migration from cities -- especially New York -- to the suburbs and beyond.

      The Redfin report shows that home prices accelerated in conjunction with a big increase in sales. There was a 28 percent rise in the number of homes going under contract last month, the largest increase in five years.

      Tough on first-time buyers

      While sales are booming, inventory levels have continued to shrink. The number of homes on the market fell 28 percent from August 2019, which Redfin reports has been typical over the summer. Amazingly, more than 46 percent of homes sat on the market no more than two weeks before getting an offer.

      The average sale-to-list price ratio, which measures how close homes are selling to their asking prices, rose to 99.3 percent -- an all-time high and a full percentage point higher than a year earlier.

      All of this is great news if you are trying to sell your house, which fewer people are doing during the pandemic. It’s not so good if you are trying to buy a home.

      "Home price growth this high is making the housing market especially difficult for first-time homebuyers right now," said Redfin’s chief economist Daryl Fairweather. "Rising prices are just one more reason for people to leave expensive urban neighborhoods behind.”

      Affordability still a concern

      Fairweather notes that the trend of remote work may be opening opportunities for people in urban markets, where they may have good-paying jobs but still can’t afford a home. By moving to a smaller market, they may find their money goes farther and they can continue working remotely.

      At the same time, he says the increase in demand for housing in smaller, secondary markets is fueling price increases in those cities.  

      “Price growth may slow in 2021, but even if it does, high prices are going to continue to make affordability a concern for buyers," Fairweather said.

      Consumers trying to save enough for a down payment are getting squeezed from two directions. Not only do rising prices keep moving the goalposts for a home purchase, but a recent report from Freddie Mac found that rents keep going up as well.

      Just like the dwindling supply of homes for sale, the Freddie Mac report found more competition for rental units, causing the rental costs to rise faster than incomes.

      Six months into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, structural changes are occurring that continue to drive up the price of a home.Real estate brokera...
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      Model year 2019-2020 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 cab chassis recalled

      The vehicle could suffer from inadequate warmup protection

      Chrysler is recalling 32,318 model year 2019-2020 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 cab chassis built with a Cummins 6.7L High Output engine.

      Inadequate warmup protection can cause a lack of oil film on the engine connecting rod bearings while the engine is reaching operating temperature. This can result in engine damage and connecting rod failure, which could potentially puncture the engine block.

      A damaged engine block may leak oil, which can contact hot engine or exhaust components, increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will flash the engine calibration software to enhance the engine warm up protection free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W57.

      Chrysler is recalling 32,318 model year 2019-2020 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 cab chassis built with a Cummins 6.7L High Output engine. Inadequate warmup pr...
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      Russ Davis Wholesale recalls peaches and peach salsa

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Russ Davis Wholesale is recalling peach salsa under the Crazy Fresh and Quick & Easy brands.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      A list of the recalled products, sold in retail stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming, may be found here.

      In addition, some containers of peach salsa may have been purchased from the deli counter at grocery stores in Ortonville and Cross Lake, Minn., and Tipton, Iowa. Five Bountiful Fresh gift baskets, also containing the recalled peaches, were sold through one location in Hastings, Minn.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume, but discard them.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (877) 433-2173 between 8:00 am and 5:00pm (CST), or by email at customerservice@russdaviswholesale.com.

      Russ Davis Wholesale is recalling peach salsa under the Crazy Fresh and Quick & Easy brands. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. No ill...
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      Coronavirus update: Cases still on the rise, CDC says restaurants are a big factor

      Dr. Fauci is worried about cases rising during the fall and winter

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,401,371 (6,370,081)

      Total U.S. deaths: 191,842 (191,168)

      Total global cases: 28,219,714 (27,925,613)

      Total global deaths: 910,460 (905,089)

      Number of cases rises three consecutive days

      The number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. is on the rise again, with the number going up three days in a row this week.

      An analysis of data compiled by the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University shows that there were more than 35,000 cases of the virus. The total number of people who have contracted COVID-19 is more than 6.4 million, and nearly 192,000 people have died.

      A slight increase in testing may be responsible for the rising numbers. On the other hand, the increase coincides with college students’ return to campus, where a number of outbreaks have been reported.

      CDC: Reopening restaurants likely spread the virus

      A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that reopening bars and restaurants has made the COVID-19 situation worse.

      “Eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC said in its report. “Efforts to reduce possible exposures where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, such as when eating and drinking, should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.”

      The CDC reached its conclusion after studying a group of people from states with varying degrees of reopening who had tested positive for the virus.

      Dr. Fauci says America needs to ‘hunker down’

      The rise in coronavirus isn’t a surprise to most infectious disease experts, who have consistently warned that America could experience a “second wave” of the virus with the approach of colder weather.

      "We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it's not going to be easy," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID).

      Fauci said he’s been discouraged when looking at the latest curve, saying the country never was able to reduce the number of weekly cases to the level he had hoped.

      Dr. Gottlieb says the lockdown could have been avoided

      Now that we’re six months into the pandemic, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is looking in the rearview mirror at what might have been. Different action early on, he says, might have avoided the economic lockdown.

      If the U.S. had a national testing program ready to roll out in February. Gottlieb says policymakers might have been able to target stay-at-home measures without bringing the entire economy to a screeching halt.

      “When history looks back on this, the lack of situational awareness at that time is going to be remembered as the great failing,” he told CNBC.

      Marketing experts offer advice to restaurants

      New York City will reopen indoor dining at restaurants at the end of the month, but at only 25 percent of capacity. Some industry analysts say that, without take-out and outdoor seating, it’s almost impossible for restaurants to be profitable under those restrictions.

      Marketing experts at the University of Delaware have studied restaurants and their unique challenges and have offered some advice for survival. Number one on the list is maximizing the take-out aspect of the business. 

      Timothy Webb, an assistant professor of hospitality business management, says restaurants should also avoid altering the delivery menu from traditional pricing. “Customers know what prices are expected when ordering and the corresponding quality based on price,” he said.

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Gov. JB Pritzker has announced that a new employment program, using state and federal funds, will hire 1,300 people to engage in pandemic-related work. The announcement came as the hospitalization rate in the state continued to climb.

      • Ohio: States seeing their coronavirus cases mounting just happen to have a number of colleges within their borders. Miami University of Ohio has become the scene of the state’s second-worst outbreak.

      • Texas: The Texas American Federation of Teachers, whose members are mostly dubious of plans to reopen classrooms, has launched a new website to track COVID-19 cases, deaths, and questionable safety conditions in schools. Users will be able to search by district and campus and see reports on a map of Texas.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,401,371 (6,370,08...
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      Consumer groups claim Amazon is still inflating prices of essential products

      Amazon says it has removed thousands of merchants for price violations

      In separate reports this week, two consumer watchdog groups said Amazon and third-party sellers on its platform are still inflating prices of essential products.

      In the early days of the pandemic, many consumers complained that some Amazon merchants were selling hand sanitizer and paper towels at more than 10 times the prices they were charging in January. Researchers for Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) say six months later the practice continues. They say consumers shopping for these items need to consult more than one online platform to find the best price.

      “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon and that’s why our teams are monitoring our store 24/7 and have already removed over a million offers for attempted price gouging,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

      Face masks, toilet paper, and soap

      Amazon has published its pricing policy online and previously pointed out that it has suspended approximately 4,000 third-party merchants for violating its pricing policies, suggesting that the issue is being resolved.

      But the two groups insist they have found evidence to the contrary. Public Citizen reports finding inflated prices for the last six months on things like face masks, toilet paper, and antibacterial soap that have been marked up as much as 1000 percent. It says the overpriced items included those labeled as “sold by Amazon,” as well as items sold by third-party merchants.

      “Amazon has fundamentally misled the public, law enforcement and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic,” said Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen and author of the report. “Amazon has publicly blamed third-party sellers for price increases while continuing to raise prices on its own products and allowing those sellers to increase their prices.”

      Harman said the report underscores the need for a federal price-gouging law and for Amazon to “implement major reforms to its pricing and product listing practices.” Amazon, itself, voiced support for federal price-gouging legislation earlier this year.

      Examples

      Public Citizen listed these items, marketed over the last six months, as examples of price gouging:

      • A pack of 50 disposable face masks increased by 1,000 percent

      • Dial liquid antibacterial hand soap increased by 470 percent

      • A pack of 100 disposable hand gloves increased by 336 percent

      • A pack of eight 1000-sheet toilet paper rolls increased by 528 percent

      • A pack of eight Brawny paper towels increased by 303 percent

      • A five-pound eight-pack of Pillsbury unbleached flour increased by 425 percent

      • A one-pound box of Domino powdered sugar increased by 520 percent

      • A 6.5-ounce pack of Clabber Girl corn starch increased by 1,010 percent

      The USPIRG report looked at 10 staple products found on many shopping lists during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list specifically included hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and digital thermometers. 

      “Of these items, options from Amazon were two to fourteen times more expensive than the identical products sold at other retailers,” the authors wrote. 

      In separate reports this week, two consumer watchdog groups said Amazon and third-party sellers on its platform are still inflating prices of essential pro...
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      Customer reviews suggest dozens of AmazonBasics products are hazardous

      An investigation found reviews that described fires, electrical malfunctions, and other safety risks

      At least 70 products sold under Amazon’s “AmazonBasics” brand could pose a safety risk, according to a report from CNN. 

      During an investigation, CNN found more than a thousand customer reviews in which customers described startling events while using certain products. Customers said products were often associated with fires and other safety issues. 

      “Since 2016, at least 1,500 reviews, covering more than 70 items, have described products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks,” CNN said.

      Some products remain up for sale

      The affected products, many of which are still for sale on Amazon, include USB charging cables, a microwave, battery chargers, and office equipment. 

      In one case involving a microwave, a customer review said that the voice-activated appliance caught fire after a child heated up a macaroni and cheese cup. CNN investigated the product on its own and found that the microwave “began sparking and smoking” as soon as it was turned on. 

      In another review, a customer said an AmazonBasics USB cable melted on an office chair, ignited the upholstery, and started a house fire. 

      Amazon has discontinued some of the products CNN identified as problematic. However, the publication noted that around 30 items with three or more reviews include words like “hazard” or “fire” or suggest that the product should be recalled. 

      In a statement, Amazon said its AmazonBasics microwave is safe to use and that it thoroughly vets its products for safety. 

      “We take the safety of our products seriously, and are confident that the AmazonBasics Microwave is safe to use,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We take several steps to ensure our products are safe including rigorous testing by our safety teams and third-party labs. The appliance continues to meet or exceed all certification requirements established by the FDA, UL, FCC, Prop 65, and others for safety and functionality.”

      At least 70 products sold under Amazon’s “AmazonBasics” brand could pose a safety risk, according to a report from CNN. During an investigation, CNN fo...
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      Unofficial end of summer brings a drop in gasoline prices

      Moving into fall, AAA says consumers should see even lower prices

      The days immediately after Labor Day saw gasoline prices dip in most areas of the country as oil prices declined, along with demand for fuel.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.20 a gallon, two cents less than a week ago. The price hasn’t fluctuated more than six cents a gallon over the last month.

      The average price of premium gas is $2.81 a gallon, two cents less than last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel has remained stable over the last month at $2.42 a gallon.

      “Summer may be fading into the rearview mirror, but less expensive gas prices are not,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “Moving into fall we traditionally see a drop in demand and further savings at the pump. This year that means pump prices could possibly push even lower then we’ve already seen in 2020.”

      Prices declined in nearly every state during the week, though there were some exceptions. However, even when prices were higher it was usually no more than a penny or two over the previous week.

      In its mid-week report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed oil supplies grew over the last week while demand for gasoline declined. That sent oil prices even lower, closing Thursday below $40 a barrel.

      The states with the most expensive gas

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

      • California ($3.24)

      • Hawaii ($3.24)

      • Washington ($2.83)

      • Oregon ($2.66)

      • Nevada ($2.68)

      • Alaska ($2.55)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.51)

      • Utah ($2.47)

      • Idaho ($2.46)

      • Colorado ($2.34)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($1.88)

      • Texas ($1.89)

      • Louisiana ($1.91)

      • Missouri ($1.91)

      • Arkansas ($1.91)

      • Alabama ($1.91)

      • Oklahoma ($1.92)

      • South Carolina ($1.95)

      • Tennessee ($1.96)

      • Kansas ($1.99)

      The days immediately after Labor Day saw gasoline prices dip in most areas of the country as oil prices declined, along with demand for fuel.The AAA Fu...
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      Youth vaping numbers show modest decline since last year

      Health officials are still concerned about the 3.6 million youth who currently use e-cigarettes

      The number of children and teenagers who use e-cigarettes is slightly down this year, but not enough for health officials to stop calling it an “epidemic.” 

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a release that 3.6 million youths have used e-cigarettes this year. That’s down from 5.4 million in 2019. 

      "Although the decline in e-cigarette use among our nation's youth is a notable public health achievement, our work is far from over," said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield. "Youth e-cigarette use remains an epidemic, and [the] CDC is committed to supporting efforts to protect youth from this preventable health risk."

      Vaping still common among youth

      The CDC, which drew its findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, found that 8 in 10 middle and high school students who currently vape said they use flavored e-cigarettes. The use of mint and menthol flavored vaping products was also common among the demographic.

      Health officials have been attempting to curb the rise in teen vaping for several years now. Efforts to drive down the rate of vaping among youth have focused on cracking down on sales of flavored products, which have been found to appeal to minors. 

      Unfortunately, researchers have found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to continue vaping. 

      “While many children try e-cigarettes, not all become regular users,” said researcher Adam Leventhal, who worked on a 2019 study out of the University of Southern California “Teens who use e-cigarettes may be more inclined to continue vaping rather than just temporarily experiment with e-cigs.” 

      “The longer and more frequently you vape, the more you’re exposing yourself to toxins in e-cigarette aerosol and put yourself at risk of nicotine addiction,” Leventhal said. 

      Working to drive down the numbers

      In the latest analysis of data, the CDC found that 19.6 percent of high school students and 4.7 percent of middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2020 -- down from about 27 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in 2019.

      "These findings reinforce the importance of continuing to focus on the strategies that work to reduce youth tobacco product use while keeping pace with emerging trends in tobacco products," said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Implementing these strategies at the national, state and local levels is integral to preventing and reducing youth tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes.”

      In a statement, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said the agency “remains very concerned about the 3.6 million U.S. youth who currently use e-cigarettes” and that it “will do everything possible” to stop the health crisis. 

      "The findings come as we mark today's premarket review submission deadline, a milestone for ensuring new tobacco products, including many already on the market, undergo a robust scientific evaluation by the FDA,” Hahn said. “Scientific review of new products is a critical part of how we carry out our mission to protect the public -- especially kids -- from the harms associated with tobacco use.”

      The number of children and teenagers who use e-cigarettes is slightly down this year, but not enough for health officials to stop calling it an “epidemic.”...
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      Mall owners step in to purchase bankrupt JCPenney

      The deal would reportedly keep 650 stores open and save 70,000 jobs

      Two major shopping mall owners, likely alarmed at the possible liquidation of JCPenney stores that serve as mall anchors, have stepped in to buy the bankrupt retailer, according to a law firm handling the deal.

      An attorney for Kirkland & Ellis says Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners are putting the final touches on their offer of $800 million for the chain that declared bankruptcy in May after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sent its already-declining sales into a freefall.

      Attorney Joshua Sussberg told a court hearing that the rescue package will keep JCPenney operating in 650 stores and save about 70,000 jobs.

      The complex deal will give some hedge funds that loaned money to the retailer ownership of some JCPenney assets, including select stores and distribution centers. In return, the department store chain will be relieved of some of its $5 billion debt obligation.

      Also part of the deal, Wells Fargo will extend a $2 billion credit line, leaving JCPenney with a significantly smaller debt load and about $1 billion in cash.

      Previously, Sycamore Partners, parent company of Belks, was seen as a potential buyer. In July published reports suggested Sycamore Partners would purchase JC Penney and merge some of its stores with the smaller chain.

      Existential threat

      When it declared bankruptcy in May, JCPenney said it would close some of the 846 stores it had at the time. The potential loss of all JCPenney stores was viewed as an existential threat by the shopping mall industry, already suffering huge losses in foot traffic and dependent on its anchors, like JCPenney, Macy’s, and Sears to attract shoppers.

      The shift to online shopping during the pandemic has only made malls’ position in the marketplace more precarious. 

      A report in PYMNTS.COM in April summed up the problem for shopping malls, whose problems had suddenly been made worse.

      “Part of it is the public psyche,” University of Maryland marketing professor Jie Zhang told the industry publication. “This virus is likely not going to go away any time soon, and the one type of place where people will be much more vigilant about avoiding in the longer term will be those crowded, enclosed spaces. And that’s exactly what traditional shopping malls are.”

      Sussberg told the court the deal took a while to complete because of the large number of players and their competing interests. The sale proposal will be presented to the bankruptcy court for final approval.

      Two major shopping mall owners, likely alarmed at the possible liquidation of JCPenney stores that serve as mall anchors, have stepped in to buy the bankru...
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      Target pledges to prioritize recruitment of Black employees

      The retailer has a goal of hiring 20 percent more Black employees over the next few years

      Target has pledged to increase its number of Black employees by 20 percent over the next three years in an effort to combat racial inequality. 

      In a news release, the retailer said it intends to focus on hiring Black employees and encouraging their advancement in the company. The company also said it will also be conducting anti-racist trainings for leaders and team members, as well as developing programs to increase diversity in areas like technology, merchandising and marketing -- areas with low levels of Black representation. 

      Target says it’s already made progress in boosting diversity across its workforce, noting that more than half of its stores are run by women and a third are managed by people of color.

      “Inclusivity is a deeply rooted value at Target and we’ve had an ambitious diversity and inclusion strategy for many years for our guests and team,” chief human resources officer Melissa Kremer said in a news release. “We know that having a diverse workforce and inclusive environment not only creates a stronger team, but also provides the perspectives we need to create the products, services, experiences and messages our guests expect.”

      Prioritizing racial equality

      Protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police earlier this year have put pressure on companies to look at their diversity and inclusion practices. Black Americans still remain under-represented in many career areas. 

      Walmart has also announced new initiatives in support of racial equity. Over the next five years, the retailer will be putting $100 million toward creating a new center on racial equity. 

      “The goal of the center will be to address systemic racism in society head-on and accelerate change,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a June announcement. 

      McMillon said his company also intends to increase recruitment and support for people of color.

      Target has pledged to increase its number of Black employees by 20 percent over the next three years in an effort to combat racial inequality. In a new...
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      United Airlines and pilots union cut a deal to avoid furloughing 3,000 pilots

      The union is still waiting on congressional and White House leaders’ promises to help the airlines

      Staving off the warning that it broadcast in July, United Airlines and its 13,000-strong pilots’ union have reportedly reached an agreement to avoid furloughs of nearly 3,000 pilots.

      In August, the airline said it was on track to furlough or completely lay off 2,850 pilots by October 1, when the federal aid that protected those jobs was set to expire. 

      “Any potential mitigation must achieve our goals: stop planned furloughs, stop displacements, and include long-term permanent gains for any short-term, fully recoverable modifications,” Todd Insler, chairman of the United Airlines chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), told union members in a note on Tuesday, according to CNBC.

      Neither United or the union have provided details of the agreement, including how much time they’re going to give it or how it would give the airline sufficient working capital to keep the lid on furloughs. The agreement needs to be approved by union members and leaders.

      United said in a statement that it’s still committed to reducing the number of involuntary furloughs. Company officials said they were “happy we were able to reach an agreement in principle with ALPA that can potentially save pilot jobs.”  

      Holding out hope

      With airlines’ hopes for a quick recovery dashed for the foreseeable future, airline labor unions are still nudging lawmakers to approve an additional $25 billion in aid that could keep jobs in place through the end of March 2021.

      In a recent letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the ALPA reminded those leaders that they need to follow through on the promises they've made.

      “We are heartened by public statements by government leaders about a COVID-19 economic relief package such as ‘We’ll be helping the airlines’ and affirming that ‘a bipartisan agreement still should be reached’ as well as committing to ‘save the lives and livelihoods of the American people.’” wrote Capt. Joseph G. DePete, President Air Line Pilots Association, and Sara Nelson International President Association of Flight Attendants. 

      “We appreciate these sentiments and urge you to return to the negotiating table to translate these words into action— action that will save jobs and ensure that the United States remains the world’s aviation economic engine.”

      Staving off the warning that it broadcast in July, United Airlines and its 13,000-strong pilots’ union have reportedly reached an agreement to avoid furlou...
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      Smith’s recalls Murray's, Jarlsberg and Deli cheese dips

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Smith’s is recalling Murray's, Jarlsberg and Deli cheese dips that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No customer illnesses have been confirmed to date.

      A list of the recalled iteems, sold in plastic containers from May 15, 2020, and August 6, 2020, may be found here.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

      Consumers with questions may contact Kroger customer connect at (800) 576-4377 Monday – Friday, 7:00 AM -- Midnight (EST), and Saturday and Sunday 7:00 AM -- 9:30 PM (EST).

      Smith’s is recalling Murray's, Jarlsberg and Deli cheese dips that may be contaminated with Salmonella. No customer illnesses have been confirmed to dat...
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      Chrysler recalls Mopar All-Weather Floor Mat Kits

      The mats may interfere with the pedals

      Chrysler is recalling 34,034 Mopar All-Weather Floor Mat Kits (Crew - Big/Horn/Laramie, and Crew - Laramie with product numbers 82215320AB, 82215320AC, 82215321AB, 82215321AC, 82215322AB, 82215323AB, 82215322AC, 82215323AC, 82215421AB, 82215421AC, 82215422AB, and 82215422AC).

      The mats were sold as accessory equipment in 2018, 2019 and 2020 for use in model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500 vehicles with adjustable pedals.

      In certain accelerator pedal positions, the floormats may prevent the pedal from returning to the normal resting (idle) position.

      A pedal that does not return as expected may affect the vehicle's deceleration, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will modify the driver's floormat to remove the potential for pedal interference free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W64.

      Chrysler is recalling 34,034 Mopar All-Weather Floor Mat Kits (Crew - Big/Horn/Laramie, and Crew - Laramie with product numbers 82215320AB, 82215320AC, 822...
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      Our 4 favorite NFL kickoff party tips

      Check out these entertaining and safe ways to enjoy the first game of the season

      The NFL is back this week, and we’re ready to celebrate. While the pandemic may limit your usual tailgating plans, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy football season while staying safe. Keep these tips in mind:

      1. Social distancing is key

      Remember, practicing social distancing is crucial, especially if you’re indoors. Here are two ways you can do this:

      • Explore video communication apps: There are many great video chat apps, and several of them are free to try. Although the person-to-person experience may be different, it’s safer than a crowded living room and still lets your friends shout at their rivals in one place.
      • Porch game parties: The concept is similar to a block party, only you and your neighbors enjoy the games on your porches or shaded driveways. You can shout and cheer with everyone while staying appropriately distanced. If you're looking for a way to show the game to more people outside your living room, check out this cool mini projector.
      • 1920 x 1080 resolution
      • Screen size from 32” - 170”

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Plan your snacks ahead of time

      According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is best to use delivery or curbside pickup when grocery shopping. If you must go to the store, remember that COVID-19 safety recommendations are still in effect. Here are some helpful pointers to help you make your trip as safe and effective as possible:

      • Decide what you need to buy early
      • Create a shopping list to ensure you don’t forget anything
      • Shop during off-peak hours
      • Make sure to use personal protective equipment (PPE)
      • Over 95% filtration efficiency
      • FDA- and CE-registered

      Buy on Honest PPE Supply

      3. Get in the spirit

      Just because your kickoff party is more low-key than usual, that doesn’t mean your walls should be bare. Decorate your house with your team’s colors, wear your favorite player’s jersey and ring in every touchdown with a noisemaker. Now is the best time to show your NFL spirit with some cool decor!

      • 100% guarantee
      • Eco-friendly materials

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Pre-game movie marathon

      A fantastic idea to ramp your football spirit up for the game is to have a football movie marathon and stream it in a watch party. Several streaming services — including Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime — have "watch party" modes where you and other streaming members can watch great films and chat simultaneously. You can also explore specific watch party apps if your streaming service doesn't support group viewing.

      • 75 hours of HD storage
      • Record 2 shows at once

      Buy on Amazon

      Our kickoff parties may be a little different this year as everyone takes the proper precautions. It’s important to do everything you can to stay safe. To help clean up after the game wraps up, check out our list of favorite cleaning service apps.

      Here are some great tips for your kickoff celebration during the pandemic....
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      Coronavirus update: A pause in a vaccine trial, many people still struggling financially

      Iowa is keeping its bars open

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,334,158 (6,306,412)

      Total U.S. deaths: 189,972 (189,236)

      Total global cases: 27,628,190 (27,372,211)

      Total global deaths: 898,757 (893.382)

      AstraZeneca pauses its vaccine trial

      A day after pledging that it would put safety above all else, AstraZeneca suspended its vaccine trial after one subject got sick with an unexplained illness.

      The company had been conducting trials in a number of countries. The person who became ill was participating in a trial in the U.K. 

      The vaccine candidate, developed in collaboration with Oxford University, is seen as one of the most promising. AstraZeneca had previously said it could have doses available for distribution this fall if the drug clears regulatory hurdles.

      Poll finds people in large cities struggling financially

      While some areas of the economy appear to be thriving during the pandemic, a poll of residents in four large cities finds that half are experiencing a major economic setback from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The poll was conducted through a joint effort by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

      The poll of residents in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston found minority households had been particularly hard-hit. In Houston, 77 percent of Latino households and 81 percent of African American households reported serious financial difficulty.

      "Before federal coronavirus support programs even expired, we found millions of people with very serious problems with their finances," said Robert Blendon, a poll co-director and executive director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard Chan School.

      Iowa still resists mask mandate

      Coronavirus cases are rising in Midwest states, but they’re experiencing a particularly sharp uptick in Iowa, which has distinguished itself by resisting the mitigation efforts many other states have adopted. Gov. Kim Reynolds has declined recommendations by the White Task Force to close bars and has so far resisted calls to require residents to wear masks in public.

      But Iowa is not the only Midwestern state where cases of the virus are on the rise. North Dakota holds the distinction of having the largest number of positive cases per capita in the country over the past 14 days.

      Iowa has joined South Dakota in enduring the largest increases in cases on a percentage basis. Missouri has recorded more than 1,300 new cases a day on average over the last week.

      Kroger offers flu shot promotion to combat COVID-19

      Flu season is fast approaching, and health officials have expressed concern that a nasty flu season could make the COVID-19 pandemic even worse. Getting the virus on top of a case of the flu could increase the threat, they warn.

      Kroger today announced it is expanding its flu shot program to make it available to more people in more places. Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, says the program is aimed at taking the pressure off of other health care facilities.

      "At our COVID-19 drive-thru test sites, we were able to assist thousands of people in getting a test in a short amount of time,” she said. “By using that model to provide flu shots, we hope to provide more customers with a safe, convenient option to get vaccinated."  

      COVID-19 causing surge in demand for egg cartons

      If you’re scratching your head after reading that headline, we can’t blame you. How in the world is a potentially deadly virus increasing the need for egg cartons? The answer is “indirectly.”

      As people have spent more time at home over the last six months, there has been a surge in baking. And when you bake things, you normally use a few eggs. If you’ve noticed eggs costing more lately, that is one of the reasons why.

      But those eggs have to go in some kind of container, and the industry reports that demand for egg cartons has seldom been higher. A report by the Freedonia Group projects that U.S. demand for egg cartons is expected to increase 3.6 percent this year to about 4.7 billion units.

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she’s concerned that both President Trump and challenger Joe Biden plan to hold campaign events in her state this week. But Whitmer, a Democrat, tells CNN that Biden’s event will be safer because the candidate has embraced the use of masks.

      • Tennessee: The number of coronavirus cases at the University of Tennessee continues to rise. The university now reports 2,000 students are in isolation. "We are evaluating a range of options, and let me be clear, everything is on the table at this point," said Chancellor Donde Plowman.

      • New Mexico: The state’s number of coronavirus cases has consistently fallen over the past few weeks, but critics point out that testing has also declined. State health officials say there is plenty of testing capacity, but they admit that the numbers have declined because there is less demand.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 6,334,158 (6,306,41...
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      Drinking alcohol increases risk of high blood pressure for those with type 2 diabetes, study finds

      Researchers say limiting alcohol consumption could lead to better health outcomes

      Recent studies have highlighted the negative health effects associated with alcohol consumption -- even in the most limited quantities. Now, researchers from the American Heart Association have identified those with type 2 diabetes as a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to drinking.  

      According to a new study, having more than one alcoholic drink per day could increase the risk of high blood pressure for those with type 2 diabetes. 

      “This is the first large study to specifically investigate the association of alcohol intake and hypertension among adults with type 2 diabetes,” said researcher Dr. Matthew J. Singleton. “Previous studies have suggested that heavy alcohol consumption was associated with high blood pressure, however, the association of moderate alcohol consumption with high blood pressure was unclear.” 

      The risks of moderate alcohol consumption

      The researchers had over 10,000 participants, all with type 2 diabetes, participate in the study. At the start of the study, the participants reported on how many alcoholic beverages they consumed per week, and the researchers monitored their blood pressure readings over the course of the study. 

      The biggest takeaway that the researchers gleaned was that excessive alcohol consumption greatly increases consumers’ risk of high blood pressure. However, they learned that even drinking moderately throughout the week can be problematic for those struggling with type 2 diabetes. Moderate drinking was defined as having eight to 14 drinks per week, and participants who fell into this group were nearly 80 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure. 

      These findings were consistent with those from another study, which found that moderate drinking for all consumers -- regardless of diabetes status -- can have a negative impact on blood pressure. 

      Limiting alcohol consumption

      The researchers learned that having a few drinks each week didn’t compromise participants’ blood pressure. Because of this, they recommend that consumers with type 2 diabetes take these findings into consideration when thinking about their own alcohol consumption. 

      “People with type 2 diabetes are at a higher cardiovascular risk, and our findings indicate that alcohol consumption is associated with hypertension, so limited drinking is recommended,” said Dr. Singleton. 

      Recent studies have highlighted the negative health effects associated with alcohol consumption -- even in the most limited quantities. Now, researchers fr...
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      Walmart launches drone delivery pilot

      Drone delivery would help the retailer further expand its delivery options

      Walmart has teamed up with on-demand drone delivery company FlyTrex to test a program through which consumers can get grocery and household essentials delivered via an automated drone. 

      The retailer started piloting the program in Fayetteville, N.C. on Wednesday. Walmart said FlyTrex drones are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard. 

      “We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone. That still feels like a bit of science fiction,” said Tom Ward, Walmart's senior vice president of customer product, in a blog post. 

      Through the pilot, Ward said the company is hoping to gain insight into how the program would look when implemented on a larger scale. Walmart, like other retailers, is currently attempting to expand its pickup and delivery services amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

      "At the end of the day, it’s learnings from pilots such as this that will help shape the potential of drone delivery on a larger scale and, true to the vision of our founder, take Walmart beyond where we’ve been,” Ward said.

      Amazon also testing drone delivery

      Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration gave Amazon approval to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. The agency said it’s confident in Amazon’s drone operating and safety procedures. 

      "The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis,” the agency said. 

      Walmart has teamed up with on-demand drone delivery company FlyTrex to test a program through which consumers can get grocery and household essentials deli...
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      Boeing warns of delays in delivery of new Dreamliner aircraft

      The carrier says three separate production flaws have been discovered

      Boeing said Tuesday that a trio of production flaws discovered over the past year could delay deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner, the aircraft the company has been developing as an alternative to its embattled 737 MAX. 

      The latest flaw, found in February and disclosed on Tuesday, involves the 787’s horizontal stabilizer (also known as the tail). Boeing said that during the fabrication process, some of the parts were “clamped with greater force than specified, which could result in improper gap verification and shimming,” Reuters reported. 

      The issue could make it necessary for officials to inspect roughly 900 of the jets, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Tuesday that it “is investigating manufacturing flaws affecting certain Boeing 787 jetliners. The agency continues to engage with Boeing.”

      Boeing has been attempting to revive its business and win back public support following two deadly crashes that led to the carrier’s 737 MAX being grounded globally. The company has set out to posit its 787 Dreamliner as its primary “cash cow” in the wake of the crashes, since consumers will likely remain hesitant to board Boeing’s 737 MAX jet for some time.

      The FAA said on Monday that it was also investigating two other issues in some of the carrier’s 787 Dreamliner’s, in addition to the tail flaw. FAA officials said it’s too soon to tell if these flaws will warrant new inspections. 

      Boeing said Tuesday that a trio of production flaws discovered over the past year could delay deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner, the aircraft the company ha...
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      Home purchase mortgage applications surged last week

      Rock-bottom mortgage rates are still drawing buyers into an increasingly competitive market

      The housing market is showing no signs of a slowdown heading into the fall. Mortgage applications for home purchases rose 3 percent last week from the week before and were 40 percent higher than a year ago.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) says year-over-year changes to its seasonally adjusted index rarely approach 10 percent, suggesting this year’s housing market, affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is breaking the mold.

      Industry analysts say the market has drawn in more buyers over the summer because of a number of factors. There has been a traceable migration from cities to the suburbs since the pandemic hit, and there has been anecdotal evidence that many people, confined to apartments for two months, have sought more room afforded by single-family homes.

      At the same time, interest rates have made home purchases more attractive and more affordable. MBA reports that the average 30-year fixed-rate conventional loan rate on balances up to $510,400 is 3.07 percent. The rate on a 15-year mortgage is at a record low 2.62 percent.

      More affordable

      Lower interest rates are making home purchases more affordable, with real estate broker Redfin documenting how much added buying power they provide. In its latest report, Redfin found that a buyer with a $2,500 monthly housing budget can afford a home priced $33,250 higher than a year ago, just because of lower rates.

      At a 3 percent mortgage interest rate—roughly the average 30-year fixed rate for July and August—a homebuyer can afford a $516,500 home on $2,500 per month, up from the $483,250 they could afford on the same budget when the average was 3.77 percent  in July 2019.

      But Redfin says that extra buying power may not last. The reason? Home prices are rising almost as fast as sales.

      “Low mortgage rates are motivating many people to purchase a home, particularly those who want more space to work from home," said Redfin’s chief economist Daryl Fairweather. "But because there hasn't been an increase in the number of homes for sale since rates started dropping with the onset of the pandemic, many buyers end up competing for the same homes, driving up prices.”

      Because of those competing forces, buyers in highly competitive markets are in roughly the same situation as last year. Fairweather says buyers seeking a condo can usually find a better deal, both on overall price and mortgage payments, because most condos are less competitive than single-family homes as people move out of densely populated urban areas.

      The housing market is showing no signs of a slowdown heading into the fall. Mortgage applications for home purchases rose 3 percent last week from the week...
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      Model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500s with adjustable pedals recalled

      The all-weather floor mats may interfere with the pedals

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 160,229 model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500s with adjustable pedals.

      In certain accelerator pedal positions, the floormats may prevent the pedal from returning to the normal resting (idle) position.

      A pedal that does not return as expected may affect the vehicle's deceleration, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will modify the driver's floormat to remove the potential for pedal interference free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler's customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W63.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 160,229 model year 2019-2020 Ram 1500s with adjustable pedals. In certain accelerator pedal positions, the floormats ...
      Read lessRead more