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    New Boeing study proves effectiveness of cleaning tools and methods to stave off COVID-19 on aircraft

    The airplane manufacturer says it will continue to validate the effectiveness of various disinfectants

    A new joint study from aircraft manufacturer Boeing and the University of Arizona shows that cleaning tools and techniques effectively destroy the virus that causes COVID-19.

    The significance of that silver lining could go a long way in giving travelers the confidence to take back to the skies and set some of their clouded fears about the health safety of an airplane aside.

    As part of its Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) -- an effort to support customers and enhance the safety and well-being of passengers and crews during the COVID-19 pandemic -- the tests were performed on a real but unoccupied Boeing airplane against a live virus called MS2. The University of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Sciences then compared those results to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

    With a forecasted spike in coronavirus cases and cold weather -- an environment COVID spreads easily in -- upon many of us, the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is getting renewed interest.

    Why MS2 and not the actual COVID virus?

    Using MS2 instead of an actual COVID-19 virus might be a head-scratcher to the non-scientists among us, but according to the scientists involved in the study, MS2 served two purposes.

    First, it is safe and harmless to humans. Secondly, it’s more difficult to kill than SARS-CoV-2. Scientific and industry studies have used the MS2 virus for years, but until now, never in an airplane cabin. 

    “While these cleaning solutions had been tested in other environments, an airplane behaves differently. It was critical for us to evaluate and confirm the chemicals and techniques we recommend for our customers’ use are effective and battle-tested,” said Mike Delaney, who leads Boeing's CTI efforts. “By working with the University of Arizona, we were able to employ their world-renowned expertise in virology to do exactly that.”

    Everything from overhead bins to arm rests tested

    The MS2 virus was strategically placed on high-touch points throughout the aircraft’s cabin in areas that fliers are most likely to come in contact with -- seat tray tables, arm rests, seat cushions, the bathroom, overhead bins, and the galley. 

    Technicians then disinfected each area with various products and technologies in two separate ways -- manual wiping and also with an electrostatic sprayer like United Airlines employs.

    The tests also measured how well Boeing’s own ultraviolet wand and antimicrobial coatings worked. Antimicrobials are long-lasting coatings that destroy germs and viruses on surfaces and American Airlines was given the OK to use that method by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year.

    The final analysis

    After Boeing did its part, the University of Arizona then performed a post-infection analysis on each high-touch area to determine effectiveness. The final results were a mix of various levels of effectiveness, but Boeing claims that “ultimately all the recommended products, methods and technologies successfully destroyed the MS2 virus.”

    Boeing said while the first test showed impressive results, it’s not going to stop there. In a statement, the company said it will continue to work with the University of Arizona to test recommended cleaning methods against SARS-CoV-2 and other similar viruses so they could further validate their effectiveness.

    A new joint study from aircraft manufacturer Boeing and the University of Arizona shows that cleaning tools and techniques effectively destroy the virus th...
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    Moviegoers starting to feel confident about returning to theaters

    A survey finds consumers are beginning to think of going to the movies as a safe activity

    A new survey of U.S. moviegoers from Comscore shows that movie fans are starting to feel more confident heading off to a theater, mostly because of the aggressive safety procedures implemented by exhibitors. 

    The survey results are a welcome sigh of relief for theaters, especially for the country’s largest theatre chain, AMC, which was about to throw in the towel after trying every trick it could -- including 15-cent movies -- to try and stay afloat while moviegoers hunkered down at home bingeing on Netflix and other streaming services. 

    The key takeaways

    Comscore’s survey revealed three key insights into the rehabbed moviegoer experience:

    • Consumers had positive experiences. An impressive 92 percent had a positive experience at the movies with 60 percent of those saying, “It was great, glad to be back at the movies.”

    • Boredom was a driving factor: Pandemic-driven boredom turned out to be a big reason why movie fans have returned to the box office. Fifty-one percent say they were driven back to the movies by their desire to socialize, particularly with their friends and family, and get back to normal outside-the-home routines.

    • New films brought in customers. Finally, aside from going to the movies being considered a safe activity, recently released blockbuster films were considered very compelling as “a new film I had to see” was one of the most important factors in their decision to return to the movie theater.

    “Now that US moviegoers have begun going back to the multiplex, exhibition is clearly doing a great job of creating an environment that exudes the essential values of health and safety in the era of COVID-19,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst, Comscore. 

    “A great in-theater experience combined with new and exciting movies from the most notable studios are a combination that is resonating strongly with audiences who are responding enthusiastically to their big screen theatrical experience.”

    Trivia nights and classrooms?

    Yes, the public’s perception that it’s safe to return to the theaters is a good sign, but not every theater has the muscle and reserves that a chain like AMC does. In some situations, smaller operators are turning to other ways to generate some income while the pandemic is still a factor.

    In its coverage of the situation, CNBC found that National Amusements, owner of the Showcase Cinemas chain, is working with libraries to show movies that are based on books and also with museums to play documentaries that are tied to exhibits.

    Another creative play or two came from the smaller players. Some turned parking lots into concert venues, others traded blockbuster opening weekends for trivia nights, and some of the more future-thinking ones cut deals with local colleges to rent out the space for in-person learning.

    “We’ve made the commitment to keep our doors open, keep our people working,” Jason Ostrow, vice president of development at Texas-based chain Star Cinema Grill, told CNBC “Their sole purpose is to innovate and find ways to drive business however they can.”

    A new survey of U.S. moviegoers from Comscore shows that movie fans are starting to feel more confident heading off to a theater, mostly because of the agg...
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      COVID-19 continues to distort the housing market

      Zillow explores why there are so few homes for sale

      When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the U.S. in March, the nation’s housing market was already facing a shortage of homes for sale. Since then, the imbalance between buyers and sellers has gotten a lot bigger.

      Online real estate marketplace Zillow has just published new research that explores the reason for the disparity. It has always been clear that fewer people are putting their homes on the market, but Zillow wanted to know why.

      The answers all revolve around the pandemic. Uncertainty, likely caused by COVID-19, is keeping more than a third of would-be sellers out of the market. Financial anxiety is a big part of that, the survey found.

      Thirty-one percent point to financial worries as a reason to stay in their current home, with 27 percent saying they recently suffered a loss in household income. While they might find ready buyers for their home, they worry about qualifying for a mortgage to purchase a new one.

      Future of work-from-home

      Others who are still employed are waiting to see what employers decide about the remote workplace. They like working from home and, if allowed to do it permanently, say they would consider selling their current home and moving to another area.

      Because there are fewer homes on the market, and more people are trying to buy a home, home prices have risen quickly since the pandemic began. The median home price in September surged by a record 15 percent, to $320,625, according to a report from real estate broker Redfin. It also found that prices have been rising more quickly since early July.

      In August, pending home sales were up 26 percent year-over-year, and homes sold almost as fast as they could be listed. More than 45 percent of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within the first two weeks on the market. Because of that, some would-be sellers are in no hurry.

      No ‘right time’ to sell

      "Potential sellers are likely correct that home prices have yet to reach their peak, but in the long run, prices tend to rise, so there's no clear 'right time' to sell," said Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker. "Homeowners who feel life is uncertain right now may think they can still get a strong price if they delay selling until they have more clarity.”

      But there is some risk in that strategy. They may get more for their home when they decide to sell but the cost of their new home is also likely to be higher.

      “This fall's record-low mortgage rates, which make a trade-up more affordable on a monthly basis, are not guaranteed to last," Tucker said.

      When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the U.S. in March, the nation’s housing market was already facing a shortage of homes for sale. Since then, th...
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      IRS sets tax inflation adjustments for 2021

      The standard deduction will increase by $150 per person

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released its 2021 inflation adjustments that affect more than 60 federal income tax provisions. They don’t affect what you’ll pay next year, but rather they impact your tax liability in 2022.

      In 2021, the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for the tax year 2021 will rise to $25,100, up $300 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction will rise to $12,550 for 2021, up $150, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $18,800 for the tax year 2021, up $150.

      The personal exemption for the tax year 2021 remains at 0, as it was for 2020. The elimination of the personal exemption was a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

      While the Nov. 3 election could change what you’ll pay in future taxes, currently for the 2021 tax year the top federal tax rate remains 37 percent for individual single taxpayers with incomes greater than $523,600 or $628,300 for married couples filing jointly.

      The rates for people earning less than that are:

      • 35 percent, for incomes over $209,425 ($418,850 for married couples filing jointly);

      • 32 percent for incomes over $164,925 ($329,850 for married couples filing jointly);

      • 24 percent for incomes over $86,375 ($172,750 for married couples filing jointly)

      • 22 percent for incomes over $40,525 ($81,050 for married couples filing jointly)

      • 12 percent for incomes over $9,950 ($19,900 for married couples filing jointly)

      • The lowest rate is 10 percent for incomes of single individuals with incomes of $9,950 or less ($19,900 for married couples filing jointly)

      No limits on itemized deductions

      For 2021 -- as in 2020, 2019, and 2018 -- there is no limitation on itemized deductions, as that limitation was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, Democrats have said they plan to reconsider that law should they regain the White House.

      The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption amount for the tax year 2021 is $73,600 and begins to phase out at $523,600 -- $114,600 for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $1,047,200.

      The 2020 exemption amount was $72,900 and began to phase out at $518,400, or $113,400 for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption began to phase out at $1,036,800.

      The IRS also clarified what consumers can contribute to tax-deferred retirement accounts. Employees can still put away $19,500, or $26,000 if they are aged 50 or older, thanks to the catch-up contribution limit, unchanged at $6,500. 

      Individual retirement account contribution limits are also the same for 2021 — $6,000 with an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 for people 50 and older. SIMPLE retirement accounts still have the limit at $13,500 for next year. 

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released its 2021 inflation adjustments that affect more than 60 federal income tax provisions. They don’t affect wh...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2020 GLE and GLS vehicles

      Some electrical components may malfanction

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 12,799 model year 2020 GLE 350s, GLE 450s, GLE 580s, GLS 450s, and GLS 580s with an optional illuminated Mercedes-Benz star logo in the front grill.

      The star logo's electrical ground connection may not be installed properly, potentially affecting the function of other components that share the same ground connection, such as the power steering control unit, wiper motor, and/or the left headlight.

      A malfunction of any of these components could pose the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will relocate the ground connection free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 8, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 12,799 model year 2020 GLE 350s, GLE 450s, GLE 580s, GLS 450s, and GLS 580s with an optional illuminated Mercedes-Be...
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      Bed Bath & Beyond recalls SALT Lounge Chairs

      The locking mechanism on the chair frame can disengage

      Bed Bath & Beyond of Union, N.J., is recalling about 10,330 SALT Lounge Chairs sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The locking mechanism on the chair frame can disengage, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received 19 reports of chairs breaking, including four reports of minor injuries from falls.

      This recall involves SALT Lounge Chairs sold in gray with SKU 69476172/UPC 444800007102; and black with SKU 69476173/UPC 444800002947.

      The chairs consist of a metal tube frame, a fabric seat cushion, and a locking mechanism on each side of the frame.

      The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold at Bed Bath & Beyond stores nationwide and online at www.bedbathandbeyond.com from April 2020, through August 2020, for about $40.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled lounge chairs and return them to any Bed Bath & Beyond location for a full refund of the purchase price, or a merchandise credit if the consumer’s purchase price cannot be determined.

      Consumers may contact Bed Bath & Beyond at 98000 462-3966 from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. (ET), seven days a week or online at www.bedbathandbeyond.com and click on “Product Recall Information” at the bottom of the page for more information. Consumers may also click on “Help” at the bottom of the page to reach a Customer Service representative via email.

      Bed Bath & Beyond of Union, N.J., is recalling about 10,330 SALT Lounge Chairs sold in the U.S. and Canada. The locking mechanism on the chair frame can...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. setting records, AstraZeneca reports progress

      Pandemic history may be repeating itself

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,646,085 (8,581,574)

      Total U.S. deaths: 225,282 (224,912}

      Total global cases: 43,187,134 (42,765,183)

      Total global deaths: 1,155,653 (1,151,267)

      Daily virus spread at record high

      New cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are spreading at a record rate. An analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows the average daily growth in cases hit a record high over the weekend, with more than 80,000 new cases on Saturday alone.

      “We are likely to see a very dense epidemic,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner (FDA) Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday. “I think we are right now at the cusp of what is going to be exponential spread in parts of the country.”

      Hopeful report on AstraZeneca vaccine

      AstraZeneca today reported some promising results from its coronavirus vaccine clinical trials. It reports the drug produced an immune response in both older and younger adults.

      The company also says that adverse side effects from the vaccine were less than expected, suggesting the potential vaccine could be widely deployed among the most vulnerable population.

      The company’s announcement Monday that the vaccine appears to be working on subjects of all ages could raise hopes that the vaccine might be ready for distribution by the end of the year.

      Pandemic history is repeating itself, researcher says

      If we go back in time to just over 100 years ago, we might see a familiar sight. A deadly virus killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in just a few months. Health officials made rules to stop its spread, but those rules varied widely across the country.

      Many people wore masks to block the germs, but some refused. It worked for a while, but the number of cases kept rising, resulting in hundreds of thousands of more deaths. Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, says that’s exactly what happened during the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic.

      “I really do fear that, between COVID-19 and the regular seasonal flu, this coming winter and spring could be as bad as, or worse than, what we saw in the horrible spring of 2020,” he said.

      Scientists learn how the virus spread in New York

      New York City and the surrounding area became the epicenter of the coronavirus in April, and researchers recently determined that the virus arrived mostly from Europe. But after that, they now say the spread was mostly a local affair.

      A new analysis by scientists at NYU Langone Health shows that most of the spread through the New York area was within the community, as opposed to coming from people who had traveled.

      Previous testing had detected the first case of the virus on March 3 before infections exploded throughout the metropolitan area, leading to 260,600 positive cases by mid-May.

      "Our findings show that New York's early screening test methods missed the onset and roots of the outbreak by several days at the minimum," says study co-lead author Matthew Maurano. "The work strongly suggests that to nip future outbreaks in the bud, we need a system of rapid, plentiful real-time genetic surveillance as well as traditional epidemiologic indicators."

      Pence chief of staff tests positive

      Key members of the Trump administration continue to be affected by the coronavirus. Weeks after President Trump contracted the virus, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence and four others on the staff have tested positive for the virus.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that Marty Obst, Pence’s longtime political adviser, was one of those who also tested positive for the virus. Pence, meanwhile, is keeping up a busy campaign schedule with less than two weeks to go before the election.

      That drew criticism from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, who pointed out that she cancelled campaign appearances after one of her top aides tested positive.

      Around the nation

      • Michigan: Hospitalizations in two counties are up more than 80 percent after a recent spike in cases of the virus. Despite that, state health officials say most hospitals still have the capacity to serve more patients.

      • Nevada: UNLV epidemiologist Brian Labus says the largest growth of coronavirus cases in the state is among college-age adults. He attributes it to “COVID fatigue,” describing frustrated and restless residents who now choose to ignore recommended pandemic precautions.

      • Florida: Public health officials warn the state is on the cusp of a resurgence in coronavirus cases. They link the increase to the state’s Phase 3 reopening plan that saw most bars and restaurants resume operations.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,646,085 (8,581,57...
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      Consumers think Halloween’s biggest fright is the scare the pandemic is putting on their finances

      Almost half of consumers think credit card debt is scarier than COVID-19, a survey finds

      With the pandemic’s first Halloween less than a week away, a new WalletHub study finds that consumers are still spending billions on the holiday, but overall, they’re feeling life is a little spookier than they’d prefer.

      The survey -- WalletHub’s Halloween Spending & Financial Fears Survey -- lays out these consumer frights:

      • A whopping 130 million Americans think the coronavirus is the scariest thing about Halloween this year.

      • Nearly 40 percent of Americans are more afraid of credit card debt than the coronavirus.

      “Almost 40 percent of Americans are more scared of credit card debt than the coronavirus in part because of political allegiances, but also due to the fact that credit card debt might seem more tangible to an indebted individual who has yet to know someone with COVID-19,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. 

      “Current events aside, money was the number one stressor for Americans for many years before the coronavirus pandemic, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that credit card debt and money problems in general still scare a lot of us, maybe even more so than before.”

      Money concerns are widespread this year

      The survey found that the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of consumers experiencing money-related worries.

      • Concerns about money problems are hitting 22 million more people this year than last year;

      • Close to 90 percent of Americans think that politicians prey on peoples' financial fears;

      • Roughly 13 million more Americans are scared about their kids' financial futures in 2020 than in 2019;

      • Almost 33 percent of people think their finances are a personal horror show.

      Gonzalez said that consumers think the “horror show” label applies for a variety of reasons, including the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy, as well as debt levels which continue to be high despite showing recent improvement.

      “It’s tough to say your finances are looking good when you’re out of work or waiting for business to pick back up. You can’t ignore the possibility that some people are just being dramatic when saying their finances are a horror show, either,” she said.

      With the pandemic’s first Halloween less than a week away, a new WalletHub study finds that consumers are still spending billions on the holiday, but overa...
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      Two firms team up to help baby boomers downsize

      One of the objectives is to keep unwanted household items out of landfills

      Every day, baby boomers across America begin the process of downsizing, moving from a large home where they raised a family into smaller quarters that require less maintenance. Along the way, they discard lots of household items they accumulated over the years.

      The William C. Huff Companies, which operates moving and storage firms, is partnering with Renovation Angel to help boomers downsize while keeping millions of unwanted household items out of landfills.

      The two companies collaborated on the approach. Renovation Angel distributes unwanted household items to people who need and want them. William C. Huff Companies moves or stores the rest.

      Their solution, called Downsizing Help, assists couples when they downsize and helps families liquidate an estate when a parent or family member dies. The companies say there are three goals -- to make the process easy, reduce the waste that ends up in landfills, and secure tax breaks for people who are downsizing.

      Tax breaks

      The companies say that the responsible recycling of unwanted household items can benefit community organizations while producing a tax saving of $3700 per $10,000 of donated items per family. The value of the donated items can be deducted from federal income tax returns

      "As large estates are bought, many new homeowners choose to discard everything in the home and renovate the home to meet new styles and designs, often sending 'like new' cabinets and appliances to landfills,” said Jim Henderson, owner of William C. Huff Companies. 

      “Also, when homeowners downsize they often need to rid themselves of the contents of the entire home which are no longer needed or wanted because they are moving into retirement communities where their new homes come fully furnished," Henderson said.  

      Henderson says the donated items now end up in thrift stores instead of landfills and find a ready market. Consumers can purchase those unwanted items for a fraction of their value. And the emphasis on the environment doesn’t stop there.

      Emphasis on the environment

      “Providing logistics with low emission vehicles and storing items to be repurposed in a sustainable, solar-powered warehouse, hundreds of thousands of pounds of CO2 are cut from our environmental footprint each year,” Henderson said. “It's a win for everyone!"

      The two companies say the market for this service is potentially huge. The National Association of Realtors recently reported that an estimated 12 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 who purchased homes in 2017 were downsizing.

      The companies say that works out to about 80 million households, with the potential to redistribute over $20 trillion in household items over the next 20 years.

      Every day, baby boomers across America begin the process of downsizing, moving from a large home where they raised a family into smaller quarters that requ...
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      AstraZeneca vaccine reportedly protects both young and old

      Company scientists say the drug has created immune response with few side effects

      AstraZeneca, one of the pharmaceutical companies testing a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, reports some promising results. In ongoing clinical trials, it says the vaccine produced an immune response in both older and younger adults.

      Scientists working on the trials also report that adverse side effects from the vaccine were less than expected, suggesting the potential vaccine could be widely deployed among the most vulnerable population.

      The vaccine is being developed in a collaboration with scientists at Oxford University in the UK. Clinical trials on the vaccine candidate, AZD1222, were halted briefly early last month after a test subject became ill, but resumed days later.

      Though the drug is still in the process of being tested, AstraZeneca is so confident that it will be an effective protection against COVID-19 that it has begun production and reported last month that it could have three billion doses on hand by the time the vaccine wins approval.

      Appears to be working

      The company’s announcement Monday that the vaccine appears to be working on subjects of all ages could raise hopes that the vaccine could be ready for distribution by the end of the year.

      “It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman told CNBC.

      The news comes as coronavirus cases are spiking in both Europe and the U.S. According to the tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. reported slightly more than 60,000 new cases of the virus on Sunday in what could be a building second wave of the disease.

      Cases are rising even faster in Europe. Officials there have recently imposed more economic lockdowns and more stringent social distancing rules. The increase has coincided with the arrival of colder weather, which scientists have said may increase the spread of the virus.

      AstraZeneca, one of the pharmaceutical companies testing a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, reports some promising results. In ongoing clinical trials, it s...
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      Model year 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350s recalled

      The vehicle may stall, posing the risk of a crash

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling two model year 2020 GLE 350s.

      The connection of the locking ring between the front and rear part of the drive shaft might not have been installed correctly, possibly resulting in a loss of power transfer between the transfer case and the rear axle differential.

      If the transfer case disconnects from the rear axle differential the vehicle could stall, posing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the drive shaft free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 8, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling two model year 2020 GLE 350s. The connection of the locking ring between the front and rear part of the drive sha...
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      Loblaw recalls President's Choice pork loin roasts

      The product contains mustard, an allergen not declared on the label

      Loblaw Companies is recalling President's Choice brand Maple Apple flavor Seasoned Pork Loin Roast.

      The product contains mustard, an allergen not declared on the label.

      No illnesses have been reported to date

      The recalled product, at a weight of 730 grams, UPC code 0 60383 20663 5 and a best before date of October 13, 2020, was sold in Canada's Quebec province.

      What to do

      Customers with a mustard allergy who purchased the recalled product should not consume int, but discard or return it to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the firm at (888) 495-5111.

      Loblaw Companies is recalling President's Choice brand Maple Apple flavor Seasoned Pork Loin Roast. The product contains mustard, an allergen not declar...
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