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Consumer Daily Reports

Trusted reliable news sources from around the web. We offer special news reports, topic news videos, and related content stories. Truly a birds eye view on news.

Consumer News: Apple announces new ‘Express’ store openings

Photo (c) Lalocracio - Getty Images
Apple has announced that it will open up more “Express” stores to make it easier for consumers to pick up orders amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters reports. 

At “Express” locations, consumers will see a wall built in front of the main Apple store with sales counters protected by plexiglass. Customers can quickly pick up an order they placed online or speak with an Apple associate behind the glass for in-person service. 

The retailer started testing the store format last month in California, calling it “a swifter way for us to serve customers.” 

“It allows us to maintain all the appropriate social distancing and maintain all of our health protocols within our stores,” retail SVP Deirdre O’Brien told Reuters.

Apple has now opened 20 Express stores across the U.S. and Europe and plans to have more than 50 Express locations by the end of October. The launch of the new format coincides with the launch of the company’s new iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, as well as the holiday season. 

The retailer’s past efforts to keep customers safe during the pandemic have included temporarily closing all of its retail stores outside of China. Apple has reopened most of its stores in recent months, although some have temporarily closed again due to spikes in COVID-19 cases. A list of the stores currently open can be found on Apple’s website

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Consumer News: Turning the tables, Walmart sues the government over opioid policies

Photo (c) Darwin Brandis - Getty Images
With federal and state governments suing pharmaceutical companies and drug store chains in connection with the opioid crisis, Walmart isn’t waiting to be the government’s next target.

The retailer is suing the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), asking the courts to clarify the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). 

Walmart filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. It comes just days after the Department of Justice announced an $8.5 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma over its marketing of the opioid painkiller Oxycontin.

In a statement, Walmart said its pharmacists, following company policy, have refused to fill hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions they thought could be problematic. The company said it has also blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled by any Walmart.

In other words, the retailer said it has been doing its part to stem the opioid addiction crisis.

‘Chasing headlines’

“Unfortunately, certain DOJ officials have long seemed more focused on chasing headlines than fixing the crisis,” Walmart charged. “They are now threatening a completely unjustified lawsuit against Walmart, claiming in hindsight pharmacists should have refused to fill otherwise valid opioid prescriptions that were written by the very doctors that the federal government still approves to write prescriptions.”

The company said it resorted to filing the lawsuit because there is no federal law requiring pharmacists to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship to the degree it said the Justice Department is demanding. It says federal and state health agencies have, in fact, told the company it’s not allowed to do that.

“Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between demands from DEA on one side and health agencies and regulators on the other, and patients are caught in the middle,” the company statement said.

The suit is asking the court to clarify the roles and legal responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in filling opioid prescriptions.

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Consumer News: Obesity and disease could be linked to evolutionary diet change, study finds

Photo (c) PeopleImages - Getty Images
As many consumers are looking to follow healthier diets, experts continue to find how the things we put into our bodies can affect everything from our immune response to life expectancy

Now, researchers from Princeton University have discovered that the development of obesity and disease could stem from evolutionary diet changes. They explained that our bodies were made to digest the types of food our ancestors ate; however, because present-day diets have shifted so much from that, our metabolisms struggle to keep up, which increases the likelihood of disease. 

“Humans evolved in a very different environment than the one we’re currently living in,” said researcher Amanda Lea. “No one diet is universally bad. It’s about the mismatch between your evolutionary history and what you’re currently eating.” 

Observing dietary changes

For this study, the researchers studied the Turkana population in Kenya. In recent years, the group has split in two: the remote portion of the population continues to rely on the animals and plants around them for food, while another portion has moved into more urban areas and has incorporated more processed foods and carbohydrates into their diets.  

“We realized that we had the opportunity to study the effect of transitioning away from a traditional lifestyle, relying on almost 80 percent animal byproducts -- a diet extremely protein-rich and rich in fats, with very little to no carbohydrates -- to a mostly carbohydrate diet,” said researcher Julian Ayroles. “This presented an unprecedented opportunity: genetically homogenous populations whose diets stretch across a lifestyle gradient from relatively ‘matched’ to extremely ‘mismatched’ with their recent evolutionary history.” 

In addition to analyzing the diets of both groups, the researchers also evaluated several different biomarkers that could be linked to disease, including body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat percentage, among others. 

They learned that those who had maintained the traditional Turkana diet had the lowest disease risk and the greatest health outcomes compared to those who had adopted a more current diet and lifestyle. Those in the latter group were more likely to develop high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, among several other conditions.  

“There’s a cumulative effect,” Lea said. “The more you experience the urban environment -- the evolutionarily mismatched environment -- the worse it’s going to be for your health.” 

Moving forward, the researchers don’t recommend that all consumers follow the Turkana diet. Instead, the goal is personal: what part of our ancestors’ diets could most benefit our health and wellness today? 

“One of the most remarkable things about the Turkana if that if you and I went on the Turkana diet, we would get sick really quickly!” Ayroles said. “The key to metabolic health may be to align our diet and activity levels with that of our ancestors, but we still need to determine which components matter most.” 

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Consumer News: Amazon launches new data collection program to gain insight into consumer spending habits

Photo (c) Andrei Stanescu - Getty Images
Heads up, personal data protectors! Amazon is inviting its customers to take part in a “shopper panel” -- a program where they can earn rewards simply by taking part in surveys and by sharing receipts on purchases they've made outside of Amazon’s platform. 

In other words, Amazon wants to dive deeper into how you’re shopping, where you’re shopping, and the kinds of things you’re shopping for. 

The Amazon Shopper Panel is purely an opt-in, invitation-only program. It’s up to the consumer to decide if they want to share their personal shopping data. 

How it works

According to its website, the Shopper Panel plays out like this:

Rewards: To earn rewards, participants need to upload 10 eligible receipts per month via the Amazon Shopper Panel app, either by taking photos of paper receipts or by forwarding email receipts to the panel. Amazon says the participants who do will earn $10 towards their choice of either an Amazon available funds balance or as a donation to a specific charity. Customers will continue to earn rewards each month they participate and every survey they complete.

To get the hang of things, according to MobileMarketer, Amazon will use “machine learning” to process the receipts, overseen by human reviewers for "a small sample of submissions" to help train the system.

Surveys: The surveys are supposedly your standard fare stuff like opinions on brands and products. The number of surveys and earnings per survey will change month to month. 

How Amazon will use the data

Before anyone signs up for the program, they should know exactly how Amazon intends to use what it tracks. According to the company, its uses “may” include the following:

Advertising measurement: “We may use your purchase information to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns to help advertisers understand the relationship between ads and product purchases at an aggregate level. We will never share any personal information collected via the Amazon Shopper Panel with third parties.”

Inform models used for advertising: “We may use the information you provide to help us build models about which groups of customers are likely to be interested in certain products.”

Research: “We may use survey responses to help brands get feedback on new or existing products and help advertisers understand how customers respond to ads. We will never share any of your individual survey responses with third parties.”

Product and content selection: “We may use your purchase information and survey responses to improve the product selection on and affiliate stores such as Whole Foods Market and to improve the content offered through Amazon services such as Prime Video.”

Privacy issues?

Of course, given its record and past data breaches, the big question is how much will Amazon glean from following its customers’ purchases?

“Participation in the Amazon Shopper Panel is voluntary and panelists can stop using the app, sharing receipts, or answering survey questions at any time,” the company said. “Amazon only receives information that panelists explicitly choose to share via the Shopper Panel, such as the information extracted from any uploaded receipts (including product or retailer names) or survey responses.”

Amazon says it will delete any sensitive information -- using as an example, prescription information from drug store receipts -- and, according to MobileMarketer’s research, all information will be deleted after one year. 

Panelists also have the option to delete previously uploaded receipts at any time. 

“Amazon securely stores panelists’ personal information and handles it in accordance with Amazon’s Privacy Notice,” the company said.

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Consumer News: Coronavirus update: Final approval for remdesivir, ‘deterioration’ in the Sun Belt

Photo (c) 4X image - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 8,413,274 (8,342,228)

Total U.S. deaths: 223,087 (222,263}

Total global cases: 41,829,333 (41,341,755)

Total global deaths: 1,138,955 (1,133,032)

FDA approves remdesivir as coronavirus treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gilead Sciences’ drug remdesivir to treat the coronavirus (COVID-19). It is the first and only approved treatment for the virus in the United States.

Since April, however, the drug has been widely used to treat COVID-19 patients under the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA). That status was granted while the FDA reviewed the antiviral drug for official approval. 

The drug has been cleared for use in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older and weighing at least 88 pounds, in COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization. The FDA says remdesivir should only be administered in a hospital or in a healthcare setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care. 

Signs of ‘deterioration’ in the Sun Belt

The White House Coronavirus Taskforce has expressed growing concern about the rapid rise of coronavirus cases in a number of states. In its report, obtained by CNN, the group said there are "early signs of deterioration in the Sun Belt and continued deterioration in the Midwest and across the Northern States."

A growing number of governments and health department officials have expressed similar concerns, especially in states where hospitalizations have suddenly spiked. The national average of new daily cases has climbed to just under 60,000. That’s the highest it’s been since early August.

At the same time, an analysis of data by NBC News shows the U.S. recorded 77,640 new cases of the virus Thursday. That’s a record one-day increase, eclipsing the old record set in late July.

Pandemic takes center stage at final presidential debate

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met Thursday night in their final debate of the campaign and the subject of the pandemic and how the president has handled it was a frequent topic of discussion.

Trump said his administration had taken tough steps to deal with the pandemic, including shutting down what had been a thriving economy. He said the strategy has worked and that the country had “rounded the corner.”

Biden said Trump is responsible for the coronavirus death toll and should not remain as president. He said Trump lacks a national strategy and has misled Americans about the severity of the crisis.  

Scientists say ‘microdroplets’ are not efficient virus spreaders

A team of international researchers concludes that aerosol microdroplets that float in the air longest after we talk, cough, or sneeze, do not appear to be extremely efficient at spreading the virus that leads to COVID-19.

Writing in Physics of Fluids, scientists at the University of Amsterdam said they used laser technology to measure the distribution of droplets released when people speak or cough. While the lingering microdroplets are certainly not risk-free, due to their small size, the researchers found they contain less virus than the larger droplets that are produced when someone coughs, speaks, or sneezes directly on us.

“Based on the current insights, we actually see that aerosol-wise, it’s relatively safe to go into well-ventilated modern buildings, such as airports, train stations, modern offices, etc.,” said Daniel Bonn, one of the authors.

Movie theaters may continue to face hard times

AMC and Regal have been crushed by the pandemic and movie theaters around the world have been closed, or open only to limited seating. And a new report suggests the pain could extend long after the pandemic is over.

The latest Colling Media Snapshot Survey found many consumers say they aren’t that interested in going back to theaters but instead have found plenty of entertainment from video streaming services and video games.

"We may be seeing a fundamental change in how people are consuming entertainment," says Brian Colling, CEO of Colling Media. "Only time will tell if the movie theater industry will return to full health, but it must certainly be troubling to Hollywood that a large number of consumers appear to have shifted to in-home entertainment consumption which could become permanent. We have seen many brands maximize this unprecedented time with strategic programmatic and integrated channel partnerships."

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Woodbridge Township schools opened in early October using a hybrid model that allows students to take turns attending classes for half-days. But after 36 students and teachers tested positive for the coronavirus, four schools have had to switch back to virtual learning.

  • Kentucky: Republicans are subjecting Gov. Andy Beshear to more scrutiny when it comes to invoking emergency powers. State Treasurer Allison Ball has urged lawmakers to put limits on the Democratic governor's ability to take executive action in an emergency like the pandemic.

  • Oregon: State health officials have reported a worrisome trend. Workplace outbreaks increased to 78 this week, up from 73 last week. The largest active outbreak remains at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.

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Consumer News: Getting more sleep after a traumatic event can help ease negative effects, study finds

Photo (c) Aja Koska - Getty Images
Recent studies have highlighted the benefits of getting quality sleep each night, while others have shown how a lack of sleep can affect everything from consumers’ diets to cognitive functioning

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Washington State University has found that sleep could be the key to better mental health following a traumatic event. According to their findings, increasing sleep time after a trauma was linked with fewer negative effects. 

“People with PTSD oftentimes experience nightmares and other types of sleep disturbances, such as frequent awakenings and insomnia,” said researcher William Vanderheyden. “One thought was that those sleep disturbances may cause further cognitive impairment and worsen the effects of PTSD or the initial trauma. So we wanted to see whether repairing the sleep disturbances associated with trauma exposure could help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.” 

The power of sleep

Over the course of a three-day study conducted on mice, the researchers sought to understand how sleep can affect mental health outcomes following a trauma. On the first day, the mice heard a sound and then were immediately shocked in the foot. After they had grown used to this experience, the next two days were devoted to having them forget that memory, by having the sound played without the shock. 

In terms of their sleeping habits, half of the mice were given optogenetic stimulation prior to the three-day experiment, which allows a sleep-related hormone to be released in greater quantities and aids in longer sleep times. The other half of the group received no interventions and slept as they normally would. 

The researchers learned that the group that had received optogenetic stimulation not only slept longer over the course of seven days, but they were also better at forgetting the traumatic experience of getting shocked in the foot during the three-day experiment. 

The mice in the control group had a harder time forgetting the shock, and would freeze in place after hearing the sound that had signaled the shock was coming. Conversely, the mice who had gotten more sleep were better at breaking the association between the sound and the traumatic experience. 

In thinking about how these findings could apply to humans and traumatic situations, the researchers believe that sleep-related interventions could be beneficial. However, the researchers do wonder about the role that time plays, as they hypothesize that the greatest success will come immediately following a traumatic event and not in trying to heal past traumas. 

“This highlights that there is a time-sensitive window when -- if you intervene to improve sleep -- you could potentially stave off the negative effects of trauma,” Vanderheyden said. “Conversely, it seems likely that if you are kept awake after a trauma, this could potentially be harmful to your cognitive function, though we haven’t directly tested this as part of our study.” 

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