SINCE 1947

ABC Business News

Report shows pandemic's 'devastating' impact on NYC arts, entertainment industry


(NEW YORK) -- A new report demonstrates the "devastating" impact of the coronavirus pandemic on New York City's arts and entertainment sector, as many venues, including Broadway theaters, have remained shuttered for nearly a year.

One year ago, nearly 87,000 people were employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in New York City, according to the New York State Department of Labor's Current Employment Statistics -- not including freelancers or the self-employed.

By April, after the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect, that number fell to 34,100, and it has "barely budged" since then, said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office released the report.

Arts, entertainment and recreation employment in December was down 66% year-over-year -- more than any other sector in the city's economy, according to the report.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound and a very negative effect on this industry," DiNapoli said during a Facebook livestream on Wednesday. "It's forced venues to close, thousands into unemployment and pushed businesses to the brink of collapse."

The numbers paint a "stark and devastating" portrait of an industry that was "more than thriving" until the pandemic, DiNapoli said. From 2009 to 2019, employment grew by 42% -- faster than the 30% rate for the private sector overall, the report said.

Manhattan is the hub of the city's arts and entertainment industry, home to a majority of its venues and jobs.

"Every job and business in this previously booming sector needs to come back," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said during Wednesday's livestream. "It was lost. It needs to come back. Right now Times Square is vacant."

Brewer is concerned that people in the industry have left the city for good due to the lack of work.

"We can't lose their talent," she said.

The report "puts the numbers behind the feeling that the arts and culture have been hit so hard, and that it is right now the least-recovered sector, despite much effort," she added.

The comptroller pointed to a new federal relief package, which includes $15 billion nationally for shuttered arts organizations and designates over $284 billion to revive the Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act, as a potential industry salve.

While performing arts venues, including Broadway theaters, remain closed, some venues and cultural institutions have started to reopen in New York City with restrictions and mitigation measures in place.

Zoos and aquariums started welcoming guests back in July, followed by museums in August, with mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements, capacity limits and timed entries.

This week, Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center held their first sporting events with fans in almost a year, with capacity limited to 10%. Movie theaters in New York City can reopen starting March 5 at 25% capacity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn't announced a timeline yet for performing arts venues, though he said on Feb. 8 that the "overall effort is heading towards reopening with testing."

"There are venues that we want to start to reopen with testing and capacity limitations," Cuomo said at a press conference. "Theaters, arenas, why can't you do it with Broadway? You can."

The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, had previously announced that Broadway performances will remain suspended through May 30 of this year.

To help promote arts and culture, the state recently launched a new performing arts program, NY PopsUp, which will feature over 300 free events statewide in 100 days.

Next month, New York City will start accepting applications for Open Culture NYC, a permitting program that would allow institutions to hold socially distanced performances on city streets. The city has also recently created Curtains Up NYC, a program to connect live performance venues to up to $10 million in federal grants.

As live venues have struggled to hold on for almost a year, some won't be reopening. Among the latest closures, the Peoples Improv Theater, a nearly 20-year-old comedy venue, announced last week that it was shuttering its main space in Manhattan.

"It's been over 11 months that we have been shut down and eventually we have to surrender to survive," owner Ali Farahnakian said in a statement. "So we are in the process of surrendering the space. ... Godspeed to a brighter future."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Peter Luger Steak House welcomes diners at 35% alongside famous wax figures


(NEW YORK) -- As New York City restaurants reopened at 35% capacity Friday, one iconic eatery got creative with how to fill empty tables and encourage social distancing.

Peter Luger Steak House teamed up with Madame Tussauds to bring iconic celebrity wax figurines into the famous wood-paneled dining room.

The star-studded experience includes Jon Hamm hanging by the bar, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Fallon all seated at their own tables and Al Roker waiting to direct diners upstairs.

"The restaurant industry is vital to New York City's economy, and it's been particularly hard hit this past year," Daniel Turtel, vice president of Peter Luger, said in a statement. "We're excited to welcome diners back indoors at 35%, and thought this would be a fun, safe way to fill some of the seats that need to remain empty as we continue to fight the pandemic. It has been wonderful working with the fabulous team at Madame Tussauds New York."

The New York City icons wax figures will remain at Peter Luger Steak House through Monday, March 1.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'A hidden figure no longer': NASA officially names DC headquarters after Mary W. Jackson


(WASHINGTON) -- NASA officially named its headquarters in the nation's capital after Mary W. Jackson, the agency's first Black woman engineer, with a ceremony honoring her legacy on Friday.

"With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA headquarters, we ensure that she is a hidden figure no longer," NASA acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said during Friday's ceremony, which was largely virtual due to the pandemic.

"Jackson's story is one of incredible determination. She personified NASA's spirit of persevering against all odds, providing inspiration and advancing science and exploration," Jurczyk added. "There is no denying that she faced innumerable challenges in her work, work that would eventually help send the first Americans to space."

Because of engineers like Jackson, Jurczyk said, "America and the world was not only able to dream of landing among the stars but to make that dream a reality."

Jackson's work was spotlighted in the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book, "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race."

The book was turned into the Oscar-nominated movie "Hidden Figures" later that same year, with actress Janelle Monae portraying Jackson.

The virtual ceremony Friday featured a slew of speakers who honored Jackson's work, including poet Nikki Giovanni, who read an excerpt from her work, "Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea."

Two of the trailblazing engineer's grandchildren, Wanda Jackson and Bryan Jackson, also spoke at the event Friday. Mary W. Jackson died in 2005 at 83 years old.

"Grandma was a very loving, caring, and feisty woman," Wanda Jackson said. "She was that type of person who would do anything for anybody, no questions asked."

Wanda Jackson reflected on visiting the NASA headquarters as a child when her grandmother was in training, and how despite the myriad of accomplishments, "she never gloated or bragged about anything she did."

While she is being honored publicly now, an emotional Wanda Jackson said, "she was always special to us."

"She was always our hero," she said. "She was always our star."

Bryan Jackson said his grandmother "paved the way for so many without us even knowing."

"She was a warrior," Bryan Jackson said. "Someone who wouldn't take no for an answer if she felt she was making a change to better something."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

FCC to provide $50 subsidies on broadband internet for low-income households


(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission greenlit a program to provide low-income households monthly $50 subsidies for broadband internet in a move to help bridge the digital divide nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced many schools, businesses and more to go virtual.

The FCC unanimously voted on Thursday to establish the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, that aims to provide qualifying households with discounts on their internet bills. It will also provide some households an opportunity to receive a computer or tablet at a discount.

Acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that the FCC has "made history" by creating the rules "for the nation's largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service."

"It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries," she added in a statement. "In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country."

The program provides discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service -- and up to $75 a month if the household is on tribal land. In addition, it will establish a one-time discount of up to $100 for computers or tablets for eligible households.

Eligible households include those with children who receive free and reduced price school lunches or breakfasts, Pell Grant recipients, and those who have lost their jobs or had their income reduced over the past year, according to the FCC. In addition, the program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider as well as current subscribers to the FCC's Lifeline support for affordable communications program.

The FCC said it intends to open the program up to those who need it within 60 days. More information on how to apply should be made available on the FCC's website in the coming weeks.

"I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly and the right way," Rosenworcel stated.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trailblazing beauty inventions and innovations made possible by people of color

Courtesy of The Brown Beauty Co-OpBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As we close out Black History Month, it's paramount to highlight and celebrate significant contributions made by African Americans across all categories.

One area that hasn't always been illuminated in textbooks is the number of revolutionary beauty inventions, innovations and businesses from people of color.

Personal care, grooming and beauty are big business markets and statistics continue to show how willing consumers of color are to buy products that fit their specific needs.

Black households spend 7% more on hair care annually than the U.S. average, with $82.50 spent per year for a Black household versus $77 spent per year for an average household, according to results taken from a NielsenIQ Total U.S. Homescan measurement.

Also, the Black hair care category within mass retail accounts for $1.2 billion in annual sales, outpacing the total hair care category's growth 3-to-1, as of December 2020, according to Strategic Solutions International.

"Black beauty has always been historically trendsetting, whether you think about styles like braids or beauty trends like full and luscious lips," Amaya Smith, co-founder of The Brown Beauty Co-op, a Washington, D.C.-based retail space primarily catering to "brown girl approved" products and DIY-style services, told ABC News' Good Morning America.

"Beauty has been an outlet of expression for many people of color who often are marginalized by society -- as a way to express ourselves and have pride in who we are," she added. "When you think of spaces like beauty salons -- there is also a lot of community within the beauty and grooming space. Black beauty is a huge cultural expression and part of who we are and I think it will always be a mainstay in our community."

Additionally, Black shoppers strongly prefer to support Black-owned brands: 39% of Black consumers indicate they want to increase purchase from Black-owned brands, as of July 2020, according to SSI.

Inspired by the demand, tech-forward digital retailers such as AMP Beauty LA have emerged to house and curate Black-owned brands for beauty lovers of color.

"We're currently curating the largest offering of Black-owned brands across hair, skin, body, bath, makeup and nails, and we want to acknowledge the indispensable role that Black beauty brands have as constant sources of creativity and innovation in beauty by amplifying their voices," Angel Lenise, AMP Beauty LA president and chief brand officer, told GMA.

Echoing Lenise's, acknowledgment and amplification of the unique contributions Black people have had to the beauty industry is something that can't be ignored.

Scroll down memory lane as we've underscored brilliant beauty innovators, inventions and highly favored businesses made possible by talented people of color:

Lyda Newman's synthetic hairbrush

African American hairdresser, inventor and women's rights activist Lyda Newman is behind an improved model of a version of the bristle brush used today. She applied for the patent on the new style of the hairbrush in 1898, and the design was created "to provide a new and improved hair-brush which is simple and durable in construction, very effective when in use, and arranged to permit of conveniently cleaning the brush whenever desired."

Madame C.J. Walker, beauty entrepreneur and self-made millionaire

It's almost impossible to have a conversation about Black beauty and business without mentioning Madam C.J. Walker. The pioneering businesswoman promoted, sold and trademarked hair products in the early 1900s specifically geared toward the needs of Black women. She became the first Black female millionaire in America, according to History. She also employed lots of "beauty culturalists" to sell her products.

Anthony Romani, Samuel H. Bundles Jr., Henry M. Childrey

In 1970, Samuel H. Bundles Jr. and Henry M. Childrey (Tulloch) patented the iconic Afro pick comb. The comb is mainly used for tightly coiled afro hair, and was later designed to include a fist on the handle as a symbol of peace and unity.

Fashion Fair

Flori Roberts is often touted as one of the earliest cosmetics companies for women with deeper skin tones. It also was the first brand to be sold in major department stores.

Almost a decade after the launch of Flori Roberts, Fashion Fair Cosmetics was launched in 1973 by Johnson Publishing CEO John H. Johnson and his wife Eunice, and it became the next big beauty brand to cater to women with darker skin. African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary highlights that the legendary makeup brand emerged when it was noticed that models for the company's annual fashion show featuring Black designers and models found it difficult to find makeup suitable for their complexions.

Theora Stephens

Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History points out that a Black woman, Theora Stephens, is behind a more-efficient pressing and curling iron that emerged in 1980 with a design more similar to what's available on modern-day markets.

Fenty Beauty

Decades after the success of brands such as Fashion Fair Cosmetics, the number of modern cosmetics companies catering to a wide range of complexions was still very limited.

In 2017, Rihanna changed that with her Fenty Beauty launch. The brand was instantly celebrated for its inclusive lineup of products -- with the initial foundation launch including 40 shades. The brand has since expanded to include 50.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Zoom to provide automatic closed captioning for all free accounts


(NEW YORK) -- Zoom said it will start providing live transcription services for free accounts in a bid to boost accessibility.

Jen Hill, the company's product marketing manager, made the announcement in a blog post on Wednesday, saying the update that provides automatic closed captioning should be available to all users later this fall.

In the meantime, meeting hosts who require live transcription services can request the feature ahead of time via an online form.

"As part of our commitment to connecting users across the world, we are focused on continually enhancing our features to provide a platform that is accessible to all of the diverse communities we serve," Hill wrote in the post.

Hill said that those who fill out the form to request the service ahead of time should receive a confirmation email with additional details.

"Since we expect a high volume of requests, we appreciate your patience as we work to make automatic closed captioning available for all of our users," she added.

As the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses and schools to go virtual seemingly overnight, Zoom use in the U.S. has skyrocketed.

The virtual shift broke down certain barriers to access that many in the disabled community fought for for years as work-from-home accommodations allowed more people to be included where they otherwise may not have been, but the shift also exposed technological hurdles.

Many advocates were quick to applaud Zoom's announcement on Twitter.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Iconic Potato Head toy officially goes gender-neutral for inclusive rebranding


(NEW YORK) -- The plastic spud formerly known as Mr. Potato Head is going gender-neutral in a reintroduction.

Hasbro announced Thursday that the company is officially dropping the "Mr." from the Mr. Potato Head brand name, to make sure "all feel welcome in the Potato Head world."

"The new branding and logo bring a fresh look with a whimsical color palette and will introduce new product, including create your own potato head family, to appeal to the modern consumer," a spokesperson for the brand said.

Hasbro said it's "a celebration of the many faces of families, allowing kids to imagine and create their own Potato Head family."

The new Potato Head family toy launching this fall includes two large potato bodies, one small potato body and 42 accessories. The potato family can have up to two parents, and a baby.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation responded to the new gender-neutral change after almost 70 years on toy shelves.

"Hasbro’s decision to introduce Potato Head as a gender-neutral toy is the latest move in a larger movement towards greater diversity and inclusion in toys and media aimed at kids," Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, said in a statement. "By offering a toy that exists outside of the binary of male and female, Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

GameStop stock surges again weeks after high-profile rally

RiverNorthPhotography/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- GameStop shares surged nearly 40% early Thursday, after doubling in price on Wednesday, in a new rally that once again has many market watchers scratching their heads.

The new spike in GameStop stock comes weeks after its meteoric rise and fall in late January as individual investors on the Reddit forum r/wallstreetbets pushed shares for the struggling video game retailer to new heights, forcing hedge funds shorting the stock to close their positions at major losses.

Trading of GameStop stock was temporarily halted multiple times Thursday morning as the wild trading session kicked off.

The r/wallstreetbets forum exploded with memes and posts touting GameStop stock once again Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Many linked the initial surge Wednesday to a cryptic tweet of an ice cream cone from Ryan Cohen, one of the largest shareholders in GameStop through his firm RC Ventures.

Cohen, who founded the e-commerce platform Chewy, was appointed as a member of GameStop's board of directors in early January, just prior to when members of r/wallstreetbets began evangelizing GameStop stock.

GameStop stock was relatively flat Wednesday morning, until Cohen -- who is not particularly active on Twitter -- tweeted the photo of an ice cream cone at 2 p.m. ET. In the hours after his tweet, shares surged more than 85%, jumping from $49.46 a share to a closing price of $91.70 on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, moderators of the r/wallstreetbets forum tweeted "Good Morning Everyone," using special characters to emphasize the letters "GME," the ticker for GameStop stock.



— wallstreetbets (@wsbmod) February 25, 2021


The initial GameStop saga in late January, which is already being turned into a Hollywood movie, drew the attention of lawmakers and prompted a House hearing last week.

The House Financial Services Committee summoned some of the key players in the drama to the hearing, including Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev and Reddit user Keith Gill (also known by his screen names "RoaringKitty" and "DeepF---ingValue").

The hearing mostly centered on the decision of Robinhood to abruptly restrict some transactions for GameStop during the height of the volatility.

At the hearing, Gill -- the Reddit user who many say initiated the initial surge -- doubled down on his position for the stock, saying he remains "bullish."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

USPS unveils new mail truck


(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in 35 years, United States Postal Service workers are getting a new set of wheels.

This week the USPS pulled the wraps off the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle. The “NGDV” is a brand new mail-carrier van designed and produced under contract by Oshkosh Defense.

“This has been a long time coming,” says Jason Torchinsky, a writer at the automotive blog Jalopnik.

The previous mail carrier van, the Grumman LLV, first hit the road back in 1986. There are still 140,000 currently in operation.

The LLV used the engine and chassis from a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck, sourced from General Motors. The aluminum body was designed and built by Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company.

“It’s unusual that it was one of the first of these kind of, mass-market vehicles to not really to be built by a major automaker,” says Torchinsky.

But that didn’t mean the LLV wasn’t created with the specific demands of mail carriers in mind.

iStock/MCCAIG“It was very much designed from the get-go to be something that would be easy for mail carriers to load stuff in and out of,” says Torchinsky.

Lynn Heidelbaugh, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, agrees, noting “it was tested to be able to withstand the rigors of all different kinds of terrain and weather.”

During initial testing, each LLV had to be able to drive over 35,000 potholes and make 100 consecutive stops from 15 mph, in addition to completing a series of other challenges designed to replicate the driving conditions the vehicles could encounter. In all, the LLV went through 24,000 miles of testing, according to the Postal Museum.

Torchinski says even though LLV stands for “Long Life Vehicle,” the Grumman was starting to show signs of age: “It had some huge flaws, mostly from the perspective of people driving it.”

The LLV didn’t come with air conditioning, and lacked the insulation one would find in a modern vehicle. This made the truck uncomfortable for mail carriers tasked with delivering the mail in extreme temperatures. What’s more, a Vice News report last year found more than 400 LLVs have caught fire since 2014.

“Safety of vehicles has changed dramatically since the last decades and years since the Long Life Vehicle was first tested and put on the streets,” says Heidelbaugh.

“It’s an early eighties Chevy pickup with a big aluminum body on it. They just needed to really modernize it,” says Torchinsky.

Oshkosh Defense is set to deliver between 50,000 and 165,000 examples of the new mail truck by 2023. The company is best known for producing military vehicles.

Torchinsky says Oshkosh Defense’s inexperience in the delivery vehicle market could work to its advantage.

USPS“Companies that don’t already have commercial vehicles being built - that don’t already have the infrastructure to build a specific commercial vehicle - are going to be starting from a clean page, where the automakers are going to want to adapt something they already have,” says Torchinsky. “And I think that actually gives the non-traditional automakers a bit of an advantage because they can tailor something closer to the very specific needs of the post office.”

The NGDV comes with a suite of modern technology, including automatic emergency braking, 360 cameras, parking sensors and, yes, even air conditioning.

The truck is also designed to accommodate either a gasoline or an electric powertrain. Heidelbaugh says the NGDV’s changeability makes sense considering the variety of ways the mail has been delivered in the past.

“The Post Office has experimented and used just about every kind of vehicle there is available,” says Heidelbaugh. “You name it, with wheels, whether it’s push, motorized, animal powered- they’ve tried it.”

As for whether the NGDV could enjoy as long a life delivering the mail as the LLV has, Torchinsky is optimistic.

“If it’s as flexible as they say, it could have a good long life. If you can actually swap out drivetrains fairly easily, the actual body itself and the main platform itself could last decades… there’s no reason why not,” he says.

Hear ABC News Radio's Michelle Franzen report on the new mail truck:

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Victoria's Secret plans to close up to 50 more stores this year


(NEW YORK) -- Victoria's Secret is planning to close up to 50 stores in the U.S. and Canada this year.

The news comes as the lingerie giant saw a continuing plummet in sales during the coronavirus pandemic and closed over 200 of its stores in 2020.

On a call with analysts last year, Victoria's Secret CEO Stuart Burgdoerfer said, "What we see is a somewhat smaller but substantially more profitable business with a much better foundation, and then obviously a return to growth which is what all of us are looking for."

With the closures, the brand's parent company, L Brands, will eliminate 22% of the company's 1,091 stores in addition to 1.26 million square feet of real estate.

"We would expect to have a meaningful number of additional store closures beyond the 250 that we're pursuing this year, meaning there will be more in 2021 and probably a bit more in 2022," Burgdoerfer said at the time.

Alternatively, Bath & Body Works, another label under the mass retailer, is planning to open 50 stores. However, there are plans to close 20-40 of its mall stores.

L Brands had a 37% drop in sales across its brands in 2020 during its first quarter of business besides closures amid COVID-19. However, Bath & Body Works surged 20% in soap and sanitizer sales.

"What we are intensely focused on right now is strengthening the foundation of that business and even addressing the foundation of that business to manage through this crisis and to create a foundation for separation and for growth," L Brands CEO Andrew Meslow said in a statement

Last year, Victoria's Secret was poised to sell a 55% stake to New York-based private equity firm Sycamore Partners, but the upswing of the coronavirus pandemic lead to the deal being called off.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Becca Cosmetics is going out of business after 20 years


(NEW YORK) -- Beauty brand Becca Cosmetics is going out of business.

The global cosmetics company announced on Wednesday it is closing in September after facing an accumulation of challenges as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe in you, and we believe that the beauty inside you is the light you share with the world," the label wrote in a post. "We are confident that the spirit of BECCA will continue to live on through all of you."

The brand continued by encouraging its fans to "keep illuminating your true selves" and "light your own path and push your limits."

Following the announcement, fans of the brand immediately responded with an outpouring of comments.

"This makes me so sad," @trendmood said. "Becca is part of my journey and I will cherish those memories for life! Thank u for bringing us light to our life and glow to our vanities, we will miss u! It's time to stock up your favorite products!"

@kingmalimagic "I'm so sorry to hear this," Kingmalimagic also chimed in saying "Becca has taught so many how to glow. Seriously one of my favorite brands. Sending love."

Becca Cosmetics was launched in 2001 in Perth, Australia, by founder and global creative director Rebecca Morrice Williams.

The cruelty-free and PETA-certified brand is known for creating products for a variety of complexions.

"Inspired by Australia's luminous light, we are focused on light as a point of difference: innovating award-winning products that create illumination in all shapes, textures and forms," the brand states on its parent company Estee Lauder Companies' website.

Becca Cosmetics carries everything from face products to lip products and its cult-favorite Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed highlighter is the No.1 bestselling highlighter in the U.S. according to market research firm The NPD Group.

"For 20 years -- from Perth to New York and across the globe -- we've built incredible connections with this amazing community, from our consumers to the makeup artist community, our wonderful network of influencers, to our amazing Brand Collaborators and Brand Ambassadors from yesterday and today," the brand wrote in a statement on its website. "We've done meaningful work together supporting mental wellness with the JED foundation and Mental Health Mates and will continue to do so through our commitment to The Trevor Project this coming June. Together, we put our best light out into the world, and for that we are forever grateful."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

College dropout donates $20 million to the historically Black university he couldn't afford 60 years ago

kickstand/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(BALTIMORE) -- Nearly 60 years ago, Calvin Tyler was forced to drop out of college in his hometown of Baltimore because he couldn't afford tuition. Now he and his wife, Tina, have pledged $20 million to endow scholarships for students needing financial aid at the historically Black school.

It's the largest-ever private donation from an alumnus to Morgan State University.

"Morgan is so proud to call this son and daughter of the great City of Baltimore our own, and through their historic giving, the doors of higher education will most certainly be kept open for generations of aspiring leaders whose financial shortfalls may have kept them from realizing their academic dreams," David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, said in a statement Monday. "For public institutions, like Morgan, our charitable alumni are testaments to the legacy we collectively uphold, and the Tylers' generosity over the years, culminating with this transformative commitment, is a remarkable example of altruism with great purpose. We are forever indebted to the Tylers."

Tyler enrolled at the school, then called Morgan State College, in 1961 to study business administration. He was the first in his family to attend college and had hopes of becoming the first to receive a college degree, but he had to abandon his studies in 1963 due to a lack of funding and take a job as a driver for the United Parcel Service. He worked his way up the corporate ladder and into the company's executive suite, ultimately serving as senior vice president of U.S. operations and joining the board of directors before he retired in 1998.

But Tyler never lost sight of his humble beginnings. In 2002, he and his wife established the Calvin and Tina Tyler Endowed Scholarship Fund at Morgan State University to provide full-tuition scholarships for select need-based students in Baltimore. In 2016, the couple pledged $5 million to the fund, which at the time was the largest such gift in Morgan State University's history.

With students and their families facing financial hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Tylers were compelled to increase their endowment commitment by $15 million and expand the scholarship eligibility to students from anywhere in the United States.

"My wife and I have become keenly aware of the effect that the pandemic has had on a number of young people trying to get an education [and] we have the resources to help a lot of young people," Tyler said in a statement Monday through the university. "This is why we are increasing our commitment at Morgan; we want to have more full tuition scholarships offered to young people so that they can graduate from college and enter the next stage of their life debt free."

The Calvin and Tina Tyler Endowed Scholarship Fund has already supported 222 students at Morgan State University via 46 full-tuition and 176 partial scholarships. Students must meet certain financial criteria and maintain a minimum GPA requirement of 2.5, according to the school.

"Endowed scholarships and other gifts have far-reaching implications for any institution, but for a public, urban university like Morgan, with students from a broad spectrum of academic, social and economic backgrounds, the need is especially great," Donna Howard, vice president for institutional advancement, said in a statement Monday.

Fall 2020 student demographics data shows there are around 7,600 total students -- both undergraduate and graduate -- enrolled at Morgan State University, which is the largest of Maryland's historically Black colleges and universities. The school said 90% of its students receive financial aid.

Tyler said donations to institutions of higher education are critical to helping young people succeed because "reliance on government loans is just not the answer."

"Debt can be extremely crippling to someone trying to get ahead in life," he said. "We just want to help as many young people as we can [to] get an education."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

A third stimulus check could be coming. Here’s what Americans did with the others


(NEW YORK) -- For millions of Americans like 27-year-old Edvonte Copeland, stimulus checks from the federal government have provided a financial lifeline.

A special education assistant and assistant athletic director at a high school in Minneapolis, Copeland’s work became unpredictable as the pandemic forced classrooms to go virtual.

When the most recent $600 check arrived in the mail, Copeland immediately used it to help pay his bills.

"When I’m not working, I’m not able to do anything, but the bills are still coming," he said.

In an attempt to boost an economy hamstrung by the pandemic, the federal government sent out two rounds of direct stimulus checks to many Americans: $1,200 last spring and $600 at the end of last year for individuals earning up to $75,000 and married couples making up to $150,000.

House lawmakers are set to vote Friday on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which includes additional $1,400 stimulus checks.

U.S. Census Bureau data showed many Americans, especially in lower-income households, used their checks in the same way Copeland did: to pay for daily essentials like groceries, gas and utilities.

"The December stimulus proved quickly powerful," economists at Bank of America Global Research wrote in a research note.

While many struggling Americans have used their checks to make ends meet, retail sales in January also spiked unexpectedly after some Americans put their stimulus money toward furniture, appliances or clothes. Research also shows others have saved the money or used it to pay down debt.

Elena Panyard graduated from Central Michigan University three years ago and put both of her stimulus checks toward her student loans.

"I used to dream about someone just tossing a thousand dollars in my lap so I could pay off my loans, because it’s so stressful," she said.

Census Bureau data showed households with incomes between $75,00 and $99,999 were more likely to use their first stimulus payments to pay off debt or add it to savings, compared to households overall.

Researchers based out of Harvard University estimated that households earning above $78,000 only spent $45 of the recent $600 checks one month after they received them.

Some economists argue that defeats the purpose of the checks to stimulate the economy, saying the money should be more targeted toward those in need.

"If the goal is to help households who are truly suffering, households earning a six-figure income, who've kept their jobs through this experience, are pretty low on the list of households who are suffering," said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

GameStop's chief financial officer steps down after stock market saga

Melissa Kopka/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- GameStop, the video game retailer that found itself at the center of an unprecedented stock market extravaganza, announced its chief financial officer will be stepping down next month.

The company said Jim Bell, the executive vice president and CFO, will be resigning from his roles on March 26.

GameStop said that it has begun searching for a new CFO "with the capabilities and qualifications to help accelerate GameStop’s transformation" in a statement announcing Bell's resignation. If a permanent replacement is not found by Bell's departure date, the company said it will appoint Diana Jajeh, the chief accounting officer, as interim CFO.

The Texas-based company did not cite a reason for Bell's resignation, but expressed thanks in a statement for his leadership, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFO's departure, however, comes after the company's stock saw a meteoric rise -- and ultimate fall -- late last month in a saga that is already being turned into a Hollywood movie.

An army of individual investors loosely organized on a Reddit forum pushed shares of the retailer to new heights in a move that brought hedge funds shorting the stock to their knees.

As the stock soared, however, retail investing platforms including Robinhood abruptly placed temporary restrictions on GameStop stock transactions.

The saga culminated in a House hearing last week, where lawmakers summoned some of the key players in the drama, including the CEOs of Robinhood and Reddit as well as individual investor Keith Gill (also known as "RoaringKitty" online).

Despite capturing the attention of the nation, GameStop has taken some heat from critics for not further capitalizing on the massive gains created during the stock market frenzy. In January, GameStop went from trading at less than $20 a share to reaching an intraday peak of $483 a share within a matter of weeks.

On Wednesday morning, GameStop stock was trading at approximately $47 a share.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nearly 40,000 Macs infected by mysterious malware, researchers say

abalcazar/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Mysterious malware -- that has not yet engaged in malicious activity -- has infected nearly 40,000 Mac devices, according to the cybersecurity firm Red Canary, which first detected the threat.

The malware, dubbed by Red Canary as "Silver Sparrow," is baffling researchers because of its elusive motives.

"Most malware has an ultimate goal," Brian Donohue, an intelligence analyst at Red Canary, told ABC News via email. "It might be to steal sensitive information, cause damage to devices or servers, or block access to data. In this case, we don’t actually know what that ultimate goal is, because we haven’t observed Silver Sparrow engaging in malicious activity."

Donohue noted, however, that most malware operations consist of multiple supporting functions that occur prior to the execution of malicious activity, such as gaining initial access or moving between devices on a network.

"In the case of Silver Sparrow, while we haven’t observed the final payload, we have seen other parts of the malware operation," he added. "For example, we’ve observed it using built-in functions of macOS to install itself on victim machines and to maintain persistence across reboots."

Donohue said a member of Red Canary's cyber incident response team first detected the malware -- which includes a code that runs on Apple's new M1 chip -- based on suspicious behavior from a customer's device. They have not identified its origins.

"As of today, we can confirm that the threat has infected nearly 40,000 macOS devices," he told ABC News, citing published data from antivirus firm Malwarebytes, though he said this is likely an "underestimation of the total scope of the threat."

He added that the malware has been dubbed mysterious for two reasons, including that it lacks an ultimate payload and researchers cannot determine the purpose of the threat.

"The second relates to a file that, if present on an infected machine, causes Silver Sparrow to uninstall itself," Donohue said. "We do not know why this file is present on certain systems or why its presence causes Silver Sparrow to uninstall itself."

Although Silver Sparrow currently does not deliver a malicious payload, Donohue said they are "concerned that it could be updated to deliver one at a moment’s notice."

"This is compounded by the fact that it has a presence on nearly 40,000 machines and all the infrastructure necessary to support a more concerning threat," he said.

Apple told ABC News that it revoked the certificates of the developer accounts used to sign the packages, preventing new machines from being infected, after discovering the malware.

Apple noted its security protection and mechanisms and said its App Store provides the safest place to obtain software for Macs. In addition, Apple said it uses industry-leading technical mechanisms to protect users by detecting and blocking malware for software downloaded outside of the Mac App Store.

The company also noted, as made clear by the researchers, that there is no evidence to suggest the new malware has delivered a malicious payload.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Will the St. Louis Cardinals make the playoffs this year?