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Illinois Facebook users tagged in photos can now submit claims as part of $650 million settlement


(NEW YORK) -- Facebook users in Illinois can now submit claims online and receive between $200 and $400 as part of a $650 million settlement by the social media giant over a class-action lawsuit stemming from its collection of users' biometric data.

"We are very excited that the process is moving forward and that class members are now able to participate in the largest consumer privacy settlement in our country's history," attorney Jay Edelson, whose office spearheaded the legal action, said in a statement to ABC News Thursday.

Edelson said individuals are eligible to submit a claim if they have lived in Illinois for approximately six months "and their face appeared in a picture on Facebook after June 7, 2011."

He said multiple people in a single household can submit separate claims and it takes about two minutes to go through the process online at the website set up to process claims:

The deadline to file a claim is Nov. 23, 2020, he added.

The payouts in Illinois are the result of a settlement after Facebook collected and stored biometric data of users in the state without proper notice and consent as part of its "Tag Suggestions" feature, which attorneys argued was in violation of a unique state privacy law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act. As part of the settlement, Facebook denies violating any laws.

Facebook did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Thursday.

The settlement was first disclosed in a January earnings call by the company's chief financial officer.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US airline launches first COVID-19 testing program of its kind

South_agency/iStockBy MINA KAJI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- United Airlines will be the first airline to offer COVID-19 tests to some of its passengers as the industry urges governments to agree on an international testing protocol as a way to safely reopen travel routes that have been cut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Passengers traveling from San Francisco International (SFO) to Hawaii will be tested and allowed to bypass quarantine restrictions upon arrival. Testing will be available starting Oct. 15, and passengers will have the option of taking a rapid test at SFO or a self-collected mail-in-test before departure.

Those who opt to take the rapid test for $250 would get swabbed before going through security on the day of their flight from SFO, a United spokesperson explained. The airline says the test provides results in approximately 15 minutes. If a customer gets a positive result they won’t be allowed to travel or enter the terminal.

The mail-in test sample requires a bit more planning -- passengers have to order the kit 10 days prior to departure and send in a sample within 72 hours of their trip. But it is considerably cheaper, costing around $80.

After passengers land, Hawaii officials will verify their results and waive the requirement to quarantine for two weeks. In June, 21 travelers were arrested on suspicion of violating Hawaii's quarantine order.

"Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently," United Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said in a release. "We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures."

Industry stakeholders want the U.S. to reach an agreement on pre-flight COVID-19 testing procedures with Europe, Canada or the Pacific as part of a "limited testing pilot project" to restore global travel.

"These rapid tests are critical for understanding community spread, doing contact tracing and helping people do their jobs, be in school and live their lives safely," ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Jay Bhatt said. "Still, we need better tests and better access to them. The tests should have rigorous review by the FDA as soon as possible and we continue to need to improve our turnaround times for results."

United Airlines Chief Communication Officer Josh Earnest said the current limiting factor for U.S. airlines to implement these programs before international flights is not so much reliability, but availability of tests.

"We would love to see the U.S. government work with international authorities to lower the barriers to international trade and commerce," Earnest told ABC News last week. "That would be good for the broader economy, it certainly would be good for a lot of U.S. citizens that are eager to travel, and obviously it would be really good for our business. ... We just don't have the capacity as a country, to do that many tests."

ABC News' Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New weekly unemployment filings tick up to 870,000


(WASHINGTON) -- The latest tally of weekly jobless claims was 870,000 last week, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

While the number of people filing for unemployment insurance has plateaued in recent weeks, the latest figure shows a concerning uptick of 4,000 compared to the previous week's revised figure.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Airlines under scrutiny over mask policies as parents with toddlers get kicked off flights

tonefotografia/iStockBy MINA KAJI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Rachel Davis was brought to tears last week as she pleaded with American Airlines gate agents after getting booted from a flight because her 2-year-old son would not wear a mask.

"What do you want me to do -- duct tape his face?" she asked. "He's 2 years old, he doesn't get it!"

Davis called it her lowest point as a mother, and she's not alone. Her story is just the most recent to surface as airlines grapple with how to handle child mask requirements.

In late July, major U.S. airlines started revising their policies from "young children" being exempt from wearing masks to "all children age 2 and up" being required to wear a face covering in order to fly.

Over the last two months, at least five mothers have struggled to get their toddlers to keep their masks on after boarding their plane, and were subsequently removed from their flight.

Chaya Bruck was traveling with her six children in August when they were all kicked off of a JetBlue Airways flight after her 2-year-old daughter refused to wear a mask.

"Should I tie her hands, what should I do?" Bruck asked the JetBlue flight attendant.

These incidents have inspired a petition calling for the airlines to increase their minimum age requirement for mask use, but the carriers say their policies align with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that any child over the age of 2 should wear a mask.

The World Health Organization, on the other hand, says children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks.

"The exact age is somewhat arbitrary," Dave Harrison, M.D., a pediatric cardiology fellow and ABC News contributor said. "The idea is that everyone should wear a mask to minimize spread, but it's all about safety first. The recommended age is based on a child's ability to remove the mask by themselves in an emergency situation."

Harrison explained that there is currently no evidence that a child that's age 5 versus age 2 has any difference in risk associated with COVID-19 severity.

But there is a difference in behavior.

"Having had two children go through that phase, I can tell you it's no easy feat to get them to do anything that they don't want to do," said Heather Greenwood Davis, contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler. "Kids at that age vary in temperament from day to day, hour to hour. Any expectation that a 2-year-old will follow any rule has to be tempered with the reality that kids at that age are prone to testing boundaries."

Greenwood Davis said experts she's spoken to have suggested letting kids choose their own masks, talking to kids about how great it is that they are helping keep everyone safe, and gradually increasing the amount of time that they have the mask on at home as ways to make a potential future trip easier.

"There has to be a way that airlines can adjust procedures to make sure that parents and kids have enough time and space to adopt safe procedures," Greenwood Davis said. "We're all going to have to work together to get through this."

A flight attendant who wished to remain anonymous told ABC News they are trained to first try to calm the situation and then call for a customer service manager.

Charles Leocha, president and cofounder of the Washington, D.C., consumer advocacy group Travelers Unite, thinks flight attendants should be given some sort of leeway for children between the ages of 2 and 5.

"Someone could be just having a bad day," Leocha said. "The kids are upset. Maybe their diaper's unchanged. I mean there's a whole bunch of reasons that there could be for not wanting to wear a mask. And I think that at some point we have to have some common sense coming into this situation, especially when you've got mothers and families traveling together, and you're saying everybody has to go."

Leocha suggested airlines could try creating more space between young children and other passengers.

"Given the fact that most of the flights are not packed with every single seat filled, there's always a way that you can get a small kid into an area of the plane where they're not really going to be right in someone's face," Leocha said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

The Debt S-L-A-Y-E-R Method helped woman vanquish $30K in credit card debt

Cedric WellsBy JOEL LYONS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- When Jordanne Wells' husband, Cedric, was about to turn 30 years old, she planned to buy him an ultimate flight simulator bundle -- a thoughtful gift given his interest in flying.

"I wanted to make this one special because it's a big, big number," she said. "I found the perfect gift. This was going to make me wife of the year."

 But before she could press the "pay now" button, she started feeling anxious about the purchase.

"I couldn't do it in good conscience," she said. "It was like, well, the money I'm spending on this, I could probably put it on the debt and I could probably get further ahead. It felt like that was a conversation I was always having."

"I can't keep sacrificing my life," she added in making minimum payments toward a credit card debt that was above $30,000. "I was pretty much done. It just flipped the switch in my head. It was like, 'No more. We're not having this conversation anymore. I have to get this under control.'"

Wells says her debt built up over several years. Having emigrated from Jamaica, she said she had to learn how to navigate the credit system in the U.S., along with having taken out student loans, and starting a family and buying home.

"I'm putting all my funds towards servicing this debt. It wasn't going anywhere. I was just keeping it alive, making the minimum payments, so that's pretty much how I ended up in more trouble than I thought I was in at the time," she said.

Wells, who studied economics in college, is the founder of Wise Money Women, a space for millennial-aged women to learn about how to manage their finances, as well as "The Wealth From Scratch Show," a podcast she hosts with her husband.

"I've always been fascinated with money and understanding how we make the decisions that we make," she said.

She decided to finally take the reins on her debt and came up with a plan that helped her pay off $30,000 in debt in one year.

It's called the Debt S-L-A-Y-E-R Method, and it takes users through six sequential steps to assess and tackle their debt. Wells says unlike the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods, the Debt S-L-A-Y-E-R Method allows those who follow it to take into consideration such circumstances as time-limited balance transfers and interest rates, among other things.

Here, she walks through her process:

1. Survey the Land

"I started out with surveying and taking a good look as to what was happening with my cards," Wells said. "That was the first part in getting really good clarity and it helps a lot to get you motivated, because you can see what's going to happen if you don't make a change."

2. Limit and Leverage

"You want to limit using more credit," Wells said. "I have two small kids ... I couldn't think of getting a second job, a third job, a fourth job to try and pay this down. I needed to work with the funds that I had to make it as optimized as possible. That meant getting my expenses lowered. And then using those extra funds that I was already used to paying into making extra payments."

3. Automate Your Payments

"Automation was to make sure I didn't damage my credit," Wells said. "I knew that I was getting prepared to potentially consolidate and get lower interest rates, so I needed to improve my credit while I was going through this process."

To do that, she set up automatic payments to make sure she never missed a minimum payment each month, which she says, "free your mind from the mental gymnastics of bill payment."

"You know your bills at the minimum are covered so you can focus your energy on other things, like earning more, saving more or other things you love," she added.

4. Yes, You Have to Pay Extra

"A lot of folks like to think that you can get away without having to pay extra," Wells said. "You're going to have to pay extra. That's how we get our debt paid off faster."

Wells said she was "randomly" paying extra money all the time.

"I paid $20 payments, I made $50 payments, I made a 60-cent payment," she said. "If I had any leftover change, if I didn't buy a Doritos from the vending machine, then I just put that dollar right into the debt right away."

Wells points out that credit card interest is often calculated every day, so the more often you pay, the less you may pay in interest later, which also contributes to lowering minimum payments.

5. Evaluate Often

"As I was going through this process and I was making these payments, I was looking at what was working, what was keeping me motivated, what was getting me excited, what tools did I need to use and when am I most likely to end up in a bad situation. When you go through and look at how you're doing with it, you can keep the things that are working and you can drop the things that aren't," Wells said.

"A general rule of thumb folks can use is to pay extra on the debt with highest minimum payments but with the lowest balances first because it can help free up cash flow faster," she said. "Why? If the minimum payment is high, then paying off that debt means that you get a larger chunk of money back in your pocket for debt payoff or goals, and if the balance is low, then it'll get paid off very fast."

"At the end of the day, the most important plan for the extra funds is the one that will keep you focused on the path to the debt payoff," she said.

6. Ramping It Up

"When I evaluated and said, 'Yes, my credit score looks good' … then it was just gravy all from there because I was paying the same amount I was paying from the beginning, but it was working so much harder," Wells said.

She adds that those using the method will want to look at opportunities to improve the terms of their debt, such as balance-transfer opportunities, consolidating loans or refinancing that can help them pay down their principal faster and pay less in interest.

Wells added that people will also want to look at their financial situation to see where they may need to pull back or where there are opportunities where it would be advantageous to "ramp up."

For example, "If kids will be starting 'real school' and daycare costs will be lowered, that could open a chance to ramp up debt payment," she said.

"Right now, I feel like a lot of us are in a state where we need funds to work harder. We cannot afford to not optimize, we cannot afford to not be resourceful with the funds that we do have," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Facebook hit with lawsuit over Kenosha protest deaths


(NEW YORK) -- Four individuals, including the partner of one of the victims of the deadly Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings, have filed a lawsuit against Facebook, the suspected gunman Kyle Rittenhouse and two leaders of online groups.

Violent protests rocked the Midwest city after the police shooting of Jacob Black on Aug. 23. Blake was paralyzed in the shooting.

The suit, filed in the federal court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin on Tuesday, alleges Facebook failed to delete two pages on its platform that the lawsuit says encouraged violence against protesters. It claims this may have ultimately led 17-year-old Rittenhouse to allegedly kill two people and injure a third.

The complaint argues the "militia" groups the Kenosha Guard and the Boogaloo Bois broadcast a "call to arms" using Facebook, urging counter-protesters to fight those protesting the Blake shooting. Rittenhouse "answered the Call to Arms by driving across state lines from Antioch, Illinois with an assault rifle," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs said they were "terrorized, assaulted, harassed, and placed in so much fear when facing the business end of military grade assault rifles that they determined it was too dangerous to continue to protest," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also argues that the deaths could have been prevented had Facebook taken action, saying the social media giant "received more than 400 warnings that what did happen was going to occur."

Facebook allegedly received hundreds of complaints and flags concerning the Kenosha Guard page, the complaint claims, "with reporters expressing that they were deeply concerned the Kenosha Guard was going out that night looking to intimidate and injure people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake."

According to the complaint, it wasn't until days after the violence occurred that Facebook removed the Kenosha Guard page.

The lawsuit claims Facebook is enabling these so-called militia groups to recruit and conspire and that Facebook "continues to profit from their activities, and those who fight for social justice continue to die."

Rittenhouse is currently held in Illinois but faces charges in Wisconsin including homicide. His lawyers have previously argued via a produced video that he acted in self-defense, and the next court date for his extradition hearing to Wisconsin is set for Sept. 25.

"As to Kyle Rittenhouse, this lawsuit is errant nonsense but may provide a golden opportunity for obtaining documents and sworn testimony from Facebook to bolster Kyle’s future defamation case against Facebook for falsely accusing him of mass murder," Lin Wood, an attorney for Rittenhouse, told ABC News in a statement. "Thus, I view the lawsuit as a blessing in disguise."

A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that the company "took action against organizations and content related to Kenosha."

"We have found no evidence that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited to the Event Page they organized," the statement added.

In an Aug. 28 video posted to Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company has made an "operational mistake" in not removing the Kenosha Guard page earlier.

Zuckerberg added that Facebook has designated the shooting as a mass murder and removed Rittenhouse's Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The other named defendants in the lawsuit include Kevin Mathewson, the operator of the Kenosha Guard Facebook page, and Ryan Balch, an alleged member of the Boogaloo Bois. Mathewson did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. Balch could not immediately be reached for comment and phone numbers linked to him had been disconnected.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Living on the edge: More than 4 in 10 households face serious financial problems during pandemic: POLL

iStock/designer491BY: SASHA PEZENIK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Yolanda Ames knows how to make food stretch: A little bread added to the ground beef, or a little extra water in the macaroni, will help keep her three boys' stomachs full longer. That's not the problem; it's whether she can afford electricity this month, so the fridge will stay on and keep her groceries from spoiling. In her bank account, there is roughly $0. In her hand, there's an envelope: the latest bill she is not certain how to pay.

There's one thing Ames knows: She'll have hard choices to make this month.

Before the coronavirus' global grip, it already wasn't easy. Now, Americans enduring the most threadbare fiscal safety nets find themselves on the fault lines exacerbated by the health crisis -- with the ground rapidly giving way beneath them.

New polling reveals that those with the smallest financial buffer have sustained a heavy blow. The survey, released Wednesday from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and conducted between July 1 and Aug. 3, finds that the COVID-19 crisis has sent families reeling from the economic fallout.

"It all starts to snowball," Dr. Robert Blendon, professor of Public Health and Political Analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told ABC News. "You're draining your resources -- whatever resources you had. You lose your work, but you've still got a landlord, a mortgage, utilities, you've still got to eat, suddenly you're in real trouble."

"It's a fight every day," Ames agreed. She's out of work, living on food stamps, supporting her two teenage sons and 6-year-old grandson. "All this has put me so far back now that I'm in a hole. A major, major hole."

Pre-pandemic, Ames, 43, made ends meet with odd jobs like styling hair or babysitting in her East Charlotte, North Carolina, neighborhood. Now she's recovering from breast cancer, and the pandemic has rendered both high-contact gigs too risky.

"These people are very vulnerable on the most basic things, barely hanging on and needing some financial toehold," Blendon said. "So what does it mean for the future? A lot of these households are going to fall apart unless there's some sort of cushion."

More than four in 10 households across the country report facing serious financial problems due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the survey reveals. More than four in 10 also report having lost employment, been furloughed, or had wages and hours cut. Among those with job or wage losses during the outbreak, two in three homes report severe financial issues.

And those with the slimmest margin for error, the most vulnerable to the virus, have been hit the hardest; as the income bracket shrinks, so grows the economic impact.

"If you make over $100,000, it's like an economic vaccine," Blendon said. "For so many others of more modest means, there's no life preserver for you. And suddenly you're forced to make difficult decisions between the basic things that keep your home together."

About a third of households with reported income under $30,000 said they had serious problems affording food, and had missed or delayed paying major bills to ensure enough to eat for everyone.

Broken down by race, that burden disproportionately weighs on Black and brown Americans. Thirty-one percent of Black households and 26% of Latino households say they face serious financial problems, contrasted with 12% of white households. Communities of color, already suffering a disproportionate impact from the virus, are now more financially strapped.

It comes as the nation pushes past a sobering milestone in the pandemic -- 200,000 COVID-19 deaths -- with the loss ravaging communities of color.

"On a day when we're reflecting on 200,000 deaths, we can't ignore the economic impact on those who are living through it," Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News. "Death is only one marker for the impact of this pandemic, and it's affecting society in major ways. And the burden of that is not evenly felt. What you see is the same groups that have suffered the most in terms of infection, also suffering the greatest economic burden."

One in five households nationwide report facing serious problems paying their mortgage or rent; there too, Black, Latino and low-income households take the greatest share of suffering.

Serious issues with heating and cooling, problems with pests, water and environmental problems, and severely cramped living conditions are also shouldered disproportionately by Black, Latino and low-income households, the survey found.

"I know what these numbers mean in people's lives," Blendon said. "It's a bit of the American Dream -- that we're going to make it, we're going to do better. And suddenly it's falling apart because you don't know how you're going to make it through the month."

Experts say the hardships reported in the poll are likely even bleaker since government relief programs expired at the end of July, and negotiations on another round of long-term aid have run up against a partisan divide.

"It has to be worse, because checks that these people surveyed would be receiving, that would have helped some, are no longer there," Blendon said.

"I have no choice but to keep on going no matter what," Ames said of her situation. "Don't know where this is going to end. I've been waiting for better for a long time; I'm not even sure I'd know what better looks like."

In dire straits, the idea of bartering food stamps for extra cash might be appealing for families in the red, even if they sell for only half their worth. But Ames knows that would be illegal, and says she's stuck to survival by strategic saving.

"It's a choice of -- are you going to pay for your meds? Or are you going to pay your light bill this month? Or can you buy your sons the socks they need? Toilet paper? Soap?" Ames said. "I was already down before this and now I don't know what I'm going to do to come back up to par. I can't afford to live like this -- and I can't afford to die."

"I think that at this moment, this milestone of 200,000 deaths, it's a time to reflect back on what's taking place, but more so, it's a time to look forward and say, 'What do we want the next few months to look like?'" Besser said. "Do we want it to be more of the same? Or do you want to say, 'This was the time when we decided to come together as a nation'?"

ABC News' Eric Strauss and Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Walmart Black Friday plans 2020: New in-store experience, more online deals


(WASHINGTON) -- Walmart is gearing up for the busy holiday shopping season with a new experience.

Shopping will look different for many stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the retail giant announced Wednesday how it will change based on evolving customer needs.

Three key areas of Walmart's updated experience include earlier holiday shopping deals, increased online sales, thousands of new staff hires and in-store safety guidelines.

As shopping interests have shifted toward "new normal" essentials, such as athleisure, sleepwear, exercise equipment and outdoor needs, Walmart is also making sure to increase inventory on these unexpected gifts.

There will also be more pet supplies, toys and items for home, including over 1,300 new toys introduced, more than 3 million pet beds and an increased availability on kitchen appliances.

With Walmart anticipating people getting started on Black Friday shopping earlier this year, the retailer will start rolling out seasonal sales earlier. An exact date hasn't been announced, but the company has advised that more details will be shared soon.

"We've heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and that they're looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle," said Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer Scott McCall in a statement.

"So, we've adjusted our strategy to adapt to these new shopping preferences -- we're offering more of what they want now, earlier than ever, and all at the best prices," he continued.

Like many other retailers, Walmart has taken steps to ensure customer safety amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There are reduced store hours, required face coverings, sneeze guard plastic barriers at pharmacies and checkout counters, traffic management and social distancing floor decals.

Additionally, shoppers can opt for contactless pickup or delivery services or contactless payments in store with Walmart Pay or Walmart app.

With the uptick in online sales post-pandemic, Walmart is planning to hire more than 20,000 seasonal employees to fulfill increased demand for the holidays.

Hires will be immediate with shifts scheduled as soon as 48 hours after applying and will continue through Jan. 1, 2021. There also will be opportunities to convert to full-time employment.

"The holidays are always a special time, and this year, we think the season will mean even more to our customers," said Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President Greg Smith in a statement. "As more of them turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we're staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer's everyday needs."

He continued, "We're also proud to be able to continue to provide employment opportunities across the country when it's needed most."

The news of Walmart's holiday plans comes shortly after the megastore announced Walmart , which is a membership program that offers customers unlimited free delivery from stores on more than 160,000 products along with a host of other in-store benefits.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

California targets 2035 for all new-car purchases to be zero-emission vehicles

iStock/AvigatorPhotographerBY: AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) -- California is seeking by 2035 to make all cars sold in the state zero-emission vehicles as part of the state's effort to combat climate change.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on Wednesday setting forth the goal and calling it "the most impactful step" California can make toward reducing emissions.

"For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. You deserve to have a car that doesn't give your kids asthma," Newsom said. "Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse -- and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn't melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines."

According to the California Air Resource Board, transportation accounted for 41% of the state's emissions in 2017.

In addition to passenger vehicles, the order looks to make 100% of medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the state zero emission "where feasible."

"This is the next big global industry and California wants to dominate it," Newsom said, "and that's in detoxifying and decarbonizing our transportation fleets."

To support the goal, Newsom directed CARB, in partnership with private companies, to accelerate the deployment of fueling and charging options for zero-emission vehicles throughout the state.

The order does not not prevent residents from owning or from selling used gasoline-powered vehicles.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Uncle Ben’s will now be known as Ben's Original

Thomas Faull/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The bright orange boxed rice brand officially has a new name: Ben's Original.

After several weeks of listening to consumers, employees and stakeholders, Mars Inc., the parent company of Ben's Original, said in a press release that it understands "the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the Uncle Ben’s brand and as we announced in June, we have committed to change."

"We will change our name to Ben’s Original as well as remove the image on our packaging to create more equitable iconography," the release said. "This change signals our ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining our commitment to producing the world’s best rice."

Although Mars shared the news on Twitter Wednesday, the social media profile pic of the bowtied Black man on the rice box cover is still unchanged.

We listened. And we learned. Moving forward, Uncle Ben's will be known as Ben’s Original™. Read our full statement to find out more about our brand's new purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table:

— Uncle Ben's USA (@UncleBens) September 23, 2020

Like so many other brands, including Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth's and Land O'Lakes, the rice maker announced it was time to "evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity."

In addition to the name and visual changes to the packaging, the brand said it is "taking action to enhance inclusion and equity" with a new purpose to "create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table."

Ben's Original has community outreach programs that will "ensure underserved communities have access to the nutritious meals we all deserve."

We have a responsibility to help end racial injustices. We’re listening to consumers, especially in the Black community, and our Associates. We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we will evolve Uncle Ben’s visual brand identity.

— Uncle Ben's USA (@UncleBens) June 17, 2020

"We will also help culinary entrepreneurs of all colors get educational opportunities so their ideas and voices can be appreciated by all. This work will begin in the U.S., where we will partner with National Urban League to support aspiring Black chefs through scholarships, and we will then expand our efforts to support other underserved communities around the world," according to the press release.

The brand, based in Greenville, Mississippi, will also "focus on enhancing educational opportunities for more than 7,500 area students, as well as furthering access to fresh foods."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Beekeepers and bartenders in big cities create sweet, sustainable cocktail supply chain


(NEW YORK) -- What sweeter way to celebrate National Honey Month than with a refreshing, herbal cocktail that both tastes delicious and promotes sustainable systems to improve the health of bee colonies.

Beekeepers based in big cities like New York and nearby bartenders who handcraft cocktails with local, seasonal ingredients have teamed up with Aberfeldy, the Gardening Giveback Project and the Bee Informed Partnership to create a unique cocktail recipe that makes honey bees' hard work the golden ingredient.

Brendan Bartley, one of the project's participating bartenders from Bathtub Gin, told ABC News' Good Morning America that "it's been amazing" to better understand how to "propagate and cultivate good habits" with the help of the nonprofit organization dedicated to working with beekeepers to help colony survivorship in the U.S.

"I mean, we're on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, and we have a little bee farm with our flower beds in the front, so it's been really eye-opening to have that in the middle of the city," he said.

Not only is the partnership a symbiotic match, but it creates a simple and sustainable supply chain to get high-quality ingredients to beverage directors like Bartley.

"You know where they're coming from and you understand where they're sourced," he said, adding that it gives him the ability to have "no carbon footprint of something getting shipped from very far away."

Plus, Bartley said, "the really exciting part about using local honey is that the pollen that the bees are collecting are different seasonally, so you're going to get little bits of flavor profiles that change by using local resources."

"You're getting this herbaceous, sweet and floral kind of nature, which kind of accentuates what's happening in the whiskey with its citrus and caramel and fruit undertones, so it all works together," he said of the aromatic cocktail.

Holly Seidewand, Aberfeldy’s North American brand ambassador, helps run the barrels and bees project and told GMA that this year partnered directly with Gardening Giveback to "help nationwide support more of these smaller apiaries and businesses" and support beekeepers as well as educate more bars.

In her work with the teams on urban rooftop apiaries and local beekeepers, Seidewand has learned that everyone can play a small role in helping strengthen the health of bee colonies.

"Even in a city, it really comes down to just a few flowers on a railing bed on your fire escape or even just maintaining some local gardens or little plant areas that you see," she explained. "Taking that initiative to work with bartenders and consumers in general and help them understand that it just takes a flower or two for each person and now you have all of these new pollinators around. If everyone did that the bees would be very healthy and fit in these cities."

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'We're ready' to open Disneyland, park officials say


(NEW YORK) -- Disneyland awaits.

"We are ready to reopen," Patrick Finnegan, vice president of Disney California Adventure Park & Downtown Disney District, said in a conference call Tuesday. "We are hoping for guidance [from the governor of California] soon."

Downtown Disney opened on July 9 with capacity restrictions to an "incredibly positive" reception.

Finnegan said the California theme park will utilize safety methods being used at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Cast members, he said, will soon be able to get tested for COVID-19 in their own communities. Thousands of Disneyland employees remain furloughed.

When the park reopens, Finnegan said guests can look forward to new experiences like the Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, echoed the "we're ready" sentiment of the call and asked local and state officials for concrete guidelines.

"I encourage you to treat theme parks as you would other sectors," he said. "The longer we wait the more devastation the impact to the OC and Anaheim communities. It's time."

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

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Adidas and Pixar debut "Toy Story" shoe collection


(NEW YORK) -- Calling all Toy Story fans!

It's been 25 years since the film's release and there's a new collection launching to help everyone celebrate in style.

Slated to release Oct. 1, Adidas and Pixar have joined forces to create a Toy Story Friendship collection featuring sneakers and apparel.

The collection draws inspiration from the timeless messages of friendship and teamwork.

"Now more than ever, this collaboration represents the importance of bringing people together on the court, in the classroom, on the playground and in the world," the brand wrote in a statement.

It's a reminder that we all have friends to lean on, just like Andy had Woody, Buzz and the whole Toy Story gang.

While there are many adults who would probably love to get their hands on this release, the collection has been specifically curated with sizes for juniors, children and infants with prices beginning at $22.

In total, there are seven sneakers included that celebrate all the famous characters fans of the film have grown to know and love.

The Dame 7 x Buxx sneaker has white, purple and green on the upper portion of the shoe and Buzz Lightyear details and glow-in-the-dark elements featured throughout.

Another standout, the D.O.N. Issue #2 x Wood has blue denim and print details that are a nod to Sheriff Woody's classic character. Andy’s name is also on the right outsole.

In 2019, Adidas and Pixar teamed up to create a Toy Story 4-themed capsule collection that released on the same day as the movie. This line included footwear and clothing as well.

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Tesla announces plans for low cost batteries, $25,000 car


(FREEMONT, Calif.) -- Tesla has announced new, internally-produced batteries for its electric cars, signaling a major shift from the automaker that, if successful, could significantly reduce the cost of electric vehicles. 

"I think it's the way all electric cars in the future will be made," said CEO Elon Musk at Tesla’s “Battery Day” event outside its production facility in Freemont, California.

Tesla's new battery cell features a "tabless" design, which the company claims will provide five times the energy, six times the power, and 16% more range compared to its old battery cell. 

The company's current vehicles use batteries sourced from suppliers like Panasonic, where the energy stored in the battery pack is transferred to the drivetrain via a conductive metal tab.

The new battery pack accomplishes the same thing by using a design that integrates a series of small bumps and spikes, which the company hopes will eliminate the need for a tab, and consequently drive down costs and production time. Musk tweeted the tech is "way more important than it sounds," after the patent was approved back in May.

Way more important than it sounds

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 7, 2020


"This is not just a concept or a rendering, we are starting to ramp up manufacturing of these cells at our pilot ten gigawatt-hour production facility," said Drew Baglino, Tesla’s Senior Vice President, Powertrain and Energy Engineering. 

Tesla also said the new batteries would be 56% less expensive to manufacture and are being developed entirely in-house.

"They own the whole widget," says Roberto Baldwin, Senior Editor of Technology at Car and Driver. "Which is what gives them the ability to control every aspect, and to tweak as much efficiency as they can out of everything - out of their batteries, out of their motors, out of their inverters."

Tesla's investments in its own battery tech don’t mean it's ramping down partnerships with other battery producers. CEO Elon Musk, in a tweet prior to the event, said Tesla plans to "increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL (possibly other partners too.)" He goes on to note the company predicts shortages in battery cell supply from those suppliers and is ramping up in-house efforts to mitigate those shortages. 

We intend to increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL (possibly other partners too). However, even with our cell suppliers going at maximum speed, we still foresee significant shortages in 2022 & beyond unless we also take action ourselves.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 21, 2020

During the event, Musk elaborated on those efforts saying that by 2022 they plan on producing 100-gigawatt hours of battery cells per year and by 2030 produce three terawatt-hours per year. 

“It allows us to make a lot more cars and a lot more stationary storage,” said Musk.

Bringing down the cost of battery production is part of Tesla’s plan to eventually sell 20 million vehicles annually- about fifty times more than they sell now.

“I think twenty million is doable,” says Baldwin. “As long as they can continue to grow, and continue to invest and sort of stay ahead of everyone.”

Part of that 20 million vehicle goal will come from a planned $25,000 Tesla, set to go on sale in about three years. It would undercut its current Model 3 sedan as the brand's cheapest vehicle. Musk also said it would be fully autonomous. 

“It was always our goal to try to make an affordable electric car,” said Musk. 

Musk said that while production is beginning, it will take between a year and eighteen months to fully ramp up production of the new batteries, and it will take longer for that technology to show up in actual vehicles. 

“Tesla has repeatedly set timetables and timelines, and then they’ve missed them,” says Baldwin.

The Model 3 faced significant delays as the company ramped up production in 2017. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, Tesla has also pushed back the planned releases for it’s “Semi” truck and “Roadster” sports car. But Baldwin says the company is making improvements, noting the Model Y crossover was released ahead of schedule. 

“On the one hand, they’re taking all the learnings they’ve gotten over the past ten, twelve years, and they’re using that to make their batteries better,” says Baldwin. “But there’s still the potential this could be delayed another year, another four years.”

Tesla’s battery announcement comes at a time of increased competition in the electric vehicle market. Earlier this month, Lucid, an EV startup founded by the former head of engineering for Tesla’s own Model S sedan, unveiled an electric sedan called the Air, with a claimed 503 miles of range. General Motors’ “Ultium” battery pack, which the company unveiled earlier this year, is set to underpin 13 new electric vehicle models across four brands, starting with a new “HUMMER” pickup truck. Volkswagen says it plans to produce 1.5 million EVs annually by 2025 and unveiled the ID4, an electric crossover SUV that’s expected to have 310 miles of range, on Wednesday. 

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Airlines push for coronavirus testing before international flights

Guvendemir/iStockBy MINA KAJI and AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. aviation industry is urging the government to establish COVID-19 testing protocols before international flights as way to safely reopen travel routes that have been cut amid the pandemic.

Industry stakeholders want the U.S. to reach an agreement on pre-flight COVID-19 testing procedures with Europe, Canada or the Pacific first as part of a "limited testing pilot project." This would allow people to travel between two countries without the need to quarantine, and allow government officials to evaluate the efficacy of the program.

International travel among U.S. carriers is currently down 82% compared to last year as many countries' borders remain closed to U.S. citizens, according to Airlines for America. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates the loss of international travel and tourism will cost the U.S. economy $155 billion.

On Tuesday, global airlines called on governments to replace restrictive quarantine measures with COVID-19 tests prior to all international flights.

"A global agreement is needed to ensure test results on departure are accepted on arrival," International Air Transport Association Director General Alexandre de Juniac said. “It will also boost passenger confidence that everybody on the aircraft has been tested.”

There are several airports and airlines in other countries working on potential travel "bubble" or "airbridge" concepts. For example, Frankfurt Airport in Germany can now test up to 20,000 people a day for anyone who is traveling to a place where they might need a negative test upon arrival.

'We just don't have the capacity'

U.S. aviation stakeholders are "cognizant of the many complexities and issues surrounding COVID-19 testing," they wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in early September.

They said testing pilots must "address key considerations, including the availability and reliability of rapid diagnostic tests that can be conducted within a reasonable time window prior to departure."

The PCR test has a reported rate of false negatives as low as 2% and as high as 37%, according to a study in The BMJ. The antigen test has a reported rate of false negative results as high as 50%, the journal Science reported.

"These rapid tests are critical for understanding community spread, doing contact tracing and helping people do their jobs, be in school and live their lives safely," ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Jay Bhatt said. "Still, we need better tests and better access to them. The tests should have rigorous review by the FDA as soon as possible and we continue to need to improve our turnaround times for results."

United Airlines Chief Communication Officer Josh Earnest said the current limiting factor for U.S. airlines to implement these programs is not so much reliability, but availability.

"We would love to see the U.S. government work with international authorities to lower the barriers to international trade and commerce," Earnest told ABC News. "That would be good for the broader economy, it certainly would be good for a lot of U.S. citizens that are eager to travel, and obviously it would be really good for our business. ... We just don't have the capacity as a country, to do that many tests."

'Too many unanswered questions'

Aviation Security Expert Jeff Price is concerned about the pressure the scale of these operations would place on airports.

"We're talking about the installation of numerous testing stations, hiring tens of thousands of personnel throughout the country to do the testing and then implementing the infrastructure to take care of those passengers who test positive," Price told ABC News. "Do we immediately quarantine them and escort them out of the airport?"

He raised other questions such as how much longer will passengers have to arrive at the airport, how will passengers get refunds if they test positive and how long will the line be for people waiting to get tested?

"Long lines result in valid targets for terrorist bombings and active shooters," Price said. "I think a lot of people are so focused on the pandemic they forget that there are other risks out there."

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Will President Trump be Re-Elected?