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(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department announced an $8 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker widely accused of fueling the nation's opioid crisis that has been blamed for more than 400,000 American deaths in the last 20 years.

The settlement resolves criminal and civil investigations into how Purdue Pharma aggressively marketed its powerful painkillers but the staggering amount is largely symbolic. The company is tied up in bankruptcy proceedings and lacks the assets to pay the full amount.

The Sacklers, the wealthy family that controls the company, will separately pay $225 million to resolve civil claims.

The settlement agreement does not prevent family members or company executives from being prosecuted in the future.

The Sackler family said family members who served on the Pharma's board of directors acted "ethically and lawfully," which would be proven in "the upcoming release of company documents," a statement from family on Wedensday read.

"We reached today’s agreement in order to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings," the statement continued.

"The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids," said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement. "With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public's benefit, the resolution in today's announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis."

"This resolution does not provide anybody with a pass on the criminal side," said Rachel Honig, an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

The company is pleading guilty on three counts: one charge of defrauding the United States and two anti-kickback-related charges.

"Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts," said Stephen Miller, Purdue Pharma's chairman of the board in a statement released Wednesday.

Miller said resolving the DOJ's investigation was an "important step in our bankruptcy process."

The company will operate under different ownership, will be overseen by new trustees and will offer "milllions of doses of livesaving opioid addiction treatment and overdose" medicine for free or "at cost," per the company's statement.

"The department will not relent to combat the opioid problem," Deputy Attorney General Jeffery Rosen said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Rosen said that according to the plea agreement, and subject to bankruptcy court approval, Purdue Pharma will be "be dissolved and won't exist in its current form."

Two dozen states, however, have opposed Purdue's plans to turn itself into a public trust.

"DOJ failed," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. "Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long."

"While our country continues to recover from the pain and destruction left by the Sacklers' greed, this family has attempted to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis," New York Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday. "Today's deal doesn't account for the hundreds of thousands of deaths or millions of addictions caused by Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family. Instead, it allows billionaires to keep their billions without any accounting for how much they really made. From the beginning, we've aimed to unearth how much the Sacklers actually profited and how much they continue to hide away. While no amount of money can ever compensate the pain that so many now know, we will continue to litigate our case through the courts to secure every cent we can to limit future opioid addictions. We are committed to holding the Sacklers and others responsible for the role they played in fueling the opioid crisis."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Melpomenem/iStockBy PENELOPE LOPEZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Astronaut Ellen Ochoa has a message for the next generation of Latinx students who are aspiring to work in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields: "We need you."

“We need your minds. We need your creativity,” she told ABC News.

Ochoa, a first generation Mexican-American, made history in the Latinx community as NASA's first Hispanic astronaut. She took her first space flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She was also the first Hispanic director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and spent nearly 1,000 hours in space during four shuttle missions.

As the chair of the National Science Board, Ochoa is constantly championing a more inclusive work environment.

“Look at the demographics of our country. They are changing … we have to involve the people in our country. And increasingly, of course, that is people of some kind of Latino or Hispanic heritage,” she said.

For young Latinx students, working in the STEM fields is no longer something out of reach.

“STEM fields offer a unique opportunity to change the world, one person at a time,” said India Carranza, a first generation Puerto Rican and Salvadorian high school junior who aspires to be a physiotherapist. “And being able to help people through their paths and different journeys is one of the unique opportunities of the STEM field.”

Today, Latinx individuals make up nearly 20% of the U.S population and yet just 7% of the STEM workforce.

Among these innovative leaders is trailblazer Jose Hernandez. His dedication and tenacity as a farm worker led him to accomplish his dream of becoming an astronaut.

Hernandez’s resilience has taught many about the importance of never giving up on their dreams.

“NASA rejected me not once, twice or three times. It was 11 rejections," he said. "It wasn't until my 12th attempt that I finally got selected and invited to be part of the 19th class of U.S. NASA astronauts. So perseverance is key."

Louvere Walker-Hannon's triumph within the field of mathematics has led her to become one of the prominent STEM leaders for Afro-Latinx girls.

Walker-Hannon, who takes pride in her Afro-Panamanian roots, said, “Representation matters and it matters in all forms, whether it's visually or in other categories. There are many times when you can walk into an environment and you may be the only person, one of the few that looks like you ... so you deserve to have that seat at the table.”

Organizations like NASA’s HOLA program, The Hispanic Outreach Leadership Alliance, work diligently to help foster upcoming Latinx STEM leaders.

“HOLA tries to engage the community and advocate in a couple of different ways," said Magdiel Santana, chair of HOLA. "So, from a student and educational perspective, we try to invite students to a lot of our events. And we've had students connected with other scientists and engineers to provide them an opportunity for that one-on-one experience.”

As an influential leader in STEM, Santana believes “it's incredibly important to have Latinos in STEM leadership positions because it's a matter of representation.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Canadian green start-up Nexii Buildings Solutions Inc. believes they have a solution to the carbon emission problem in construction.

Its product Nexiite, a proprietary material that allows for rapid construction, is a near-zero carbon alternative to cement, a highly carbon-intensive material. 

Greenhouse gas emissions are a big issue in construction. The 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction found that 39% of carbon emissions in 2018 came from buildings and construction, 11% came from manufacturing materials such as steel, glass, and cement. 

Nexii CEO Stephen Sidwell tells ABC Audio there needs to be a new way of constructing buildings to help slow climate change and support a growing population around the world. 

“All the buildings on the planet are expected to double in the next 40 years. That's the equivalent of a New York City being built every month for the next 40 years,” said Sidwell. 

Nexii's goal is to build near net-zero or net-zero buildings, meaning the buildings will produce as much or nearly as much energy as it uses each year. 

“In the construction process, we know that we have substantially lower embodied carbons at the same time in our building system compared to other building systems. It's a combination of those embodied carbons going into the building and then the lower operating costs, or energy costs. The energy that's required to operate our building is also going to be substantially lower,” said Sidwell. 

Embodied carbons are the sum of all the greenhouse gas emissions involved with the construction of a building, including the mining, manufacturing, or any transportation of any materials.

The company can build brand new buildings or do retrofits of existing ones. To date, they have completed 10 buildings, including retrofits. 

The product is manufactured off-site, then shipped to the building site leading to faster building times. 

Sidwell said a retrofit could include a high-performance envelope system around the outside of an existing building. 

“You can essentially think of us as almost like we can put a fleece-lined rain jacket over a building at a cost-effective, artistic, beautiful way,” said Sidwell. 

He adds that retrofitting old buildings will be key to addressing energy consumption in buildings and that the retrofit market is expected to be three to five times larger than the new construction market. 

The company has been working with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit working to transform global energy, on retrofitting solutions in the United States. 

Sidwell says the buildings are fire and water-resistant and that they’ve gone through seismic testing at UC-Berkeley. 

“If the bathtub leaks on the sixth floor all the way to the basement, you're not going to be worried about how much water damage there is. None of the materials that we use are biodegradable. There's no potential for mold, mildew, rot, or insect devastation,” said Sidwell. 

Even though Nexii is a high tech solution, customers will still see savings. 

“Our price is going to be the same as traditional building materials, but our speed of build is roughly seventy-five percent faster than traditional building systems. The developer would be able to save all of those financing costs, the overhead costs, the insurance costs. Overall, it is more affordable,” said Sidwell. 

Currently, Nexii has one plant in Squamish, British Columbia, but they are building several plants around Canada and the United States, including in Vancouver, Canada that should be operational in February and one in Pennsylvania, which Sidwell says will be operational by the end of the second quarter of 2021. 

“The intention is that we would have 10 plants across the US within the next 18 months or so. We would have national penetration across the U.S, ” says Sidwell. 

He believes each plant will be able to produce about 100 buildings, depending on the size, each year once they are completely up and running. 

Sidwell says they have also created a global licensing program that will allow plants to be built internationally. 

“We have had discussions with developers [and] building material companies literally around the world. And we are intending next year to start our global expansion strategy at the same time,“ said Sidwell. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Walmart announced its "Black Friday Deals for Days" events last week, and now the retailer is giving shoppers a look at some of the best deals.

Starting Nov. 4, the company is rolling out several sale events through Nov. 27 with discounted prices available in-store and online.

Each event will feature a range of items like home goods and electronics to apparel and toys.

Walmart will also be hosting its biggest mobile phone event with deals on everything from iPhones to Samsung Galaxy phones.

"Here's the millionth reason to 💙 us — we're giving you a sneak peek at our Black Friday deals," Walmart said in a video.

Other standout products featured include Apple AirPods, an Instant Pot, an HP Chromebook and several other items.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


tirc83/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- New York City diners could soon notice a new item on the bottom of their bill at bars and restaurants during the pandemic.

A new option for restaurants to add a surcharge went into effect Friday after it was approved last month by the City Council. The recovery measure is meant to help hard-hit restaurants amid the continued turbulence in operations changes and safety protocols while attempting to keep their kitchens open for business.

While the measure, sponsored by Council Member Joe Borelli and supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is only temporary for now, it will allow food service establishments to add a "COVID-19 Recovery Charge" of up to 10% of a customer’s total bill.

Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance told ABC News that like what's permitted elsewhere across New York state and across the country, this recovery charge "allows struggling New York City restaurants the option of using a clearly disclosed surcharge, if they so choose, to overcome the expenses of keeping their businesses and workers safe and healthy."

"This bill will give restaurants the freedom they need to increase revenue to help cover rapidly rising labor and compliance costs and keep them in business," Borelli said in a statement. "Restaurants in New York City have been getting crushed by massively increasing costs over the last five years and their options for increasing revenue have been narrowing. This new policy is coming as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on our city, but I have every intention of making this change permanent."

Rigie added that "it also supports restaurants in covering rent and labor, and costly but essential outdoor dining and heating installations that will be critical to attracting customers and keeping them comfortable during the colder winter months."

Restaurants owners who actually plan to add the new charge are required to clearly disclose the change on their menus and a customer's bill. This new surcharge will be applied before sales tax on checks and is separate from tips.

Some restaurant owners have voiced concerns of adding a few more bucks to a customers tab for fear that it could deter diners, but others are more open since it's optional and even a small fee could help cover new overhead costs such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation.

Bernard Collin, general manager of La Goulue in Manhattan's Upper East Side, told ABC News that the option to add the surcharge, while well intended, could be potentially problematic for direct tips for waitstaff.

"The restaurant industry as a whole is extremely grateful to City Council for giving the option to add this 10% charge. That being said, we are discussing this supplemental charge internally and how it will impact our loyal -- and new -- customers," he said. "Not to mention, there is also concern that implementing the surcharge could take away from guests wiliness to tip the same gratuity to the staff."

He also reminded customers that regardless of whether a restaurant adopts this charge, diners should "always consider tipping industry standard of 18 to 20% if they have a good dining experience, if not more for having an exceptional one."

"If all guests were to do this when dining out, it would not only show an appreciation for the profession during these challenging times but also be a positive impact on the industry," Collin continued.

Another New York City restaurant owner, Pedro Zamora of Cantina Rooftop, told ABC News it's a "great idea because it can help" the hard hit businesses amid the pandemic, but assured that they are not currently adding the surcharge to its customers tabs.

Once it's safe to resume full capacity indoor dining, the surcharge will only be permitted for another 90 days from that date.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



The 2022 Hummer EV pickup truck made its grand debut Tuesday evening, the newest electric vehicle to target Tesla's stronghold on the EV market.

The old Hummer -- a military-esque, boxy ute that averaged 10 mpg -- was a lightning rod for environmentalists before sales were halted in 2010. This time, the Hummer EV may attract the very naysayers who shunned and sneered at its brawny image.

"We created something people will be amazed by, regardless of the propulsion system," Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC, told ABC News. "It's the world's first supertruck."

Discussions to reboot the polarizing Hummer nameplate started two years ago at GMC, the upscale truck brand owned by General Motors. Executives moved quickly to showcase GM's new Ultium battery system and capitalize on motorists' growing interest in zero-emissions technology. Reviving the Hummer nameplate from GM's archives was debated at the top levels of the company.

"Clearly there was concern bringing back Hummer," Aldred said. "There was a recognition that the old Hummer was a gas-guzzler. We talked to focus groups to find out how deep-rooted the hate was. But we also knew there was something legendary about Hummer -- something iconic."

The Hummer EV still retains the character, presence and signature grille of the previous generation. But "this is not a retro vehicle," Aldred explained. "It has a progressive design. It looks different from what you see on the road today."

Production is scheduled to begin September 2021 at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, now dubbed "Factory ZERO." The automaker invested $2.2 billion to repurpose and retool the 35-year-old facility.

The $112,595 Edition 1 Hummer EV includes a three-motor e4WD drive system that offers 350 miles of driving range on a full charge. If hooked up to an 800-volt DC fast charging station, Hummer owners can get nearly 100 miles of range in 10 minutes. Charging at home with a 240-volt Level 2 charger takes less than 30 hours.

The Hummer EV comes with Super Cruise, GM's hands-free driving assistance feature, and has a removable four-panel infinity roof that fits snuggly in the "frunk" or front compartment.

The coolest part of the new Hummer may be what's inside. A moon boot print on the driver door. Etchings of the Sea of Tranquility on the speakers. Gauges that resemble an altimeter.

"The previous Hummer was military inspired. This Hummer has the aesthetics of lunar vehicles," Rich Scheer, lead designer of the Hummer, told ABC News. "We wanted to go to production in a short amount of time and we felt like we were going to the moon. The design studio was inspired by the [Apollo 11] program."

There are also two massive screens inside the vehicle -- a 13.4-inch diagonal infotainment screen and a 12.3-inch diagonal driver information center display -- and six driving modes are offered. The vehicle's rear wheels and front wheels can steer at the same angle at low speeds and the suspension height can be raised approximately six inches for extreme off-road situations. The Hummer's off-road capabilities include scaling 18-inch verticals and driving through water that's more than 2 feet deep, according to GMC. The vehicle's weight, towing capacity and payload have not been announced.

Three other Hummer EV variants will be available in the coming years with starting prices of $79,995, $89,995 and $99,995. Only 2,500 units of the Edition 1 will be built.

Al Oppenheiser, chief engineer of the Hummer EV, said his team moved aggressively to meet the ambitious two-year deadline.

"It's been long days and nights and we haven't lost a day since the pandemic," he told ABC News. "We're building the first Hummer now. We'll learn and delete and fix and improve things over the next 30 weeks."

Karl Brauer, executive analyst at, said he expects the Hummer EV to sell well -- at first.

"Wealthy people will want these. People liked the concept of the original Hummer," he told ABC News. "There is a lingering desire for the brand and what it represented -- that alpha male, tough image."

The biggest concern going forward will be long-term demand, he argued.

"If you can make an EV appealing to wealthy people, you can sell a lot of them," he said. "Other than Tesla, it's not easy to sell EVs to people."

EVs accounted for a meager 1.7% of new vehicle registrations in August, far less than the percentage of vehicles with manual transmissions, according to Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit.

"Whatever the Hummer does [in sales] is irrelevant," she told ABC News. "It's changing how people think about EVs. You have to make changes in your lifestyle to drive an EV."

Tesla and GM alone probably won't convince Americans to give up their internal combustion engines. A national charging infrastructure and customer education are essential to the success of EVs, she said.

"It's clearly proven there's demand for Teslas but that hasn't translated to the industry," she said. "The EV market is a long-term play. We're not going to see big volumes for decades."

The Hummer will be marketed to all types of drivers and Aldred is convinced new customers -- including those without a Tesla in their garage -- will be drawn to its premium interior, modern looks and off-roading abilities.

"It's not aimed squarely at pickup truck buyers," he said. "It will attract people who buy luxury and exotic makes, sports cars, people who like expensive toys."

He added, "The Hummer EV is better than anything on the market. It's the most capable and technologically-advanced truck in GMC."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it has filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of a host of anti-competitive practices that it says has allowed the company to unlawfully preserve monopolies through the operations and advertising agreements reached through its web browser.

The long-awaited lawsuit follows a year-long investigation into the tech giant and lays the groundwork for one of the most significant confrontations between the U.S. government and a web company in decades.

The states of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas all joined as plaintiffs in the suit, according to the docket in D.C. district court.

The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the lawsuit, prior to a press briefing with senior department officials.

"As the antitrust complaint filed today explains, [Google] has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition," deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said.

Among the accusations against Google in the lawsuit is that it unlawfully pays phone carriers and other web browsers, like Apple's Safari, billions of dollars each year from its search advertising revenues in order to be the preset default search engine on those platforms, according to associate deputy attorney general and senior advisor for technology industries Ryan Shores.

Shores said as a result of its anticompetitive practices Google currently maintains search distribution channels accounting for roughly 80% of general search queries in the U.S.

"Ultimately, it is consumers and advertisers who suffer from less choice, less innovation and less competitive advertising prices," Shores said. "New models for search are emerging but if they have any chance to challenge Google they must have an effective way to distribute their product, so they can build a user base."

Google did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment, but in a tweet posted to its Public Policy Twitter account the company described the suit as "deeply flawed."

Rosen disputed the idea that the lawsuit was in anyway rushed and brushed off the fact that many states previously in talks with DOJ declined to sign on as plaintiffs.

"I think it'd be fair to say from our coordination with states that we've seen general support as to the issues that are in play," Rosen said. "There have been some states that chose not to join this complaint in some states that are choosing to proceed on their own path but not out of a lack of support for what the concerns are."

In a separate paper statement, Attorney General William Barr praised the suit as a "monumental case" and previewed potential future action by the Justice Department against tech companies as a result of its still ongoing review into their alleged anti-competitive practices to maintain control of the market.

"This is an important milestone, but not the end of our review of marketleading online platforms," Barr said. "The Department will continue to vigorously investigate and enforce the antitrust laws where appropriate to protect and promote competition in the digital economy for the benefit of the American consumer."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Business of FashionBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- While wardrobes have transitioned into cozy at-home athleisure looks, tie-dye and face masks amid the coronavirus, Kendall and Kylie Jenner have a new collection for our new normal.

For the first time ever, the sister duo have created an exclusive clothing line with Amazon's The Drop, which is a series of limited-edition fashion collections and style inspiration from global influencers.

The new line officially dropped on Monday. Most collections are only available for 48 hours, but Kendall and Kylie's will be available until Oct. 25.

The Kendall Kylie x The Drop collection has a wide variety of items such as bodysuits, matching sets, accessories, shoes and more. Plus, everything retails for less than $90.

Another added bonus to the latest assortment is that each purchase will also include a free face covering.

Both sisters have been posting videos to give fans styling inspiration and there are also lots ideas posted on the collection's landing page.

In one video
, Kylie is seen wearing a black-and-orange tie-dye turtleneck that features a cut-out near her chest.

In another clip, Kendall is seen posing in a cropped sky blue cardigan paired with a pair of jeans.

All items from the line are ready to be shopped and available on Amazon's website until Sunday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


artisteer/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Holiday shopping and shipping amid the pandemic could come with new problems, which is why some companies are increasing staff to meet the new demand.

With more Americans reluctant to return to physical stores, and moving online to do their shopping, experts predict that the busy retail season ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas will lead to a greater influx of shipped packages and possible delivery delays.

Shipmetrix estimates that between the two major upcoming holidays more than 79 million packages a day will be shipped, compared to 65 million last year.

"As a result of COVID, we've got three years of growth in about six months," Brie Carere, chief marketing officer for FedEx, told ABC News.

FedEx has added 70,000 new jobs in anticipation of the high volumes and gave the holiday season a new nickname.

"The entire U.S. domestic shipping industry has been at peak-like levels, since March. Now on top of those levels, we're heading into our holiday shopping season," Carere said. "You've got a peak volume on top of peak volume, so we're calling it a 'ship-athon.'"

"We had to add days of service, we are now shipping across the United States on Sundays serving 95% of the population," she added.

Even small businesses have moved online due to the pandemic, including big-box retailers.

In order to avoid any major delays, experts now encourage consumers to shop and ship early.

"You see a deal, you should buy it early and definitely give yourself a lot of time," Ben Fox Rubin, a senior reporter at CNET told ABC News.

Consumer and retail research expert Hitha Herzog advised that it's best to plan ahead.

"You don't know whether or not you're going to see your loved ones, friends and family -- So I think the American consumer wants to get all of those gifts all planned out and sent off before it gets to crunch time," she said.

Both the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx told ABC News they have pushed up some of their delivery cutoff dates for select services by a few days to ensure that presents arrive on time.

"This is not the time to be a last-minute shopper, particularly this year," Rubin said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(LONDON) -- The multinational consulting giant Deloitte is proposing shuttering four office buildings in the U.K. but keeping all staff on work-from-home contracts, the company told ABC News Monday.

The coronavirus pandemic ushered in a sudden, massive work-from-home experiment for much of the private sector. Now more than six months into it, a handful of companies are beginning to permanently reassess their office space needs.

"COVID-19 has fast-tracked our future of work program, leading us to review our real estate portfolio and how we use our offices across the U.K., including London," Stephen Griggs, Deloitte U.K.'s managing partner, told ABC News in a statement. "As a result, we are proposing our Gatwick, Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton offices will permanently close and the firm is consulting with Deloitte people based out of these offices to move to a permanent homeworking contract."

Deloitte is headquartered in London and is currently the largest professional services firm in the world by revenue. The company did not say how many people this would impact.

Griggs emphasized that everyone currently employed at these locations will continue to be employed by Deloitte, "and any proposed change is to our 'bricks and mortar,' not our presence in these regions."

"We remain committed to these regional markets and will continue our close relationships with our clients, society partners and communities, just without a physical building," he added.

The move comes as a handful of U.S. firms also announced extended, or even permanent, remote work arrangements -- many of which have been accelerated by the pandemic. Google and Facebook said earlier this year that their offices wouldn't be re-opening until at least July 2021.

Twitter announced in May that it would allow staff to work remote indefinitely, saying the past few months have "proven we can make it work."

As more and more companies similarly prove that it can be done during the COVID-19 crisis, some experts forecast remote work is here to stay.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


J. Michael Jones/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As indoor entertainment venues continue to struggle against the coronavirus pandemic, AMC Theaters announced this weekend it's got a special offer for moviegoers looking to see some of their favorite flicks on the big screen.

And they won't have to worry about getting the worst seat in the house.

The theater chain is offering rentals for an entire theater starting at $99. The private parties are capped at 20 people.

There are 17 movies to choose from, including recent releases like Tenet and Honest Thief, as well as classics including Monsters Inc. and Shrek.

Those who sign up can pay for extra features including a microphone to introduce your guests over the PA system, which costs an extra $100.

The move comes as the U.S. movie theater industry continues to take a financial hit due to COVID-19 health regulations that have forced theaters to either close or allow only limited capacity.

Regal Cinemas announced earlier this month it was indefinitely closing all of its U.S. theaters.

AMC has reopened about 500 of its 600 theaters across the country, but last week its owners said the company could run out of cash by the end of the year if it doesn't get relief.

On Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that movie theaters outside of New York City could reopen with limited capacity starting Oct. 23.

Coronavirus cases have been on the rise since the beginning of September, with the national seven-day average of new cases increasing from 37,780 on Sept. 1 to 55,170 on Oct. 17, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, some of the most popular social media platforms have introduced new measures to curb misinformation, increase transparency and try to bolster the integrity of the democratic process this time around.

These updates -- which some experts say still may not go far enough -- come after an unprecedented election saga in 2016, when Russian operatives exploited social media to try to influence the American electorate in favor of Donald Trump ahead of the presidential vote, according to multiple investigations.

Intelligence officials warned in 2018 that Russia was at it again, along with other state actors. Now in this election cycle, cybersecurity experts have also raised alarm over the increasing threat of domestic actors sowing misinformation online.

The task of policing content while avoiding the appearance of bias has been a tripwire for many of these social media giants, who have faced attacks from both sides of the political aisle for decisions to remove certain content, including allegations of censorship.

ABC News has compiled this explainer to provide readers with a guide to comparing and contrasting policy measures from some of the most-used social media platforms in the U.S. including Facebook (and Facebook-owned Instagram), Twitter, Reddit, TikTok and YouTube.


Facebook, the most-used social media platform in the U.S., took the most heat for the 2016 controversy.

In the years since 2016, Facebook's core efforts to maintain election integrity have fallen into three major categories: Taking down inauthentic accounts and networks, tightening policies on content moderation, and unveiling an ad database with the goal of increased transparency.

Facebook also launched an Elections Operations Center in 2018, a team that it says will monitor potential democratic process abuses on the network in real-time. The company said that so far it has removed more than 120,000 pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. for violating voter-interference policies it has set, and displayed warnings on more than 150 pieces of content. Moreover, the company said it removed 30 networks engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting the U.S.

In August of 2020, the company unveiled a campaign to encourage people to vote and pledged to remove any content that encourages people not to vote, such as posts which state that voting requires a passport or driving license.

In the weeks ahead of the 2020 vote, the company also announced a series of last-minute changes, including banning all new political advertisements a week before the election, removing new posts with militarized language, such as "army" or "battle," that aims to suppress voters and temporarily pausing all political ads on the site for an undisclosed period of time after the polls close on Nov. 3.

Facebook also said it will label content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election, and label content from candidates or campaigns that try to declare victory before results are in -- instead directing users to official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool.

Moreover, Facebook said it would start labeling some content that it doesn't remove because it is deemed newsworthy, such as speeches from politicians.

"We'll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what's acceptable in our society -- but we'll add a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our policies," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post at the time.

In addition, Facebook said it would remove all accounts representing the group QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory which purports, without evidence, that Donald Trump is working in secret against a global Satanic pedophile ring. The unfounded theory was invented online shortly after the 2016 election and has made its way into the political discourse.

While these are major changes at the company compared to 2016 when many, including CEO Mark Zuckerbreg, say it was caught flat-footed, some advocates have criticized what that say is how narrow their actions surrounding political ads are.

"The policies Facebook has taken are extremely reactive," Ben Decker, the founder of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy firm, told ABC News. "I don’t think the measures they have taken to curb political ads are going to be particularly effective, because they have these exact stipulations."

Dipayan Ghosh, the co-director of the Harvard Kennedy School's digital platforms and democracy project, told ABC News that the ban on new political advertisements one week ahead of the election, "is a ban on new submittals, not on political advertising entirely" and questioned the impact of the ban when record numbers of people are voting early.

Banning political ads after polls close is also "not necessarily going to have a result on the on the election itself," Ghosh added.

Facebook said this move was aimed to "to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse."

"I think many advocates would have liked to see is Facebook to extend a full ban on political advertising for a lengthy period ahead of the election, say, a month or even longer than that," Ghosh said. "What many of us wanted to see from Facebook is a full ban, a commitment to put the democratic process over revenues."

Facebook made nearly $70 billion in advertising revenue alone last year, according to financial disclosures.

Ghosh also expressed concerns over the way misinformation spreads on private Facebook groups, which in many cases remain largely unregulated unless they contain active calls for violence -- and even then Facebook has been accused of reacting too late.

"I myself have joined groups which have amassed a big following on different sorts of issues, mostly sports related, which then all of a sudden change one day in theme from something about the New York Giants, to 'Justice for Justice Kavanaugh,'" Ghosh said. "And you can clearly see that what's happening here is that organizers are trying to get people into these groups, and then all of a sudden, turn a switch to try to influence the members of that group toward these kinds of political themes."

Also concerning to many, new research from the German Marshall Digital Fund think tank published earlier this week found that more people now are engaging with outlets on Facebook that repeatedly publish verifiably false content than in the lead-up to the 2016 election.


Twitter banned all political ads worldwide in October 2019, a move that put it in stark contrast to Facebook, which at the time had recently ruled out banning political ads. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, tweeted "while internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics."

Ghosh noted that Twitter originally did not make "a lot of money off of political advertising, which likely made it an easier decision for Jack Dorsey than it would be for Mark Zuckerberg." Twitter reported making nearly $3 billion in ad revenue in Fiscal Year 2019, according to financial disclosures.

Political ads on Twitter did not exist on the same scale as they do on Facebook, but the company has also taken a number of additional measures in recent months to show they are taking action ahead of the 2020 election. Most recently it launched what it calls a “2020 U.S. election hub" which will include a curated list of news articles, as well as live streams of debates.

As part of a suite of measures to combat misinformation, Twitter also introduced a new labelling system in May 2020 which allowed the platform to flag tweets with what it determined to be misleading content.

In the last few months, the social media platform found itself embroiled in controversy after it labeled a number of Donald Trump's tweets, including those containing claims about mail-in-voting, as potentially misleading, It has also put labels on Trump’s tweets for violating its policies for abusive behavior as well as those regarding manipulated media. In these cases, the tweets are hidden from view but users can easily click in to see the content. Trump has accused Twitter of trying to silence conservative voices.

Critics have questioned the efficacy of the labels Twitter (and Facebook) use in actually stopping misinformation or false claims from spreading or being amplified on the platforms.

Decker noted that more research needs to be done here, but said "it's unclear often how many of those who read the disinformation are actually reading the fact check, or the intervention response."

Ghosh said he thinks that "these kinds of labels have a very limited, marginal impact on influencing the opinion of the people who consume that content."

"I can't say that these labels really resolve the core issue, which is that you've got a person in certain cases with a massive following, who is pushing misinformation intentionally and pushing disinformation, and trying to do so for his own political gain," Ghosh said. "Having this sort of label does not really change the mind of anyone who's consuming it."

A study published in March by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggested that selective labeling of false news can actually have detrimental effect, dubbed the "implied-truth effect," where unmarked and unchecked, yet still demonstrably false, content appears more legitimate.

The strongest weapon Twitter has to prevent the spread of political misinformation is the removal of tweets and the restriction of accounts, but the platform utilizes these sparingly, likely to avoid being accused of censorship. The most high profile example of this was when it restricted Donald Trump Jr.’s account in late July after he shared a video featuring doctors making false claims about the coronavirus, including that masks are unnecessary. Trump Jr.’s account was suspended for 12 hours, meaning he was unable to tweet, and it removed the video from public view.

Last week, Twitter also unveiled a slew of new updates aimed specifically at curbing the spread of misinformation on the platform ahead of the election, including efforts to stop tweets with misleading information from going viral and a policy that will not allow any person, including candidates for office, to claim an election win before it was authoritatively called.

Significantly, users will not be able to retweet or reply to tweets "with a misleading information label from U.S. political figures (including candidates and campaign accounts), U.S.-based accounts with more than 100,000 followers, or that obtain significant engagement." Users will, however, be able to quote-tweet the messages, although they will have to click through a warning in order to see these labeled tweets in the first place.

When users attempt to retweet, they will be prompted to Quote Tweet (add their own commentary) instead.

"Though this adds some extra friction for those who simply want to Retweet, we hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation," the company said in a blogpost.


The video-sharing giant announced earlier this year some updates to how it was preparing for the election, saying it would remove election-related content that violated its Community Guidelines.

"These policies prohibit hate speech, harassment, and deceptive practices, including content that aims to mislead people about voting or videos that are technically manipulated or doctored in a way that misleads users (beyond clips taken out of context) and may pose a serious risk of egregious harm," the company said.

The company also said it would remove content that contains hacked information, stating, "For example, videos that contain hacked information about a political candidate shared with the intent to interfere in an election."

Similar to other platforms, YouTube also pledged to remove content encouraging users to interfere with the democratic process, citing an example as content "telling viewers to create long voting lines with the purpose of making it harder for others to vote."

Some have expressed concern that YouTube (similar to Reddit) has not yet published a clear policy on how it will handle candidates claiming victory before the election is officially called.

Decker called YouTube's policies "extremely reactive" overall.

"Oftentimes, they will apply key word filters to prevent content from being found in search, YouTube's biggest claim is they incorporate Wikipedia pages into knowledge panels, so if it’s a video about COVID-19, regardless of where it’s from, there would also be this knowledge panel or factcheck above the description that points you toward accurate sources," Decker said. The Wikipedia articles, while volunteer-edited, provide at least some context to content that would otherwise not have any.

"While the problem on YouTube is still bad, it’s now much less worse," Decker said.

He also noted that their three strikes policy has been effective in booting a number of content creators off the platform, but an unintended consequence is that this has "led to the rise of fringe platforms."

"It’s tricky because in one sense it does clean up the stream in the short term, so on the one hand it creates healthier conversations, but it moves them to another area of the internet, which is even more unregulated but there are even less dissenting views, so it’s a space where people can be radicalized," he said.

Notably, YouTube announced in a company blogpost earlier this week it was taking new steps to curb hate by “removing more conspiracy content used to justify real-world violence."

Specifically, YouTube cited QAnon as an example of entity “that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.”

“As always, context matters, so news coverage on these issues or content discussing them without targeting individuals or protected groups may stay up,” the blogpost added. “We will begin enforcing this updated policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come.”


In April 2020, Reddit announced that it was launching a subreddit dedicated to political transparency, which would list all political ad campaigns running on Reddit dating back to January of 2019. The company said this subreddit would give information on the individual advertiser, their targeting, impressions, and spend on a per-campaign basis. As an additional transparency measure, Reddit said it would require political advertisers to leave comments “on” for the first 24 hours of a campaign to enable them to “engage directly with users in the comments.”

While the political transparency subreddit contains significant details about political ads, it has a limited reach, with around 3,000 members since it was launched five months ago. It is also worth noting that Reddit doesn’t allow political ads in other countries.

In June 2020, Reddit also announced that it was banning a number of subreddits which it said violated company policies on hate speech. Included in these was r/TheDonald, a pro-Trump subreddit which was popular in the run-up to the 2016 election but which had been largely inactive for months despite its nearly 800,000 members. Members of this subreddit had already migrated to another platform the year before, in response to stricter content rules and increased moderation. The banning of this subreddit and others was indicative of the problems facing social media platforms, where measures to combat hate speech or misinformation do not keep pace with the dissemination of such material.

Reddit, however, noticeably has no stated policy on candidates claiming victory in the election before it is authoritatively called.


While the Chinese-owned video sharing app avoided the level of misinformation scrutiny leveled at platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it has taken a number of actions in recent months to show that it is taking a stand before the election.

Along with banning political ads, in August TikTok also announced a suite of news measures to combat misinformation ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Crucially, it banned manipulated media which it said “misleads users by distorting the truth of events in a way that could cause harm.” This included deepfakes, synthetic media produced by artificial intelligence which has the appearance of being real.

Despite these measures, political content on TikTok, like all social media platforms, is extremely popular. Videos containing the hashtag #Trump2020 have been viewed 10.3 billion times by September 2020, according to data on the app. A report from the Wall Street Journal late last year claimed that the Trump campaign had reached out to TikTok accounts with large supportive followings, including some with the Trump 2020 flag in their videos.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Morgan Korn/ABC News


(NEW YORK) — The internal combustion engine is dead. Wait. Not so fast.

Even with the global push for electrified drivetrains and ever-smaller displacement turbocharged engines, automakers are unveiling new vehicles with naturally aspirated engines.

These engines deliver a more analog and satisfying experience to motorists.

"Many drivers prefer the feel of naturally aspirated engines because of the direct response. You always know what you'll get," Randy Pobst, a longtime professional race car driver and track tester, told ABC News. "Turbos are less predictable, and there is some lag."

Naturally aspirated engines, however, can come across as antiquated technology -- they produce less torque and need to be revved to higher RPMs to extract greater performance (and, in return, burn more fuel).

The fuel savings of a turbocharged engine, which can generate the same power as a larger engine by forcing more air into the cylinders, are minimal, according to Pobst, who noted that the 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza had the first turbocharger.

"The fuel benefit for turbos is probably 3 to 5 mpg in normal driving," he said. "Turbos do well in government tests. Direct fuel injection [in naturally aspirated engines] does a better job of vaporizing fuel. Drivers get better mileage and power."

Turbocharged engines have now become mainstream for daily driven cars, Jason Cammisa, an automotive journalist at Hagerty, said. Naturally aspirated engines, though simpler and cheaper for automakers to build, are more likely found in performance cars.

"Sports car owners want naturally aspirated engines for the sound and response," Cammisa told ABC News. "Turbos don't have glorious intake noise and are a lazy way to get power. McLaren and Ferrari have turbochargers to keep up with the ridiculous horsepower race."

Ferrari does offer one conveyance with a naturally aspirated engine: the 812 Superfast, a $330,000 coupe with 800 horses under the hood and a 6.5-liter V12 engine that propels the supercar from zero to 60 mph in under 3 seconds.

"Its sound is otherworldly," Pobst said. "The 812 Superfast [is powered by] my favorite naturally aspirated engine.”

The recognizable rumbles and growls of the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang may be what enthusiasts and nonfans best associate with naturally aspirated engines.

"Nothing sounds better than a well-tuned, small block V8 engine," Jordan Lee, a chief engineer at General Motors, told ABC News.

Lee called the acoustics on the 2020 Corvette Stingray "intoxicating," and the mid-engine sports car's new LT2 V8 engine produces more power and more torque than the previous generation Corvette.

"I will tell you the character and torque curve of a large displacement naturally aspirated V8 is thrilling to drive," he explained. "Competitors have migrated away from them because they seem to have difficulty meeting emissions and fuel economy standards. We have continued to push the envelope in engineering advancement and are able to still offer the LT2, which meets required emissions and fuel economy requirements.”

Ford implemented its own advanced technology, such as controlling valve timing and adding multiple knock sensors, to improve fuel economy on the Mustang GT, Bullitt, Shelby GT350R and limited edition Mustang Mach 1.

"I think there is a misconception that naturally aspirated engines are low tech," Nick Terzes, Mustang vehicle integration supervisor, told ABC News. "Naturally aspirated engines offer all of the technologies necessary to deliver good fuel economy and thrilling performance."

For customers, the Mustang V8 sound "is all part of the experience," Terzes said. "There are dedicated people who just work on the sound quality of the exhaust. Awesome, fantastic, exhilarating -- the exhaust note of a naturally aspirated V8 is second to none.”

A top selling point for Lexus' new sporty LC 500 convertible is its "unmistakable, soul-stirring" exhaust note. The 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 makes 471 horsepower and 398 lb.-ft of torque.

"A key development objective for LC was to create a beautiful grand touring car that evokes the same emotions when you drive it as it does when you see it," Joel Fukumoto, Lexus product planning consultant, told ABC News. "The LC delivers the feeling of a direct connection between the accelerator pedal and the engine that's really hard to achieve in forced-induction motors."

Cars like the LC 500 are proof that naturally aspirated engines are still in demand, Cammisa argued.

"The acoustics of the LC 500 engine are so unbelievable it wouldn't matter what the rest of the car drove like," he said. "It's an acoustic event that's happening. Maybe chasing horsepower and zero to 60 second time isn't the only pleasure.”

Of course, naturally aspirated engines -- regardless of the visceral emotion they stir in drivers -- have drawbacks.

"They won't offer that breath of performance and fuel efficiency that forced-induction engines deliver," Karl Brauer, executive analyst at, told ABC News.

But turbos aren't perfect either. They put more strain and load on engines by making them work harder, Brauer pointed out.

"We'll see how all these turbocharged engines hold up over the long term," he said.

Italian supercar maker Lamborghini debuted its first-ever turbocharged engine in 2018 with the Urus SUV. Until that point the 57-year-old company had exclusively sold naturally aspirated V10 and V12 engines for its Aventador and Huracan models. Lamborghini's latest entry, the Huracan EVO RWD, boasts a 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 engine that puts out 610 hp and 413 lb.-ft of torque.

"With a Lamborghini, our customers buy a very emotional product rather than a car that offers only mobility," Maurizio Reggiani, chief technology officer of Automobili Lamborghini, told ABC News.

Placing a 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo engine in the Urus, however, was a prudent and appropriate decision, he explained.

"Especially in off-road conditions, a high level of torque at low revs is necessary and can be guaranteed only by such an engine, providing optimal engine responsiveness and efficiency under all driving conditions and in any kind of terrain," Reggiani said.

Turbos and naturally aspirated engines -- though popular now -- could eventually become obsolete as automakers churn out electric vehicles at breakneck speed. The overnight success of Tesla and stringent emission standards have signaled that big, powerful gasoline engines may have peaked.

"We're heading to a world where there won't be any ICE engines at all," Cammisa said. "The experience of an engine will become more and more important."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — Vaccine company Vaxart faces federal investigation for allegedly exaggerating role in Operation Warp Speed

Vaxart, a small California biotechnology working on a COVID-19 vaccine, is now being investigated by the government and sued by investors for allegedly exaggerating its role in the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, a multibillion dollar program to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research.

The biotech's experimental vaccine candidate is unique because it is an oral tablet, as opposed to administered by an injection, like many of the others in development. Operation Warp Speed has granted billions of dollars to more than a half-dozen pharmaceutical companies based on the promise of their vaccine technology.

But in June of this year, Vaxart claimed it was "one of the few companies selected by Operation Warp Speed, and that ours is the only oral vaccine being evaluated."

The announcement sent its stock price skyrocketing to $17 from less than $3 a share prior to the news release. Within days, a hedge fund that partly controlled the company, Armistice Capital LLC, sold shares, reaping a $200 million profit on alleged insider trades.

The problem, however, is that Vaxart was not among the pharmaceutical companies selected by the U.S. government through Operation Warp Speed to receive substantial funds to support their research and production efforts. Rather, its involvement with the program was limited, with its vaccine candidate selected for sponsorship in their preliminary test studies on animals.

On Oct. 14, Vaxart revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it is being investigated by federal prosecutors and the SEC over the disclosure of its involvement in Operation Warp Speed.

"In August 2020, the Enforcement Division of the Commission requested that the Company provide, on a voluntary basis, a variety of documents that broadly pertain to same subject matters of the documents provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and related matters," the company wrote in its SEC filing. "The Company has voluntarily provided documents requested by the SEC and is cooperating with this informal inquiry."

In addition, the SEC filing outlines several similar lawsuits filed in California and one in Delaware since August alleging violations of federal securities laws by Vaxart and a number of its officers and directors.

The company was served with a grand jury subpoena in July from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. "We are cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding these requests and have provided documents and information in response," it wrote.

Such lawsuits are not uncommon, according to Ohio State University professor of law and public health Efthimios Parasidis.

There are occasionally "classic pump and dump scheme[s]" when a smaller company puts out an exaggerated claim, as alleged in the Vaxart lawsuits, Parasidis told ABC News. "The market realizes the claims are exaggerated, the stock falls and then these lawsuits happen."

It is important to note that the company's actions may not always be intentionally devious, added Parasidis. At times, "startup companies get so excited at the prospect of making money that they sometimes shoot out press releases without a proper review."

In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Vaxart denied the allegations, writing, "The Vaxart non-human primate challenge study was organized and funded by Operation Warp Speed, as stated in the June 26, 2020 company press release. The statements made in that press release are accurate and any allegation to the contrary is baseless."

Despite the ongoing controversy, Vaxart shares soared again this week after the company announced a major milestone in its COVID-19 vaccine research.

The company said it had begun its first-phase trial on 48 volunteers aged 18 to 54 years old after initial tests on hamsters yielded promising results. This week, Vaxart said it had administered its first oral dose to a volunteer.

The company is not currently receiving federal funding as part of Operation Warp Speed.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


simon2579/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the International Monetary Fund implored the international community to cooperate in developing and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, saying that speeding up a global economic recovery could add some $9 trillion to global incomes over the next five years.

"The value of cooperation right now cannot be overstated," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at a news conference Friday. "Faster progress on medical solutions could speed up the recovery -- it could add almost $9 trillion to global income by 2025. This, in turn, could help narrow the income gap between richer and poorer nations."

Georgieva noted that "this has been a crisis like no other that calls for steps to enable a recovery like no other."

Her comments come on the heels of the IMF's gloomy October global economic outlook, published earlier this week, that project a deep recession as global gross domestic product is expected to contract by 4.4% in 2020.

While the bulk of the outlook contained dismal economic indicators and projections, including that 90 million people are expected fall into extreme poverty just this year, the economists noted that some of the worst could be avoided if countries work together to combat the virus.

Gita Gopinath, the IMF's chief economist, said at a news conference that "greater international collaboration is needed to end this health crisis."

"Tremendous progress is being made in developing tests, treatments and vaccines, but only if countries work closely together will there be enough production and widespread distribution to every part of the world to end this pandemic," Gopinath added. "Now, we estimate that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely relative to our current baseline, it could lead to cumulative increase in global income of almost 9 trillion dollars by end-2025, benefitting all economies and reducing divergence."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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