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Iran's Revolutionary Guard commander vows 'hit' on all involved in US killing of top general Qassem Soleimani

Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy SOMAYEH MALEKIAN, ABC News

(TEHRAN) -- Iran officials again denied Saturday any plot to assassinate the U.S. ambassador in South Africa as an act of retaliation to the killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' top general, Qassem Soleimani. However, the commander of the IRGC vowed that revenge for Soleimani's dea...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/19/2020

Israel goes on its second lockdown as Jewish High Holidays begin

solarseven/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Israel's second COVID-19 lockdown started on Friday as the Jewish High Holidays began.

The lockdown, which will last for three weeks, went into effect at 2 p.m. local time. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins Friday night, and is typically a time for family gatherings.

Supermarkets and pharmacies wi...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Death of George Floyd prompts reckoning over race, colonialism in Europe

Alessandro Biascioli/iStockBy GUY DAVIES, ABC News

(LONDON) -- The summer of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was not confined to the United States. Demonstrations featuring placards emblazoned with Floyd's face and his last words, "I can't breathe," spread to Canada and Brazil, to Europe, and even as far as Australia.


Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Animal rescue group reunites pets with owners after Beirut explosion


(NEW YORK) -- Beirut, Lebanon, is still devastated by the Aug. 4 explosion that ripped through the city, killing 190 people and destroying homes and businesses.

More than a month after the blast, a group at the site of the disaster has been working to reunite residents with their animal companions w...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Navalny's team says nerve agent used to poison him found on hotel room water bottle

WoodyAlec/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- Traces of the Novichok nerve agent allegedly used to poison Alexey Navalny were found on a water bottle in his hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was staying before he fell critically ill, according to the Russian opposition leader's colleagues.

The discovery is potentially a...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Lawmakers call for Russia to release jailed ex-US Marine

DanHenson1/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- Top members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs have submitted a resolution demanding that Russia free Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine jailed by the country who U.S. officials suspect is being used as a political bargaining chip.

Reed, 29, from Granbury, Texas, was sentenced by a Mo...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Over 1,500 refugees from Moria Camp will be resettled in Germany


(BERLIN) -- German officials announced Wednesday that they will accept hundreds of refugees who were displaced during last week's fire at the Moria camp in Greece.

The German government said it would take 408 families consisting of 1,553 people who were living in the refugee settlement l...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Barbados to drop Queen Elizabeth II as head of state

oversnap/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

(BRIDGETOWN, Barbados) -- Barbados announced plans to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state next year, marking the first time in nearly 30 years since a commonwealth country dropped a monarch.

Barbados Governor-General Sandra Mason made the announcement in a speech Tuesday, revealing that the Caribbean ...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Canadian TV reporter responds to viewer who attempted to body-shame her


(NEW YORK) -- One Canadian journalist is speaking up against a viewer who tried to body-shame her.

On Twitter, Kori Sidaway of CHEK News in Victoria, British Columbia, posted a screenshot of an anonymous message sent to her attempting to "shame and police" her body.

The screenshot of the e...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Alexey Navalny, Russian opposition leader suspected of being poisoned, slowly recovering


(BERLIN) -- Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny on Tuesday posted a message for the first time since his suspected poisoning almost a month ago which left him unconscious in an induced coma and fighting for his life.

Navalny posted a photo on Instagram of himself awake and sitting up, surrounded by ...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/15/2020

2 hackers charged with defacing US sites as retaliation for Iranian general's killing

iStock/peerapong boriboonBY: CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Two foreign hackers have been indicted for defacing dozens of U.S.-based websites with pictures of late Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani alongside the message, "Down with America."

The cyberattacks may be another sign of Iranian efforts to retaliate for President Donald Trump's dec...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/15/2020

Satellite images show deterioration of Antarctica glaciers that could lead to rising sea levels

iStock/Don MennigBY: JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Satellite imagery over Antarctica shows the rapid deterioration of two glaciers -- the most watched by climate scientists -- over recent decades, which could indicate rising sea levels globally.

The Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, located in the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, are among...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/14/2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, powerhouse Supreme Court Justice, dies at 87

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the powerhouse Supreme Court justice and champion for women's rights, has died at the age of 87.

"Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer," Court Spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Her death while still serving on the Court, a scenario long-dreaded by liberals, creates a rare election-year opportunity for President Donald Trump to nominate a conservative replacement, triggering a pitched political battle.

Ginsburg had become the standard bearer for the court's liberal wing, writing landmark opinions that advanced gender equality and rights for disabled Americans and immigrants in her more than quarter century on the bench.

She was equally known for impassioned dissents on major social issues -- from affirmative action to equal pay -- which earned her a sort of rock-star status among progressives and inspired lawmakers on how to legislate social change.

Ginsburg was the second woman to sit on the high court, joining Sandra Day O'Connor in 1993, and went on to become its longest-serving woman in history. She was the first female Jewish justice.

She survived four battles with cancer over her Supreme Court career, never having to recuse herself from casework because of illness.

In December 2018, she was absent from oral arguments for the first time in 26 years after undergoing lung cancer surgery, but she participated in the cases remotely. During the coronavirus pandemic, she joined oral arguments by phone from a Maryland hospital where she was being treated for a gallbladder infection.

Ginsberg's life was the subject of a 2018 Oscar-nominated documentary -- RBG -- and a Hollywood biopic -- On the Basis of Sex -- starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer.

By Devin Dwyer
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/19/2020

Bravo green lights new pop culture series 'Bravo's Chat Room'

Bravo Media(LOS ANGELES) -- Fans who can't get enough of Bravo's hit shows will now see even more of the network's stars with the new late night series, Bravo's Chat Room. 

Executive produced by Andy Cohen of Watch What Happens Live, the six-episode Chat Room will feature a panelist of Porsha Williams (Real Housewives of Atlanta), Gizelle Bryant (Real Housewives of Potomac) and Kate Chastain (Below Deck) discussing all things pop culture, including buzzed-about moments on Bravo shows.

The TV personalities will also share stories and insight into their own lives. Chat Room will be hosted by Hannah Berner of Summer House.  

"I am thrilled for these Bravo ladies who already have such big personalities on our network to come together (virtually) for the ultimate group chat," Cohen says. "Their quick wit and powerful observations will provide a much-needed voice in today’s pop-culture landscape delivered in a way that only Bravo can."

Chat Room will film remotely, with each panelist dialing in from their own respective locations. 

The show will premiere on September 27 at 10:30 p.m. ET and continue through October 12. 

Details about the new show come in the wake of NeNe Leakes announcing her departure from Real Housewives of Atlanta. 

By Cillea Houghton
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

TikTok, WeChat to be banned from US app stores starting Sunday

Chesnot/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Starting Sunday, downloads of the massively popular video app TikTok and the messaging app WeChat will be banned in the United States, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Friday morning.

The department said in a statement that the move was necessary to "safeguard the national security of the United States."

President Donald Trump issued twin executive orders in August, saying the apps would shut down by September 20 if they were not sold to U.S. owners. The administration claimed the Chinese Communist Party was using data collected through these apps to "threaten the national security, foreign policy and the economy of the U.S."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview on Fox Business News Friday morning that these new rules announced this morning were in connection with the executive orders issued in August and are "separate" from the ongoing negotiations between TikTok and tentative U.S. buyers, including Oracle and Walmart.

Ross said that "for all practical purposes" WeChat will be shut down in the U.S. as of midnight Monday with the new Commerce Department ruling.

"TikTok is more complicated," Ross added, saying that essentially a deadline for a deal with a U.S. buyer has been extended until November 12. In the meantime, updates will be barred in the app.

TikTok has an estimated 65 million to 80 million users in the U.S. WeChat, meanwhile, has some 19 million users in the U.S. -- a majority of them people of Chinese descent who use the app to connect with love ones or conduct business in China.

A TikTok spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that they disagree and are disappointed with the Commerce Department's decision. The company vowed to continue its challenge against the "unjust executive order."

Spokespeople for Tencent, WeChat's parent company, did not immediately respond to request for comment. ABC News has also reached out to Google and Apple for comment.

By William Mansell & Catherine Thorbecke
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

'Cheer' coach Monica Aldama shares statement on Jerry Harris' arrest

ABC/Frank Ockenfels(LOS ANGELES) -- Cheer coach Monica Aldama is speaking out following Jerry Harris' arrest. 

Harris was arrested on Thursday for one count of producing child pornography. USA Today reported earlier this week that 21-year-old Harris was under investigation by the FBI for allegedly soliciting sex and requesting sexually explicit photos from twin brothers who were 13-years-old at the time.

Harris was part of the co-ed Navarro College Bulldogs Cheer Team in Corsicana, Texas that Aldama is head coach of. The team was the focus of the six-episode docuseries Cheer that debuted on Netflix in January. 

Late Thursday night, Aldama shared a statement on Instagram

"My heart is shattered into a million pieces. I am devastated by this shocking, unexpected news," she writes in the post that has the comment section blocked. 

"Our children must be protected from abuse and exploitation and I'm praying hard for the victims and everyone affected," Aldama continues. "Please respect our privacy as our family mourns during this heartbreaking time."

By Cillea Houghton
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Harvey Weinstein stripped of honorary British title

Jefferson Siegel-Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Harvey Weinstein has been stripped of a British honor.

Queen Elizabeth II has announced that the disgraced film producer's title of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire has been revoked, an honor bestowed on him in 2004 for his impact on the British film industry.

"The Queen has directed that the appointment of Harvey Weinstein to be an Honorary Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, dated 29 January 2004, shall be cancelled and annulled and that his name shall be erased from the Register of the said Order," reports London newspaper The Gazette

Established in 1917 by King George V, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire recognizes individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the arts and sciences, among other subjects. 

In February, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison after he was convicted of a criminal sex act in the first degree and rape in the third degree in a New York City courthouse. 

Weinstein also faces multiple charges of sexual assault in Los Angeles. 

By Cillea Houghton
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Dax Shepard gives himself an undercut to "match" his daughter

Walt Disney Television/Yolanda Perez(LOS ANGELES) -- Like daughter like father.  Dax Shepard gave himself a major makeover on Thursday by taking electric clippers to his hair to give himself an undercut for a very special reason.

"Armor" the Armchair Expert podcaster wrote in the caption, revealing what inspired the new look. "Thank you @sarabareilles for giving my daughters an anthem."  The song not only served as a new source of inspiration for his little girls, it also led to one of them to experiment with her look.

"She requested a specific haircut a few days ago, and now I want to match her," Shepard added.

The two minute video shows the 45-year-old actor fastening his hair to the side so he can buzz away at the strands near his right ear.  As he works on his transformation, Sara Bareilles' "Armor" thrums in the background.

The Parenthood actor later unveiled his brand new 'do in a separate post and was sure to throw on a super-proud expression, possibly hinting at the look his little one flashed when she saw the final product.

Neither Shepard nor wife Kirsten Bell revealed which daughter requested the undercut.  They share seven-year-old Lincoln and five-year-old Delta.

Bell, when reposting her husband's sweet video to Instagram, gushed, "I love this man so much. He wanted to twin with our daughter."

Of course, Bareilles chimed in and offered her enthusiastic agreement.  "Yassssss," the hitmaker celebrated. " What a good daddy move. #handmemyhaircut."

The Waitress star left Shepard her seal of approval, commenting on his respective video, "This is the best best best. Thank you for being a kick a** dad for strong young women!#handmemyhaircut."

By Megan Stone
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Challenges aside, Emmy producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart say the show will be "great"

ABC/Todd Wawrychuk(LOS ANGELES) -- The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday night on ABC -- the first major awards show during the pandemic -- and even though it's being held virtually it's not exactly making things easier for Executive Producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart. In fact, they say the biggest hurdle they face will be having so many live feeds coming in Sunday night.

"... we're going to have 130 cameras all over the world," Hudlin explains.

"It's sort of like trying to watch a hundred and thirty sports matches at the same time," Stewart adds. 

Additionally, one of the tricky things they have to navigate is tone, given that so many people are facing tough challenges -- whether it be the pandemic, the wild fires, or the fight for justice. 

"The challenge and the opportunity to talk about those things, not in a preachy way, but honestly and hopefully not only just entertaining, but enlightening and inspiring, I think that's what people want,"  Hudlin says.

Despite the challenges, there is one person they believe has no qualms about Sunday and that's the host of the Emmys, Jimmy Kimmel.

"The good thing about that is that we've got Jimmy Kimmel, who loves live TV and loves chaos. See, I think I think he's actually hoping things do go wrong, to tell you the truth," Stewart jokes. 

All things aside, the duo believe that the Emmys could be fun for those participating, and watching, from home.

"I think it’s going to be great for the nominees and also great for the viewers, because every week or however you binge your shows, these folks come into our houses. And now we get to go to their house. We get to see what they're doing," Hudlin says. 

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. on ABC.

By Danielle Long and Jason Nathanson
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Chrissy Teigen reveals the sex of her unborn baby

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are expecting a baby boy, Teigen announced Thursday.

In an Instagram Live video, the model was discussing her pregnancy when she seemed to slip up and refer to the unborn baby as "he."

Upon realizing her mistake, she covered her mouth and said with a laugh, "I'm stupid."

"hahahahaha might as well tell you," she captioned the clip.

Teigen, 34, and Legend, 41, announced last month that they were expecting their third child. Recently, however, the cookbook author has had to be on "complete and total" bed rest due to issues with her placenta, she said.

Teigen said in an Instagram Live video Thursday that she'd had similar experiences during her pregnancies with her daughter Luna, 4, and son Miles, 2. Both of her children were induced before their due dates, she added.

"My placenta's really, really weak and it's causing me to really bleed a lot," she revealed. "[But the baby] is growing beautifully. Everything's good."

By Good Morning America
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

NeNe Leakes announces departure from 'Real Housewives of Atlanta'

Charles Sykes/Bravo(ATLANTA) -- It's the end of an era -- for now. NeNe Leakes has revealed that she will not return the The Real Housewives of Atlanta for Season 13. 

Leakes, 52, who was apart of the original cast when the show began in 2008, shared her decision in a YouTube video on Thursday titled, "Listen Closely, I got something to tell you."

"Thank you to all of you guys that have been showing me a lot of love and support as of late..." the reality star began. "I have been on an extremely, extremely long, exhausting, tiring, emotional negotiation. There has been a lot of emotion flying on both sides. It has been hard, and I have made the very hard and difficult decision to not be a part of Real Housewives of Atlanta season 13."

"It wasn't an easy decision for me," Leakes continued. "It was hard. I started on The Real Housewives of Atlanta in 2008. We took off like a rocket... You could have never told me that I would start on this little show and it still be going strong 13, 14 years later. And it is. I'm just so happy that I can say that I was a part of a genre that opened up doors for Black ensemble reality shows to step up and be a part of what we all now love so much, reality TV."

She ended the video promising viewers, "I will see you again. Real soon."

Whether or not that means she will hold a peach again remains to be seen but Bravo seems open to the idea. 

In a statement to People, a rep for the network wished Leakes well and added, "She's been instrumental since the start and will truly be missed, and maybe one day she'll hold the peach again."

By Danielle Long
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Tatiana Maslany joins the MCU as She-Hulk and Mark Ruffalo approves

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic(LOS ANGELES) -- There's a new Hulk joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and her name is Jennifer Walters, AKA She-Hulk.  Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will help usher in the MCU's next phase, starring in the Disney+ series about the titular green heroine.

Deadline reports that Marvel Studios has also tapped Marry Me's Kat Coiro to serve as the series' director and Rick and Morty's Jessica Gao to pen the script.

Fans reacted enthusiastically to the news that that the Emmy Award winning actress is the newest member of the extended MCU family.  Some even joked that if other actors don't watch out, Maslany will "be playing all the characters" given how she seamlessly juggles numerous roles on Orphan Black.

She-Hulk, created in 1980 by Stan Lee and John Buscema, is one of Marvel Comic's most beloved female superheroes.  

The Disney+ series will be the character's live-action debut and there's already rumors that Mark Ruffalo, who plays Bruce Banner/Hulk will have a cameo of sorts given that the two characters are related.

In the comics, Jennifer Walters and Bruce Banners are cousins and, after the hotshot lawyer is involved in a deadly accident -- she requires a life-saving blood transfusion from her cousin to survive.  However, she accidentally inherits his Hulk powers in the process.

She-Hulk, while big and green, retains Jennifer's personality and intelligence when transformed.  But, just like her cousin, she is prone to outbursts of anger and becomes stronger when she rampages.

Ruffalo delighted in the news, tweeting on Thursday, "Welcome to the family, cuz!"

She-Hulk, the Disney+ series, joins a slate of MCU-centric shows arriving on the streamer.  Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier and WandaVision are all set to premiere on the service next year.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

By Megan Stone
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt recreate NSFW 'Fast Times' scene as Morgan Freeman hilariously narrates

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner(LOS ANGELES) -- Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston finally reunited Thursday for the Dane Cook Presents Feelin' A-Live: Fast Times at Ridgemont High charity table read that left fans howling.

Several A-listers reenacted the 1982 classic film, but all eyes were on Pitt and Aniston -- who famously broke up in 2005 and haven't appeared on screen together since -- to see what roles they'd play.

The two were cast as Brad Hamilton and Linda Barrett, respectively, who share a hilarious but extremely NSFW scene together in the film.  Linda is the object of Brad's affections and he expresses his desires like any teenage boy, by acting out a sexual fantasy about her in the -- unfortunately unlocked -- bathroom.

That moment was made all the more hilarious thanks to Morgan Freeman, who was tasked to narrate the movie and -- ultimately -- that spicy yet cringeworthy scene where Brad envisions a bikini-clad Linda walking up to him before the real Linda bursts through the door and catches him with his pants down -- literally.  

Besides Freeman's signature monotone delivery, Aniston and Pitt proved that they still have their intense comedic chemistry and fully threw themselves into their roles.

With the three feeding off each other, everyone who volunteered to take part in the read fought to keep their laughter to a minimum.  Jimmy Kimmel, however -- who played a variety of characters -- couldn't help but burst into a giggle fit.

Shia LeBeouf, who played the main character Spicoli, also earned comedic nods for hamming up his role and even dressing for the part -- complete with a cigarette and going shirtless for his introduction.

The Fast Times at Ridgemont High table read served as a charity stream to benefit the COVID-19 relief funds CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) and REFORM alliance.

By Megan Stone
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Jimmy Kimmel: Virtual Emmys "will be entertaining" and "you have nothing to do"

ABC/Jeff Lipsky(LOS ANGELES) -- The Emmys air Sunday night on ABC, with Jimmy Kimmel serving as host for what will be first major awards show during the pandemic -- a position he never could've imagined when he agreed to the gig.

"They asked me to host the Emmys well before the pandemic occurred, and it seemed like it would be fun at the time, and now it seems like it's going to be less fun," he admits.

"Hopefully it will be entertaining for the people at home, adds the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host, who points out, "you have nothing to do" anyway.

Kimmel, who'll get his third shot at hosting the show, says putting together the Emmys broadcast is already "a massive undertaking," but not nearly as hard as this year's telecast.

"Just think about having a zoom with your family and how complicated that is.  Even just getting grandma to look at the camera, get her whole face on camera.  Multiply that by like a million, and that's what we're dealing with here."

To insure things go as smoothly as possible, "we are sending out...a box and it has a camera in it and it will connect you right to the Emmys," says Kimmel, who sees a potential downside to the plan.

"I guess the hope is that after the Emmys, people will send this stuff back. I don't know. I don't think I would if I won," he jokes. "If I didn't win, I would keep it. That would be my award for the night."

Kimmel calls Los Angeles' Staples Center, where he'll be hosting from "a perfect place to do it."

"There won't many people as there usually are," but "we'll have the whole crew celebrities on hand to infect me," he says.

By George Costantino
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Ex-workers sue Kroger, claiming they were fired for refusing to wear rainbow symbol

Wendelland Caroyln/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

(CONWAY, Ark.) -- A federal employment watchdog filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against supermarket chain Kroger on behalf of two Arkansas employees who claim they were terminated because they refused to wear an apron that included a rainbow symbol.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in charge of enforcing anti-workplace discrimination laws, filed the suit this week on behalf of ex-workers workers Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd, who said they were fired when the company implemented a new dress code that included an apron with a rainbow heart on it.

The women said the company implemented a new policy in April 2019 that required employees to wear the emblems, which they say endorse LGBTQ values, according to the lawsuit. They claimed wearing the symbol would violate their religious beliefs and even tried to offer alternatives, the lawsuit said.

Lawson, who was 72 at the time, said she offered to wear the apron with her name tag covering the emblem, but the Conway, Arkansas, store allegedly refused.

"I am requesting a reasonable accommodation of this dress code with regard to my religious belief," she wrote in a letter requesting religious accommodations, according to the lawsuit. "I am simply asking to wear my name badge over the heart logo."

Rickerd, who was 57 at the time, said she offered to wear a different apron without the emblem and sent a letter explaining why she felt she couldn't comply with the policy.

"I have a sincerely held religious belief that I cannot wear a symbol that promotes or endorses something that is in violation of my religious faith," she wrote in the letter, according to the lawsuit. "I respect others who have a different opinion and am happy to work alongside others who desire to wear the symbol. I am happy to buy another apron to ensure there is no financial hardship on Kroger."

Kroger, the country's largest supermarket chain, allegedly denied both requests and retaliated against them by disciplining and ultimately firing them, according to the lawsuit.

Teresa Dickerson, a communication representative for Kroger, declined ABC News’ request for comment, citing a standard against speaking publicly on pending litigation.

The company did not discharge other employees who simply declined to wear the new apron or those who covered the heart emblem without requesting religious accommodations, the suit said, claiming they were also in violation of the dress code.

The EEOC filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on Monday, alleging conduct that violates the Title VII, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

"Companies have an obligation under Title VII to consider requests for religious accommodations, and it is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs," Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, said in a statement Tuesday.

The suit seeks back pay and other compensatory damages, as well as an injunction against future discrimination.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/19/2020

TikTok, WeChat to be banned from US app stores starting Sunday


(NEW YORK) -- Starting Sunday, downloads of the massively popular video app TikTok and the messaging app WeChat will be banned in the United States, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Friday morning.

The department said in a statement that the move was necessary to "safeguard the national security of the United States."

President Donald Trump issued twin executive orders in August, saying the apps would shut down by Sept. 20 if they were not sold to U.S. owners. The admin claimed the Chinese Communist Party was using data collected through these apps to "threaten the national security, foreign policy and the economy of the U.S."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview on Fox Business News Friday morning that these new rules announced this morning were in connection with the executive orders issued in August and are "separate" from the ongoing negotiations between TikTok and tentative U.S. buyers including Oracle and Walmart.

Ross said that "for all practical purposes" WeChat will be shut down in the U.S. as of midnight Monday with the new Commerce Department ruling.

"TikTok is more complicated," Ross added, saying that essentially a deadline for a deal with a U.S. buyer has been extended until Nov. 12. In the meantime, updates will be barred in the app.

"Basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12," he said. "If there is not a deal by November 12 under the provisions of the old order then TikTok also will be, for all practical purposes, shut down."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo separately weighed in on the news while traveling in Guyana on Friday.

"The details of the various proposals that have been presented I can't speak to other than to say, our goals are really very simple, protecting American information and data from ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party," Pompeo told reporters. "While we are reviewing the proposal, trying to evaluate if we can successfully achieve those outcomes, that will be our priority."

"If that's the case, we will allow private sector entities to execute a commercial transaction, protecting the American people," he added.

The ban announced this morning begins Sept. 20, and prohibits the download of TikTok or WeChat from app stores. It also bans the transfer of funds or processing payments within the U.S. for WeChat.

TikTok, is especially popular among Gen Z-ers, and has an estimated 65 million to 80 million users in the U.S.

WeChat, meanwhile, is especially popular among the Chinese American community, and has some 19 million users in the U.S. -- a majority of them people of Chinese descent who use the app to connect with love ones or conduct business in China.

A TikTok spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that they disagree and are disappointed with the Commerce Department's decision to "block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the U.S. from November 12."

"In our proposal to the U.S. Administration, we've already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and U.S. government oversight of U.S. data security," the statement added. "Further, an American technology provider would be responsible for maintaining and operating the TikTok network in the U.S., which would include all services and data serving U.S. consumers."

The company vowed to continue its challenge against the "unjust executive order" which they say was "enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the U.S. of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods."

A spokesperson for Tencent, WeChat's parent company, told ABC News that they are reviewing the latest announcement restricting the use of WeChat by U.S. users.

"WeChat was designed to serve international users outside of mainland China and has always incorporated the highest standards of user privacy and data security," the spokesperson added in a statement. "Following the initial executive order on August 6 we have engaged in extensive discussions with the U.S. government, and have put forward a comprehensive proposal to address its concerns."

The statement continued: "The restrictions announced today are unfortunate, but given our desire to provide ongoing services to our users in the U.S. -- for whom WeChat is an important communication tool -- we will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the U.S. ways to achieve a long-term solution."

ABC News has also reached out to Google and Apple for comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

New Converse 'Mi Gente' capsule collection celebrates Latino heritage


(NEW YORK) -- Converse is celebrating Latin Heritage Month with its latest line of kicks that draw inspiration from Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican cultures.

The "Mi Gente" capsule collection includes festive versions of the brand's classic Chuck 70 and Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers.

"Created for and by the community, a series of Chuck Taylor All Star styles aim to honor the stories that represent the diversity, duality and vibrancy of LatinX Heritage, in their home countries, the United States and beyond," the footwear company wrote in a statement further speaking to the launch.

Out of the four sneakers featured, the black and white Chuck 70's have the words "¡Mi Gente!," which translates to "my people" in English, printed all over.

The All Star sneakers featured share stories of rich heritage through vibrant designs. One hi-top pick has white ruffles stitched throughout which is inspired by stories of the traditional style of skirts commonly worn by Puerto Rican Bomba dancers. There's also accompanying apparel with similar style sleeves available in white or orange.

Another shoe dedicated to the Dominican Republic is a nod to the Mirabel Sisters who were also known as the "Mariposas." Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal were revolutionaries who became symbols of democratic and feminist resistance due to their opposition to dictatorship under Rafael Trujillo (El Jefe).

The idea of the "Mi Gente" capsule collection was the result of passionate designers with the aim of shedding light on their heritage through the canvas of Converse sneakers, the company said.

Los Angeles-based Ruth Mora's work on the collection was inspired by the graffiti and murals that serve as a paramount part of LA street culture.

"Mi Gente for me starts first at home," said Mora in a statement. "That's the first thing that comes to my mind, I feel at home with not just my family, but I feel like Mi Gente, is people that make you feel warm and at home regardless of whether you know them or not. So, I really like that sense of togetherness that our culture has."

In addition to the latest capsule, Converse is also partnering with organizations supporting Latino communities throughout 2020 in Boston and Los Angeles. There, efforts will be specifically focused on creativity and civic leadership for young women and girls.

Also starting this month, the brand has commissioned a grassroots community of creatives to contribute murals in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Brazil to bring the idea of ¡Mi Gente! to life on the streets.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Disney Villains version of Monopoly now available

HasbroBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Get ready to channel your dark side with Monopoly: Disney Villains Edition.

This latest version of Monopoly allows players to channel their inner villain.

The game from Hasbro and Disney allows players to become classic Disney Villains like Cruella, Jafar, Scar, Evil Queen, Maleficent and Hook.

"Imagine classic Disney villains stealing, scheming, and competing to see who is the most evil of all," Hasbro wrote in a press release.

Disney is no stranger to the world of Monopoly. It has collaborated with Hasbro on a few other editions of their classic game like, The Lion King Monopoly Game and Marvel's Avengers Monopoly Game.

According to Hasbro you can, "activate a character's special ability by acquiring the Flames of Power ring, change gameplay with Poison Apple cards, and advance on the board by landing on a Vehicle space."

Like usual, the last player with money when the other players are bankrupt wins the game.

The game is available now for $29.99 at most major retailers.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Airline CEOs plead with White House for more aid as over 30,000 face furloughs

iStock/YacobchukOlenaBY: MINA KAJI and JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News

(SEATTLE) -- Major U.S. airline CEOs are pleading with White House and Congressional leaders for more federal aid as more than 30,000 U.S. airline employees face furloughs in two weeks following the expiration of relief provided by the CARES Act.

On Thursday the CEOs met with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. They are asking for an additional $25 billion in federal assistance that would prevent involuntary furloughs until the end of next March.

"It's not fair. It's not fair to them, not fair to our country, there's enormous bipartisan support, an extension of the payroll support program, which would keep those people employed. And the only problem we have is there's not a vehicle for getting it done," American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told reporters after the meeting.

In addition to jobs, Parker is concerned that smaller communities in the U.S. will be underserved after the CARES Act expires and airlines are no longer barred from cutting off service to an entire market.

American Airlines announced late last month that it will temporarily stop flying to 15 cities in early October.

"So we're just here to plead with everyone involved to get to a COVID package before Oct. 1," Parker said. "On Oct. 1, those people are furloughed ... and small communities will lose service."

A group of 16 Senate Republicans and over 200 House members have expressed their support for an extension of the payroll support program, but they have yet to reach an agreement.

On Wednesday, Parker and unions representing American Airlines employees sent a joint letter to Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the House and Senate leadership, warning them that there "is no time to waste" for the nearly 20,000 American employees facing furloughs.

"It's not just our team members who are counting on our nation's leaders to lead," they wrote, "but tens of thousands of workers, families and businesses across the country. Our conversations with each of you suggest a deal is within reach."

Air travel is still only a fraction of what it was in 2019, and experts predict it is unlikely they will return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

United Airlines is only flying about a third of its schedule compared to last year.

"Our revenue is down even further in the third quarter and we expect it to be about 15% of what it was a year ago," United Airlines chief communications officer Josh Earnest told ABC News. "It makes sense that we're going to be a smaller company and a smaller airline after Oct. 1 in the midst of this pandemic."

Earnest said the key is making sure that they are ready for when they begin to see demand recover.

"We know it will, we just don't know when," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

860,000 Americans filed for jobless claims last week

courtneyk/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Some 860,000 Americans lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The latest tally shows that new jobless claims have dipped significantly since peaking at 6.9 million in the last week of March. Still, it shatters the pre-pandemic weekly record set in 1982 of 695,000.

This week's figure is also the lowest since the pandemic began, yet the numbers are not directly comparable to many of the earlier weeks as the DOL announced earlier this month it was changing its methodology used to seasonally adjust the data. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique the Bureau of Labor Statistics employs to remove the influence of predictable seasonal patterns -- such as major holidays and back-to-school schedules -- on the data. The changes come as the pandemic has upended nearly all predictable seasonal patterns.

Meanwhile, more than 29.7 million people are still claiming unemployment benefits through all programs as of the week ending Aug. 29, the DOL said Thursday. In the same week last year, there were less than 1.5 million people claiming jobless benefits through all programs.

For the week ending Aug. 29, the states with the highest insured unemployment rates were Hawaii (20.3%), California (17.3%) and Nevada (15.6%), the DOL added in its latest release.

The states that saw the largest uptick in weekly unemployment filings for the week ending Sept. 5 were California (an increase of 23,841), Texas (a rise of 8,618) and Louisiana (a spike of 8,375).

Bankrate's senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick noted that this is only the fourth time since mid-March that the weekly claims have dipped below the one million mark.

"As time during the pandemic seems to both race ahead and stand still, new jobless claims have remained historically elevated for 26 weeks, or a half-year," he said in a statement Thursday morning. "The latest reading at 860,00 new claims in the programs administered by states marked a slight decline week-over-week and the fourth below 1 million since mid-March."

The latest count of highly-elevated weekly unemployment filings also comes more than six weeks since the extra $600 a week in pandemic unemployment aid has expired.

"While there has been continued posturing among officials in Washington regarding a new economic relief measure, the millions of Americans looking for help have nothing to show for it," Hamrick said. "In addition, a federal government shutdown looms October 1 unless Congress and the President approve new funding. If officials let that happen, they’ll be adding financial insult to injury caused by the pandemic."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Eleven state treasurers call on Gilead to reduce remdesivir pricing

Andrei Stanescu/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As the U.S. approaches 200,000 coronavirus deaths, a coalition of 11 state treasurers is calling on drugmaker Gilead Sciences to reduce the price of remdesivir, its promising treatment for some patients of COVID-19.

In a letter to the California-based drugmaker on Wednesday, the state treasurers, led by Pennsylvania's Joe Torsella and Ohio's Robert Sprague, asked the company to "responsibly commit to being a part of our nation's recovery from COVID-19, both medically and economically, by repricing this drug more affordably."

Remdesivir is an antiviral treatment shown to diminish recovery time in hospitalized coronavirus patients. Federal regulators fast-tracked its availability under an emergency use authorization in May. By late June, Gilead set its price at $520 per dose for U.S. private insurance companies and $390 per dose for the U.S. government.

Most patients receive a five-day treatment, meaning the total charged for those with private insurers adds up to $3,120. For those enrolled in government health programs, that total is $2,340.

"Gilead has a responsibility to its customers, shareholders, and to the taxpayers not to take advantage of these heartbreaking circumstances," Torsella said in a press release Tuesday. "American taxpayers have already paid the price. They deserve an affordable treatment when loved ones face the most severe cases of COVID-19."

In Wednesday's letter, the treasurers pleaded with Gilead "in a spirit of shared sacrifice," but also noted that their concerns come as fiduciaries of their state, as several are shareholders in the company.

"On behalf of the taxpayers in each of our states, and -- in many cases -- investors in Gilead, we strongly encourage you not to take financial advantage of these extraordinary circumstances," they wrote.

A spokesperson for Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company has come under scrutiny for its remdesivir pricing in the past. Last month, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general also penned a letter to Gilead calling their price point for the drug "outrageous and unconscionable."

The state attorneys general claim one vial of the drug -- a daily dose -- costs between $1 and $12 to manufacture. One peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Virus Eradication earlier this year suggested that one dose could be produced for only 93 cents.

In August, a Gilead spokesperson pushed back on those figures, telling ABC News that "fair-minded audiences will understand that the cost to manufacture a complicated investigational drug like remdesivir, which relies on raw materials sourced from around the world, involves multiple chemical reactions and requires sterile manufacturing facilities, is not 93 cents."

The company did not say how much the drug does cost to manufacture.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

American Girl releases new '80s-themed doll


(NEW YORK) -- American Girl is giving everyone a chance to channel the spirit of '80s style with the brand's latest doll launch.

For the first time in the past three years, the toy company unveiled a new historical doll, "Courtney Moore," on Tuesday.

The brand's latest doll grew up in 1986 and her personality and look are inspired by the era's pop culture, hairstyles, bright-colored fashion, music and more.

​"The '80s are back, and we're thrilled to celebrate this pop culture-defining decade with girls and their parents through Courtney," said Jamie Cygielman, general manager of American Girl, in a statement.

"For nearly 35 years, American Girl's historical characters have helped to bridge the past and present, while providing inspiring role models through immersive storytelling and imaginative play ... Likewise, Courtney’s story illustrates how to create positive change by standing up to fear, finding strength in every challenge, and developing empathy for others — qualities that are timeless and more important than ever," the statement read.

The Courtney doll, which retails for $110, is available as an 18-inch doll with curly sandy-blonde hair that's styled in a high side ponytail with lots of accessories. She's also wearing a high-waisted denim skirt, a blue crop top and slouchy faux-leather boots.

There are 13 additional pieces included with the collection to allow girls to style her with a variety of unique looks.

A two-book series written by Kellen Hertz brings Courtney's background to life. Readers learn that Courtney is an avid gamer who grew up in a blended family in Orange Valley, California.

She loves to go to the arcade to play games such as PAC-MAN, and has a desire to create her own video game that attracts more girls to gaming. When given the chance to do so, she is inspired by women in leadership such as her mother to invent a bold, brave super hero.

To continue the brand's mission to help build girls of strong character and confidence, American Girl is also partnering with Girls Who Code with efforts to influence female leadership within computer science and technology fields.

From now through Dec. 31, the brand is matching customer donations, dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $50,000, to support the organization’s programming and outreach to girls, including those from historically underrepresented groups.

American Girl is also providing a $5,000 scholarship to four Girls Who Code members to help further their education in computer science or a related field.

"Girls are constantly online, using apps, playing games and more, that's why it's so important that they also see themselves on the other side of those products, actually building them," said Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, in a statement. "It's our goal to show girls the power of learning this skill set so that they can code the future they want to live in and, ultimately, change the world."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Kim Kardashian West to 'freeze' Instagram posting for one day to protest hate speech, disinformation


(NEW YORK) -- Kim Kardashian West is among the handful of celebrities participating in an Instagram "freeze" Wednesday in protest of hate speech and disinformation on the platform and its parent company, Facebook.

The Stop Hate For Profit coalition, a group backed by the NAACP and other civil rights organizations that spearheaded the Facebook ad boycott in July, announced the freeze Wednesday in a statement, saying West was among the nearly two dozen celebrities participating.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Katy Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher are some of the other celebrities lending their voices to the campaign, and the group is calling on more influencers to join in and participate in the 24-hour posting moratorium.

In addition to the posting moratorium Wednesday, the public figures will also be asked to post messages later in the week on their social media platforms that highlight steps that Facebook could take to address hate. Organizers estimate the celebrities' messages will reach 524 million people and accounts in total.

"I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation -- created by groups to sow division and split America apart -- only to take steps after people are killed," West wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday announcing she was taking part in the Instagram freeze.

The reality TV mogul and criminal justice reform advocate called on her followers to join her in the one-day freeze.

The Stop Hate for Profit coalition outlined that the goal of the initiative is to demand that Facebook "take action to address hate, extremism and disinformation on its platforms." The latest action comes on the heels of the Facebook ad boycott it organized in July which gained support from major U.S. companies including Coca-Cola and Starbucks.

The latest initiative has faced some backlash already on social media, with some critics slamming the moratorium as performative.

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP and one of the organizers with the Stop Hate for Profit coalition, told ABC News in July that he views Facebook as a "threat to democracy," saying the platform has especially failed to keep Black users safe from hateful content and misinformation.

In a statement Tuesday on the latest initiative, Johnson said the calls for Facebook "to make meaningful changes to prevent the proliferation of hate and extremism on the platform are growing louder."

"It’s time for Facebook to act," Johnson added.

Facebook declined ABC News' request for comment Wednesday. The social media giant has announced a series of updates over the summer in an attempt to combat hate on the platform, including labeling content such as speeches from politicians as "newsworthy" even if they aren't removed, cracking down on hateful content in ads and announcing a one-week ban on new political ads just ahead of the election.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

United will use antimicrobial spraying robots on some aircraft

United AirlinesBy MINA KAJI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- United Airlines is turning to a 100-pound robot in its latest effort to reassure customers that flying during the COVID-19 pandemic is safe.

United intends to use the robot, MicroSonic Solution's NovaRover, during some of its aircraft's "deepest cleanings" overnight at 10 U.S. airports.

For months, airlines have turned to electrostatic sprayers, but MicroSonic President Nicholas Federico said its machine is easier to operate, faster and removes any human error.

Federico demonstrated to ABC News how the NovaRover works -- explaining how it it only takes about 90 seconds to disinfect the most popular aircraft. He has been working on the machine for four years and originally designed it for cruise ships.

The key feature, he said, is the omnidirectional nozzle that allows it to spray a super fine mist in six directions. A single spray can coat all surfaces within a 12-foot radius, according to the company.

That spray is called the Zoono Microbe Shield. It is an antimicrobial solution intended to create a protective layer on surfaces in order to create "a long-lasting repellent against microbes." The solution is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the company is still working on obtaining EPA approval.

It is currently only registered as safe and effective to use against mold, mildew and algae, according to an EPA spokesperson.

"The EPA has not authorized any residual or long lasting efficacy claims for this product," the agency added.

The airline says the NovaRover isn't intended to replace any of its existing, daily electrostatic spraying regimen, and that it will still use electrostatic sprayers every seven days to "refresh and fortify the protective layer" provided by NovaRover.

"This is one of the reasons that we have complementary technology that we're using," United Chief communications officer Josh Earnest told ABC News' transportation correspondent Gio Benitez. "The combination of this antimicrobial technology, along with the disinfecting application technology that we're using along with masks, all of that together provides for a really safe environment on board aircraft."

Some experts are cautious of these types of disinfectants since they use quaternary ammonia, which has been found to contribute to asthma with high levels of exposure.

"Some of the disinfectants and even this antibiotic protective coating can be irritating to the respiratory tract, and people with conditions like asthma or other lung diseases may be more sensitive to the substance," said Dr. Jay Bhatt, an ABC News medical contributor. "So there should be some caution used here and we should be studying more how these substances are impacting people and studying it against novel coronavirus in different situations."

The company insists -- even without EPA approval -- that the coating is safe. They say that the chemical is classified by the EPA as a Category IV, "which is the lowest level of toxicity [and is not harmful to humans or pets]," and that spraying overnight prevents any potential adverse reactions.

"We do this overnight just to ensure customer safety," Federico said. "The chemical used, once it's bound, it's completely bound to the surface itself -- it can't leave the surface."

Three weeks ago, American Airlines announced it is preparing to spray planes flying in and out of Texas with the first "long-lasting" disinfectant product approved by the EPA to be effective against the SARS-CoV2 virus on surfaces between routine cleanings.

The EPA granted emergency authorization for the Allied BioScience product, Surfacewise 2, on Aug. 24. It is effective against the SARS-CoV2 virus for up to seven days after a single application, according to testing by the agency. Texas had requested the authorization.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler called the approval of Surfacewise 2 a "game-changing announcement," at the time but also made clear that the product is not intended to replace other measures, such as frequent cleaning with disinfectants, hand-washing, wearing masks and social distancing.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

House committee final report says Boeing, FAA failures to blame for deadly 737 MAX crashes

Wolterk/iStockBy AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Paul Njoroge lost his entire family in March 2019, after Ethiopian Air Flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"I stay up nights thinking of the horror they must have endured," Njoroge told lawmakers in a hearing on the incident last summer.

His mother-in-law, wife and three young children were flying on a Boeing 737 MAX and were victims of the second fatal accident involving the aircraft. Just months earlier, Lion Air 610, also a MAX, crashed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia. Both crashes resulted in the deaths of 346 people.

"As the pilots struggled to keep the plane flying for six minutes, the terror that my wife must have experienced with little Rubi on her lap, our two young children beside her crying for daddy, and my mother-in-law feeling helpless beside her," Njoroge said. "The six minutes will forever be embedded in my mind."

Days after the crash in Ethiopia, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure launched its investigation into the design, development and certification of the MAX family of aircraft and what exactly led to the two fatal crashes. On Wednesday, almost a year and a half later, lawmakers released a scathing report which concluded technical design flaws, faulty assumptions about pilot responses and management failures by both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration led to the collisions.

The findings, released Wednesday by Democrats on the committee, come as civil aviation authorities and airline flight crews from the U.S., Canada, Brazil and the European Union meet in London this week to review Boeing's proposed training for 737 Max flight crews. This marks a significant milestone in the eventual ungrounding of the plane that has been modified for over a year.

"Boeing has now acknowledged some of these issues through its actions," the report states. "Unfortunately, Boeing's responses to safety issues raised in the 737 MAX program have consistently been too late."

What happened?

Investigators found that both crashes were tied to a software called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). MCAS was designed to help stabilize the 737 MAX after heavier, re-positioned engines placed on the aircraft caused the plane's nose to point too far upwards in certain circumstances.

In both crashes, incorrect data from a faulty sensor caused MCAS to misfire, forcing the plane to nose down repeatedly, even as pilots struggled to regain control and gain altitude. MCAS was not mentioned in the pilot manual.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the pilots in both crashes were bombarded with multiple alarms and alerts in the cockpit before the planes crashed. The blaring alarms likely caused further confusion and made an already stressful situation worse, according to the NTSB.

In December, House Democrats released a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) risk report which showed the potential of more than 15 fatal crashes over the life of the Max fleet -- about 45 years -- if no change was made to MCAS.

Corporate pressures and culture of concealment

The report details "tremendous financial pressure" on Boeing and the 737 MAX program to compete with its European counterpart, Airbus.

The report detailed incidents they say illustrated such pressures, including the installation of a countdown clock by senior program officials "to remind staff about the MAX's schedule."

The report also detailed an incident in which a plant supervisor attempted to schedule a meeting with the 737 MAX general manager about "safety concerns" with production and schedule pressures.

When the supervisor later met with the general manager, he cited his service in the Navy and that "in the military they would temporarily halt production if they had the kinds of safety problems [he] saw on the factory floor."

According to the report, the general manager reportedly said, "The military is not a profit-making organization."

Such pressures "resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 MAX program schedule and avoid slowing the 737 MAX production line," the report said.

FAA oversight and 'failure to ensure the safety of the traveling public'

The report concluded that the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) oversight was "hampered by poor, disjointed FAA communication among the agency's own internal offices responsible for certifying new critical 737 MAX systems, including MCAS."

"It feels like we are showing up to a knife fight with Nerf weapons," one FAA whistleblower told the committee. "It is a challenge to be an equal match with Boeing in the meetings/conversations."

Such "ineffective communication and lack of coordination" on those key safety issues put the flying public in danger, lawmakers concluded.

In response to the report, the FAA said in a statement that it is "committed to continually advancing aviation safety and looks forward to working with the Committee to implement improvements identified in its report."

"We are already undertaking important initiatives based on what we have learned from our own internal reviews as well as independent reviews of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents," the statement continued.

What happens now?

The findings support lawmakers' larger push for a reform of the aircraft certification process in the U.S. They also come as the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation holds a markup on a bill that would strengthen the oversight over the certification process.

"The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired," the report says.

Currently, under the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program mandated by Congress, some of the aircraft certification process is delegated to manufacturers like Boeing. Critics of the ODA program said it was this delegation that created a conflict of interest.

"The problem is it was compliant and not safe, and people died," Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said in a call with reporters Tuesday. "So obviously, the system is inadequate."

DeFazio said he is "working closely with Republicans in the hope of coming to an agreement on a reform proposal in the very near future," but did not say if such legislation would be introduced before the end of the current session.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Minority homes bear financial strain amid COVID-19

Sergii Zyskо/iStockBy SASHA PEZENIK, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- An unequal burden in America's COVID-19 pandemic has been borne by those most vulnerable to the virus, and most at risk to its economic fallout. Latino, Black and Native American households across the country already weathering the brunt of converging crises -- coronavirus, and systemic racial inequality -- now find the virus' havoc hitting home.

New polling reveals the fiscal straits into which coronavirus has plunged these groups. The survey, conducted July 1 - Aug. 3, and released Wednesday from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explores COVID-19's impact on families' finances, and their ability to maintain not just their profit margins -- but the infrastructure of their daily lives.

A majority of Latino, Black and Native American households compared to white households across the nation report facing serious financial problems in the midst, and because, of the COVID-19 outbreak, as they also face disproportionate suffering from the virus itself.

It comes as the nation nears a grim milestone: 200,000 COVID-19 deaths. That looming loss has already disproportionately impacted communities of color.

At least four in ten Latino, Black and Native American households report draining all, or most of their savings; 72% Latino, 60% Black, 55% Native households report facing serious financial problems during the pandemic.

"The magnitude of the impact is stunning," Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News. "In pre-COVID America, millions of people were living paycheck to paycheck. But that living on the edge is not spread evenly across the nation. These issues intersect, they're not separate."

"The problem is several-fold," Dr. Robert Blendon, professor of Public Health and Political Analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told ABC News. "Groups for a variety of reasons who are being disproportionately clobbered by this virus, and it's no question they started out economically fragile. Now it's much more of a crisis."

ABC News reported on the impact of the virus in America's four largest cities -- there, Black and Latino households were hit the hardest by financial issues. Refocusing the lens through a breakdown of race, the impact reaches drastically nationwide.

"Like being caught in a hurricane," Blendon said. "And your house didn't have a strong foundation to begin with. And now the roof is collapsing. And there's not enough cushion being provided. Now you're in much greater trouble."

"Understanding all this pushes the narrative forward," Blendon said. "These groups are the most vulnerable to start with and so how we ask, how are they coping? And the answer is, their ability to manage a family is starting to fall apart."

Economic strain from COVID-19 has slammed communities of color, already more harshly affected by record U.S. unemployment numbers. During the pandemic, reported issues range from depleted savings, to serious problems paying for food and rent. More than six in 10 Latino households, more than four in 10 Black and Native American households, report adult household members having lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had wages or hours reduced since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

A large share of these households have already hit the bottom of their slim reserves and are now having major problems paying for basic costs of living, including food, rent and medical care.

When it came to internet connectivity issues, more than half of Native American households, and more than four in 10 Latino and Black households report either having serious problems with their internet connection to do their job or schoolwork, or that they do not have a high-speed internet connection at home.

This connectivity issue, experts say, poses a real risk because it strikes at a time when many are learning remotely and hits in the very households where parents may be struggling to find and afford childcare. The very children, a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report found Tuesday, that comprise a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths.

"The virus has exacerbated issues in the very groups who have the least margin to bear them," Blendon said. "And who need opportunity. And for the kids - they may not recover for years if at all from the loss of that educational structure."

"It's not just about making sure that kids go home with a laptop, if you can't get on the web, that laptop isn't going to do you a lot of good. There needs to be an investment to address the disparity there, too, if we want to make sure that children are able to learn and people are able to work from home," Besser said.

"We need to address and understand the intersection of these issues, communities that provide opportunity for health, and communities that are offered barriers to health. We need to keep investing in systems of support until we reach a point where there will be no difference in the breakdown by race and ethnicity," Besser continued. "We are at, I hope, an inflection point in our history."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Scoreboard roundup -- 9/17/20

iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Thursday's sports events:


Boston 5, Miami 3
LA Angels 7, Arizona 3
San Francisco 6, Seattle 4

Chi White Sox 4, Minnesota 3
Tampa Bay 3, Baltimore 1
Houston 2, Texas 1
Cleveland 10, Detroit 3
NY Yankees 10, Toronto 7
Tampa Bay 10, Baltimore 6

Pittsburgh 5, St. Louis 1
NY Mets 10, Philadelphia 6
LA Dodgers 9, Colorado 3

Miami 106, Boston 101 (Miami leads 2-0)

Tampa Bay 2, NY Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay wins series 4-2)

Cleveland 35, Cincinnati 30


Minnesota 80, Phoenix 79
Connecticut 73, Los Angeles 59

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

As Big Ten decides to return, 42 Wisconsin players and staff have tested positive for COVID, officials say

fstop123/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(MADISON, Wisc.) -- A day after the Big Ten decided to resume the football season, local officials announced University of Wisconsin, Madison has had over 40 football players and staff test positive for COVID-19 so far.

On Wednesday, the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors announced that the conference's football season will resume next month, after previously voting to postpone it until the spring. That same day, officials in UW-Madison's county released a statement advising students and people living in Dane County, where the university sits, not to gather to watch Badger football games.

"Of course it's disappointing that something as well-loved as gathering to watch Badger football games can't happen this year," Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in the statement. "But the reality is that it's not possible to have a traditional football season without substantially increasing COVID-19 transmission. We value people's health and lives over sports, and we hope that UW does as well."

Since students began returning to campus in late August, the university has seen a "record" number of cases, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi noted in the statement. UW-Madison has paused in-person instruction for two weeks, through Sept. 25, to address a "rapid increase" in COVID-19 cases among students living both on and off campus. Parisi warned that festivities around football Saturdays "are going to serve as new spreading events within our community."

The city's mayor voiced similar concerns. "The increase in cases we are seeing is predominantly due to parties. Adding football parties into this mix is only going to make the situation worse," Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in the statement.

On Thursday, UW-Madison reported 190 new positive COVID-19 tests among students and employees from on- and off-campus testing. As of Thursday morning, 400 students were in on-campus isolation, it said. There have been nearly 2,400 confirmed cases among UW-Madison students and employees since July 28, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County.

As of Wednesday, 42 players and staff on the football team had tested positive for COVID-19, noting the risks posed to student-athletes during the pandemic, according to the county health department. "Emerging evidence and research is showing that even though athletes recover from COVID-19, serious long term health issues can persist, including myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which can lead to heart failure," the statement said.

The university started testing student-athletes and staff in June.

New medical protocols announced by Big Ten officials this week include daily antigen testing for student-athletes, coaches, trainers and others on the field for practices and games. The 14 Big Ten institutions will also establish a cardiac registry to examine the effects on COVID-19-positive student-athletes, they said.

In its statement, the county health department said it does not have authority over the university's campus, including Camp Randall football stadium, but that it will continue to enforce its public health orders in partnership with the Madison Police Department when it can. Per an executive order, mass gatherings indoors are limited to 10 people, and those outside are limited to 25, not including employees.

UW spokesperson Greg Bump said in a statement to ABC News that the university would "further coordinate with local agencies and public health regarding game days."

"Saturdays at Camp Randall will look very different," the statement said, noting that Big Ten officials are not allowing any fans in the stands or public ticket sales. The university is currently working on plans to allow the families of student-athletes to attend the games, Bump said.

"Game day usually means getting together but now, in order to protect the season and our community, we all need to cheer the Badgers responsibly and in accordance with public health guidelines," the statement said.

The Big Ten has yet to release the schedule for the season, which is set to start the weekend of Oct. 23.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Slain former NBA player's loved ones still want answers to ex-wife's involvement in his murder

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBy TOM BERMAN and HALEY YAMADA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Former NBA player Lorenzen Wright was murdered more than a decade ago in a plan involving his ex-wife, but Wright’s family and friends are still dealing with many unanswered questions, including "why?"

“When you’re the mother of six kids and you’re married to their father, and you would [want to] see him dead, that’s just evil. That’s wicked,” Montae Nevels, Wright's friend, told 20/20.

“I hope the truth comes out,” Phil Dotson, another of his friends, told 20/20.

Growing up in Oxford, Mississippi, Wright found a fierce passion for playing basketball. His success on the high school and collegiate levels in Memphis, Tennessee, eventually culminated into his being the seventh overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft when he headed to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Wright eventually moved to the Atlanta Hawks and then was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2001.

“To be able to play high school ball here, to play college ball and then to play in the NBA in front of your hometown, I don't know if it gets any better than that,” Dotson said.

Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, was thrilled to have her son home again.

“It was great because my dad was still living and my mom... They were getting older. But then they could actually see their grandson do something,” Marion said.

Although he skyrocketed into the fast life of the NBA, Wright’s childhood friends said that he never lost touch with his roots.

“He would give people jobs,” said Dotson. “He just wanted his buddies around to enjoy the fruits of his labor. … It was like Disneyland at his house!”

While playing summer basketball in his junior year of high school, Wright met his ex-wife Sherra Robinson, who became Sherra Wright Robinson. Her father happened to be his coach and friends said Wright fell for her.

“She was easy on the eyes,” Nevels said. “I don’t think he had never ever [come] in contact with anyone that looked like Sherra.”

The couple eventually started dating and had their first child together -- a son named Lorenzen Jr. But Wright's mother said she never fell for his ex-wife's charm.

After having Lorenzen Jr., the couple got married and had a daughter named Loren, twin boys named Lamar and Shamar, another daughter named Sofia, a son named Lawson and a girl named Sierra, who died of sudden infant death syndrome when she was a baby.

Fighting to stay in the league, Wright was at the tail end of his career when he went back to the Hawks for a time, and then played for the Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s estimated that Wright had earned around $55 million over the course of his NBA career. But, as Nevels put it, “just as fast as he was making money, money was being spent.”

There were also accusations of infidelity in the relationship on both sides. After 13 years together, the couple divorced in February 2010.

“Lorenzen told me the marriage ended because he didn’t trust Sherra anymore and she felt the same about him … but they were still going to … try to find a way to raise these kids,” said Mike Gipson, another one of Wright’s friends.

“I think what happened to the marriage was that … they grew apart,” Dotson said.

By summer 2010, Wright was living in Atlanta with Gipson, while his ex-wife remained in Memphis with the kids. Yet, Gipson said Wright still had an intimate relationship with his ex-wife. One weekend, Wright flew home to Memphis to attend his daughter's dance recital and his sister's baby shower. He called Dotson and the two arranged to hang out. It was July 19, 2010.

“Completely unexpected, out of the blue … he calls me … and says, ‘Hey bud, I’m in town, let’s hang out,” Dotson said. “So he comes over… We’re kicking back, we’re relaxing, smoking cigars on the patio.”

That evening, Dotson said Wright's ex-wife called him demanding that he bring their son back home "now."

"And he was like, 'OK, all right, fine. I don't want to argue with you,'" Dotson said. "So we drove to the house. ... And when we pull up at the house ... he said, 'I'm going to go in here and I'm going to calm her down, and I'll call you later and then we can go out."

Dotson said that was the last time he saw Wright.

Hours later, just after midnight, a Germantown, Tennessee, 911 operator responded to an incoming call. On the call, a voice could be heard yelling, “God ****" before it was followed by gunshots.

“Hello? Hello?” the dispatcher said over and over again, but the phone remained silent.

The Germantown Police Department, which declined to comment to ABC News for this report, did not follow up on the call. It wasn’t revisited until nine days later while the Memphis Police Department investigated Wright’s disappearance.

At the time, a review by the Germantown Police Department concluded that the dispatchers had properly followed procedures.

Marion, who had reported her son as a missing person, said she became suspicious of his ex-wife. In the days after Wright went missing, she said his ex-wife told her Wright was with “some women.”

“I kept calling him all day and he didn't answer the phone,” said Marion. “This is what I told her… ‘Sherra, where is he? You need to let us know.’ She’s constantly saying about [other] women … he [was] with some women.”

Wright Robinson, however, also claimed to investigators that there was a drug connection. She told investigators she had last seen Wright drive off with an unknown man carrying a box of drugs that she claimed he was trying to sell. She also claimed armed men wearing trench coats had recently come to the home looking for Wright.

Wright was never implicated in any criminal activity.

Nine days after the distressing 911 call, after Memphis police found out about the 911 call, they were able to pinpoint where it was made. This eventually led them to Wright’s remains in a wooded area on a desolate road that he used to take to get to his mother’s house. His body had gunshot wounds.

His mother and friends were in disbelief when they heard the news. It seemed to Gipson that this would be an easy case to solve.

“He’s a celebrity from Memphis, so I thought this would be an open and shut case,” he said. “Never in my life did I think it would take so long [to solve].”

Police ruled the case a homicide and began investigating. Wright Robinson denied any involvement during questioning with police as well as in a local TV news interview. The criminal case turned cold for the next seven years.

Meanwhile, Wright Robinson seemed to move on with her life. But those in Wright’s corner said some of his ex-wife's behavior was unusual.

For one, she was accused of misspending some of the $1 million life insurance policy that was intended for their kids' benefit, which Wright had purchased as a condition of their divorce settlement.

In 2015, five years after the murder, Wright Robinson published “Mr. Tell Me Anything,” a novel that centered around the life of a woman who marries an abusive and unfaithful basketball star. She claimed in an interview that the supposedly fictitious story was based on her real life.

“I just believed it. I was like, ‘She’s baring all,’” said Kelvin Cowans, referring to the book.

Cowans, a journalist, started dating Wright Robinson that same year even though he admits their relationship crossed a professional line. He claims he fell in love with her during an interview about Wright Robinson's life, which included talking about her new book. The pair eventually moved to Houston together with Wright Robinson's kids. Cowans said he was never suspicious of her during their relationship.

“I’m like, 'If she’d done something, they’d have her by now.’ I mean I never would’ve moved away with her if I thought she was a killer,” said Cowans.

Cowans said the relationship eventually fell apart because he couldn’t get past what he described as her obsession with getting money from Wright’s estate.

“[I thought] I cannot believe that your apex of life is still, ‘How much money can I get?’” Cowans said.

After they broke up, Wright Robinson relocated to California with her kids.

Life seemed to continue on until November 2017, when police announced a huge break in the Wright murder investigation: They had found one of the murder weapons -- a gun -- in a lake in Walnut, Mississippi, about 45 minutes away from Wright’s former home.

In court, prosecutors said the break had come from Wright Robinson's cousin, Jimmie Martin. He had been convicted of second-degree murder in an unrelated case that had occurred three years prior to Wright’s death. While he was awaiting sentencing, Martin allegedly started talking to investigators. Prosecutors say he claimed he participated in the planning to kill Wright with Wright Robinson and another man named Billy Ray Turner but that the attempt was foiled.

“Turner was a landscaper, a yardman who happened to be a deacon in a small country church that Sherra attended,” said Memphis journalist Marc Perrusquia.

According to prosecutors, Martin claimed that a few days after Wright’s death, Wright Robinson and Turner confessed to him that they had murdered Wright, and that he then helped them clean up the crime scene.

Martin alleged that a metal detector was used to try to find a gun that had been dropped during the crime, and that he and Turner then drove to the lake in Mississippi where Turner disposed of a gun, according to prosecutors.

Martin has not been charged in connection with Lorenzen Wright’s death. He declined to comment to ABC News for this report.

After the gun announcement, investigators said they started monitoring Wright Robinson’s and Turner’s cell phones, and alleged that they learned incriminating information. Both were arrested and charged in December 2017.

Turner was indicted on first-degree murder charges and pleaded not guilty. When he first appeared in a Shelby County, Tennessee, courtroom on Dec. 5, 2017, Wright’s mother was finally able to see the person allegedly responsible for killing her son.

“When I saw him, I knew instantly [that Wright Robinson] used him because that's not what she want[ed]. You know, he had no money! She don't deal with no grass cutter!” said Marion.

“It was a standard arrest. There was no incidence to it. This person who, for the past 25 years, had not had any sort of troubles,” said John Keith Perry, Turner’s defense attorney. "I absolutely think that he did not do it."

Wright Robinson was charged with first-degree murder, criminal attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She pleaded not guilty.

When he saw the announcement of her arrest on the news, Cowans was blown away.

“I’m like, I just spent almost … three years of my life with a killer,” he said.

The stage was set for Wright Robinson and Turner to be tried together, but that all changed when Turner was faced with another legal matter.

Turner, a previously convicted felon on unrelated charges that stemmed from a case in the early 1990s, was found in illegal possession of a gun when he was arrested for murder in the Wright case. He pleaded guilty to possessing the firearm.

After they learned about the plea, Wright Robinson’s lawyers worried that Turner would strike a plea deal with prosecutors in the Wright murder case and testify against Wright Robinson. Her lawyer, Juni Ganguli, said, “We told her, if Billy testifies against you, it’s going to be disastrous."

On July 25, 2019, Wright Robinson agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty to the facilitation of first-degree murder. Prosecutors agreed to a lesser sentence of 30 years in prison and parole eligibility, for which she could be released as early as 2026. Had Wright Robinson gone to trial, she faced the prospect of spending the rest of her life in prison.

Prosecutors declined to comment to ABC News for this report.

When Wright Robinson’s plea bargain was announced in court, the judge allowed Marion the chance to speak to her son’s ex-wife.

After close to a decade of pain, Marion turned to face the woman who admitted she had been involved in her son’s murder. At that moment, instead of expressing outrage, Marion said she made the decision to focus on her six grandchildren.

“Ms. Sherra, I want to thank you for giving me my grandchildren, that’s what I want to thank you for,” she said in court. “I want you to unlock them so I can get to them so they can see their grandma, because Sofia keeps calling. She wants to come make chicken and dumplings. But I want you to call them, [and say], 'No it’s OK to talk to grandma, grandma still loves you.' That’s all I want is my grandkids.”

“I just hate what happened to my child,” Marion continued, speaking to Sherra. “But he left nice looking kids here for his grandma. They want to see me like I want to see them. I’m ready for them to come back to the home with their family. Because I miss them.”

Wright Robinson asked if she was allowed to reply, but her lawyers told her it was not a good idea.

“I advised her not to, because at that point, what difference does it make,” said Ganguli.

Although Wright Robinson is now behind bars, Marion still does not have full closure.

Turner was expected to go to trial this month, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed his proceedings. Marion is forced to wait longer for a resolution.

“With Lorenzen, I’d be talking to his picture and sometimes his picture could look at me a certain way like it’s really him… He was a momma’s boy. Simple as that," she said. "He would still be a momma’s boy if he was here now."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

White House offered tests to Big Ten to resume football: Sources


(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump pushed the Big Ten in recent weeks to restart college football amid the coronavirus pandemic, the White House offered to provide the college athletic conference with enough COVID-19 tests for play to begin, a university official briefed on the matter and a senior Trump administration official said.

The Big Ten ultimately sourced the tests from a private company instead, the officials said.

The conference announced Wednesday its football season -- on hold due to the outbreak -- would resume on Oct. 23. It said it would utilize "stringent medical protocols," including daily testing of its student-athletes and coaches.

Trump had since last month been publicly insisting the Big Ten kick off its football season, and he spoke with the conference's commissioner, Kevin Warren, on Sept. 1, about the matter.

"I called the commissioner a couple of weeks ago, and we started putting a lot of pressure on, frankly, because there was no reason for it not to come back," Trump told reporters Wednesday.

After that call, Trump directed White House staff to provide any federal resources the conference needed, according to the senior administration official.

The Big Ten's ability to secure coronavirus tests was "key," although ultimately the conference found another source for them, the official said.

"Probably for political reasons, it was easy for the Big Ten to convince their presidents to vote for it, if it wasn't going to be provided by this White House," the official said.

Trump has for months called for the return of professional and college sports, many of which had been put on hold. He has pushed for states and schools to lift coronavirus-related restrictions despite the continued high rate of virus transmission in certain parts of the country; his own presidential campaign has ignored local restrictions on crowd sizes, mask-wearing and social distancing.

Many leagues have recently resumed play with safety protocols restrictions and limits on spectators. They have had varying degrees of success in responding to athletes who have fallen ill with the virus.

The Big Ten said Wednesday that athletes, coaches, trainers and others who go on the field would get tested daily and that athletes who receive a positive result would receive a second test to confirm the result.

If both tests were positive, the athlete would have to undergo cardiac testing and receive clearance from a cardiologist before they could return to competition -- at the earliest 21 days after his initial diagnosis.

Trump's interest in the Big Ten was spurred by calls from players and their parents for the season to resume, the senior administration official said.

The official said the White House had made hundreds of calls on the topic with Big Ten coaches, officials, athletic directors, parents and players.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Scoreboard roundup -- 9/16/20

iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Wednesday's sports events:



Washington 4, Tampa Bay 2
Oakland 3, Colorado 1
Baltimore 5, Atlanta 1
Miami 8, Boston 4
Chi Cubs 3, Cleveland 2
Arizona 9, LA Angels 6
San Francisco 9, Seattle 3
San Francisco at Seattle (Postponed)

Kansas City 4, Detroit 0
N.Y Yankees 13, Toronto 2
Texas 1, Houston 0
Minnesota 5, Chi White Sox 1

St. Louis 4, Milwaukee 2
LA Dodgers 7, San Diego 5
Cincinnati 1, Pittsburgh 0
Milwaukee 6, St. Louis 0
NY Mets 5, Philadelphia 4

FC Dallas 4, Colorado 1
Vancouver 3, Montreal 1
Portland 1, San Jose 1 (Tie)
Miami at New York City FC (Canceled)
Colorado at Nashville (Canceled)
Los Angeles FC at Houston (Canceled)
San Jose at Seattle (Canceled)

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Big Ten to play football this season


(NEW YORK) -- The Big Ten will be playing college football this season after the Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to resume the season on the weekend of October 23 and 24. 

Each team will play an eight game schedule, but opponents have not been released. 

In the release announcing the decision, the conference said the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors adopted new health safety protocols, including daily testing for COVID-19, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data driven approach when making decisions on whether to practice or play. 

The conference orginally voted to postpone the season by a vote of 11-3 on August 11, according to ESPN. 

Every person around the team, including players, coaches and trainers will be tested daily. Players who test positive will be given a different second test to confirm they have the virus.

Players who test positive will be given thorough cardiac testing and will have to be cleared by a cardiologist designated by the university to return to play. The earliest a player could return would be 21 days following the positive test. 

Testing will begin by September 30. 

All universities will also have a Chief Infection officer, who will oversee testing and reporting of data to the conference. 

The Big Ten will use the data to determine whether a team needs to alter or stop practices and games.

Should a team have a postivity rate over 5% and a population positivity rate over 7.5%, based on a seven day rolling average, that team will be required to stop practice and competitions for at least 7 days.

All 14 schools in the Big Ten will also establish a cardiac registry to examine the effects of the coronavirus on student-athletes. 

The Big Ten's decison to resume the season leaves the Pac-12 as the only Power Five conference to not be playing this year. The Big 12 and ACC have already started playing games with the SEC set to resume games on the weekend of the September 26. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

WNBA star Maya Moore married man she helped free from wrongful conviction

John Atashian / ESPN ImagesBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Basketball star turned activist Maya Moore revealed that she and Jonathan Irons have married.

The pair joined ABC News' Good Morning America Wednesday to share exclusive details of their unique love story that blossomed out of friendship after she helped free him from prison following his wrongful conviction 23 years ago.

"We wanted to announce today that we are super excited to continue the work that we are doing together, but doing it as a married couple," Moore said. "We got married a couple months ago and we're excited to just continue this new chapter of life together."

While the couple's nuptials were celebrated during the ongoing pandemic, Moore said it did not take away from the momentous occasion.

She said that the guests were masked and socially distanced, but the main thing was they were able to get married with some of their closest friends and family.

Moore, 31, said that the romantic feelings progressed gradually over time, since they first met through a prison ministry program when she was 18 years old.

"Over the last 13 years we have just developed a friendship and just entered into this huge battle to get him home and just over time it was pretty clear what the Lord was doing in our hearts and now we're sitting here today, starting a whole new chapter together," she said.

She said what she loves most is her husband's ability to rise above the chaos of his surroundings, as well as his faith in God.

Even though Irons told her he wanted to be close and remain friends, he also revealed his love for her while still at Jefferson City Correctional Center and that he wanted her to marry him, but said, "don't answer right now."

"I wanted to marry her but at the same time protect her because being in a relationship with a man in prison, it's extremely difficult and painful. And I didn't want her to feel trapped and I wanted her to feel open and have the ability any time if this is too much for you, go and find somebody. Live your life. Because this is hard," he said.

He said the moment he finally popped the question was worth the wait.

"When I got out we were in the hotel room we had some friends in the room, it was winding down and we were extremely tired, but we were still gassed up on excitement," Irons recalled. "It was just me and her in the room and I got down on my knees and I looked up at her and she kind of knew what was going on and I said, 'will you marry me,' she said, 'yes.'"

The couple, who have most recently been working on the "Get Out the Vote" campaign, first formed a close friendship in 2007, before her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, when she met him through a prison ministry in which her extended family in Missouri participated.

When Irons was 16 years old, he was tried and convicted as an adult by an all-white jury for the burglary and shooting at the home of 38-year-old Stanley Stotler. Irons maintained his innocence while he was in prison, saying he was wrongly identified during the lineup.

After years of fighting, a Missouri judge overturned Irons' conviction in March, saying there were problems with the way the case had been investigated and tried -- including a fingerprint report that would've proved Irons' innocence, not being turned over to his defense team.

While Irons, now 40, has spent most of his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit, he said he doesn't feel resentment toward the man who wrongly identified him, and said that Stotler is a "victim" as well.

The couple said they are currently enjoying a playful, joyful life in the new normal together riding bikes, playing frisbee and other free activities that both haven't been able to do in a while.

Moore and Irons are also currently focused on spreading the word about local elections for voters to make a real impact in their communities through Win With Justice's "Get Out the Vote" campaign.

GMA anchor Robin Roberts announced in her interview with the newlyweds that her production company Rock'n Robin productions has teamed up with ESPN films to produce a documentary about Maya and Jonathan's story.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Scoreboard roundup -- 9/15/20

iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Tuesday's sports events:



Boston 2, Miami 0
Tampa Bay 6, Washington 1
Atlanta 5, Baltimore 1
Colorado 3, Oakland 1
Chi Cubs 6, Cleveland 5
Arizona 9, LA Angels 8
San Francisco at Seattle (Postponed)


NY Yankees 20, Toronto 6
Detroit 6, Kansas City 0
Houston 4, Texas 1
Chi White Sox 6, Minnesota 2

Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 1
Philadelphia 4, NY Mets 1
Milwaukee 18, St. Louis 3
LA Dodgers 3, San Diego 1

Miami 117, Boston 114 (OT) (Miami leads 1-0)
Denver 104, LA Clippers 89 (Denver wins series 4-3)

NY Islanders 2, Tampa Bay 1 (2OT) (Tampa Bay leads 3-2)


Connecticut 94, Chicago 81
Phoenix 85, Washington 84

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

The app fueling Mike Tyson's long-awaited return to the ring

Donald Kravitz/Getty ImagesBy VICTOR ORDONEZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson teased fans for weeks -- posting workout videos and cryptic messages on social media -- before finally announcing his long-awaited return to the ring.

On November 28, Tyson, 54, will face off against "Captain Hook" -- also known as former four-division world champion Roy Jones Jr., 51.

Unlike fights of their generation, Tyson's return to the ring won't be presented by HBO, ESPN, Showtime or any other legacy network. Instead, the fight will be presented by Triller, an up-and-coming music video app akin to TikTok.

"At the end of the day, someone like Tyson has the pick of the litter," Triller CEO Mike Lu told ABC News. "What our team was able to do for Tyson was really showcase the identity of Triller ... and we just vibed with him."

Founded as a music video app, the platform allows users to create professional-looking music videos in a matter of seconds using artificial intelligence -- making the app a clear competitor to TikTok. And like TikTok, Triller has become more of a creative platform for users to produce many genres of video-based content.

"We get compared to TikTok often enough, but the way we look at it: we are the voice of an American based Gen Z platform," Lu said, drawing a distinction from TikTok's Chinese roots. "Another difference: We have grown 100% organically. We've never spent any money on marketing, it's always been word of mouth interactions or people sharing creative content they made on Triller."

Relying on that organic growth, Triller has more than 140 million downloads, with celebrities like Alicia Keys, Cardi B, Marshmello, Roddy Ricch and Eminem regularly using the app to create their own music videos.

"We've got a saying here, which is: 'We want the next Chris Brown or Justin Bieber to be discovered on Triller,'" said Lu.

Along with the rights to the live event featuring Tyson, Triller -- an app with no current footing in the world of sports -- obtained streaming rights to a soon-to-be-released, 10-part docuseries featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the fight. One episode will be released each week leading up to the match.

"The way we look at our product: We define cultural moments," said Lu, acknowledging Triller's unprecedented introduction to the boxing scene. "Obviously we went against all the major [legacy companies], like ESPN. Everyone wanted this, but per our motto -- 'You do you' -- we allowed Tyson to express himself on our platform that's all about creating and defining that cultural moment … and that's why Tyson agreed to do it."

Amidst the pandemic's rocky economy and TikTok's uncertain future in the United States, CNBC reported that Triller paid a whopping $50 million for the exclusive rights to the event.

"I can't comment on rumors like that," Lu said regarding exclusive's reported price tag. "But look, at the end of the day we believe in Tyson, we believe in this cultural event … and I believe history will tell us this was the right move for us."

Techcrunch reported earlier this month that Triller was seeking $250 million in funding that would push its valuation to over $1 billion, citing a source with knowledge of the matter. This would be an Olympic-length leap from its $130 million valuation reported last October by the Wall Street Journal.

A three-hour live event, the Tyson vs. Jones bout will last eight rounds and be part of a multiple-fight card. The event will also include significant undercard matches as well as musical performances to be announced in the coming weeks.

The fight will also be available on traditional pay-per-view platforms and the cost of the event is reported to be $49.99.

The fight, dubbed "Frontline Battle," will be the first event in a series produced under Mike Tyson's Legends Only League, a venture owned by Tyson and CEO of Eros Innovation Sophie Watts. Per the deal, all rights for "Frontline Battle" are controlled by Triller. Lu has also teased further collaboration.

"We haven't announced anything … but our goal is to move forward [working with them]," Lu told ABC News.

Lu added that Triller would be presenting similar events in the world of sports, music and entertainment in the near future.

Tyson himself has taken to Triller in anticipation for the event -- sporting Triller attire with a promotional "Triller Presents" intro. His announcement video received over 4 million views on the platform.

Tyson is known as one of the most feared heavyweights in history, claiming the division for himself throughout the late '80s. He became the youngest heavyweight champion in history with a 37-0 record before the world witnessed one of the greatest upsets in sports history: Tyson was knocked out by James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo in July 1990.

Jones went on to be named the best boxer of the 1990s by Ring Magazine. After nearly 50 victories in the ring, Jones finally met defeat in a controversial disqualification against Montell Griffin. Jones swiftly repaid the favor in the first round of a rematch shortly after.

Although Tyson's upcoming fight is slated to be an exhibition match, according to Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission, Triller plans to present a Vegas-scale event as the world-renowned champions return to the arena.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/15/2020

Scoreboard roundup -- 9/14/20

iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Monday's sports events:



Baltimore 14, Atlanta 1

Seattle 6, Oakland 5
Oakland 9, Seattle 0
Chi White Sox 3, Minnesota 1

Cincinnati 3, Pittsburgh 1
Cincinatti 9, Pittsburgh 4
Milwaukee 2, St. Louis 1
St. Louis 3, Milwaukee 2
San Diego 7, LA Dodgers 2

Dallas 3, Vegas 2 (OT) (Dallas wins series 4-1)

Pittsburgh 26, NY Giants 16
Tennessee 16, Denver 14

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/15/2020

CDC reverses testing guidelines after report of interference


(ATLANTA) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reversed guidance on who should be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, specifying that asymptomatic people who have co...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Tara Lipinski opens up about undergoing endometriosis surgery to break taboo of 'hush hush topic'


Hailshadow/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Olympic gold-medal-winning figure skater Tara Lipinski is opening up about undergoing endometriosis surgery in hopes of breaking down barriers around the condition that affects millions of ...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Masks may offer better protection against COVID-19 than any vaccine: Experts

Rattankun Thongbun/iStockBy DR. LEAH CROLL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As America waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's director, Robert Redfield, said we all might be better protected by simply continuing to we...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

1-year-old hears mother's voice for first time

Lauryn WebbBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A year-old boy from Virginia was given a very special gift this week: the ability to hear his mother’s voice.

Maison McMillian, of Richmond, sat on his mother Lauryn Webb’s lap as he was fitted for hearing aids a...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/18/2020

Pine Sol now approved to kill coronavirus on surfaces: EPA

jfmdesign/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Clorox wipes are still in short supply due to increased demand as Americans continue to clean off frequently used surfaces to combat the spread of coronavirus, but another household cleaner ...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

How did coronavirus get transferred to humans? Scientists may have an answer

Bill Oxford/iStockBy PRIYA AMIN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Nine months into the global pandemic, scientists are still piecing together the mystery of the first crossover event, in which the coronavirus moved from bats to an intermediary animal and, ev...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Russia vaccine data called into question as experts worry about global distribution

Meyer & Meyer/iStockBy DR. ALEXANDRIA LAMBERT, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A growing chorus of experts is calling on Russian scientists to explain potential discrepancies in the data supporting the country's COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V.

Russia was...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

What you need to know about staying safe when hitting the polls this election season

hermosawave/iStockBy DR. LEAH CROLL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With less than two months to go before the U.S. presidential election, many Americans are worried about voting safely during the pandemic.

"As the pandemic continues to spread, it’s vital t...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/17/2020

Trump teases vaccine distribution as public health officials say they need more money


(ATLANTA) -- Public health officials working to make a potential COVID-19 vaccine available to all Americans said they need more than $25 billion to make it happen, but the continued impasse between the T...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Elle Fanning embraces eczema in her latest Instagram selfie


(NEW YORK) -- Elle Fanning recently made light of a skin condition many of her fans can relate to.

The Maleficent star embraced her eczema on Monday by showing off her m...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

Couple married for 46 years survives COVID-19, cancer and chemotherapy

artisteer/iStockBy CHRIS CIRILLO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- When Robert and Janice Beecham were married on April 15, 1974, they vowed to stick together through sickness and health.

It was a promise twice tested: Robert suffered a stroke and was in the ...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020

San Francisco to give $1K monthly stipend to pregnant Black, Pacific Islander women

Prostock-Studio/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Pregnant Black and Pacific Islander women in San Francisco will get a $1,000 monthly supplement during and after their pregnancy in a first of its kind initiative meant to help improve...

Author: ABC Audio
Posted: 09/16/2020
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