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SpaceX to launch 4 astronauts to ISS on recycled rocket and capsule

SpaceX

(MERRITT ISLAND, Fla.) -- Four astronauts from three countries are set to launch from the Florida coast to the International Space Station early Friday morning as part of NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

Friday's launch marks only the third time that Elon Musk's private space-faring firm has flown astronauts.

It ushers in a new era of reusability in human space exploration, as it will use the same Falcon 9 rocket that sent four astronauts to the ISS last November and the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that sent and returned two astronauts during the first crewed SpaceX flight last May.

The crew is composed of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. They are set to stay on the space station for a six-month science mission.

"I met with the crew last night, they are ready to go," NASA's Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk​​ said at a pre-launch news conference from the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday. "I asked them what they look forward to most in the mission, and they said launching and getting up on station and getting to work."

He lauded that this marks the "third launch in less than a year" for NASA's Commercial Crew program, which tapped private sector firms such as SpaceX to help bring launch capabilities back to U.S. soil after a nearly decade-long dependency on Russia.

The launch was originally scheduled for early Thursday morning but was moved to Friday due to downrange inclement weather. Currently, liftoff is scheduled for 5:49 a.m. ET on Friday from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to dock to the space station about 5:10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

As of Thursday, the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron forecast a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions in the area for a launch.

NASA's live coverage of the launch kicks off at 1:30 a.m. ET on its website and social media accounts.

Jurczyk said Wednesday that NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory team received a call earlier this week from President Joe Biden, who congratulated the researchers on their success in conducting the first controlled flight on another planet.

"He told the team that his grandson asked him when was he going to travel to Mars," Jurczyk said. "So that’s something really important that we do."

"We enable commercial activities in space, we demonstrate leadership, and we inspire the next generation," he said.

Meet the crew

McArthur, the mission's pilot, is married to fellow astronaut Bob Behnken, who was part of the historic first NASA-SpaceX mission last May. In a previous interview, Behnken said this time it's "her turn to focus on getting her mission accomplished" and his turn to watch their young son.

Kimbrough, 53, is an Army veteran and the mission’s commander. The father of three has logged some 189 days in space and first joined NASA as a flight simulation engineer in 2000.

Hoshide, 52, is a native of Tokyo and will serve as a mission specialist for Crew-2. He went on his first spaceflight in 2008, and in 2012 spent 124 days on the ISS.

Pesquet, 43, is the first ESA astronaut to join a NASA-SpaceX mission. He has also logged a chunk of time aboard the ISS, spending six months on the station in 2016. The French astronaut will serve as a mission specialist.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Electric vehicles prove to be as safe as gas-powered cars, IIHS says

Volvo

(WASHINGTON) -- Electric vehicles are continuing to show they can be as safe as their gas-powered counterparts, according to data examined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The non-profit, funded by insurance companies, examined electric and conventional versions of nine vehicle models from 2011 to 2019 as well as collision, property damage liability and injury claims. Data showed that rates of injury claims related to the drivers and passengers of electric vehicles were more than 40% lower than for identical conventional models over 2011-19

"It's fantastic to see more proof that these vehicles are as safe as or safer than gasoline- and diesel-powered cars," IIHS President David Harkey said in a press release.

IIHS also conducted crash tests with two new electric models. The 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge received a TOP SAFETY PICK+ designation, while the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E earned the lower-tier TOP SAFETY PICK award.

To receive the TOP SAFETY PICK award, vehicles must receive good ratings across six crashworthiness tests -- driver and passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. IIHS said cars must also be available with headlights that are good or acceptable, as well as a front crash prevention system that earns advanced or superior ratings.

To qualify for the "plus" category, vehicles must come with good or acceptable headlights across all trim levels and packages.

This comes as the Biden administration announced it will switch the federal fleet to all electric vehicles and promised to have 500,000 charging stations installed across the United States by 2030.

"We can now say with confidence that making the U.S. fleet more environmentally friendly doesn't require any compromises in terms of safety," Harkey said.

While the number of electric vehicles on the market remains low, sales are set to hit their highest level on record in 2021. According to data from Edmunds.com, electric vehicle sales made up 1.9% of retail sales in the United States in 2020. Edmunds expects that number to grow to 2.5% this year.

Edmunds also anticipates 30 electric vehicles from 21 brands will become available for sale this year, compared to 17 vehicles from 12 brands in 2020.

Car manufacturers are also betting on electric. Last summer, Ford Motor Company announced it "intends to achieve carbon neutrality globally by 2050." As part of its plan, the company pledged to invest more than $11.5 billion in electric vehicles through 2022.

General Motors (GM) announced in January that it "it plans to become carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040."

To reach its goal, GM said it "plans to decarbonize its portfolio by transitioning to battery electric vehicles or other zero-emissions vehicle technology."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


NFT art boom: Are digital artworks worth the virtual paper they’re printed on?

Valeriy_G/iStock

(LONDON) -- The meteoric rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has seen many once skeptical institutions embrace a digital alternative to traditional currency.

But in the art world, a similar evolution is taking place.

The last two years has seen an explosion in the sales of digital artworks, which have been embraced by major auction houses and have fetched prices ranges from a few dollars to the tens of millions.

Unlike traditional artworks, these can be duplicated exactly with a couple of clicks of a mouse, which raises a divisive question: Can a digital artwork ever really be as valuable as a piece that was physically created by an artist?

Behind the explosion in the digital art marketplace are nonfungible tokens, known as NFTs. The artworks are digital assets that can range from anything to a photograph, a video file or even a piece of music and they are backed by what is effectively a digital ownership record, both of which are part of the blockchain -- a public digital ledger -- which authenticates the digital items as unique.

In recent months, NFTs have made headlines for changing hands at eye-popping prices.

Last month a collage by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, fetched over $69 million when it was auctioned by Christie’s; an NFT of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet fetched a comparatively meager $2.9 million.

In one unusual case, a digital artwork twinned with a physical painting that was created by a humanoid robot in Hong Kong fetched nearly $700,000 at auction.

In addition, a host of major brands have entered the market with a diverse array of companies including the NBA, Breitling watches, LVMH, Nike, Formula 1 and Real Madrid among the big names launching NFT projects.

Opinion is sharply divided, however, as to whether the millions pouring into the NFT sector is money well spent.

“It is clear to me we are moving fast into a digitally native world. For the younger generations I would argue digital items are of even more importance than physical ones -- kids prefer a skin in a game to new sneakers,” Miami-based digital art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile told ABC News.

Fraile made headlines last year for selling a Beeple digital artwork, comprising a roughly 10-second video clip that can be viewed for free online, for some $6.6 million, after paying around $67,000 for the work just months before.

Fraile is highly confident that digital artworks are well placed to hold their significance and value as well as traditional physical artworks do in the long term.“This movement will be of more importance than any artistic movement we have witnessed in our lives. I strongly believe that the most important digital works will be of a lot more significance than most of the tier one creators today,” he said.

On the other side of the argument, experts cite a range of issues with the technology and the smart contracts it underpins as undermining the overall value of many digital assets.

“They [NFTs] don't give you any rights other than bragging rights,” Nicholas Weaver, a lecturer in computer science and a researcher at UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute.

“[An NFT] doesn't actually convey any ownership rights. You don't gain copyright over the NFT. In reality, it's more like a baseball card. It's a cute little piece of paper. But the thing is, is since you don't actually have the baseball card itself on the blockchain, but just a pointer to it, it can actually disappear at a moment's notice,” he explained.

These limitations, however, do not appear to be putting a dent in the growth of the market for NFTs.

In addition to high-dollar sales, the overall market for NFTs has grown exponentially in recent years. Between 2019 and 2020, the amount of dollars transferred through NFT sales grew by 2,800% year-on-year, according to Nadya Ivanova, chief operating officer at foresight business L'Atelier BNP Paribas.

Ivanova sees the possibility that both the market and the technology that underpins it evolving over time in a way that could allow it to operate in a way that conveyed more value to buyers.

“What you're buying is certain rights that come from ownership. So, for example, you can buy it [an NFT], you can sell it, you can rent it down the line … not necessarily have the right to reproduce it commercially.

“That doesn't mean, though, that you can't do that. The technology is so versatile that it allows you to encode into that sale, into the smart contracts that manages the NFT. It allows you to encode all kinds of things if you want, so you can actually put a copyright clause there that then specifies how you can actually use that NFT,” she said.

Away from the multimillion-dollar sales, many smaller artists and even hobbyists say that the evolution of the market has been empowering for them.

One such artist is Jay, who preferred not to use his full name in print, a Dublin-based creator in Ireland of pixel art – a style that evokes the graphics of vintage video games -- under the name Genuine Human Art.

Describing his digital art as a creative outlet rather than a full-time job, Jay told ABC News that he has sold around 20 unique pieces, some of which he has sold multiple editions of, for around $4,000 to $6,000 worth of cryptocurrency.

He feels that the emergence of the NFT art market has been game-changing for artists such as him.

“I can't overstate how much of a difference this makes,” he told ABC News.

“For me what matters is the emergence of a new digital art market. For years, artists have been trained through social media to see their art as disposable, valueless. This movement changes that. It's changing the lives of young artists in particular. In what have been very difficult years, it's bringing income to artists in a way that just hasn't happened before. Not like this,” he added.

Whether the NFT art boom is a symptom of a major shift in cultural norms around the ownership of intangibles or, as some critics suggest, an economic byproduct of the pandemic, with bored people holding large amounts of appreciating crypto-wealth and looking for new ways to invest, will ultimately be determined by the market.

For the time being, however, if you’re looking to spend thousands or even millions of dollars on a JPEG, there is not shortage of opportunities to do so.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Returning to app stores, Parler may become gateway to more extreme sites, critics say

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- With Apple signaling the return of conservative-leaning social media platform Parler to its app store, some social media advocates are worried that right-wing extremist groups could use the app to recruit individuals to other messaging spaces and fringe platforms that make it easier for spreaders of misinformation to do harm.

Parler was kicked off app stores by Apple and Amazon following the Jan. 6 insurrection, after the platform was accused of not moderating posts that incited violence and allowed some coordination of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In response, Parler officials said in a statement this week that they have made changes to the app and its content moderation practices.

"We have worked to put in place systems that will better detect unlawful speech and allow users to filter content undesirable to them, while maintaining our strict prohibition against content moderation based on viewpoint," interim CEO Mark Meckler said in the statement.

In a letter to top Republicans on the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees, Apple said that Parler has engaged in "substantial conversations" with Apple's app review team in an effort to bring the platform into compliance.

But as the app prepares to make its return to the Apple's App Store next week, some social media observers are concerned that people who might be curious about the service will be "sucked into" an echo chamber of violent and extremist views, and recruited to other platforms like Russia-owned Telegram.

"Far-right extremist groups could leverage this opportunity to recruit app users to more fringe platforms and messaging spaces," Diara J. Townes, digital program manager for the nonprofit think tank Aspen Institute, told ABC News. "The divisive, polarized online environment didn't change after Jan. 6 -- it just went further underground."

Townes said that despite a "good effort by Apple and even by Parler" to keep the space open for honest "town square conversations," incoming users could still be exposed to extremist content. She expects some new members to join out of a mix of curiosity and "palace intrigue."

Parler officials did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Devin Nunes, Fox News host Sean Hannity, radio personality Mark Levin, far-right activist Laura Loomer, and embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz are among those on Parler.

Alexander Reid Ross, a doctoral fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, an organization that tracks right-wing extremism worldwide, said that the country's "current polarized ideological landscape" has left a lot of room for Parler to grow.

"I think that the more mainstream Parler appears, the more likely ordinary folks are to venture into becoming users," Ross said. "Those new users will always find themselves among seasoned veterans of the far right hoping to exploit and deepen their feelings of marginalization and alienation."

"People can be sucked into a movement that is delinking both from consensus-based reality and from practical participation in political life, growing more alienated and more desperate to act out their political fantasies in abhorrent ways," Ross warned.

As for the changes that Parler has put in place, Ross said that that some users will adapt to the new guidelines by modifying their language and behaviors to promote violence using coded messaging and the disguise of irony.

With larger platforms like Twitter and Facebook struggling with moderation issues, Fadi Quran of the nonprofit advocacy group Avaaz, which says it seeks to protect democracies from misinformation, said it is unclear how effectively Parler will practice content moderation.

"Parler has become a haven for online actors seeking to spread hate, incite violence, and push disinformation," Quran said. "And those individuals will certainly seek to leverage the platform to cause harm and recruit users to other fringe messaging boards, where they may organize violence."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Amazon is launching a hair salon in London for augmented reality hair consultations and more

Amazon

(LONDON) -- Alexa, is Amazon opening a hair salon?

The e-commerce retail giant confirmed the news about its upcoming Amazon Salon on Tuesday.

Launching in London, the concept is Amazon's first hair salon and customers can experience new hair care and styling technology, products and services.

The salon space is two floors and more than 1,500 square feet.

Services and hair care are being provided by Elena Lavagni, owner of Neville Hair & Beauty, an independent salon based in London.

Customers can try everything from virtual hair color through augmented reality (AR) technology to enjoying entertainment via the salon's Fire tablets.

"I am delighted to be part of this project – the salon combines classic hairdressing services with technology to deliver a completely unique experience for clients," Lavagni said in a statement. "Our creative team of stylists, whose flair for hair is as intrinsic as their love for technology, will put the client at the heart of everything they do. I feel proud to use our 40 years’ experience in the industry to help bring this salon to life."

In addition to the unique services, the Amazon Salon is also testing a new point-and-learn technology. Clients simply point at displayed products they are interested in and product information, as well as related videos and educational content, will appear on the display screen.

There's also the option to order products directly to your home by scanning a relevant QR code.

Like many other salons that continue to take safety precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the salon will be providing free face masks and sanitizer for guests. The staff will also be taking temperature checks and there will be a reduced capacity along with dividers between each styling station.

The Amazon Salon will initially only be available to Amazon employees but will open to the general public in the coming weeks.

The company said this is an experiential venue and there are no current plans to open other Amazon Salon locations at the moment.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Georgia faith leaders call for nationwide boycott of Home Depot over response to voting law

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(NEW YORK) -- Hearkening back to the boycotts during the civil rights movement and apartheid, Georgia faith leaders representing over 1,000 Georgia churches have called for a nationwide boycott of Home Depot, accusing the largest company based in the Peach State of standing on the sidelines in the voting rights battle playing out not just in Georgia, but across the country.

"A boycott is not something we wanted to do, but now it is something that we must do," Bishop Reginald T. Jackson said in a statement read during a press conference Tuesday. "They have simply refused to respond, not only to our request to meet, but to their other corporate partners. They believe their silence is appropriate, but not on the issue of voting rights. Blacks and people of color, like others, are also their customers and they benefit from our dollars ... we believe they should oppose any effort to suppress our votes."

Jackson, the movement's leader and head of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church’s sixth district that includes over 500 AME churches in Georgia, could not attend the event outside a Home Depot in Decatur. But according to his statement, the coalition could add more companies to the boycott call, singling out Chick-fil-A and Arby's, which the coalition plans to contact this week. Jackson was adamant the boycott was led by faith leaders, directly disputing the Republican-espoused idea that President Joe Biden and Fair Fight Action founder Stacey Abrams are behind it.

The boycott call came on the same day as the Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony from Abrams and others at a hearing focused, in part, on the nearly 100-page bill Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law in late March, overhauling the state's election processes. Since Kemp signed that bill, voting rights activists' pressure campaign to get corporations to publicly oppose restrictive legislation has only ramped up. The MLB decided to move its 2021 All-Star Game and draft out of Atlanta to protest Georgia's new law, a move that will result in an estimated economic impact loss of $100 million, according to Cobb County Travel & Tourism.

Faith leaders have backed away from previous calls to boycott Georgia-based companies that didn't speak out against the bill, SB 202, before it was signed into law. Jackson at one point called for boycotts of Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, but has since relented. In his statement Tuesday, Jackson commended those corporations for changing their stances and said the coalition was "glad to have them as partners in the struggle for a just and enduring democracy."

Rev. Lee May, the lead pastor of Transforming Faith Church, said the coalition is "fluid in this boycott" but has four specific requests of Home Depot: To speak out publicly and specifically against SB 202; to speak out against any other restrictive voting provisions under consideration in other states; to support federal legislation that expands voter access and "also restricts the ability to suppress the vote;" and to support any efforts, including investing in litigation, to stop SB 202 and other bills like it.

"Home Depot, we're calling on you. I'm speaking to you right now. ... We're ready to have a conversation with you. You haven't been ready up to now, but our arms are wide open. We are people of faith. People of grace, and we're ready to have this conversation, but we're very clear those four things that we want to see accomplished," May said.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald III, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church, warned this was just the beginning.

"It's up to you whether or not, Home Depot, this boycott escalates to phase two, phase three, phase four," McDonald said. "We're not on your property -- today. We're not blocking your driveways -- today. We're not inside your store protesting -- today. This is just phase one."

A Home Depot spokesperson responded to an inquiry from ABC News about the call for a boycott.

"We’ve decided that the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our statement that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation, and to continue to work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote," the spokesperson said.

The faith leaders blamed Kemp for the boycott and preempted a claim that it will hurt Georgians, saying it's not a "job-killing boycott." But the governor responded swiftly, blasting the boycott and saying he stands with Home Depot and its employees.

"They did not ask to be in this political fight. It's unfair to them and their families, and their livelihoods to be targeted," Kemp said. "Instead of boycotting people in great companies like Home Depot, we should be supporting them, and I know that's what I'm going to do."

Home Depot has 90 facilities, 15 distribution centers and accounts for 30,000 jobs in Georgia, according to Kemp.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Apple unveils AirTags, new iPad Pro and more at its first event of 2021

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(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple's first event of the year took place on Tuesday afternoon and featured a slew of new announcements from the tech giant, including the unveiling of AirTags, the launch of its most advanced iPad Pro yet, a new purple hue for the iPhone and more.

The cryptically named "Spring Loaded" event kicked off at 1 p.m. ET from Apple's Cupertino, California, headquarters and the all-digital show was broadcast on the company's website.

As expected, the keynote announcement was the unveiling of the company's most advanced iPad Pro, featuring Apple's in-house M1 chip.

The new iPad Pro model features a "Liquid Retina XDR" display and cellular models with 5G capabilities. One feature of the new iPad Pro is an ultra-wide camera with "Center Stage," a capability that automatically keeps users in the center of a frame during video calls even as they move about.

The new iPad Pro is available for preorder on April 30 and will be available in the second half of May. It starts at $799.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook himself unveiled the "new, gorgeous purple" iPhone near the top of the event, calling the new hue "perfect for spring." Cook said the new purple iPhone 12 will be available for preorder starting on Friday and available on April 30.

The company also launched its highly anticipated AirTags on Tuesday, a device inspired by the "Find My iPhone" feature. The small iPhone accessory device can be attached to keychains, luggage and more and lets users track down lost items with their phones.

"The next time the couch eats your keys, AirTag will help find them," Apple's engineering program manager Carolyn Wolfman-Estrada said.

She added that they were designed with privacy in mind, emphasizing, "AirTag is designed to track items, not people."

Safety features to discourage unwanted tracking includes unwanted tag detection and audible alerts from unknown tags, according to Wolfman-Estrada. The new device starts at $29, or a four pack for $99, with preorders starting Friday and availability on April 30.

Apple also introduced a redesigned iMac computer with a thinner design and its in-house M1 chip. The new iMac is 11.5 millimeters thin and features a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display. It is available in seven different colors.

In a work-from-home era, the new iMac features its most advanced FaceTime camera yet and revamped mics and sound systems for better video conferencing. Preorders for the new iMac start on April 30 and the devices are set to be available in the second half of May. Prices start at $1,299.

Another announcement from Apple on Tuesday is Apple Podcast Subscriptions, a revamped service for podcasts that lets users subscribe to programs to listen ad-free, access additional content and more.

Finally, the company also unveiled its next-generation Apple TV 4K and rolled out a new Apple Card Family program, which allows people to share an Apple Card and track spending and credit in a new platform.

"What a great day of announcements," Cook said at the event's close. "We can't wait to get these new products into your hands and see all of the amazing things you'll do with them."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Venmo to let users buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin in its app

Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Venmo announced Tuesday that it will let users buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency directly in its app as digital currency goes more mainstream.

The feature, rolling out starting Tuesday, will be available to the company's 70 million customers within the next few weeks. The cryptocurrency offerings include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash.

The company said users can start buying cryptocurrencies with as little as $1.

Darrell Esch, the company's senior vice president and general manager, said the feature "is a new way for the Venmo community to start exploring the world of crypto, within the Venmo environment they trust and rely on as a key component of their everyday financial lives."

"Our goal is to provide our customers with an easy-to-use platform that simplifies the process of buying and selling cryptocurrencies and demystifies some of the common questions and misconceptions that consumers may have," Esch added in a statement.

In addition to conducting business with digital currencies, the Venmo feature will also provide users with cryptocurrency trends as well as educational videos and other resources. Users can also choose to "share their crypto journey" with their friends on the Venmo feed, the company said.

Venmo said that within its 2020 customer research, it found that more than 30% of Venmo customers have already started purchasing crypto or equities. It also found that some 20% of those people started this during the pandemic.

Venmo's announcement comes just weeks after its parent company, PayPal, announced that it was allowing customers to check out online using cryptocurrencies.

It also comes a few weeks after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his electric vehicle company was now accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment, providing a major boost to the cryptocurrency's push for widespread acceptance.

Meanwhile, some of the most popular cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Ethereum have skyrocketed in value over the past calendar year. On Tuesday, Bitcoin was trading at around $55,600 and Ethereum at approximately $2,260.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


James Charles' YouTube channel demonetized over allegations of sending explicit messages to minors

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(NEW YORK) -- YouTube beauty vlogger James Charles has lost the ability to make money off videos on the platform after underage fans accused him of sending them inappropriate messages.

At least 15 underage fans have alleged Charles sent them nude pictures, demanded explicit photos in return or pressured them into sexual conversations since 2019, YouTube announced Monday, explaining why Charles' channel was demonetized.

The company confirmed to GMA that Charles violated its "creator responsibility policy" and has been removed from its YouTube Partner Program.

YouTube also shared a new video featuring Creator Liaison Matt Koval covering the creator responsibility policy and actions the company can take when it's violated.

A prominent sponsor of Charles, Morphe, also ended their lucrative collaboration on Friday. The cosmetics company had helped him launch the best-selling James Charles x Morphe palette.

"In light of the recent allegations against James Charles, Morphe and James have agreed to end our business relationship and wind down sales of the Morphe x James Charles product offering," the company said on Twitter.

While Charles issued a statement about ending his working relationship with Morphe, he had not yet reacted publicly to his YouTube channel's demonetization.

He also claimed he would be seeking legal action "against those that have spread misinformation and/or created completely fake stories, as this has gone too far."

Prior to the allegations, the 21-year-old beauty mogul boasted over 25 million subscribers on his YouTube account, which saw him collaborating with stars such as Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner.

Charles was one of the highest paid YouTubers, receiving an estimated $25,520 per video, according to Cosmetify.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Target taps Christopher John Rogers for stylish size-inclusive dress collection

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(NEW YORK) -- Just in time for spring, Target's latest Designer Dress Collection has a lot of people ready to step out in full bloom.

The company announced that it's tapped rising fashion forces Christopher John Rogers, Alexis and Rixo to create over 70 original dresses featuring a rich mix of bright bold patterns and statement silhouettes.

With prices starting at $40, shoppers will get to indulge in high fashion designer-style dresses at Target prices.

Target's latest lineup also has a wide size range -- XXS to 4X -- making it the company's most size-inclusive collection.

Each item from the Spring 2021 Designer Dress collection will embody the spirit of each of the designers.

Rogers, the 2020 CFDA American Emerging Designer winner, has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga and Zendaya to former First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris.

For Target's upcoming dress collection, his statement-making styles and patterns will celebrate self-expression.

Alexis Barbara Isaias of Alexis' brand work has been spotted on Hilary Duff, Heidi Klum, Kate Beckinsale and more. Each of her pieces throughout the line has an effortless, feminine feel inspired by her world travels and passion for vintage.

Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix of RIXO were inspired by art, the designers' travels and vintage style to create dresses that have flattering silhouettes and eye-catching prints.

"For more than 20 years, Target has partnered with some of the biggest names in the industry and had the opportunity to introduce our guests to emerging designers who are shaping fashion and culture today," Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising officer Jill Sando said in a statement. "With this spring collection, we're celebrating three incredibly talented and diverse designers, all while creating our most size-inclusive collection of original, quality dresses that we know our guests will love."

Past collaborations have included Cushnie, Lisa Marie Fernandez and LoveShackFancy.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Three things that could improve America's recycling problem

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(NEW YORK) -- Many of us crush LaCroix cans, break down cardboard boxes and try really hard to get all that peanut butter out of the jar to put it in the recycling bin instead of the trash -- a small victory for the environment. Or is it?

We've been told recycling is a great, green solution for our planet, but according to experts, our recycling system as it currently stands is broken.

"A lot of what's happening in America right now with recycling plastic is that it's actually going directly to landfills," White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member Jerome Foster II told ABC News' Good Morning America.

"And it's going to the places across the world we think will recycle it, but less than 10% of all plastic recycling actually gets recycled back to reuse," he added.

A study that appeared in Science Advances showed that only 9% of all plastic is actually recycled globally, while "12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment."

A big reason recycling is an imperfect system is that it is increasingly expensive.

"We aren't really making an impact through recycling at all. And the only way it's actually going to be fixed is if we demand that the federal government has to put subsidies on the production of recycled pallets, because right now, it's not commercially competitive because virgin plastic is still cheaper," Foster suggested.

Another reason is it takes a lot of energy to break down materials to repurpose them.

"I think for a very long time we've had this idea that trash can just go somewhere else, someone else deals with it. Why, yes we are certainly seeing that other people have to deal with our wastes," said Finn Arne Jørgensen, author of Recycling.

And it's getting more complicated, still. As of 2018, China pushed back on U.S. plastic exports, with the country now sending plastic waste to countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Philippines to process.

So, what can be done to make our recycling system better? Is there a world in which we wouldn't have to ship our recycling across oceans only for it to wind up in landfills? Here are some suggestions from climate researchers and experts:

1. Focus attention on industries

"I think recycling is the best example of why that's sort of a damaging way to frame things, it will have no impact, in my opinion, on stopping climate change at all," Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA shared with GMA.

"In fact, [focusing on individual recycling] might even have a negative effect on stopping climate change, because it's like a psychological pressure release valve that allows people to think that things are OK," Kalmus said.

The real issue, he stated, is that plastic producers and fossil fuel corporations are putting the blame on individuals and diverting attention from the scale of waste that their processes contribute to each year.

"They're making it seem like it's our fault, you know, [like] if we just recycle more ... we wouldn't have these problems," said Kalmus.

If we break down our assumptions about recycling being synonymous with being green, it begs the question: Where did we get the idea that it was so good for the planet in the first place?

A big push was made by corporations to emphasize consumer recycling through the Keep America Beautiful campaign in the 1960s and '70s, which coincided with the rise of environmentalism.

"The Keep America Beautiful organization is very much promoting this narrative that once we have produced our packaging and sent it out our products, it's no longer our responsibility. The responsibility is on the consumer. And they have been lobbying very hard. Corporations want to avoid any kind of environmental interventions in their activities," said Jørgensen.

2. As a consumer, emphasize the order in 'reduce, reuse, recycle'

The best recycling system is one where, well, you don't get to the point where you need to recycle at all," Jørgensen shared.

Because of all the energy, money and pollution involved with recycling, Jørgensen suggests that people aim to recycle less by consuming less.

"Basically, if you have to recycle something, you have already failed to some extent, because you should intervene before then," Jørgensen said. "You should reduce first, reuse second, and then recycle. I mean that's the mantra."

3. Become more aware of the waste you produce

"There's a lot of waste that's just being shipped around the planet, looking for a home for someone to deal with it," Jørgensen said.

Looking to other countries as an example, Jørgensen writes in his book Recycling about parts of Japan where consumers sort their recycling into categories. And not just paper, cardboard, plastic and metal, but 34 different categories of materials.

"This is, of course, massively annoying … but what it does is that it keeps waste in the mind, it makes people think about the waste they produce. And that is one of the things that I think not enough people do," Jørgensen said.

Many toss trash and recycling, and don't look back. And many of us don't pay mind to how many times a week we are filling up our bins.

"We're not mindful of the ways that we produce because it is so convenient to generate waste. I think it's almost as bad to have too-convenient-to-invisible recycling systems [as it is] to not have any at all, because again, you're never really confronted with the consequences of what you do," he added.

Experts are not saying you should stop recycling, but they are suggesting that you call up your representative to advocate for a change in policy that would spread out the responsibility for taking care of our planet.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How restaurants, bars can apply for emergency assistance from SBA revitalization funds

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(NEW YORK) -- Restaurants and bars are another step closer to getting much-needed financial assistance after experiencing detrimental loss during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Small Business Administration announced its application details and program guide on Saturday for eligible businesses who can benefit from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).

President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan, which established the $28.6 billion fund, was created to help bring jobs back and revive the hard-hit industry.

"Help is here," SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said of the organization's message to bar and restaurant owners. "We’re prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses -- irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet."

The program was designed to help businesses "meet payroll, purchase supplies and get what they need in place to transition to today’s COVID-restricted marketplace," she explained.

Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, hailed the SBA for quickly coming up with guidelines for the relief program.

"It is clear the SBA and the Biden Administration care deeply about ensuring businesses struggling the most can quickly and effectively use this relief program, and we look forward to continued conversations and collaboration to ensure this fund works as intended for the independent restaurant and bar community," she said.

What Restaurant and Bar Owners Need to Know

Before the streamlined RRF application portal officially launches, the SBA will establish a seven-day pilot period to work on outreach and training and address any technical issues before the public launch.

"Participants in this pilot will be randomly selected from existing PPP borrowers in priority groups for RRF and will not receive funds until the application portal is open to the public," the SBA said.

In the first 21 days of the program launching, the SBA will prioritize applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. After that time, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.

Click here for full details on application requirements, eligibility and program guide.

Eligible entities include restaurants, food stands, trucks and carts, caterers, bars, lounges and taverns, snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars, bakeries, brewpubs, tasting and taprooms, breweries and/or microbreweries, wineries and distilleries, inns and licensed alcohol production facilities that serve samples or product for purchase.

The SBA also worked with leading advocacy groups for underserved business communities as well as national and state trade associations and other small business stakeholders like craft breweries to understand any concerns about the program.

The RRF will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location.

Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023, according to the SBA.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Union accuses Amazon of interfering in closely-watched Alabama warehouse vote

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(WASHINGTON) — The union that sought to represent Amazon workers in Alabama has accused the e-commerce giant of interfering in the vote that resulted in warehouse employees not forming a labor union.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said Monday that it filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the conduct of Amazon during the union election.

The union filed a total of 23 objections and is seeking an NLRB hearing to determine if the election results are legitimate.

Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, facility voted by a large margin not to form a labor union, according to the NLRB's tally. Some 1,798 votes were cast against unionization, compared to 738 in favor of it. Voter turnout was around 55%.

The union alleges in the objection filings that Amazon illegally installed a mail-in ballot collection box in the parking lot without authorization, causing confusion and making workers think Amazon had control over the election. The union claims Amazon also created the impression that the box was being surveilled.

The union also accuses Amazon representatives of threatening to close the warehouse if a union was formed. In addition, the RWDSU says the company threatened the loss of benefits and pay if a union was formed.

Ultimately, the union says Amazon's conduct prevented employees from being able to make a "free and uncoerced" choice when voting.

RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement last week that Amazon "required all their employees to attend lecture after lecture, filled with mistruths and lies, where workers had to listen to the company demand they oppose the union."

"We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election," Appelbaum added. "Working people deserve better than the way Amazon has conducted itself during this campaign."

Amazon accused the union of "misrepresenting the facts" in a statement to ABC News on Monday.

“The fact is that less than 16% of employees at BHM1 voted to join a union," the company said. "Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

In a separate blog post published by Amazon last Friday, shortly after the vote results were announced, the company said that it's "easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true."

"Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us," the post read. "And Amazon didn’t win -- our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union."

The NLRB declined ABC News' request for comment Monday.

The closely-watched unionizing efforts in Alabama garnered support from President Joe Biden and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

If the organizing bid had been successful, it would have marked the first time Amazon workers in the U.S. formed a labor union.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nike's new refurbished sneaker program gives new life to old shoes

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(NEW YORK) -- Nike is rolling out a new sustainability program to cut down on environmental waste from retail manufacturing.

The Nike Refurbished program gives shoppers the opportunity to give new life to previously purchased shoes.

Eligible products include shoes that are in perfect or near-perfect condition, have been gently worn or are cosmetically flawed with no signs of wear with the exception of slight imperfections such as a stain or discoloration.

To participate in Nike's refurbished program, customers simply return shoes to a Nike store and experts inspect and grade the footwear. From there, each eligible shoe is carefully cleaned and sanitized. Then, the refurbished shoes are returned to stores at a reduced price.

Once refurbished shoes land back on store shelves, there's also messaging on the boxes to let customers know the exact condition of the shoe. There's also a QR code available for shoppers who want to learn even more about Nike's sustainability efforts.

Shoppers still have the option to return their refurbished purchase after 60 days.

The athletic apparel brand's return program is currently in 15 U.S. Nike stores with plans to expand throughout the year.

In case your returned shoes aren't a fit for Nike's refurbished program, you can still donate them, as the brand works closely with a community partner to give away gently worn footwear.

If the shoes are truly at the end of their life cycle, there's also an option to have the shoes recycled through Nike Grind, which is the company's global sustainability program that helps transform manufacturing scrap and end-of-life shoes into recycled materials.

Nike said in a statement," It’s all part of our vision for a circular future — one where the concept of waste no longer exists."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


GameStop shares rally on same day CEO announces he is stepping down

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(NEW YORK) -- GameStop shares surged Monday after new support from legendary individual investor Keith Gill in a rally that comes on the same day the video game retailer announced its chief executive officer was stepping down.

GameStop stock opened on Monday at $171.62 per share, up some 11% from its closing price on Friday. The rise comes after Gill, who also goes by the online monikers "Roaring Kitty" and "DeepF***ingValue," posted screenshots on the Reddit forum r/WallStreetBets of his portfolio on Friday.

The screenshots from the retail investor who many say started the initial GameStop craze indicate that he exercised his stockpile of call options that were set to expire on Friday, essentially trading them in for 50,000 more shares of the so-called "meme stock." Gill's post also indicates that he purchased another 50,000 shares of GameStop in addition to those he obtained with his call options.

Gill's new show of confidence in GameStop sent shares climbing during premarket trading over the weekend. Gill was among the key players in the GameStop saga who were called to testify before lawmakers in February.

Meanwhile on Monday morning, the video game retailer announced in a statement that its CEO, George Sherman, will be stepping down from his role on July 31 or "earlier upon the appointment of a successor."

The leadership shakeup comes just a few months after the company said its chief financial officer was resigning as well.

"I am very proud of what we have accomplished at GameStop over the past two years, including during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic," Sherman said in a statement. "It has been a privilege to lead so many dedicated, talented individuals, who collectively possess tremendous passion for the gaming industry."

Sherman had helmed the business since April 2019. A reason for his departure was not given.

Ryan Cohen, the incoming chairman of the board, thanked Sherman for his "valuable leadership" in a statement, adding, "the company is much stronger today than when he joined."

Cohen, the co-founder and former chief executive of the e-commerce platform Chewy, is one of the largest shareholders in GameStop through his private firm RC Ventures. Cohen's push to digitally transform GameStop is cited as having helped fuel the stock's retail investor-driven rise in late January.

Shares for GameStop are up some 800% since the beginning of the year. As of Monday, however, shares are trading at about half the price they were during January's peak.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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