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What to expect from more grocery store price hikes, products impacted

Mario Tama/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Prices have continued to climb from the grocery store to the gas station amid the pandemic. According to a new report, the prices of some foods and household staples are heading higher.

Kraft Heinz alerted customers that its prices will go up in March on dozens of popular products including certain SKUs of Velveeta cheese by 6.6%, hot dogs and cold cuts by 10% and Oscar Mayer turkey bacon by 30%.

Even coffee is affected -- Kraft Heinz's Maxwell House coffee price would go up by 5%, the company said.

Prices have risen steadily across the food industry, with unprecedented ingredient, labor and transportation shortages coupled with surging demand driving prices higher.

Kraft Heinz said the price increases are not a sweeping action across all its products and instead applies specifically to products experiencing the greatest cost pressures.

Officials at the Federal Reserve on Wednesday signaled they are on the verge of addressing this issue of soaring prices by potentially hiking interest rates very "soon."

"With inflation well above 2 percent and a strong labor market, the Committee expects it will soon be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate," the Fed said in a statement Wednesday.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that "inflation remains well above our longer run goal of 2%," which it notably has for some time now. He attributed this largely to supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic and the reopening of the economy.

ABC News' Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Commission approves new safety standards for crib mattresses

Kyryl Gorlov / EyeEm/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- After 139 child deaths since 2010, new safety standards for crib mattresses will go into effect this fall.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission approved a new rule Wednesday to address potential hazards like lacerations, suffocation and entrapment.

"This is intended to reduce the risk of injury," CPSC spokesperson Jason Levine told ABC News. "The crib is the safest place for your infant, yet what this does is it takes another step in the right direction in terms of ensuring that the mattress itself is as safe as can be."

New mattresses will be required to comply with the standard this fall, Levine said. The rule covers crib mattresses as well as mattresses in play yards and bassinets.

"Today's vote means crib mattresses of all sizes will be required to meet safety standards," CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said in a statement. "This will improve safety for babies sleeping in cribs and play yards."

CPSC said it was aware of at least 494 incidents, including 139 fatalities and 355 nonfatal incidents, related to crib mattresses between January 2010 and April 2021.

Just last week, the CPSC also warned consumers about certain Leachco Podster infant loungers after two children died "due to a change in position" that obstructed the infants' nose and mouth.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Commission approves new safety standards for crib mattresses

Kyryl Gorlov / EyeEm/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- After 139 child deaths since 2010, new safety standards for crib mattresses will go into effect this fall.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission approved a new rule Wednesday to address potential hazards like lacerations, suffocation and entrapment.

"This is intended to reduce the risk of injury," CPSC spokesperson Jason Levine told ABC News. "The crib is the safest place for your infant, yet what this does is it takes another step in the right direction in terms of ensuring that the mattress itself is as safe as can be."

New mattresses will be required to comply with the standard this fall, Levine said. The rule covers crib mattresses as well as mattresses in play yards and bassinets.

"Today's vote means crib mattresses of all sizes will be required to meet safety standards," CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said in a statement. "This will improve safety for babies sleeping in cribs and play yards."

CPSC said it was aware of at least 494 incidents, including 139 fatalities and 355 nonfatal incidents, related to crib mattresses between January 2010 and April 2021.

Just last week, the CPSC also warned consumers about certain Leachco Podster infant loungers after two children died "due to a change in position" that obstructed the infants' nose and mouth.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Black-owned autonomous grocery store opens in Georgia

Nourish + Bloom Market

(FAYETTEVILLE, Ga.) -- When Jilea Hemmings' oldest son was diagnosed with autism, she and her husband, Jamie, started experimenting with food that seemed to help improve their child's performance.

The Georgia couple used plant-based substitutes to create their son's favorite dishes, including mac and cheese and spaghetti and meatballs.

Soon, they began selling their products at a farmers' market, and their customers asked if the food was sold in grocery stores, too.

"From there, the rest is history," Hemmings told ABC News.

The couple just opened Nourish + Bloom Market in Fayetteville, Georgia, believed to be the first Black-owned autonomous grocery store in the nation. Hemmings said their mantra is "real food and real products for real people."

After moving from Chicago to Fayetteville, the Hemmings family said they realized they were in a food desert -- an area where there is limited access to affordable and nutritious food -- and decided to use their prior food and technology knowledge to open a market of their own.

Nourish + Bloom Market features a "frictionless shopping" experience where customers can walk in, grab what they need and leave without waiting in line or stopping to scan and pay.

Hemmings has a background in technology and software building, and to bring her and her husband's vision to life, the market partnered with different companies such as Microsoft, USC Technologies, Nova Dynamics and Intel.

Although the store is fully autonomous, the owners still wanted the store "to feel warm" by having employees that assist customers throughout the market.

"People think that autonomous means that you’re taking jobs away," Hemmings said. "It actually is not. We are changing the way their jobs are done."

They also have delivery robots, named Nourish and Bloom, to deliver products in temperature-controlled compartments. With autonomous shopping, vending and robotic delivery, the market can offer 24/7 access to real food and environmentally friendly products.

"The community response has been overwhelming," Hemmings said. "They are just so proud to see a Black family doing this, and then also to experience the technology, people have been very excited about that."

The couple plans to franchise Nourish + Bloom Markets around the country, hoping to reach a goal of 800 stores in total.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why the global chip shortage threatens the economy, national security and Americans' 'status quo'

Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- In an increasingly digitized world, almost no industry has been left unscathed by the global shortage of electronic chips.

Demand for these dime-sized building blocks needed to make cars, computers, smartphones and much more was growing even before reaching a fever pitch as the COVID-19 pandemic forced swaths of the globe to rely on tech tools for work or school. The shortage also clobbered the auto industry with disproportionate furor, leading to skyrocketing new and used vehicle prices -- which in turn drove one-third of all of the painful inflation Americans saw in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The crisis has exposed just how bedeviling the pandemic has been for policymakers and business leaders who failed to foresee the fallout from this shortage coming, as well as exposed the risks for U.S. business that results from a majority of the world's chip supply being produced in Asia -- and more specifically, political tripwire-ridden Taiwan.

"It is both an economic and national security imperative to solve this crisis," Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a blogpost Tuesday, sharing fresh data on the fragility of the semiconductor supply chain and calling on Congress to approve $52 billion in chips funding "as soon as possible."

As the scarcity of semiconductors continues to dominate headlines two years into the pandemic, here is what economists say Americans should know about the chip shortage, and what its implications are for the future.

'An essential part of almost every product that we use': What are semiconductors?

"Semiconductors, or chips as we call them, are sort of the building blocks of any computer system," Morris Cohen, an emeritus professor of Manufacturing and Logistics in the Operations, Information and Decisions Department, at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, told ABC News.

"There's been incredible advancements over the years in the capabilities of these chips, in reduction of their size and power requirements," Cohen added. "And so we see them now embedded everywhere -- in your cellphone and your computer, in your home appliances, and in your automobile."

"These devices are used to monitor performance to control function, to capture data to send instructions and so on," Cohen added. "They've become sort of an essential part of almost every product that we use."

Awi Federgruen, a professor of management at Columbia Business School, told ABC News that the chip shortage "is being felt in no less than 169 industries."

As the tech sector continues to expand at a rapid pace and a growing array of tools and gadgets become embedded in Americans' daily life, an increasing number of products are becoming dependent on chips. The implications of this can be felt by consumers shopping for everything from portable gaming systems to smart kitchen appliances, and many have likely already noticed higher prices or longer wait times when searching for their products.

Meanwhile, a reliance on chips for critical medical devices, military applications, cybersecurity tools and other sectors can carry more serious ramifications for both individuals and governments.

One natural disaster away from hitting American jobs: How severe is the shortage?

The median inventory held by chip consumers (such as automakers or medical device manufacturers) has sunk from a 40-day supply in 2019 to a less than five-day supply in 2021, the Commerce Department said in an industry report released Tuesday.

This means that if a natural disaster, COVID-19 outbreak or political instability disrupts a semiconductor facility abroad for even just a few weeks, it has the potential to shut down a manufacturing facility in the U.S., the agency added, putting American workers at risk.

Moreover, median demand for chips from buyers was as much as 17% higher in 2021 than in 2019, according to the report, and the majority of semiconductor manufacturing facilities are operating at or above 90% utilization -- meaning there is limited additional supply to bring online without the expensive and time-consuming process of building new facilities.

The majority of chip factories are currently based in Asia, which houses about 87% of the market share of semiconductor factories (with Taiwan alone accounting for some 63%), separate industry data indicates. The political climate in the region, and tensions between Taiwan and China, has come under renewed scrutiny as the shortage has exposed how much U.S. industry relies on these sources.

"Initially, when you go back to the origins of the industry, the majority of the capacity was in the U.S. and then it shifted outside," Cohen told ABC News. "Now, there's a big push to re-shore that manufacturing and bring it back, and it's not just a business decision, it's political, it's a highly politicized decision."

'A perfect storm': What is causing the shortage?

The supply-demand imbalances in the semiconductor industry were already fragile before the pandemic, and the Commerce Department noted in its report that underlying demand for semiconductors was already growing prior to 2020, propelled by industry shifts such as the onset of 5G and electric vehicles. The pandemic then exacerbated the crisis by causing a surge in demand for products that require semiconductors while simultaneously disrupting the supply.

Columbia's Federgruen said the current shortage is the result of multiple factors creating "a perfect storm."

Silicon, the raw material used in chips, became harder to come by for producers during the pandemic, according to Federgruen, because it is necessary for vaccine manufacturing.

"In addition, there was the shutdown or temporary shutdown of [semiconductor] manufacturing facilities in the Far East and elsewhere, as a direct result of the of the pandemic," Federgruen said. "And then there is the fact that on the demand side, in many industries such as the automobile industry, there's been an unusual ramp-up of the demand."

"All those factors have come together and compounded upon each other to create a big, big shortage," Federgruen said.

Why is it hitting the auto industry so hard?

Most Americans by now have heard of the shortage's impacts on the auto industry, which has been among the most severely hit by the shortage as more cars today are being fuzed with additional electronic systems than in the past, Federgruen told ABC News.

The shortage was compounded in the auto industry because many carmakers initially thought the pandemic would crush demand and planned for this by reducing semiconductor orders. An apparent desire to avoid public transportation and plan getaways closer to home during the health crisis, however, ended up having the opposite effect on demand for autos. Chip manufacturers, already suffering from pandemic-related shocks, could not keep up with the new orders coming in from the auto industry that came as a simultaneous remote-work boom spurred demand for chips needed for computers and IT tools.

Raimondo said that the so-called legacy logic chips used in automobiles -- as well as medical devices -- are facing the most acute shortages.

"In 2021, auto prices drove one-third of all inflation, primarily because we don’t have enough chips," Raimando wrote in her blogpost. "Automakers produced nearly 8 million fewer cars last year than expected, which some analysts believe resulted in more than $210 billion in lost revenue."

Cohen, from the Wharton School, added that over the last decade or so, "the amount of computer systems that are put into a car has just increased enormously." While carmakers have become big users of chips for managing vehicles' entertainment, climate, fuel systems and more, they have continued to rely on outsourced production and suppliers for these parts.

Automakers historically did not consider producing chips to be their core competency, but many have come to the realization now that they can't afford to be dependent on outside suppliers for chips if their absence can bring production and assembly lines to a screeching halt.

Raimondo called new partnerships with semiconductor producers recently announced by Ford and General Motors "encouraging" in her blogpost Tuesday, saying the announcements "demonstrate that chip consumers and producers are coming together to solve their supply chain issues."

What is being done to address the shortage, and how long will it last?

The Commerce Department's report said that industry players do not see the significant, persistent mismatch in the supply and demand for chips going away in the next six months.

The report identified the main issue as the need for additional semiconductor factories (also called semiconductor fabrication plants or fabs). Construction of new fabs, however, is expensive and can take years before making an impact in the supply.

In addition to the steps taken by players in the auto industry such as Ford and GM, some companies have also announced new and dramatic actions to ameliorate the crisis and bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S.

Intel announced late last week that it was investing more than $20 billion to build two new chip factories in Ohio -- a headline-grabbing announcement that came on the heels of the firm saying last October that it had began construction on two chip factories in Arizona. Samsung similarly announced plans late last year to build a $17 billion semiconductor factory near Austin, Texas.

"It's great that they're doing that but it's not going to solve today's problems, that's for sure," Cohen told ABC News of the recent announcements. "It'll take years for this to take place, and in the interim, we're still going to have to source these products from the places they come from now. We don't have an alternative."

The situation may improve slightly if demand cools off, Federgruen noted, but similarly said that it will take years for the "big change" to occur when these new U.S. facilities begin actually pumping out chips.

Why should Americans care and what does this mean looking ahead?

Cohen said that having studied the industry for a long time, a lot of what we're seeing now could have been anticipated to some degree, especially among industry players.

"Companies who operate in this environment have been aware of these issues for a long time and have dealt with it," he said. "This is just the nature of being competitive in those industries."

If a new fab costs billions of dollars and takes years to construct, companies in an increasingly globalized world will likely turn to offshore suppliers for chips instead. Cohen said the pandemic, however, has made Americans more aware of risks and fragility of this dependence on outside suppliers.

"Most consumers didn't know and didn't care where their chips came from: 'You turn the car on, it should go, I don't really care who made the chip and what country it was built in,'" Cohen said. "But now, all of a sudden, these issues become really important, and so I think we become more sensitized to how dependent we are, how interdependent we are, how things can be disrupted."

"We became a globalized economy because there were a lot of advantages," Cohen added. "Because of that, we as consumers have enjoyed access to an amazing array of products and incredibly low prices, which has increased our standard of living."

With chip supply now just one natural disaster or major disruption away from potentially impacting American livelihoods, Cohen predicts it is "going to be difficult to maintain the status quo."

"We will have more expensive products, we'll have things that will take longer," he said. "Therefore, our standard of living to some extent will be lower. It'll cost us more time and money to earn what it takes to buy a car, to buy a house."

Federgruen added that he hopes policymakers and business leaders can learn from the lessons exposed by the crisis and make better decisions moving forward that don't just take into account short-term profits.

"In general, there's been the recognition that we need to make our supply chains much more resilient, and that we need to build in safety buffers on the supply side for situations like this," Federgruen told ABC News. "That lesson comes up with every crisis and is then forgotten, unfortunately, but hopefully it will stick now."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Bitcoin operation ignites debate around the waste from coal mining in Pennsylvania

ABC News

(PITTSBURGH) -- A once-dormant power plant is humming with activity outside Pittsburgh as thousands of miners work 24 hours a day.

The miners at this site aren’t people, but supercomputers running complex math equations. The first to solve the equation is rewarded with the digital financial token known as bitcoin.

But the large amount of power needed to run these computers has re-ignited a debate in Pennsylvania and around the country about the potential climate consequences of cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin is a type of digital money not regulated by any company or government. It can be exchanged online between people anywhere in the world without going through a bank. While coins like quarters or pennies are physically minted -- bitcoin is minted as a virtual token by computers, through a process called “mining.”

Some investors see bitcoin as the currency of the future. The value of one bitcoin has skyrocketed from around $10,000 two years ago to more than $33,000 as of this publishing.

Jeff Campbell, who oversees the bitcoin mining operation at the Scrubgrass Power Plant in Kennerdell, Pennsylvania, said each of their computers generates an average of $30 a day mining bitcoin.

“These are computers that are just designed to do one thing. They're designed to run as fast as possible 24 hours a day,” he told ABC News Live.

The computers in a bitcoin mining operation need a lot of power both to run and to operate fans that stop them from overheating. By one estimate from the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance, annual global bitcoin mining uses more electricity than the entire nation of The Netherlands.

Climate activists question whether the growth of cryptocurrency mining operations could generate more carbon emissions and create a new market for fossil fuels at a time when the world is trying to reduce energy use and cut carbon emissions as fast as possible.

Under fire for their emissions and reliance on fuels like coal and natural gas, some bitcoin mining companies in the U.S. are transitioning to more renewable types of power like solar or wind.

Stronghold Digital Mining, which owns the Scrubgrass plant, has found its power source in the form of coal waste, which is abundant at this 221-acre pit just outside of Pittsburgh. Coal waste is a combination of rock, coal, and other materials that were deemed unsuitable for burning and left abandoned since the 1970s when coal mines in the area were closed.

There are 220 million cubic yards of waste coal pits like the one in Russellton across 9,000 acres in Pennsylvania, according to testimony from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Director Patrick McDonnell. The agency says the pits cause environmental problems like leaching acid into nearby rivers and streams. There are also 40 continual fires in waste coal pits across the state that can release carbon dioxide and other pollutants as they burn, according to a document from a waste coal industry group.

The entrepreneur behind Stronghold, Bill Spence, said that while burning waste coal isn’t the cheapest form of energy, the bitcoin operation keeps the plant viable through its constant demand for power. This helps achieve his goal of reducing the toxic waste piles across the state, Spence said.

“What cryptocurrency and bitcoin has done for us is, it's enabled us to sustain the work that this power plant does as an environmental plant cleaning up the waste coal, the remnants of the mining industry here in the state of Pennsylvania,” he told ABC.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says the state has benefited from waste coal power plants because the state has limited funding to clean up the piles and address the environmental problems.

“Waste coal-fired units burn waste coal to generate electricity thereby reducing the size, number and impacts of these piles otherwise abandoned and allowed to mobilize and negatively impact air and water quality in Pennsylvania,” Press Secretary Jamar Thrasher said in an emailed statement.

Pennsylvania provides up to $20 million a year in subsidies to waste coal power plants and Thrasher said the state includes their CO2 emissions in the state’s carbon budget in an effort to help them compete with cheaper forms of energy like natural gas.

Waste coal is burned using a different process than traditional coal but still releases carbon dioxide that contributes to warming the atmosphere. The EPA says the type of waste coal found in Pennsylvania also releases more acid gas and sulfur dioxide than other types of coal.

Stronghold says they have put technology in place to capture pollutants like sulfur dioxide or methane emissions from their plant, but according to publicly available data they still released about 365,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 -- the equivalent of about 80,000 cars on the road for a year, according to an EPA emissions calculator. The facility also released more than 1,000 metric tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and nitrogen oxides, or NOx, that contribute to air pollution

Rob Altenburg, director of the environmental nonprofit Penn Future, said bitcoin is “wasteful by design” and that there are better alternatives for generating that power than burning waste coal.

“They're not removing pollution. They're moving pollution. They're moving pollution from the land and they're moving it to the air,” Altenburg told ABC News.

And because waste coal contains less coal than what would typically be used to generate energy, more of it needs to be burned to create the same amount of power which could generate more CO2 emissions and air pollution.

“The dirtiest source of power we have in the state should be your last choice for you for generating that electricity,” he said.

Altenburg said that instead of burning waste coal, the state and federal government should provide more funding to move the material to lined landfills where it can no longer contaminate the soil or water.

The federal infrastructure bill has allocated $11 billion toward abandoned mine cleanups, some of which could be used to clean up waste coal in Pennsylvania.

Spence acknowledges that Stronghold’s operation generates carbon dioxide and that their operation isn’t perfect, but they’re trying to improve further by testing technology to capture the carbon they emit. And he said the bitcoin operation is helping fund his efforts to use up the waste coal which otherwise won’t go anywhere on its own.

“I don't think we should stop what we're doing in order to get the perfect,” Spence told ABC.

“Let's evolve into perfect.”

ABC News' Seiji Yamashita contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tesla files countersuit against JPMorgan, accuses bank of 'illegitimate machinations'


(NEW YORK) -- Tesla filed a counterclaim against JPMorgan Chase Monday, the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between the electric automaker and the country’s biggest bank.

The lawsuit accused JPMorgan of filing “cynical litigation” when the bank sued Tesla last year, claiming it was owed $162 million when Tesla stock warrants expired.

In its counterclaim, Tesla accused JPMorgan of deploying “illegitimate machinations” and is seeking a declaratory judgment that it does not owe the bank the additional funds.

“Last year, JPM obtained billions of dollars’ worth of shares of Tesla’s common stock for a bargain price that the parties negotiated in 2014. Not content with this multibillion–dollar gain, JPM now seeks, through this cynical litigation, to extract an additional nine-figure windfall from Tesla,” the lawsuit said.

The legal dispute began after Tesla’s Elon Musk posted on Twitter that he was considering taking the company private. He took back the statement but was sued by securities regulators. Musk and the SEC settled for $20 million. Part of the settlement required him to step down as chairman of the company’s board of directors.

“JPM took improper advantage of a Twitter post from August 7, 2018 – nearly three years before the Warrants’ exercise dates – in which Elon Musk stated that he was considering taking Tesla private. Ten days after that tweet, JPM falsely asserted that the tweet constituted an announcement by Tesla of an extraordinary corporate transaction,” Tesla’s lawsuit said.

The stock warrants were arranged after JPMorgan handled a 2014 transaction for Tesla and allowed the bank to buy shares of the automaker at a fixed price, below market value, for a period of years. JPMorgan claimed Musk’s tweet impacted the value of those shares, leaving the bank entitled to an additional $162 million.

Tesla, which is represented by Quinn Emanuel's Alex Spiro, the lawyer who successfully defended Musk from a defamation claim, is seeking to dismiss JPMorgan’s earlier lawsuit.

JPMorgan told ABC News in a statement, “There is no merit to their claim. This comes down to fulfilling contractual obligations.”

The dueling lawsuits add to the personal animus between Musk and JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon. Musk prefers to do business with other banks and JPMorgan recently inked a deal to be the primary lender to Tesla rival Rivian, The Wall Street Journal reported.


Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Intel investing $20 billion to bring chip manufacturing to Ohio amid global shortage


(NEW YORK) -- Amid a global chip shortage that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Intel announced Friday that it will invest more than $20 billion in two new chip factories in Ohio.

The new investment will significantly expand U.S. manufacturing capabilities for semiconductors, a vital building block needed for computers, smartphones, autos, and much more. Much of the global tech industry currently relies on chip manufacturing out of Asia.

"Today’s investment marks another significant way Intel is leading the effort to restore U.S. semiconductor manufacturing leadership," Intel's CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a statement Friday.

The project will make Ohio home to Intel's first new manufacturing site location in 40 years.

The California-based tech giant said the project represents the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio history, and is expected to create 3,000 Intel jobs and 7,000 construction jobs over the course of the build. The mega-site will span some 1,000 acres in Licking County, a suburb of Columbus, with construction expected to begin in late 2022 and chip production expected to begin in 2025.

"Intel’s actions will help build a more resilient supply chain and ensure reliable access to advanced semiconductors for years to come," Gelsinger added. "Intel is bringing leading capability and capacity back to the United States to strengthen the global semiconductor industry. These factories will create a new epicenter for advanced chipmaking in the U.S. that will bolster Intel’s domestic lab-to-fab pipeline and strengthen Ohio’s leadership in research and high tech."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement the announcement is "monumental news for the state of Ohio."

"Intel’s new facilities will be transformative for our state, creating thousands of good-paying jobs in Ohio manufacturing strategically vital semiconductors, often called 'chips,'" DeWine said. "Advanced manufacturing, research and development, and talent are part of Ohio’s DNA, and we are proud that chips -- which power the future -- will be made in Ohio, by Ohioans."

In addition to the initial investment of some $20 billion, Intel pledged an additional $100 million to help "build a pipeline of talent and bolster research programs in the region," according to a company statement.

Intel also said the new factories have the goal to be powered by 100% renewable electricity and place environmental concerns at the fore throughout the building process.

The news of Intel's massive investment in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing comes on the heels of Samsung announcing late last year that it plans to build a $17 billion semiconductor factory in the U.S. just outside of Austin, Texas.


Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Instagram testing feature that lets creators charge subscription fees

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A small handful of Instagram content creators can now directly charge followers a monthly subscription fee for exclusive content and benefits in the latest shakeup to impact the ever-evolving digital creator economy.

Instagram's parent company Meta announced the news in a company blog post, saying it is part of an effort to help enable creators to make a living through its platforms. Meta-owned Facebook launched a similar subscriptions service in 2020 and is now rolling the service out as a test on Instagram after positive feedback from Facebook content creators.

Meta previously said it would not collect any fees from creators on Facebook Subscription purchases until 2023 at the earliest, and said this will also apply to Instagram Subscriptions.

"With Instagram Subscriptions, creators can develop deeper connections with their most engaged followers and grow their recurring monthly income by giving subscribers access to exclusive content and benefits, all within the same platform where they interact with them already," Meta stated.

The test of subscriptions on Instagram rolled out Wednesday with a small handful of creators, who can set a monthly price of their choice, unlock a "subscribe" button on their profile and offer new benefits to these subscribers including exclusive Instagram Lives and Stories. Content creators will also see a subscriber badge next to comments and messages from their subscribers to more easily identify them.

"Creators do what they do to make a living, and it's important that that is predictable," Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said in a video posted to Twitter. "And subscriptions are one of the best ways to have a predictable income, a way that is not attached to how much reach you get on any given post, which is inevitably going to go up and down over time."

The announcement comes as fellow social media giant Twitter recently announced a similar subscription business model for users, and as Meta and more social media platforms have invested heavily in content creators for their platforms.

Meta alone said last July that it plans to invest more than $1 billion in programs "that give creators new ways to earn money for the content they create on Facebook and Instagram."

The major investments also come, however, as lawmakers and regulators have renewed scrutiny on the power and reach of U.S. tech giants in recent months -- and particularly their impact on the mental health of young people. Just last month, Mosseri was called to testify before lawmakers for the first time specifically about the platform's impact on young users.

Despite the high-profile attention out of Washington, D.C., policymakers have struggled to agree on any concrete law or regulatory changes to crack down on Big Tech.

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Amazon announces its 1st clothing store: here's what to know

Chris Ratcliff/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) -- Amazon has expanded in many ways throughout the years, and now the e-commerce giant is launching a brick-and-mortar clothing store.

The company announced Thursday that its Amazon Style fashion retail space will open later this year at The Americana at Brand shopping mall in Los Angeles.

The new concept will offer a selection of apparel, shoes and accessories. The items will have QR codes providing information from sizing to customer ratings, the company said.

With the Amazon Shopping app users can also send items to a fitting room where they can use a touch screen to look through more options as well as request more sizes or styles to be delivered directly to their room, according to Amazon.

While Amazon has not revealed which specific brands will be featured, it said customers will have the option to browse emerging designers across hundreds of its top brands.

"Shoppers will find great looks at a broad range of prices, including trend-inspired pieces at affordable price points and sought-after styles that will become wardrobe staples," Amazon Style managing director Simonia Vasen wrote in the company's blog. "With Amazon’s vast fulfillment center network, the selection at Amazon Style will be frequently updated so customers can discover new items each time they visit."

The clothing store isn't Amazon's first foray into a physical fashion store, the retail conglomerate has opened physical grocery stores, book stores, and in 2017, it bought Whole Foods Market.

In 2021, Amazon launched a hair salon in London for augmented reality hair consultations.

An exact date for Amazon Style's store opening has yet to be announced, but the company said it will be inviting a select group of customers to experience the store "soon" in its announcement.

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FBI warns criminals are using fake QR codes to scam users

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Cybercriminals could use altered Quick Response (QR) codes to steal personal and financial information of unsuspecting customers, the FBI warns.

QR codes are all around us these days, and they're used for everything from restaurant orders to donations. During the pandemic, many restaurants began using QR codes in place of paper menus.

How it works: A code is scanned via a phone camera app, and the user is then redirected to the relevant website.

Troubles can arise, the FBI says, in cases where the codes have been altered. Unwitting users can be directed to malicious sites that prompt them to enter their financial and login information or expose them to malware.

"While QR codes have been around for a very long time, certainly in recent years, they've gained more widespread use," Dave Ring, section chief of the FBI's Cyber Division told ABC News. "Part of that is with the pandemic and a drive toward being as contactless as possible, QR codes give people the opportunity to just use their phone camera and scan a QR code."

Police in San Antonio, Texas, warned that fake QR codes were found on parking meters throughout the city. "People attempting to pay for parking ... may have been directed to a fraudulent website and submitted payment to a fraudulent vendor," a tweet from the department said.

Ring said the San Antonio scam was the "perfect example" of people exploiting a simple, daily exercise, and the FBI warned that criminals could be taking advantage of people through other similar tactics.

"A cybercriminal can swap out a completely innocuous legitimate QR code for one that directs people to a malicious site, and that malicious site may prompt someone to click a link and could potentially download malware onto their device," Ring said.

The redirect can also take users to what appears to be a banking website but is actually fraudulent, he added.

"Malicious QR codes may also contain embedded malware, allowing a criminal to gain access to the victim's mobile device and steal the victim's location as well as personal and financial information," the FBI bulletin said. "The cybercriminal can leverage the stolen financial information to withdraw funds from victim accounts."

To avoid any trouble, the agency urges people to use caution by checking the URL of the code, and when entering financial and other personal information.

"Just always practice caution when you're looking at putting in any login information, personal information or financial information when you navigate from a QR code or from any link that you that you don't know for sure is where you're trying to go," Ring said.

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Jan. 6 committee asks Ivanka Trump for cooperation, testimony

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack requested on Thursday that Ivanka Trump cooperate with its investigation and asked her to testify regarding conversations with her father, former President Donald Trump, before and on Jan. 6, 2021, as they pertain to the attack and the challenging of election results.

In a new letter addressed to the former president's daughter, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., requested she voluntary provide an interview with the committee, citing her presence in the Oval Office.

"As January 6th approached, President Trump attempted on multiple occasions to persuade Vice President Pence to participate in his plan. One of the President's discussions with the Vice President occurred by phone on the morning of January 6th. You were present in the Oval Office and observed at least one side of that telephone conversation," Thompson says in the letter.

"[T]he Committee would like to discuss any other conversations you may have witnessed or participated in regarding the President's plan to obstruct or impede the counting of electoral votes," the letter says.

Thompson wrote that the panel's questions to Trump's eldest daughter, who also served as a senior adviser in the White House for four years, would be "limited to issues relating to January 6th, the activities that contributed to or influenced events on January 6th, and your role in the White House during that period."

"The Committee is aware that certain White House staff devoted time during the violent riot to rebutting questions regarding whether the President was attempting to hold up deployment of the guard[…]," it says in the letter. "But the Committee has identified no evidence that President Trump issued any order, or took any other action, to deploy the guard that day. Nor does it appear that President Trump made any calls at all to the Department of Justice or any other law enforcement agency to request deployment of their personnel to the Capitol."

In a press release Thursday announcing the letter, the committee said the evidence it has already obtained shows "that Ms. Trump was in direct contact with the former President at key moments on January 6th and that she may have information relevant to other matters critical to the Select Committee's investigation."

A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump responded to the letter in a statement but did not directly address whether she would voluntarily comply with the committee's request.

"Ivanka Trump just learned that the January 6 Committee issued a public letter asking her to appear. As the Committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 rally," the statement says. "As she publicly stated that day at 3:15pm, 'any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.'"

Notably, the spokesperson omitted part of the now-deleted tweet from Jan. 6, 2021, where she referred to those breaching the Capitol as "American Patriots," before calling for an end to the violence.

And while she did not deliver remarks at the rally that day, she was present backstage and seen in a video speaking with her father while viewing video of the crowd.

The former president has repeatedly attempted to discredit the work of the committee and has urged his allies and aides not to comply.

Earlier this week, the select committee subpoenaed former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, who pushed unfounded claims of widespread 2020 election fraud. ABC News also confirmed that the committee acquired phone records from Trump's son, Eric, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancee of Donald Trump Jr.

In the six months since it was created, the select committee has interviewed more than 350 witnesses, received more than 300 substantive tips and issued more than 50 subpoenas -- for phone and email records, Trump administration documents, witness testimony and bank records, according to the committee's public disclosures and lawsuits filed by witnesses.

The panel has also received nearly 40,000 pages of records -- including text messages, emails and Trump administration documents provided by the National Archives in four separate tranches.

The request to Trump's daughter comes on the heels of the Supreme Court on Wednesday denying the former president's request for a stay of a lower court mandate that hundreds of pages of his presidential records from Jan. 6 be turned over to the congressional committee -- a huge win for the panel, which is planning to issue an interim report on its findings over the summer.

ABC News' John Santucci, Will Steakin and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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Experts slam oil giant Exxon Mobil's net-zero 'ambition'

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(NEW YORK) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. announced on Tuesday an "ambition" to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its operations in the next three decades, but fell short of making any commitments to offset or reduce the massive amounts of Earth-warming emissions from the fossil fuels that account for the company's profits.

The net-zero aspirations were outlined in the company's Advancing Climate Solutions 2022 Progress Report, and builds upon previously announced emission-reduction initiatives.

"ExxonMobil is committed to playing a leading role in the energy transition, and Advancing Climate Solutions articulates our deliberate approach to helping society reach a lower-emissions future," Darren Woods, Exxon Mobil Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "We are developing comprehensive roadmaps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operated assets around the world, and where we are not the operator, we are working with our partners to achieve similar emission-reduction results."

As the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry stem from the consumption of its products, scientists and environmental researchers have slammed the headline-grabbing announcement from the U.S. energy giant as ineffective and insufficient at a time when climate change is already harming communities around the globe.

"ExxonMobil's emissions reduction pledge misses the mark and is too little, too late," Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director in the Climate and Energy program at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, told ABC News in a statement. "This commitment solely covers operational emissions, known as scope 1 and 2, which make up only a small portion of the global warming emissions associated with a fossil fuel company's business."

"By not making any commitment to reduce the emissions that come from burning oil and gas, known as scope 3, ExxonMobil is shifting blame for the bulk of its emissions onto consumers who are using its products exactly as the company intended," Mulvey added.

Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the U.S., confirmed in a press release Tuesday that "the net-zero aspiration applies to Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions."

Scope 1 emissions refers to the direct emissions coming from the company and Scope 2 refers to the emissions associated with energy they purchase or use to run their operations, according to Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist at climate advocacy group Greenpeace USA. Scope 3 emissions, which Exxon's goals make no mention of, refers to the emissions that result from the products they sell -- in this case, fossil fuels.

"For an oil and gas company, 90% of their emissions are Scope 3," Donaghy told ABC News. As a result, Donaghy says Exxon Mobil's net-zero announcement is "obscuring the real issue here."

"We need to keep our eye on the ball," Donaghy added. "The climate system, the laws of physics don't really care about a press release, they care about actual concrete emissions reductions into the atmosphere."

Donaghy noted that global climate goals, as outlined in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Since data directly ties the rising average surface temperature on our planet to greenhouse gas emissions from humans, the Paris Agreement called for nations to drastically reduce emissions. In a subsequent calculation, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that in order to keep global warming below the dire 1.5 degrees Celsius benchmark, the world must bring its emissions to "net-zero" levels by 2050.

In the years since the Paris Agreement, scientists told ABC News, policymakers and the private sector have put a dangerous emphasis on the vague "net" part of these "net-zero" commitments -- shifting the focus from actually reducing emissions to "offsetting" them with nature and tech-based solutions that simply don't exist yet at the scale necessary to meet the need.

Moreover, while many of the individual climate goals announced by companies and countries continue to use this "net-zero by 2050 language" as a guide, later U.N. data has indicated that the world is already on track to surpass the carbon budget necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius at around 2030.

As a result, scientists have been sounding the alarm that many of the more recent "net-zero" emissions pledges, especially from businesses, are already coming much too late to be meaningful and in some cases are even becoming a dangerous distraction that lets them continue business as usual.

"To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the fossil fuel industry needs to shrink by 2050, and we need to wean ourselves off of using dirty energy and switch away to clean energy," Donaghy said. "This particular announcement doesn't really touch on that question, but we know that these oil companies like Exxon Mobil are making investments today, they're spending money on new extraction and drilling projects that they're hoping they are going to continue to produce oil and profits for decades to come."

"The question of whether their business model is consistent with net zero by 2050 is a little more complicated than just our Scope 1 or Scope 2 emissions," he added, "because the way the oil and gas industry works today isn't consistent with a stable climate."

Data indicates that burning fossil fuels -- coal, natural gas and petroleum -- accounts for an outsized share of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Fossil fuel combustion for energy accounted for 92% of the total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and 74% all greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, per the Energy Information Administration. The same agency said that petroleum use in 2020 alone was the source of nearly half (45%) of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions and natural gas accounted for 36%.

While Exxon Mobil's net-zero "ambition" doesn't go far enough in his eyes, Donaghy said he sees a bright spot in the fact that an oil industry giant is even acknowledging climate realities. He attributes this noticeable shift in part to the climate movement, especially as young activists like Greta Thunberg accuse the fossil fuel industry of robbing her generation of a future.

"I would say it's a testimony to the climate movement, that's really made it so there's nowhere to hide anymore," Donaghy said. "It's really just not feasible in 2022 to be a serious person and deny that the climate crisis is upon us."

"I think it's a victory that we're seeing these companies put out even weak statements, that they're forced to at least pay attention to it," he said.

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'Significant evidence' of alleged fraud in Trump business investigation, NY AG says

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(NEW YORK) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James said that her office has uncovered "significant evidence" of fraud in her civil investigation of former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.

The unusual statement amid an ongoing investigation came as James' office argued in court papers that Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have not sufficiently responded to subpoenas issued as part of the investigation.

"Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit," James said in a release late Tuesday night. "The Trumps must comply with our lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony because no one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them."

The motion to compel their testimony, filed late Tuesday after the Trumps sought to quash the subpoenas, said each of the individuals was directly involved in one or more transactions under review. The investigation is reviewing whether the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading valuations of its holdings in different ways to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.

A parallel criminal investigation is underway by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that has already resulted in criminal charges against the company itself and its chief financial officer. Each has pleaded not guilty.

The Trumps have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and attacked the investigations as politically motivated.

"In 160 pages of legal briefing, the Attorney General’s Office deliberately fails to address Ms. James’s repeated threats to target the Trump family and her assertions about her criminal investigation -- all which are the essence of our motion to quash the subpoenas or stay them," Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas said in a statement. "The Office fails to answer how they can be conducting a criminal investigation and indicting on July 1, 2021, the arraignment of which Ms. James attended arm in arm with Cy Vance and issued press releases and talk show statements about, and yet ignore the NY Constitutional grand jury protections provided to the very people she is investigating.”

The Trumps have “used delay tactics and litigation in an attempt to thwart a legitimate investigation into its financial dealings,” James said in a statement.

The investigation began in March 2019, after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that Trump’s annual financial statements inflated the values of Trump’s assets to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage, while also deflating the value of other assets to reduce real estate taxes.

According to the filing, investigators have determined that the "Statements of Financial Condition " issued annually to describe Trump's financial condition described the valuation process in broad terms and in ways which were often inaccurate or misleading when compared with the supporting data and documentation that the Trump Organization submitted to its accounting firm.

For instance, the AG's office alleges that the statements misstated facts, like the size of Trump's New York penthouse and alleges that there's evidence the Trump Organization submitted "false or misleading" valuations to the IRS pertaining to a golf course in LA and property in Westchester County, New York.

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Verizon, AT&T delay 5G rollout around some airports after stark warnings from US airlines

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(WASHINGTON) -- A showdown between the nation's major airlines, the FAA and AT&T and Verizon appears to be cooling after both telecom giants agreed at the last minute to pause a portion of their 5G-C rollout on Wednesday.

"At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment," AT&T said in a statement Tuesday.

Verizon followed AT&T saying, "We have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation's airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries."

CEOs from American, United, Delta and seven other major carriers warned of "significant" disruptions in the country's aviation system if the 5G rollout continued as planned.

Aviation officials are concerned that the frequency used for 5G may interfere with airplanes' radio altimeters -- devices used by pilots to measure the distance between the aircraft and the ground in order to land.

In the letter, U.S. airline leaders wrote to government officials Monday asking that the wireless carriers not deploy 5G within two miles of runways at certain airports.

"This will allow 5G to be deployed while avoiding harmful impacts on the aviation industry, traveling public, supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and broader economy," the CEOs wrote.

The FAA warned pilots won't be able to use radio altimeters to land at 88 airports closest to Verizon and AT&T's 5G towers. Earlier this month, the FAA and wireless carriers agreed to implement "buffer zones" around 50 airports across the country to try to mitigate the issue.

Airline officials, however, said this is not enough. United Airlines said the current plan will have "devastating" impacts on its operation, impacting an estimated 1.25 million of the carrier's passengers and at least 15,000 flights.

"We won't compromise on safety – full stop," United said in a statement.

Captain Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines 737 pilot and a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, also called the rollout "unsafe."

"We're not going to fly the airplane unless it's safe," Tajer told ABC News. "But putting that added distraction of other systems going wrong close to the ground is not the way you run a safety culture."

The telecom giants have insisted 5G-C Band technology is safe and has been proven in more than 40 other countries, albeit at much lower power levels than what's planned in the U.S.

In a statement, AT&T made clear its frustration with the federal government, writing in part: "We are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner. We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers."

When asked why the FAA did not act over the past two years, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, "There will be lots of time to look back and see how we got here. And I know many of you will do that. And, of course, that is understandable. But right now, over the next 24, or less than 24 hours, what we're focused on is trying to come to a solution that will minimize travel -- you know disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations -- on our economic recovery."

President Biden thanked Verizon and AT&T for the delay, saying in a statement, "This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled."

The president said the agreement "protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans."

ABC News' Mina Kaji, Mary Bruce and Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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