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Wendelland Caroyln/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anatoliy Sizov/iStockBy WILLIAM MANSELL and CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ConverseBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HasbroBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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courtneyk/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Andrei Stanescu/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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American GirlBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ABCBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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United AirlinesBy MINA KAJI, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wolterk/iStockBy AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened?

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

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

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

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

Corporate pressures and culture of concealment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens now?

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

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

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

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

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

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Sergii Zyskо/iStockBy SASHA PEZENIK, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saucony x prinkshopBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Footwear maker Saucony has teamed up with social enterprise brand prinkshop for a collaboration all about empowering women.

The "Women Running" collection from Saucony x prinkshop encourages equal representation in politics and sport.

The full collection consists of a T-shirt, hat, tote and two styles of shoes available in men's and women's sizes.

Items in the collection range from $25 to $110 and a portion of the proceeds from the collection will support the nonpartisan nonprofit She Should Run, which works to increase the number of women considering a run for public office.

In 2020, a record number of women and women of color are running for Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. But women still remain significantly underrepresented.

"Whether running a marathon or running for political office, win or lose, it's all about showing up. With this collaboration, we are taking a stand to further support gender parity and encourage women everywhere to find their personal pathway to leadership," Saucony President Anne Cavassa said in a statement.

The collection will be available starting Sept. 17 at saucony.com and select running specialty retailers worldwide.

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Blue Planet Studio/iStockBY: LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — bp and Microsoft have joined forces to advance their sustainability goals. 

Both companies announced plans to achieve carbon emission reductions earlier this year. In January, Microsoft announced a goal to be carbon negative by 2030 and to remove all the carbon they have emitted since their founding by 2050. Meanwhile, in February, bp announced a goal to become net carbon zero by 2050 or sooner. 

To become net-zero, bp will need to remove or offset the same amount of emissions it releases each year into the atmosphere.

The two companies say they will “collaborate as strategic partners to further digital transformation in energy systems and advance the net-zero carbon goals of both companies.”

Microsoft plans to support bp’s goals by extending the use of Microsoft Azure, its cloud computing service, to help digitize the oil company’s infrastructure and operations. Using this service, bp will get access to “a broad and deep portfolio of cloud services, including machine learning with Azure Digital Twins, data analytics, security and more, to gain greater insights, drive significant optimization opportunities and transform business processes.”

“bp shares our vision for a net-zero carbon future, and we are committed to working together to drive reductions in carbon emissions and fulfill demand with new renewable energy sources,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business, in a statement. “A strategic partnership such as this enables each organization to bring its unique expertise for industry-leading change and the potential to positively impact billions of lives around the world.”

The two companies have also signed an agreement that will have bp supply Microsoft with renewable energy across the world to help power the tech giant’s cloud software. This agreement will help Microsoft reach its 100% renewable energy goal by 2025. 

“bp is determined to get to net-zero and to help the world do the same. No one can do it alone – partnerships with leading companies like Microsoft, with aligned ambitions, is going to be key to achieving this,” said William Lin, bp executive vice president for regions, cities, and solutions, in a statement. “By bringing our complementary skills and experience together, we are not only helping each other achieve our decarbonization ambitions but also creating opportunities to support others on their journey towards reducing carbon emissions.”

bp and Microsoft have also signed a memorandum of understanding that recognizes that both companies can help each other achieve their sustainability goals and help the world decarbonize.

As part of bp’s goal, the company plans to develop about 50 gigawatts of net renewable energy capacity, increase annual investments in low carbon energy to 5 billion dollars, and cut oil and gas production by 40%.

Currently, BP owns stakes in or produces solar power, wind power, biopower, and biofuels. The company also owns BPChargemaster, UK's largest electric charging network. 

Microsoft plans to reach its goal in several ways, including with 100% renewable energy by 2025, pushing for carbon reduction and removal policies, and by cutting their carbon emissions by half by 2030 and by removing more carbon from their atmosphere than they emit each year. 

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jetcityimage/iStockBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Whether you need a little boost to your day, week, month or even year, Makeup Revolution is here with makeup inspired by the hit show Friends that has lots of people excited.

The cruelty-free makeup brand has released a limited-edition Revolution x Friends line of cosmetics that all retail under $25 exclusively at Ulta Beauty.

The collection features several lipsticks and eyeshadows that are all packaged in Friends-themed casing.

The products from the new line are based on each character's signature look from the iconic television series. "We looked at each character in detail — what they wear, their mannerisms, the makeup they use, the personalities — and started to build from there," said Revolution Beauty founder Adam Minto to Allure. "The products take on the life of each character in a really immersive way."

The Rachel, Monica and Phoebe lipsticks have smooth creamy textures and come in vibrant hues such as a soft peachy pink and mauve.

The eyeshadow palettes also have a variety of colors and textures to choose from along with fun shade names such as "On a Break" and "'90s."

Friends fanatics have been acting fast and most items are sold out since launching on Sept. 14 in the U.S. The full collection is slated to launch globally on Sept. 16 on the brand's website.

This isn't the first time Friends merchandise has gone to retail, and probably won't be the last. In 2019, Ralph Lauren launched a Friends capsule collection for show's 25th anniversary.

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