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Yubo explained and why it has emerged as part of Uvalde shooting probe

Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Described by its inventors as a "social live-streaming platform" that allows its mostly teenage users to make friends worldwide, join communities and even find a date, Yubo has emerged as part of the investigation into the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, because the suspect sent messages through the app, investigators and users told ABC News.

Launched in 2015 by a French company, Yubo has quickly become known as a go-to site for mostly "Gen Z" users to meet, make new friends and join online communities. In 2019, Seventeen magazine also listed the site as among the seven best dating apps for teenagers.

"Yubo is a social app for Gen Z that allows them to connect and interact with people all over the world through live streaming," a spokesperson for the platform said in a statement to ABC News. "Yubo gives this generation a space to socialize through one-to-few audio and video conversations, games and chat, and empowers its 60 million users to connect safely and without the pressure of likes or follows."

Yubo even has separate areas of its app reserved for teenagers. Users who join and say they are between the ages of 13 to 17 are put into different "communities" and supposedly can't interact with other users who say they are over 18, according to the platform.

Yubo appears to work like a blend of livestreaming social apps like Clubhouse and Twitch, mixed with adult social media and dating apps like Tinder that allow users to swipe through individual profiles. The app lets users make friends, send direct messages, swipe between users, and join livestreams, either video or audio.

But multiple users told ABC News that they believe accused Uvalde mass shooter Salvador Ramos had a more sinister use for the platform.

Two users claimed Ramos allegedly committed animal abuse and displayed videos of the cruelty on Yubo.

An individual who claimed to have known the accused gunman through the social media platform told ABC News that Ramos turned on his video last week on the platform and showed himself with guns and allegedly made statements, including "wait till tomorrow."

"No one took him seriously," another user told ABC News.

A law enforcement source said detectives probing the Uvalde mass shooting are aware of a Yubo account believed to have belonged to the accused gunman but can't definitively confirm the account belongs to the suspect. ABC News has not independently verified that the alleged account belonged to the accused shooter.

"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families of the victims of the tragic shooting in Uvalde, Texas," the Yubo spokesperson said. "Due to privacy regulations, we are not able to release specific user information outside of direct requests from law enforcement."

Just days after his 18th birthday, Ramos allegedly killed 19 students, most just 10 years old, and two faculty members Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in the small rural town west of San Antonio. The suspect was fatally shot by law enforcement officers.

Moments before carrying out the deadly attack, the accused gunman allegedly sent a string of messages to a young girl he met on Yubo, detailing that he had shot his grandmother and was heading to the school for his next target, according to messages reviewed by ABC News.

The messages allegedly show the accused gunman texted with a 15-year-old girl in Germany. He allegedly described an argument he had with his grandmother over a phone bill.

"She's on the phone with AT&T," Ramos allegedly wrote at 11:06 a.m. on Tuesday, about a half-hour before the attack at the school, apparently referring to his grandmother with a derogatory term. In another message, he allegedly said, "Ima do something to her rn (right now)."

Moments later, he allegedly wrote, "I shot my grandmother in the head." He then allegedly wrote, "ima go shoot up a elementary school rn."

The young girl who allegedly received messages from the Texas gunman moments before his rampage told ABC News Thursday that she has been asking herself "what if I could change the outcome" since seeing the news that her friend had committed the school massacre.

The girl, who asked to be referred to as "Cece," said, "Ever since May 24th I have been guilt tripping myself, what if I could change the outcome, what if I could change his mind to not do this. I was too dumb to realize why he bought two rifles on his birthday, May 16th, and ordered a package full with ammunition, not knowing what he was going to do with it."

Cece said she met Ramos on May 9 on Yubo, where they would "join each others live" streams.

While in a previous interview with the New York Times Cece said she read the messages from the gunman "as soon as he sent them," which would have been minutes before the shooting, she now tells ABC News she "misspoke" and that she only saw them "hours later."

Cece, who said she and Ramos exchanged cellphone numbers and spoke regularly, claimed there were other warning signs in hindsight, including that the suspected gunman would ask others on Yubo "if they would want to be famous on the news."

At a news conference on Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott referenced similar messages the gunman sent just prior to the school rampage, but misrepresented them as "Facebook posts" when they were instead private "one-to-one text messages," according to a spokesperson for Meta, the parent company of Facebook.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Donald Trump must testify under oath in civil investigation, judges rule

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump and two of his adult children must sit for a deposition as part of the New York attorney general's civil investigation into how the family real estate business valued its holdings, an appellate court ruled Thursday.

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump must also testify in the case.

The judges rejected the Trump argument that the subpoena was part of a politically motivated investigation and precluded by a corresponding criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"The political campaign and other public statements made by OAG about appellants do not support the claim that OAG initiated, or is using, the subpoenas in this civil investigation to obtain testimony solely for use in a criminal proceeding or in a manner that would otherwise improperly undermine appellants' privilege against self-incrimination," the decision said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has argued her office has found "significant evidence" of fraud in the investigation into how Trump and the Trump Organization valued real estate holdings in the state. 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.

"Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings," James said in a statement Thursday. "We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can evade the law."

The Trumps have repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

The former president, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have all ignored subpoenas issued in the case.

The parallel investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has already resulted in charges of tax fraud against the company and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Donald Trump called those charges a "disgrace" and "shameful" and said Weisselberg, who has worked for the Trump Organization for 48 years, a "tremendous man."

ABC News' John Santucci and Mark Osborne contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How to save money on gas as prices continue to climb

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(NEW YORK) -- The price for a gallon of gas continues to surge.

As of Thursday morning, AAA said it costs an average of $4.60 for a gallon of gas, meaning filling up a small car of gasoline will likely cost you more than $50.

Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy's head of petroleum analysis, told ABC News in March that "gas prices continue to go up and defy expectations," with the cost per gallon already surpassing predictions heading into Memorial Day.

So how can you keep the pain at the pump to a minimum? Here's what the experts say:

Change the way you drive

Most cars achieve optimal fuel economy around 55 mph, according to GasBuddy. Driving too fast or too slow won't give you the most bang for your buck.

AAA recommends reducing your speed if your trip takes you on the highway.
 
"Aerodynamic drag causes fuel economy to drop off significantly as speeds increase above 50 mph," the group says.

Experts also said it is key to remember to accelerate gradually and ease up on the brake --- braking suddenly or speeding up fast is hard on fuel economy. Cruise control can help you maintain the proper speed and save fuel.

Don't skip the repair shop

Making sure that your car is properly maintained will ensure a problem with the vehicle isn't using up more fuel than it should.

The biggest red flag is if the "check engine" light is illuminated.

In that case, "take your car to the repair shop as soon as possible," AAA says. "This indicates a problem that is causing excessive emissions and likely reducing fuel economy."

Another thing to stay on top of, according to experts, is your tires.

If your tires are underinflated, you won't maximize your fuel savings.

Avoid idling and turn off that air conditioner

Even if it is cold out, do not idle your car for long periods. It does nothing but waste fuel.

"If your car will be stopped for more than 60 seconds, shut off the engine," AAA recommends.

On the flip side, if it is hot out, try to minimize your use of air conditioning.

Keeping your windows down for a breeze will save you more fuel than running your AC.

Take advantage of apps that track prices

Many people use the app Waze for directions, but it also has a gas feature that can show you the nearest gas stations along with prices.

Gas stations near major exits and in bigger cities tend to be more expensive.

The app GasBuddy is another resource constantly updating gas prices in real-time. In addition, you can get alerts on deals sent to your phone.

Another app to check out is Gas Guru. It aims to help you find the cheapest gas prices with information straight from the oil price information service. The app lets you search by fuel grade and amenities as well.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Amazon opens its first clothing store in Los Angeles

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

The Amazon Style fashion retail space has opened at The Americana at Brand shopping mall in Los Angeles.

The new concept offers a selection of apparel, shoes and accessories. The items featured in the store also have QR codes providing information from sizing to customer ratings, the company said.

"We organized and designed the store a bit differently," Amazon Style vice president Simoina Vasen told ABC News' Good Morning America.

She went on to share how the new concept is all about the QR code which allows shoppers to browse and scan while never grabbing clothes on hangers to try.

"Customers can shop the millions of items from amazon.com from their couch and deliver it to the store," added Vasen. "And we'll have a fitting room available for them when they arrive."

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 as well.

National Retail Federation senior director of retail and consumer insights Katherine Cullen explained to GMA, "We're seeing a lot of new terms pop up whether it's hybrid shopping or multi-channel shopping, but really what it boils down to is this idea that we can't separate online and offline anymore those worlds are really blurring if someone orders an item online for pickup in a store."

Just this week, online furniture giant wayfair also opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Massachusetts. Also, stores such as Nordstrom, Ulta Beauty and Crate & Barrel have finessed the hybrid shopping model of buy it, deliver it and return it anyway the customer wants.

Amazon is advancing on these new concepts mostly by leveraging their massive inventory.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Zola accounts hacked, some report money being stolen

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(NEW YORK) -- Zola, the online wedding planning and registry site, was hacked over the weekend, the company said in a statement Monday evening.

“Over the weekend, our site & apps came under a cybersecurity attack known as credential stuffing," the statement read.

Credential stuffing, the company said, is a kind of cyberattack in which hackers "take advantage of people who use the same email and passwords on multiple websites," using stolen login information to submit widescale login attempts in several different places.

Less than 0.1% of accounts were impacted in the breach, according to Zola.

Bank and credit card information was not exposed in the hack, and officials said the company immediately corrected the problem.

Users first began flagging irregularities with their Zola accounts over the weekend. Some couples said they had money stolen out of their honeymoon registries before they were able to transfer it over to their bank accounts.

Ariel Carpenter, a Louisville, Kentucky doctor, said she was one of those impacted by the hack, describing the experience as a "rollercoaster."

"It just feels very violating because planning a wedding is a very personal enterprise. At the end of the day, you're planning a party for your closest family and friends," said Carpenter, who is slated to get married at the end of June. "And so my initial thought, unfortunately, was that whoever hacked us had access to our family and friends' contact information."

Carpenter said she had lost $350 from her honeymoon account on the website, but had not yet received a refund.

Zola said no guest information was compromised in the cyberattack.

The company also stated that it had blocked all attempted unauthorized cash transfers and would restore all funds to couples' accounts as soon as possible.

"Couples who did experience irregular activity on their accounts can rest assured that any outstanding issues will be resolved and addressed," Zola said Monday, stating that it would be reaching out to couples "proactively."

Experts recommend against recycling passwords across different sites as it leaves users vulnerable to cyberattacks like the one this past weekend. Some have suggested using a combination of three random words to create stronger passwords, as the letter combinations make them much more difficult for hacking software to crack.

Tech experts also recommend wiping your phone completely and resetting it to factory defaults before getting rid of it, as hackers may be able to request a password reset on various accounts and apps otherwise.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Reebok launches new adaptive footwear line with Zappos

Courtesy of Reebok

(NEW YORK) -- Everyone deserves a shoe that's functional, fashionable and inclusive. Reebok's latest release embodies all three.

The athletic brand has partnered with online shoe retailer Zappos to release brand new adaptive shoes for individuals with disabilities.

In an Instagram post introducing the line, the company shared that the goal of its latest Fit to Fit collection was to provide functional products that don't compromise style or performance.

"Each model within the collection offers enhanced features to help anybody with any body gain more independence in whatever they do," the company wrote.

The collection includes the Club MEMT Parafit, a stylish pick that works for everyday wear. The shoe has a medial zip closure, a wider low-cut design for easy mobility and a removable sockliner.

There's also the Nanoflex Parafit TR, which has a lightweight mesh upper, medial zip closure and a heel pull tab, making it easier to slip on.

Both shoes are available in a variety of colorways and a wide range of sizes.

In addition to the launch of the new Fit to Fit collection, Reebok and Zappos are also donating 750 pairs of adult shoes to athletes participating in the 2022 Special Olympic USA Games, which will be held June 5-12, to ensure they have what they need to succeed.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Exxon Mobil must face environmental allegations, court rules

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(NEW YORK) -- The highest court in Massachusetts ruled Tuesday the state attorney general can pursue a civil lawsuit that accused Exxon Mobil of misleading investors about its products and their impact on the climate.

The unanimous opinion, written by Associate Justice Scott Kafker, rejected Exxon Mobil’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds it violated a state law that protects the company from lawsuits meant to silence Exxon Mobil’s public advocacy on energy policy.

The opinion said the so-called anti-SLAPP law in Massachusetts does not apply to the attorney general.

“Importantly, she is entrusted with the enforcement of the Commonwealth's laws, in large part through bringing civil enforcement proceedings,” Kafker said. “Construing the anti-SLAPP statute to apply to the Attorney General would place significant roadblocks to the enforcement of the Commonwealth's laws.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey accused Exxon Mobil in a 2019 lawsuit of failing to disclose to investors material facts about climate change and misleading consumers about the harm Exxon Mobil’s products cause to the environment.

“Exxon Mobil is misleading Massachusetts consumers through so-called "greenwashing" campaigns that wrongly imply that Exxon Mobil is taking steps to solve climate change and reduce carbon,” according to court records.

Exxon Mobil has denied wrongdoing. It cast the lawsuit as political and an unlawful attempt by the attorney general to quash energy policies with which she disagrees.

“The First Amendment reflects the principle that when the government objects to speech, ‘the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence,’” Exxon Mobil said.

Healey, who is now running for governor, lauded the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

“Once again, Exxon’s attacks on my office and our case have been rejected by the courts. Today’s ruling is a resounding victory in our work to stop Exxon from lying to investors and consumers in our state," she said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Coca-Cola unveils new bottles with attached caps in the UK

Coca Cola Great Britain

(NEW YORK) -- New Coke bottles have started appearing in the U.K. as the popular soda brand continues on its path toward more sustainable packaging.

"As part of Coca-Cola’s journey towards a World Without Waste, we are transitioning to a new packaging system in Great Britain and other European markets," a representative for the brand told "Good Morning America." "The new packaging ensures the cap remains attached to the bottle -- making it easier than ever for consumers to recycle the whole package, ensuring that no cap gets left behind.”

The attached caps debuted on select 1.5-liter bottles in the U.K., with more pack sizes to be introduced throughout the year.

The fresh design comes on the heels of a new regulation from the European Union intended to reduce waste and pollution. The regulation, which goes into effect in July 2024, states that caps on some non-returnable bottles holding up to three liters must have a cap that is firmly attached to the container.

According to The Coca-Cola Co., this new design is the result of "extensive research with our suppliers and consumer testing."

The new cap allows someone drinking a Coke to retain the lid with the bottle, which ultimately prevents the cap from being littered, and offers "a positive drinking experience."

All of the new caps remain 100% recyclable, along with the bottles, which have been 100% recyclable for several years.

In 2018, The Coca-Cola Co. announced its World Without Waste program to "reduce our global use of virgin plastic by 20% (the cumulative equivalent of 3 million metric tons) by 2025." The company also pledged to "use at least 50% recycled material in our packaging by 2030."

There are currently no immediate plans to bring the new attached-cap innovation to the U.S., a representative for the brand confirmed to "GMA."

"By the end of 2024, we aim to have transitioned our entire production to attached caps as we progress to more sustainable packaging," the company stated.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Bear market' and 'recession' are back in the conversation. What they mean and why they matter.

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(NEW YORK) -- Lately, the stock market has taken a thrashing.

The Nasdaq and S&P 500 have each fallen for seven consecutive weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fared even worse, dropping for eight weeks straight, the longest such losing streak for the index since the early years of the Great Depression, in 1932.

The losses on Wall Street owe in no small part to the wider economy’s most pressing problem: sky-high inflation, Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at broker OANDA, told ABC News. For months, strong consumer spending and snarled supply chains have sent prices soaring for everyday expenses like food and gas, as well as for materials like computer chips that many US companies rely upon.

In response, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate to a range of 0.75% to 1%, and the central bank has signaled a series of additional hikes.

The goal is to slow down the economy, which in theory should eat away at demand and slash inflation. But the approach all but ensures a downturn for stocks, and runs the risk of hitting the brakes on the economy so hard that it triggers a wider contraction.

“The stock market is down -- I’m not surprised, that’s by design,” Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s, told ABC News.

But the rate hikes at the Fed could send the economy into a downturn, especially if an unexpected headwind puts further strain on the economy, Zandi said.

“The risks of this going off the rails are pretty high,” he said. “So we’re vulnerable.”

As the market and economy teeter, buzzwords like “correction," “bear market” and even “recession” are coming back into the conversation, conjuring images of layoffs, foreclosures and bankruptcies.

But the definitions and implications of these terms can get lost in the tumult, stoking outsized panic in some cases and insufficient caution in others.

What is a bear market?

The S&P 500 made headlines last Friday when it briefly entered bear market territory, which generally means a 20% drop since the index’s most recent high over at least a two-month period. On Friday afternoon, the index had fallen 1.9% for the day, crossing the threshold for a bear market. But it rallied to end the trading day up 0.01% point, elevating it just barely outside of bear market territory. As of market close on Monday, it had ticked up even further.

For its part, the tech-heavy Nasdaq entered a bear market on March 7, and as of market close on Monday had fallen more than 30% since a record high in November.

The prospect of a bear market, and the pessimistic investment environment that it entails, carry disconcerting near-term implications. In the 26 bear markets since 1929, the S&P 500 -- the index that most people's 401(k)'s track -- has lost an average of 35.6% of its value over a typical duration of 289 days or about 9 ½ months, according to a report from Hartford Funds.

In comparison with a bear market, a correction entails a milder stock market decline, amounting to a drop of 10% to 20% from the most recent high. The S&P 500 has been in correction territory since late February.

For some traders who jumped into the market during its pandemic boom -- when the S&P 500 rose some 108% from March 2020 to its peak in early January -- the current downturn may be their first. But a bear market is an expected part of the stock market cycle, especially in light of the pandemic stimulus that flooded the economy in the form of direct payments, low interest rates and other measures, Moya, the senior market analyst, told ABC News.

“We’ve seen a historic amount of support help stabilize the economy,” Moya said. “Also, what that did was inflate risky assets, which included the stock market.”

The currently depressed stock prices should appeal to patient traders, Moya added.

"If you’re a long-term investor, and you believe in the US. economy and that the froth is being taken out of the market,” he said. “These levels should be attractive."

What is a recession?

The unrelenting market decline has raised fears of a recession.

Many observers define a recession through the shorthand metric of two consecutive quarters of decline in a nation’s inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, or GDP. A country’s GDP is the total value of goods and services that it produces.

U.S. GDP shrank at an annual rate of 1.4% over the first three months of this year, the worst quarterly performance since the recession brought about by the coronavirus in 2020. If the GDP contracts over the second quarter of the year, that would qualify the downturn as a recession in many people’s eyes.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, or NBER, a research organization seen as an authority on measuring economic performance, uses a more complicated definition that takes into account several indicators that must convey “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months,” the group says. This definition determines whether a downturn is formally designated as a recession, since the NBER is the official arbiter on the subject.

A report released last year by the NBER showed that the pandemic-induced recession of 2020 lasted only two months. By comparison, the organization said that the Great Recession spanned from December 2007 to June 2009, lasting 18 months.

“The R-word is something that triggers a lot of fear and panic for your average American because normally it suggests the job market is taking a turn for the worse and that consumer spending will weaken significantly,” Moya, the senior market analyst, said.

Zandi, the chief economist, put the odds of a recession over the next 12 months at 1 in 3. But he downplayed the severity of a potential recession, noting that he doesn’t see any “major imbalances” in the economy.

“It’s likely to be short and mild,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a reason to run for the bunkers but it’s a reason to be cautious.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How the US ran out of baby formula

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(NEW YORK) -- A baby formula shortage has escalated in recent months from a product recall to a national crisis, prompting emergency responses from business leaders and White House officials.

As of early May, 43% of U.S. baby formula was out of stock, according to the data firm Datasembly.

To help make up for the shortfall, the Biden administration on Sunday began flying in tens of thousands of pounds of baby formula from abroad in what it calls “Operation Fly Formula.” A day before, an apology in a Washington Post op-ed was issued by Robert Ford, the CEO of Abbott Nutrition, the nation’s largest baby formula producer.

The emergency has come on the heels of the voluntary shutdown in February of an Abbott factory in Sturgis, Michigan, where the company produces major brands of powdered formula like Similac and EleCare. The shutdown went into effect when four babies fell sick from bacterial disease after ingesting formula produced at the facility and two of the infants died. It remains unclear whether the bacteria that made the children ill came from the baby formula produced at the Michigan factory, but a Food and Drug Administration inspection of the facility found it fell short of adequate sanitation.

The root causes of the desperate situation stretch well beyond the last few months, supply chain experts told ABC News. Pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions led to barren store shelves, rigid international trade barriers impeded imports and market concentration left few alternate suppliers, they said.

“The scenario where you have a manufacturing problem that occurred at an Abbott facility in Michigan, those kinds of things happen all the time,” Nada Sanders, a professor of supply chain management at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, told ABC News. “Ultimately, we have very, very weak supply chains.”

Many families rely on baby formula for some portion of sustenance early in a child’s life. Almost 20% of babies consume infant formula before they reach two days of age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a 2020 report. More than half of infants receive supplementary nutrition in addition to breastfeeding over their first three months, the report said. Some babies require formula to meet specific nutritional needs.

As with a host of products -- from computer chips to lumber -- the pandemic has snarled the supply chain for baby formula. Shortages of labor and raw materials have slowed production and hampered distribution, Sanders said. The disruption weakens the supply chain’s responsiveness to the sudden ups and downs of customer demand, she added.

“All of this is ultimately related to the COVID pandemic, and really two-and-a-half years of supply chain disruptions and backlogs of every kind possible,” Sanders said.

Even amid the widespread supply chain disruptions brought about by the coronavirus, few products have faced the crisis-level shortages observed with baby formula in recent weeks, said Sanders and Scott Lincicome, an economist at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute.

One reason why the baby formula market has proven especially susceptible to shortages is the trade barriers and public health regulations that prevent major inflow of the products from abroad, Lincicome said. The U.S. imposes steep tariffs on baby formula. Plus, the FDA requires foreign manufacturers to abide by nutritional and labeling requirements.

In turn, 98% of baby formula consumed in the U.S. is produced domestically. When the Abbott factory shut down, the market lacked an international supply to fill the gap. Last week, the FDA announced “increased flexibilities” for the importation of baby formula in an effort to alleviate the shortage.

But the supply problems aren’t confined to overseas producers, Sanders and Lincicome said. They pointed to a key problem that hinders the responsiveness of the domestic baby formula industry: business concentration. Abbott, the top producer, accounts for about 48% of the U.S. formula market. In all, four companies -- Abbott, Nestle USA, Perrigo and Mead Johnson Nutrition -- control roughly 90% of the market.

Some critics, including Lincicome, have attributed the small number of market players largely to a federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC, which helps low-income families purchase baby formula. Roughly half of the baby formula bought in the U.S. goes through WIC, with about 1.2 million infants getting ahold of formula through the program. That scale grants WIC considerable power in the marketplace, Lincicome said.

WIC uses a system in which each state chooses a single company to be the sole provider of baby formula for all residents enrolled in the program. That approach reduces the price that WIC pays for baby formula, cutting the cost for taxpayers, Lincicome said. But the large size of each statewide contract prevents small companies from winning a bid and gaining a foothold, he added.

In response to the crisis, President Joe Biden signed a measure on Saturday that allows families enrolled in WIC to buy formula beyond what the program normally allows in emergency situations.

“Combine the trade wall with domestic concentration,” Lincicome said. “You have a situation where you end up having a few players in a closed market and when one of those players goes down, the other handful of players left can’t fill the gaps.”

He added: “And you lack access to global markets which might be able to fill that gap in the short term.”

Last week, Abbott and the FDA reached an agreement for the company to reopen the Michigan factory, which should eventually return U.S. baby formula supply back to normal, Sanders said. She predicted it would take three months to fully alleviate the shortage; Lincicome estimated eight weeks.

“Hopefully Abbott will be able to get their production out and get everything smoothly running and what’s taken by customers is replenished at the right cadence,” Sanders said. “Meaning no bumps.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Gas prices hit new high ahead of Memorial Day weekend

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(NEW YORK) -- As tens of millions of Americans prepare to hit the road for the holiday weekend, gas prices are continuing to soar.

Across all 50 states, gas prices are above $4 a gallon. The national average for gas now stands at a record high $4.59 a gallon.

But despite the rising costs at the pump, drivers are still filling up and planning to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend.

Nearly 35 million people are expected to drive more than 50 miles from their homes this weekend, according to AAA.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DC attorney general sues Mark Zuckerberg over Cambridge Analytica data breach

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(WASHINGTON) -- Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine has sued Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly failing to protect consumer data following the Cambridge Analytica data leak.

"The evidence shows Mr. Zuckerberg was personally involved in Facebook's failure to protect the privacy and data of its users leading directly to the Cambridge Analytica incident," Racine said in a statement about the lawsuit released Monday. "This unprecedented security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans' personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg's policies enabled a multi-year effort to mislead users about the extent of Facebook's wrongful conduct."

He added, "This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions."

The lawsuit alleges that Zuckerberg was "responsible for" and "had the clear ability" to control Facebook operations and enabled Cambridge Analytica to use consumer data. The lawsuit alleges that third-party firms like Cambridge Analytica got data from 87 million Americans and half of District of Columbia residents.

Racine filed a lawsuit against Facebook in December 2018 for the data leak and is bringing this suit following evidence found during that litigation, according to the attorney general.

Facebook has faced previous government scrutiny over the data leak to Cambridge Analytica. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion over the incident, and required the company to abide by new restrictions aimed at instituting greater accountability in decisions that affect user privacy.

The Cambridge Analytica leak, which several news outlets reported in 2018, concerned the London-based firm gaining access to user data in 2015 and using it to aid the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Meta, Facebook's parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy and began insolvency proceedings in the U.S. not long after the scandal broke.

The lawsuit filed by Racine takes issue with what it appears to consider a central business objective of Facebook. The suit accuses the company of aiming "to convince people to reveal the most granular details of who they are to Facebook -- their religions, their work histories, their likes -- so that it can be monetized, and Zuckerberg and his company can continue to grow even wealthier."

On multiple occasions, the lawsuit notes that the company pursued its policies "at Zuckerberg's direction."

The announcement on Monday follows a suit filed by Racine in January against another tech giant, Google, over privacy issues. In that lawsuit, Racine alleged that Google misled users to get access to data on their locations. Three attorneys general, representing Texas, Indiana and Washington, joined Racine in filing separate lawsuits with similar allegations.

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Starbucks announces complete withdrawal from Russia

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(NEW YORK) -- Starbucks announced on Monday it is pulling its business from the Russian market.

The move comes after the coffee giant suspended all business activity in Russia in March following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

“As we mentioned on March 8, we have suspended all business activity in Russia, including shipment of all Starbucks products,” Starbucks said in a statement Monday. “Starbucks has made the decision to exit and no longer have a brand presence in the market.”

The company said it “will continue to support the nearly 2,000 green apron partners in Russia, including pay for six months and assistance for partners to transition to new opportunities outside of Starbucks.”

Starbucks is one of multiple major U.S. and international companies that have put operations on hold in Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine. Other companies that have suspended operations there include Pfizer, Apple, FedEx, McDonald's and Amazon.

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'We’re sorry': Abbott CEO addresses baby formula crisis in new op-ed

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(NEW YORK) -- The head of one of the country's largest manufacturers of baby formula expressed remorse at his company's role in the nationwide shortage -- and announced a multimillion-dollar fund to help families that have suffered during the crisis -- in an op-ed published over the weekend.

"The past few months have distressed us as they have you, and so I want to say: We're sorry to every family we've let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated our nation’s baby formula shortage," Abbott CEO Robert Ford wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. "I have high expectations of this company, and we fell short of them."

Abbott recalled formula and closed its manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, in February over concerns about bacterial contamination after four infants fell ill. That compounded coronavirus-related supply chain issues already fueling a baby formula shortage.

Ford reiterated a two-week timeline for when Abbott's shuttered Sturgis plant will reopen -- saying he expects the company will be able to restart the facility "by the first week in June."

Once that facility is back at full capacity, Ford said that Abbott plans to "more than double" its current domestic production.

"By the end of June, we will be supplying more formula to Americans than we were in January before the recall," Ford wrote, adding that Abbott will be "making significant investments to ensure this never happens again."

Once the plant restarts production, it will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves, according to Ford.

Abbott's specialized formula, EleCare, was included in its recall, leaving families with limited nutrition options particularly scrambling to find formula. There have been reports of several children hospitalized due to the lack of EleCare.

In his op-ed, Ford said the company will "invest in upgrading our safety and quality processes and equipment" and "create the redundancy we need to never have to stop production of critical products" like the specialized formulas for children who can't digest other formulas and milks.

Ford called the hospitalizations due to a lack of EleCare "tragic and heartbreaking" and added that Abbott is "working to identify ways" to get sick kids across the country what they need.

Once manufacturing resumes, Abbott will "prioritize EleCare ... and get that out the door first," Ford wrote.

As the company further works to help ease the shortage, Abbott's Ohio plant's lines have also been converted from adult nutrition products to make more ready-to-feed infant formula, and the company is airfreighting in more powdered formula from its Ireland facility, Ford noted.

While families wait for formula to hit shelves, Ford announced in his op-ed that Abbott is establishing a $5 million fund "to help these families with medical and living expenses as they weather this storm."

"These steps we’re taking won’t end the struggles of families today," Ford wrote. "Some solutions will take weeks, others will take longer, but we will not rest until it is done. I will not rest. I want everyone to trust us to do what is right, and I know that must be earned back."

In response to the crisis, this week President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to get ingredients to manufacturers to help speed up production. He also directed Department of Defense commercial aircraft to pick up infant formula overseas to get on U.S. shelves faster while U.S. manufacturers ramp up production.

The first batch of imported baby formula arrived Sunday in the United States.

The shipment includes hypoallergenic formulas for children with cow's milk protein allergies.

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Jif peanut butter products recalled due to possible salmonella concerns

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(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections that is possibly linked to Jif peanut butter products.

The J.M. Smucker Company issued a voluntary recall for its creamy, crunchy, natural and reduced fat peanut butter products that were distributed nationwide, with lot code numbers 1274425 to 2140425, the FDA announced Friday.

There have been at least 14 illnesses reported, including two hospitalizations, according to the FDA. The 12 states that have reported salmonella cases are Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Salmonella poisoning can induce symptoms such as a fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the FDA. Anyone who ate Jif peanut butter products and is experiencing these symptoms should contact their health care provider.

Consumers who are in possession of a recalled item should dispose of it immediately, the FDA recommended. Surfaces and utensils that could have touched the peanut butter should also be washed and sanitized.

Evidence indicates that the recalled peanut butter was produced in the company's facility in Lexington, Kentucky, which is likely the cause of the illnesses tied to the salmonella outbreak, the FDA said in a statement.

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