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(NEW YORK) -- What sweeter way to celebrate National Honey Month than with a refreshing, herbal cocktail that both tastes delicious and promotes sustainable systems to improve the health of bee colonies.

Beekeepers based in big cities like New York and nearby bartenders who handcraft cocktails with local, seasonal ingredients have teamed up with Aberfeldy, the Gardening Giveback Project and the Bee Informed Partnership to create a unique cocktail recipe that makes honey bees' hard work the golden ingredient.

Brendan Bartley, one of the project's participating bartenders from Bathtub Gin, told ABC News' Good Morning America that "it's been amazing" to better understand how to "propagate and cultivate good habits" with the help of the nonprofit organization dedicated to working with beekeepers to help colony survivorship in the U.S.

"I mean, we're on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, and we have a little bee farm with our flower beds in the front, so it's been really eye-opening to have that in the middle of the city," he said.

Not only is the partnership a symbiotic match, but it creates a simple and sustainable supply chain to get high-quality ingredients to beverage directors like Bartley.

"You know where they're coming from and you understand where they're sourced," he said, adding that it gives him the ability to have "no carbon footprint of something getting shipped from very far away."

Plus, Bartley said, "the really exciting part about using local honey is that the pollen that the bees are collecting are different seasonally, so you're going to get little bits of flavor profiles that change by using local resources."

"You're getting this herbaceous, sweet and floral kind of nature, which kind of accentuates what's happening in the whiskey with its citrus and caramel and fruit undertones, so it all works together," he said of the aromatic cocktail.

Holly Seidewand, Aberfeldy’s North American brand ambassador, helps run the barrels and bees project and told GMA that this year partnered directly with Gardening Giveback to "help nationwide support more of these smaller apiaries and businesses" and support beekeepers as well as educate more bars.

In her work with the teams on urban rooftop apiaries and local beekeepers, Seidewand has learned that everyone can play a small role in helping strengthen the health of bee colonies.

"Even in a city, it really comes down to just a few flowers on a railing bed on your fire escape or even just maintaining some local gardens or little plant areas that you see," she explained. "Taking that initiative to work with bartenders and consumers in general and help them understand that it just takes a flower or two for each person and now you have all of these new pollinators around. If everyone did that the bees would be very healthy and fit in these cities."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Disneyland awaits.

"We are ready to reopen," Patrick Finnegan, vice president of Disney California Adventure Park & Downtown Disney District, said in a conference call Tuesday. "We are hoping for guidance [from the governor of California] soon."

Downtown Disney opened on July 9 with capacity restrictions to an "incredibly positive" reception.

Finnegan said the California theme park will utilize safety methods being used at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Cast members, he said, will soon be able to get tested for COVID-19 in their own communities. Thousands of Disneyland employees remain furloughed.

When the park reopens, Finnegan said guests can look forward to new experiences like the Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, echoed the "we're ready" sentiment of the call and asked local and state officials for concrete guidelines.

"I encourage you to treat theme parks as you would other sectors," he said. "The longer we wait the more devastation the impact to the OC and Anaheim communities. It's time."

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Calling all Toy Story fans!

It's been 25 years since the film's release and there's a new collection launching to help everyone celebrate in style.

Slated to release Oct. 1, Adidas and Pixar have joined forces to create a Toy Story Friendship collection featuring sneakers and apparel.

The collection draws inspiration from the timeless messages of friendship and teamwork.

"Now more than ever, this collaboration represents the importance of bringing people together on the court, in the classroom, on the playground and in the world," the brand wrote in a statement.

It's a reminder that we all have friends to lean on, just like Andy had Woody, Buzz and the whole Toy Story gang.

While there are many adults who would probably love to get their hands on this release, the collection has been specifically curated with sizes for juniors, children and infants with prices beginning at $22.

In total, there are seven sneakers included that celebrate all the famous characters fans of the film have grown to know and love.

The Dame 7 x Buxx sneaker has white, purple and green on the upper portion of the shoe and Buzz Lightyear details and glow-in-the-dark elements featured throughout.

Another standout, the D.O.N. Issue #2 x Wood has blue denim and print details that are a nod to Sheriff Woody's classic character. Andy’s name is also on the right outsole.

In 2019, Adidas and Pixar teamed up to create a Toy Story 4-themed capsule collection that released on the same day as the movie. This line included footwear and clothing as well.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(FREEMONT, Calif.) -- Tesla has announced new, internally-produced batteries for its electric cars, signaling a major shift from the automaker that, if successful, could significantly reduce the cost of electric vehicles. 

"I think it's the way all electric cars in the future will be made," said CEO Elon Musk at Tesla’s “Battery Day” event outside its production facility in Freemont, California.

Tesla's new battery cell features a "tabless" design, which the company claims will provide five times the energy, six times the power, and 16% more range compared to its old battery cell. 

The company's current vehicles use batteries sourced from suppliers like Panasonic, where the energy stored in the battery pack is transferred to the drivetrain via a conductive metal tab.

The new battery pack accomplishes the same thing by using a design that integrates a series of small bumps and spikes, which the company hopes will eliminate the need for a tab, and consequently drive down costs and production time. Musk tweeted the tech is "way more important than it sounds," after the patent was approved back in May.

Way more important than it sounds

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 7, 2020


"This is not just a concept or a rendering, we are starting to ramp up manufacturing of these cells at our pilot ten gigawatt-hour production facility," said Drew Baglino, Tesla’s Senior Vice President, Powertrain and Energy Engineering. 

Tesla also said the new batteries would be 56% less expensive to manufacture and are being developed entirely in-house.

"They own the whole widget," says Roberto Baldwin, Senior Editor of Technology at Car and Driver. "Which is what gives them the ability to control every aspect, and to tweak as much efficiency as they can out of everything - out of their batteries, out of their motors, out of their inverters."

Tesla's investments in its own battery tech don’t mean it's ramping down partnerships with other battery producers. CEO Elon Musk, in a tweet prior to the event, said Tesla plans to "increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL (possibly other partners too.)" He goes on to note the company predicts shortages in battery cell supply from those suppliers and is ramping up in-house efforts to mitigate those shortages. 

We intend to increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL (possibly other partners too). However, even with our cell suppliers going at maximum speed, we still foresee significant shortages in 2022 & beyond unless we also take action ourselves.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 21, 2020

During the event, Musk elaborated on those efforts saying that by 2022 they plan on producing 100-gigawatt hours of battery cells per year and by 2030 produce three terawatt-hours per year. 

“It allows us to make a lot more cars and a lot more stationary storage,” said Musk.

Bringing down the cost of battery production is part of Tesla’s plan to eventually sell 20 million vehicles annually- about fifty times more than they sell now.

“I think twenty million is doable,” says Baldwin. “As long as they can continue to grow, and continue to invest and sort of stay ahead of everyone.”

Part of that 20 million vehicle goal will come from a planned $25,000 Tesla, set to go on sale in about three years. It would undercut its current Model 3 sedan as the brand's cheapest vehicle. Musk also said it would be fully autonomous. 

“It was always our goal to try to make an affordable electric car,” said Musk. 

Musk said that while production is beginning, it will take between a year and eighteen months to fully ramp up production of the new batteries, and it will take longer for that technology to show up in actual vehicles. 

“Tesla has repeatedly set timetables and timelines, and then they’ve missed them,” says Baldwin.

The Model 3 faced significant delays as the company ramped up production in 2017. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, Tesla has also pushed back the planned releases for it’s “Semi” truck and “Roadster” sports car. But Baldwin notes the company is making improvements, noting the Model Y crossover was released ahead of schedule. 

“On the one hand, they’re taking all the learnings they’ve gotten over the past ten, twelve years, and they’re using that to make their batteries better,” says Baldwin. “But there’s still the potential this could be delayed another year, another four years.”

Tesla’s battery announcement comes at a time of increased competition in the electric vehicle market. Earlier this month, Lucid, an EV startup founded by the former head of engineering for Tesla’s own Model S sedan, unveiled an electric sedan called the Air, with a claimed 503 miles of range. General Motors’ “Ultium” battery pack, which the company unveiled earlier this year, is set to underpin 13 new electric vehicle models across four brands, starting with a new “HUMMER” pickup truck. Volkswagen says it plans to produce 1.5 million EVs annually by 2025 and is set to unveil the ID4, an electric crossover SUV that’s expected to have 310 miles of range, on Wednesday. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Guvendemir/iStockBy MINA KAJI and AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. aviation industry is urging the government to establish COVID-19 testing protocols before international flights as way to safely reopen travel routes that have been cut amid the pandemic.

Industry stakeholders want the U.S. to reach an agreement on pre-flight COVID-19 testing procedures with Europe, Canada or the Pacific first as part of a "limited testing pilot project." This would allow people to travel between two countries without the need to quarantine, and allow government officials to evaluate the efficacy of the program.

International travel among U.S. carriers is currently down 82% compared to last year as many countries' borders remain closed to U.S. citizens, according to Airlines for America. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates the loss of international travel and tourism will cost the U.S. economy $155 billion.

On Tuesday, global airlines called on governments to replace restrictive quarantine measures with COVID-19 tests prior to all international flights.

"A global agreement is needed to ensure test results on departure are accepted on arrival," International Air Transport Association Director General Alexandre de Juniac said. “It will also boost passenger confidence that everybody on the aircraft has been tested.”

There are several airports and airlines in other countries working on potential travel "bubble" or "airbridge" concepts. For example, Frankfurt Airport in Germany can now test up to 20,000 people a day for anyone who is traveling to a place where they might need a negative test upon arrival.

'We just don't have the capacity'

U.S. aviation stakeholders are "cognizant of the many complexities and issues surrounding COVID-19 testing," they wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in early September.

They said testing pilots must "address key considerations, including the availability and reliability of rapid diagnostic tests that can be conducted within a reasonable time window prior to departure."

The PCR test has a reported rate of false negatives as low as 2% and as high as 37%, according to a study in The BMJ. The antigen test has a reported rate of false negative results as high as 50%, the journal Science reported.

"These rapid tests are critical for understanding community spread, doing contact tracing and helping people do their jobs, be in school and live their lives safely," ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Jay Bhatt said. "Still, we need better tests and better access to them. The tests should have rigorous review by the FDA as soon as possible and we continue to need to improve our turnaround times for results."

United Airlines Chief Communication Officer Josh Earnest said the current limiting factor for U.S. airlines to implement these programs is not so much reliability, but availability.

"We would love to see the U.S. government work with international authorities to lower the barriers to international trade and commerce," Earnest told ABC News. "That would be good for the broader economy, it certainly would be good for a lot of U.S. citizens that are eager to travel, and obviously it would be really good for our business. ... We just don't have the capacity as a country, to do that many tests."

'Too many unanswered questions'

Aviation Security Expert Jeff Price is concerned about the pressure the scale of these operations would place on airports.

"We're talking about the installation of numerous testing stations, hiring tens of thousands of personnel throughout the country to do the testing and then implementing the infrastructure to take care of those passengers who test positive," Price told ABC News. "Do we immediately quarantine them and escort them out of the airport?"

He raised other questions such as how much longer will passengers have to arrive at the airport, how will passengers get refunds if they test positive and how long will the line be for people waiting to get tested?

"Long lines result in valid targets for terrorist bombings and active shooters," Price said. "I think a lot of people are so focused on the pandemic they forget that there are other risks out there."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- In a pre-pandemic world, the idea of stakeholder capitalism -- prioritizing employees, communities and other stakeholders as much as shareholders -- appeared to be gaining traction among some of the world’s largest companies.

Late last year, 181 CEOs of major corporations in the U.S., including Amazon's Jeff Bezos and JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, signed updated Business Roundtable guidelines saying the purpose of a corporation was to "promote an economy that serves all Americans." Many at the time saw this as major move that would usher in a new era of change in corporate America.

Stakeholder capitalism was even the theme of the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic walloped the global economy and put a major stress test on these promises.

A report released Tuesday, however, found that most of those companies whose CEOs signed the lofty commitment didn't follow through.

The study, funded by the Ford Foundation and conducted by consultancy firm KKS Advisors and the newly formed Test of Corporate Purpose, a group of researchers, found that companies that signed the Business Roundtable guidelines did not outperform S&P 500 peers in more than a dozen categories, including employee safety, labor practices, job security and COVID-19 policies.

"We conducted research looking at companies' performance during this great stress test, so the period was February to July," Mark Tulay, a contributing author of the report and the CEO of the Test of Corporate Purpose, a nonprofit group of researchers, told ABC News. "We specifically looked at the Business Roundtable signatories. We wanted to see, how did this play out using empirical research? And the answer was surprisingly the BRT signatories did not outperform -- they underperformed in some areas -- and they did not live up to their pledge as compared to S&P 500 companies and the 300 largest companies in Europe."

Tulay said he thinks their findings show that these companies need to take more "meaningful measures to safeguard employees, communities and other stakeholders."

Another interesting finding of the study, according to Tulay, was that stakeholder capitalism could be good for financial performance as well.

"What we found in the study is that companies that performed well on these environmental, social, corporate governance factors had healthier kind of bottom lines as well," he said. "I don't think there's a tradeoff between being a good corporate citizen and doing well by your shareholders."

A survey released by Harvard Law School in August examining whether the Business Roundtable statements would result in a meaningful shift found that among the companies that responded to inquiries, a vast majority said the statement was signed by their CEO without approval from the board of directors.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been one of the most vocal champions of stakeholder capitalism. The business leader courted scrutiny late last month for some of his comments about stakeholder capitalism when it emerged that Salesforce was laying off a handful of employees just after announcing its quarterly earnings topped $5 billion.

Tulay said the new study shows that "the time for talk is over."

"There needs to be more transparency, less slick, glossy commercials, and more public disclosure about the specific actions companies are taking to protect workers, communities, and address racial and income inequality," he said. "We need real actions and commitments."

He added that consumers and investors also have a role to play in stakeholder capitalism.

"The companies that are rated and ranked well in our study, we'd encourage investors and consumers to reward them," he said. "And the companies that underperformed should be engaged and encouraged to change."

Finally, Tulay added that it's in times of crisis "that really gives us the space to rethink things."

"We need a new way forward," he said. "Not to go back to normal."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


photosvit/iStockBy AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Planning to cruise in the future? Companies say they will mandate COVID tests for all passengers and crew prior to boarding once U.S. departures resume.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), a lobbying group that represents major cruise companies, said its members will adopt other health protocols such as mandatory mask wearing onboard and during certain excursions as well as increased social-distancing in terminals and aboard the ships.

CLIA said this is a “critical step” toward the resumption of operations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“These core elements will be continuously evaluated and adjusted against the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the availability of new prevention, therapeutics and mitigation measures,” CLIA said in a statement.

Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, called the testing mandate “unprecedented,” saying it could provide passengers with a sense of security.

“We are seeing from our readers that they are really open to the concept of COVID testing ahead of cruising. I think one of the things that it represents is a bit of a comfort level,” McDaniel said. “We have seen a real shift in that for many people, it’s not a deal breaker.”

Currently, certain ships are prohibited from sailing in U.S. waters under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) No Sail Order. The order is set to expire at the end of the month.

When asked if the order will be extended, the CDC said it currently does not have enough information “to say when it will be safe for cruise ships to resume passenger operations.”

“CDC will continue to work with cruise lines to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise lines begin sailing with passengers,” the agency said.

As companies look to resume passenger operations, thousands of crew members still remain on board ships.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) said that as of Sept. 18 it is tracking 60 cruise ships in U.S. waters with approximately 9,440 crewmembers on board. This number includes an estimated 200 American citizen crewmembers dispersed among 33 vessels, USCG said.

"There's still thousands on these ships, in large part, I think, for two reasons: one being they don't want to pay for private flights, and there's still some challenges related to flying commercially," Michael Winkleman, a Miami-based maritime attorney, said in a recent interview with ABC News. "The other part of it is that they're hopeful that they're going to resume sailing, so they would rather keep crew members on board."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — Estée Lauder may call its famous night serum "revolutionary," but now with the help of NASA, there's more to that catchphrase than meets the eye.

The serum is set to orbit the Earth every 93 minutes when its sent into space to join the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The cosmetics giant will pay $17,500 per hour for the astronauts to take photos of their serum in space. Coincidentally -- or not -- the Space Station orbits the earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

The International Space Station is an orbiting laboratory for scientific research, but it's the photo ops and viral videos that capture the public's imagination.

Estée Lauder will get video and photos of their out-of-this-world product in the most photographed spot on the space station -- the Cupola. The photos are not to be used in print or television advertising, but instead on social media, according to NASA. The astronauts won't be using the product or be featured in the pictures.

NASA encourages commercial investment in the space station, which is how Estée Lauder can send its night serum up on a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket set to launch Sept. 29.

NASA says it plans to dedicate up to 5% of astronaut time to commerce or business activities. Ninety hours of crew time will be available annually and 175 kilograms will be permitted for commercial purposes.

It's not the first time companies have sent their products to the space station. The hotel brand Double Tree sent up its famed chocolate chip cookies and Pizza Hut delivered pizza back in 2001 on a cargo ship.

This new commercial agreement opens up opportunities to offset the costs of operating this international orbiting laboratory, which is about $4 billion a year.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/YakobchukOlenaBY: MINA KAJI, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As people debate whether air travel is safe amid the pandemic, major U.S. airline CEOs are presenting new infection information about their employees.

"At United, but also at our large competitors, our flight attendants have lower COVID infection rates than the general population, which is one of multiple data points that speaks to the safety on board airplanes," United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Wednesday during a Politico event.

As of Monday, 6.8 million people in the U.S. have contracted the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data, an infection rate of 2%.

The largest flight attendant union in the U.S. that represents United flight attendants among other airlines -- the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO -- says they've seen a little over 1,000 flight attendants across the industry contract the novel coronavirus. That's less than 1% of the roughly 120,000 flight attendants that were employed at the end of last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Delta is testing all of their employees for COVID-19, both the active virus and antibodies, through a partnership with the Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics.

"If the experience of flying was not safe, you'd expect our people to get sick," Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on Thursday at the SAP Concur forum. "We track the health of our people. Our people are meaningfully less infected than the general population."

Air travel is at historic lows despite major U.S. airlines implementing changes aimed at reassuring passengers such as mandatory masks, plexiglass barriers, touchless kiosks and high-tech aircraft cleaning. Experts predict it won't return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says flying on an airplane increases the risk of getting COVID-19 pointing to time spent in security lines and airport terminals, "which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces."

Onboard the aircraft, the CDC admits, "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes," but that the risk increases on crowded flights where "social distancing is difficult ... and you may have to sit near others, sometimes for hours."

Three studies published in the CDC's journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases found likely cases of COVID-19 transmission onboard international flights, but the transmission occurred in settings where passengers were not wearing masks.

One recent modeling study published by Harvard's National Preparedness Leadership Initiative estimated that wearing a mask combined with the ventilation rates of aircraft may "reduce infection risk from respiratory particles to less than 1%."

Health care professionals' advice when choosing whether or not to fly is still to assess your own individual risk.

"You have to stop and think about what your current conditions are, what your risk is," Dr. Jay Bhatt, an ABC News medical contributor, said. "And also, double down on masking and distancing and maybe its not even going on that trip for you, and using the virtual capabilities we have. So ultimately it comes down to everyone assessing what their risk is."

ABC News' Amanda Maile, Sony Salzman, and Alexis Carrington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.




(LOS ANGELES) -- Ever been on a Zoom meeting and been distracted by what's behind the person you're talking to -- or you can't see them because they're sitting in the dark?  In today's COVID-19 world, we all need help presenting ourselves better on camera...and Suzanne Sena can help.

A broadcaster, actress, media trainer and "confidence coach," Sena is now training people on how to be V.I.P.s -- virtually impactful person -- on Zoom and video calls, offering tips  on how to come across professionally.

"The concept is really that everyone has to now be a broadcaster," she tells ABC Audio. "It doesn't matter if you studied to be an engineer or if you're a salesperson: 'Hello, camera!' We're all here now."

Among her tips: Watch those backgrounds.

"[Some people]...put a virtual background in...but all those things are subject to kinda crazy, distracting things," she says. "Y'know, you've seen a virtual background, somebody on a beach, and all of a sudden they move their arm and their arm disappears!"

Blank white walls aren't much better, says Sena.

"There are people who have the white background, but then they put, like, one photo, one piece of art, and then it's coming out of their head!" she notes.

Bookshelves? Think again.

"Some people sit in front of bookshelves, but if it's readable, then we're paying attention to what the book titles are," Senna explains. "The main objective is that you want wherever you're sitting to compliment you. You want to be able to be seen and you want to keep people's attention."

And finally, don't forget the lighting.

"People need to realize this is not about vanity," she laughs. "It's about seeing you as lifelike as I would if I were right there. And you're not going have a meeting with the lights off!"  

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jessica BerrellezBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Dozens of students in Maryland learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic are able to study at their own personal desks thanks to a group of local dads.

"I really appreciate them because without them I wouldn't have a desk right now," Brandon Sanchez, a seventh grade student who had been working at his family's dining room table before he received his personal desk, told ABC News' Good Morning America.

"It feels good," he said. "I can concentrate more because I'm in my room and there's no noise around me."

Brandon and other students have been gifted the desks courtesy of Desks by Dads, a group that is the brainchild of Jessica and Al Berrellez, the parents of three children in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Jessica Berrellez spent the summer putting together virtual learning kits for students in her daughters' schools when she realized that most students did not have the basic necessity of a desk.

"A lot of the students in our school who are low income may live in smaller spaces or in households that have multiple families," she said. "I started talking to families and it was pretty clear that kids were all working together at a table or working at their beds and it became clear that there was a need."

After scouring second-hand sites and realizing the demand for desks was greater than the supply, Jessica Berrellez asked her husband to make a prototype for a desk that would be relatively easy and cheap to make.

After watching a few YouTube tutorials, Al Berrellez delivered a blueprint for how to build a desk in about one hour for just $40.

The couple shared the blueprint for free on Facebook and with friends and other dads, who began making desks on their own.

To date, more than two dozen desks and counting have been delivered for free to students in the Gaithersburg area.

"Each volunteer who builds a desk makes it better and that's been awesome to watch," said Al Berrellez. "Every time someone drops off a donated desk to our house, we get to share ideas and build connections. It's also an opportunity to highlight the strengths of Black and brown dads, and show what we can contribute."

"Oftentimes it's the moms who are sort of responsible for supporting and organizing our children's education and more actively involved in volunteering, so this is a nice way to get dads involved and to capitalize on their strengths," added Jessica Berrellez.

The Berrellezes, who both work full-time in addition to doing virtual learning with their children, describe Desks by Dads as a weekend project for them that, thankfully, has exploded in popularity.

They plan to continue to do it locally until the demand is met, but say they hope their self-described "passion project" inspires other people to step up and help in whatever ways they can in their own communities.

"We're just two, busy parents who saw there's a need and we care about the children and families in our community and we want to help in a very small way," said Jessica Berrellez. "I think that's how change happens. It requires everyday people doing small things and having that grow into something bigger."

She said the hard work that has gone into the effort has been rewarded every time a student gets a new desk.

"The pride in their faces is awesome. It's so heartwarming," said Jessica Berrellez. "I think on a very basic level it's just about basic dignity and pride of learning."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Wendelland Caroyln/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


HasbroBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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