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What's next for Amazon union election in Alabama after do-over is ordered

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(NEW YORK) -- In a rare move, the National Labor Relations Board has ordered a union election do-over for Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama.

A date has not yet been determined for the second vote, but the looming new union election comes as the labor movement has gained new steam in recent months, propelled by unique market conditions and increased workplace activism seen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the initial election in April, Amazon warehouse workers overwhelmingly voted against forming a union at the Bessemer warehouse despite high-profile support for unionization at the time from lawmakers and even President Joe Biden.

The order for a new election stands unless Amazon files a request for review with the NLRB, which the board could reject (allowing the second union election to proceed) or grant (which would reverse the order for a second election). It also has not yet been determined whether the do-over vote will be in-person or by mail.

The re-run decision comes after the objections to the initial vote last April that were filed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which sought to represent the workers.

At the core of the union's objections was Amazon's installation of a Postal Service box outside the warehouse, which they said was aimed to make voting easier and improve turnout, but the union argued gave the impression that Amazon oversaw the election.

"The Employer's flagrant disregard for the Board's typical mail-ballot procedure compromised the authority of the Board and made a free and fair election impossible," NLRB Regional Director Lisa Henderson wrote in her decision calling for a second election.

"By installing a postal mailbox at the main employee entrance, the Employer essentially hijacked the process and gave a strong impression that it controlled the process," Henderson added. "This dangerous and improper message to employees destroys trust in the Board's processes and in the credibility of the election results."

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, welcomed the board's decision in a statement, saying it "confirms what we were saying all along -- that Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

"Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union," he added.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, called the decision "disappointing" in a statement, adding that the company believes in the benefits of direct relationships with employees without a union in the middle.

"Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year. It's disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn't count," Nantel said. "As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees. Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes -- quickly."

"That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle. The benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees can't be overstated -- these relationships allow every employee's voice to be heard, not just the voices of a select few," Nantel added. "While we've made great progress in important areas like pay and safety, we know there are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, both in our fulfillment centers and in our corporate offices, and that's our focus -- to work directly with our employees to keep getting better every day."

Union membership has dwindled in recent decades, falling to 10.8% in 2020 among salaried and wage-earning workers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1983, the first year the BLS collected this data, that figure was 20.1%.

Despite the slumping figures, approval for labor unions in the U.S. is at its highest level since 1965, according to Gallup data. Some 68% of Americans approve of labor unions in 2021, the highest recorded by Gallup since a 71% mark in 1965.

Some labor economists have attributed this gap between support for unions and union membership rates to increased employer resistance to unionization and outdated labor laws that make it difficult to organize in the workplace.

 

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Prosecutors question Elizabeth Holmes, 1 day after she leveled abuse claims against her former partner and company COO

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(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is back on the stand Tuesday, facing questions from prosecutors after she tearfully told the jury Monday about what she described as nearly a decade of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her former romantic partner and company COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

Holmes, 37, said that Balwani, 56, forced her to have sex with him and “prescribed” her a schedule which included who to meet with and what to eat.

"He impacted everything about who I was," said Holmes, who paused before continuing. "And I don't fully understand that."

“He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know that he still loved me,” Holmes also told the court while being questioned on the stand by her lead attorney, Kevin Downey.

Balwani was charged as her co-defendant but was granted a severed trial in March after learning that Holmes’ lawyers might use the abuse claims as part of their defense.

Balwani’s trial is scheduled for early 2022. He denies all allegations.

The former Theranos CEO, who dropped out of college at 19 and went on to launch the once burgeoning biotech start-up that promised to revolutionize blood testing, is charged with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She could face decades in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Holmes testified that Balwani did not force her to make misleading statements to the press and investors. But the impact of Balwani’s alleged abuse on her was pervasive, she said.

Holmes also testified that before she met Balwani, she was raped by someone else while attending Stanford University, which she said factored into her decision to drop out and “pour” herself into building Theranos.

“I decided I was going to build a life by building this company,” she told jurors.

Holmes was 18 years old when she met Balwani, then 38, overseas in China. She said she understood at the time he was a “really successful business person” and asked his advice on building a company.

The pair dated from 2005 to 2016, a relationship Holmes characterized as persistently abusive.

“He told me that I didn’t know what I was doing in business ... that he was astonished at my mediocrity ... and that I needed to kill the person that I was to become what he would call a new Elizabeth who could be a successful entrepreneur,” Holmes said.

Santa Clara Law professor Ellen Kreitzberg said the bombshell allegations about Balwani could be used by her counsel to argue she had no intent to defraud — a key element of the charges leveled against her.

Prosecutor Robert Leach should be “very focused on her intent to defraud in [his] questions,” she said.

“[His] tone should also be non-confrontational, especially to start since she projected a sympathetic figure yesterday,” Kreitzberg added. “They need to be able to argue that, even if she was influenced by Balwani, she knew information was false, she intentionally gave it to investors, and she did so to get money from them.”

 

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Walmart CEO optimistic about holiday inventory, comments on FTC supply chain probe

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(NEW YORK) -- As holiday shopping season ramps up, Walmart CEO John Furman addressed the concerns of prices and how long supplies will last.

Furman told Good Morning America that President Joe Biden, who met with retail executives this week, and his administration have "been a great help."

"We're all working together to make sure that customers have what they need over the holiday season and ended our third quarter up in inventory," Furman said. "It took a lot of work on behalf of our team and they're working really hard."

As the calendar dwindles down on 2021, Furman said that "it's always a good idea to shop early" and "just like every year there's something hot, a hot toy -- like game consoles -- but we have a couple things we can help with."

"Last week we had our biggest day ever in terms of delivery," he said of their Walmart Plus membership program. "But there's some categories like Christmas decor -- that are selling quick."

Other trends that Furman said Walmart has seen and prepared for, are people "spending a lot more time together in groups."

For Thanksgiving alone, he said "we sold over 10 million turkeys, which is about 2 million more than last year, so it tells you a bit about how many families are getting together and spending time together."

The Federal Trade Comission has launched a probe into the supply chain issues, which Furman said Walmart just learned about, and said he is optimistic about the company's position in the market.

"A lot of what you see in stores and online, all the products and what's available, these are the results of plans, in most cases, that started over a year ago. Our merchants work about 12 months out to determine what they think the trends are, what people will be looking for," he said. "And we're proud of our inventory position at this point."

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Travel Tuesday: How to find the best flight deals

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(NEW YORK) -- Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Travel Tuesday? Tuesday marks a potentially big day for saving if you're looking to snag a deal on a trip in 2022.

"A lot of folks in the travel industry are trying to encourage people to not just buy things over the holiday weekend, but buy experiences as well," Scott Keyes, Scott's Cheap Flights founder and author of Take More Vacations, said. "Buy travel and treat yourself to that gift of those lifetime memories from trips you take."

Paul Couch, a city surveyor from Akron, Ohio, is looking to do just that. He will be scouring the airlines' websites for a reasonably-priced getaway this travel holiday.

"I'm hoping for the best," he said. "Just kind of checking the different locations out and if something strikes my eye, you know a place I haven't been to, then I'll look for travel dates and book a flight and hotel and all that."

In 2019, before the pandemic, online booking platform Hopper said it saw more flights discounted on Travel Tuesday than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

"We typically see about 34 deals per second here at Hopper," Hopper economist Adit Damodaran told ABC News. "That's 30% more than we usually see on any other day throughout the year. So, that's really a great time to be booking those flights for 2022."

Several airlines have announced promotional discounts over the last few days: JetBlue is offering $50 off one-way and $100 off round trip tickets; Aer Lingus is offering up to $200 off economy fares and up to $300 off business class fares from the U.S.; Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, and many more are offering discounts for certain destinations.

But Keyes says the real "hidden secret of the travel world" is that the best deals actually come from un-advertised sales.

"Just in the past two or three days alone, we've seen flights nonstop to Hawaii for $158 round trip nonstop, to Costa Rica for $176 round trip nonstop, down to Aruba for $226 round trip," he said. "These are fares that have been popping up that are not getting any advertising dollars behind them. You're not going to see them in your inbox from the airlines promoting them, but they're quietly offering these fares, and so the key is to be able to find out about them before they disappear."

If you're looking for a deal tomorrow, Keyes recommends looking at the fine print.

"You're going to see a lot of airlines say '25% off,' '50% off,' 'This is one of our biggest sales of the year,'" he warned. "But oftentimes, that doesn't include taxes and fees, all of these types of things that oftentimes can make up the majority of what a ticket costs. So, seeing what the actual price looks like, and then trying to compare it to well, is this a good deal? Is this significantly cheaper than what I might have expected to pay last week or what I might expect to see next week?"

And don't worry if you can't find that perfect price, Keyes says, you still have plenty of time.

"Cheap flights are constantly popping up throughout the year, and so don't put extra pressure on yourself to book something on Travel Tuesday," he said. "If it just seems like an OK deal you can rest assured that constantly deals are going to continue to pop up throughout the rest of this year and certainly into next year."

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Christmas tree farmers prepare for bigger crowds, more demand this holiday season

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(NEW YORK) -- The holiday season is in full swing and tree farmers across the country are preparing for the Christmas crowds.

At Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Waynesville, North Carolina, customers can cut down their own Christmas tree. Darren Nicholson, who works at the farm, said he is grateful to see people "coming out in record numbers to get the perfect Christmas tree."

Across the country, wholesale tree grower The Jonsteen Company packages live tree saplings and seed growing kits. The California-based company specializes in Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwoods but offers a variety of different trees, including evergreens, giving customers a chance to plant their own Christmas tree and watch it grow over the years.

One Jonsteen customer, Martin Harmon, and his family, who live south of Atlanta, planted their Christmas tree years ago and now it's a full-grown evergreen.

The Fowler family from Lexington, Kentucky, planted their Jonsteen tree in their front yard and have already decorated it with lights.

Other small businesses all over the country are gearing up for the holiday rush, like Authenticity50. The California-based bedding and home goods company was co-founded by husband and wife Jimmy and Steph McDonald.

Last year, they started using their materials to sew masks in the middle of the pandemic.

All of their products are 100% American made. The McDonalds said the cotton is from California, the yarn is spun in Georgia, the sheets they sell are cut and sewn in South Carolina, their button are from Connecticut and their packaging is made in Illinois.

The McDonalds said the advantage of having their products made in the U.S. is that they are fully stocked during ongoing supply chain shortages.

"We haven't had to deal with container ships stuck at port," said Jimmy McDonald.

"Buying local helps us sustain our small business and 1,000 local jobs from coast to coast," added Steph McDonald.

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Nissan to invest $17.6 billion to accelerate electrification plans as auto industry evolves

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(NEW YORK) -- Japanese car giant Nissan Motor Co. said it plans to invest $17.6 billion to accelerate its electrification plans, as the industry as a whole pivots away from gas-powered autos.

Nissan said it will invest 2 trillion Japanese yen over the next five years (just under $17.6 billion) and will launch 23 new electrified models, including 15 new electric vehicles.

The company said it is aiming to have a 50% electrification lineup by 2030 as part of its "Nissan Ambition 2030" initiative, which will put electrification at the center of its long-term strategy.

"The role of companies to address societal needs is increasingly heightened," Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said in a statement. "With Nissan Ambition 2030, we will drive the new age of electrification, advance technologies to reduce carbon footprint and pursue new business opportunities."

"We want to transform Nissan to become a sustainable company that is truly needed by customers and society," Uchida added.

Nissan wants to launch an electric vehicle with its proprietary all-solid-state batteries by fiscal year 2028 and prepare a pilot plant for EVs in Yokohama, Japan, as early as fiscal year 2024. The company promises that its all-solid-state batteries will significantly reduce charging time and make electric vehicles more efficient and accessible.

Nissan was among the original pioneers of mainstream electric vehicles with its battery-powered Leaf, which first launched in 2010. A growing number of major carmakers, from Ford to General Motors, have similarly announced recent plans to invest heavily in electrification.

“We are proud of our long track record of innovation, and of our role in delivering the EV revolution. With our new ambition, we continue to take the lead in accelerating the natural shift to EVs by creating customer pull through an attractive proposition by driving excitement, enabling adoption and creating a cleaner world," Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta said in a statement Monday.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced a set of actions aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks and signed an executive order that set a goal of having half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 be zero emissions vehicles.

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Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is resigning from Twitter

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(NEW YORK) -- Jack Dorsey is resigning from his role as CEO of Twitter, the social media platform he co-founded in 2006, he announced in a tweet on Monday.

"After almost 16 years of having a role at our company...from co-founder to CEO to Chair to Exec Chair to interim-CEO to CEO...I decided its finally time for me to leave," Dorsey wrote. "Why? There's a lot of talk about the importance of a company being 'founder-led.' Ultimately I believe that's severely limiting and a single point of failure. I've worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders."

He said that Twitter's chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will replace him as CEO, effective on Monday. Agrawal has been with Twitter for more than 10 years and has been in his role as CTO since 2017.

"My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep," Dorsey wrote.

Agrawal thanked the board and Dorsey in a separate statement Monday.

"I look forward to building on everything we have accomplished under Jack's leadership and I am incredibly energized by the opportunities ahead," Agrawal said. "By continuing to improve our execution, we will deliver tremendous value for our customers and shareholders as we reshape the future of public conversation."

Dorsey added that current board member and Salesforce veteran Bret Taylor would take over his role as chair of the board.

In a statement released by Twitter, Taylor thanked Dorsey on behalf of the board for his "visionary leadership and unrelenting dedication to Twitter since its founding."

"Jack returned to Twitter and turned the Company around at the most critical time. The progress since then has been nothing short of incredible. Jack has given the world something invaluable and we will continue to carry it forward," Taylor added. "Parag understands Twitter and appreciates the Company's unique potential. He has been instrumental in tackling our most important priorities, including accelerating our development velocity, and I know he'll hit the ground running to strengthen execution and deliver results."

The Twitter co-founder will serve on the board through "May-ish" to help with the transition, he said in his tweet. He said he will then leave the board because he believes "it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction."

Finally, Dorsey said the decision to resign was his own.

Dorsey has been in his most recent role as CEO since September 2015. The eccentric tech chief has led Twitter to become the behemoth it now is and helped him become a billionaire. Dorsey recently sold the first-ever Tweet, which he penned in March 2006 and states, "just setting up my twttr," as an NFT for some $2.9 million.

Dorsey's previous Tweet on Sunday, before the announcement on Monday, stated: "I love twitter."

Twitter shares surged early Monday after a CNBC report that said Dorsey was stepping down. By around 11:15 a.m. ET, Twitter shares were up some 5% for the day.

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Mom uses thousands of data points to show workload of maternity leave

Courtesy Michael DiBenigno and Kristen Cuneo

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- For any mom who's ever been asked if they "enjoyed their vacation" during maternity leave, Kristen Cuneo has the perfect reply.

Cuneo, who works for a technology company in the San Francisco Bay area, created a data visualization showing as data points every bottle feed, breastfeed and diaper change she completed in the first seven weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Autumn, in January.

Just a few seconds into the visualization, the data points take up an entire screen.

"Objectively, it's a lot, and every data point took time, ranging from five minutes for a diaper change to 30 minutes for a feeding, on average," said Cuneo, presenting the data to coworkers. "The real kicker is when it happens, 24 hours a day."

Cuneo's presentation was shared on TikTok by her husband, Michael DiBenigno, co-founder of Flow Immersive, a California-based company that focuses on data storytelling.

It quickly went viral, with hundreds of thousands of likes and over 2,000 comments.

"And that does not include laundry, bathing, well baby checkups, getting baby to sleep, fussy baby or the fact that baby needs to be held constantly," wrote one commenter.

"All while recovering from a major medical procedure! Moms of newborns are absolutely amazing," wrote another commenter.

Another commenter alluded to the fact that there is currently no federal paid leave in the United States, writing, "This woman needs to be in front of Congress."

Only 27% of private industry workers currently have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cuneo told "Good Morning America" she considers herself lucky to have had a "very generous" five months of maternity leave.

She said she also feels grateful that her presentation has helped so many people "feel so seen and heard."

"It is a shared experience, even though it is hard," Cuneo said of being a new parent. "The response that we've gotten has been completely mind-boggling, that so many people can have this experience, and yet something like this could resonate so powerfully for them whether or not they're currently raising a child or maybe they did 20 years ago."

Cuneo and DiBenigno created the presentation by using data compiled in a baby habit-tracking app they started using when Autumn was a newborn.

"We had heard over and over that being a new parent, you never sleep, but it's hard to understand what that really felt like," said DiBenigno. "It wasn't until we saw the data points and put together this visualization that we were like, 'Wow, you see that continual, never-ending cycle of the mundane, routine labor of all these things that are just necessary.'"

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Dow sinks more than 900 points on concerns over South Africa COVID-19 variant

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(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 900 points on Friday over concerns about the spread of the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa.

Anxiety among investors grew as countries ramped up responses to the variant, called B.1.1.529, first detected in Botswana. The United Kingdom and European Union quickly moved to propose travel restrictions to southern Africa, while new cases of the variant were found as far away as Hong Kong, Belgium and Israel.

The Dow fell 2.53%, to 34,899, while the Nasdaq fell 2.23%, to 15,492, and the S&P tumbled 2.27% to 4,595.

Trading ends early on Black Friday, often the slowest day of the year. Fewer trades can mean increased volatility, and at one point the Dow had fallen more than 1,000 points.

Global health authorities have now confirmed 87 cases -- 77 in South Africa, six in Botswana, two in Hong Kong and one each in Israel and Belgium -- and said they're expecting hundreds more diagnoses.

Over the summer, markets tumbled as the delta variant spread throughout the U.S.

"Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known," Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, a foreign trading company, wrote in a report, according to The Associated Press.

Investors are worried that supply chains already stretched thin may suffer further as the new variant spreads, potentially threatening more labor shortages, according to the AP. The variant also is putting pressure on central banks, which are contemplating whether to raise interest rates to stave off rising inflation.

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Classic car shows evolve alongside a new generation of car enthusiasts

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(NEW YORK) -- Classic car shows have long been a staple of car enthusiasm -- a place for gearheads to gather with fellow enthusiasts to show off their antique rides.

"The vibe is usually really, really chill. It usually happens pretty early in the morning on the weekend," says Kristen Lee, deputy editor of automotive news site, The Drive. "People bring their dogs, they get all their cars polished up and they come and they park, and they kind of just walk around and admire everybody's ride."

A recent show in New York City featured the usual classics. Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes and Chevelles, Pontiac Firebirds, and Dodge Challengers from the '50s and '60s were all well represented. The cars weren't the only throwbacks either -- music from Billy Joel and Elvis Presley echoed around the event from carefully placed speakers.

But Lee says if you've been to enough of these shows, you might start to notice some trends.

"For me, as a kind of a showgoer for so long, it's kind of felt like a gatekept community. Like, no one, obviously, has turned me away, but a lot of the shows that I grew up going to was a lot of people my parents' age," says Lee, adding: "it never really looked like something I could participate in."

And an older audience tends to favor older cars, says Bradley Brownell, a writer at automotive website Jalopnik.

"There's always been this line of delineation at 1973 with the oil crisis," he says.

Brownell says 1973 is an important year in car culture because it marks the beginning of what some call the "Malaise Era," a term popularized after President Jimmy Carter's 1979 "Crisis of Confidence" speech, despite the fact the word "malaise" never appears in the speech. New regulations from the federal government designed to crack down on poor fuel economy resulted in a 1970s automobile market that many complained was not as exciting as the decade prior - and echoes from that time reverberated for decades.

"Traditional enthusiasts will tell you that after '73, everything's garbage. 'It's emissions controls. fuel injection, it's impossible to work on,'" says Brownell.

But Brownell isn't a traditional enthusiast. He's the co-founder of "Radwood" -- a car show that caters to vehicles that came after the Malaise Era, specifically "between 1980 and 1999."

And it all started with one of his own cars: a 1983 Porsche 944.

"I loved that car," he says. "And I invested so much time, and occasionally money into that car."

But the energy that went into the Porsche wasn't always appreciated, Brownell says, which is where the idea for Radwood was born.

"I took it to a car show and when I went to pay the entry [fee], they were like 'are you sure you want to come into this car show? You know what we're doing here, right?'" says Brownell. "I kind of had that feeling like, 'there needs to be a place for people like me, where I have so much emotional investment in this car, and I love this car, but it's kind of a misfit.'"

He says the types of cars you'll see at Radwood vary based on the region in which the show is taking place, but can feature everything from Geo Metro convertibles, to Ferrari 348s and Lamborghini Diablos. Porsche and BMW are often the best-represented marques, however.

"That's the crazy thing about Radwood is literally everything from that era is welcome and encouraged and appreciated."

Brownell says on average every show also features at least one Delorean - the car from the 1985 film "Back to the Future." And it's not just cars that are setting their flux capacitors back a few decades, according to Lee.

"Radwood kind of embodies, like, a very powerful nostalgic vibe. So people play a lot of eighties music, people dress up in eighties attire."

The first Radwood took place in southern California in 2017, and since then it has travelled to more than a dozen cities across the country. Brownell says over the years, the show has attracted car enthusiasts from all walks of life, from "people who weren't alive when these cars were built to people who owned them brand new."

Lee says the success of Radwood and shows like it highlight a broader shift in car culture.

"These new shows feel a lot more inclusive, there's a lot less gatekeeping. It feels like a safer space," says Lee. "I think that's - that's also indicative of the way that automotive enthusiasm is moving as well."

"What we're seeing in some of the mainstream media and stuff like that - they say that 'car culture is dying, with the introduction of the electric vehicle, car enthusiasts just no longer exist.' And that's not true." says Chad Kirchner, Editor In Chief of electric car news site EV Pulse.

Kirchner says there's a new type of car enthusiasm brewing amid the broader shift to electric power in the automotive industry. That includes everything from Tesla-specific tuner shops to homemade EV conversions of gas-powered cars.

"People on TikTok that I see that are electrifying Chargers and Challengers and all of this stuff, just homebrewing this," he says.

Kirchner says EV enthusiasm requires a different set of skills than traditional gearheads may be used to, but it still brings out the same passion for cars that made Radwood a success.

"Sometimes hacking, sometimes it requires engineering, but what it definitely does require is enthusiasm," says Kirchner.

That's why he recently teamed up with Brownell to create another car show called "Autopia 2099." The show, set to take place in early December in Los Angeles, is focused on all-electric vehicles.

"It's supposed to be a bunch of people hanging out and expressing their enthusiasm for electrified propulsion, whether it is a brand new Tesla or whether it is - maybe somebody has a GM EV1," says Kirchner.

"One of the things we want to do is we want to break down the barriers of fancy EV technology. We want people who are curious about EVs and how they work and how they charge to come out and meet people who actually own them and drive them every day," says Brownell.

Brownell says they're expecting to see everything from EV-converted Mustangs and BMWs to an electric VW Microbus. One car not likely to make it to Autopia 2099, however, is Brownell's own EV project car: A Porsche Boxster into which he's planning to install a Tesla motor. He says the goal is for the car to develop around 1200 horsepower.

"That's part of why it's not done yet. I'm afraid of what my own brain has thought up."

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T-Mobile to pay nearly $20 million after outage leads to thousands of 911 calls failing

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(NEW YORK) -- T-Mobile will pay some $19.5 million as part of a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission after a 12-hour outage in June of last year resulted in the failure of tens of thousands of emergency 911 calls.

The FCC announced the agreement that would resolve its investigation into the matter, saying T-Mobile has agreed to pay the multi-million dollar settlement and implement a compliance plan with new commitments to improve the 911 outage notices given to public safety answering points, as well as provide follow-up notices to them within two hours of the initial outage notifications.

On June 15, 2020, a 12-hour and 13-minute outage took place that led to congestion across T-Mobile's 4G, 3G and 2G networks, according to the FCC, and resulted in the "complete failure" of more than 23,000 911 calls. The outage also resulted in tens of thousands of 911 calls without location or call back information made available.

"We understand how critical reliable connectivity is to ensure public safety and we take that responsibility very seriously," T-Mobile told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. "We have built resiliency into our emergency systems to ensure that our 911 elements are available when they're needed."

"This was a short-term isolated outage and we immediately took steps to further enhance our network to prevent this type of event from happening in the future," the company added. "Now we are moving on from the FCC's investigation and continuing our focus on our ongoing network build."

The settlement announcement this week comes on the heels of a separate cyberattack saga T-Mobile recently disclosed to customers. In August, the company said that the personal information of millions of current and prospective customers had been compromised in a data breach that was the result of a "highly sophisticated cyberattack."

 

 

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When might the release from the US strategic oil reserve affect gas prices?

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(NEW YORK) -- The White House announcement Tuesday that the U.S is taking the rare step of releasing oil from the nation's strategic reserve in an attempt to lower gas prices comes as inflation-battered Americans are feeling the pinch at the pump ahead of Thanksgiving travel.

While the news could bring relief of five to 15 cents per gallon in the coming days and weeks, industry experts told ABC News, they remain skeptical about whether the move will ease longer-term pressures in the oil market and concerned over how oil producers could punitively respond.

The announcement that the U.S. will disperse 50 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- a complex of four sites with deep underground storage caverns created in salt domes along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts -- comes as gas prices hover near a seven-year-high for this time of year, largely due to supply-demand imbalances wrought by the pandemic. The White House is taking action, meanwhile, amid soaring gas prices seen as hurting President Joe Biden's approval ratings.

"It's very much political," Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at the fuel price-tracking site GasBuddy, told ABC News of the release. "We've never used the Strategic Petroleum Reserve merely to to bring prices down."

The 50 million barrels of oil the U.S. plans to release represents about one-twelfth of the total in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Historically, the U.S. has tapped into this reserve in response to immediate disruptions in oil supply, like hurricanes.

"The SPR has historically been there as a strategic use in case of disruption," DeHaan added. "It presents a bit of a slippery slope that now it's going to be used politically, to improve a candidate's reelectability or potential."

"That's why Biden feels so much pressure, Americans are feeling pressure, gas prices are at their highest they've been this time of year in seven years," he said. "But it also puts the nation at further risk in case OPEC decides it wants to cut oil production or, in fact, the increase from the SPR could draw OPEC's ire and cause them to lower the restoration of oil production."

A senior administration official, citing a low global supply of oil that is contributing to driving up fuel costs, said the decision was made to ease costs on American consumers as pressures between demand and the easing of the pandemic create unique conditions.

During remarks on Tuesday, Biden said he was "announcing that the largest ever release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help provide the supply we need as we recover from this pandemic."

"This coordinated action will help us deal with the lack of supply, which in turn helps ease prices," the president said. "It will take time, but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank."

As the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 shock, oil demand is surging and more travelers are hitting the road and taking flights, causing demand for gas -- and prices -- to rise at a rapid clip. At the same time, the supply and production of oil has not kept up with increased demand. OPEC+, a conglomerate of the world’s biggest oil producers, has resisted repeated calls by the White House to boost global production.

"At the end of the day, this is a short-term Band-Aid," said Jeff Kilburg, the chief investment officer at Sanctuary Wealth, told ABC News.

He added crude oil prices have come down in recent weeks, in part in anticipation of an announcement that the U.S. and other countries would tap into oil reserves. But after the White House formalized the news Tuesday, crude futures actually traded higher.

"This was a surprise that everyone saw coming," Kilburg said.

Longer-term price drops are more dependent on boosting global oil production, he added.

President Biden, meanwhile, put the blame on "gas supply companies" for the prices at the pump staying elevated.

"The fact is the price of oil was already dropping prior to this announcement and many suggest in anticipation of the announcement," Biden said during his Tuesday remarks. "The price of gasoline in the wholesale market has fallen by about 10% over the last few weeks. But the price at the pump hasn't budged a penny. In other words, gas supply companies are paying less and making a lot more. And they do not seem to be passing that on to the consumers at the pump."

How and when will this affect gas prices?

Typically, prices at the pump lag crude oil prices by a couple of weeks, but GasBuddy's DeHaan said speculation that this announcement was coming had already been driving crude oil prices down over the past week.

DeHaan said he expects this announcement to bring down gas prices by some five to 15 cents per gallon depending on the state, and most Americans should start seeing this at the pump "in the next couple of days" or weeks at most.

As of Tuesday, the national average gas price in the U.S. was $3.403 per gallon for regular gas, according to American Automobile Association data. A week ago, that figure was $3.411, a month ago it was $3.382, and a year ago -- as the pandemic raged -- it was $2.109.

This relief Americans will see as a result of this announcement, however, will likely be "underwhelming," according to DeHaan, and not a long-term solution.

"I'm not sure that national [gas price] average will drop as much as what Biden had intended or hoped for," he said.

DeHaan also said there was some "accounting maneuvers" being used in that of the 50 million barrels released, 32 million barrels are going to be "exchanged."

"That is, oil companies can take delivery now and it's like an 'IOU,' they have to replenish them later," he said. "Which is not necessarily an outright gain to supply because they have to replenish that."

The biggest threat of this announcement is that OPEC+ has already hinted at the fact that it may limit future production increases to offset the U.S. and other countries strategic reserve releases, DeHaan added.

"Prior to this SPR announcement, I would have expected that OPEC increases in production that they've been doing monthly would have brought meaningful relief by early- to mid-2022," DeHaan said. "But now, I think that might be threatened if OPEC responds."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Macy's iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are now NFTs

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(NEW YORK) -- Macy's is turning some of the iconic balloon designs from its annual Thanksgiving Day parades into non-fungible tokens (NFTs), some of which will be auctioned to benefit the Make-A-Wish foundation.

NFTs have become adopted by the mainstream and are especially popular among budding digital art collectors.

Macy's first-ever NFT series is launching in celebration of its 95th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is returning in full-swing this year after pandemic restrictions curbed some of its excitement last year.

"As we celebrate our rich legacy, 95 years in the making, we were struck by the unique place the Parade holds in pop culture, always evolving and reflecting the greatest characters and artists of each generation," Will Coss, the executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, said in a statement.

"To celebrate that history, we created art in a new form through NFTs that would bring the magic of the Parade to a new generation while raising funds for our partner Make-A-Wish," Coss added.

The NFTs are based on Macy's archival content and balloons that have appeared over the parade's nine-decade history. They are being designed by a digital art agency REOMETRY.

Starting last Friday and going through Nov. 30, Macy's is auctioning 10 of its unique NFT designs, and 100% of the proceeds generated from these 10 digital collectibles will go toward benefitting Make-A-Wish, a group that grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.

Macy's is also dropping an additional 9,500 free generative NFTs, featuring past parade balloon designs, that will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 10 a.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day. The auction and NFT drop can be accessed at macys.com/NFT.

Bids on some of the 10 NFTs up for auction have already topped $5,000 as of Tuesday.

The NFTs are powered by the platform Sweet and built on the Polygon blockchain. Even if the free NFTs are sold by fans in the future, 10% of any sales generated will be donated to Make-A-Wish, in perpetuity, using the blockchain technology.

NFTs have exploded in popularity amid the pandemic, creating an entirely new marketplace in recent years for digital collectors. Many recent NFT sales have garnered eye-brow raising sums. An NFT of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet fetched some $2.9 million in March. A collage by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, fetched a whopping $69 million when it was auctioned as an NFT by Christie’s.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kellogg restarts talks with workers as strike enters seventh week

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(BATTLE CREEK, Mich.) -- Negotiations are resuming on Monday between Kellogg Co. and the union representing some 1,400 cereal plant workers who have been on strike for more than six weeks.

The workers, who have been striking since Oct. 5, are being represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). Talks between union leaders and Kellogg's fizzled early in November after the two sides failed to reach an agreement and further negotiations were put on hold for weeks before Monday's meeting.

The ongoing strike involves Kellogg's plants across four states and comes amid a spate of work stoppages hitting the private sector in the U.S. Unique labor market conditions in the wake of the COVID-19 shock to the economy, including record-high levels of workers quitting their jobs, have been linked to new employee activism in recent weeks.

"We look forward to getting back to the table and are committed to negotiating in good faith," Kellogg's said in an update Friday. "We remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement soon so our employees can get back to work and back to their lives."

The union rejected a proposal from Kellogg's on Nov. 4, saying in a statement at the time that the company's "last, best and final offer does not achieve what our members are asking for; a predictable pathway to fully vested, fully benefitted employment for all employees with no concessions."

"The company came to the table insisting that there will only be an agreement if the Union accepts the company proposal exactly as it has been written," the union's statement added. "The company’s proposal was filled with conditions and terms as to what was acceptable to Kellogg’s. These terms and conditions are unacceptable to our members."

After the union rejected the proposal, Kellogg said it was continuing operations at the four plants where the workers are on strike with hourly and salaried employees and "third-party resources producing food."

"The bottom line is that our proposals address what the union has told us are their primary concerns," Ken Hurley, Kellogg’s head of labor relations, said in a statement. "The union does not seem interested in revising its proposals or exploring creative solutions to resolve issues."

The union and Kellogg's did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for further comment.

The striking workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee help produce Kellogg cereals including Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Fruit Loops, Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes, according to the union.

A separate strike at agricultural machinery giant John Deere ended just last week after waging on for over a month. The new agreement gave John Deere workers an $8,500 signing bonus and a 20% increase in wages over the life of the contract, among other things, in a deal some say highlights the new power workers are seizing in a post-pandemic labor market.

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Biden nominates Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to 2nd term

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden announced Monday he will nominate Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to a second four-year term amid new concerns about controlling inflation and took the opportunity to respond to those who have voiced opposition to Powell's nomination.

"As chair, Jay undertook a landmark review to reinforce the Federal Reserve's mission towards delivering full employment, for making strong progress towards that goal now, and I believe Jay is the right person to see us through and finish that effort while also addressing the threat of inflation and what it poses to our economies and families," Biden said at an afternoon event at the White House alongside his nominees.

"Now some will, no doubt, question why I'm renominating Jay when he was the choice of a Republican predecessor. 'Why am I not picking a Democrat? Why am I not picking fresh blood or taking the Fed in a different direction?'" Biden said.

"Put directly, at this moment of both enormous potential and enormous uncertainty for our economy, we need stability and Independence at the Federal Reserve. Jay's proven the independence that I value in the federal -- in the fed chair. In the last administration, he stood up to unprecedented political interference and in doing so successfully maintained the integrity and credibility of this institution. It's just one of the many reasons that Jay has support from across the political spectrum," he added, before inviting Powell to speak.

Biden also said he would nominate Dr. Lael Brainard, a longtime Federal Reserve official and former Treasury Department undersecretary, to serve as vice chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

"While there's still more to be done, we've made remarkable progress over the last 10 months in getting Americans back to work and getting our economy moving again. That success is a testament to the economic agenda I've pursued and to the decisive action that the Federal Reserve has taken under Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard to help steer us through the worst downturn in modern American history and put us on the path to recovery," he said in an earlier statement.

The announcement follows recent questions surrounding whether Biden would renominate Powell, a Republican, who was nominated to chair the Federal Reserve in 2017 by then-President Donald Trump. Powell was first nominated to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors by then-President Barack Obama in 2011 before Trump elevated him to succeed Janet Yellen, who now serves as Biden's treasury secretary.

"Fundamentally, if we want to continue to build on the economic success of this year we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve -- and I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs," he added in the statement.

Powell and Brainard both offered brief remarks at the White House, vowing to work on behalf of all Americans to increase the resilience of the economy.

"We understand that our decisions matter for American families and communities," Powell said of their work at the Federal Reserve. "I strongly share that sense of mission and am committed to making those decisions with objectivity and with integrity based on the best available evidence in the longstanding tradition of monetary policy independence."

As the president faced mounting political pressure in recent weeks to shake up the leadership by nominating Brainard to replace Powell, he talked with both Powell and Brainard about his decision on Friday, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The president regularly engaged with members and stakeholders around the decision, including with both progressives and moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill, the source said. Biden recently met with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at the White House to get her input on the decision after Warren had publicly called Powell a "dangerous man" to lead the agency.

"Your record gives me grave concerns. Over and over, you have acted to make our banking system less safe, and that makes you a dangerous man to head up the Fed, and it's why I will oppose your renomination," Warren said in a hearing on Sept. 28. She said Monday she will oppose Powell's nomination.

Biden and his team had also been in regular and close consultation with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, according to the source. Brown said on Monday he would support Powell's nomination.

Despite Brainard winning over progressives like Warren who argue she is tougher on bank regulation and climate change, by keeping Powell in place, Biden appears to be sending a message reaffirming the central bank's independence from politics.

"Overall, with Mr. Powell remaining Chair, communication will remain clear and transparent and policy will not veer too far off from the current dovish path," Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, an economic research consultancy firm, said in a statement to ABC News.

The nomination comes at a critical moment for the central bank, which has a mandate to contain inflation and sustain job growth. Powell has tilted "dovish" on inflation in recent months, insisting the run-up in prices will abate as the pandemic recedes and the supply chain untangles.

Powell oversaw a busy time at the Federal Reserve as it pumped unprecedented stimulus into the financial system in response to the pandemic and now starts to unwind some of that stimulus. Wall Street had been betting on his re-nomination as a way to keep continuity in policy at a tumultuous time in the economy.

If both are confirmed by the Senate, the White House will still have several seats to fill on the Federal Reserve Board, including the lead banking supervisor, allowing Biden the opportunity to reshape the central bank in a more drastic way with those picks.

Economists told ABC News they expect swift confirmation in the Senate for the nominees.

"We believe that Biden paired the announcement of the more Democratic-leaning nominee Lael Brainard with the Republican-leaning Jerome Powell to allay objections from the progressive members of the Democratic party," said Kathy Bostjancic, Oxford Economics Chief U.S. Financial Economist.

Although at least three Democrats have signaled their opposition to Powell's nomination, at least five Republicans have voiced support -- so it appears he will be confirmed but not without multiple Republicans supporting Biden's nominee. There were nine Democrats, including then-Sen. Kamala Harris, who opposed Powell's nomination in 2018 when he was confirmed by the Senate in an 84-13 vote.

An aide to GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell confirmed that the minority leader is also expected to back Powell's renomination. Others are likely to follow suit.

Republicans are looking to brand Powell as a source of necessary stability for an economy plagued by inflation and supply chain challenges, something they've repeatedly blamed Democrats for.

"In light of an economy hamstrung by COVID-19, and now supply chain issues and soaring inflation thanks to the Biden Administration’s debilitating policies, the Federal Reserve needs consistency," Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in a statement. "Powell’s appointment is a sign of consistency, which is so important at a time like this. Stability and consistency are in the best interests of the American economy and I look forward to supporting his confirmation.”

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



BLACK FRIDAY THROUGH CHRISTMAS DAY 1340 AM IS PLAYING NOTHING BUT THE CLASSIC CHRISTMAS SONGS YOU GREW UP WITH!  TELL YOUR FRIENDS!