Business

Supply chain questions answered, plus tips and solutions for smart shopping

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(NEW YORK) -- The strained supply chain and worldwide shipping crunch has had an impact on everything from holiday shopping to every day goods and services.

Good Morning America assembled an expert panel to explain what's happening and shopping strategies to know.

ABC News' chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, ABC News' consumer correspondent Becky Worley and GMA e-commerce editor Tory Johnson answer questions related to the supply issue and offer shopping tips for the holiday season.

What's causing the issue?

"This goes back a long time -- back to the beginning of the pandemic when everything shut down," Jarvis said. "Factories all over the world weren't working, but Americans were sitting on their couches and started shopping and they started buying so much stuff. Suddenly there was this giant backlog because factories hadn't created items, people weren't working, there weren't enough people to bring the items to our homes."

"Now we find ourselves in the most important season of all -- holiday shopping season when we buy more ever and not enough stuff has been created. It's sitting in those backlogs and you see those cargo ships -- it's waiting to get into stores and there isn't enough of it as it stands," she continued.

What should consumers expect moving forward?

Some retailers like Costco and Home Depot have comissioned their own cargo ships, but Jarvis explained that medium and smaller comanies don't have that same level of control.

"They're getting cancellations for orders that were supposed to come in November. They're being told it's not coming until February," she said of many orders that consumers hoped to have in time for Christmas.

What can shoppers do as we head into the holidays?

Worley said to "start with how you find it."

"Many big chains like Best Buy, Target, they may be sold out of an item online, but remember that's the stock they have in their online warehouse," she said. "Every store is a mini- warehouse. So the item you want could be sitting on a shelf."

Worley suggested using website tools like "pickup in store" and change the location to see if it's available anywhere around you. "But one big caveat before you drive a long distance, call to make sure the item is actually there -- trust but verify."

Any items easier to get than others?

"This time of year it's all about tech," she said, and that anything with a computer chip,"has been harder to find."

Worley also advises using apps that check stock from big stores such as the HotStock app, which is advertised as able to seek out prouct availability in real-time.

Shop small and local

Johnson offered a handful of tips for small business operators to be ready for more business and also protect themselves from the same supply issues.

  • Communicate with all partners with up to date information
  • Share up-to-date status reports
  • Make contingency plans
  • Try local pop-ups, trunk shows and holiday markets to move merchandise
  • Partner with complementary brands for cross-promotion and marketing opportunities
  • Leverage social media and e-commerce tools to sell direct to consumers

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pete Buttigieg responds to paternity leave criticism as Congress weighs national paid leave

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(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has spoken out about his decision to take paternity leave after the birth of his twins, calling it "important work."

The comments from Buttigieg come after Fox News' Tucker Carlson and other prominent conservatives mocked Buttigieg's decision to take time off to care for his newborn twins.

"Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child," Carlson said in a segment last week on Tucker Carlson Tonight. "Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went."

Buttigieg, who welcomed twins Joseph and Penelope with his husband Chasten in August, said Sunday he is "not going to apologize" for taking time away from his job for his family.

"As you might imagine, we're bottle feeding and doing it at all hours of the day and night," Buttigieg said on CNN when asked about Carlson's comments. "I'm not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins. The work that we are doing is joyful, fulfilling, wonderful work. It's important work."

Buttigieg's paid leave after the birth of his twins came at the same time as the Biden administration's infrastructure package was being debated in Congress, an absence that sparked Carlson's criticism.

A Department of Transportation spokesperson told ABC News that for the first four weeks after the birth of his children, Buttigieg was "mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated."

"He has been ramping up activities since then," said the spokesperson, adding the secretary will "continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children."

"The Secretary feels fortunate and grateful to be able to take time to focus on his responsibilities as a father, and believes all American parents deserve the same," the spokesperson said in a statement. "The president's Build Back Better vision calls for paid family leave for all Americans, and the Secretary now brings new perspective to his efforts to push for the Biden-Harris Administration’s push to ensure every American has access to paid leave."

The Biden administration's Build Back Better Act, a $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package, includes a provision that would give all workers up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

If the provision remains in the bill, which has not yet passed Congress, it would take the U.S. out of the small pool of countries that do not currently guarantee paid leave.

Advocates of paid paternity leave point to research showing its success in not only helping fathers bond with their children, but also in creating long-term economic stability for families and in helping foster an equal balance of parenting duties between partners from the start.

Criticisms of paternity leave, like those Buttigieg faced, show the stigma that still remains in the United States around men taking time off work to care for their children, according to Molly Day, executive director of PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States), an organization advocating for paid family and medical leave by 2022.

"I think that the stigma around paternity leave is to a certain extent, unsurprising, because we've really failed to teach men and boys caregiving skills as a society," said Day. "Now we are finally starting to see through a generation of men who are stepping into roles of dad who are increasingly unwilling to give up that opportunity and responsibility to care for their loved ones."

Day described the U.S. as currently being at an "inflection point" in that there is overwhelming public support for paid family leave, but there is also a lack of access, which adds to the stigma around men taking paternity leave.

Just 13% of employees in the U.S. work in a job where paid paternity leave is offered to all male workers, according to Day.

Among those who have access to paid leave, the median length of paternity leave for dads in the U.S. is one week, according to Pew Research Center data.

"Caregiving is still dominated disproportionately by women, but at the same time, there are structural things that have reinforced that," Day said. "We do not have a national paid family and medical leave policy that ensures that people can care for their families without having to worry how they're going to pay their monthly bills."

Under current U.S. policy, the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees who qualify can take time off to care for a newborn or loved one or recover from illness without fear of losing their job, but in most cases the leave is unpaid.

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

Federal employees are now entitled to 12 weeks of paid parental leave per year, but, as a cabinet member, Buttigieg's leave was approved by the White House.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described Buttigieg in a tweet as a "role model on the importance of paid leave for new parents."

Paternity leave advocates said the examples set by Buttigieg and other prominent leaders like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, a vocal advocate for paternity leave, are important.

"As unfortunate as Tucker Carlson's comments were, at the end of the day, I hope what people take away from this is that men at the peak of their professional careers can and should take the time to care for their families," Day said. "I hope this moment is a powerful and poignant call to action for our legislators and wake-up moment to families of what they deserve and what we need."

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Lawmakers say Amazon reps, including Jeff Bezos, misled or 'may have lied to Congress'

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(NEW YORK) -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers is accusing Amazon leadership -- including former CEO Jeff Bezos -- of misleading or lying to Congress in the wake of reports from media outlets that they say "directly contradicts the sworn testimony and representations" from Amazon about its business practices.

In a letter sent to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Monday, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee are asking the e-commerce giant to correct the record and provide "exculpatory evidence" to corroborate prior testimony and statements made to the committee.

The lawmakers reference investigative journalism pieces from Reuters and The Markup that alleged Amazon used data from individual sellers to create similar items and boost its own products in India, and that Amazon places products from its own brand ahead of those from competitors even on the U.S. site.

"At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon's representatives misled the Committee," the letter, signed by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., states. "At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law."

"In light of the serious nature of this matter, we are providing you with a final opportunity to provide exculpatory evidence to corroborate the prior testimony and statements on behalf of Amazon to the Committee," the lawmakers added. "We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity to correct the record and provide the Committee with sworn, truthful, and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate."

An Amazon spokesperson denied the allegations raised in the letter, and called the media articles in question "inaccurate."

"Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record on the inaccurate media articles in question," a company spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Monday. "As we have previously stated, we have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer's policy that we're aware of that prohibits the use of individual seller data to develop Amazon private label products."

"We investigate any allegations that this policy may have been violated and take appropriate action," the statement added. "In addition, we design our search experience to feature the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon or one of our selling partners."

The lawmakers, meanwhile, point to the "credible reporting" in Reuters and The Markup. The lawmakers said the claims made in the recent articles are at odds with the July 16, 2019 testimony from Nate Sutton, Amazon's Associate General Counsel, who told them that Amazon does "not use any seller data for -- to compete with them" and that Amazon does not "use any of that specific data in creating our own private brand products." Moreover, Sutton also testified that Amazon's search rankings are not designed to favor its own products.

The lawmakers also pointed to a July 29, 2020, testimony from then-CEO Jeff Bezos, who said that Amazon enforces a policy against using seller-specific data to develop competing products, but that Amazon considers seller data from more than a single seller to be "aggregate" for the purpose of this policy. Bezos claimed in response to post-hearing questions that this policy "prohibits the use of anonymized data, if related to a single seller, when making decisions to launch private brand products," the lawmakers added.

The representatives are asking Amazon to provide a sworn response to clarify the record as to how Amazon uses non-public individual seller data to develop and market its own line of products, as well as a sworn response to clarify how Amazon advantages its own products over products from other sellers in its search rankings. Finally, the lawmakers are seeking all documents and communications relating to its internal inquiry into violations of its Seller Data Protection Policy, as well as documents and responses referred to in the Reuters and Markup reports.

An Amazon spokesperson told the Markup that there is a difference between search results and merchandising placements, but that it does not favor its own brands in the search tool.

"We do not favor our store brand products through search. There is a difference between search results and the placements [the Markup] is referring to - 'Featured from our brands' - which are merchandising placements. As [The Markup] notes, these placements are clearly labeled to distinguish them from search results," a company spokesperson said. "These merchandising placements are optimized for a customer's experience and are shown based on a variety of signals, starting with relevance to the customer's shopping query."

The company spokesperson added that they look at sales and store data to enhance customer experience, "However, we strictly prohibit our employees from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which store brand products to launch."

An Amazon spokesperson told Reuters, meanwhile, that "these allegations are incorrect and unsubstantiated" and that it "does not give preferential treatment to any seller" on its marketplace. In addition, the company reiterated that it displays search results "based on relevance to customers, irrespective of whether such products are private brands offered by sellers or not."

 

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What’s causing America’s massive supply-chain disruptions?

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(WASHINGTON) -- As the U.S. economy struggles to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic, supply-chain disruptions across the country are driving up prices and leading to a growing shortage of goods.

The supply chain bottlenecks -- around the world -- have caused record shortages of many products that American consumers are used to having readily available, from household goods to electronics to automobiles.

Moody’s Analytics has warned that problems "will likely get worse before they get better."

"As the global economic recovery continues to gather steam, what is increasingly apparent is how it will be stymied by supply-chain disruptions that are now showing up at every corner," Moody's wrote in a report.

Here is how experts answer some key questions:

What's causing the disruptions?

Analysts say that the lingering effects of COVID-19 mitigation strategies essentially reduced the production of goods and services, and the supply chain shortages now happening are the result of struggles to return to pre-pandemic levels.

"The result of that imbalance between supply and demand eliminated all the inventory and eliminated all the grease that allows the wheels of commerce to work smoothly," said Steve Ricchiuto, chief U.S. economist at Mizuho Securities.

Not enough warehouse workers, truck drivers

Economists believe there are several issues at work behind the supply chain shortages, including a growing number of workers quitting jobs key to keeping things running smoothly.

A record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August -- the most since the Department of Labor started tracking this data in 2000.

"You have a bunch of sectors that just pay minimum wage and labor is just going to veer over to where it finds the most profit," said Vidya Mani, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

The Labor Department in July reported that the warehouse industry had a record 490,000 job openings. Companies such as Walmart, Target and Amazon are going to great lengths to attract warehouse workers with attractive benefits, including free college tuition.

With growing inflation jitters, many large retail employers are increasing their wages to keep up with rising prices, intensifying the competition among companies to make their most compelling job-offers amid the pre-holiday rush to hire workers.

The American Trucking Association in 2019 estimated that it would be short some 60,000 drivers, but those shortages increased due to retirements, and new truck drivers being trained due to COVID-19 closures.

“There is a shortage of drivers, and it is one of several issues contributing to problems in the overall supply chain,” said Sean McNally, an ATA spokesman. “However it is a reflection of the strong demand for goods – and everything consumers buy is delivered in a truck.”

At the same time, economists say large employers preparing to bring their staffs back to work in larger numbers had led to large purchases of bulk items.

So, what happens now?

Supply chain experts say that the best option for consumers right now is to wait and start tapering their demands for goods, or they may ultimately end up paying a higher price once those long-awaited products become available.

"It’s good to be aware of the fact that when we make our purchases that whatever we order is going to land at some point in time,” said Mani. “We see these immediate shortages and we just keep ordering and ordering. A lot of those consumer goods companies are going to just pass on those price increases to you.”

The Biden administration has made a concerted effort to try to close supply chain gaps and has pushed the president’s infrastructure plan as a means of addressing systemic supply chain issues. President Joe Biden announced that the port of Los Angeles would begin 24/7 operations to ease bottlenecks ahead of the holiday season.

"Strengthening our supply chains will continue to be my team’s focus," said Biden. "If federal support is needed, I will direct all appropriate action, and if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act."

But experts believe that untangling supply chain woes could take much longer.

How long before things return to normal?

"We are in for at least four to six months for it to actually catch a break,” said Nick Vyas, executive director at the Kendrick Global Supply Chain Management Institute at University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

"So I think we're going have to go through the peak seasons with this bottlenecks, and although the bottlenecks may actually move from the ports into the inland, but the delay is, I do anticipate to be continued through the holiday season."

Disruptions to the supply chain at the pandemic’s onset, which caused months of shortages in PPE including N95 respirators, gloves, cleaning supplies and other critical care hospital equipment took nearly a year to resolve.

The federal government, specifically FEMA, had no clear guidance on the distribution of supply to the states leading to an oversupply of goods in some portions of the country while others experienced severe shortages.

Though the supply crunch is driving up prices, companies now have an opportunity to begin figuring out solutions, given the vulnerabilities that recent supply chain crises have exposed, including the deepening cargo ship gridlocks at the world’s busiest ports.

Gooten, a U.S. based supply chain company, facilitates brands and retailers in using on-demand manufacturing to grow their retail and e-commerce businesses on a global basis.

Companies that utilize on-demand production begin producing products only once they are purchased by a consumer, as opposed to forecasting what the demand for a product might be and then producing a set number of those products.

"We have to start that same just-in-time manufacturing model with everything else we produce, whether its apparel, wall art, home goods, toys we just have to shift our thinking,” said Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer at Gooten.

"If you’re a retailer, or you’re a brand and you have ten thousand pieces of, let’s say t-shirts, sitting on a box in a boat how do you sell anything?" he said.

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Holiday travel may be more chaotic than ever this year, transportation experts say

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(NEW YORK) -- Holiday travel may be more chaotic this year, experts warn, as looming vaccination deadlines threaten airline and airport staffing.

Forty percent of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workforce hasn't received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the agency said Thursday, and they only have until Nov. 22 to get fully vaccinated.

"Even if they get half of that done by Thanksgiving, that leaves 20% not available to work," aviation expert Henry Harteveldt told ABC News. "Something's going to have to give. I'm really worried."

TSA said it is currently developing contingency plans, but anticipates "that the vast majority of TSA employees will get vaccinated."

Several major U.S. airlines are also grappling with the fast-approaching vaccine requirement deadlines.

American Airlines and Jet Blue are requiring U.S.-based workers to provide proof of vaccination the day before Thanksgiving.

"This is happening at perhaps the most difficult time ever," spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association Capt. Dennis Tajer said. "We have a very high volume of flying and it's created a lot of uncertainty about the holiday travel period. Now you have some unknown quantity of pilots that that may go away and go through termination."

Out of the 14,000 American pilots Tajer's union represents, 4,000 pilots remain unvaccinated.

"We've heard about all the staffing issues that happen," Tajer said. "It's not just on the flight deck in the cockpit, it's happening throughout corporations everywhere."

Southwest's operational meltdown last weekend served as a potential warning of what's to come this winter.

Tens of thousands of passengers were stranded at U.S. airports due to the more than 2,000 flight cancelled within three days.

The airline blamed the multi-day mess on air traffic control issues, bad weather and "other external constraints."

On Thursday, Southwest said it's going to hire more than 5,000 employees by the end of the year to mitigate future issues and has 50% of the goal met.

With airlines booking their flights to 100% capacity, experts are concerned there is no wiggle room left in the system to recover if a major airline melts down during the busy travel season.

"The chaos that is the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel season will be even more chaotic this year," Harteveldt said.

He recommends traveling on off-peak days and to book on the airline that has the most flights to your destination, even if that's not the airline you normally fly.

"Take the earliest possible departure in the morning that you can, because it gives you more leeway if something goes wrong," he added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ex-Boeing test pilot indicted for fraud in 737 Max probe

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(NEW YORK) -- Boeing's former 737 MAX test pilot, Mark Forkner, was indicted for fraud Thursday for allegedly misleading regulators about problems tied to the aircraft's two fatal crashes. The ex-chief technical pilot is the first Boeing employee to be charged over the 737 Max's failures.

In October 2019, pilots struggled to regain control of the MAX and it plunged into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia. Five months later, another MAX crashed near Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia just six minutes after takeoff, killing all on board and forcing regulators around the globe to ground the plane. Three hundred and forty-six people perished in both accidents.

Investigators found that both crashes were tied to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, software, which had been designed to help stabilize the jet after heavier, repositioned engines placed on the aircraft caused the plane's nose to point too far upward in certain circumstances.

In both crashes, incorrect data from a faulty sensor caused the MCAS to misfire, forcing the planes to nose down repeatedly. MCAS was not mentioned in the pilot manual -- allowing pilots to enter the MAX cockpit without simulator training that would have cost the airlines more money.

"In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators," Acting U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas said in a release. "His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency's ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls. The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud – especially in industries where the stakes are so high."

Internal messages that surfaced in October 2019 between Forkner and another Boeing pilot appeared to show the company knew about problems with MCAS in 2016, two years before the crashes.

The documents released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee show Forkner told FAA officials that MCAS was safe despite calling it "egregious" based on simulator tests, according to internal messages and emails.

"I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)," Forkner said to his colleague in the messages.

Forkner was the main point of contact between the administration and Boeing in regard to areas like pilot training and manual recommendations, an FAA official explained at the time.

Boeing said in a statement in 2019 that Forkner's comments "reflected a reaction to a simulator program that was not functioning properly, and that was still undergoing testing."

In January 2020, Boeing released more than 100 pages of internal communications that the company itself called "completely unacceptable."

In one exchange, an unnamed Boeing employee says the 737 Max "is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys," after complaining about the flight management computer.

In another 2018 message a Boeing employee asks, "Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft?"

"I wouldn't," he said.

"No," the colleague responded.

Boeing has since rewritten the MCAS software, receiving the FAA's approval for the jet to reenter commercial service on Nov. 18, 2020.

In January, The U.S. Justice Department charged The Boeing Company with "conspiracy to defraud the United States" -- concluding after a lengthy investigation that the company knowingly misled regulators while seeking approval for its 737 MAX aircraft.

In an SEC filing, Boeing said it agreed to the charge "based on the conduct of two former 737 MAX program technical pilots."

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Henrietta Lacks family seeks justice: Grandchildren sue biotech company

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(NEW YORK) -- The family of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cells were collected from her body and used for medical research without her consent in 1951, is seeking justice for their relative.

On Oct. 4, the 70th anniversary of her death, Henrietta Lacks' family filed a federal lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific claiming unjust enrichment and nonconsensual use of her cells and tissue samples.

The Lacks family has retained Benjamin Crump as their lead attorney. Crump, who previously represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, says he believes this case can bring justice to the family.

"This whole notion of her cells are being sold even to this day as chattel property when everyone benefits from it but her own family. Her own flesh and blood. It reminisces of days of slavery when they sold black people as chattel property and we never got to benefits from our labor, our contributions," Crump said.

In 1951, at the age of 31, Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer and began treatment at one of the only facilities willing to treat African Americans, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. During her treatment, a gynecologist preformed a biopsy on her and sent her tissue to a lab for research, without her consent or that of her family's.

In subsequent experiments with her tissue sample, scientists discovered that Henrietta's cells reproduced and thrived outside of her body -- a discovery that helped shape medical innovations.

Those cells were named, "HeLa" after Henrietta Lacks. HeLa cells have led to several medical breakthroughs including the polio vaccine, coronavirus vaccines, cancer treatments, AIDS treatments, zero gravity in space, and more.

What Henrietta Lacks experienced is now illegal and researchers are required to get consent before using a patient's tissue sample for research according to federal law.

The family members say they have not received any profit from the research and use of Lacks' cells. They say they believe the time is now to be compensated and they are aware they will have to fight as many as 100 defendants, the first being Thermo Fisher.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., based in Massachusetts, sells HeLa cells on its website.

"Thermo Fisher Scientific's business is to commercialize Henrietta Lacks' cells—her-living bodily tissue—without the consent of or providing compensation to Ms. Lacks" the lawsuit states. "All the while, Thermo Fisher Scientific understands—indeed, acknowledges on its own website—that this genetic material [is] stolen from Ms. Lacks."

The lawsuit is also asking the court to order Thermo Fisher Scientific to "disgorge the full amount of its net profits obtained by commercializing the HeLa cell line to the Estate of Henrietta Lacks."

Christopher Seeger, another attorney for the Lacks family, said that other companies also will be targeted for commercializing Lacks' cells.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, he said, "shouldn't feel too alone because they're going to have a lot of company soon."

Lack's story emerged about a decade ago with the release of the book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

Her story gained more national attention with the release of "The Life of Henrietta Lacks" movie. Oprah Winfrey starred as Henrietta's daughter, Deborah Lacks, and Renee Elise Goldsberry portrayed Henrietta.

Ron Lacks says his mother was the first person in the family to discover that cells obtained from her deceased mother-in-law, Henrietta Lacks, were still viable in 1973.

Ron Lacks is the estate's executor and the oldest grandson of Henrietta. For years he has been inspired by his mother's resilience to keep Henrietta's name alive and he is using this inspiration to fight for his family's ownership of his grandmother's legacy.

"Every time, I walk into my mother's room, she gives me strength because I know I'm doing it for her. She started this in 1973. She started this, so when I walk into her room and feed her, change her, I know I'm doing this for her." Ron Lack told ABC News. "When you fighting for your family, you come off with all guns blazing, you don't stop until you succeed or they knock me down," he added.

Johns Hopkins University states on its website that it has "never sold or profited from the discovery or distribution of HeLa cells" and that the university does not own the rights to the HeLa cells.

The university also claims it has helped the Lacks family broker an agreement that requires scientists to receive permission to use Henrietta Lacks' genetic blueprint.

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President Biden to meet with port heads ahead of expected Christmas supply crunch

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(WASHINGTON) -- With global supply chain bottlenecks threatening the Christmas shopping season, President Joe Biden will highlight his administration's work with ports on Wednesday and try to stave off the potentially politically explosive headaches Americans may face as delays threaten holiday gift-giving.

The president plans to meet with the leaders of the two busiest ports in the United States -- Los Angeles and Long Beach, both in California -- and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, "to discuss the challenges that ports across the country and actions each partner can take to address these delays," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

The port of Los Angeles, a senior Biden administration official said, will announce on Wednesday that it will move to 24/7 operations in order to help alleviate bottlenecks.

Several shippers and retailers will announce that they are taking steps to move toward 24/7 operations, too, according to senior administration officials.

According to the White House, Walmart will increase its use of nighttime hours; UPS will increasingly use 24/7 operations and enhance data sharing with ports; FedEx will increase its nighttime hours and make changes to trucking and rail use; Samsung will operate 24/7 over the next 90 days to move almost 60% more containers out of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports; The Home Depot will move up to 10% more containers out of these ports in their off-hours each week; and Target will move 10% more containers during these off-peak hours.

Several of these companies and other stakeholders will participate in a virtual roundtable hosted by the White House Wednesday, according to the White House.

That dynamic carries great political risk for Biden, who has pegged his presidency to both pulling the country out of the coronavirus pandemic -- the onset of which precipitated this supply crunch -- and rebuilding the U.S. economy.

But Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen tried to temper fears Tuesday during an interview with CBS News.

“There may be isolated shortages of goods and services in the coming months," Yellen said. "But there is an ample supply of goods. I think there's no reason for consumers to panic about the absence of goods that they're going to want to acquire at Christmas.”

The White House launched a task force in June to address disruptions to supply chains and in August added a port envoy to that group.

"We certainly know addressing those bottlenecks at ports could help address what we see in many industries across the country, and frankly are leading people who are preparing for holidays, for Christmas, whatever they may celebrate, birthdays, to order goods and get them to people's homes," Psaki said Tuesday.

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Diaper crisis escalates amid COVID-19 pandemic

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(NEW YORK) -- As her belly curves in a small circle overlapping the top button of her jeans, Elisha White, 26, anticipates the birth of her fifth child.

White is currently unemployed and without a car, and though her family is pitching in and assisting her, she said her local diaper bank has been a saving grace now and since the beginning of her journey into motherhood.

"Ever since high school, they have always been there for me and been someone I can go and talk to," said White. "They are really important to families that need [diapers] and that can't afford them."

White's local diaper bank, The Diaper Bank of the Delta, which is located in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is the only organization in the state that is a part of the National Diaper Bank Network, which includes more than 200 independent diaper banks and pantries.

According to data from the organization, disposable diapers can cost up to $80 a month per child, with the average child needing up to 12 diapers daily. The federal government assistance programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not allow funding for diapers to be expensed through them.

"Before the pandemic, [there] was already a need in our community, especially in our service. I am located in the Mississippi Delta, where most of our population is African American, and they were already struggling to afford diapers to properly diaper their children," said Chelesa Presley, executive director of the Diaper Bank of the Delta and member of Black Diaper Bank Leaders Group. "And then when the pandemic happened, oh my goodness."

In 2020, the National Diaper Bank Network distributed more than 100 million diapers to 220 diaper banks across the country -- a 67% spike from 2019. In addition, most child care facilities require parents to provide diapers for their child. Nationally, 57% of parents experiencing diaper needs who rely on child care said they missed an average of four days of school or work in the past month because they didn't have diapers to send with their children.

Presley said many low-income families and families of color spend twice as much on diapers for their children compared to families who have the means to buy diapers in bulk at a lower price.

"They're leaving the diapers on the babies longer," said Presley. "I can tell you more and more families are coming to us, and we've increased the number that we give out because they're saying, 'We're still not having enough to meet our needs.'"

"We were giving out 30 diapers. We've increased it up to 50, and some still need diapers to just completely diaper their babies because they just can't afford it," said Presley.

But Joanne Samuel Goldblum, the CEO and founder of the National Diaper Bank Network, said there is a greater need for diapers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, because many families lost their jobs and cannot afford diapers due to their price increase. As if that wasn't enough, the consumer price index -- the Labor Department's measure of what consumers pay for everyday goods and services -- spiked 5.4% over the last 12 months. In June alone, it jumped 0.9%

"The price of all commodities is rising," said Goldbulm. "So people have sort of latched on to this conversation about the diaper-pricing increase -- and it has, but so has almost every other commodity that we buy."

One in three American families are experiencing a diaper shortage, according to a 2020 report from the National Diaper Bank Network. Goldblum says internal research in 2020 found that National Diaper Bank Network members distributed on average 86% more diapers in 2020 versus 2019.

"Everybody knows that when a baby's crying, no matter who's around, somebody is going to say, 'Did you check their diaper?'" said Goldblum. "What does it mean, as a parent -- especially a new parent, you know, if it's a little baby -- not being able to meet that child's needs?"

Goldblum said that although the research for 2021 has not been released yet, diaper banks across the country are continuing to see the increased need for diapers and trying to continue to expand their capacity.

This is a problem that goes beyond diaper hygiene. Goldblum pointed to a 2013 study published in Pediatrics found that diaper need is more highly correlated with maternal stress and depression than any other material deprivation.

"Diaper needs impact children and it impacts caregivers," Goldblum said.

"It is a crisis and is a real problem for families who are struggling, and this is affecting our future," Presley said. "Our future children, it is affecting their health, it is affecting their mental health, and eventually in about 10 to 20 years, we're going to see the effect this pandemic has had because of diaper needs and mental health issues."

White said her local diaper bank will continue to help her and other mothers in need.

"It is so helpful for people who can't afford [diapers] right now during the pandemic," she said. "They are really helpful to me because I be about to lose my mind without them."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


When should I mail holiday gifts? USPS, FedEx, UPS release 2021 ship-by dates

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(NEW YORK) -- Each year, we spend time sweating over getting holiday gifts out in time and worrying about shipping delays.

This year, experts are warning of possible shortages and delays on getting everything from toys to artificial Christmas trees due to COVID-related supply chain issues, as well as reports of slower shipping service.

With that in mind, shipping services have released their recommended ship-by dates in order for packages to arrive on or before the Christmas holiday. The overall advice: The earlier you send, the better.

Scroll down for deadlines from USPS, UPS and FedEx:

USPS

Dec. 15: This is the last day for retail ground shipping.

Dec. 17: This is the last day for first-class mail service (including greeting cards) and packages up to 15.99 ounces.

Dec. 18: This is the last day for Priority Mail service.

Dec. 23: This is the last day for Priority Mail Express service.

More information on USPS holiday shipping deadlines can be found here.
 

UPS

Dec. 15: This is the last day for UPS Ground service.

Dec. 21: This the last day for UPS 3 Day Select service.

Dec. 22: This is the last day for UPS 2nd Day Air service.

Dec. 23: This is the last day for UPS Next Day Air service.

More information on UPS holiday shipping deadlines can be found here.

FedEx

The company advises planning ahead to ensure gifts arrive on time. You can create your own shipping label at home and find a nearby location for easy drop-off service.

Dec. 15: This is the last day for FedEx Ground service.

Dec. 21: This is the last day for FedEx Express Saver and 3Day Freight services.

Dec. 22: This is the last day for FedEx 2Day A.M. and 2Day Freight services.

Dec. 23: This is the last day for FedEx 1Day Freight, Extra Hours, Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight and First Overnight services.

Dec. 24: This is the last day for FedEx SameDay, SameDay City Priority and SameDay City Direct services.

More information on FedEx holiday shipping deadlines can be found here.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lego says its removing gender bias from its toys after new research

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(NEW YORK) -- The Lego Group says it will remove gender bias from its iconic toys.

The Danish toymaker announced in a statement Monday, that it will get rid of gender references among its famous building block sets, after new research in a study commissioned by Lego found that "girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society's ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older."

The study carried out by the Geena Davis Institute in recognition of the UN's International Day of the Girl also marked the launch of Lego's new Ready for Girls campaign, which celebrates girls who rebuild the world through creative problem-solving.

"What we found is not only from the parents, but also from the boys that they were worried -- that they would be teased or made fun of for playing with toys that would be say, associated with girls, so it was the fear of being shamed and made fun of," Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute told Good Morning America. "With girls, they felt more confident than boys to engage in a variety of playing activity."

According to the research, 4 in 10 girls and nearly 3 in 4 boys surveyed said they felt uncomfortable to play with toys presumably targeted to the opposite gender.

Parents are four times more likely to encourage girls to engage in dress-up than boys and twice as likely to encourage boys in computer coding than girls, according to the survey, which also noted that the boys and girls surveyed agreed with the idea that some activities are gender-specific.

Another toymaker, Hasbro, recently rebranded its iconic Mr. Potato Head toy earlier this year and introduced a new gender-neutral potato head family with diverse body parts and clothes. And in 2019, Mattel released its first gender-neutral doll.

Retail giant Target announced in 2015 that its stores would not classify toy aisles by gender, a move that also paved the way for proposed legislation requring large retailers to provide gender-neutral toy sections.

A California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the weekend makes it the first state that mandates large department stores to display products like toys and toothbrushes in gender-neutral ways.

"This isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for every family -- and parents should encourage what their kids love and what they're interested in," parenting expert Ericka Souter told GMA. "We want the world to be open to our children and don't want them to feel limited by their gender -- companies are responding to this growing demand."

Lego said in a statement that it is "committed to making LEGO play more inclusive and ensuring that children's creative ambitions – both now in the future – are not limited by gender stereotypes. We know there is work to do which is why from 2021, we will work closely with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and UNICEF to ensure LEGO products and marketing are accessible to all and free of gender bias and harmful stereotypes."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Southwest Airlines CEO apologizes for weekend travel mess

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(NEW YORK) -- Southwest CEO Gary Kelly apologized to the tens of thousands of passengers who were stranded at U.S. airports over the weekend due to widespread flight cancellations.

"I want to apologize to all of our customers, this is not what we want," Kelly said in an interview on Good Morning America Tuesday. "Unfortunately, it just takes a couple of days to get things back on track."

One of those passengers, Fabricia Amara, couldn't take her 14-year-old daughter to see her neurosurgeon in Miami because of the operational meltdown.

"They did not handle it properly," Amara told ABC affiliate KTRK. "They have no answers for you, they tell you that there's nothing we can do."

Amara's flight was just one of more than 2,200 flights Southwest has canceled since Saturday.

The airline initially blamed the multi-day mess on air traffic control issues, bad weather and "other external constraints."

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that "there had been no air traffic control shortages since Friday," adding, "Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place."

Kelly acknowledged air traffic control issues were not the cause, saying "a series of FAA Florida delay programs" on Friday contributed to the cancelled flights.

"There were no ATC issues over the weekend. That's absolutely true," Kelly said. "But I think any industry expert knows that it takes several days, if you have that large of an impact on the operation, to get the airplanes where they need to be and then to match the crews up with that."

The head of Southwest's pilot union blamed bad staffing for the disruptions.

"Until the company makes some changes in how they're doing business internally and scheduling our pilots, we're going to continue to see the problem," Capt. Casey Murray told ABC News.

Kelly said operations are "back to normal." According to FlightAware, there were 87 canceled Southwest flights as of 8 a.m. ET Tuesday.

"Things are much smoother today," he said. "We have a few more cancellations than we would normally have, but things are pretty well back to normal."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Facebook's oversight board to meet with whistleblower Frances Haugen

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(NEW YORK) — The former Facebook employee who testified before lawmakers last week will now address her concerns with Facebook's Oversight Board.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen alleged blatant disregard from Facebook executives when they learned their platform could have harmful effects on democracy and the mental health of young people during her testimony before a Senate Commerce subcommittee last Tuesday.

Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, accused Facebook of "choosing to prioritize its profits over people" in her opening statement before lawmakers.

"You can declare moral bankruptcy and we can figure out a fix [to] these things together because we solve problems together," Haugen said.

Her remarks sparked a backlash toward Facebook from lawmakers and others on a range of issues, such as Facebook's ability to hold high-profile users accountable to its rules through its so-called "cross check" program, the effectiveness of which was called into question by a Wall Street Journal investigation.

"In light of the serious claims made about Facebook by Ms. Haugen, we have extended an invitation for her to speak to the Board over the coming weeks, which she has accepted," the board said in a statement Monday. "Board members appreciate the chance to discuss Ms. Haugen’s experiences and gather information that can help push for greater transparency and accountability from Facebook through our case decisions and recommendations."

The Oversight Board teased that "scrutinizing cross-check" will be among the issues discussed with Haugen. Further details on the upcoming meetings with Haugen were not immediately disclosed Monday.

"As the Board shared in September, we are currently looking into whether Facebook has been fully forthcoming in its responses on its ‘cross-check’ system and will share our analysis in our first release of quarterly transparency reports later this month," the panel said in a statement. "Facebook has also said it will ask the Board to review how cross-check can be improved and to offer recommendations."

The Oversight Board was launched to operate independently of Facebook and it decides how the company handles controversial issues, such as the decision to ban former President Donald Trump. Critics though have questioned how much autonomy and power the panel actually possesses when regulating the tech giant.

Facebook has responded to critics who claim the board is an attempt to shirk regulation on its website, saying the Oversight Board is "not a panacea."

"Facebook sees the board as an important but single piece within a wider content moderation regime, which includes updated internet regulations," the company stated on its website.

In a statement on Twitter, Haugen said she welcomes the opportunity to meet with the Oversight Board.

"I have accepted the invitation to brief the Facebook Oversight Board about what I learned while working there," she wrote. "Facebook has lied to the board repeatedly, and I am looking forward to sharing the truth with them."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


William Shatner channels Captain Kirk for historic Blue Origins space flight

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- William Shatner will make history Wednesday as he boldly goes where few have gone before while aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard.

The Star Trek actor who played the iconic Captain Kirk joined Good Morning America Monday along with his fellow flight crew members as they anxiously await their delayed departure.

"I'm deeply disappointed because I was building up the enthusiastic response, now we have to wait another day," Shatner said. "[But] it's really worth it. What's a day with this extraordinary experience that we're about to have."

The 11-minute ride to the edge of space about 60 miles above the earth's surface comes just two months after the first successful Jeff Bezos-owned space flight with Wally Funk, 82.

Shatner, 90, is set to become the oldest person ever to go to space and will hit weightlessness in zero gravity for about four minutes.

Blue Origin crew member Audrey Powers told GMA that this trip and opportunity was a long time coming.

"They offered me the opportunity to represent all those great people and sit in the seats, so I could not be more overwhelmed at the opportunity," she said. "I feel an enormous sense of responsibility to represent this team."

Glen de Vries, a fellow Blue Origin crew member and passenger, added, "this is how innovation happens."

"This is the beginning of a new time for space and we're on the beginning of a curve that's going to blast off," he said. "That's a metaphor for that adventure that we're literally going to have together. I can't wait."

Shatner said he expects plenty of Captain Kirk references as the world watches him and the crew in flight.

"Actually, I haven't heard Shatner in a long time," he said with a laugh.

New Shepard's 18th mission, NS-18, has targeted liftoff on Oct. 13, at 8:30 am CT from Launch Site One in West Texas.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Facebook exec says company will make itself 'more transparent'

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(NEW YORK) -- Facebook will implement new tools to increase transparency and safety for users following Tuesday's explosive whistleblower hearing, Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said Sunday.

"We will, of course, seek to make ourselves ever more transparent so people can hold us to account," Clegg told ABC This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“We understand that with success comes responsibility, comes criticism, comes scrutiny, comes responsibility, and that's why we're the first Silicon Valley company to set up an independent oversight board that independently adjudicates on these difficult content decisions,” Clegg added.

Facebook whistleblower and former employee Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee last week, accusing the social media giant of ignoring evidence that its content is harmful to young users and dangerous to democracy.

“I saw Facebook repeatedly encounter conflicts between its own profits and our safety. Facebook consistently resolved these conflicts in favor of its own profits,” Haugen told senators. “The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied Haugen’s claims in a statement following her scathing testimony. “At the most basic level, I think most of us just don't recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted,” Zuckerberg said.

Clegg said Facebook is working on giving users more control, acknowledging that they want to see “more friends, less politics.”

During Tuesday's hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Facebook is “facing a Big Tobacco moment, a moment of reckoning.”

Clegg called the comparison “extremely misleading.”

“We can move on beyond the slogans, the soundbites, the simplistic charcuteries and actually look at solutions and, of course, regulations,” Clegg said.

Stephanopoulos also pressed Clegg on Facebook’s efforts to create a safer environment for kids and teens.

“You also say Facebook's job is to mitigate the harm and amplify the good on social media. But even researchers and -- critics -- say you can be devoting more resources to positive interventions for teens. Is Facebook prepared to do more on that?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Yes, we are,” Clegg responded. “We're now going to not only provide those new parental tools but we're going to introduce new measures ... [if our] systems see that a teen is dwelling on content that may be correlated with something that's not good for their well-being, we would nudge them to look at other content.”

He went on, “We're also going to introduce new tools, what we call 'take a break,' to really kind of urge teens to take a break from using Instagram if they appear to be doing so, you know, for long periods of time."

Clegg defended Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the content users see first and was a target of Haugen’s testimony. Haugen claimed Facebook’s algorithm incites misinformation and violence.

Stephanopoulos asked why the company does not just remove the algorithm altogether and display content chronologically. Clegg said that would make things worse.

“If you were just to sort of across the board remove the algorithm, the first thing that would happen is that people would see more, not less, hate speech, more, not less, information, more, not less, harmful content,” Clegg said. “Why? Because those algorithmic systems precisely are designed like a great sort of giant spam filter to identify and deprecate and downgrade bad content.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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