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Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Venmo now has over 40 million active customers, parent company PayPal revealed in its earnings report.

The mobile payment app, which is popular with millennials and encourages social interactions, is also processing dramatically more money.

Payment volume jumped 73% in the past year to $21 billion, and expected to hit $100 billion in 2019, the company said Wednesday in its first quarter earnings release.

Venmo defines users as customers who have used the digital wallet at least once in the past 12 months.

Venmo also has more than 40 partnerships, and just added Chipotle as one earlier this year, PayPal said.

In the context of other digital wallets, Venmo holds a desirable spot. While PayPal counts 215 million users, Amazon Pay reported about 30 million users in 2016 and likely has 50 to 60 million current users, according to Lisa Ellis, a mobile payments analyst at research firm MoffettNathanson.

Apple has said it has “tens of millions” of Apple Pay users. According to research-driven venture capital firm Loup Ventures, Apple Pay had over 252 million users, or 31% of the active iPhone base as of August.

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stockcam/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Facebook-owned WhatsApp is reportedly testing a new authentication feature that would require users to access chats by fingerprint and restrict the use of screenshots on one of the latest developer version updates.

The feature is on one of the latest beta updates, which is available only to developers, WABetaInfo, a site that monitors changes on the app, reported.

It is apparently optional in security settings and, per WABetaInfo, comes with an explanation reading, "When enabled, fingerprint is required to open WhatsApp and conversation screenshots are blocked. You can still reply to messages from notifications and answer calls if WhatsApp is locked."

If a user enables the feature, that user can't then take screenshots of a conversation, according to WABetaInfo. It's unclear if this also restricts the ability to take screenshots for people with whom the user is conversing.

This beta update comes after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent statement on rebranding the company and its subsidiaries to become a "privacy-focused messaging and social networking platform." Facebook acquired WhatsApp in a $19 billion deal in February 2014.

Zuckerberg said he wants to create interoperability -- the ability to use a software seamlessly -- while making sure it "doesn't compromise the expectation of encryption that people already have using WhatsApp."

But the company's plan to create an all-encompassing messaging platform has experts and users concerned about their privacy and end-to-end encryption technology, which is supposed to protect messages between the sender and receiver so no one else, including WhatsApp itself, is able to read them.

Facebook has not responded to ABC News' request for comment on the new features.

Last year, Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook, tested a function on screen-grabbing that notified users if a follower took a screenshot of a story, which is displayed on the app for 24 hours. That feature has since been removed, however.

Facebook has boasted the security of end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp messages since April 2016, but it has yet to tackle some of WhatsApp's other pressing problems including misinformation, fake news and child pornography.

TechCrunch investigations reported WhatsApp failed to police its platforms as multiple groups of child pornography videos are allegedly shared freely, in an encrypted environment. BuzzFeed also reported last year on the death of five nomads in the village of Rainpada, India, who were killed by villagers after a misleading video on WhatsApp warned people of outsiders abducting children.

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Kit Kat(NEW YORK) -- It's time to take that break we've all been asking for since Kit Kat finally announced a new permanent duo of flavors -- mint and dark chocolate.

"Kit Kat is known around the world for its inventive flavors,” senior brand manager Christopher Kinnard said in a press release. “Our fans in the U.S. have been requesting new Kit Kat flavors and we're excited to share we are adding to the Kit Kat family with the launch of Kit Kat Duos Mint Dark Chocolate."

The classic layered wafer and chocolate treat will combine the two iconic flavors with a mint creme on the top and dark chocolate on the bottom.

This marks the first new year-round Kit Kat flavor to hit the U.S. market in nearly 10 years, but it won't be available until December.

To Kinnard's point, the U.S. is playing catch up with their international market that has included flavors like green tea, tiramisu and strawberry cheesecake.

"Here’s the best part — we are just getting started. Keep your eyes peeled; there is more to come," Kinnard added.

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Goldfish/Pepperidge Farm(NEW YORK) -- Two beloved names are joining forces to create a new version of the snack that smiles back.

Goldfish created special-edition shaped crackers with the most recognizable faces of Toy Story, Buzz Light Year and Woody, to celebrate the release of the new Disney-Pixar film.

The baked cheddar cheese crackers will be available nationwide on May 1.

The package has immersive graphics and prominently features Bo Peep, who makes her triumphant return to the toy-filled team for the first time since Toy Story 2.

The highly anticipated movie hits theaters on June 21.

Pixar and ABC News are both part of parent company Disney.

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Wolterk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Boeing announced Wednesday that it was taking an initial $1 billion hit on the grounding of the 737 Max jet following two fatal plane crashes in five months.

The company also abandoned its previous full-year financial outlook as it grapples with the aftermath of the 737 Max fallout and works to implement software upgrades to its best-selling plane. Boeing is also halting stock buybacks.

The crashes of the 737 Max jets operated by Indonesia's Lion Air on Oct. 29 and by Ethiopian Airlines on March 10 killed a total of 346 people (189 and 157 deaths, respectively).

Chicago-based Boeing disclosed the information early Wednesday ahead of a call with investors.

The company reported Q1 earnings of $2.15 billion on revenue of $22.9 billion. Boeing said that losses from the 737 Max were partially offset by higher defense and services revenue.

Boeing also said it is making steady progress on the path to final certification for a software update on the 737 Max, with over 135 test and production flights of the software update complete.

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David Tran/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Representatives from Facebook will be among the social media executives attending a May 15 summit being organized by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to combat the spread of terrorist material online.

The summit, which Ardern will co-chair with French President Emmanuel Macron in conjunction with the G7 "Tech for Humanity" meeting, will ask world leaders and the CEOs of technology companies to support the "Christchurch Call," a pledge to remove terrorist content online

The pledge is being launched in response to last month's terrorist attack in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, where Brendon Tarrant killed 50 worshipers and wounded dozens more at two mosques. The attack was live streamed on Facebook and widely shared online.

Facebook was drawn further into the controversy when company representatives didn't comment on the case until two weeks after the attack. In a letter to the New Zealand Herald, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company was "committed to reviewing what happened," without outlining specific policies to counter similar activity in the future.

In a statement Wednesday to ABC News, a Facebook spokesperson said the company will be sending representatives to the summit.

"We share the commitment of world leaders to keep people safe and look forward to collaborating with government, industry and safety experts on a clear framework of rules to help achieve this. We're evaluating how we can best support this effort and who among top Facebook executives will attend."

Facebook officials said they removed 1.5 million videos of the shooting in the 24 hours following the attack, 1.2 million of which were blocked while in the process of being uploaded.

However Ardern says that more had to be done in the wake of the attack, as social media was being used in an "unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate."

“We’re calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris," she said Wednesday in a statement. “We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared."

Ardern described the summit as "an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and tech companies."

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue," she said. “But for too long, it has also been possible to use these platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch. This is what needs to change.”

Twitter representatives did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- The latest rumble in the fallout over the Rock N' Play baby sleeper comes in the form of a class action lawsuit.

The suit was filed by one named mother, Cassandra Mulvey, on behalf of herself and others, against Fisher Price and Mattel, who the suit claims marketed the product as safe for infants to sleep in.

"This marketing was dangerously false and misleading, as the product is not safe for all-night or prolonged sleep for infants," the lawsuit states.

This month, all models of the sleeper were recalled following more than 30 infant deaths.

The lawsuit claims the angle at which children would be resting in the sleeper "increases the infant’s risk of developing flat head (plagiocephaly) and twisted neck (torticollis) syndromes, conditions that often require babies to wear expensive head-molding helmets and undergo physical therapy."

Mattel and Fisher Price did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment about the lawsuit, but in a statement after the recall last week, Fisher-Price said they "stand by the safety of our products," but "decided to conduct a voluntary recall" because of "reported incidents in which the product was used contrary to the safety warnings and instructions."

The lawsuit alleges this is an "egregious case of corporate greed run amok."

The plaintiff is asking for, "on behalf of herself and a class of owners of at least 4.7 million" owners, "damages and all other relief available under law and equity from Fisher-Price and its corporate parent Mattel, including punitive damages for their appalling and unconscionable misconduct."

This class action suit was filed April 19, a week after the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued its recall.

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iStock/sdominick(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosecutors charged drug distributor Rochester Drug Cooperative and its former CEO with drug trafficking charges Tuesday -- the first criminal charges for a pharmaceutical company and executives in the nation's ongoing opioid crisis.

The charges signify a groundbreaking move by the government to try to combat the opioid epidemic, which kills 130 Americans every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the first time, a pharmaceutical company and white collar executives were charged like street dealers and traffickers.

“This prosecution is the first of its kind: executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking, trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country. Our Office will do everything in its power to combat this epidemic, from street-level dealers to the executives who illegally distribute drugs from their boardrooms,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

 The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York charged Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC), one of the country's largest distributors of opioids, with "knowingly and intentionally" violating federal narcotics laws "by distributing dangerous, highly addictive opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly," according to a press release.

RDC was also charged with failing to properly report thousands of suspicious orders of oxycodone, fentanyl and other controlled substances to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), officials said.

The DEA has been investigating for years whether RDC failed to comply with pharmaceutical reporting laws. The company has previously paid to resolve claims it failed to properly report the theft of opioids.

According to court records, from 2012 through 2016, RDC filled more than 1.5 million orders for controlled substances from its pharmacy customers, but reported just four suspicious orders to the DEA. In reality, there were at least 2,000 suspicious orders in those four years, federal prosecutors said.

Despite being briefed by company employees, top executives allegedly ignored "red flags" like cash payments and customers traveling from out of state to buy opioids.

"Today’s charges should send shock waves throughout the pharmaceutical industry reminding them of their role as gatekeepers of prescription medication," DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said in a statement. "DEA investigates DEA Registrants who divert controlled pharmaceutical medication into the wrong hands for the wrong reason. This historic investigation unveiled a criminal element of denial in RDC’s compliance practices, and holds them accountable for their egregious non-compliance according to the law.”

In the opioid industry, RDC is a middleman that buys controlled substances from manufacturers and sells them to individual pharmacies. As one of the nation's 10 largest drug distributors, it delivered to more than 1,300 pharmacies and took in over $1 billion in revenue during the relevant five-year period, officials said.

RDC agreed to a non-prosecution consent decree and agreed to pay a $20 million penalty. It will be monitored by the government for the next five years.

"We made mistakes," Jeff Eller, a company spokesperson said in a statement. "RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences."

"One element of the opioid epidemic is a dramatic increase in the volume of prescriptions for opioids and all narcotics," the RDC statement continued. "With that dramatic volume increase came an increase in our business, resulting in an increase in orders we should have identified as suspicious order, which we failed to report to DEA."

The company's former chief executive, Laurence Doud III, surrendered to federal agents and appeared in Manhattan federal court late Tuesday. He was handcuffed and wore a dark suit as he was led up the stairs of the courthouse by federal agents.

Doud, 75, of New Smyrna, Florida, was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. He faces a minimum of 10 years, if convicted.

Separately, William Pietruszewski, 53, RDC's former chief of compliance, pleaded guilty earlier this month to participating in a narcotics distribution conspiracy from January 2012 to March 2017. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of willfully failing to file suspicious order reports with the DEA.

He has agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

Prosecutors say RDC employees told Doud and Pietruszewski that some of the company’s customers were "very suspicious," and went so far as to describe some pharmacy clients as a “DEA investigation in the making” or “like a stick of dynamite waiting for [the] DEA to light the fuse.”

But in the relevant five year period, RDC, under Doud's leadership, increased its sales of oxycodone and fentanyl "exponentially," prosecutors said.

"From 2012 to 2016, RDC’s sales of oxycodone tablets grew from 4.7 million to 42.2 million – an increase of approximately 800 percent – and during the same period RDC’s fentanyl sales grew from approximately 63,000 dosages in 2012 to over 1.3 million in 2016 – an increase of approximately 2,000 percent. During that same time period, Doud’s compensation increased by over 125 percent, growing to over $1.5 million in 2016," the U.S. Attorney's office said.

RDC was also among the drug distributors named last month in a civil lawsuit by the New York Attorney General's office, which alleged fraud, willful misconduct and gross negligence.

Between 2010 and 2018, the company sold more than 143 million oxycodone pills to customers in New York alone, the state's attorney general's lawsuit said.

“At this time, it would not be appropriate to comment on ongoing litigation," Eller told ABC News in a statement.

Opioid manufacturers are facing over 1,700 lawsuits over their role in the current crisis. Paul Hanly, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the federal litigation, which he said includes 2,000 cases, welcomed the move by U.S. prosecutors.

"The charges make the civil case against RDC easier to try and provide a potential road map to evidence that may prove the civil claims against other distributors," Hanly told ABC News on Tuesday.

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holgs/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Samsung is delaying the rollout of its $2,000 foldable phones after several tech reviewers reported that their review units became damaged within a day or two of using them.

The Galaxy Fold, which was originally slated to start shipping to consumers on April 26. A new ship date was not specified, but the company said it would be announced in the “coming weeks.”

"While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience," Samsung said in a statement. "To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold.”

The hybrid Galaxy Fold has a 4.6-inch display when folded as a phone and 7.3-inch display when unfolded as a tablet. The new device starts at $1,980, depending on region and carrier, and will come in an LTE or 5G option.

The problem began last week when reviewers for Bloomberg, The Verge and CNBC reported different problems with the breakthrough "foldable" screens (which are actually hinged) on the new Samsung phones.

The Verge's Dieter Bohn wrote that a small bulge on the crease of the phone was "just enough to slightly distort the screen."

"My best guess is that it’s a piece of debris, something harder than lint for sure. It’s possible that it’s something else, though, like the hinge itself on a defective unit pressing up on the screen," Bohn wrote. "It’s a distressing thing to discover just two days after receiving my review unit."

CNBC's Todd Haselton had a different problem with his device.

"A review unit given to CNBC by Samsung is also completely unusable after just two days of use," he wrote.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman had a phone that quickly became damaged. He tweeted: "The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not."

 Gurman did say he accidentally removed a protective film on the screen, as did YouTube tech reviewer Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee and Wall Street Journal reviewers. Gurman said he expected that most customers would probably do the same

CNBC's Haselton, though, said his Galaxy Fold stopped working despite having the protective film intact.

Troubles for the Galaxy Fold come at a pivotal time for the mobile phone industry. Smart phones sales have slowed globally as phones become more expensive, and the market has become saturated. Foldable phones were expected to boost the market, and several companies unveiled their foldable versions at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.

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Interim Archives/Getty Images(BLACKSBURG, Va.) -- With the Federal Aviation Administration's historic certification, Wing Aviation’s drone deliveries are set to arrive in Virginia.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Tuesday that the FAA awarded air carrier certification to Google’s Wing Aviation, the first drone delivery company to be awarded one, according to a FAA news release.

With the certification in hand, Wing Aviation can turn its tests into commercial deliveries in the U.S.

Packages from local businesses are set to be delivered in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia, after the company consults with the local community, according to the release and a Medium post by the company. The goal is to launch a delivery trial later this year, Wing wrote in its Medium post.

“For communities across the country, this presents new opportunities. Goods like medicine or food can now be delivered faster by drone, giving families, shift workers, and other busy consumers more time to do the things that matter,” Wing wrote in the Medium post Tuesday.

Since graduating in July 2018 from Google X, a division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, that incubates innovative technologies, Wing Aviation is now an independent Alphabet business, according to Google X’s website.

Wing Aviation conducted over 70,000 test flights with more than 3,000 deliveries to Australian doorsteps, driveways and backyards over several years in order to meet the FAA’s safety requirements to qualify, according to the news release and Medium post.

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,” Chao said in a statement. “Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”

Wing Aviation said their data showed a delivery by drone carried a lower risk to pedestrians than if the same trip was made by car, according to the company’s Medium post. The company stressed that drone delivery provides more independence to people who need assistance with mobility and that the all-electric drones will reduce traffic and pollution with zero carbon emissions.

Wing’s drones can fly up to 120 kilometers, or about 74.5 miles, per hour, and can fly up to 400 feet above the ground, according to Google X’s website. The first of Wing's drone deliveries were completed in 2014 in Queensland, Australia, where everything from dog treats to a first-aid kit were delivered to farmers. Two years later in 2016, Wing’s drones delivered burritos to Virginia Tech students, according to Google X’s website.

Through Wing’s app, users can order products, such as meals or medicine, to be delivered by drone. Wing currently operates in Australia and Finland, according to the company’s website.

Working with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech, Wing Aviation participated in the Transportation Department’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, according to the news release. The program works with both state and local governments, as well as private companies, to assess risks and successfully integrate drones into the airspace, according to the FAA’s website.

Mark Blanks, director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, said that commercial delivery is one of the most significant ways to introduce the public to drones.

“But until now there hasn’t been a clear pathway for traditional aviation regulations, which were designed for manned aircraft, to accommodate it,” Blanks said in a statement. “That’s why this certificate is so significant: It’s a testament to Wing’s meticulous work and unwavering focus on safety, but it’s also a milestone for the industry because it demonstrates that there’s a way to do drone delivery under the current regulatory structure.”

In a report last June by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the FAA was characterized as taking an "overly conservative" approach toward regulating drones and integrating them. Drones have often been feared for their potential to crash into planes, and operations were temporarily paused at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in January due to drone activity.

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SweetBabeeJay/iStock(MENOMONEE FALLS, Wisc.) -- Affordable fashion retailer Kohl's has announced that it is expanding its Amazon returns program this summer.

All 1,150 Kohl's locations will accept opened packages starting in July for free, Kohl's said in a statement. Eligible items will not need a box or label to be returned.

The partnership is a result of a "shared passion in providing customer service" and "combines Kohl’s strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon’s reach and customer loyalty," Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass said in a statement.

"This new service is another example of how Kohl’s is delivering innovation to drive traffic to our stores and bring more relevance to our customers," Gass said.

Kohl's will also begin to carry Amazon products in more than 200 stores, the company announced last month.

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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Niall_Majury/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz thinks airlines are reaching a breaking point with shrinking seat sizes.

"I think we are nearing a point certainly that we can't do that anymore," he told ABC News' Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley.

Munoz acknowledged having to stay competitive with peers and match many of their moves, but he admitted passengers may have had enough.

Another common complaint? Wi-Fi. Why does it so often not work on flights?

"It's complicated technology," he said. "We will fix that, and, frankly, we would stop a lot of our growth if we could just stop and find the right provider and get that done. That's how important Wi-Fi is to us and to our customers."

Munoz recognizes the changing culture of air travel -- an experience that for many transformed from an exciting experience to a painstaking one. He hopes that will change soon.

"It's become so stressful," he said, "from when you leave, wherever you live, to get into traffic, to find a parking spot, to get through security."

"Frankly," Munoz added, "by the time you sit on one of our aircraft ... you're just pissed at the world," and improving the flying experience won't ultimately depend on "what coffee or cookie I give you."

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The company announced it would be delaying the rollout of the Galaxy Fold after initial reviews highlighted flaws in display screens.

"Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge," Samsung said in a statement. "There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance."

In 2016, the Galaxy Note7 had problems overheating and bursting into flames shortly after it was released in August, prompting the U.S. Consumer Product Commission to recall the device. The CPSC said nearly 1 million Note7 smartphones were sold in the United States, and an estimated 97% of those contained a defective battery.

That same year, a Florida man sued the company after he said his Samsung Galaxy Note7 ignited while in his pocket.

Samsung said it plans to announce a new release date for the Galaxy Fold in the coming weeks.

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Moussa81/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The embattled maker of OxyContin is attempting to "cry poverty" to avoid accountability for the company’s role in the nation’s opioid epidemic, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Monday, as the state expanded its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma.

Tong filed an amended lawsuit that alleged hundreds of millions of dollars were fraudulently transferred from Purdue Pharma to the Sacklers, the family that controls the company, to evade liability.

"Purdue Pharma and the individual former directors of the company vigorously deny the allegations filed today in Connecticut and will continue to defend themselves against these misleading attacks," Purdue Pharma said in a statement in response to the amended complaint. "We believe that no pharmaceutical manufacturer has done more to address the opioid addiction crisis than Purdue, and we continue to work closely with governments and law enforcement agencies on this difficult social issue."

The lawsuit seeks to claw back transferred funds and a court order to prevent any additional transfers of money.

"We will not allow Purdue Pharma to cry poverty after illegally transferring hundreds of millions of dollars to members of the Sackler family—unearned funds these individuals reaped as Connecticut families suffered,” Tong said in a statement.

Connecticut, along with a number of other states, sued Purdue in December 2018, alleging the company pushed patients toward OxyContin even as opioid addictions skyrocketed. The company recently settled a lawsuit with Oklahoma for $270 million.

Illinois' attorney general also filed a lawsuit against the company earlier this month.

“Our investigation has left no room for doubt—Purdue and the Sacklers ignored all human cost while pushing deadly opioids in blind pursuit of profit,” Tong said.

Purdue and the Sacklers pushed a false narrative telling doctors that addiction was "not caused by drugs" but instead was the result of "susceptible individuals," the amended complaint said. It also alleged Purdue insisted patients suffered from "pseudoaddiction" caused by inadequate dosage. To treat it, the lawsuit said doctors needed to up the dosage.

The company has accused the different states of cherry picking the most damning information from their internal documents.

Purdue Pharma did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment on the Connecticut attorney general's amended suit.

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BackyardProduction/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The nation’s Social Security program is running out of money with benefits on track to be reduced by around 2035 unless Congress steps in, according to a report released Monday by the Trump administration.

The prediction is somewhat better than last year’s annual assessment delivered to Congress, when the government predicted a reduction of benefits a year earlier in 2034.

The government also concluded Monday that Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will run out of money in 2026. That’s on par with last year’s assessment.

"Lawmakers have many policy options that would reduce or eliminate the long-term financing shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare," according to an administration statement. "Lawmakers should address these financial challenges as soon as possible."

The viability of America’s 84-year-old Social Security program has become an urgent question for politicians looking to court voters in next year’s election.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed not to touch the popular program or Medicare, the health insurance program for seniors. But his 2020 budget proposed spending less on both programs over the next 10 years, including some $26 billion on Social Security programs and hundreds of billions trimmed from Medicare. Administration officials insisted that the cuts wouldn't impact benefits and the cost savings would be found by rooting out fraud and changing how the Medicare pays providers like hospitals.

House Democrats have vowed to block the budget proposal from being enacted.

"Americans pay into these essential programs throughout their working lives, and they expect to receive the benefits they’ve earned," said Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Options to fix the program could include increasing the payroll tax, raising the retirement age or modifying the formula that determines how people receive their benefits. Some 94% of workers participate in Social Security.

One House bill would expand benefits for individuals, implement a payroll tax to earnings that are more than $400,000, and lower taxes for some recipients, among other things.

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., who serves as the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Social Security and is a co-sponsor of that bill, said the report “underscores why it is so important that Congress take action now to prevent cuts from occurring in 2035.”

"With 10,000 Baby Boomers becoming eligible for Social Security every day, and with people facing a retirement crisis after still not fully recovering wealth lost during the Great Recession, the time to act is now," Larson said in a statement.

Nancy Berryhill, acting Social Security commissioner, said the program was able to buy more time before it depletes its reserves because of a decline in people receiving money for disability. Since last year’s estimate, the trust funds supporting Social Security increased by $3 billion in 2018 to a total of $2.895 trillion in reserves.

"Disability applications have been declining since 2010, and the number of disabled-worker beneficiaries receiving payments has been falling since 2014," she said in a statement.

But even with that extra cash on hand and plenty of political support, the cost of the program has struggled to keep pace with the cost of paying out benefits for some 174 million Americans and their 63 million beneficiaries.

"Social Security’s total cost is projected to exceed its total income (including interest) in 2020 for the first time since 1982, and to remain higher throughout the remainder of the projection period," the report found.

The assessment was completed by Berryhill, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

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WJTN News Headlines for April 25, 2019

The Chautauqua County Legislature has approved the appointment of a new member who will fill out the current year in place of a deceased member of the panel.... Lawmakers in Mayville last night una...

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