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'A train wreck coming': Americans brace for the return of student loan payments

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(NEW YORK) -- Jamilla Vanbuckley would like to buy a home one day.

A correctional counselor in New York City, Vanbuckley has been living with her parents and tucking as much money as possible into her savings account. But by late summer, she expects a new expense to enter her monthly budget -- gradually paying off the $68,000 she owes in student debt.

"I'm gonna have to dip into my savings to start paying back on August 29," she said, mentioning the day that payments for direct federal student loans are set to resume. "And now that kind of hinders the goals I had set for myself for the next couple of years."

Vanbuckley is among the 37 million borrowers who have not been required to pay their student loans since March 2020 due to legislative and executive action during the pandemic.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona confirmed in May that the Biden administration intends to restart student loan payments by 60 days after June 30, a plan later cemented in the government's deal to suspend the debt ceiling.

However, advocates worry that the resumption of payments and the legal challenges to President Joe Biden's plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt can result in catastrophic consequences for vulnerable borrowers.

The uncertainty comes amid a change in debt servicing companies for millions of borrowers and staffing shortages that experts see as unprecedented in consumer finance, resulting in logistical headaches, hourslong wait times, and potential communication errors in billing.

"Anyone who has been paying attention to the student loan system sees a train wreck coming, and there's very little time to try to avoid it at this point," said Abby Shafroth, a senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center and the director of its Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project.

Why is this change happening?

The original pause to student loan payments originated from the early days of the pandemic, according to University of Wisconsin Madison professor Nick Hillman.

Fearing that the sudden spike in unemployment might lead many borrowers to default, the government put millions of federal direct student loans into administrative forbearance and dropped their interest rate to zero percent.

With the end of the federal COVID emergency, the government lost its ability to continue the student loan pause, originally authorized through the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, according to Hillman.

The deal made by congressional Republicans and Biden to suspend the debt ceiling confirmed that student debt payments would resume this summer. With the change, experts worry that the historically low rate of delinquency for student loans will return to the previous high of 10 percent or worse.

"We are anticipating what has been described as a wave of student loan defaults and delinquencies," said Cody Hounanian, executive director of nonprofit Student Debt Crisis Center.

What factors complicate the change?

Without having to pay for student loans over the last three years, many Americans have created strict budgets that do not include a monthly student loan payment, according to Shafroth. With a new monthly student loan bill averaging $160, something in these budgets has to give.

"Leisurely spending is probably gone," Robert Bistoury, a 2020 graduate of Baruch College who said he has $27,000 in student debt, told ABC News.

Both Hounanian and Shafroth worry that borrowers will be cutting into their budgets for rent, medical expenses and food.

"For the majority of people, this is just a new bill that they have to pay, the size of which they may not even realize quite yet," said University of California Irvine professor Dalié Jiménez.

Complicating the resumption of payments is the logistical hurdle of suddenly resuming payments for millions of Americans, which a Department of Education spokesperson described to ABC News as "unprecedented" and "herculean."

Multiple companies that service student loans have left the industry, according to Shafroth, meaning that millions of borrowers will also be dealing with an unfamiliar company that might not have up-to-date contact information for borrowers.

For example, Vanbuckley's student loan servicer switched from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, which no longer services student loans, to NelNet -- a transition she described as relatively smooth. Others like Hounanian described a more chaotic switch, including receiving false information from his servicer that needed to be corrected.

Shafroth added that many loan servicers have reduced their staff during the pandemic and will need to hire and train new employees to handle the demand for assistance, further complicated by a smaller-than-desired budget for the Department of Education this year.

Those constraints "may lead to some longer processing times and call hold times than would be ideal for this situation," Scott Buchanan, the executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance, said in a statement to ABC News.

The Department of Education spokesperson told ABC News that it recognizes the return to repayment will result in "significant financial hardship" for borrowers but is committed to helping borrowers.

Perhaps the most significant unknown for borrowers is the fate of the Biden administration's plan to eliminate up to $20,000 in student debt, which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, Biden vetoed a bill that would reverse the debt relief program, and the bill faces low chances of a successful override vote in Congress.

"It does give me some anxiety…it is what it is, and I have to budget accordingly," Vanbuckley said about the stalled plan.

Who is most vulnerable?

Experts worry that the shift back to student loan payments places financial hardship on vulnerable Americans and presents an opportunity for bad actors. For borrowers who are still determining how they might pay their monthly student loan bill, some may turn to companies that promise student loan relief but are nothing more than scams that prey on vulnerable consumers, according to Hounanian.

"We know that a lot of companies prey on the confusion and anxiety and stress that people are feeling about their student loans," Shafroth said.

Before the change, experts recommend that borrowers confirm the contact information for their loan servicers and their repayment plan. The Department of Education offers a new income-driven program for borrowers and has discharged loans for borrowers who qualify through public service, disability, or college wrongdoing.

Hillman particularly encouraged borrowers under $20,000 in debt to confirm their servicer and repayment plan, especially given the uncertainty with loan forgiveness.

According to Hillman, while six-figure loans often drive media attention, borrowers with "smaller" loans who never completed their degrees face the highest rate of default.

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Target faces criticism from artists involved with Pride month products over response to boycott: ‘Quick to fold’

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(NEW YORK) -- Kennedy Davenport, a drag queen, rejoiced when she learned last year that she would be featured on apparel in the forthcoming Pride collection at Target.

"You never imagine opportunities like this," Davenport told ABC News, comparing the breakthrough to her previous role competing on the TV show "RuPaul's Drag Race."

For Davenport, elation turned to disappointment last month when Target announced it would remove some Pride products from stores in response to anti-LGBTQ harassment faced by employees, she said. Davenport says she does not know whether products with her image were removed.

"The bigwigs at Target should continue to take a stand with us and not be so quick to fold," Davenport said, calling on the company to return the full Pride collection to their shelves. "I would love for Target to put on their boxing gloves and fight."

Davenport is among five artists and organizations tied to this year's Pride collection at Target who criticized the company's response to the backlash in interviews with ABC News.

Critics acknowledged the difficult position faced by Target when anti-LGBTQ backlash nationwide boiled over last month into a boycott and reported employee harassment, including bomb threats at stores in Utah, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

However, some critics said, the decision to remove Pride products marked a retreat from the company's longstanding support of the LGBTQ community that could further embolden extremists and imperil vulnerable people.

"The thing that's so disappointing is that the leadership that Target has shown over such a long period of time seems to be wavering in a moment when the attacks on our community are increasing," Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group GLSEN, which has partnered with the company for more than a decade, told ABC News.

Rob Smith, the founder and CEO of The Phluid Project, an LGBTQ-owned clothing company that has placed products in Target stores for three years, expressed disappointment over the decision to remove some products from the Pride collection nationwide rather than focus on specific stores at heightened risk of threats.

"It's a big blanket decision that didn't seem appropriate," Smith told ABC News, noting that he does not think his products were among those removed. "I would've made a different decision if I was in charge."

An LGBTQ designer who contributed products to this year's Pride collection at Target -- and requested anonymity because they did not want to be publicly identified speaking about the company -- said the response to the backlash leaves them "questioning how committed to the LGBTQ community these companies really are and how much we can trust their word."

Target, which has seen its stock decline about 13% since the boycott began last month, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

In a statement last month, Target said it removed some products from this year's Pride collection because the company "experienced threats impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being while at work."

"Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year," the company said in the statement.

More than 200 LGBTQ advocacy groups, including GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign, signed a public letter on Monday calling on Target to make all Pride products available for sale online and in-store, reaffirm the company's commitment to the LGBTQ community and ensure employee safety.

The boycott of Target follows a similar consumer protest against Anheuser-Busch InBev over a Bud Light promotion in April from a trans influencer. Bud Light sales have declined for seven consecutive weeks, and Anheuser-Busch's stock has plummeted about 20%.

Meanwhile, the boycott of Bud Light gained momentum after the company's initial response was perceived as conciliatory by some LGBTQ advocates, prompting frustration on the left.

MORE: The boycott against Bud Light is hammering sales. Experts explain why.
"It's my hope that other corporations see what's happening to Anheuser-Busch, see what's happening to Target and choose a different path," Willingham-Jaggers said.

To be sure, some of the people tied to this year's Pride collection identified the root cause of the unrest as a rise in right-wing extremism centered on the LGBTQ community, which they said has put companies like Target in a difficult position.

"On the one hand, they risk losing sales from individuals who oppose the LGBTQ+ community," a second designer who contributed to this year's Pride collection told ABC News. "While on the other hand, they risk alienating the pro-LGBTQ+ community, which may result in a loss of sales as well."

As of last month, more than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills had been introduced in state legislatures, including over 220 bills specifically targeting transgender and non-binary people, the Human Rights Campaign found.

Smith, who said he has been in contact with Target often since the decision to remove some Pride products, said he remains optimistic that the company will respond more forcefully to the backlash.

"Target has continually done a good job and been a good leader," he said. "They just need a moment to reset and recalibrate."

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CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht steps down

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(NEW YORK) -- CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht is stepping down, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery said on Wednesday.

Over a 13-month tenure, Licht vowed to institute down-the-middle coverage but faced backlash over decisions such as a recent town hall event with former President Donald Trump.

Story developing...

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Over 22K pounds of beef chili recalled over possible contamination

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(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 22,530 pounds of beef chili with beans that was meant to be served in schools has been recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

J.T.M. Provisions Company announced the recall of its "frozen, ready-to-eat beef chili with beans products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically white plastic," the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said on Sunday.

The affected items from the Harrison, Ohio-based food manufacturer were produced on Feb. 27.

The products in question include a 30 pound case of “CHILI WITH BEANS” that contains six 5-pound boilable bags of “CP5309 CHILI WITH BEANS” with lot code 23058 printed on the bag, and “February 27, 2023” and lot code 23058 printed on the case, the USDA wrote in the recall announcement.

"The products subject to recall bear establishment number 'EST. 1917' inside the USDA mark of inspection on the case. These products were purchased by USDA Foods for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). These items were shipped to distributors in California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Wisconsin," the statement said.

The FSIS was first notified of the problem from the company after it received "a customer complaint about semi-rigid white plastic material found in the frozen, ready-to-eat beef chili with beans."

As of time of publication, there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

The FSIS said it's "concerned that some product may be in school freezers or refrigerators" and advised all school nutrition professionals who may have purchased the products not to prepare or consume them.

"These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase," the agency stated.

Consumers with additional food safety questions are encouraged to call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 513-367-4900 or live chat online.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook says Vision Pro is 'tomorrow's engineering, today': Exclusive

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(NEW YORK) -- Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Good Morning America on Tuesday that the company's first-ever spatial computer, the Apple Vision Pro, is the "most advanced piece of electronics equipment out there."

"It's tomorrow's engineering, today," Cook told Robin Roberts. "So you're going to live in the future and you're going to do it today."

Apple announced a series of new products at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, including the Apple Vision Pro.

The device, which will cost at least $3,499, allows users to manipulate apps, messages and other virtual programs displayed within their physical environment, Apple said.

When individuals approach a user's physical space, the glass appears transparent, allowing a user's counterpart to see his or her eyes, the company added.

In his interview with Good Morning America, Cook said the product marks a turning point for the company.

"We started working on augmented reality quite some time ago because we saw it as a big idea, as a profound technology," Cook said. "This is the next chapter in that, and it's a huge leap."

"You can immerse yourself in movies, TV shows, sports, and feel like you're right there. You can take photos and videos and then enjoy those and bring back memories as if you were there and repeating that experience," Cook explained.

"It's not about one thing, it's -- it is a platform. And so we can't wait to unleash it to the developers so they can begin to work on applications for it," he added.

Disney+ will be among the apps available for use on day one. Disney is the parent company of ABC.

Apple Vision Pro will be available for purchase online and in stores in the U.S. early next year, with additional countries to follow later in 2024, Apple said.

In the exclusive sit down, Cook also said artificial intelligence poses serious risks such as bias and misinformation, calling for government regulation to protect against potential abuses.

The comments thrust one of the tech industry's most prominent executives into a policy discussion that has drawn heightened interest in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley since the emergence of ChatGPT and other advanced conversation bots.

"I do think that it's so important to be very deliberate and very thoughtful in the development and the deployment of these," Cook said. "They can be so powerful that you worry about things like bias, things like misinformation -- maybe worse in some cases."

The rapid development of AI requires government intervention but also places responsibility on tech companies, Cook said.

"Regulation is something that's needed in this space," Cook said. "Regulation will have a difficult time staying even with the progress on this because it's moving so quickly, and so I think it's incumbent on companies as well to regulate themselves."

With the remarks, Cook joins a chorus of industry leaders cautioning about possible negative consequences of AI.

Last week, hundreds of business leaders and public figures -- including Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT -- sounded a sobering alarm over what they described as the threat of mass extinction posed by artificial intelligence.

Still, Cook said conversation programs such as ChatGPT hold "great promise," describing it as "something that we're looking at closely."

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Apple announces mixed reality headset Vision Pro

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(NEW YORK) -- Apple announced a mixed reality headset called Vision Pro on Monday at its annual developer conference.

The headset, which will cost at least $3,499, allows users to see apps messages and other virtual programs displayed within their physical space, the company said.

When individuals approach a user's physical space, the headset becomes transparent, allowing a user's counterpart to see his or her eyes, the company noted.

Users can enter search queries using voice commands and scroll through the results by gently tapping their fingers, the company said.

"Vision Pro is a new kind of computer that augments reality by seamlessly blending the real world with the digital world," Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "This is the first Apple product that you look through and not at."

"In the same way that the Mac introduced us to personal computing and an iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Vision Pro will introduce us to spatial computing," Cook added.

Vision Pro affords users wide latitude to shrink or expand a program that appears within the display, including movies and TV shows, the company said.

"Turn any environment into your own personal movie theater," the company added.

Alongside Cook, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a partnership between the two companies that will make Disney+ content available on "Day 1" of Vision Pro.

Vision Pro will be available for purchase online and in-store in the U.S. early next year, with additional countries to follow later in 2024, the company said.

Shares of Apple fell slightly after the Vision Pro announcement.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Apple announces mixed reality headset Vision Pro

Philip Pacheco/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.) -- Apple announced a mixed reality headset called Vision Pro on Monday at its annual developer conference.

The headset, which will cost at least $3,499, allows users to see apps messages and other virtual programs displayed within their physical space, the company said.

When individuals approach a user's physical space, the headset becomes transparent, allowing a user's counterpart to see his or her eyes, the company noted.

Users can enter search queries using voice commands and scroll through the results by gently tapping their fingers, the company said.

"Vision Pro is a new kind of computer that augments reality by seamlessly blending the real world with the digital world," Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "This is the first Apple product that you look through and not at."

"In the same way that the Mac introduced us to personal computing and an iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Vision Pro will introduce us to spatial computing," Cook added.

Vision Pro affords users wide latitude to shrink or expand a program that appears within the display, including movies and TV shows, the company said.

"Turn any environment into your own personal movie theater," the company added.

Alongside Cook, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a partnership between the two companies that will make Disney+ content available on "Day 1" of Vision Pro.

Vision Pro will be available for purchase online and in-store in the U.S. early next year, with additional countries to follow later in 2024, the company said.

Shares of Apple fell slightly after the Vision Pro announcement.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How to thrift like a pro: Tips and tricks on scoring secondhand gems

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(NEW YORK) -- Thrift shopping is a great way to score trending and vintage looks on a budget.

Thrifting has been around for decades but sometimes it can be a challenge to know the best ways to find exactly what you are looking for.

ABC News' Good Morning America set out to a handful of thrift shops across the country to learn some best practices from the pros, whether you are searching for clothing for adults and kids, wedding attire, furniture or something else entirely.

Tip 1: Ignore sizes and always try on

Yoshi Isogaya, a sales associate at Jet Rag, a vintage thrift store based in Los Angeles, told Good Morning America that thrifting "can be very overwhelming."

"You have to take your time and look through all the racks, have patience," Isogaya said.

While shopping at Jet Rag, Good Morning America lifestyle correspondent Lori Bergamotto had a similar insight to share.

"I tried on jeans three sizes up from what I normally wear -- and they were too tight. You have to try everything on before you find a gem," Bergamotto said.

Tip 2: Only shop for designer pieces at trusted establishments

Dom Marlowe, general buying manager at Wasteland, another vintage thrift shop based in LA, told GMA that shoppers should "make sure you're looking for good condition, good fabric, and you're going to a trusted place" when looking for designer items specifically.

It is important to remember to shop for designer brands only at well-established stores that have professional authenticators on staff.

Tip 3: Start with denim jeans

If you're unsure where to start, given the large inventory most thrift stores keep on hand, try kicking off your shopping trip by searching for a good pair of jeans.

"Every thrift store I went to had a large selection of jeans. Denim holds up really well over time and used jeans start with that broken-in feel and look," Bergamotto said.

Happy thrifting!

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'Thrown in their faces': Bud Light salespeople say boycott is hurting commission

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(NEW YORK) -- Salespeople promoting Bud Light for a Florida–based distributor have grown accustomed to car horns, middle fingers and jokes amid a weekslong boycott, but say they have struggled to ignore thousands of dollars in lost commission pay, two sales supervisors at the distributor told ABC News.

A typical salesperson at the distributor made roughly $2,000 less in May than he or she would have over each of the previous two years, suffering primarily from a decline in Bud Light sales that reached as much as 60% over the week ending on Memorial Day, the sales supervisors said.

"This has really, really killed a lot of the guys who are commission-based. That's who it's really hurting," one supervisor said. "There's nothing they could've done -- this was thrown in their faces."

A consumer boycott of Anheuser-Busch InBev over a promotion in April from a trans influencer has pummeled the company's stock, but it has also brought financial pain for thousands of salespeople at independent distributors nationwide, many of whom depend largely on performance-based pay, former Anheuser-Busch InBev executive Anson Frericks told ABC News.

Sales of Bud Light have recorded declines for seven consecutive weeks after a product endorsement from Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer, sparked backlash among many conservatives.

The boycott gained momentum, meanwhile, after the initial response from the company was perceived as conciliatory by some LGBTQ advocates, prompting frustration on the left.

Those losses have slashed the income of salespeople who work for roughly 500 independent wholesalers that sell Anheuser-Busch beverages to restaurants, bars and grocery stores, according to interviews with two distributors, two sales supervisors and Frericks.

The sales supervisors and distributors declined to share their names because they didn't want to be publicly identified speaking about the financial consequences of the boycott.

Compensation for salespeople differs widely between different distributors, but a typical salesperson makes about $60,000 a year, including $20,000 in variable pay that depends largely on commission, said Frericks, who left Anheuser-Busch InBev last year.

"Good people are going to start leaving because they aren't making money," Frericks told ABC News.

On an earnings call last month, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris acknowledged the strain that the boycott has placed on workers in the field.

"This situation has impacted our people and especially our frontline workers: The delivery drivers, sales representatives, our wholesalers, Bud owners and servers," Doukeris said.

"These people are the fabric of our business. They are our neighbors, family members, and friends. They are in every community in America," Doukeris added. "We've been doing everything we can to support our teams."

Anheuser-Busch said in a statement to ABC News that the boycott has had an impact but they remained committed to bringing people together.

"Anheuser-Busch employs over 18,000 people and our independent wholesaler partners have an additional 47,000 valued colleagues. The current situation has impacted our people and especially our front-line workers including delivery drivers and sales representatives. These people are our neighbors, family members and friends. They are in every community in America. As we move forward, we will continue doing everything we can to support our teams while working tirelessly to do what we do best - bringing people together over a beer," the statement read.

Sales of Bud Light across the U.S. fell nearly 26% over the week ending on May 20 compared to the same period a year ago, according to data from Bump Williams Consulting and Nielsen NIQ reviewed by ABC News.

At an Anheuser-Busch distributor in the Midwest, nine salespeople rely on commission for roughly two-thirds of their pay, the president of the distributor told ABC News.

The salespeople sustained overall sales declines in May of between 6% and 26% compared to the same month a year prior, which translates into losses ranging from $200 to $900, the president added.

At a meeting with the salespeople earlier this month, the president told them, "None of this is your fault and none of this is my fault," he recounted. He vowed to pay them each a lump sum that would put their income for last month at or above where it would have stood without the losses.

"I'm frustrated that this has [dragged] on as long as it has," the president of the distributor said. "I'm hopeful that we're moving in the right direction."

Anheuser-Busch InBev also provided financial support for frontline workers at independent distributors, Doukeris said on the earnings call last month. The company provided $500 for each employee and additional ad spending last month, the Wall Street Journal reported.

To be sure, some Anheuser-Busch salespeople at independent distributors depend on little or no sales commission.

The owner of a different distributor in the Midwest said the company previously paid salespeople entirely on commission but stopped the practice in recent years because sales varied significantly between the strong summer months and weak winter ones.

"My employees haven't been hurt that bad on it," the owner said, referring to the boycott.

Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business who studies consumer movements, said the losses for some salespeople at Anheuser-Busch distributors mark an unanticipated result of the consumer boycott.

"This has a disproportionate effect on a handful of people who had little or nothing to do with the decision that triggered people to be upset," Schweitzer told ABC News. "It has this cascade of unintended consequences."

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Food, drink, pot under one roof: California state bill could allow for cannabis cafes

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(CALIFORNIA) -- California cannabis users may soon not have to travel far to get a cup of coffee to go with their legal pot.

The state's assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would allow California's localities the right to approve the sale of food and non-alcoholic drinks inside legal cannabis dispensaries. Current state law prohibits any food or beverage from being served in recreational marijuana dispensaries.

State Assemblyman Matt Haney, who introduced the bill, told ABC News that those current regulations are "outdated and nonsensical," and as a result, a lot of legal cannabis shops are losing out on revenue.

"There is a huge demand for this. This idea came from shop owners. They wanted to diversify their businesses," he said.

The bill, which now heads to the state senate for approval, would also allow dispensaries to have live music inside their establishment.

Haney said that even though legalized cannabis stores have been popular ever since the first legal sales began in 2018, however, those business owners are still competing with illegal marijuana sales.

Those illegal sellers have been able to get past the regulations and offer food, he said.

"The advantage the illegal market has is it can sell that experience, similar to what you can do in a neighborhood bar," Haney said.

The assemblyman cited a West Hollywood cannabis shop that originally sold its own food but was forced to stop that by local regulators for violating the current rules.

"They were required to have the food made, sold and delivered from another establishment," he said.

Under California law, if food and drink are to be allowed in cannabis shops, it would have to be consumed indoors in a well-ventilated room.

Current California cafes and restaurants won't be able to offer cannabis in their establishments, according to the bill.

Haney emphasized that customers under 21 will still be barred from entering the dispensaries even if food and drink are allowed.

Haney said that concerns about whole streets being lined with these pot cafes are not strong as California's law doesn't permit multiple cannabis shops to be located close to each other.

"It will look nothing like Amsterdam," he said. "So you won't have an entire block of them and they won't be near schools."

Haney said municipalities could decline to allow for the food and drink rules in the dispensaries, however, some cities, including San Francisco, have already passed ordinances to permit them if the bill becomes a law.

Haney said he was impressed with the 64-9 vote in the Assembly and the bi-partisan support for the proposal.

"A lot of people who didn't initially support legalized marijuana voted in favor of the bill," he noted. "It just goes to show how crucial the cannabis industry has been for the state."

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The four-day workweek is gaining momentum. Could the US adopt it nationwide?

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(NEW YORK) -- When Michael Arney, the founder of an eight-person marketing design agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota, learned an employee was leaving for a 50% raise at a larger company, he knew he had to make a change or it would happen again.

"I just couldn't compete with the monetary offer," said Arney, recounting the moment in January 2022 when he first considered a four-day, 32-hour workweek for his company Halftone Digital.

Within two months, the shorter hours took effect without a reduction in pay.

"I thought it was a pretty sweet deal," Arney told ABC News. "Nobody has left since."

Halftone Digital is among a growing roster of companies that use a four-day workweek, fueling a movement that has accelerated amid a pandemic-era reconsideration of the workplace, experts told ABC News.

However, the four-day workweek faces formidable obstacles to nationwide adoption, they added.

Here's what to know about the rise of the four-day workweek, how it works and its prospects for implementation across the U.S.:

Where has a four-day workweek taken effect?

A host of countries and U.S. states have moved toward a four-day workweek or considered doing so, Juliet Schor, an economist in the Boston College Sociology Department who studies the issue, told ABC News.

Spain, Iceland and South Africa are among the nations that have implemented a trial of the four-day workweek for select companies and workers.

A six-month experiment in the United Kingdom, which involved 61 companies and about 2,900 workers, resulted in a continuation of the policy for 56 businesses or 92% of the employers, according to a February report from advocacy group 4 Day Week Global.

Belgium imposed a law in November that requires employers to offer full-time workers a right to request a four-day workweek.

"We're seeing more countries take steps," Schor said.

At the state level, lawmakers in Massachusetts introduced a bill in April that would provide employers with a tax credit if they shift at least 15 workers to four days a week without cutting their pay. In January, legislators in Maryland introduced a similar bill before rescinding it months later.

In California and the U.S. House, lawmakers have introduced bills that would set the standard workweek at 32 hours.

Is a four-day workweek still 40 hours?

A crucial question at the heart of the debate over a four-day workweek is whether the policy constitutes a decrease in hours or a traditional 40-hour week compressed to fewer days.

Companies have opted for both approaches, setting a loose definition for a four-day workweek that accommodates a willingness to reduce the hours in the workweek or preserve them, experts told ABC News.

"There are different places doing it different ways," Mark Bolino, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Oklahoma, told ABC News. "I don't think there's consistency."

Tuan Diep, a senior product designer at Halftone Digital who works 32 hours each week, said a workweek consisting of four 10-hour days would make for a markedly different experience.

"Although two hours a day doesn't seem like a lot, I just feel like any extra time that we're required to work is going to create more stress," he told ABC News. "I'm not really for 10-hour workdays."

Will the U.S. ever have a four-day workweek?

Some experts said a combination of escalating market pressure and legislative activity could ultimately bring a nationwide four-day workweek standard; while others said such an outcome would prove nearly impossible, at least anytime soon.

Eric Loomis, professor and labor historian at the University of Rhode Island, said the policy has faced difficulty spreading from white collar professions to low-wage ones.

"I can see in an office getting a job done in 32 hours instead of 40 hours," Loomis told ABC News. "If you're a ticket taker at a theater or you're wearing a costume at Disney World, you need to be there."

The prospect of federal legislation enshrining a four-day workweek standard, meanwhile, is highly unlikely, Loomis added.

"The U.S. hasn't passed significant pro-labor legislation that's in any way comprehensive in almost 90 years," he said.

Schor disagreed, however, citing the recent rise of businesses voluntarily adopting the four-day workweek.

"I see momentum in the market as more companies do it," Schor said. "That creates more pressure for the government to act."

The U.S. could take incremental steps downward from 40-hour week to a 32-hour week within the next decade, Schor added, predicting that policies would start in statehouses and work their way to the federal level.

"I think that's conceivable. People really, really want it," Schor said. "Am I going to put money on it? No."

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'Skiplagging' may get you a cheaper flight, but be aware of the risks

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(NEW YORK) -- Say you're looking to fly from Las Vegas to Charlotte, North Carolina. The flight costs $500. But a flight from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C., with a layover in Charlotte costs only $300.

Hypothetically, a traveler could use their layover as their final destination, skipping the last leg of their trip and saving themselves some money along the way.

This practice is called "skiplagging" or "hidden city ticketing" and it's been around for years. The company Skiplagged was even founded in 2013 to help show travelers such "hidden city" flights.

Now, with steep summer airfare and travel bouncing back to pre-pandemic rates, some people may once again be considering this option, despite any risks it could entail.

"The reality is, the way airlines price their tickets, mostly with their hub and spoke model, creates really challenging pricing for travelers that want to go to a specific hub city," said Dan Gellert, COO of

But the cheap price tag could come with consequences. While skiplagging isn't illegal, many airlines prohibit and penalize the practice.

In 2014, United Airlines and Orbitz sued Skiplagged, claiming the company's CEO, Aktarer Zaman, "used his website to intentionally and maliciously interfere with Plaintiffs' contracts and business relations in the airline industry."

The case was dismissed on procedural grounds in 2015 when a judge in Chicago ruled the court didn't have jurisdiction. But Skiplagged now puts explicit warnings on its site that this type of ticketing is risky, adding this disclaimer: "Airlines don't like when you miss flights to save money, so don't do this often."

"The more a traveler does it, the higher likelihood an airline is going to say, 'Hey, you've missed your end destination three, four, five times,'" said Gellert. "That is going to raise some flags internally."

Gellert added that many travelers skiplag without any issues.

Some airlines have developed software to detect skiplaggers, according to airline industry analyst Henry Harteveldt. If the airlines do catch travelers engaged in the practice, Harteveldt said, they could delete frequent flier accounts, cancel return reservations or charge them more money.

Even if the airline doesn't catch you, there are still logistical concerns that could throw your trip for a serious loop. If your flight is canceled and you're rerouted through another city, it'll be a headache, and likely an additional expense, to get to your destination. And you'll need to travel light -- you can't check luggage, and if the plane is full and your bag needs to be gate-checked, you won't be able to retrieve it when you get out on your layover.

"Skiplagging is a very risky bet," Harteveldt said. "If you or a member of your family gets caught, you could end up in a lot of trouble with the airline… I'm just not sure that the savings are worth the risk, even with the high airfares we're seeing right now."

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Ring security cameras gave every employee 'full access' to all customer video for years: FTC

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(NEW YORK) -- Ring security cameras, the inexpensive security cameras that people can hook up in their houses or on their doors, were not fully secure for years, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The video doorbell company allegedly "gave every employee ... full access to every customer video" before 2017 and failed to patch bugs in the system that allowed hackers to access cameras and scare consumers, the FTC's federal complaint says.

"Not only could every Ring employee and Ukraine-based third-party contractor access every customer's videos (all of which were stored unencrypted on Ring's network), but they could also readily download any customer's videos and then view, share, or disclose those videos at will," the civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday by the Justice Department on behalf of the FTC says. "Before July 2017, Ring did not impose any technical or procedural restrictions on employees' ability to download, save, or transfer customers' videos."

The FTC says that the "dangerously overbroad access" employees received led to at least one employee viewing "thousands" of video recordings "belonging to at least 81 unique female users (including customers and Ring employees) of Ring Stick Up Cams."

"The employee focused his prurient searches on cameras with names indicating that they surveilled an intimate space, such as 'Master Bedroom,' 'Master Bathroom,' or 'Spy Cam.' On hundreds of occasions during this three-month period, the employee perused female customers' and employees' videos, often for an hour or more each day. Undetected by Ring, the employee continued spying for month," the filing adds.

In August of 2017, a supervisor discovered what the employee was doing only "after the supervisor noticed that the male employee was only viewing videos of 'pretty girls,'" the complaint alleges. That employee was terminated, the filing says.

Another incident allegedly occurred in 2018, when a male employee allegedly accessed a fellow female employee's camera "and watched her stored video recordings without her permission," per the filing.

The FTC alleges that Ring didn't notify consumers of the broad access to cameras.

The company also "systematically failed" to control two types of cyber attacks and failed to patch system vulnerabilities" before January 2020, the FTC says. Because Ring allegedly did not take appropriate security measures, despite knowing about the problems, "the attacks continued to succeed," through December of 2019, when media reports were published detailing alarming behavior from attackers, the filing adds.

"During the course of these attacks, approximately 55,000 U.S. customers suffered serious account compromises," the complaint alleges. "For at least 910 U.S. accounts (affecting approximately 1,250 devices), the bad actor not only accessed the accounts, but took additional invasive actions, such as accessing a stored video, accessing a live stream video, or viewing a customer's profile. The bad actors disproportionately targeted indoor cameras. Even though indoor cameras are a relatively small subset of Ring's product offerings, approximately 500 of the 1,250 compromised devices in the U.S. (i.e., approximately 40% of the compromised devices in the U.S.) were Stick Up Cams or Indoor Cams, both of which Defendant markets for indoor use."

In at least 20 instances, bad actors accessed the Ring accounts device for more than one month, per the complaint.

"And, in many instances, the bad actors were not just passively viewing customers' sensitive video data," the complaint says. "Rather, the bad actors took advantage of the camera's two-way communication functionality to harass, threaten, and insult individuals -- including elderly individuals and children -- whose rooms were monitored by Ring cameras, and to set off alarms and change important device settings."

Some of the alleged harassment and slurs included hackers cursing at women in bed, children being the object of hackers' racist slurs and numerous death threats from hackers to Ring consumers, the FTC says.

Amazon, Ring's parent company, said the doorbell company "promptly addressed the issues at hand."

"Ring promptly addressed the issues at hand on its own years ago, well before the FTC began its inquiry," an Amazon spokesperson told ABC News. "Our focus has been and remains on delivering products and features our customers love, while upholding our commitment to protect their privacy and security."

Under the proposed FTC order, Ring will be prohibited from profiting from unlawfully accessing consumers videos and directed to pay $5.8 million in consumer refunds, according to court documents.

Ring, founded in 2013 as Doorbot, was sold to Amazon for $1 billion in 2018.

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Nearly 2,000 Amazon workers to walk out after return to office

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(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 2,000 Amazon workers plan to walk out on Wednesday as the company weathers layoffs and a mandate that corporate employees return to the office.

"Employees need a say in decisions that affect our lives," said a petition from worker groups Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and Amazon's Remote Advocacy.

The employee activism follows a series of layoffs in recent months. In early January, Amazon announced plans to eliminate just over 18,000 roles, including impending layoffs announced in November. In all, the company has slashed 27,000 jobs since last fall.

At the outset of this month the company mandated corporate employees return to the office at least three days per week.

The employee petition cited the return-to-work policy and Amazon's ongoing climate impact as evidence that company leadership is "taking us in the wrong direction."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had been signed by 1,922 Amazon employees, including 913 in Seattle, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and Amazon's Remote Advocacy said. The company employs more than 1.5 million people worldwide, according to an annual report released last week.

In a statement to ABC News, Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said the company stands by its decision to bring corporate employees back to the office.

"We’re always listening and will continue to do so, but we’re happy with how the first month of having more people back in the office has been. There's more energy, collaboration, and connections happening, and we've heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices," Glasser said.

"We understand that it’s going to take time to adjust back to being in the office more and there are a lot of teams at the company working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for employees," he added.

As for employees' concerns over the company's climate impact, Glasser said: "We continue to push hard on getting to net carbon zero by 2040, and we have over 400 companies who’ve joined us in our Climate Pledge. While we all would like to get there tomorrow, for companies like ours who consume a lot of power, and have very substantial transportation, packaging, and physical building assets, it’ll take time to accomplish."

Sales at top tech firms have retreated from the blistering pace attained during the pandemic, when billions across the world were forced into isolation.

Customers stuck at home came to rely on delivery services like e-commerce and virtual connections formed through social media and videoconferencing.

Many tech stocks have surged in recent months, however, due in part to optimism about the potential benefits of artificial intelligence.

Shares of Amazon have climbed almost 30% since March 1.

The walkout among Amazon employees, which appears to be made up predominantly of corporate workers, comes more than a year after warehouse workers at a Staten Island facility established the company's first-ever union in the U.S.

Warehouse workers, however, have faced difficulty sustaining the momentum. In the months following the victory, labor campaigns were defeated overwhelmingly in elections at two other Amazon warehouses in New York.

Meanwhile, sharp divisions emerged within the Amazon Labor Union, the worker-led union behind the victory, according to previous interviews with four current and former workers at the Staten Island facility.

The walkout petition on Wednesday called for policy changes that would improve conditions for employees throughout the company.

"Our goal is to change Amazon's cost/benefit analysis on making harmful, unilateral decisions that are having an outsized impact on people of color, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable people," the petition said.

Calling on employees to sign on to the walkout, the petition added: "The more pledges, the stronger our voice."

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AI poses threat of 'extinction event for humanity,' US official says

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(NEW YORK) -- A top U.S. official for cybersecurity said Wednesday that humanity could be at risk of an "extinction event" if tech companies fail to self-regulate and work with the government to reign in the power of artificial intelligence.

The remarks came a day after hundreds of tech leaders and public figures backed a similar statement that compared the existential threat of AI to a pandemic or nuclear war.

Among the 350 signatories of the statement were Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, the company behind the popular conversation bot ChatGPT, and Demis Hassabis, the CEO of Google DeepMind, the tech giant's AI division.

Responding to questions about the joint statement, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly urged the signatories to self-regulate and work with the government.

"I would ask these 350 people and the makers of AI -- while we're trying to put a regulatory framework in place -- think about self-regulation, think about what you can do to slow this down so we don't cause an extinction event for humanity," Easterly said.

"If you actually think that these capabilities can lead to [the] extinction of humanity, well, let's come together and do something about it," Easterly added.

Industry leaders on Tuesday sounded a sobering alarm. "Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war," said the one-sentence statement released by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Center for AI Safety.

Supporters of the statement also featured a range of public figures like musician Grimes, environmental activist Bill McKibben and neuroscience author Sam Harris.

Altman, a top executive within the AI industry, said in Senate testimony roughly two weeks ago that he supports government regulation as a means of averting the harmful effects of AI.

"If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong," Altman said.

"We think that regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models," he added, suggesting the adoption of licenses or safety requirements necessary for the operation of AI models.

Like other AI-enabled chat bots, ChatGPT can immediately respond to prompts from users on a wide range of subjects, generating an essay on Shakespeare or a set of travel tips for a given destination.

Microsoft launched a version of its Bing search engine in March that offers responses delivered by GPT-4, the latest model of ChatGPT. Rival search company Google in February announced an AI model called Bard.

The rise of vast quantities of AI-generated content has raised fears over the potential spread of misinformation, hate speech and manipulative responses.

During comments on Wednesday, Easterly described Chinese-backed hackers and artificial intelligence as "the defining challenges of our time."

Easterly walked a familiar fine line between touting the possibilities of AI and warning against its harms.

"At the end of the day, these capabilities will do amazing things. They'll make our lives easier and better," she said. "They'll make lives easier and better for our adversaries who will flood the space with disinformation who will be able to create cyber-attacks and all kinds of weapons."

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