Business News

Wall Street suffers more losses as investors worry inflation catching up with consumers

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- It was another volatile day on Wall Street as investors worry that high inflation may finally be catching up with consumers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 236 points, one day after plunging more than 1,100 points, while the S&P 500 inched closer to bear market territory -- market shorthand for a 20% fall from a recent high.

"It's important to remember that the market is not the economy," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities told ABC News. "The market is a predictor of what the economy might look like six or 12 months down the road. So right now, I think the market is trying to tell us there's a chance the economy could get worse than it is right now."

This week's stunning stock sell-off was triggered by weaker-than-expected profits from retail giants including Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT) and Kohl's (KSS). Each company cut its profit outlook for the year and said higher costs for labor and transportation hurt its bottom line.

Consumers are still spending despite surging prices. Retail sales rose 0.9% in April, about in line with estimates, but they're starting to adjust their spending habits.

On Walmart's earnings call, CEO Doug McMillon said shoppers are beginning to switch from discretionary purchases to lower-margin items such as groceries and other household staples.

Record-high gas prices continue to take a bite out of household budgets. Gas prices are now above $4 per gallon in all 50 states, and analysts expect prices to go even higher. JPMorgan Chase predicted the busy summer driving season could push the national average past $6 per gallon by August.

Economists expect those higher gas prices to fan inflation, which is already at a 40-year high thanks to a perfect storm of factors: strong consumer demand, persistent supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, COVID-19-induced lockdowns in China and now the war in Ukraine.

The Federal Reserve is answering back by aggressively raising interest rates to curb consumer demand and bring down inflation. Investors fear those higher rates will slow growth so much that they will tip the economy into a recession.

Sixty-eight percent of CEOs surveyed by The Conference Board now expect the Fed's war on inflation to trigger a recession sometime next year, according to a press release.

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Ford urges some of its SUVs to be parked outside over fire risks

Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Ford is urging owners of 2021 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators to park their vehicles outside and away from any structures due to a fire risk, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday.

According to the recall documents, more than 39,000 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators have a defect that causes risk of "underhood fire, including while the vehicle is parked and off."

More than 32,700 of the affected vehicles are Expeditions and over 6,300 are Lincoln Navigators. The vehicles were built between December of 2020 and April of 2021, according to a statement from Ford.

"Until further notice, owners of these affected vehicles should not park them inside – they should only be parked outside and away from homes and other structures," the NHTSA said in a Thursday press release. "Fires have occurred in vehicles that were parked and turned off."

Ford said it has confirmed 16 fires related to the defect. Twelve of those happened when the vehicle was off and parked, one happened while the SUV was parked and on and three of the fires happened while the car was in motion, according to Ford's statement. Fourteen of the fires happened in rental cars. The automaker said it is aware of one injury from the defect.

Ford does not know the cause of the fire risk and at this time has no way to fix the defect. However, Ford said it is treating the issue with a "high sense of urgency" and is working to inform customers who have vehicles that may be affected.

"We are working around-the-clock to determine the root cause of this issue and subsequent remedy so that customers can continue to enjoy using their vehicles” Jeffrey Marentic, the general manager of Ford Passenger Vehicles, said in a statement. “We recognize the importance of staying in touch with our customers until we resolve this matter."

Drivers can check to see if their vehicle is part of the recall by entering the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at NHTSA.gov/recalls.
 

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Biden's housing crisis plan met with praise from experts -- who say there's more to do

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's administration this week took necessary -- if incremental -- steps to address the lack of affordable housing across the country, advocates and experts say.

The White House on Monday introduced the "Housing Supply Action Plan," which aims through a combination of incentives, reforms, financial mechanisms and legislative lobbying to expand housing access for owners and renters amid still-soaring inflation. The administration staked a timeline on its work, saying that the plan would "help close America's housing supply shortfall in 5 years, starting with the creation and preservation of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units in the next three years."

Housing and rental prices have continued to rise at the same time that the market, in many places in the U.S., has been challenged by a years-long lack of sufficient construction and inventory.

Against that backdrop, the White House's new plan was met with praise by experts even as some of them stressed that progress would be slower than the administration had vowed.

"Our country's facing a historic low supply of entry-level homes for sale," said Chris Vincent, vice president of government relations and advocacy for Habitat for Humanity International. "And federal investments and administrative actions are really necessary to move this along. So we think it's great and will have a big impact on urban, suburban and rural communities alike."

Jeffrey Zabel, a professor of economics at Tufts University, said while the White House's plan was a great first step, "It's going to take a long time for any of this to have a real impact on the supply of housing." Zabel predicted it will take at least a decade to achieve.

Prices -- spurred in part by inflation -- are a major pain point and are inextricably connected to issues with inventory. In April, housing costs rose 0.5%, the same as the month before, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Over the last year, per the CPI, housing costs increased 5.1%.

Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, said for "potential first-time homebuyers who are the linchpin of … the housing markets, they are priced out of the market."

It's even more challenging for people with low incomes and for communities of color to afford housing, advocates said, highlighting the influence of historic discrimination.

"I think the [COVID-19] pandemic really unveiled the housing crisis that many Black, brown and immigrant communities have faced for a long time," said Katie Goldstein, the director of housing campaigns for the Center for Popular Democracy. "I mean, really, we're talking about a housing crisis where there's been decades of racial discrimination and disinvestment by federal, state and private actors."

A 2020 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that "Black households account for 12% of all households in the United States and 19% of all renters, but they account for 26% of all renter households with extremely low incomes." Hispanics likewise make up 12% of all households and 19% of all renter households, the report said, but are 21% of renter households with extremely low incomes.

The Biden administration aims with its new plan to help lower costs over time by increasing the amount of quality housing, the White House said in a statement on Monday: "This means building more new homes and preserving existing federally-supported and market-rate affordable housing, ensuring that total new units do not merely replace converted or dilapidated units that get demolished."

The White House said it will incentivize states and localities to change their zoning and land-use regulations, launch new low-cost financing for new housing and preservation, improve and build upon the existing federal financing, secure the accessibility of affordable single-family houses for owner-occupants and work to fix housing materials and labor shortages.

A senior administration official told ABC News in an email that the new actions do not require additional funding. The administrative actions, the official said, include programmatic changes to programs already in place.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who separately reintroduced a bill that would help create millions of new housing units, was among the Democrats who applauded the Biden administration for its plan.

"Housing affordability is one of the biggest crises facing working families and a key driver of inflation," Omar wrote in an email to ABC News. "I am thrilled the Biden Administration is taking steps to tackle the housing crisis, including to encourage better zoning laws, funding for manufactured housing, multifamily housing, and the construction of new single-family homes. … Housing is a human right. It's time to treat it like one."

Last year, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., cosponsored legislation to reform low-income housing credit. He also praised the new housing initiative for how it would "improve and expand financing options that will support affordable housing construction, while embracing a mixed-use strategy, and providing government-owned housing to owners who will live in them," he said in an email to ABC News.

Beyond its administrative powers, the White House called upon Congress to enact legislative solutions, largely by approving President Biden's trillion-dollar social spending and climate package, known as the Build Back Better bill, which passed the House but was rebuffed by Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Senate.

The White House says that spending package would also make crucial investments in public housing and create more construction jobs. The administration singled out the Unlocking Possibilities program, which was included in that bill and would create a Housing and Urban Development Department competitive grant program of $1.75 billion "to help states and localities eliminate needless barriers to affordable housing production."

Experts say a comprehensive solution will ultimately require some kind of federal legislation.

"Only through a combination of administrative and Congressional action can the country truly resolve its affordable housing crisis," Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in an email.

Noëlle Porter, the National Housing Law Project's director of government affairs, also urged congressional action and highlighted the need for tenant protections.

"It's a collective effort to get something like this to really work," she said. "As advocates we will do every piece, every part in our power to braid funding sources together … but we need a significant investment in public housing and in tenant-based rental assistance."

In proposals to expand housing access and affordability, a focus on tenants is essential in ensuring their rights and protections, Porter said.

She emphasized the need for action which guarantees that tenants who move back onto property that was once public but was privatized have the same affordability restrictions that the public property had.

Housing is a significant portion of what people spend their income on, Porter said. "As that cost expands, it cuts out, it pinches out, everything else we need to be able to buy."

ABC News' Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.

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Gasoline prices hit new high ahead of summer travel holiday

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(NEW YORK) -- With Memorial Day weekend around the corner, many Americans will likely hit the road to enjoy the unofficial start of summer. But that road trip will cost them as gas prices hit new highs across the country.

The national average for gas is now sitting at $4.58 a gallon. Every single state in the U.S. is seeing an average gas price above $4 a gallon, with California holding the highest average at $6.06.

And the pain at the pump may only get worse. Some analysts are warning that before the end of the summer, the national average for gas could hit $6 a gallon or more.

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Stock market has worst day since 2020

Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Stock futures are down ahead of Thursday's opening bell after Wall Street suffered its worst day in nearly two years.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,165 points, while the S&P 500 fell 165 points and the Nasdaq Composite declined 566 points.

The drop comes amid signs of faltering economic growth and fears of a recession.

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Bite Beauty products on sale at Sephora as company prepares to shut down operations

Bite Beauty/ABC News Photo Illustration

(NEW YORK) -- Sad news for Bite Beauty lovers: The brand has officially announced it is shutting down operations after 10 years in business.

The clean beauty brand is beloved in the makeup community for its vegan, cruelty free cosmetics and skin care.

“We are sad to share that Bite Beauty will be closing later this year,” the company announced Monday on Instagram. "Thank you for the past 10 years of love, growth and fun. You have always been our ultimate inspiration."

The brand announced it would be keeping its Lip Lab custom lipstick experience open and adding more locations down the road.

"Stay tuned for more exciting news to come," the company wrote.

To clear out existing inventory, Bite Beauty is offering up to 50% off all its products at Sephora, giving fans time to stock up on their favorite products before the company closes its doors later this year.

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Buffalo shooter's livestream sparks criticism of tech platforms over content moderation

Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- The 18-year-old suspect who allegedly gunned down 10 people in a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday had, authorities say, an assault-style rifle, body armor, a tactical helmet -- and a small camera.

The horror that followed became the latest mass shooting simultaneously broadcast online. Twitch, the Amazon-owned platform on which the video appeared, said it took down the broadcast after less than two minutes.

But that duration gave enough time for individuals to download and repost copies of the video, one of which was viewed more than 3 million times, after a link to the video on Facebook garnered more than 500 comments and 46,000 shares before its removal, the Washington Post reported.

Plus, a 180-page document believed to have been published by the alleged shooter that included a litany of bigoted views said the writer had seen hateful messages on 4chan and other sites known for the appearance of white supremacist content, raising the possibility that he had been radicalized online. An additional 589-page document believed to be tied to the alleged shooter included postings by the alleged shooter on Discord, a social media platform.

The suspected shooter is now facing murder charges to which he entered a not guilty plea.

The episode drew renewed criticism of tech platforms and urgent calls for scrutiny over the moderation of videos and messages posted online, which can quickly spread to a wide audience and possibly fuel copycat attacks. The uproar arrives at a moment of public reckoning over content moderation, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has used his $44 billion bid for Twitter to voice his skepticism of platforms taking a broad role in removing posts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC News' "This Week" on Sunday that social media companies must balance free speech with concerns over public safety. During the same show, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul criticized how hateful ideas spread on social media "like a virus" and called for accountability from the CEOs of social media companies.

Experts in online extremism told ABC News they hope the mass shooting on Saturday serves as a wake-up call to bolster the push for more rigorous moderation of online posts. But livestreams pose a particularly difficult task for those who police content on tech platforms, experts told ABC News, noting the challenge of monitoring and removing the posts in real time.

Further, online message boards that foment bigotry, such as 4chan, traffic in odious ideas that often stop short of violating the law, leaving the door open to such platforms with a more lax approach to monitoring content, Jared Holt, a resident fellow at Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, told ABC News.

The mass shooting in Buffalo, which saw 10 people killed -- all of whom were Black -- and three others injured, comes three years after a self-identified white supremacist livestreamed a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which resulted in 51 people dead. Live video on Facebook of that massacre remained online for 17 minutes, far longer than the less than two minutes it took Twitch to take down the video from Buffalo on Saturday.

"It's an improvement, but needless to say, obviously it's not a perfect answer," Holt told ABC News. "Moderating live content has proven to be a massive challenge to tech platforms."

In general, tech platforms police content through both automated systems and manual decisions made by individuals, Alice Marwick, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who specializes in the study of social media, told ABC News. Livestreams pose such difficulty because they can evade the automated systems, forcing platforms to rely on human moderators who sometimes cannot handle the overwhelming volume of incoming content, she said.

"The size and scale of the number of livestreams that there are on a daily basis make it impossible to moderate them completely," she said.

More than 8 million users broadcast live on Twitch each month, and the site features an average of more than 2.5 million hours of video every day, Twitch Global Head of Trust and Safety Angela Hession told ABC News in a statement.

"We've invested heavily in our sitewide safety operations and in the people and technologies who drive them, and will continue to do so," she said.

Platforms could further limit livestream incidents like what happened in Buffalo by implementing a time-delay for live footage, like television stations do, Marwick and Holt said. The companies could also ensure that users must be verified before gaining the ability to livestream, as YouTube does.

But livestreaming will not be removed from the platforms altogether, Holt said, citing companies like Twitch that depend on livestreaming for their business. "The cat is out of the proverbial bag," he said.

Even a brief livestream can end up reaching a large audience. As noted, in the case of the video of the shooting in Buffalo, a copy of the livestreamed video received millions of views after a link on Facebook helped drive traffic to it, the Washington Post reported.

A spokesperson for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, told ABC News that the company on Saturday quickly designated the event as a "violating terrorist attack," which prompted an internal process to identify and remove the account of the identified suspect, as well as copies of his alleged document and any copy of or link to video of his alleged attack.

The move ensures that any copies of or links to the video, writing or other content that praises, supports or represents the suspect will be removed, the spokesperson added.

In a statement, Twitch told ABC News: "We are devastated to hear about the shooting that took place in Buffalo, New York. Our hearts go out to the community impacted by this tragedy. Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents."

"The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content," the statement added.

Content monitors also face a challenge from message boards and other sites that feature white supremacist ideology and can radicalize users. Since such content is offensive and dangerous but oftentimes legal, the onus falls on platforms to take an aggressive approach to remove it, Holt told ABC News. Not all platforms bring the same level of rigor to the task, he added.

The anonymous imageboard website 4chan is known for the appearance of hateful content. The alleged shooter in Buffalo named 4chan as a site he had visited. The website has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Hateful content can migrate from alternative platforms to more mainstream ones, allowing such messages to reach a wider audience before they are addressed, Holt said.

"There may be awful things on seedier internet platforms like 4chan," he said. "The internet doesn't exist as perfectly siloed platforms."

The alleged shooter also posted messages online in a private group on Discord, a social media platform. It's unclear who had access to the group. According to ABC News consultant and former Department of Homeland Security official John Cohen, Discord is a popular platform mostly with high school-aged teenagers and has been used to spread conspiracy theories.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families. Hate and violence have no place on Discord. We are doing everything we can to assist law enforcement in the investigation," a spokesperson for Discord told ABC News in a statement.

Online radicalization takes place over a prolonged period, affording multiple opportunities for platforms to step in, said Marwick, the professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"When people do get radicalized online, it's not something that happens in an instant," she said. "Sometimes people like to think about this as a flash of lightning -- that's not how this works"

"It takes place over a period of time," she adds. "There are possible points of intervention before it gets to this point."

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Martin Shkreli, infamous 'Pharma Bro,' released from prison early

Drew Angerer/Getty Images, FILE

(NEW YORK) -- Martin Shkreli, who was derided with the nickname "Pharma Bro" after he hiked the price of a lifesaving drug, and who flaunted his pricey purchase of a one-of-a-kind Wu Tang Clan album, is out of prison, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Shkreli had been convicted of securities fraud and other offenses and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

He was released Wednesday after serving about five years.

"I am pleased to report that Martin Shkreli has been released from Allenwood prison and transferred to a BOP halfway house after completing all programs that allowed for his prison sentence to be shortened. While in the halfway house I have encouraged Mr. Shkreli to make no further statement, nor will he or I have any additional comments at this time," defense attorney Benjamin Brafman said in a statement provided to ABC News.

Shkreli earned widespread condemnation in 2015 when he raised the price of Daraprim -- an anti-malaria medication often prescribed for HIV patients -- by 4,000%. He also initiated a scheme to block the entry of generic drug competition so that his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, could reap the profits from Daraprim sales for as long as possible, according to a federal judge that ruled earlier this year he should pay $64 million for his actions.

He was convicted of securities fraud in August 2017 in connection with his work at hedge funds MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare Management prior to founding Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shkreli, prosecutors said, used bogus information that defrauded investors in the hedge funds to pay back more than $10 million to disgruntled investors.

He had called the trial a "witch hunt" and blamed his increase in the cost of Daraprim for making him a target of federal investigators.

In addition to getting sentenced to seven years in prison for securities fraud, Shkreli was ordered to pay a $75,000 fine and $7.3 million in forfeiture.

Shkreli had unsuccessfully lobbied to be released from prison early on May 2020 after claiming his expertise could be used to find a cure for COVID-19.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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Memorial Day 2022: Shop sales from Macy's, West Elm and more

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(NEW YORK) -- It’s almost hard to believe that we’re approaching the summer of 2022 -- but we’re here for it.

To kick off the summer, many brands are offering major deals and discounts on everything from fashion and beauty products to home and outdoor garden necessities.

But you don’t have to wait until Memorial Day weekend to shop -- there are plenty of sales happening now so that you can prepare for any weekend festivities.

Check out some of the sales below:

Aerie
Shop 40% off all swimsuits with free shipping and free returns when you buy swim. You can also shop 25-60% off Aerie's collection (including 700+ new arrivals).

Asos
Shop an extra 30% off Asos’s sale section with code MORE.

Best Buy
Shop featured deals through May 22 at Best Buy on categories like TVs and projectors as well as video games, laptops, tablets, kitchen appliances and more.

Chi Haircare
Shop flat irons, curling irons, shampoos, thermal protection and more during Chi's Memorial Day Sale from May 27-30. Enjoy 25% off site wide with code MEMORIAL25.

Express
Shop an extra 50% off for up to 70% off clearance styles at Express.

Gap
Take 40% off everything with code FRIEND, going on now at Gap.

J.Crew
Right now, J.Crew is offering 25% off full price styles and an extra 50% off sale styles. You can also take 50% off full price with the code SUNNY.

Levi’s
Get 30% off orders of $150+ at Levi’s right now.

Macy's
Macy's Ultimate Shopping Event is happening now through May 22 -- perfect for prepping for the holiday. Take an extra 25% off marked items with the code SUMMER.

Nolah
Score up to $700 off mattresses (plus two free pillows!) at Nolah's Memorial Day sale, running now through June 6. Plus, find deals on adjustable bases, mattress protectors, bamboo sheet sets, weighted blankets and more.

Nordstrom
Shop the sale section of Nordstrom for deals on everything from shoes and dresses to home décor, beauty and electronics.

Overstock
Now through May 30, shoppers can get 70% off thousands of items at Overstock, including rugs starting at $49 and home decor starting at $24. Plus, there's free shipping!

Revolve
Get dressed for your Memorial Day weekend dinner party with up to 65% off at Revolve.

Spongelle
Take 30% off at Spongelle from May 26-31 with code MDW2022. Shop hand care, body wash, moisturizers and more -- perfect for an at-home spa day over the long weekend.

West Elm
Snag up to 50% off new clearance styles as well as up to 50% off outdoor living now at West Elm.

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Skittles, Starbursts and Life Savers gummies recalled due to reports of metal strands

FDA

(NEW YORK) -- The maker of Skittles, Starburst and Life Savers gummies announced a voluntary recall over the possible "presence of a very thin metal strand embedded in the gummies or loose in the bag."

"We received reports from consumers alerting us to this matter and are not aware of any illnesses to date," Mars Wrigley Confectionery US, LLC said in its announcement.

The recall impacted 13 product SKUs ranging from 3.5-ounce to 12-ounce share size bags of gummies.

Click here for the full product list and additional packaging details from the Food and Drug Administration.

"Products were manufactured by a third party and distributed in the United States, Canada and Mexico," the company said.

Consumers can locate the 10-digit manufacturing code on the back of the package. The first three digits will indicate if it's included in the recall.

"Mars Wrigley Confectionery US, LLC will work with retailers to remove recalled products from store shelves," the company said. "If consumers believe they have purchased a recalled item, they should dispose of the product and not consume it. Consumers with questions can contact the company by calling 1-800-651-2564 or by visiting https://www.mars.com/contact-us."

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Buffalo community rallies to support access to fresh food in wake of supermarket shooting

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(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- In the wake of a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, organizations are rallying to support the local community and ensure residents have access to affordable and fresh food.

Ten people were killed and three others were injured in the shooting, which took place Saturday afternoon at a Tops Friendly Markets supermarket in the predominantly Black Kingsley neighborhood. All of the victims who died in the attack were Black, and Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia has described the shooting as an "absolute racist hate crime."

Tops officials said in a statement on Twitter Sunday that the store location where the shooting took place would be closed until further notice.

The closure means the surrounding East Side community is now a food desert, as the supermarket served as the lone grocery store within walking distance for many residents.

Both the grocery store chain and local and state officials, as well as a number of other groups and businesses, have since stepped in to ensure that the community is not left without access to fresh food.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday announced a partnership with Uber and Lyft to provide residents free rides to and from nearby grocery stores.

"We are in touch with Uber and Lyft and they have offered to take people from these zip codes if they need to go to a grocery store in another area, because a lot of people in this neighborhood, they walk to the grocery store, they don't have transportation,” she said.

Riders in the designated zip codes can receive a ride to and from two local grocery stores, Tops Friendly Markets and Price Rite.

"Lyft riders can use the code ‘BuffaloLyftUp’ for up to $25 in the Lyft app. Uber riders can use the code ‘SHOPBUF’ in the Uber app for up to $20 off a ride, with a maximum of eight rides per customer," the governor's office said in a statement.

The Buffalo Community Fridge network, a local mutual aid organization that helps address food security and stocks community refrigerators with fresh produce and prepared meals, also saw a massive influx of donations and volunteers over the weekend and has stepped in to assist residents.

After a call for support following the shooting, one of the group's community fridge sites shared on social media that it received multiple donations. The group on Sunday stated that while it is no longer accepting monetary donations, it will still accept food donations for its various locations, to ensure fridges are stocked with plenty of groceries for those in need.

FeedMore WNY has partnered with the Resource Council of WNY to distribute food items. Slow Roll Buffalo, a group that connects community members through guided bike rides, also stated it would be helping to distribute items during its Monday night community ride.

In New York State, 10.5% of people struggle with food insecurity, according to Hunger Solutions New York. The coronavirus pandemic also created a large spike in food insecurity across the country.

In Buffalo, according to FeedMore WNY, which is backed by Feeding America, more than 14% of residents do not have access to enough nutritious food to lead a healthy lifestyle.

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FDA commissioner says agency looking to boost baby formula supply

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said the Food and Drug Administration is finalizing a plan to import more baby formula to the U.S. amid a nationwide baby formula shortage.

"We are moving on the product that was intended for other countries," Califf told Good Morning America Monday. "And I anticipate that by the end of the day today, we'll have a detailed announcement about how that's possible."

"Remember that the instructions need to be in a language that can be understood by mothers and caregivers that are putting the formula together for these infants and also, we have to be able to test the formula to make sure that the 30 required constituents are actually there in the right amounts," he added.

Federal regulations require baby formula to include 30 nutrients in various amounts, such as vitamins A, D and E, as well as protein and fat.

The makeup of baby formula is crucial since having too many or not enough nutrients can harm a baby and lead to serious health consequences.

Califf warned parents and caregivers not to try making homemade formula as a substitute for formula.

"That's a very bad idea, because formula, as I said, has 30 constituents and have to be there in the right amount," the commissioner said. "Ten of which, if they're there too much, if there's too much of that constituent, can be dangerous. So formula for infants is a total substitute for breast milk ... so we need the infant formula. It's critical for so many families but it's got to be the right stuff."

The FDA is also working closely with domestic baby formula manufacturers, according to Califf.

"We're working really closely with Abbott and I expect in a very short period of time, we're gonna have an announcement about the path forward. I think we figured out what to do," Califf told GMA. "Abbott's recently indicated that in as short as two weeks, they can be in action and begin to do their part and getting supply back on the shelves. Of course, it takes longer to get in full motion."

Last week, Abbott, one of the country's largest baby formula producers, said that pending FDA approval, it would restart their plant in Sturgis, Michigan, a facility that makes many specialized formulas, including EleCare and Alimentum hypoallergenic baby formula products. A recall in February led to the facility's temporary shutdown after concerns linked the plant to a bacterial outbreak.

On average, nationwide, 40% of baby formula is out of stock and states like South Dakota and Missouri have seen 50% out of stock, according to data firm Datasembly. The crisis has hit families of children with allergies and health conditions more acutely.

Amy Dolan, of Flanders, New Jersey, has a son, Connor, who needs specialized formula.

Connor has a milk protein allergy and his parents have been searching high and low for the specific baby formula he relies on.

"We've been actively looking all the time. Every night, we lay in bed and we're checking what websites we can find and how much it's gonna cost," Dolan told GMA. "People saw it as an opportunity to buy all this formula and, you know, price gouging parents who will pay anything."

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McDonald's exiting Russia after more than three decades

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(NEW YORK) -- After more than 30 years in the country, McDonald’s announced on Monday it is pulling its golden arches from Russia.

The fast food chain said it is exiting the Russian market and has begun the process of selling its business there.

The move comes after McDonald’s temporarily shut down its restaurants and paused operations in Russia back in March following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

"The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values," the company said in a press release.

"We’re exceptionally proud of the 62,000 employees who work in our restaurants, along with the hundreds of Russian suppliers who support our business, and our local franchisees. Their dedication and loyalty to McDonald’s make today’s announcement extremely difficult," McDonald’s president and CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement. "However, we have a commitment to our global community and must remain steadfast in our values. And our commitment to our values means that we can no longer keep the Arches shining there."

The company says it will prioritize ensuring that the employees of its Russian market will continue to be paid until its restaurants are officially sold.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, McDonald’s restaurants there remain closed. The company says it is continuing to pay full salaries for its employees in Ukraine while also supporting local relief efforts.

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Elon Musk says he paused Twitter deal over fake user accounts: Why they matter

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(NEW YORK) -- Tesla CEO Elon Musk's $44 billion bid to purchase Twitter struck an unexpected roadblock early Friday morning when he tweeted that he had put the deal "temporarily on hold," citing concern over the prevalence of bot and spam accounts on the platform.

Nearly two hours later, Musk assured observers that he remains "committed to acquisition." But damage had been done. The price of Twitter shares plunged Friday, closing more than 9% down.

Market analysts said the worry over fake accounts could serve as a pretext for Musk to bargain a lower price for the acquisition or abandon the effort altogether. The share prices of both Tesla and Twitter have fallen in the weeks since Musk reached a deal to purchase the social media platform, on April 25, potentially making the acquisition less attractive for Musk.

"I believe he's still committed in theory, probably at a lower price," Dan Ives, a managing director of equity research at Wedbush, an investment firm, who closely follows the tech sector, told ABC News. "It starts to be a boy that cried wolf."

An unpredictable figure, Musk defies an easy assessment of his thinking. But he has expressed concern over fake accounts on previous occasions. On April 21, days before he reached the deal to acquire Twitter, Musk tweeted: "If our twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying!"

There are two main explanations for why Musk could be worried about fake accounts. First, there is the threat they pose to the company's business model. Second, there is their potential to undermine the credibility of the platform as a site of authentic discourse between real users.

Twitter generates the vast majority of its revenue through advertising to users on the platform, which means its business depends to a significant degree on the number of users who see the ads displayed by the company.

In the first quarter of this year, the company reported 229 million users who accessed Twitter on any given day on a platform on which they could be shown ads, which amounted to a 15.9% increase from the same quarter a year ago. The company reported $1.2 billion in revenue for the first quarter of this year, of which $1.11 billion came from advertising.

If the number of spam or bot accounts on Twitter is larger than the company has estimated, then it could cut into that number of monetizable users and the amount of ad revenue they generate. In turn, that could damage Twitter's bottom line.

An accurate estimate of the number of fake accounts is important "given that establishing an accurate number of real tweeters is considered to be key to future revenue streams via advertising or paid for subscriptions on the site," Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told ABC News in a statement.

In prior comments, Musk has stated another source of worry over bot accounts that centers on how they could undermine the role Twitter plays as a "de facto public town square," as he has described it. If Twitter posts cannot be trusted as real remarks from actual human beings, then the value of the discourse on the platform deteriorates.

"There is so much potential with Twitter to be the most trusted & broadly inclusive forum in the world!" Musk tweeted on May 3.

"That is why we must clear out bots, spam & scams. Is something actually public opinion or just someone operating 100k fake accounts? Right now, you can't tell," he added in a follow-up tweet minutes later.

Public interest in fake accounts on social media platforms intensified in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, when it was found that Russian operatives had used false accounts to spread misinformation on a massive scale. In 2018, Twitter escalated its efforts to remove fake or suspicious accounts, suspending more than 70 million such accounts in May and June of that year, the Washington Post reported that July.

For its part, Twitter has acknowledged the challenge of accurately estimating the number of fake accounts on the platform. In the public filing this month in which it stated that fake accounts make up less than 5% of users, Twitter added a note of caution about the figure: "In making this determination, we applied significant judgment, so our estimation of false or spam accounts may not accurately represent the actual number of such accounts, and the actual number of false or spam accounts could be higher than we have estimated."

Last month, Musk reached a deal to buy Twitter at $54.20 a share, which amounted to a 38% premium above where the share price stood before it was made public that Musk had been purchasing company stock.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Musk over a delay in notifying regulators of a 9.2% stake in Twitter he took earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the acquisition over the possible violation of an antitrust reporting rule.

Ives, the analyst at Wedbush, said the announcement from Musk on Friday puts the outcome of the acquisition in question.

"This continues to be a circus show that really puts the deal in uncertainty," he said. "The chances of a deal getting done is probably less than 50% now."

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House Oversight opens investigation into baby formula shortage: Exclusive

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into the nationwide shortage of baby formula, and demanding records and information from four of the largest manufacturers.

"The national formula shortage poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities across the country -- particularly those with less income who have historically experienced health inequities, including food insecurity," Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote in letters to Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo, obtained first by ABC News.

The committee is investigating potential price gouging and the steps the companies have taken to address the shortage impacting families across the country.

"We have asked for a briefing by the end of the month, and we've asked three basic questions: Do they have the supply to meet the demand? Is there a supply chain problem that can be corrected? And what can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again?" Maloney told ABC News.

President Joe Biden spoke to major retailers and manufacturers on Thursday about how to boost supplies for American consumers, according to senior administration officials, as some retailers have limited the number of formula purchases each customer can make.

"While we are a small player in the infant formula market, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to help get parents and caregivers the formula they need so their babies can thrive," a Nestlé spokesperson told ABC News. "We have significantly increased the amount of our infant formula available to consumers by ramping up production and accelerating general product availability to retailers and online, as well as in hospitals for those most vulnerable."

The White House has also called the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to investigate potential price gouging. The Food and Drug Administration could also announce ways the U.S. can import more formula from abroad.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans blamed the Biden administration for the shortage, which is due in part to Abbott halting the production of four formulas at its production facility in February due to bacterial infections that led to two infant deaths.

The company said it could restart production in two weeks, subject to FDA approval, but that it could take more time for production to boost domestic supplies. The company said investigation found no evidence linking the infections to the plant.

"This should never happen in the United States," said Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, a member of House GOP leadership and mother of an eight-month-old boy.

Republicans Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Randy Feenstra of Iowa have also proposed legislation to streamline the import of formulas produced overseas.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also scheduled a hearing on the topic later this month, and could ask regulators and representatives from Abbott to testify, according to a committee aide.

Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, and Perrigo have not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

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