Avocados with longer-lasting technology are finally in stores across the country

MarsBars/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Is there anything worse than waiting for an avocado to be perfectly ripe, then cutting into it to find mushy brown streaks throughout? So much for what could have been great guacamole or the perfect toast topping.

Well, one food-tech startup has created a product that avocado lovers everywhere might get behind -- and it's about to hit one of the largest regional grocery stores in the U.S.

Kroger is partnering with Apeel Sciences to take the food tech's longer-lasting avocados to shelves at more than 1,100 of its stores across the U.S. over the next few months

"Apeel's innovative food-based solution has proven to extend the life of perishable produce, reducing food waste in transport, in our retail stores and in our customers' homes," Kroger's vice president of producer Frank Romero said in a statement.

Along with the longer-lasting avocados, Kroger will also stock shelves in its Cincinatti market with two new produce foods from the startup, Apeel asparagus and Apeel limes, starting this fall.

The product features a natural, plant-based protective coating that can be applied to the skin of avocados, which the food tech startup promises can double the fruit's shelf life.

The partnership between Apeel and Kroger is a "milestone" towards Kroger's "Zero Hunger, Zero Waste" initiative, which aims to eliminate waste within the company by 2025, Romero said.

The invisible coating is derived from plants and "keeps moisture inside produce and oxygen out, which dramatically slows the rate that produce spoils," according to the manufacturer, Apeel Sciences. Food suppliers spray the produce with the formula before shipping out to grocers.

It's made of lipids and glycerolipids that are naturally occurring in the peels, seeds and pulp of fruits and vegetables, the company said.

Apeel is safe to eat and fully compliant with all U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, according to the startup.

"Because Apeel is made of widely used plant-derived materials —- specifically, lipids and glycerolipids —- that are commonly and naturally found in foods, it is designated FDA GRAS or 'Generally Recognized As Safe,'" James Rogers, CEO and Founder of Apeel Sciences, said in 2018.

Not only is the product appealing to consumers, it's an investment opportunity that big names like Bill Gates have already gotten behind.

The privately-held Santa Barbara-based startup was founded in 2012 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help reduce post-harvest food loss in developing countries. Since it's conception Apeel Sciences has additional backing from six other notable investors, including the Rockefeller Foundation.

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Walmart to no longer sell e-cigarettes

Josie_Desmarais/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Walmart announced Friday it will discontinue selling electronic cigarette products as a mysterious vaping-related illness has sickened hundreds nationwide and been linked to eight deaths.

"Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations," a Walmart spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson added that they will sell through their current inventory.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday confirmed 530 probable cases of people who have experienced lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vape products on Thursday. Two-thirds of those cases are people 18 to 34 years old, and 16% are younger than 18 years old, according to the agency.

The CDC warns that the use of any tobacco products -- including vapes -- is dangerous, especially for young people, as nicotine can harm the developing brain.

Mystery shrouds the exact cause of the vaping-related illnesses that have afflicted hundreds nationwide. Investigators have yet to identify a single cause and are unable to determine whether the vaping outbreak is linked to one illness or a series of illnesses.

In the wake of the vaping epidemic, Michigan and New York have enacted laws banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, with the exception of tobacco and menthol flavored products.

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A week in, GM strike leads to talk of layoffs by suppliers

JHVEPhoto/iStock(DETROIT) -- As the United Auto Workers strike at General Motors enters its fifth day, its ripple effects are being felt among suppliers and beyond as negotiations continue to stalemate.

Nearly 50,000 union workers walked off their jobs on Sunday night, starting a nationwide strike at General Motors.

In a statement to ABC News, GM Canada said it had "seen a disruption of our vehicle assembly work at the Oshawa Assembly Plant due to the UAW strike."

"We plan to resume these operations as quickly as possible upon resolution of the UAW strike,” the statement added.

Back stateside, a local UAW union chapter 699 in Saginaw, Michigan, shared a message from their president warning of possible temporary layoffs in the coming days from GM supplier Nexteer Automotive, which makes steering systems, "due to the disruption in GM production."

"As a Tier 1 supplier to GM, we have been monitoring the UAW-GM situation carefully to evaluate the potential impacts to our company. Without an imminent resolution, Nexteer faces the difficult conclusion that we must temporarily reduce our workforce in the coming days due to the disruption in GM production," the statement shared by union leader Tom Hurst said.

"As a Tier 1 supplier to GM, we have been monitoring the UAW-GM situation carefully to evaluate the potential impacts to our company. Without an imminent resolution, Nexteer faces the difficult conclusion that we must temporarily reduce our workforce in the coming days due to the disruption in GM production," the statement shared by union leader Tom Hurst said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and work to minimize the impact to our employees. Our goal is to return to full production as quickly as possible. We will also continue to update employees if the situation changes or as we learn more," the statement added.

Andrew Rickerman, a spokesperson for the automotive technology and systems supplier Denso, told ABC News the impact on their production for GM will be determined by how long it will take to "reach a compromise" as the strike continues.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and remain hopeful that both sides will find an agreeable resolution soon,” Rickerman said in a statement. “The impact on our production for GM will be determined by how long it takes to reach a compromise. As always, we will adjust our production schedules based on customer release schedules.”

Negotiations are currently in their fifth day, and tensions heightened after it was revealed that health coverage for striking workers will no longer be covered by GM earlier this week.

Union leaders have argued that GM workers deserved a bigger slice of the company's profits, which they say have totaled $35 billion in North America over the last three years. Union members are calling for higher wages, retention of a health insurance plan in which workers pay about 4% of the costs, an improved pension plan and assurances that GM -- the makers of Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet -- will not close four plants in Maryland, Ohio and Michigan.

"The offer we presented to the UAW prioritizes employees, communities and builds a stronger future for all," GM said in a tweet. "It includes improved wages and health care benefits, over $7B in U.S. investments and 5,400 jobs."

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1,500 Amazon employees vow to walk out in support of Global Climate Strike

jetcityimage/iStock(SEATTLE) -- More than 1,500 Amazon workers are expected to walk out of their jobs Friday in support of the Global Climate Strike, saying in a statement that CEO Jeff Bezos' newly-unveiled climate pledge is "not nearly enough."

The youth activist-led Global Climate Strike had long been scheduled for Sept. 20, and Amazon employees have said they planned to participate, calling on Bezos to use his power to do more to tackle climate change.

“I’m walking out to make sure that all of the great landscapes that are currently available all over the world are still available for the next generation,” Roshni Naidu, 28, a senior technical product manager who has worked at Amazon for five years, told ABC News Friday.

Naidu said she was “cautiously celebratory” over Bezos’ announcement, “but we’re really hoping for even more than that.”

While Naidu is taking part in a walkout at the corporate headquarters in Seattle, she said she has heard of other offices across the country organizing walkouts as well. Of those walking off their jobs in Seattle, most are office workers she said, but they also have some fulfillment center workers joining them as well.

On Thursday, the day before the planned protest, Bezos announced Amazon's sweeping new commitment to tackle climate change -- committing to net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, announcing the purchase of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles and pledging a $100 million investment in international reforestation projects.

Shortly after the Bezos' Climate Pledge was announced Thursday, the group spearheading the protest, Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, put out a statement lauding Bezos' efforts but added that "we know it's not enough."

"As long as Amazon uses its power to help oil and gas companies discover and extract more fossil fuel, donates to climate-denying politicians and think tanks, and enables the oppression of climate refugees, employees will keep raising our voices," the group said in a statement.

The group said that 1,500 Amazon workers as well as 700 Google workers have pledged to walk out in support of the Global Climate Strike.

A keystone of Bezos' and Amazon's "Climate Pledge" is meeting the tenets lined out in the international Paris Agreement ten years ahead of schedule.

“As one of the country’s that's very highly-polluting, we need to do even more than what the Paris Agreement is asking for, and that’s why today we’re still walking out,” Naidu said, adding that they hope to see zero emissions “not net-zero” and want Amazon to “stop funding the fossil fuel companies.”

In their statement, Amazon Employees For Climate Justice workers are reiterating the company "still has work to do."

"The Paris Agreement was a political agreement, not a scientific one," the statement said, calling "historically high-polluting countries to look beyond the Paris Agreement, because meeting its targets, even 10 years ahead of schedule, does not, by itself, put us on a pathway to a livable planet."

It continued: "We look forward to working with leadership to understand these questions, and to working to ensure transparency and accountability."

Naidu said she hopes other “employees feel empowered” to take action in their workplaces as a result of the Amazon walkout.

“When we started doing this, we didn’t really know what would happen but the response has been amazing,” Naidu said. “And then when Bezos came out with the Climate Pledge yesterday, that was just phenomenal.”

“We’ve kind of proven that collective action works, and at the end of the day companies should reflect what their collective employees want,” she added.

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Twitter shuts down thousands of international accounts tied to political spam

RomanOkopny/iStock (SAN FRANSISCO) -- Twitter on Friday said it shut down thousands of fake accounts from around the world, many of them tied to “political” spam.

The accounts were operating in five jurisdictions identified by Twitter, including China/Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and more.

The company said it identified an additional 4,301 accounts operating in China that were attempting to “sow discord about the protest movements in Hong Kong.” This comes after Twitter cracked down on a network of more than 200,000 fake accounts in August.

Twitter said it detected a group of accounts “linked to Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus which were engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.”

These accounts were presented as “independent journalistic outlets while tweeting narratives favorable to the Saudi government,” according to Twitter.

More than 270 accounts originating from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt were taken down because they had the goal of targeting Qatar, Iran and other countries as well as amplifying "messaging supportive of the Saudi government," according to Twitter.

These accounts were created and managed by the private tech company DotDev, which has been permanently suspended from using the platform, Twitter said.

Separately in the region, Twitter said it suspended over 4,000 accounts operating in the UAE that tweeted content directed at Qatar and Yemen, "such as the Yemeni Civil War and the Houthi Movement."

In Spain, 265 accounts operated by the group Partido Popular were removed for “falsely boosting public sentiment online in Spain.”

In Ecuador, Twitter shut down more than 1,000 accounts associated with the PAIS Alliance political party that "was primarily engaged in spreading content about President Moreno’s administration."

In the new disclosure of data, the social media giant said its archive of “state-backed informations operations” is now the largest in the world.

The move comes just ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrate with Latinx-owned beauty and fashion brands

Jun/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It's Hispanic Heritage Month, and an amazing way to celebrate is by supporting Latinx-owned brands.

From amazing body products to stylish fashion lines, there are a variety of brands that embrace Hispanic culture in a beautiful way.

One specific platform, Stitch Lab, is constantly connecting and showcasing emerging Latinx designers worldwide.

During September and October, this talent incubator has partnered with Macy's to bring these designer lines to select stores.

These brands will be part of The Market @ Macy’s, a full-service marketplace that offers shoppers the chance to discover new products, services and activations each month in a boutique setting.

A few stand-out labels that will be featured include Petra and Quote Me.

Below, we have highlighted a few other amazing brands to get familiar with. Make sure to check back as we continue to update.


This Colombian brand features a wide variety of beautifully designed white blouses, dresses and more.

Bonika Beauty

Founded by Afro-Latina lifestyle influencer Ada Rojas, this beauty and hair care line offers everything from hairstyling gel to a curl-enhancing mousse.

Peralta Project

This Manhattan-based store with uniquely designed apparel allows customers to choose specifically what style layout they want, then delivers it on the spot.

Alamar Cosmetics

This collection owned and operated by Gabriella (aka Gaby) Trujillo has gorgeous, high-pigmented eye shadow palettes, color blush palettes, and her recently launched nude lip gloss and liner.

Quote Me

This Colombian brand has awesome basics that often feature empowering messages. Plus, items are made with sustainable materials and are environmentally friendly.

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'Black Yacht Week' leader nixes charity trip after alleged false ties to non-profit

MarianVejcik/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The organizer of what some are calling the disastrous "2019 Black Yacht Week" -- a supposed dream trip in the Caribbean that allegedly turned out to be more of a nightmare -- may be in hot water again, this time for allegedly falsely advertising partnerships with charitable organizations for purported mission trips to Haiti and Puerto Rico.

Reginald "Reggie" Cummings, the owner of Black Travel Movement (BTM), is already facing questions about "Black Yacht Week" -- billed as the "vacation of a lifetime" for black travelers -- after guests complained of "disgusting" conditions aboard the vessels, hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly instead of gourmet meals and last-minute itinerary changes. Cummings and his lawyer pointed the finger at the yacht company, which said that it was given inadequate time to prepare and immediately responded to customer complaints.

Cummings told ABC News in a recent phone interview last week that when he started BTM in 2016, one of his goals were to encourage black people to travel to other countries, but as the brand expanded to over 400,000 followers on Facebook he wanted to make "an impact" on the countries his customers visited. The black travel community consist of mostly millennials and women who are interested in or are avid travelers who aspire to see the world safely and on a budget.

"I came up with the idea to what I call 'BTM Cares' and its basically, we do service trips," Cummings said. "One of the things that I also noticed when having conversations about volunteering that most of the places with Afro communities, most of the volunteers don't look like the community, they look like white people, you know, wanting to help out."

The first mission trip was slated for earlier this year to Haiti, Cummings said. BTM Cares, which is not a registered charity, claimed it teamed up with Mission of Hope (MOH) to bring 20 medical professionals and 20 other volunteers to go "door to door" to visit Haitian families and host "Pop-Up Clinics," said Cummings.

"The people of Haiti are over the top excited that we are bringing 40 black, brown, and beige faces to serve the people," BTM said in a now-deleted post on its website. "The overwhelming majority of the volunteers providing services to Haiti are usually Caucasian."

According to BTM, after the service project, guests would enjoy three days at Wahoo Bay Beach Resort.

"After looking at a number of charitable organizations working in Haiti, we decided to partner with Mission of Hope because of their commitment to transforming lives in Haiti and we're looking forward to supporting their programs that help the Haitian people," a now-deleted post on BTM's website said.

MOH is a Christian-based organization that "exists to bring life transformation to every man, woman, and child in Haiti. We desire to serve the nation of Haiti, and see lives changed," according to the non-profit's website.

The June 2019 trip was canceled a week before the group's departure because of "civil unrest" after the country's presidential election, said Cummings.

Cummings, 58, said he refunded the customers (it wasn't clear how much that trip cost) and planned on rescheduling the Haiti trip with MOH for the first half of 2020, though a similar trip was advertised on the website for the end of October.

When ABC News reached out to MOH to confirm its partnership with BTM, Ray Graham, the corporate counsel for the Texas-based organization, said he never heard of the travel group or Cummings.

Interested travelers were charged $1,250 per person for the Oct. 19 to Oct. 27 service trip, according to recently deleted post on the BTM website which included a logo associated with MOH to allegedly bolster the trip's legitimacy.

Cummings told ABC News in a subsequent interview Monday that he stands by his claimed partnership with MOH, but the advertisement for next month's mission trip was not supposed to be posted by the web developer.

"It wasn't being promoted and no one signed up for the trip. I'm taking a small group to Haiti next month just to try and see what the conditions are; just 6 or 8 of the BTM staff. We are going to be engaging in some service projects while we are there. We are going to reschedule the larger trip to the first quarter," said Cummings.

Graham, the lawyer for MOH, said the organization immediately reached out to BTM asking it to remove MOH from the travel website within 24 hours. "BTM complied. I think that action speaks for itself," Graham wrote to ABC News in an email.

BTM Cares is also advertising a seven-day mission to Puerto Rico from Oct. 6 - 13 that is set to include four days of service projects like building houses and two days of relaxation, the website says.

"Black Travel Movement is stepping up to do its part in the recovery effort," the website reads. "This is a true service project and every dollar of your investment will go to pay for trip costs and the cost of providing services to the people of Puerto Rico. BTM does not make a profit from the BTM Cares service trips."

For a fee of $750 per person, BTM promises a "private, upscale hostel in San Juan Puerto Rico that will be exclusively for use by BTM’ for the duration of this trip" but does not include airfare.

BTM doesn't mention which organization BTM Cares is teamed up with for the project. The only hint was a promotional video from Group Mission Trips — a non-profit that has built thousands of homes in Puerto Rico since the devastation of Hurricane Maria -- that was embedded on BTM's website.

Group Missions Trips confirmed to ABC News that it has a scheduled mission trip heading to Puerto Rico next month, but it's not with BTM or BTM Cares. The promotional video has since been removed from BTM's website.

Cummings said a staff member had the name of the organization BTM Cares worked with on the Puerto Rico trip, but that he did not know it. He told ABC News on Monday decided to cancel the trip in its entirety.

"With all the fiasco surrounding the Black Yacht Week...we are going to regroup, do some PR...change business practices and go next year," said Cummings, who confirmed that "five or six" people have signed up for the mission trip to Puerto Rico. As of Tuesday, the advertisement is still posted on the BTM's website.

As a result of the "Black Yacht Week" controversy, Cummings is engaged in litigation in Maryland and a federal court in North Carolina in which Dream Yacht Charters accused him of not paying over $551,000 to rent 26 vessels. In court papers, Cummings asserted that the yacht company breached their contract by providing inadequate services and that he is not obligated to pay the contracted sum.

The North Carolina's attorney general's office is investigating 17 complaints regarding the yacht trip and 16 complaints are posted on the Better Business Bureau's website about alleged mishaps dating back to 2016. Two of the BBB complaints have been marked resolved.

No complaints have been filed with the North Carolina attorney general about the mission trips, according to a spokesperson.

"Black Travel Movement has taken 35 trips," Cummings told ABC News. "We have had 2,000 members travel with us. These have been life-changing experiences for some of our members. We take pride in what we do and know things won't always go perfectly...I'm one of the good guys," he said.

Cummings said he seeks to settle the case with Dream Yacht Charters within the next 60 days before deciding whether to cancel BTM's last scheduled trip of the year to Johannesburg, South Africa, for Afropunk.

The trip costs $2,750 per person for a "double occupancy" room or $3,350 per person for a "single occupancy," according to the website.

"I don't want to cancel that," he said.

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Colt will stop manufacturing AR-15 assault rifle for consumer market

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass shootings in which suspects used the weapon.

"At the end of the day, we believe it is good sense to follow consumer demand and to adjust as market dynamics change," Dennis Veilleux, president and CEO of Colt, said in a statement. "Colt has been a stout supporter of the Second Amendment for over 180 years, remains so, and will continue to provide its customers with the finest quality firearms in the world."

The company did not mention mass shootings in its statement about stopping production and instead blamed the indefinite pause in making the weapon on a "significant excess manufacturing capacity."

"Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future," Veilleux said.

Colt will continue to make weapons, including rifles, for the military and law enforcement. It will also continue to produce its signature 1911s and revolvers.

The AR-15, and AR-15-style rifles, have been used in a number of mass shootings in recent years. While it's not clear if Colt was the specific manufacturer in the cases, the shooter in the Poway synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh killed 11 people with an AR-15.

Nikolas Cruz, who confessed to killing 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, used an AR-15-style gun.

Twenty-six people were killed with the same type of rifle in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in February 2017.

Dozens of rifles, including AR-15s, were found in the hotel room where Stephen Paddock allegedly killed the most people in a shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas in October 2017.

Colt's Manufacturing Company opened in 1836 in Hartford, Connecticut, and is legendary for its Civil War-era revolvers, such as the Colt Walker, the Peacemaker and M1911.

The suspension of production already caught the eye of 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, who recently called for a buy-back of all assault-style weapons and said weapons of war had no place in the hands of civilians. O'Rourke mocked a photo posted on Twitter by the NRA saying he was increasing sales of AR-15s with a link to a story about Colt stopping production.

Several stores have stopped selling assault rifles in recent years in the wake of shootings, including Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart.

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FDA using criminal investigators to probe vaping crisis as number sick soars to 530

Marccophoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Drug Administration has been using their criminal investigators to look into the rash of illnesses surrounding the use of vaping products, Mitch Zeller, the director of the Center for Tobacco Products for the FDA, said in a press conference on Thursday.

The investigators will not be pursuing any individuals or companies and are not focused on prosecuting anyone at this time, Zeller said.

The agency also released demographic information about the vaping victims. Of 530 confirmed and probable lung injuries so far, three-quarters of the victims were male and two-thirds were between the ages of 18 and 34.

Despite rampant fears among parents about youth vaping, only 16% of vaping victims are younger than 18 years old, according to Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seven individuals have died in the ongoing outbreak.

As of Thursday, investigators were still unable to determine whether the vaping outbreak is linked to one illness or a series of illnesses.

In light of the recent illnesses, Michigan and New York have enacted laws banning the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes. Tobacco- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are still allowed to be sold in those states.

Investigators still haven't identified one cause of the rash of vaping illnesses, Schuchat explained at the presser, adding that most patients with lung injuries reported having used THC vaping devices.

The FDA has collected 150 vape samples from a variety of states to test for chemicals, nicotine, THC, toxins, pesticides and other cutting agents and additives. While lab analysis previously found vitamin E acetate in some tested samples, no one ingredient is showing up in every sample.

As for the law enforcement arm of the probe, Zeller stressed that given the complexity of the investigation, it's premature to talk about the actions or regulations that the agency make take in the future.

Zeller emphasized that it would be impossible at this point to use enforcement authorities when there are still so many outstanding questions.

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Amazon vows to meet the Paris climate agreement requirements 10 years early

jetcityimage/iStock(SEATTLE) -- Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos announced the company's sweeping new efforts to combat climate change and revealed a new corporate pledge to meet the international Paris Agreement 10 years early -- committing to net zero carbon emissions by the year 2040.

Bezos and the advocacy group Global Optimism revealed the "Climate Pledge" at an event Thursday in the nation's capital, with Bezos saying that Amazon is the first to sign the wide-ranging pledge that calls on corporations to bring their carbon emissions to net zero by 2040. This is ten years ahead of the international Paris Agreement's goal of 2050.

The Amazon founder said that if they can meet the Paris Agreement early, any company can.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue -- we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” Bezos said in a statement. “If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon -- which delivers more than 10 billion items a year -- can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can."

Bezos also committed to switching to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and a $100 million investment in reforestation projects around the world.

As part of the announcement, Amazon also announced that it had ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles which will all hit the roads by 2030 -- a step it said will save 4 million metric tons of carbon per year and constitutes the largest order of electric vehicles ever.

The Climate Pledge shows a response from corporations to the growing threat of climate change, even though the U.S. government has withdrawn from the international climate agreement, the Paris Agreement, under the Trump Administration.

Bezos added in a statement that he has been "talking with other CEOs of global companies, and I’m finding a lot of interest in joining the pledge."

Signing the climate pledge "will send an important signal to the market that it’s time to invest in the products and services the signatories will need to meet their commitments."

Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate change chief and founding partner of Global Optimism, called on "bold steps by big companies" to drive change in support of a low carbon economy.

"With this step, Amazon also helps many other companies to accelerate their own decarbonization," she said in a statement. "If Amazon can set ambitious goals like this and make significant changes at their scale, we think many more companies should be able to do the same and will accept the challenge. We are excited to have others join."

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