Black, natural hair gets new protections in New York City

Delmaine Donson/iStock(NEW YORK) --  Black men and women in New York City will have new protections for their hair thanks to new guidance announced Monday.

The country’s most populous city is banning policies that penalize black people based on their natural hair and hairstyles.

Employers and public places like libraries, gyms, schools and nightclubs “cannot force Black people to change their natural hair as a requirement to be admitted in or retain affiliation with those settings,” according to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which issued the new legal guidance.

“Policies that limit the ability to wear natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people aren’t about ‘neatness’ or ‘professionalism'; they are about limiting the way Black people move through workplaces, public spaces and other settings,” NYC Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis said in a statement.

New York City's first lady, Chirlane McCray, also spoke out about the guidance, saying in a statement, "Bias against the curly textured hair of people of African descent is as old as this country and a form of race-based discrimination."

New York City’s new guidance comes just two months after controversy erupted when a New Jersey high school wrestler was told to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match. The student’s attorney asked the state’s Division of Civil Rights (DCR) last month to further investigate the “unrelenting fixation on the hair of a 16 year old young man.”

The city's guidance on natural hairstyles is reported to be the first in the country.

The NYC Commission on Human Rights said it is currently investigating seven natural hairstyle discrimination cases that include black people being forced to wear their braided hair up or being fired for wearing their natural hair down.

The commission will be the city agency responsible for enforcing the new legal guidance. Employers found in violation of the guidelines can be fined up to $250,000 and be forced by the commission to make policy changes and rehires, according to The New York Times, which reported the guidance before its public release.

Cheers of applause for the new protections for natural hair circulated on social media with the hashtags #freethehair and #YourHairYourRightNYC.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


VaynerMedia's Claude Silver on the meaning of a Chief Heart Officer

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Claude Silver became the first Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia in 2014 -- think CEO or CFO, but for human resources. Silver helped invent the term in hopes of giving employees a new way of looking at HR.

"It's really the branding of HR and how we've chosen to rebrand, but it just makes so much sense, it's people, it's heart," Silver told ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis on episode #124 of "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis."

Serving as CHO, Silver acts as Gary Vaynerchuk’s right hand while managing 900 employees. As Silver navigates how to provide advice and feedback to Vayner employees, she admits that the act of finding and asking someone to mentor you is a challenging one, a problem she hopes to somewhat alleviate at the company.

"I think even putting yourself in that position -- which, by the way, is such an empowering position -- but it can be extremely daunting," Silver said. "It takes a risk to say, 'Gosh I really look up to that person, I like what he or she is about, I'm going to ask.'"

As Silver aspires to be that mentor for Vayner employees, she describes herself as being most comfortable while coaching, which could be why HR seems to be a natural fit for her.

Even so, her path wasn’t always so clear-cut, and her career took several twists and turns before she was able to find her niche.

"I started out teaching ropes courses and Outward Bound courses, outdoor education, which is something that came really naturally to me," Silver said of the early days of her career. "And then I found myself in this wide world of marketing and advertising. I was training to be a social worker and getting my MSW and literally took a left turn and there I was in this world of the Internet dotcom 1998 pre-Google, pre-Facebook."

What she describes as a "ghost-townish" Silicon Valley at the time has transformed into a bubble of tech startups worth millions -- if not billions -- of dollars.

Silver was working at J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in the Valley before moving to work in their London office and eventually moving back to the U.S. for Vayner. Having worked at age-old institutions as well as start-ups, Silver has some opinions on what's to come for the future of the industry.

"The startup mentality is amazing because it allows for risks and it allows for failing and it allows for standing back up and learning from those mistakes," Silver said, comparing it to older, more traditional institutions. "I think that it's very safe. The education that you get there is rigor, whereas at more of a startup vibe agency we're teaching life skills, which is very different."

And when it comes to everyday tasks and what she hopes to accomplish at Vayner, Silver has one goal in mind: to make her boss’s job easier.

"I always, always want to make my boss's job easier for them, and in fact put myself out of a job, because that's how I know that I've done it well, I'm ready to graduate. I feel recognized or accomplished or fulfilled and the people under me hopefully have learned and they're ready to step up," she said.

Hear more from VaynerMedia CHO Claude Silver on episode #124 of "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Karl Lagerfeld dies in Paris

Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images(PARIS) -- World-renowned fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld died in Paris on Tuesday morning, according to a statement from his eponymous brand.

"The House of KARL LAGERFELD shares, with deep emotion and sadness, the passing of its creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, on February 19, 2019, in Paris, France," reads the statement, posted on Lagerfeld's official Instagram account. "He was one of the most influential and celebrated designers of the 21st century and an iconic, universal symbol of style. Driven by a phenomenal sense of creativity, Karl was passionate, powerful and intensely curious. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time, and there are no words to express how much he will be missed."

The German-born, Paris-based couturier is credited with reviving French fashion house Chanel, where he served as creative director from 1983 until his death. He also designed collections for Italian luxury label Fendi as well as his own brand.

Chanel did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Tuesday.

Lagerfeld was widely recognized for his trademark look of dark suits, high collars, black sunglasses, fingerless gloves and his white hair neatly pulled back into a low ponytail.

He became known for his over-the-top, larger-than-life runway set designs at Chanel shows, including his recreation of a beach with actual waves, a fully-stocked supermarket with Chanel-branded food and the launch of a life-size mock rocket ship.

The fashion guru was noticeably absent from Chanel's haute couture show during fashion week in Paris last month.

Though his exact age is unknown, Lagerfeld was believed to be around 85 years old at the time of his death.

A number of Lagerfeld's former associates and friends have posted tributes to the legendary designer on social media following the news of his death.

English fashion designer Victoria Beckham posted a photo of Lagerfeld on Instragram with the caption, "So incredibly sad to hear this. Karl was a genius and always so kind and generous to me both personally and professionally. RIP."

Scottish hairstylist Sam McKnight, who has worked extensively with Chanel, also posted a photo of of the late designer on Instagram, writing, "Dear Karl, it has been an enormous pleasure. I’m honoured to have known you."

Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace, who is the chief designer of the Versace fashion house, posted a photo of herself with Lagerfeld on Instagram, writing that he was a "genius" and she will never forget his "incredible talent and endless inspiration."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Future iPhones could have a foldable display

Leszek Kobusinski/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It appears future smartphones may pay a nod to flip phones of the past.

Apple recently filed a patent update for a flexible display. Drawings included in the application show ways that future iPhones could be bent.

Furthermore, Samsung is expected to show off its foldable Galaxy smartphone at the Mobile World Congress. The exhibition kicks off next week in Barcelona.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


US airlines plan to add gender options for non-binary passengers

Robert Alexander/Getty Images(NEW YORK ) -- Major airlines will soon offer passengers who don't identify as "male" or "female" more options when booking tickets to travel.

The announcement came after an industry trade group, Airlines for America (A4A), and International Air Transport Association members recently approved a new standard to account for non-binary IDs.

"U.S. airlines value a culture of diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and for our passengers, and we work hard each day to accommodate the needs of all travelers while delivering a safe, secure and enjoyable flight experience," Airline for America spokesperson Vaughn Jennings said.

Passengers flying with airline giants such as United, American and Southwest have announced that they will be making changes to their online booking process to reflect the standard. United Airlines stated that "in the coming weeks their passengers will be able to identify themselves, as M(ale), F(emale), U(undisclosed), or X(unspecified," and that", customers who do not identify with a gender will have the option of selecting “Mx.” as a title."

Delta Airlines was already undergoing a similar process on its own.

"As part of our commitment to inclusion, we want to ensure all of our customers feel comfortable and welcome no matter how they self-identify, which is why we will begin offering our customers the ability to select the gender with which they most closely identify during the booking process," United Airlines released in a statement.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began requiring passengers to enter their gender and date of birth when booking flights in 2009. This requirement was a direct result of 9/11 when TSA created the Secure Flight vetting program, which is a behind the scenes watch list matching process that happens before passengers arrive at the airport.

"By providing the additional data elements of gender and date of birth, Secure Flight will more effectively help prevent misidentification of passengers who have similar names to individuals on a watch list and better identify individuals that may pose a threat to aviation," TSA stated in a press release.

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has expressed concerns for what they call "intrusive security screening procedures" by TSA. NCTE State Policy Director Arli Christian, who goes by the pronoun "they", applauds these new gender options.

"Non-binary people face unnecessary, invasive, and discriminatory scrutiny by airlines, airports, and security services alike," Arli Christian said. "A4A’s work is in line with other states who offer gender-neutral designations on IDs and is an important step toward ensuring safe and smooth travel for all passengers regardless of their gender."

These new options for travels will begin on June 1, however, according to International Air Transport Association spokesperson Perry Flint that the decision of when or if to apply the new standard up to individual airlines.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Payless to close all 2,100 stores in US, Puerto Rico

tupungato/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Payless Shoe Source will soon be closing the doors to all of its stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

After filing for Chapter 11 protection less than two years ago, the discount shoe store chain is filing for bankruptcy again. In all, 2,100 stores will close and 18,000 employees will be out of a job.

The retailer has been affected by competition not only from online retailers like Amazon and Zappos, but also discount stores like DSW, Walmart, Kohl's and Marshall's.

Payless has already halted its online sales and begun its liquidation sale. Stores are expected to begin closing by the end of next month.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


British lawmakers call Facebook 'digital gangsters' in new report

bombuscreative/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A new report by British lawmakers accuses Facebook of intentionally violating data privacy and competition laws, and likens the social media giant to "digital gangsters."

"Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law," the 108-page report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee reads.

In its report on disinformation and ‘fake news,’ the committee says Facebook has failed to answer its questions and calls for regulation on social media platforms.

“We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people," says Damian Collins, the committee’s chairman. "The age of inadequate self regulation must come to an end."

"The rights of the citizen need to be established in statute, by requiring the tech companies to adhere to a code of conduct written into law by Parliament, and overseen by an independent regulator," Collins adds.

The chairman says companies like Facebook are "failing in the duty of care they owe to their users to act against harmful content, and to respect their data privacy rights."

In response to the report, Facebook said it is "open to meaningful regulation," The Guardian reports.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Richard Branson eyes Apollo 11 anniversary for his first trip to space

@richardbranson/Twitter(NEW YORK) -- Before Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson accomplishes his dream of sending paying customers to space, he'll try it out himself. In an interview with ABC News, the billionaire entrepreneur said his birthday this summer coincides with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's historic moon landing, a moment he said inspired him to set up what he calls a "space line."

"I realized that governments were not really interested in you and me going to space," he said.

"We could make it possible hopefully to put thousands of people in the years to come. So yeah, July the 18th is my birthday so why not? We'll go for that."

So who, besides Branson, is lining up for a round-trip flight to space? Apparently, quite a few, although the exact number has not been released.

"The amount of people who want to go into space is ridiculously large and we've just got to make sure that we can make it affordable for a lot of them."

The plan at Virgin Galactic is to carry six passengers at a time into space for four minutes of weightlessness. The price tag right now is about $250,000.

"We're a business and we're not making money by not taking customers yet," said Mark "Forger" Stucky, one of the pilots at Virgin Galactic.

"So we need to get through the flight test program and get on with taking customers."

In December 2018, Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow piloted the latest test flight of their spaceplane VSS Unity to 51.4 miles over the California desert, just crossing the Federal Aviation Administration's definition of space for the first time.

Two months later, Sturckow and Stucky were awarded their commercial space flight wings in a joyous ceremony at FAA headquarters. Branson spoke at the event and took the opportunity to reflect on the company's journey.

"It's taken 14 years. We expected it to take seven," he told ABC News. "We've had tears, we've had joy, we've got a fantastic dedicated group of engineers who've made it all possible and the brave test pilots."

A tragic setback occurred in October 2014 when a Virgin Galactic test flight ended catastrophically with the death of pilot Michael Alsbury. Pilot Peter Siebold survived the incident, parachuting to the ground after the aircraft broke up mid-flight at an altitude of about 50,000 feet.

So why the risk? Why are these pilots so determined to get normal citizens into space?

"The more people that see our planet from space the more that we'll appreciate this place where we're living and hopefully take better care of it," said Sturckow.

"I think it's good for all humanity that we get the most people up there we can."

Branson echoed the sentiment. He's heard from many astronauts who have seen the Earth from space and said they come back with a different perspective.

"They view the Earth very differently having been to space and they come back determined to protect this beautiful planet we live on and we are hoping that we can inspire thousands of people in that way."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


After a month-long fast, church pays off $100,000 in debt for 34 college students

subjug/iStock(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- A group of 34 college seniors set to graduate in May had their student debts paid off thanks to a local church that raised more than $100,000 during a month-long fast.

Mya Thompson, a senior at Howard University, was one of the 34 students at the Washington, D.C., college who had their debts erased thanks to Alfred Street Baptist Church in nearby Alexandria, Va.

"I was overwhelmed and excited," Thompson, 25, said about the surprise. "I’ve always applied for a scholarship but I’d never received one and it was kind of like, 'Wow, I finally got chosen.'"

Thompson is a single mother of a 6-year-old son and works an overnight shift as a call taker for 911 emergency services, in addition to her college classes. She received $2,500, the amount she needed to pay off to Howard in order to graduate.

"Of course it’s stressful to know that you have to have $2,500 to come out of your pocket," she said. "However, no matter what, I would have paid that by any means, so it’s the fact that I don’t have to worry about paying that on top of my bills and other stuff."

Thompson, a first-generation college student, and the other 33 seniors learned that their debts were being paid earlier this month when they were called to the university's financial office. Instead of meeting with a school official, they met with Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, the pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church.

Wesley led his 8,000-member congregation in a period of prayer and fasting during the month of January. Congregants were asked to fast not only with their diets but also with social media and their finances.

Wesley, for example, cut his $4 per day coffee purchase and donated that money as part of his offering.

"We said we would pray as a church to what the Lord was telling us to do [with the money] and that we would donate it 100 percent outside of the church," he said.

The financial donations from the fasting, which took place during the government shutdown, far surpassed church leaders' expectations. Instead of the $25,000 they expected, the church members had donated $150,000 by the end of the month, according to Wesley.

Wesley credits his assistants, Mark Lavarin and Elijah McDavid, with coming up with the idea to donate $100,000 to Howard University and another $50,000 to Bennett College, a historically-black women's college in Greensboro, N.C.

Around 75 percent of the church's congregants attended historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), according to Wesley.

"It's very easy to see the impact in communities that these schools have," said Wesley, who worked with Howard officials to identify students who overcame financial hardships, had good GPAs and only had debt holding them back from graduating.

Wayne A. I. Frederick, the president of Howard University, said he expects the church's donation to have a ripple effect that will reach far beyond the 34 seniors who received the money.



"It will have a massive impact," he said. "I tell the students all the time when they come to Howard that they’re not here for a degree, they’re here for an education."

"What is equally important are the experiences they have outside of the classroom and this is another experience," Frederick said. "It will teach them about paying forward and teach them about the responsibility to the community around them."

Thompson, a public relations major who hopes to work for a record label, said she is already planning how she can pay the donation forward.

"What Alfred Street did for me, I feel like next semester or next year as an alumna of the university I can come back and do something nice, maybe pay for their books or pay for their graduation fee," she said. "I feel like it’s my duty to do that for students of my university."

Thompson said she also plans to attend service at Alfred Street Baptist church this weekend. Wesley said the church has received thank you letters from some of the Howard students, as well as some of their parents and even grandparents.

Making the $150,000 raised by Alfred Street Baptist Church even more remarkable is that congregants did not know ahead of time where their money would be donated. They found out a few days after the students were told, when the church played a video of the surprise.

"The entire congregation was just moved to tears," said Wesley. "In this time ... we feel it is important as a body of faith that we exemplify what it means to take care of strangers."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Tips to save on rising grocery costs 

Kwangmoozaa/iStock(NEW YORK) -- If you’ve taken a trip to the supermarket lately, you may have been hit with a higher grocery bill at checkout.

The United States Department of Agriculture is forecasting food prices to increase up to 2 percent overall, with even bigger jumps expected in categories like dairy, fresh vegetables, fruits and cereals.

The hike in prices is affecting all grocery stores, including Whole Foods, which had been touting drops. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon is raising prices at the supermarket chain.

So how can you save money the next time you shop for groceries? ABC News’ Becky Worley shares her tips in the video below:

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ABC News Radio