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Tuesday
Mar122019

Top Democrat on antitrust committee expresses 'concerns' over T-Mobile, Sprint merger

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The top Democrat on a House subcommittee, tasked with oversight of antitrust law, said he's concerned with a broad range of implications tied to the multi-billion-dollar merger deal between T-Mobile and Sprint.

"I'm particularly concerned about the impact on consumers, on the price of services, on choice," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative law, told ABC News ahead of his panel's Tuesday hearing over the blockbuster merger.

Democrats on the subcommittee called the hearing to explore "the impact of the proposed merger," calling T-Mobile CEO John Legere, Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure and a group of industry leaders to testify in public.

Cicilline also told ABC News that he wonders whether the proposed merger will negatively impact the job market by reducing the number and kinds of jobs in the U.S., the working conditions and the kind of compensation.

"You pretty clearly reduce the likelihood of innovation," he added. "You have fewer people competing in the marketplace."

Tuesday's hearing comes amid revelations that T-Mobile executives spent almost $200,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington after announcing the proposed merger in April 2018.

The company said the $195,000 spent at the president's hotel amounts to roughly 14 percent of T-Mobile's $1.4 million in hotel spending in the nation's capital over the same period of time. About half of that total figure was spent at Hilton hotels, T-Mobile said.

"It's obviously a concern," Cicilline said of the report. "I'm always concerned when there is evidence or a suggestion that someone is trying to curry favor with the administration by staying at a Trump Hotel -- I think that's a concern."

He added, "I think the American people have to have confidence that the decisions are made whether to contest or approve mergers of this magnitude, free from any favoritism or political interference and that reporting that I have reviewed is concerning. ... The hearing will provide an option to clarify that."

Following his election, President Donald Trump answered demands that he divest from his family businesses by placing his business empire in the control of his three adult children via a "blind trust" and pledging to donate any foreign earnings to the U.S. Treasury.

Despite rampant partisanship in Congress, Cicilline expects "cooperation" from Republicans on the issue.

"I'm worried about these issues because I'm focused on the interest of my constituents and what I know matters in people's lives," he said. "They want more choices and lower costs and more competition and better services, I expect they're going to have the same concerns as I have."

Sprint and T-Mobile, according to a report from the California Public Advocates office, largely serves lower-income wireless customers. Cicilline worries that the merger could negatively affect this vulnerable demographic.

The two companies rank as the third- and fourth-largest wireless companies in the country. The merger likely would create a company the size of Verizon or AT&T.

Executives of both companies pledged not to raise prices and said in previous congressional testimony the merger would gives customers more bang for the buck, possibly while paying less.

"We can take competition to new levels," Legere, the outspoken T-Mobile CEO, testified at a hearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in February. "We will offer a much faster, broader and deeper network, and new services at lower prices. This will force our rivals -- AT&T, Verizon and the cable monopolies -- to improve their services, increase their own capacity and lower prices even further."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar112019

Trump claims he called Apple CEO Tim Cook 'Tim Apple' to 'save time & words'

Tim Cook/Twitter(WASHINGTON) -- Five days after President Donald Trump appeared to slip up and call Apple CEO Tim Cook “Tim Apple” at a White House meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, the president claimed on Monday that it wasn't a mistake at all.

He claimed on Twitter that he said "Tim/Apple" instead of Tim and Apple "as an easy way to save time & words."

"The Fake News was disparagingly all over this," he said, "it became yet another bad Trump story!"

The White House official transcript relayed the exchange as "We appreciate it very much, Tim — Apple," implying the president paused.

In the video of the event, he doesn't appear to pause.

The day after the meeting, Cook had a bit of fun at the president’s expense.

The tech executive changed his Twitter name to “Tim Apple” last Thursday, with the Apple an emoji of his company’s logo.

As far as interactions between the two go, this one was pretty tame.

Cook has previously criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, condemned the president’s so-called travel ban, and pressured Trump to preserve DACA.

As a candidate, Trump called for a boycott of Apple during a dispute over the company’s role in unlocking the iPhone of the suspected San Bernardino shooter.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar112019

Florida boy gets trapped in cooler while playing, prompting safety recall

Courtesy R. Wanes(POMPANO BEACH, Fla.) -- A Florida boy found himself trapped in a cooler while playing hide and go seek, prompting multiple safety recalls.

The Wanes family, of Pompano Beach, Florida, broke into a panic earlier this month when they found their 5-year-old son locked inside a large cooler on the family's back deck.

"I wanted to, like, play hide-and-go-seek," Nicholas Wanes told ABC affiliate WPLG-TV. "But I, like, found, like, a not-good hiding spot inside the cooler."

Surveillance video from the family's home showed the child crawling into the 72-quart cooler at around 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2.

He was inside for about two minutes playing, with the top slightly ajar and resting on the latch, but things took a turn fast.

The video appeared to show the boy pulling the latch and forcing it to close from the inside. He screamed for help when he realized that he couldn't get out.

Thankfully, his parents were nearby to rescue him.

"We just grabbed him for dear life," his mother, Maria Wanes, said. "We don't want another family to not hear their child and go through this."

His father Robert Wanes said he was upset with the cooler's manufacturer, Igloo, because there wasn't a way to open the container from the inside.

He blamed it on a design flaw and said it shouldn't be easy for a child to latch the cooler from the inside.

"I know we're all supposed to watch our kids and make sure they don't crawl into a cooler, but as we know, it only takes a second to turn the other way," he told WPLG.

Igloo appeared to agree with the family. It issued a recall of four products on Friday in the wake of the incident.

"It has been brought to our attention that a child recently, inadvertently trapped himself inside one of our products," the company said in the statement. "We are very sorry for the scare this incident must have caused the child and his family, and very happy no one was injured."

It attributed the incident to a performance malfunction with the cooler's latch.

"We have immediately identified the product in question. Our engineering team has determined what could have been the cause of the incident – a performance issue with a latch on the cooler, with the ability to lock, if the user attached their own padlock or similar device," the company said. "We have identified three other products with the same latch, with the potential to encounter the same issue."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar092019

Facebook's plan to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram messaging raises privacy concerns, fears of monopoly

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a manifesto this week in an apparent attempt to rebrand the social-networking company as a "privacy-focused" platform as it moves forward to marry messaging functions across all of its platforms and even into text messages. But some experts are skeptical about the claim, which comes after a string of scandals regarding user privacy, data breaches and looming investigations.

"We plan to build this the way we've developed WhatsApp: focus on the most fundamental and private use case — messaging — make it as secure as possible, and then build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services," Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

The move toward an all-encompassing messaging platform has raised concerns from experts about both privacy and security for users and their data as well as antitrust issues if the company combines its platforms.

"Today if you want to message people on Facebook you have to use Messenger, on Instagram you have to use Direct, and on WhatsApp you have to use WhatsApp," Zuckerberg wrote in his 3,200 word treatise. "We plan to start by making it possible for you to send messages to your contacts using any of our services, and then to extend that interoperability to SMS too."

 As an example of how this would work, Zuckerberg wrote, "lots of people selling items on Marketplace list their phone number so people can message them about buying it. That's not ideal, because you're giving strangers your phone number. With interoperability, you'd be able to use WhatsApp to receive messages sent to your Facebook account without sharing your phone number."

Currently WhatsApp users must connect through a phone number.

Interoperability, or the ability to message fluidly across all of the company's platforms has been mentioned by Zuckerberg before, but this is the most definitive statement the company has made about how it will work. It will be opt-in, Zuckerberg wrote, but that still has privacy and anti-trust experts concerned.

Regulatory experts told ABC News that Facebook's apparent goal of having one behemoth messaging platform for social networking, ads and commerce integrated into daily interactions like China's WeChat — in which a user can order and pay for dinner — could be considered a monopoly. It would also give the company access to a tremendous amount of user behavior.

"Antitrust authorities are increasingly concerned that as people begin to leave Facebook, Facebook is buying up their competitors — Instagram and WhatsApp in particular. Even if Facebook's users don't like its privacy practices, if they leave for Instagram or WhatsApp, they are just coming back in the building through a different door," Blake Reid, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, told ABC News.

"There is some talk about reversing the approval of Facebook's acquisitions," Reid said. "But if Facebook's messaging applications are integrated with Instagram and WhatsApp, separating the companies becomes much more difficult."

Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), agrees.

"It's a judo move," Soltani told ABC News. "Taking your enemies' force toward you, redirecting for your advantage. By using privacy and security as a cover, it counter-veils the antitrust issues raised. Once users start using it and see how easy it is to text your mom from Instagram, it will dispel any public backlash [if authorities try to impose bans]."

Facebook is currently facing 10 open investigations in Europe for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, which went into place last May, including one restricting WhatsApp from sharing data with Facebook, a European Union official confirmed to ABC News.

Germany's antitrust regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, ruled in February that Facebook cannot share messaging across platforms or data it collects with third-party applications without a user's explicit consent.

"The extent to which Facebook collects, merges and uses data in user accounts constitutes an abuse of a dominant position," the Bundeskartellamt wrote in a statement announcing its decision. Facebook is appealing that decision.

"Using information across services helps to make them better and protect people’s safety," Facebook said in a blog post. It also denied it was a monopoly by writing, "Popularity is not dominance."

"But we already know in Europe, this is what Germany asked Facebook not to do and the FTC and several state attorneys general have confirmed they are looking into Facebook," Soltani said. "Outside of fines, which the FTC can kind of do, states don’t have the ability to issue a big enough fine to deter the company. But they can move for injunctions to block certain activities."

Facebook said that monopoly and privacy "are two separate issues and shouldn’t be conflated."

In his post and his last few calls with journalists, Zuckerberg has repeatedly stressed the security in end-to-end encryption, which is available on WhatsApp, and said that it would extend across the company's messaging platforms.

Zuckerberg cited the risks for political dissidents in authoritarian regimes if communications are not encrypted in his post. He also mentioned a Facebook employee had been jailed in an unnamed country for not providing access to a user's private information.

"We've chosen not to build data centers in countries that have a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression. If we build data centers and store sensitive data in these countries, rather than just caching non-sensitive data, it could make it easier for those governments to take people's information," Zuckerberg wrote. "Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won't be able to enter others anytime soon. That's a tradeoff we're willing to make. We do not believe storing people's data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on."

That led some observers, including Facebook's former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, to interpret that the company was giving up on aspirations to gain a toehold in China, where the internet is censored by the government and Facebook and its apps are blocked unless users have access to a private internet network.

"Zuck has clearly given up on entering China, as these changes makes that impossible. Good." Stamos tweeted.

However, the company did not offer specifics on the countries in which it would not store data and denied it would not make a play for China.

"I don’t think you can take Mark’s post as any declaration against or for specific regions or countries," a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in an email. "We’re in very early stages with realizing this vision, so anything beyond the letter at this point would be speculation. In general, our position on China has not changed. We have long said that we are interested in China, and our focus continues to be on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar082019

More women are now bosses, doctors and politicians: Census

Portra/iStock(NEW YORK) -- There are now more women in the medical fields, politics, and in the nation's boardrooms, according to new statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The findings come during National Women’s History Month, which has origins in the mid-1800s when women from various New York City textile factories staged a protest over inhumane working conditions and low wages. Congress established National Women’s History Month in 1987.

The Census found that since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in women in politics, education, and in overall full-time employment.

The medical field, in particular, has seen the greatest increase in women with a 30 percent increase in female veterinarians, pharmacists and dentists.

The legal field has also seen an uptick in female employment with a 10 percent increase.

And there are also more women managers with a 10 percent increase in female chief executives since 2000.

However, two professions have seen a decrease in women’s participation.

There was a 15 percent drop in female counter and rental clerks and a 5 percent decrease in licensed practical and licensed vocations nurses as well as elementary and middle school teachers.

These positions were once the only roles women were allowed to choose as a career path.

Despite their increased numbers in the workforce, women are still not being paid the same amount as their male colleagues, according to the Census' statistics which also released a chart on women’s earnings by occupations.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar082019

Elon Musk, SpaceX complete historic test flight to International Space Station

Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Elon Musk and his aerospace company SpaceX made history on Friday morning when its Dragon spacecraft splashed into the Atlantic Ocean after a successful five-day trip to the International Space Station.

There were no people on board the capsule, but its re-entry into the earth's atmosphere marked the first roundtrip to the floating laboratory by a privately-owned spacecraft and one of the biggest tests for the Dragon.

The goal for SpaceX and others competing in the new space race, such as Boeing with the CST-100 Starliner, is to perform manned missions to outer space for NASA and propel the government agency to spaceflight capabilities again.

Since the government agency responsible for spaceflight shut down its space shuttle program eight years ago, NASA has paid Russia to fly its astronauts to space. Soon, if all goes as planned, SpaceX and Boeing will compete for those contracts and launch the manned-missions from U.S. soil.

But before that happens, the private companies need to complete a series of tests to prove their spaceships are safe to transport the astronauts.

This completed mission, called "Demonstration Mission-1," or "Demo-1," racked up a number of firsts since it launched from the historic Kennedy Space Center Pad 39-A in Florida on March 2, including:

• The first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station.

• The first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station.

• The first autonomous docking of a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.

• The first use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Dragon. These adapters will also be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s future mission to the Moon.

"A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX’s systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission," a statement from NASA said on Friday.

"However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts."

SpaceX has said it hopes to get the capsule approved for a manned flight in July and Boeing plans to test its capsule next month.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar082019

2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren unveils plan to 'break up big tech,' targeting giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook

tomeng/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday followed up on her campaign theme that, if she were president, everyone would have to play by the rules, this time targeting giant tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook for having “too much power.”

Through the policy, the Democrat from Massachusetts would "unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition " — citing Amazon for its takeover of Whole Foods, Facebook for its takeover of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google's for its takeover of the mapping app Waze.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren said in a statement. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

Warren continues to churn out policy, outpacing fellow 2020 contenders and pushing the field left. In late February, Warren announced a plan to guarantee every American free or affordable childcare. Before that, she announced sweeping taxes on the ultra-rich.

In a lengthy description of the tech-busting policy Friday, Warren criticized the system for allowing companies to complete mergers that snap up competitors, and by using their own marketplaces to drown out other companies.

What would breaking up big tech look like?

Warren’s plan would prohibit companies that make more than $25 billion a year through an online marketplace from also owning participants on the platform. It would prohibit, for example, Amazon from selling its own line of “everyday items” called Amazon Basics — things like bath towels and HDMI cables — on Amazon’s own marketplace.

Warren would also appoint federal regulators “committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers.”

Warren's policy furthers her message to take government out of the hands of the "wealthy and the well-connected," a common phrase in Warren's stump speeches since her election to the Senate in 2012. On top of recent promises not to take PAC money or attend fundraising receptions with big donors, her newest announcement goes after Silicon Valley is yet another move that could alienate rich donors – but generate more grassroots support for Americans who want more focus on the "little guy."

"Each donor is a vote — we’ve seen many candidates do well with that kind of approach," said campaign finance professor Robin Kolodny of Temple University in Pennsylvania.

But her policy targeting Silicon Valley takes Warren's campaign against big corporations a step farther, as the tech region carries heavy weight in the Democratic Party's fundraising efforts. Sarah Bryner, the research director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan campaign finance watchdog group that tracks political donations, called Silicon Valley "a pretty consistent stop on the fundraising trail for Democrats."

"But Warren is a special candidate," Bryner said, adding that she gets more than half her donations from small donors who give under $200. "She can be successful through a grassroots approach -- that's a luxury she’s cultivated through her national reputation. Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.] has done similarly."

In her statement, Warren promised users would still be able to “go on Google and search like you do today” or “go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines.” But, she said, small businesses would have a shot at selling on Amazon, Google Search couldn’t push competitors down in favor of their own companies, and Facebook would be pressured to “improve the user experience and protect our privacy.”

Her proposal won’t solve every problem, Warren acknowledged. She mentioned other holes that prevail in tech policy, like helping local newspapers to make money off their work online.

“And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections,” Warren said.

Notably, Warren's plan did not call out Apple, a tech company that has frequently been named the most valuable publicly traded company in the U.S. When asked, a spokesperson for Warren's campaign said Apple was indeed targeted by the policy.

The company produces over $25 billion in revenue and would have to choose between, for example, "running the App Store or offering their own apps," said Saloni Sharma, a spokesperson with the campaign.

Warren was set to speak about the policy to supporters Friday in Long Island City, which would’ve been home to one of Amazon’s headquarters in New York but the tech-conglomerate pulled out of the deal after critics said the city gave them unfair government incentives.

One such critic was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, backed by supporters in groups like Democratic Socialists for America.

“Amazon is paying $0 in taxes on $11+ billion in profit. $0 for schools. $0 for firefighters. $0 for infrastructure. $0 for research and healthcare,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a few days before Amazon pulled out. “Why should corporations that contribute nothing to the pot be in a position to take billions from the public?”

2020 Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, like Ocasio-Cortez, holds support from Democratic Socialists of America, has also made Amazon a target.

Sanders went after Amazon for its wage and benefits, which the company increased in October to $15 an hour.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar082019

The family behind Purdue Pharma gets the boot from hedge fund over opioid crisis: Sources

Pureradiancephoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Hildene Capital Management has kicked out the family that controls Purdue Pharma, a source familiar with decision confirmed to ABC News.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund, forced the Sackler family — the owners of Purdue Pharma — to redeem their investments late last year, the source said, after the fund manager said someone he knew suffered an opioid-related tragedy.

Hildene’s decision was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which has also reported Purdue Pharma is considering bankruptcy as lawsuits mount. The spokeswoman for Hildene declined to comment beyond Wall Street Journal’s report.

Being kicked out of a large hedge fund is only the latest financial pressure for the family that controls the manufacturer of OxyContin. They have been accused of accelerating the nation’s opioid crisis.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed an over 200-page amended lawsuit accusing the drug company of contributing the opioid abuse crises in their commonwealth by "deceiving doctors and patients" to obtain the prescription in order to gain profits. More than 11,000 people in Massachusetts died from opioid-related overdoses in the past decade and over 100,000 people survived overdoses that were not fatal.

In the Massachusetts lawsuit, Purdue Pharma denied that their company is to blame for the opioid crisis, charging they are a scapegoat. "The Department of Health further found that the epidemic of overdose deaths in Massachusetts is primarily attributable to abuse of heroin and illicit fentanyl, and not lawful prescription [of] opioid pain medicines," according to Purdue Pharma's motion to dismiss filed on March 1.

ABC News reached a spokesman for the Sackler family and have not received an immediate comment.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar082019

Unemployment rate drops to 3.8% as 20,000 jobs added in February

PeopleImages/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. employers added just 20,000 jobs to their payrolls in February, the Labor Department reported Friday morning, a sharp drop from the 311,000 jobs added the previous month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said employment in professional and business services, health care and wholesale trade continued to rise while employment in construction went down.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, decreased slightly from 3.9 percent to 3.8 percent.

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Friday
Mar082019

Barbie turns 60: From teen model to diverse go-getter, how she’s inspired girls since 1959

Mattel / ABC Photo Illustration(NEW YORK) -- She arrived at the 1959 New York Toy Fair in a striped bathing suit donning red lipstick and her trademark blonde pony tail. And after 60 years, it is Barbie who continues to touch the lives of young girls as the doll befriends children in households across the country.

Manufactured and priced at $3 by American toy company Mattel, Barbie was launched in March 1959 by mother and visionary Ruth Handler. Handler's inspiration behind the three-dimensional fashion doll originated from watching her daughter play with paper dolls.

With over 200 careers, multiple makeovers, films and now a social media influence, Barbie is still reaching generations of girls who project their hopes and dreams onto the doll.

"What Barbie actually delivers to children when they play with her, I don't think people realize how significant that is in child development," said Kim Culmone, Mattel's Vice President of Barbie Design, adding that Barbie helps kids exercise communication and storytelling. "The fact that Barbie has an open-ended play pattern, it puts them in charge as the narrator."

In 1963, Barbie graduated college -- but not before becoming a ballerina, singer and a fashion designer.

She later went on to be an astronaut, Air Force pilot, Olympian, news anchor, art teacher, nurse and presidential candidate.

Her world includes a gamut of clothing and accessories, familiar friends, transportation and homes -- more popularly know as the Barbie DreamHouse.

"I work on everything in Barbie's world," Culmone told ABC News' Good Morning America. "[Barbie's friends and sisters] Teresa is still around, Nikki is still around, and Skipper, Stacey and Chelsea are absolutely still in Barbie's life."

Notable Barbies

According to Culmone, more than 100 Barbies are sold every minute.

The best-selling version ever was 1992's Totally Hair Barbie, which had long, crimped hair and accessories including Dep hair-styling gel.

Besides the dolls you may remember from TV commercials, characters in Hollywood have also been re-imagined as Barbies including Grace Kelly, Lucille Ball and figures from movies like Grease and The Wizard of Oz.

Kate Middleton and Prince William in royal wedding day attire are available to adult collectors. Stars like Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez and author JK Rowling, among many other familiar faces, all have their own Barbies that look like them.

Barbie becomes more inclusive

Barbie's first African American girlfriends were introduced in the late 1960s. Later, a Hispanic doll debuted, as well as Barbie from various cultural backgrounds as part of the brand's Dolls of the World collection.

Over the years, Barbie also underwent changes to her body shape. The transformation came after debates of the doll's unobtainable figure sparked debate and backlash among Barbie fans and protesters alike.

"We spend a lot of time listening to consumers and taking feedback seriously within the brand," Culmone said. "In 2014 we were at a point looking at everything that was going on and part of our DNA is to remain reflective within culture and the world around us. We asked ourselves if we were doing a good job of that. Are we being as reflective and representative of the culture today?"

Changes in diversity initially took place within Barbie's Fashionistas collection in 2016 by including the four different body types, various skin tones, hair and eye colors.

Now, in 2019, Barbie has a new body type featuring a smaller bust, less defined waist and more defined arms, adding to Fashionistas' already-expanded line of curvy, tall and petite shapes.

Mattel also announced it's adding dolls with braided hair texture, a new body type and Barbies who reflect permanent physical disabilities.

For the first time ever, there will be a doll with a removable prosthetic limb and a doll in a wheelchair. The wheelchair has been one of the most requested accessories from young Barbie fans, according to Mattel.

"[She has] the most skin tones, eye and hair colors to give girls a friend that looks just like them," Culmone said.

"It's promising that today's Barbie is so much more inclusive than the iconic white, blonde Barbie of years past," Dr. Rebecca Hains, professor of media and communications at Salem State University and author of Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, told GMA. "I think they are doing a much better on race than on body type because even though they call the curvy body type curvy, it scales up to a 5'6” body type and a size 4. It's still an unobtainable body type."

Hains went on, "It's the step in the right direction, though. It's better than the previous body scale which was 5'9” and a size 2."

Hains said she appreciates Mattel including more ethnically-diverse dolls in its collection.

"There are many studies that have been conducted about the consequences of children of color mainly having white dolls to play with," she said. "Children absolutely deserve to see people that look like them...to see that their identity is culturally valued."

Haines added, "It's very meaningful that girls can now go to the store and pick up a Barbie that looks like themselves in terms of skin color, hair texture, face shapes and to lesser extents, the body molds as well."

Barbie role models

Barbie "Shero" dolls celebrate women who have broken boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls. Olympians Ibtihaj Muhammad and Laurie Hernandez both have their own dolls, for instance.

In honor of Barbie's 60th anniversary and International Women’s Day on March 8, Mattel announced it was unveiling dolls from 20 different countries. Representing the U.S. is 19-year-old actress Yara Shahidi.

Other role models include tennis player Naomi Osaka of Japan, German cyclist Kristina Vogel, Canadian ice dancer Tessa Virtue, British model Adwoa Aboah, Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar, Chinese artist Chen Man and Ita Buttrose, a journalist and chairwoman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Role models are also portrayed in Barbie's line of "Inspiring Women" and career dolls. Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and NASA's Katherine Johnson are all available for girls to play with and look up to in Barbie form.

To add to her resume, Barbie holds down jobs as a scientist, builder, beekeeper, yoga instructor and, this year, inspired kids to explore STEM opportunities becoming a robotics engineer.

Barbie as an influencer

Barbie is active on all social platforms, including her Instagram account, where she gives style tips and celebrates iconic women to look up to.

As a vlogger, Barbie now has a digital footprint while infusing teachable moments -- all which are part of the initiatives behind the Dream Gap Project.

And in 2018, one of Barbie's most respected vlog episodes, titled "Sorry Reflex," encouraged girls to quit apologizing for, well, everything.

"I think there's a bigger issue around 'sorry,'" Barbie says on her vlog, which was viewed on Facebook more than two million times. "Especially with girls. We say it a lot."

Barbie went on to explain how saying "sorry" too much diminishes our self confidence.

"There's so much more power in saying 'thank you' instead of 'sorry,'" she says.

On the heels of the doll's 60th birthday, Culmone said it's a proud day being part of Barbie's legacy.

"It's humbling to be welcomed into the homes of families," she added.

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