Business Headlines

sanfel/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Boeing potentially faces more delays for the return of its 737 Max jets after another software issue surfaced during an audit meeting with regulators last weekend, sources tell ABC News.

The 737 Max has been grounded for almost 10 months after it was connected to two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

Boeing decided to not just rewrite the software for the MCAS flight control system, which is believed to have contributed to both MAX crashes, but the entire flight computer software.

The new software intends to have the 737 Max's two separate flight computers communicate with each other for the first time. In the past, one of the 737’s flight computers would operate independently and switch to the other during the next flight.

During the audit last weekend, they found that the two flight computers were not talking to each other at start-up.

This is the second time regulators have asked Boeing for additional work to be completed before approving the audit.

The Federal Aviation Administration must complete the software audit before a certification test flight can be scheduled -- a key step in the eventual ungrounding of the troubled jet.

“We are making necessary updates and working with the FAA on submission of this change, and keeping our customers and suppliers informed," Boeing said in a statement to ABC News. "Our highest priority is ensuring the 737 MAX is safe and meets all regulatory requirements before it returns to service."

Boeing was not able to tell ABC News if a fix will take days or weeks, but the company confirmed it will work on fixing the new software problem and other 737 Max related tasks simultaneously.

The 737 Max's return to service has already been pushed back several times, resulting in thousands of cancellations for the airlines.

All three airlines that fly the Max have extended cancellations related to the 737 Max through early June.

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Anatoliy Sizov/iStock(PHOENIX) -- A $4 fee for hailing an Uber or Lyft to or from the airport in Phoenix has garnered a firestorm of reaction from residents and ride-share companies, and now Arizona's attorney general says he believes it's likely unconstitutional.

The fee tacked onto any ride to or from the Sky Harbor airport has led Uber and Lyft to threaten to discontinue operating at the international hub, and faced backlash from local politicians.

Moreover, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Thursday he believes the city of Phoenix violated the state's constitution with it, citing an article that prohibits a city from increasing or imposing a new tax on a person or business for providing a service in Arizona.

"The Phoenix City Council is placing its policy preferences above the rights of the people to whom the government must always answer," Brnovich said in a statement.

“We will now take this matter to the Arizona Supreme Court and seek an expedited ruling," he added. "This is the most definitive way to provide clarity on the law, protect Arizona taxpayers, and hold the city of Phoenix accountable."

Phoenix councilman Sal DiCiccio has argued the new fee hurts working and middle-class families that rely on the services.

He called Brnovich's announcement Thursday "fantastic news for everyone who drives for or uses rideshare at the airport" in a statement.

"I believe it is clear that this horrible tax is not only a direct attack on working- and middle-class families in Arizona, but it is also an outrageous violation of our constitution, and I am confident that the Supreme Court will throw out the horrible burden that Phoenix politicians recklessly imposed," he added.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, however, supports the fee, saying that companies must pay their fair share for using city infrastructure.

"The Phoenix approach of ensuring that companies profiting from the airport pay their fair share is smart – and legal," Gallego said in a statement to ABC News. "This fee is no different from the fee every other vendor has paid at our airport since its creation."

In a series of tweets, Annie Degraw, the communications director for the mayor's office, defended the fee, blasting the "mind-boggling amount of misinformation being tossed around regarding Lyft and Uber's decision to possibly cease operations" at the airport.

Degraw said the rideshare companies account for 80% of commercial ground traffic at the airport and "pay nowhere near their fair share to actually use airport infrastructure."

She argued that Uber and Lyft's threats to pull out of the airport are because they "are trying to set an example in Phoenix to scare other airports."

Uber declined ABC News' request for comment Friday. In the past, the company has said they are prepared to end operations at Sky Harbor airport if the fee increase goes into effect.

Lyft did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Friday. Lyft has also previously said it would stop curbside pickup at the airport if the fees go into effect on Feb. 1.

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Wachiwit/iStock(NEW YORK) -- European lawmakers are pushing for a universal cellphone charger, arguing it is more environmentally friendly and more convenient for consumers, a move that could bring an end to Apple's exclusive lightning cable.

Members of the European Parliament are calling for "binding measures for chargers to fit all mobile phones and other portable devices," according to a statement issued on Monday after a debate.

The common charger could be used for "all mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers and other portable devices," the statement added.

The policymakers argued the move will reduce electronic waste "and make consumers' life easier," and that old device chargers generate more than 51,000 metric tons of electronic waste every year.

Apple argued in a public feedback form that the proposal would impede innovation and be disruptive for the more than one billion consumers using Apple devices with a lightning cable.

"Regulations that would drive conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones freeze innovation rather than encourage it," the company argued. "Such proposals are bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers."

"We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide. This would result in an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users," Apple added.

The proposition was originally introduced more than than five years ago but lawmakers at the time took the approach of encouraging the industry to develop a common charger without any enforcement.

Parliament members argued this week that the "voluntary agreements between different industry players have not yielded the desired results."

The parliament will next hold a vote on the common charger proposal though a date has not been set.

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grandriver/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- More Americans broke ground on new homes last month, pushing housing starts to a 13-year high.

The Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday that new home construction rose in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,608,000. That’s up 16.9% from November’s estimate, which was revised to 1,375,000.

December’s rate is also up 40.8% from the same time period in 2018.

Overall, the government reported that an estimated 1,289,800 housing units were started last year, up 3.2 percent from 2018.

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domnicky/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A deaf man has sued PornHub and other pornographic websites because he said he “cannot enjoy video content” without closed captioning.

Yaroslav Suris, a New York resident, tried to watch videos on PornHub entitled “Hot Step Aunt Babysits Disobedient Nephew,” “Sexy Cop Gets Witness To Talk” and others in October 2019 and January 2020, but was unable to due to the website's lack of closed captioning, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in the Eastern District of New York.

The lawsuit alleges that PornHub, RedTube and YouPorn are in violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Part of the ADA's goal is to provide “full and equal enjoyment” of a public accommodation’s goods, services, facilities and privileges, according to the lawsuit.

"Websites that prevent accessibility to deaf and hard of hearing individuals is a discriminatory act," the lawsuit reads.

The ADA cites that its purpose is "to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else."

PornHub's Vice President Corey Price disputed the claim that the website doesn't offer closed captions.

"While we do not generally comment on active lawsuits, we’d like to take this opportunity to point out that we do have a closed captions category," according to a statement from Price provided to ABC News. The statement included a link to its closed captions section.

Suris has previously sued Fox News, the New York Post and other outlets alleging similar ADA violations on their websites.
He is seeking compensatory damages, civil penalties and fines against PornHub.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jun/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D has officially announced that she is stepping down from her namesake makeup line.

"It's hard to admit this, since I've always said, 'You can do everything and anything.' But I don't think admitting one's limits is a bad thing," she posted on Instagram Thursday.

"With that said, I've decided to sell my shares of the brand, turning it over to Kendo, my partners for the past 11 years," she continued. "This was not an easy decision, but after careful consideration, I decided I wanted the makeup line to continue to thrive and grow, and I believe Kendo is primed to do just that."

Last year, Von D gave birth to a baby boy in addition to launching a shoe line, and now she is prepping to release an album as well as go on an international tour.

"As much as I wish I could balance all of this, on top of continuing my makeup line, it has become clear to me that I just can't do everything at the maximum capacity," she said.

While Von D plans to step down from her cosmetics company, it will live on with Kendo and re-brand under the name KvD Vegan Beauty.

KatVonD Beauty launched in 2008 with four red lipsticks. Since then, the vegan and cruelty-free company has released hundreds of products that include several items like mascara and fragrance.

On the brand's website, it also noted that the company has grown to 36 countries and won more than 60 awards globally.

In her post, Von D concludes by thanking her fans and followers.

"I was able to create a makeup line that made outsiders like me feel like we have a place in this 'beauty' world, and gave myself and others the tools to express ourselves in our own unique way, whether it was embraced by the majority or not. And I just couldn't have done any of this without you!" she said.

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PepsiCo(NEW YORK) -- PepsiCo has announced they will use 100 percent renewable energy to power their US direct operations.

The beverage and snack giant, whose brands include Gatorade, Tropicana and Lay's, will achieve this using power purchase agreements, virtual power purchase agreements, which finance new renewable energy projects, and renewable energy credits, which are credits that represent proof that electricity was generated by a renewable source.

In 2020, PepsiCo will feature more RECs than PPAs and VPPAs, but the company will move to the latter two by 2025.  

"We have entered a decade that will be critical for the future of our planet's health," said Ramon Laguarta, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo. "PepsiCo is pursuing 100% renewable electricity in the U.S. because the severe threat that climate change poses to the world demands faster and bolder action from all of us."

The shift is expected to lower the company's greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent in 2020, when compared to a 2015 baseline. It is also part of the company's goal of reducing their global emissions by 20 percent by 2030.

Currently, nine countries in Europe have achieved 100% renewable electricity for their direct operations.

*Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that PepsiCo gets 100% of its direct energy from renewable sources in Europe.  Only 9 countries have achieved 100%, not all of Europe.

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Lcva2/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft has announced they will become carbon negative by 2030.

In a blog post on the company's website, Microsoft President Brad Smith said climate change is the reason.

"The world’s climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions," Smith wrote. "Ultimately, we must reach “net zero” emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year. "

Microsoft's goal is to become carbon negative, meaning they will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit each year.

By 2050, Smith says the company will remove all the carbon Microsoft has emitted since they were founded in 1975.

Smith says Microsoft will fund this goal by increasing their internal carbon fee, which has been in place in 2012, on both their direct emissions and those that come from their supply and value chains.  

Microsoft will reach this goal by driving down emissions several ways, including receiving 100 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2025 and electrifying their global car fleet by 2030. 

They are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to lower the carbon footprints of their suppliers and customers around the world, while also launching a $1 billion dollar climate innovation fund.

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Andrei Stanescu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- SpaceX is intentionally blowing up one of its Falcon 9 rockets shortly after it launches Saturday, during what it hopes will be the final unmanned test flight before the private aerospace company can send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

The in-flight abort test, scheduled for a Saturday morning launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is meant to try out the spacecraft Crew Dragon's "escape capabilities" or its ability for astronauts to jettison if there were an emergency during launch, according to a statement from NASA.

Saturday's SpaceX launch is part of NASA's Commercial Crew program.

It comes just under a month after a separate NASA Commercial Crew launch done in coordination with Boeing did not go as planned and did not make it to its destination at the ISS.

As part of Saturday's test, SpaceX will trigger a launch escape of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from the Falcon 9 rocket at just slightly under two minutes after takeoff, to see if the spacecraft can safely separate from the rocket.

The Falcon 9 rocket will continue on, following a trajectory meant to mimic a journey to the ISS before eventually -- intentionally -- exploding in the air. A SpaceX team will recover the debris following the break up in the air.

"Critical test launch before flying astronauts is green for Jan 18," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted a week ahead of the launch.

If this test succeeds, SpaceX could soon send American astronauts to the ISS from American soil for the first time since the U.S. ended NASA's Space Shuttle mission in 2011.

Musk previously indicated in a tweet that he hopes to send a crew on the Dragon in 2020. NASA's Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are tapped to be the first SpaceX Commercial Crew astronauts.

Saturday's launch will "provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station," the NASA statement added.   You can watch the launch and explosion live on NASA TV.

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eyewave/iStock(NEW YORK) -- After his client jumped bail and fled the country, the lawyer for fugitive former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has resigned.

Junichiro Hironaka told reporters that he quit representing Ghosn on Thursday, according to video posted by Japan's national broadcaster, NHK.

Ghosn's saga has sparked international intrigue in the weeks since he jumped bail and mysteriously fled to Lebanon while awaiting trial for charges of financial misconduct.

He reportedly sneaked out of Japan in a case made to transport audio equipment, prompting Japanese music company Yamaha to issue a warning not to enter musical instrument cases.

Ghosn is living under a travel ban in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan. It's unclear if he'll be forced to return.

Ghosn's charges in Japan include underreporting income and a breach of trust involving "having a Nissan subsidiary transfer a massive amount of money to a deposit account in the name of a company effectively owned by him, for his own profit," according to Minister of Justice Masako Mori.

Nissan on Thursday submitted an "improvement measures status report" to the Tokyo Stock Exchange, outlining new measures the company has taken on to prevent the "recurrence of executive misconduct," according to a statement from the company.

Ghosn has maintained his innocence, speaking out at a news conference last week attacking Tokyo prosecutors and his former employers.

He said he didn't think he would get a fair trial in Japan and slammed the nation's justice system, which has a conviction rate of 99%.

"There is no democratic country I know where you go to jail for these kinds of accusations, even if they were right," Ghosn said.

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tupungato/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Payless ShoeSource is slated to make a comeback sooner than later after shuttering over 2,000 stores in North America.

The popular footwear retailer known for its discount prices filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2019.

However, under the direction of the newly appointed executive team, new strategies are being put in place in an attempt to make the company profitable once again.

"I am pleased to have the opportunity to lead this iconic retail brand into a new strategic phase with a strengthened balance sheet and clean financial outlook," Jared Margolis, Payless' new CEO, said in a statement. "We will implement a new comprehensive strategic plan to strengthen our relationship with our vendors and suppliers, support our global franchise partners and deepen the trust of our customers."

He continued, "We intend to leverage Payless’ existing infrastructure, which is best in class and already includes product design and development, distribution, marketing, and a strong relationship with major footwear manufacturers. Thus, providing the new Payless with the ability to be nimble, innovative, and to fast-track our biggest growth opportunity: The United States."

The company's bankruptcy filing didn't affect its 710 franchises in markets such as Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Therefore, there will be an initial focus in Latin America, which has one of its biggest business units.

"In the past year, we have implemented many new strategies to increase our market share and in-store footprint in the region, and in 2020 we are going to build upon this even further," said Justo Fuentes, who was newly appointed to run the retailer's Latin America division.

He added, "This plan will include a strong digital component to allow an omnichannel approach to the Latin market, as well as several product strategies that will allow Latin consumers to continue seeing Payless as their primary source of high-quality, value-priced family footwear."

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jetcityimage/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Tesla announced it is opening a new design center in China and is already recruiting talent to help make "Chinese-style" cars.
The American electric automaker announced the new design and research facility in a post on WeChat, one of China's most popular internet platforms.

While the memo did not indicate where the facility would be in China or when it would open, it did say the application deadline was Feb. 1.

The company's latest expansion efforts in China comes on the heels of it delivering its first "made in China" cars produced at its Gigafactory in Shanghai on Dec. 30, 2019.

The first 15 customers who received the Chinese-made Model 3 vehicles were Tesla employees during an all-out celebration to mark the event, which featured a surprise proposal with the help of one of the cars.

Prior to the news of the new research and design facility, Tesla had indicated its plans for growth in China in spite of trade tensions.

In a memo to investors in October, the company said the Gigafactory in China was approximately 65% cheaper to build than its Model 3 production systems in the U.S., and that the facility was capable of producing full vehicles from body to paint to general assembly.

It also indicated its intention of ramping up production and tapping into the lucrative Chinese market with its Model 3 sedans.

"China is by far the largest market for mid-sized premium sedans," the company said. "With Model 3 priced on par with gasoline powered mid-sized sedans (even before gas savings and other benefits), we believe China could become the biggest market for Model 3."

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Ben & Jerry's(NEW YORK) -- While ice cream is the traditional salve for when a relationship goes wrong, Ben & Jerry's has collaborated with Netflix for a flavor that references that night-in when a modern coupling goes right: it's called Netflix and Chill'd.

The Vermont-based company describes the new flavor as, "an indulgent production starring peanut butter ice cream, sweet & salty pretzel swirls & fudge brownies."

Their website adds, "Whether you’re streaming a laugh-out-loud comedy, an edge-of-your-seat drama, or a hey-I-didn't-know-that documentary, it’s not complete without a tasty treat and a few of your favorite friends."

Netflix & Chilll’d is now available in pints around the globe, as is the streaming giant. It will also be available in the U.S. as a non-dairy flavor.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump signed a partial trade deal with China on Wednesday -- joined by China Vice Premiere Liu He -- a so-called "phase one" agreement representing a significant step toward de-escalation in the nearly two-year-long trade battle

The two signed the deal against a backdrop of U.S. and Chinese flags with the president trumpeting it as a "momentous step" toward a more fair trading future between the world’s two largest economies.

But for all the pomp and ceremony, one big name was noticeably absent: China’s President Xi Jinping.

Trump had been open about his desire to sign the deal alongside his Chinese counterpart, and there were tentative plans for the two to do so at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Chile in November. But after that summit was called off by the host, the president floated the idea of hosting Xi in Iowa -- or another location in the American farming heartland -- for a signing.

While Xi was not present, that didn’t stop Trump from offering him a direct shout out, telling the audience that Xi is "watching as we speak" and saying that he plans to travel to China "in the not too distant future to reciprocate."

The White House had downplayed Xi’s absence before the signing, with an administration official saying the ceremony taking place on U.S. soil is a victory in and of itself, and that a future meeting between the two leaders is still a possibility.

This is one of Trump's top foreign policy priorities and comes as the impeachment process moves forward, with the House poised to vote Wednesday on a resolution to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate and name the impeachment managers for the trial. Following Pelosi's announcement, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that arguments in the trial are "likely to begin" next week.

The text of the U.S.-China agreement has yet to be made public, and according to an administration official, will not be released until after Wednesday’s formal signing.

But the Trump administration said China has agreed to purchase billions in U.S. agricultural products and end its practice of forced technology transfer for foreign companies that do business in China.

In an off camera briefing with reporters ahead of the signing, the top U.S. negotiator Robert Lighthizer expressed confidence that the Chinese are serious about implementing the agreement and that it will ultimately be effective in curbing China’s forced technology transfer practice.

"The answer is yes," Lighthizer said. "This agreement will work if China wants it to work. The people that I'm dealing with in China want it to work. So the answer is yes."

Still, he acknowledged that he does expect there to be some snags along the way.

Jennifer Hillman, a senior fellow with expertise in trade issues at the Council on Foreign Relations, has cautioned that China has promised such reforms in the past but subsequently failed to implement them.

"A lot of it is going to depend on whether China is promising to do things they haven’t done before and there’s no way to know that until we’ve seen the text," Hillman said. "It’s not clear how much of what China is promising is anything beyond what they’ve already promised in the past. We just don’t know."

Trump has trumpeted the agreement as a boon for U.S. farmers, who have been particularly hard hit in the trade war. The president said last month that China has agreed to ramp up U.S. agricultural purchases to $50 billion "pretty soon" and has advised U.S. farmers that they should "get bigger tractors" to meet the anticipated growth in demand.

But Hillman says the $50 billion goal for U.S. agricultural sales is "totally unrealistic" and assumes that American farmers want and can sell that much overseas.

The White House has pulled out all the stops to frame this as a victorious moment for Trump, inviting over 200 people to attend the Jan. 15 signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House and hosting a formal luncheon in the State Dining Room in honor of the visiting Chinese delegation.

Hillman said the asymmetry in having Trump alongside a lower-ranking official of a foreign government, rather than a head of state, is an odd contrast.

"In the past, trade agreements were usually signed by trade ministers rather than presidents," Hillman said. "But when the president does sign a trade agreement, it is almost always with other presidents."

Hillman said Xi’s absence also sends a message that the Chinese view the agreement as limited in scope.

"I think it means that this is a more limited agreement that doesn’t address any of the major structural issues with China," Hillman said. "Clearly what’s not included are any of the structural reforms that are at the heart of why we started this trade war in the first place, which is that China is increasingly less market oriented and increasingly state controlled."

And even as the United States and China are set to celebrate a step toward de-escalation, the trade war is not yet over and a level of uncertainty persists for consumers, farmers and manufacturers alike who have paid the price for the tit-for-tat tariffs between the two nations.

A round of U.S. tariffs, scheduled to take effect last month, was halted as a result of the agreement. A 25% tariff remains in place on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, while the rate on another $120 billion in Chinese imports was slashed in half -- from 15% to 7.5%.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated Tuesday night that the remaining tariffs still in effect will stay in place through the next round of negotiations with the Chinese in pursuit of a "phase two" agreement.

"These tariffs will stay in place until there’s a phase two. If the president gets a phase two quickly, he’ll consider releasing tariffs as part of phase two. If not, there won’t be any tariff relief," Mnuchin said. "It has nothing to do with the election or anything else. There are no secret agreements."

While much remains to be hashed out, the "phase one" agreement provides Trump with a political chip he can point to as a point of progress, as he stumps for his reelection this year, while relieving pressure for further results in the ongoing dispute until a second term.

Still, the president said on Wednesday that negotiations for the next phase will begin "very, very shortly," adding that only after a second agreement is reached will the remaining tariffs be dropped, but not before.

Lighthizer added that the administration also has to see progress under the first phase before taking those next steps.

"We have to make sure this is implemented properly," Lighthizer said. "Any movement towards a Phase II is going to be dependent on this being implemented. We have to get this implemented properly and make sure it works."

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baona/iStock(TOKYO) -- Japan's environment minister announced he is taking paternity leave after the birth of his first child, and the news garnered international headlines and shocked social media in a nation where "death from overwork" is considered a public health issue.

Shinjiro Koizumi, who is also the son of conservative former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, announced he would be taking family leave Wednesday, saying he didn't want to leave all the child care up to his wife and he wanted to do more to help out around the household, according to Japan's national broadcaster NHK.

Koizumi's announcement marks the first time a serving cabinet minister in Japan will be taking paternity leave.

He said he plans to take a total of two weeks off during the first three months after his baby is born. He hopes to set an example for other fathers as the nation deals with a crisis of work-life balance, and declining birth rates.

Some experts blame the declining birth rates on a lack of support for working women who often bear the burden of child care and household work in addition to their jobs.

Only 6% of fathers took paternity leave in Japan in 2018, according NHK, which cited government statistics, while approximately 80% of new mothers did. Of those who did take paternity leave, most took off less than a week.

Koizumi's decision faced some backlash from some in Japan, who accused him of skirting his public duties. Social media also lit up with mixed reactions to his announcement.

Japan ranked higher, however, than the U.S. in a United Nations report released in 2019 that looked at family leave policies among "high- and middle- income countries." The U.S. ranked lowest on the list of 41 nations for family-friendly policies.

Just last month, federal government employees in the U.S. got paid parental leave for the first time with the passage of a new bill.

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