Reservations required: London McDonald’s goes luxe for a day

Posted on: August 15th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Molly Hunter/ABC News(LONDON) — Now that’s what you call a happy meal.

Imagine walking into a McDonald’s fast food restaurant to find white tablecloths, a string quartet playing, a smartly-dressed maître d’ to see you to your table, and a Michelin Star chef preparing burgers in the kitchen to be served to you on silver platters.

It’s McDonald’s like you’ve never experienced before — and may never again.

“Luxury, in a bun,” the company’s website declared on Wednesday.

For one day only, lucky London guests were welcomed to what was billed as “the most luxurious tasting event in history” — in celebration of the worldwide roll-out of McDonald’s Signature Collection.

Just steps from the royal palace, the McDonald’s location in London’s upscale Kensington neighborhood closed to the general public Wednesday and was transformed into a fine dining restaurant, complete with red carpets, burgundy velvet curtains and candelabras.

The Signature Collection was designed for McDonald’s by the Chefs Council, which is made up of chefs who have worked in Michelin Star restaurants, and have cooked for royalty and international food specialists.

The maître d described the new Spicy Signature Burger as “100% British and Irish Beef, Jalapeño slices, Pepper Jack cheese, Batavia lettuce, mayo and a spicy relish, all in a Brioche style bun.”

An ABC News producer failed to wrangle a reservation for the special day, but did sneak a taste of the new Spicy Signature Burger.

It was juicier, thicker and more tender than the normal patty. The jalapeños brought the heat, the spicy relish was indeed, spicy, the Pepper Jack cheese could have been melted more but the traditional sesame seed bun wasn’t missed.

It was all washed down with a diet Pepsi while sitting on a gilded, white leather Louis XVI chair under a candelabra, twinkling with fake candles.

In a word: luxurious.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump’s tariffs make lumber more expensive as California recovers from wildfires

Posted on: August 15th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — As hundreds of families begin rebuilding after their homes were destroyed or damaged by the wildfires in California the Trump administration’s trade policies could increase the price tag for building new homes.

More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed in the wildfires in California this year and hundreds more homes and buildings have been damaged.

The Trump administration has enacted tariffs on materials used for construction, including lumber, steel, and aluminum. Prices of appliances like washing machines and solar panels are also expected to go up as a result of tariffs, which could add to costs of rebuilding or repairing homes damaged by fires.

The National Association of Home Builders says the supply of lumber in the U.S. is not enough to meet demand and that prices have been going up since January 2017, and even more so since the president levied tariffs on lumber from Canada.

The group estimates that lumber prices have increased the price of an average single-family home by $4,000 based on current lumber prices.

Overall homes are getting more expensive and more are outside the budget for families earning the median income in the U.S. NAHB says housing affordability is at a 10-year low in the second quarter of 2018.

“Tight inventory conditions and rising construction costs are factors that are holding back housing and putting upward pressure on home prices,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel, in a statement earlier this month. “Meanwhile, tariffs on Canadian lumber imports into the U.S. are further eroding housing affordability. Builders are struggling to manage these costs to ensure pricing does not outpace expected gains in wage growth.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that tariffs are leading to “great new trade deals.” He has previously announced that the U.S. will work with the European Union to relieve tariffs on steel and aluminum but has not said that he will remove the tariffs on Canadian lumber or reach a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But tariffs aren’t the only thing driving up the price of buying a new home.

Several cities in California already have some of the least affordable housing markets in the country, according to NAHB and the National Association of Realtors. Higher mortgage rates, the availability of labor, and a more competitive market in larger markets could also drive up the costs for homeowners or developers looking to buy or build new homes.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said economic growth, low unemployment, and a large population of young people should be driving home sales but that the lack of new homes are driving prices higher.

“The unaffordable conditions in many of the largest metro areas – especially in the West – continues to be a growing concern for many middle-class households aspiring to buy a home,” Yun said of the most recent home sales numbers. “Homebuilders, facing higher costs and labor shortages, are simply not producing enough affordable homes to satisfy demand.”

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Learn the best tips to negotiate more vacation days at work

Posted on: August 15th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s August, and if you feel like you’re stuck at the office while everyone else is on vacation, you’re actually not alone.

American employees forfeited 212 million paid vacation days in 2017, the equivalent of more than $62 billion dollars lost in benefits, according to Project: Time Off, a coalition of organizations working to change Americans’ thinking and behavior around vacation time.

“Americans are unique in that they don’t use all their vacation days [they earn],” said Katie Denis, the coalition’s chief of research and strategy. “They fear that they’ll look replaceable or that they might not look as dedicated.”

“I think we should be concerned about what our lives look like when we don’t take it,” she said.

The health benefits of using vacation days granted by an employer include decreased stress, improved quality of sleep and a lower risk of heart disease, studies show.

“When you have vacation time, you’ve earned it. You do have a right to use it. That’s part of your compensation package,” Denis said. “You earn it and you deserve it and you should take it.”

Using vacation days to not only take a break from work but to travel can also have benefits, according to Project: Time Off’s data.

Americans who take all or most of their vacation days to travel report being 20 percent happier with their personal relationships and 56 percent happier with their health and well-being than those who travel with little or none of their vacation time, the coalition found in its State of American Vacation 2018 report.

Employees who use their vacation days to travel also report being happier with their jobs and more likely to report receiving a promotion.

Vacation days not only help employees, but employers too.

Mark Douglas, CEO of SteelHouse, a digital marketing firm, saw the benefits firsthand when he started giving his employees unlimited vacation, a $2,000 per year travel allowance that can only be used for vacations and a three-day weekend every month.

“The initial reaction when we announced it was people erupted clapping and cheering,” Douglas recalled. “It gave everyone a sense that the company really cared about their wellness, about their well-being, about them [and] this has really contributed to the morale.”

Alexa Tierney, a SteelHouse employee, said it would be a challenge to move to a job with less benefits and flexibility after four years at SteelHouse. She has also found she’s a better employee.

“As long as you are doing good work and getting everything done, you can enjoy your time off,” she said. “My productivity is better because I had that freedom to take vacation.”

If you’re not in a job with unlimited vacation days, you can maximize the days you have, and even ask for more, according to Denis.

To maximize the vacation days you have earned, Denis recommends requesting time off as far in advance as possible. Also think about your time off as a day here and there, instead of having to take it in larger spaces of time, like a week.

“Schedule a day [off],” Denis said. “It doesn’t always have to be a big bucket list trip, but just do it for yourself. Do it for your family. You will be glad you did.”

If you want to ask for more vacation days in your benefits package, here are five tips from Denis, in her own words.

1. Start the conversation

a conversation can be a powerful way to boost your vacation culture, which can go a long way for the company as a whole.

There’s nothing wrong with starting a conversation saying, “Hey, I’ve worked really hard lately. I’ve accomplished these things, and I want to make sure that I am happy here, thriving here and staying here a long time. Vacation really matters to me. What can we do to up the number of days that I’m earning?”

2. Ask for a slight increase

If the policy says you get 15 days, don’t ask for 50 [days]. That’s going to be too much, but you could ask for a modest increase over that.

If you don’t get the OK on getting more vacation days when you start, set a check-in after six months or a year and say, “Can we look at this again? Can we revisit it?” That’s really the time to establish that, the same way you would any salary negotiation.

3. Bring the evidence

The strongest information you can have isn’t about benchmarks or national data or any of that.

The strongest thing you can do is present what you’ve done in your career that makes you warrant more vacation days. It’s a very individual thing. Vacation is very personal to people, and there’s no reason the ask for more vacation shouldn’t be just as personal.

4. Request a number that works for you

There’s no right amount of vacation. It’s all a matter of feel. But I would say, if you earn those days, you deserve them, you should use them and put them to good use.

5. Ask early in your job negotiation

There’s no wrong time to negotiate for more vacation days, but it gets harder if you’ve been there for a while. When you’re going into a new job, that’s the time when you’ve really got a little bit more power to negotiate.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Facebook facelift: How to clean up your social profile to help you get a job

Posted on: August 15th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When a boom in business put Troy Roberson in need of many more employees for his fishing guide service in North Carolina, he turned to Facebook to cast his net wide for potential recruits. In only a few weeks, Roberson hired 15 new brand ambassadors from after receiving 27 applications.

And Roberson’s not the only employer turning to social media to reel in qualified candidates. In a not-so-surprising new trend, more hiring managers than ever are recruiting on Facebook which means that if you’re in the market for a dream job, you can “like it” and land it without ever leaving Facebook. But that’s only if your profile is in top shape.

We spoke to Christina Fan, head of Jobs Partnerships at Facebook, for all the tips and tricks you should know if you want to find the right job for you and impress potential employers. These were her responses.

What is Facebook doing to help folks find jobs?

Local businesses create more than 60 percent of new jobs and we know that one in four people in the U.S. have searched for those jobs with Facebook. So, to help more people find jobs with local businesses, we made it easier for them to find opportunities and connect with local employers. You can apply to jobs directly from a business’s Page, in the “Jobs” section of your “Explore” menu, or at facebook.com/jobs.

What does the ideal potential employee’s Facebook profile look like for a hiring manager?

It depends on the kind of job you’re looking for. It’s important to be your authentic self, and you can tailor your “Public” profile easily to roles you’re applying for by sharing industry news articles or thoughtful posts. Remember to highlight your strengths and experience in your job application.

What tips do you have for folks who are cleaning up their profile before they begin applying to jobs?

1. Tell your story:
Make your profile photo public, fill out the “About” section, add your skills to the “Professional Skills” section, and link to your website, blog, or portfolio.

2. Keep the private stuff private: Control who can see what by selecting “Public,” “Friends Only,” or “Only Me” for individual posts and pieces from your profile.

3. Make your profile relevant: Like your resume, you should tailor your profile to the position you’re applying for by publicly sharing industry news articles or thoughtful posts timed to your job search.

4. Check out how others see you: Use the “View As” function to ensure that your profile looks the way you want it to from the perspective of a potential employer.

What are the big no-no’s for people applying for a job in terms of Facebook profiles?

Don’t apply without researching. Learn everything you can about the company, the role, and the industry, so you’re showing the potential employer that you’re knowledgeable and excited about the opportunity. And even more importantly, find roles that are the right fit for you.

What resources are available to people job-hunting on Facebook?

Here is how our job application tool works:

Facebook makes it simple for people to find new opportunities, submit applications, and track their candidacy. People can now apply to jobs posted by Pages they like, and explore jobs with the new bookmark or in their News Feeds.

In the “Jobs” dashboard, people can quickly and easily click the “Apply Now” button to submit an application. The application will populate the job history and other existing information available in the candidate’s Facebook profile, which can be edited prior to submission, making it easy to apply to multiple jobs without starting from scratch on each application

When an application is submitted, a Messenger thread will open between the business and applicant, so people can have direct contact with the potential employer, and easily confirm when their information has been received.

Businesses will only be able to see the information an applicant provides them directly, and in their public Facebook profile.

This feature is currently available to Page admins and job seekers in over 40 countries on iOS, Android, and web. For local business owners looking to hire, check out Fb.me/JobsOnFB for more.

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US government buying $50 million of milk from dairy farmers

Posted on: August 14th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it’s buying 11 to 13 million gallons of milk from dairy farmers for $50 million and planning to send it to local food banks.

It’s the first time the USDA program that buys surplus products has purchased liquid milk.

The acquisition is not related to the emergency assistance for farmers linked to President Donald Trump’s tariff proposals, although dairy farmers have been hurt by trade issues related to NAFTA and declining demand for milk from cows.

The USDA is buying the milk under a program that allows the government to buy surplus food or agricultural products and redirect them to food banks or school-nutrition programs.

Hundreds of dairy farms have closed, citing economic pressure and government regulations, over the last 15 to 20 years. The Los Angeles Times reported that Califonia Republican Congressman David Valado lost his family farm this year and that 36 percent of dairy farms in the state closed between 2001 and 2017.

Industry and advocacy groups have called on the government to help.

“This purchase addresses one of our country’s significant challenges — hunger — and, at the same time, will have a positive impact on the dairy industry at a time of significant market uncertainty,” said Michael Dykes, the International Dairy Foods Association president and CEO. “The nation’s milk processors welcome the opportunity.”

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Southwest Airlines announces new rules for emotional support animals

Posted on: August 14th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Southwest Airlines announced Tuesday that it will soon enforce new restrictions on customers traveling with emotional support animals.

Beginning September 17, only one dog or cat, either in a carrier or on a leash, will be allowed per customer on Southwest flights.

“Our updates are based on a careful review of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent enforcement guidance and feedback we received from our Customers, Employees, and several advocacy groups and animal-related organizations,” the Dallas-based airline said on its community discussion forum, southwestaircommunity.com.

Southwest’s policy says emotional support animals provide “support for an individual with a mental health-related disability and is not trained to perform a specific task(s) or work.” They are distinct from trained service animals, which Southwest defines as animals “individually trained to perform a task(s) or work for a person with a physical and/or mental disability.”

Customers who wish to travel with their emotional support animals on Southwest, once the changes are in effect, must present the airline with a “current letter” from their doctor or medical health professional on the day of their departure, the announcement said.

All emotional support and service animals are still required to be trained to behave in public, according to Southwest. Any animal that displays disruptive behavior can be denied boarding.

The change will make Southwest the only airline that limits emotional support animals to just dogs and cats, but it is not the first major carrier to adjust its emotional support animal rules.

Delta, United, American and JetBlue separately announced new restrictions earlier this year following a string of emotional support animal incidents, including a dog reportedly attacking a Delta passenger last year, and a woman who was denied boarding in January because her emotional support peacock failed to meet United’s guidelines.

Airlines are now not the only companies tightening their emotional support animal rules. Royal Caribbean also announced Tuesday that emotional support animals “may not sail onboard Royal Caribbean International ships,” effective immediately.

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Vienna named world’s most livable city

Posted on: August 14th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Move over, Melbourne — the world has a new most livable city.

Vienna now tops the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking, which is based on 30 factors including access to health care, education, infrastructure, culture, the environment and political and social stability.

This year, the Austrian capital, home to 1.76 million people, beat out Melbourne, which had held the top slot for the past seven years. Canadian, Australian and Japanese cities scored the other top spots, with Melbourne, Osaka, Calgary, Sydney, Vancouver, Toronto, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Adelaide rounding out the top 10. Many U.S. cities, in contrast, saw their rankings fall this year, including Atlanta and Chicago, thanks in part to security issues, according to the Economist.

Located on the Danube river, Vienna boasts a rich artistic and architectural legacy. It is home to landmark buildings such as the Schoenbrunn Palace and the colorful social housing project designed by famous artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The city was also the birthplace of the Art Nouveau movement, spearheaded by artists such as Gustav Klimt.

Aside from these historic attractions that draw tourists to the city, locals say Vienna has much to offer residents.

“People think about Vienna as very a classical city, one for older people, but it does have its wild side and nightlife — there’s always something going on,” said Alexander Pearl, a project manager from Israel who has been living in Vienna for the past four years.

Pearl said he also loves the city’s abundance of parks and green spaces.

“It is a big city but it feels very relaxed and calm in a way — there’s and space and it’s not very crowded,” he added.

Public transportation is extensive and less expensive in Vienna than other European capitals such as Berlin or London. For example, a yearly public transportation ticket costs just one Euro per day, or approximately U.S. $415 annually.

The city is also famous for fostering thinkers and creators such as Sigmund Freud and painter Egon Schiele.

“Ultimately, Vienna is a city that is indulgent to individuals. The culture, state, and society all make it very easy to live here in peace and solitude without particular hassle or disruption,” said Teddy Allen, a consultant who hails from England and said he plans to call the city home for the long run. “Perhaps for this reason, people have come here throughout the decades to gently go mad and wallow in introspection.”

The Economist list includes 140 cities in total. The bottom 10 cities, by contrast, were ones that have recently experienced political instability and security issues.

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50,000 passengers across Europe expected to be affected by employee strike against Ryanair

Posted on: August 10th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) — Around 50,000 passengers across Europe are expected to be affected this weekend as Ryanair is forced to cancel almost 400 flights due to a 24-hour walkout by staff in five European countries over a dispute about pay and working conditions.

Ryanair employees are on strike in Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, forcing the firm to cancel 394 flights.

The Irish airline, which last year carried its one billionth passenger, is Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier.

It said in a statement that the action was “unjustified” and “regrettable”, but said that 85 percent of its flights would still be operated, and said that it had done all that it could to prevent the dispute escalating into industrial action, adding that the “majority of customers affected have already been re-accommodated on another Ryanair flight.”

But some people took to Twitter to complain at how Ryanair handled the debacle after their flights were canceled.

Unions representing Ryanair staff said they want work rules to be governed by the laws of countries where employees are based, not the laws in Ireland where Ryanair is headquartered.

The action is the latest in a series of disagreements between Ryanair management and staff after the firm recognized its employee unions in late 2017 and entered into negotiations.

In July, around 300 flights were cancelled in similar strikes in Portugal, Spain and Belgium.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Fifty thousand passengers across Europe expected to be affected by employee strike against Ryanair

Posted on: August 10th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) — Around 50,000 passengers across Europe are expected to be affected this weekend as Ryanair is forced to cancel almost 400 flights due to a 24-hour walkout by staff in five European countries over a dispute about pay and working conditions.

Ryanair employees are on strike in Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, forcing the firm to cancel 394 flights.

The Irish airline, which last year carried its one billionth passenger, is Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier.

It said in a statement that the action was “unjustified” and “regrettable”, but said that 85 percent of its flights would still be operated, and said that it had done all that it could to prevent the dispute escalating into industrial action, adding that the “majority of customers affected have already been re-accommodated on another Ryanair flight.”

But some people took to Twitter to complain at how Ryanair handled the debacle after their flights were canceled.

Unions representing Ryanair staff said they want work rules to be governed by the laws of countries where employees are based, not the laws in Ireland where Ryanair is headquartered.

The action is the latest in a series of disagreements between Ryanair management and staff after the firm recognized its employee unions in late 2017 and entered into negotiations.

In July, around 300 flights were cancelled in similar strikes in Portugal, Spain and Belgium.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Moms’ swimsuit design epically solves parent’s beach-day debacle

Posted on: August 10th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two moms whose genius idea was born beside a kiddie pool are now changing the game with an innovative swimsuit design that makes bathroom breaks a breeze.

In 2014, Jill Slater and Alexis Castellano ran into the very real struggle that mothers of daughters know all too well: the dreaded one-piece bathing suit debacle.

“My older daughter Avery was 2 at the time,” Castellano, a mom of two, told “Good Morning America.” “She went [to the bathroom] and trying to get that swimsuit up was harder than it was to get down. I said [to Slater] ‘that wasn’t a fun experience’ and ‘there must be a better swimsuit out there.'”  Two moms whose genius idea was born beside a kiddie pool are now changing the game with an innovative swimsuit design that makes bathroom breaks a breeze.

In 2014, Jill Slater and Alexis Castellano ran into the very real struggle that mothers of daughters know all too well: the dreaded one-piece bathing suit debacle.

“My older daughter Avery was 2 at the time,” Castellano, a mom of two, told “Good Morning America.” “She went [to the bathroom] and trying to get that swimsuit up was harder than it was to get down. I said [to Slater] ‘that wasn’t a fun experience’ and ‘there must be a better swimsuit out there.'”

 The gal pals, who met during a mommy-and-me playgroup session, had an epiphany: Why don’t swimsuits look like baby onesies with the snaps? With that, their New Jersey-based company, FASTEN was born.

The website, fastenswim.com, which launched in 2015, offers bathing suits that are designed like onesies, only they snap near the waist. For older girls, there is a magnet on the back to hold the flap in place so it won’t fall into the potty.

In 2017, Slater and Castellano’s idea won a one-year mentorship from theSkimm’s “Get Off The Couch” female entrepreneur challenge. Within the last two weeks, FASTEN’s online shop has sold 85 percent of inventory and in the last year, has grown 130 percent with new customers in sales.

 “We hear, ‘This has been a game changer’ and, ‘Why didn’t I think of this before?'” Slater, also a mother of two, said of parents’ feedback.

Both Slater and Castellano feel the most rewarding thanks has been from parents of children with special needs, who have said that the suits make potty time easier for kids who may have an insulin pump, feeding pump, or a catheter.

“And for children who are older, but not yet potty-trained — they’re kids who are at the age where they want to look like every child, but they’re still in diapers,” Slater explained. “We have been so excited that something we created to make our lives easier is now truly making girls’ lives easier — all girls, everywhere, and that’s something we’re really proud of.”

In addition to swimwear, which is normally priced from $34 to $36, FASTEN currently sells leotards, beach coverups and other accessories.

Slater, who previously worked as nurse practitioner, and Castellano, a former event planner and freelance writer, now co-own their brand and operating alongside a technical designer and a financial specialist.

This fall, Slater, and Castellano will be releasing two new swimsuit designs: a halter and a tank. Eventually, they hope to expand to adult sizes, they said.

 In addition to swimwear, which is normally priced from $34 to $36, FASTEN currently sells leotards, beach coverups and other accessories.

Slater, who previously worked as nurse practitioner, and Castellano, a former event planner and freelance writer, now co-own their brand and operating alongside a technical designer and a financial specialist.

This fall, Slater, and Castellano will be releasing two new swimsuit designs: a halter and a tank. Eventually, they hope to expand to adult sizes, they said.

“We are really proud of the fact that we’ve built this company of talented women we’re working with,” she added. “This day in age, female-founded companies are important. We’re making a name for ourselves and showing our kids what we can do.

“We want to keep going and take it as far as we can.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Airbnb warns that it may expel ‘Unite the Right’ rally participants

Posted on: August 9th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Airbnb(WASHINGTON) — Protesters planning to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, D.C., this weekend may have some trouble finding a place to stay.

Airbnb is warning users that if they are found to be in violation of the company’s policies, they could have their reservations canceled and their accounts removed from the home sharing service.

The company is citing its community values as grounds to cut ties with participants of the rallies, which stemmed from a protest last year to protect Confederate statues — which included neo-Nazi groups — but exploded in violence.

“When we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the Airbnb platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action, which may include removing them from the platform,” according to a statement from Airbnb.

The company says all Airbnb users must agree to its Community Commitment, which states that the user agrees “to treat everyone in the Airbnb community — regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias.”

This isn’t the first time Airbnb has singled out people supporting the white nationalist and alt-right rally.

The company canceled accounts and bookings ahead of the original “Unite the Right” rally, which occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017.

“We acted in advance of last year’s horrific event in Charlottesville and if we become aware of similar information we won’t hesitate to do so again,” according to the company’s statement.

Airbnb has not released any data on the numbers of accounts or bookings that were canceled ahead of and after the Charlottesville rally in 2017.

On Aug. 7, 2017, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler said in a video posted to Twitter that Airbnb was canceling protest participant’s reservations, and he told The New York Times that “hundreds of people have been put out of their accommodations.”

Groups from both sides of the conflict have planned public demonstrations in Washington, D.C., this weekend on the anniversary of the Charlottesville clashes.

Permits for protests have been granted in different parts of the nation’s capital, with the organizers of the original “Unite the Right” rally planning to march from a nearby Metro station to a demonstration in Lafayette Square Park, directly opposite the White House.

Organizers for counter-demonstrations, including groups like Black Lives Matter and an individual who plans to burn a Confederate flag in Lafayette Park, have also received permits.

More details about the demonstrations are expected to be released in the coming days.

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Converse and Hello Kitty collaborate on new sneakers

Posted on: August 9th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Converse(BOSTON) — Converse and Hello Kitty are collaborating on a footwear and apparel collection and all of our childhood dreams are coming true.

Sneakers have been the go-to shoe style this summer and everyone knows ’90s nostalgia is the best accessory. So lace up, because your shoe collection is about to get a whole lot cuter when these sneaks come out.

The collection that includes Hello Kitty designs on the classic Chuck Taylor All Star, the One Star and Chuck 70s, ranging from kid sizes to adults.

In addition to the footwear line, they will also be releasing apparel and accessories in the collection, including a pullover hoodie, long sleeve T-shirts, short sleeve T-shirts, Hello Kitty pins in an easy-to-carry pouch, a crossbody purse, a duffel bag and a baseball cap.

The two iconic brands will be releasing the collection globally Aug. 16, and it will be available for purchase on Converse’s website, and at retailers like Nordstrom, Journey’s and Shoe Palace.

Everything in the collection is priced from $35 to $100.

Some of the shoes feature the well-known Hello kitty tagline “Say Hello To Me When You See Me!”

Sophie Bambuck, CMO of Converse, said the release of the collection is “incredibly exciting, and fun. Both Converse and Hello Kitty are symbols of expression and originality across generations, cultures and communities. Hello Kitty is whoever you want her to be to you, and Converse sneakers have always been adopted and transformed by the individuals that bring us into their lives daily, and made their own.”

Bambuck hopes that lifelong fans of both Hello Kitty and Converse will “welcome this collection … and have fun with it, just as we did creating it.”

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Mustang, the ‘soul of Ford’ Motor Co., under threat in trade war

Posted on: August 8th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(DETROIT) — 2018 could be the year of the Mustang, Ford’s iconic pony car immortalized by Steve McQueen in “Bullitt.”

On Wednesday, the 10 millionth Mustang rolled off the line at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan.

In April, the 54-year-old Mustang was named the best-selling sports coupe for the third year in a row by IHS Markit, an industry analytics firm.

And the Big 3 automaker launched a special edition Mustang to coincide with the upcoming 50th anniversary of “Bullitt,” McQueen’s classic 1968 action film.

But even the Mustang may not be able to outrun what’s going on in Washington.

In retaliation of President Trump’s move to slap tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese-made goods, China imposed a 40 percent duty on vehicles imported from the U.S.

Ford sold 7,125 Mustangs in China in 2017, making it the No. 1 sports coupe in the country. Mustangs, though long popular with Chinese drivers who would often buy them on the “gray market” and ship them overseas, didn’t officially enter the Chinese market until January of 2015.

Ford said it has no current plans to increase the price of the Mustang in China but “the company’s clear view is that governments should work together to lower, not raise, barriers to trade,” a Ford spokesman told ABC News. “Higher tariffs do not benefit our customers or our employees.”

China appears to have the upper hand in the trade standoff, according to Brandon Mason, PwC’s automotive director and U.S. mobility leader.

The U.S. sends far more vehicles to China — 267,473 in 2017 — than it imports (58,437), he pointed out.

“Given that it’s the world’s largest automotive market, an unintended consequence of the U.S. tariffs could be that OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturer] will look to further localize production there in order to bypass Chinese tariffs,” he told ABC News. “Given the huge tariff amount, it seems unlikely that automakers would continue to send their vehicles to China over the long term — their margins will either be slashed or they would have to pass the cost along to customers, making their products uncompetitive.”

Stephanie Brinley, an auto analyst at IHS Markit, said Ford’s decision to offer the Mustang globally has helped it maintain a sales lead over its competitors.

The car’s fortune, however, is “still tied to its U.S. buyer base,” she said.

Seventy-three percent of Mustang sales in 2017 were in the U.S. Even though Mustang sales have slipped in recent years and are projected to decline again in 2018, the American performance legend was never at risk of being banished to the history books like other Ford models.

“There is no reason to believe the Mustang is in any danger of being dropped,” she said. “The Mustang is an image car for Ford, an expression of performance. If Ford did drop the car owners and enthusiasts would be disappointed.”

Bill Ford Jr., whose grandfather, Henry Ford, founded the company 115 years ago, reportedly has more than a dozen Mustangs in his personal car collection. He told ABC News that no one imagined the Mustang would “create such a dedicated base of fans around the world” and still be in production today when it debuted at the New York World Fair in April of 1964.

Now, “the Mustang has become the quintessential American car and a global icon,” he said.

As for the company’s plan to end production of most of its passenger cars, Ford said it was necessary as the automaker “reinvents” its business.

“The consumer shift to utilities is undeniable and our new body styles will give people more capability, space and style,” he said.

Ford SUVs and pickups may be the financial answer for the company but the Mustang will always be part of its past, present and future. McQueen chose the Mustang as his character’s vehicle in “Bullitt” because it had relatability, according to Eric Minoff, an auto specialist at Bonhams auction house.

“That movie cemented the Mustang’s position in popular culture,” he told ABC News, “and Ford markets the hell out of it.”

In June, Bonhams auctioned off six Mustangs that personally belonged to Carroll Shelby, the famous race car driver who collaborated with Ford to build incredibly powerful and limited edition Mustangs. All exceeded sale expectations, especially the 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 continuation series convertible, which sold for $201,600, far above its original $60,000 to $80,000 estimate.

The Mustang’s working class image continues to be part of its allure, Minoff said. The V8 engine sports car offers sheer power and a sexy body at a fraction of the cost of a Ferrari, Corvette or Porsche, he noted.

“Everyone knows someone who has or had a Mustang,” he said. “The most valuable have the Carroll Shelby connection [but] they have been so successful partly because they’re the antithesis of rare. That’s the only limiting factor — there are a lot of them.”

Ford has sold 418,000 Mustangs in 146 countries since 2015. More women are choosing Mustangs over its hometown rivals, the Corvette and Camaro. Even as Ford shifts gears to stay ahead of fickle driving trends the Mustang will endure.

“It’s the soul of Ford,” said Mark Schaller, Mustang’s marketing manager. “It is so deeply intertwined with Ford’s identity.”

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FCC’s flood of negative web comments on net neutrality repeal not a bot attack: Watchdog

Posted on: August 8th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Communications Commission acknowledged Wednesday that bots were not responsible for the agency’s website slowdown after it sought public comment last year on its controversial plan to repeal net neutrality.

After people were temporarily unable to contest the proposal, the FCC at the time put out a statement blaming the issue on an “attack” by bots coordinated by “external actors.”

“Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos),” said Chief Information Officer David Bray in the statement. “These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”

However, the slowdown was likely due to a boost in use, the inspector general found.

“The degradation of ECFS system availability was likely the result of a combination of: (1) “flash crowd” activity resulting from the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode that aired on May 7, 2017 through the links provided by that program for filing comments in the proceeding; and (2) high volume traffic resulting from system design issues,” an inspector general report says.

Traffic had increased by 3,116 percent, according to the report, but that was likely caused by a segment on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and the host’s call to action to flood the agency’s public comment page with protests.

The inspector general said it “learned very quickly that there was no analysis supporting the conclusion” of the FCC’s allegation of an attack and “there were no subsequent analyses performed, and logs and other material were not readily available.”

ABC News’ attempts to reach Bray were unsuccessful. He left the agency in October 2017.

Before the report was publicly released, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blamed the misinformation on his former Chief Information Officer, who was hired by the Obama Administration, for the inaccurate initial statement.

“I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people,” Pai said in a statement.

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Amid backlash, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explains why Alex Jones hasn’t been banned

Posted on: August 8th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — Twitter said it is standing by its decision not to ban accounts associated with right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, despite “outside pressure” for it to ban his content.

The CEO and co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, explained the company’s decision in a series of tweets on Tuesday night, noting that Jones, owner of the InfoWars website, hadn’t violated any of its rules.

“We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does,” he said. “If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.”

Twitter has been under fire from users since Sunday, when Apple said it removed podcasts produced by Jones from its streaming platform, citing “hate speech.” Facebook, YouTube and Spotify followed suit with restrictions of their own this week.

Dorsey said he understood why people were upset with the decision, but he said censorship isn’t the answer. He also encouraged journalists to “refute” false information.

“Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors,” Dorsey said, “so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”

Dorsey appeared to take a swipe at the tech platforms that banned Jones and said Twitter refused to take “one-off actions to make us feel good” or make decisions that could ultimately fuel “new conspiracy theories.”

“Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that,” Dorsey said. “We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.”

Facebook suspended Jones’ account for 30 days on Monday due to repeated violations, includings posts that it said glorified violence and dehumanized others.

“We have taken it down for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies,” Facebook said.

YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, issued a similar statement, saying Jones’ accounts had violated its “policies against hate speech and harassment,” but Jones claimed his statements are protected by free speech.

“What conservative news outlet will be next? The one platform that they CAN’T ban and will ALWAYS have our live streams is infowars.com/show,” Jones, who has more than 850,000 Twitter followers, tweeted Monday.

“#Infowars has been banned on so many platforms, but people are still finding ways to get the truth,” he added in subsequent tweet.

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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day reminds and the continuing women’s pay gap

Posted on: August 7th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The month of August, eight months into the year, is how far into 2018 a typical black woman must work to bring home what a typical white male was paid at the end of 2017, according to the organizers of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, observed Tuesday, comes nearly five months after Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into 2018 a woman will have to work to earn what her male colleague earned in 2017.

Black women earn 96 percent as much as their black male counterparts, and earn nearly 83 percent as much as white women in the workforce, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The news for black women is not promising if nothing is done. Black women may not see equal pay until 2124 if current trends continue, the think tank Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found.

In addition to deserving the right to be paid equally for equal work, eight in 10 black women are the breadwinner of the family, according to the IWPR. Black women represented one in seven women in the civilian labor force in 2015, or about 10.2 million women.

Over the course of a 40-year career, black women’s losses total $867,920 because of the pay gap, the National Women’s Law Center recently reported. For black women living in eight states in the U.S., the lifetime wage gap would amount to more than $1 million compared to the earnings of white, non-Hispanic men.

Groups like the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, comprised of women’s legal advocacy and worker justice organizations, are working to help erase the pay gap for black women by shining a spotlight on the fact that such a gap still exists in 2018.

A survey commissioned by Lean In, the women-focused organization launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, found more than one in three Americans are not aware of the pay gap between black women and white men, and half of Americans are not aware of the pay gap between black women and white women.

“This pay gap for black women persists across industries, occupations, and levels of education,” Sandberg and Laphonza Butler, a union leader, wrote in an essay for Fortune magazine. “No matter what her job or how educated she is, the average black woman is still earning a great deal less than a white man at the same level.”

The actress Jessica Chastain placed Hollywood’s spotlight on the pay gap for black women when she spoke out after learning her costar, Octavia Spencer, who is black, was making less than other actresses, even with her Academy Award for “The Help.”

“Your silence is your discrimination,” Chastain told The Hollywood Reporter in June. “So if you are succeeding in an environment where there is discrimination, you are actively being discriminatory.”

She continued, “I knew women of color got paid less than Caucasian actresses. What I didn’t know is someone of Octavia’s level, who had an Oscar and two Oscar nominations, how much less she would be getting paid. When she told me what she was making, that’s what really made me go, ‘Hold up, that doesn’t compute in my brain.'”

The disparity in pay for black women sparked a social media storm Tuesday in observance of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The hashtags #BlackWomensEqualPay and #DemandMore both trended on Twitter.

Celebrities from “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts to tennis legend Billie Jean King and actress Patricia Arquette raised their voices in support of equal pay for black women.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully re-launches rocket

Posted on: August 7th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) –Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket for a second time early Tuesday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, according to a statement from the company.

The rocket carried the Merah Putih satellite into orbit, which will provide internet and phone services across Indonesia and Southeast Asia, according to SpaceX.

“The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years,” SpaceX said.

After separating from the satellite, the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is the first time SpaceX has successfully reused a Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket, according to Space.com. Its first launch was in May 2018. Shortly after the launch, Musk told Ars Technica, “We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without taking it apart. Ironically, we need to take it apart to confirm it does not need to be taken apart.”

The Falcon 9 rocket is designed to fly 10 times with inspections only at landing and liftoff, and 100 times or more with some refurbishment involved, according to Space.com.

Musk has said that reusing rockets is essential for cutting costs in spaceflight and making space exploration more accessible.

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Survey shows Americans hate online fraud, but call password practices "overkill"

Posted on: August 7th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new survey of 2,000 Americans revealed that while fighting online fraud is critical, 81% of those polled call cutting edge password practices are overkill.

The poll from analytics software firm FICO revealed 78% of those surveyed have trouble keeping track of their passwords, and 7 in 10 are sick of those warped-looking “Captcha” codes that we’re forced to enter just to prove we’re not robots.

Sixty-four percent of those polled say they hate having to turn their passwords into that tricky to guess — and remember — combination of letters and numbers.

The irony isn’t lost on computer security experts.

“There’s a real discrepancy here,” says TJ Horan, Vice President of fraud solutions at FICO. “Consumers are glad their bank is protecting them, but frustrated that the protection is making it harder for them to open accounts and make purchases.”

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Survey says millennials most want to take family trips; "cringe" at romantic getaways

Posted on: August 7th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) —  A new survey reveals that millennials are the most likely to want to take a trip with their families.

The poll, commissioned by the travel site Ebates, found that 61% of millennials want to travel with their families — and want to go on romantic vacations the least.

The Ebates Summer Survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults notes that 18.4% of millennials consider romantic trips “cringe worthy,” as compared to 10.3% of Gen Xers, and 8.2% of baby boomers.

While romantic trips get the thumbs-down, a majority of millennials say their ideal travel partners would be their BFFs.
 
Other findings of the poll reveal that 82% of all Americans take between 1-3 vacations a year, with more than half getting away during the summer.

Americans are staying home, relatively, this year, with 92% traveling domestically.

Road trips are the preferred vacation mode, says the poll, with 40% saying they’re getting away by getting behind the wheel. Plane travel was a close second, at 38%. Cruises ranked a distant third with 7% saying that’s how they’re traveling, followed by hiking at 6% and trains at 5%.

As for travel inspiration, 51% of Americans ask their friends, and 58% ask family members for destination advice. Twenty-three percent use travel TV shows to find destinations — the same percentage of those who use sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

The survey also notes that millennials are much more likely than other Americans to turn to social media to find a place to go.

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Facebook, tech giants remove content from Alex Jones and Infowars, citing hate speech violations

Posted on: August 6th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Brooks Kraft/ Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Facebook on Monday announced that it took down four pages belonging to rightwing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, including his “Infowars” radio show, citing violations of the platform’s hate speech and bullying policies.

It is the latest effort by social media giants and the tech industry to try and crack down on speech deemed offensive.

Facebook said in a statement obtained by ABC News on Monday that it also suspended Jones’ account for 30 days and that it “unpublished” the pages because they have repeated posted content “glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”

The media giant said that it removed the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page due to repeated violations of the company’s terms of use.

“We’ve been banned completely on Facebook, Apple, & Spotify. What conservative news outlet will be next? The one platform that they CAN’T ban and will ALWAYS have our live streams is infowars.com/show,” Jones, who remains active on Twitter, tweeted on Monday, slamming what he referred to as “censorship.”

ABC News has reached out to Jones but a request for comment were not immediately returned.

Twitter told ABC News on Monday that Jones is currently not in violation of the company’s policies.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that although he is “no fan” of Jones, “Free speech includes views you disagree with.”

“Am no fan of Jones — among other things he has a habit of repeatedly slandering my Dad by falsely and absurdly accusing him of killing JFK — but who the hell made Facebook the arbiter of political speech? Free speech includes views you disagree with,” he tweeted Monday.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, issued a strike against Jones in July and removed four of his videos, removed top channels associated with InfoWars on Monday, including The Alex Jones Channel, which has nearly 2.5 million subscribers. Two of the videos contained anti-Muslim speech and another showed a man pushing a child to the ground.

“All users agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines when they sign up to use YouTube,” a YouTube spokesperson told ABC News on Monday. “When users violate these policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts.”

Jones also targeted the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead and called activist and shooting survivor David Hogg a “crisis actor” in a video that was later taken down by YouTube. Jones later claimed that Hogg has been given lines by anti-gun advocates.

Apple also removed the majority of Infowars’ podcasts from its iTunes and Podcast apps, citing violations of hate speech guidelines.

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users,” an Apple spokesperson told ABC News. “Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

And last week Spotify, the music streaming service, said said on Wednesday that it has removed some episodes of “The Alex Jones Show” podcast, which airs on Inforwars, for violating its “hate content policy,” following backlash on social media.

“We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” a Spotify spokesperson told ABC News on Monday. “Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform.”

“I was born in censorship. I was born being suppressed,” he said on his radio show, responding to Spotify’s move.

Among other conspiracy theories, Jones has called the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting a hoax.

Six families of victims killed in the shooting, as well as an FBI agent who responded to the scene, filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones in May after he repeatedly called the shooting fake on “Infowars.” The lawusit was filed in Travis County, Texas, where Jones’ media company is based.

On Wednesday Jones’ attorneys argued that the “Infowars” host didn’t defame one victim’s parents who say they’ve been tormented by his followers and forced to move seven times. Jones was not present at the hearing.

Jones now admits the shooting occurred but says his claims were free speech. He has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed.

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Trump’s legal defense fund hasn’t listed any legal expenses: Tax documents

Posted on: August 6th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A legal defense fund set up to help Trump allies caught up in the ongoing probe of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election does not appear to have spent any money on legal services, according to tax records shared with ABC News.

A handful of top Trump donors collectively donated nearly $200,000 to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust between March and June, but so far, the fund has listed expenditures totaling less than $50,000 to an insurance provider and an accounting service.

The fund, which was set up by President Donald Trump’s lawyers in February to provide financial support for legal expenses incurred by any Trump campaign employee, consultant, fundraiser or volunteer (excluding Trump’s family members) questioned in the ongoing probe of Russian election meddling, is required as a 527 political organization to disclose contributions and expenditures.

Monday’s revelations, however, arrive as a growing number of people from across the political spectrum have been asking what has become of the fund. Multiple sources who have been questioned by investigators told ABC News on the condition of anonymity that their requests for assistance either went completely unanswered or resulted in no financial assistance.

Michael Caputo, a public relations executive and onetime Trump campaign aide, reached out to the fund for help as he was facing mounting legal bills following his May interviews with congressional investigators and special counsel prosecutors, but he told ABC News he received no reply.

And last week, five Senate Democrats sent a letter to the newly-confirmed director of the Office of Government Ethics urging the agency to investigate whether the fund is in compliance with federal law and ethics guidelines, citing the lack of transparency in the fund’s guidelines.

“The Fund lacks transparency: both donors and recipients could potentially be shielded from public disclosure and it is impossible to know which donors supplied money for contributions to which employees, making it impossible to discern whether donations are legal or ethical,” the senators wrote.

Former Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican from New York, who is listed as the fund’s interim manager, did not respond to multiple calls and emails from ABC News. The White House did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

As of this writing, neither of the reports of contributions and expenditures shared with ABC News are available on the IRS website. In response to questions from ABC News, the IRS declined to comment on the filing status of a specific group.

Four Trump loyalists with a long history of giving to the mogul-turned-politician have made large contributions to the fund.

Proactive Communications, a public relations firm run by Mark Serrano, donated $22,000 to the fund in March. Serrano has been a frequent supporter and defender of Trump on television.

Phil Ruffin, one of Trump’s longtime friends and supporters, donated $50,000 in April. Ruffin worked with Trump on his Las Vegas casino development and flew with him to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that has since become an area of interest to investigators.

Continental Resources, an oil and gas company run by Harold Hamm, donated $25,000 in May. Hamm is a billionaire and major Trump donor from Oklahoma whom Trump once considered for U.S. Energy Secretary.

Geoffrey Palmer, a Beverly Hills real estate developer, donated $100,000 in June. In 2016, Palmer was flagged in published reports as the single largest donor to Trump’s various campaign committees and political action committees.

But so far, the only expenditures listed in the pair of disclosure reports are “insurance” from risk management company Petra RMS ($42,297 between March and June) and “professional accounting services” from accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen ($6,509 in May). The companies’ representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

And the Patriot Fund isn’t the only fundraising effort raising ethics questions. There are a number of similar legal defense funds associated with other former members of Trump’s campaign or administration, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former campaign adviser Roger Stone and former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with watchdog group Public Citizen, told ABC that by his count there are more legal defense funds under this administration than under all previous administrations combined, and he called on government ethics officials to lay out rules for how they should function, especially in light of the opportunity for wealthy special interests to attempt to buy favors from government officials.

“There are very few rules governing how these legal defense funds are created and operate,” Holman said. “Any official who is facing serious legal charges will undoubtedly be most grateful to any person or company who chips in a large amount of money to pay for his or her legal defense.”

Representatives for Manafort, Gates and Pruitt did not respond to ABC New’ requests for comment. Stone referred questions to his lawyer, who did not immediately respond. Asource familiar with Flynn’s legal defense fund said the fund, which has not released fundraising figures since he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, has helped Flynn combat skyrocketing legal expenses.

“General Flynn’s legal bills are in the multiple seven figures,” the source told ABC News. “His legal defense fund has helped defray a fraction of the costs.”

Former FEC Chairman Scott Thomas said the system in place lacks regulations and the means to enforce them.

“It’s kind of a weak system that we have right now,” Thomas said.

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Study shows adults in the U.S. spend more than 11 hours a day interacting with media

Posted on: August 6th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) —  Study shows adults in the U.S. spend more than 11 hours a day interacting with media  

It’s no surprise that people in the United States are massively into mass media, but a new study shows just how much: adults in the U.S. spend more than 11 hours of every day watching, reading, playing games, or otherwise interacting with media.

According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, new platforms and streaming media are making it easier for people to stay glued to the stuff they like to watch.

Overall video use alone took up nearly six hours of an average U.S. adult’s day. That’s “time spent with a TV set, computer video and using video focused app/web on smartphones and tablets,” according to The Nielsen Company.

Adults in this country between the ages of 18-34 spend some 43% of their media time on digital platforms — with 29% interacting with media either online or via apps. 

And as those early adopters do their thing, their older counterparts start to follow suit, getting more used to streaming services and the like vs. traditional broadcast TV.

What’s more, adults now spend, on average, 45 minutes of their day on social media, according to the report.

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Purdue removes Papa John’s founder’s name from building

Posted on: August 5th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for ACM(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) — Purdue University has dropped the name of Papa John’s founder, John Schnatter, from a building at the school and offered to return a multimillion-dollar donation from the embattled pizza chain founder’s charity, according to a statement from the school.

Schnatter resigned as chairman of the board for Papa John’s in July after Forbes reported that he used the N-word during a May conference call. He later said stepping down was a “mistake.” He had already been removed as CEO for comments made while discussing the national anthem protests in the NFL last year.

The Purdue building, once called the John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research, will now revert back to the Purdue University Research Center in Economics. The building was named after Schnatter when his foundation donated $8 million to the school in April, according to a statement from Purdue economics professor John Umbeck.

“The board believes this action is necessary to avoid distraction from the center’s work, counterproductive division on the campus, and any inference of any deviation from the university’s often-stated stance on tolerance and racial relations,” read a statement from Purdue.

According to official reports, Purdue’s board of trustees voted unanimously on Friday to change the building’s name and offer the refund.

The monetary donation was intended to fund economics research, according to Umbeck.

The John H. Schnatter Family Foundation did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

Ball State University, Schnatter’s alma mater, said it will not change the name of a building named after him, according to a statement from Ball State University Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Hall.

“Based on our current understanding of what transpired, John’s response to the current situation and our experience with him, the board will continue our support of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise,” Hall said. “In our experience with John, he has never expressed racist views.”

“He has demonstrated himself to be an individual who is very appreciative of his fortunate situation and cares deeply about creating an environment in which all enterprising individuals have the opportunity to succeed,” he added.

Schnatter also resigned from his position on the University of Louisville’s board of trustees, according to the school. He had served on the board for two years.

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Arkema chemical company indicted for plant fire after Hurricane Harvey

Posted on: August 4th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(CROSBY, Texas) — The owners of the Houston-area chemical plant that suffered explosions and fires due to Hurricane Harvey, releasing potentially noxious fumes into the air, was indicted by a grand jury on Friday.

Arkema North America CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle are named in the indictment, which says the company was not prepared for the flooding which caused the fire at the plant in August 2017.

“Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema.

“Indictments against corporations are rare,” she added. “Those who poison our environment will be prosecuted when the evidence justifies it.”

The Crosby, Texas, plant was flooded during Harvey, which made landfall in southern Texas on Aug. 25, 2017 and slowly moved northeast. Southeast Texas, including Houston, was hammered with multiple feet of rain over a nearly weeklong deluge. The flood sparked multiple fires and explosions, and caused authorities to evacuate about 200 people in the area. Twenty-one people, including rescue personnel, were treated for injuries.

The charges brought in Friday’s indictment carry a penalty of up to five years in prison for each person and up to a $1 million fine for Arkema, according to the district attorney.

Arkema called the charges “astonishing” based on the conclusions from a report by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in late May.

“These criminal charges are astonishing, especially since the U.S. Chemical Safety Board concluded that Arkema behaved responsibly,” Arkema spokesperson Janet Smith said in a statement to Houston ABC station KTRK. “At the end of its eight-month investigation, the Chemical Safety Board noted that Hurricane Harvey was the most significant rainfall event in U.S. history, an Act of God that never before has been seen in this country.”

The Chemical Safety Board panel found there was a lack of planning for how severe weather events like the unprecedented rain during Hurricane Harvey could affect facilities that store chemicals and that even though Arkema had emergency generators and other backup systems “all of these layers of protection failed due to flooding.”

Smith said in a statement to ABC News in May after the release of the CSB report: “Arkema is pleased that after an eight-month-long investigation, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) report accurately depicts the unforeseeable nature of the situation Arkema faced during Hurricane Harvey.”

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Two people injured by flaming drink at Gordon Ramsay’s Las Vegas restaurant

Posted on: August 4th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) — Two people were rushed to the hospital after they were injured by a flaming drink at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Las Vegas on Thursday.

The accident occurred at Hell’s Kitchen, which is Ramsay’s restaurant located in Caesars Palace. The drink which caused the injuries is called the Rum Donkey, according to Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV.

The two suffered burns from the incident, but it was unclear how seriously they were injured.

“Unfortunately, two guests were injured at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace last night. We stand ready to provide any assistance they may need to help them through this difficult time,” Caesars Entertainment said in a statement to ABC News. “The particular type of specialty drink served at Hell’s Kitchen is served at the finest restaurants worldwide without incident. But, out of an abundance of caution, Hell’s Kitchen has removed the drink item at issue from the menu.

“All of us here at Caesars Palace and the Gordon Ramsay Restaurant Group are concerned for the injured guests, and are hopeful for their speedy recovery.”

Clark County Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen confirmed to KTNV that two people were taken to the hospital due to the burns.

The Rum Donkey is made with Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, falernum, brown sugar, ginger beer and torched passion fruit, according to the restaurant’s website. The passion fruit is literally lit on fire, as the name “torched” implies. It costs $14 a drink.

The restaurant is named after Ramsay’s hit TV show and opened in January.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Google to seek return to China with a censored search engine, reports say

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Google(BEIJING) — Google is reportedly building a censored search engine that could allow it to return to the massive market in China, but some experts said the plan is unlikely to succeed at least in part because of Beijing’s growing limits on free speech.

“Restrictions on speech are increasing” in China, said Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism and communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University and a vocal critic of the country’s censorship. “It’s unlikely that Google could yield that much” in such an environment.

Zhan predicted that any attempt by Google to attain significant market share in China will be “impossible.”

The internet giant left China in 2010 following criticism over its operating a censored search engine there, and is currently banned by the government. But the company is working on a version of its search that would filter out results related to topics such as democracy and human rights, which are deemed sensitive by Beijing, according to multiple reports.

Google’s effort to create a censored version of its search engine — a project it reportedly calls Dragonfly — could pave the way for it to re-enter the huge Chinese market, according to an article in The Intercept based on leaked documents and subsequent reports by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

When asked about Project Dragonfly on Friday, Google responded, “We don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”

From 2006 to 2010, Google also ran a censored search engine in China. However, facing public blowback and a congressional hearing, it stopped running the site and instead directed Chinese users to its uncensored Hong Kong search engine.

This move caused the Google site to be blocked by the Chinese government.

When these changes were announced in March 2010, Google cited “attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China” as a major reason for its decision.

Since then, limits on free speech in China have become even more stringent. Internet circumvention tools such as VPNs, which allow users to bypass the Chinese firewall, are being banned and made increasingly hard to obtain.

Attracting a share of the 772 million internet users in China will not be a simple task. Since Google’s exit from China, Chinese search engine Baidu has dominated, controlling 74 percent of the search engine market share.

Google will also need approval from the Chinese government, which may prove difficult, especially with escalating tensions from the U.S.-China trade war.

And, as before, the company should expect some backlash.

Amnesty International released a statement Wednesday, saying, “It will be a dark day for internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China’s extreme censorship rules.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

How Apple became the first American publicly traded company to reach $1 trillion valuation

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A company that started in a garage more than four decades ago became the first American publicly traded company to reach a $1 trillion valuation.

Shares hit $207.05 midday Thursday to crack the historic milestone. There have been expectations in the past that the company’s value would hit this level, but the path has been far from certain.

In April, Apple’s stock hovered in the $160-$170 range amid worries of lowered demand for iPhones, Apple’s flagship product that accounts for over 60 percent of its revenue.

Earlier this week, the company released its third-quarter earnings report. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, it was “Apple’s best June quarter ever and our fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth.” Revenue increased 17 percent to $53.3 billion.

Apple’s software and services revenue, including the App Store, which recently turned 10 years old on July 10, along with Apple Music and cloud services, jumped 31 percent year-over-year. So far this year, Apple has sold 134.54 million iPhones.

“It’s simply a testimony to how they’ve become a fabric of our lives, and it’s also a testimony to Steve Jobs’ vision,” says analyst Gene Munster.

Apple was founded in a Silicon Valley garage by college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and their friend Ronald Wayne in 1976. Apple had its initial public offering on Dec. 12, 1980.

As for what Jobs would say of Apple’s valuation, Munster says, “he’d be very proud of what he had helped build. … He would’ve come in the next day and said, ‘How are we going to make beautiful products?’ I don’t think it would change anything.”

With this historic valuation, Apple beats its closest market cap-competitor Amazon in the race to $1 trillion. This valuation makes Apple more valuable than the GDP of all but 26 countries, according to data from the CIA Factbook.

Apple was famously led for years by its visionary co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple’s first product, all hand-built by Wozniak, was the Apple-1, basically a DIY computer without a case. After securing funding and getting the iconic Apple logo designed, they continued to make products like the Macintosh, the company’s first mass-market computer. The ad that announced it, “1984,” is considered one of the greatest ads of all time.

“It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry,” Jobs said of the Macintosh in 2007.

Not long after the success of the Macintosh, Jobs clashed with then-CEO John Sculley, arguing that the company should focus more on the consumer when developing products. According to Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography, Jobs was “frequently obnoxious, rude, selfish, and nasty to other people,” which the “polite to a fault” Sculley disliked. A boardroom battle resulted in Jobs’ resignation from the company, and Apple began to falter. But when Apple bought NeXT in 1997, the company Jobs worked on in his absence from Apple, he returned to the company he co-founded and helped it restructure.

The company then began to rebrand, releasing the iMac in 1998 and the “clamshell” iBook in 1999, both in multiple bright colors in contrast to the beige computers of the day. The iMac returned Apple to profitability after the brink of bankruptcy. Mac computers enjoyed continued success with the popular MacBook’s debut in 2006.

Jobs was a cult of personality synonymous with Apple Inc. With his trademark uniform of a black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers, he captivated keynote address audiences with his proclamations of the magnificence of new Apple products.

Jobs’ biggest consumer devices were the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, released in 2001, 2007, and 2010, respectively. While they weren’t the first music player, smartphone or tablet on the market, they embodied Jobs’ famous mantra, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” and revolutionized their respective product categories.

The iPod changed how people listen to and buy music, the iPhone changed how we communicate with others, and the iPad changed what it meant to have a computer in your hands.

“Right there, holding the internet in your hands — it’s an incredible experience,” Jobs said at the iPad’s announcement.

Tim Cook became CEO just six weeks before Jobs passed away on Oct. 5, 2011.

Jobs told consumers what they wanted, but Cook made sure it got to the consumer as efficiently as possible. Prior to being named CEO, he developed a reputation as a whiz in efficiency as Chief Operating Officer. Under his leadership, the iPhone has been persistently popular around the world, reaching over 1.4 billion units sold. Apple services like the App Store and Apple Music have grown consistently, and consumers have been taking to new products like the Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015 and has made Apple the biggest watchmaker in the world by revenue, according to research firm Asymco.

“Tim Cook is an ideal example of sticking to what you believe in rather than listening to the masses,” says Munster. “Being hyper-focused on the details and making products and services relentlessly better versus drifting and being distracted by other things defines Tim Cook’s genius.”

The historic valuation Apple reached Thursday is a culmination of the “Think Different” motto of its 1997 ad campaign featuring the famous “Crazy Ones” ad. It’s black-and-white footage of 17 iconic 20th century personalities like Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr. began with, “Here’s to the crazy ones,” and ended saying, “while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apple comes first American publicly traded company to reach $1 trillion valuation

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A company that started in a garage more than four decades ago became the first American publicly traded company to reach a $1 trillion valuation.

Shares hit $207.05 midday Thursday to crack the historic milestone. There have been expectations in the past that the company’s value would hit this level, but the path has been far from certain.

In April, Apple’s stock hovered in the $160-$170 range amid worries of lowered demand for iPhones, Apple’s flagship product that accounts for over 60 percent of its revenue.

Earlier this week, the company released its third-quarter earnings report. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, it was “Apple’s best June quarter ever and our fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth.” Revenue increased 17 percent to $53.3 billion.

Apple’s software and services revenue, including the App Store, which recently turned 10 years old on July 10, along with Apple Music and cloud services, jumped 31 percent year-over-year. So far this year, Apple has sold 134.54 million iPhones.

“It’s simply a testimony to how they’ve become a fabric of our lives, and it’s also a testimony to Steve Jobs’ vision,” says analyst Gene Munster.

Apple was founded in a Silicon Valley garage by college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and their friend Ronald Wayne in 1976. Apple had its initial public offering on Dec. 12, 1980.

As for what Jobs would say of Apple’s valuation, Munster says, “he’d be very proud of what he had helped build. … He would’ve come in the next day and said, ‘How are we going to make beautiful products?’ I don’t think it would change anything.”

With this historic valuation, Apple beats its closest market cap-competitor Amazon in the race to $1 trillion. This valuation makes Apple more valuable than the GDP of all but 26 countries, according to data from the CIA Factbook.

Apple was famously led for years by its visionary co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple’s first product, all hand-built by Wozniak, was the Apple-1, basically a DIY computer without a case. After securing funding and getting the iconic Apple logo designed, they continued to make products like the Macintosh, the company’s first mass-market computer. The ad that announced it, “1984,” is considered one of the greatest ads of all time.

“It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry,” Jobs said of the Macintosh in 2007.

Not long after the success of the Macintosh, Jobs clashed with then-CEO John Sculley, arguing that the company should focus more on the consumer when developing products. According to Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography, Jobs was “frequently obnoxious, rude, selfish, and nasty to other people,” which the “polite to a fault” Sculley disliked. A boardroom battle resulted in Jobs’ resignation from the company, and Apple began to falter. But when Apple bought NeXT in 1997, the company Jobs worked on in his absence from Apple, he returned to the company he co-founded and helped it restructure.

The company then began to rebrand, releasing the iMac in 1998 and the “clamshell” iBook in 1999, both in multiple bright colors in contrast to the beige computers of the day. The iMac returned Apple to profitability after the brink of bankruptcy. Mac computers enjoyed continued success with the popular MacBook’s debut in 2006.

Jobs was a cult of personality synonymous with Apple Inc. With his trademark uniform of a black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers, he captivated keynote address audiences with his proclamations of the magnificence of new Apple products.

Jobs’ biggest consumer devices were the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, released in 2001, 2007, and 2010, respectively. While they weren’t the first music player, smartphone or tablet on the market, they embodied Jobs’ famous mantra, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” and revolutionized their respective product categories.

The iPod changed how people listen to and buy music, the iPhone changed how we communicate with others, and the iPad changed what it meant to have a computer in your hands.

“Right there, holding the internet in your hands — it’s an incredible experience,” Jobs said at the iPad’s announcement.

Tim Cook became CEO just six weeks before Jobs passed away on Oct. 5, 2011.

Jobs told consumers what they wanted, but Cook made sure it got to the consumer as efficiently as possible. Prior to being named CEO, he developed a reputation as a whiz in efficiency as Chief Operating Officer. Under his leadership, the iPhone has been persistently popular around the world, reaching over 1.4 billion units sold. Apple services like the App Store and Apple Music have grown consistently, and consumers have been taking to new products like the Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015 and has made Apple the biggest watchmaker in the world by revenue, according to research firm Asymco.

“Tim Cook is an ideal example of sticking to what you believe in rather than listening to the masses,” says Munster. “Being hyper-focused on the details and making products and services relentlessly better versus drifting and being distracted by other things defines Tim Cook’s genius.”

The historic valuation Apple reached Thursday is a culmination of the “Think Different” motto of its 1997 ad campaign featuring the famous “Crazy Ones” ad. It’s black-and-white footage of 17 iconic 20th century personalities like Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr. began with, “Here’s to the crazy ones,” and ended saying, “while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Prominent locals want Trump’s DC hotel to lose liquor license

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A local regulatory agency is nearing a decision on whether to recommend a review of Trump International Hotel’s liquor license after seven D.C. residents filed a complaint arguing the hotel’s owner, President Donald Trump, is “not of good character.”

The law governing liquor licenses in D.C. states that in order to acquire and maintain a liquor license in the city, the owner of the bar or restaurant is required to be “of good character,” and two retired judges and five local religious leaders say the president doesn’t measure up.

“President Trump is not above the law,” said Joshua A. Levy, a lawyer for the D.C. residents who filed the complaint to the Washington D.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Board in June. “In D.C., the law requires an owner of a liquor license to be of ‘good character,’ and Mr. Trump is not. He should transfer the ownership to someone who can comply with the law or show cause why his license should not be revoked.”

The president’s supporters and officials within the Trump Organization, which manages the hotel property, are crying foul, dismissing the effort as a political cheap shot.

“This is not about the neighborhood, not about the common good and certainly not about the law,” Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. “This is politics at its worst and an obvious effort to misuse the power of government to advance a political agenda.”

Political stunt or not, the city agency with the authority to revoke it is conducting a serious inquiry, a spokesperson told ABC News, and officials plan to respond to the complaint in writing by Sept. 18.

“The complaint is currently with ABRA’s Enforcement Division, where it is still under review,” agency spokesman Max Bluestein said.

The “good character” provision is typically invoked when a liquor license is up for transfer or renewal, Bluestein told ABC News, but the complaint against the Trump International Hotel pertains an active liquor license that is not up for renewal until March 2019.

In bringing the complaint, the D.C. residents – Judge Joan Goldfrank, Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., Rev. William Lamar IV, Rev. Jennifer Butler, Rev. Dr. Timothy Tee Boddie, Rabbi Jack Moline and Rabbi Aaron Potek – cited that Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle fraud claims arising from the now-defunct Trump University and that multiple contractors who have worked for Trump have filed suit against him claiming they were never paid.

Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, urged members of the Washington D.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Board – who are appointed by the mayor and confirmed to four-year terms by the city council in the heavily Democratic District of Columbia – to “see this for what it is and not allow itself to be used to advance anyone’s political goals.”

“The statute is clearly being distorted for political gain and the suggested interpretation would create an absurd precedent, not to mention a slippery slope,” he said.

If the board recommends a show-cause hearing in September, the D.C. Attorney General’s Civil Enforcement Section would then consider the evidence and decide whether to bring a civil enforcement action.

The D.C. Attorney General already has filed a separate lawsuit alleging that President Trump’s hotel business puts him in violation the Constitution’s prohibition against receiving foreign and domestic government profits while in office. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the lawsuit can move forward.

Whatever the outcome of this dispute, Trump’s friend Christopher Ruddy, the founder and CEO of news and opinion site Newsmax, told ABC News he believes Trump’s foray into politics has already hurt his global business empire.

“It is pretty clear that many Trump businesses have suffered unfairly because of the President’s politics,” Ruddy said. “The bar issue is another example of that.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Couple pays off $124K of debt in 3 years and finds financial peace

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Courtesy Christopher Espinosa(NEW YORK) — Paying off $124,000 in debt sounds nearly impossible but one couple managed to do so in three years by changing their habits and learning to save.

Christopher Espinosa, 29, met his now-wife Morgan Espinosa, 28, at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. After graduation, they said they were collectively making $28,000 per year doing part-time jobs including retail, photography and waiting tables, all while spending more money than they should have.

They landed in a financial spot where many millennials find themselves today — facing a massive sum of debt. America’s total student loan debt is now around $1.5 trillion, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the average debt was just over $28,000.

Chris admitted his spending habits were taking a toll on his wallet and relationship. He was a big spender, often splurging on clothes and gadgets he found cool and eating out at restaurants. After going back and forth with his wife, they decided it was time to make a change.

“We just really wanted to be financially at peace,” Espinosa told “GMA.” “We wanted to stop fighting about money and change our family tree so that our kids would not have to worry about paying for college.”

Added Morgan, “I was feeling overwhelmed by the debt.”

“I remember Chris grabbing my face and saying, ‘We will get rid of this debt, I promise,'” she continued.

Overcoming “FOMO” to find financial freedom

While they began saving little by little after graduation, it wasn’t until 2015 when they really began to limit their spending. Their debts included $88,000 in student loans, $29,000 in car payments and $5,200 on credit cards, they said. To tackle it, the couple followed what experts call the “snowball method,” putting each debt from smallest to biggest, focusing on paying them off in that order while still making the minimum payments on the larger debts.

The couple limited their spending to a $40 a week allowance and found some simple solutions like selling off some of their belongings — from clothes to furniture for extra cash — and inviting friends over to eat instead of going out. By making these changes, the couple managed to put up to $3,500 a month toward their debt.

Chris admits that it wasn’t easy. “I would get ‘FOMO’ and I didn’t want to miss out,” he said.

The hardest part for Morgan was saying no to things she loved.

“I really like interior design so I had to pull back the reigns and not buy things for our house that I dreamt of buying,” she said. “The hardest part was saying no when I wanted to spend or I saw people around us spending.”

While some of their friends were buying new Jeeps, they saved by making use of Chris’ old college car, a 15-year-old Honda. They also cut off their cable TV subscription, switched to a slower internet speed and negotiated a less expensive cellphone contract.

Morgan also took on extra work, cleaning homes around the holidays for extra cash.

Chris said there were times when they went over their allotted monthly budget. In those instances, they would course correct and “had to take from next budget to pay back [themselves],” he explained. This would make the next month even more difficult as they would have even less money to go around.

Now, three years later, all that struggle was worth it when they paid off their final debt. The couple treated themselves to a trip to Cancun that Chris said was paid for in cash because they vow to never use credit cards again.

Chris said the sacrifice to live within one’s means is worth it long term and he wants others struggling with debt to not to be afraid to say no to things to curb spending.

Nothing beats “having a sense of peace, and getting to keep your money on payday,” Chris said.

Morgan hopes their story encourages other people in similar situations.

“I just want other people to know that they can do it,” she said. “Put blinders on and don’t think about anyone else even if someone is paying off debt faster than you’re doing it.”

So what’s next for the Espinosas? The two hope to save enough to buy a house.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.