Instagram to Start Counting Video Views to Lure More Advertisers

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Instagram is about to give itself another social media makeover.

The Facebook-owned photo sharing app announced this week it will begin counting video views, meaning users can now see how many people have actually viewed their content. Currently, the number of “likes” is displayed below a video, but soon the number of views will be displayed instead, according to a blog post from Instagram.

Instagram will count a view if a video has been watched for a minimum of three seconds — the same metric used on Facebook. The company said it plans to roll out the changes to users in the coming weeks.
 
In the blog post, Instagram wrote, “From seeing the world’s moments as they happen to checking out a brand’s new shoe line, people are consuming more and more videos every day. In fact, over the last six months, the time people spent watching videos on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent.”

Instagram has two video products: Hyperlapse, which takes sped up videos, and Boomerang, which takes a burst of photos and stitches them together into a video that plays forward and backward on a continuous loop.

Counting views will allow Instagram to also better connect with advertisers to show the value of a video advertisement. Nielsen data found that on Facebook, as much as 47 percent of the value in a video campaign was delivered in the first three seconds, while nearly three-quarters was delivered in the first ten seconds.

The change is the latest shake-up in the world of social media. Twitter announced earlier this week it would begin showing tweets out of chronological order based on an algorithm.

In the coming weeks, Twitter users can turn on the feature in their settings. When logging onto Twitter, users will see the tweets that Twitter’s algorithm believes the user is most likely to care about at the top of their timeline, going in reverse chronological order as they scroll down the new timeline.

Twitter’s real-time stream will then be displayed underneath in the same reverse-chronological order, allowing users to also keep track of real-time discussions on Twitter.

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Tax Tip: On the Job Tax Savings

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — What kind of deductions can you get from where you work?

New York tax accountant Janice Hayman says it depends on what line of work you’re in.

“If you’re self-employed, we have a bundle of deductions for you,” she says. Those deductions could include heating, water and  air conditioning if you work from home.

If you’re an educator, you can save on classroom supplies.

“This is for elementary and high school teachers. They get what we call an above the line deduction of $250 for supplies that they have purchased during the year and used in their jobs,” Hayman explains.

Just make sure you save your receipts.

When it comes to filling out your company’s W-4 Form, Hayman advises you over withhold to get a bigger tax return rather than making the most out of your allowances to get paid more in your paycheck.

“Over withhold a little bit to give them a cushion in case there’s anything that comes up during the year we’re not anticipating,” she says.

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Dollar General Stores Facing Multiple Lawsuits Over Motor Oils

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) —  Dollar General, a national discount chain, is facing multiple lawsuits over its store-branded motor oil by consumers who claim the products are out of date and the chain allegedly failed to give adequate warning.

ABC News’ “Good Morning America” Investigates went undercover to four of the chain’s New Jersey outlets to take a look at the oils, accompanied by Tom Glenn, president of the Petroleum Quality Institute of America, which tests motor oils for compliance with industry standards.

Glenn told “GMA” Investigates that he considers all three DG Auto oils “GMA” Investigates examined to be obsolete. The American Petroleum Institute, a national trade organization that represents America’s gas industry and sets petroleum industry standards, has determined that some older formulations of motor oil are now obsolete and are not suitable for modern cars, as newer oils offer greater protection against engine wear and corrosion. All three DG oils fall into “obsolete,” categories.

The front label of the DG 10W-30 oil looks like any other oil, but a warning on the back of the bottle advises that the product is “not suitable” for “engines built after 1988.”

Our team noticed only a few bottles of the motor oil on the stores’ shelves. A clerk said the product, which is cheaper than all the other brands next to it, was a big seller.

“I don’t think any consumer who saw this product next to other motor oils on the shelves would have an idea that this was an obsolete oil,” Edgar Dworsky, editor of the consumer website MousePrint.org, told “GMA” Investigates.

The DG oil 10W-40 has that same warning on the back. The same clerk told us she doesn’t know a lot about cars, but thinks the product is like the brand-name oils, just cheaper. That’s not true, however. The brand-name oils next to it are meant for modern cars and the DG oils are not.

Our expert says that another DG oil on the shelf, SAE 30, is meant for some small engines like select lawnmowers or air compressors, but we found it on the auto shelf. Its warning reads “not suitable” for “engines built after 1930.”

Glenn says he worries that people who pick it up by mistake could damage their car.

“Call it a compressor oil, something else so it’s not so confusing to consumers,” Glenn said.

Tennessee-based Dollar General defended its products, saying in a statement: “For more than 75 years, Dollar General has been committed to providing our customers quality products at everyday low prices. We are confident that our DG-branded motor oil products meet not only our standards for quality and value, but also all applicable federal and state labeling requirements where they are sold.”

“In addition, the labeling on these products contains obvious and unambiguous language regarding the products’ intended and appropriate use. Dollar General intends to vigorously defend against the claims raised in the recently-filed lawsuits regarding these products, including the filing of motions seeking their dismissal.”

The chain of variety stores also took issue with the term “obsolete,” saying its motor oil can be used in the millions of cars on the road built before 1988.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed across the country against Dollar General. The suits claim DG is misleading consumers by selling obsolete oil on the same shelves as oils meant for newer cars without giving “adequate warning.”

Joe Wood is part of one of those suits. He says he never thought to read the back of the bottle, and that his engine died after he started using the DG oil.

“I didn’t think anything was different from any of the brands. I just thought that was marketing,” Wood says.

Glenn says Dollar General is not the only company selling obsolete oils. “GMA” Investigates went undercover to other stores in New York and New Jersey to see whether they sell these oils. Out of eight other retailers, half were selling oils that Glenn considers obsolete.

So what should you look for when buying oil? First, check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to make sure you’re using the right oil. And just as important, look for the API code on the back. Several formulations of oil have codes that are not obsolete; The latest code is API “#SN.” For more information on what to look for when buying motor oil, go to PQIA’s website.

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Shares in Japan Traded Significantly Lower

Posted on: February 12th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

GOTO_TOKYO/iStock Editorial/ThinkStock(TOKYO) — Japan’s markets traded significantly lower on Friday, reports BBC News.

Toyota finished down seven percent, Nissan lost 5.8% and Honda lost 5.5%.

Japan’s losses affected indexes in London, the US and Europe as sharp declines were posted overnight, reports the BBC. The declines were due in part to global worry about the economy and oil prices.

The losses are Friday marked an end to a turbulent week in Japanese markets.

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Former IRS Agent Stands Trial for Allegedly Taking Bribe Money From Marijuana Dispensary

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — A jury is now deliberating the fate of a former Seattle IRS agent who was captured by the FBI on a hidden camera allegedly accepting thousands in bribe money from a marijuana business in exchange for leniency during an audit.

The trial started Monday for Paul G. Hurley, who is accused of soliciting and receiving a bribe by a public official.

According to court documents obtained by ABC News, Hurley performed an audit for a medical marijuana dispensary called Have a Heart, meeting with owner Ryan Kunkel several times between July and September 2015. Hurley was then working out of the IRS’ Seattle, Washington, office.

On Sept. 11, 2015, after conducting the audit, Hurley allegedly told Kunkel that he owed $290,000 on his 2013 and 2014 taxes, adding that he’d saved the business more than $1 million. He then allegedly asked for $20,000 in cash in return for his leniency, according to the FBI. Kunkel contacted his lawyer about the alleged request for money, and the lawyer reached out to law enforcement, who set up the sting operation.

On Sept. 16, 2015, FBI special agents were present at a coffee shop when Hurley allegedly accepted a partial payment of $5,000 from Kunkel. The agents used a video recording device to capture the exchange and also had Kunkel wear an audio recording device.

“Taxpayer A advised he told (Hurley) he was worried about getting into trouble for making the payment. (Hurley) said, in sum and substance, ‘You’re not in trouble. … We’re fine. It’s good,” according to court documents.

On Sept. 21, 2015, according to court documents, agents watched Hurley meet with Kunkel – this time in Kunkel’s car – to receive the remainder of the payment. When he exited the car, Hurley was arrested. Hurley later quit his job with the IRS.

Hurley has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a trial brief, Hurley’s attorneys John Henry Browne and Michael T. Lee said that he’d been offered “a job to perform accounting services” and that the $20,000 “played no role whatsoever in his official duties.”

“Mr. Hurley denies soliciting any bribe from Mr. Kunkel,” they said.

If Hurley is convicted of bribery, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

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Nutrition in a Bottle: The Startup Behind Soylent

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Like so many great startups, Soylent, a beverage classified as a food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can replace any meal, got its start in Silicon Valley when four friends — all engineers — set out to solve a problem. Back in 2013, co-founders, Rob Rhinehart, Matt Cauble, John Coogan and David Renteln were working on companies and simultaneously running out of funds.

In an effort to save money, the group decided to downsize, and moved from a five bedroom house to a two bedroom apartment. Despite their best efforts to cut costs, they were still spending excessive amounts on food. “A couple of us were living in this hacker house in Silicon Valley and we were spending a lot of money on food… but we couldn’t keep the fridge stocked.” David Renteln, Soylent CMO and co-founder told ABC’s Chief Business and Economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis.

Rhinehart began researching a more efficient way to eat in order to optimize nutrition while minimizing cost, effort and time. After identifying the essential nutrients for the human body to thrive, Rhinehart started concocting a mixture of supplements and ingredients. Soylent was born. With the help of a beta program of about 100 people and sheer persistence, the group landed on a recipe that checked off all the right boxes.

“What we’ve really tried to do is create a neutral flavor, so the idea is … you can have it every day and not get too exhausted” Renteln said, “Of course the nutrients are the most important, …so it’s important to find sort of an ideal combination that people find usable.”

That same year Soylent raised more than $3 million on Tilt making it the largest crowdfunded food project in history. Two years later in January of 2015 the company received $20 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz with the help of Lerer Ventures, Index Ventures and individual investors.

Thanks to this funding, Soylent was able to accelerate its growth and focus on product development. “Our mission is to bring affordable nutrition to everybody and one way we can do that is spreading the use of this product as well as launching new products. I think there is room in the big food companies for a new one… I think we could be a healthier Nestle.”

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U.S. Stocks Suffer Another Day of Losses

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks moved lower on Thursday as shares for banks and other financial companies fell. Worries about instability in China and other country’s economies didn’t help matters.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 254.56 points to close at 15,660.18. It hit low points during the day where it was down about 400 points.

The S&P 500 closed at 1,829.08, down 22.78 and the Nasdaq lost 16.76 points to end the session at 4,266.84.

Morgan Stanley’s stock slid almost 5 percent after word that it’s being held accountable for packaging and selling toxic, subprime mortgages, which helped lead to the financial collapse of 2008. The Justice Department’s fining the company $2.6 billion.

Another drop in oil and natural gas prices sent shares in several energy companies lower. Southwestern Energy lost 59 cents while Marathon Oil fell 47 cents.

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Morgan Stanley Agrees to $3.2B Settlement over Housing Crisis

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay $3.2 billion to federal and state authorities to settle charges over financial instruments that contributed to the housing crisis last decade. 

“We are pleased to have finalized these settlements involving residential MBS matters. The firm has previously reserved for all amounts related to these settlements,” the firm said in a statement Thursday.

The settlement came after Morgan Stanley acknowledged it misrepresented to investors just how risky certain investment products tied to sub-prime mortgages were. Authorities said the firm knew the underlying mortgage loans it was selling had material defects.

Last year, Morgan Stanley had announced a preliminary settlement of $2.6 billion. On Thursday, the firm finalized with the states of New York and Illinois, bringing the number up.

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New Jobless Claims Fell to 269,000 Last Week

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Labor Department says 16,000 fewer Americans submitted initial filings for unemployment benefits last week.

According to the latest data released Thursday, the number of initial unemployment claims for the week ending Feb. 6 was 269,000, compared to the previous week’s unrevised level of 285,000. The more stable four-week moving average decreased by 3,500 to 281,250.

The Labor Department did not note any “special factors” related to the number of filings.

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Evaluating Which Touchscreen Gloves Perform the Best

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Typing in the cold can be a pain in more ways than one.

Regular gloves don’t work with touchscreen devices — such as smartphones phones and tablets — because the fabric blocks the charge from your finger, which activates your phone.

Nick Guy from Wirecutter.com, a website that advises on best gadgets, evaluated 12 pairs of touchscreen gloves to find out how well they work.

“They don’t have the tips we’re used to seeing,” ABC News Correspondent Gio Benitez said to Guy.

“They actually sew in silver and copper thread or infuse the gloves with nano particles of silver and copper that conduct electricity,” Guy replied. He says this is what allows people to use their touchscreen devices as if they weren’t wearing gloves.

To test for touchscreen capability, Guy camped out in a temperature controlled brewery cooler — keeping the temperature just above freezing, while he texted, used apps, and played games.

Out of the 12 touchscreen gloves Guy tested this year, he says he highly recommends four pairs, five are an okay buy, and three pairs didn’t stack up. Check out the below video to see which touchscreen gloves Wirecutter.com highly recommends.

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Artificial Intelligence Now Qualifies as Car Driver

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Federal vehicle safety agencies have routinely worked with private companies to pave the road for autonomous vehicles.

So U.S. officials will now allow the artificial intelligence system responsible for piloting self-driving cars to be considered the driver, according to a letter dated from last week from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One obstacle autonomous vehicle manufactures have faced is what federal law calls the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs). These standards outline the safety requirements applied to all vehicles on U.S. roadways.

Since 1967, when the first of these safety standards became effective under federal law, a driver has been considered a human piloting the vehicle from the front seat.

With manufacturers trying to break this mold, they needed U.S. Department of Transportation approval for their artificial intelligence systems to qualify as a driver.

A November request from Google’s Self-Driving Car Project asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to interpret a number of provisions within federal vehicle safety law, including for their Self-Driving System to qualify as or replace the driver.

The Feb. 4 response from NHTSA gives Google and all other manufacturers approval to design and operate under the interpretation that their artificial intelligence systems qualify as the driver under federal law.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said today his department is committed to embracing innovations that improve safety and efficiency on U.S. roadways.

“Our interpretation that the self-driving computer system of a car could, in fact, be a driver is significant,” Foxx said.

“But the burden remains on self-driving car manufacturers to prove that their vehicles meet rigorous federal safety standards.”

Foxx revealed last month that part of the president’s budget proposal would include a 10-year, nearly $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.

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Dow Losses Mark Longest Period of Declines Since August

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A mixed day on Wall Street with the Dow breaking its record for the longest stretch of losses on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 99.64 to close at 15,914.74. This marks the index’s longest period of declines since Aug. 18 to Aug. 25.

The S&P 500 closed at 1,852.86, basically unchanged from its open. Health care and technology were the two sectors of the S&P to end the day slightly higher.

Gains in the tech sector helped the Nasdaq gain 14.83 points to end the session at 4,283.59.

Crude oil took another hit, as prices fell to $27.44 per barrel.

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Burger King Adds Hot Dogs to Menu

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Burger King may get a new nickname in the coming weeks: Hot Dog King.

The fast-food chain will make the taste of a summer barbecue available year-round by adding two hot dogs to its permanent menu, it said in a press release Wednesday. The all-beef franks will be available nationwide starting Feb. 23.

Burger King plans to use the same flame-grilling technique it uses for its burgers for its hot dogs, as opposed to the more traditional method of boiling them.

“The introduction of Grilled Dogs just made sense to our guests and for our brand,” said Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America.

The chain will offer two varieties of hot dogs: the classic grilled, which will be topped with ketchup, mustard, chopped onions and relish and served on a “fluffy baked bun,” and the chili-cheese, topped with chili and shredded cheddar cheese.

Americans eat more 20 billion hot dogs per year, Burger King estimates. Once it makes the new items available in its 7,100 U.S. stores, Burger King will become the largest restaurant chain in the country to offer hot dogs. Smaller chains that feature hot dogs on their menus include Sonic Drive-In and Dairy Queen.

The classic hot dog will cost $1.99 and the chili-cheese dog will cost $2.29. Burger King will also be offering combo deals with fries and a fountain drink for $4.49 and $4.79, respectively.

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Twitter’s Day of Reckoning Is Here with Earnings Report, User Numbers

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The past few months have been even rockier than usual for Twitter and now, CEO Jack Dorsey is set to have an afternoon of reckoning with investors as the company reveals its performance for 2015 and its latest user numbers.

Twitter will also break out its fourth-quarter performance in the earnings call and simultaneous Periscope live-streaming, which is set for 5 p.m. ET Wednesday.

While the social media company has had several victories in the past year, including the launch of video streaming Periscope and the announcement it has suspended more than 125,000 terror-related accounts, it’s also faced its share of challenges.

It’s been a tough few months of headlines for Twitter, with layoffs in October, the departure of four executives last month, slumping stock prices and even a revolt from some users who protested a controversial change to the site’s timeline feature with the #RIPTwitter hashtag.

Jack Dorsey, 39, one of the founders of the site, took over for the second time as chief executive last year. While the site has tremendous reach, it has lagged in attracting and retaining new users, who in turn entice businesses to advertise on Twitter and drive revenue.

“The opportunity is absolutely massive. The intention is to certainly bring it to everyone around the world,” Dorsey said last summer. “If we build a product people love and value, advertisers and users will follow.”

Aside from earnings and user growth, analysts will also be looking for a potential announcement from Twitter over recent speculation the company plans to name two new members to its board.

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New Encryption Bill Could Stop States from Getting a Backdoor into Your Smartphone

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Whether authorities should be given a so-called backdoor to access encrypted smartphones has been an ongoing tug-of-war between many Silicon Valley power players and government officials, but a pair of lawmakers are hoping their new bill will have the final word when it comes to protecting smartphone security.

The ENCRYPT Act of 2016 — short for the “Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act” — is a proposed federal law that has the stated purpose of overriding “data security vulnerability mandates and decryption requirements” at the state level.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said on Twitter he was spurred to act following proposals at the state level in New York and California that he said would create “hackable” backdoors to smartphones.

The Argument for Loosening Encryption

At issue is whether the government should be pushing technology companies to implement so-called back doors to their operating systems, allowing law enforcement a way to bypass encryption and get information to track down terrorists and other criminals.

Supporters of loosening encryption say it can be a matter of national security.

Case in point: FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday that two months after the San Bernardino massacre, the FBI and the intelligence community cannot open one of the smartphones used by the couple who perpetrated the attack. Not having access to the encrypted messages in the phone would prevent authorities from knowing who they were talking to, texting or what they might have been viewing on that particular device.

The Argument for No ‘Backdoors’

Those supporting encryption — the ENCRYPT Act of 2016 — say creating a so-called backdoor for law enforcement would leave devices open to hackers.

In a letter to President Obama last year, Google, Apple, Facebook and dozens of cyber-security experts and trade groups said giving the government the master key to decode encrypted data could leave billions of people vulnerable to cyber criminals and deal a detrimental blow to information security.

Apple turns on encryption by default, meaning law enforcement would have to have a person’s passcode to access any data on an iPhone. Google also offers users encryption options with the recent Lollipop and Marshmallow versions of the Android operating system.

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Battle over ‘Happy Birthday to You’ Copyright Ends

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Warner Music Group and others arguing they held the copyright on the popular song “Happy Birthday to You” have agreed to drop their claim, according to the terms of a proposed settlement deal obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by a group of filmmakers who believed the song should be in the public domain. The proposed deal, released on Monday, reportedly offers up to $14 million for those who paid licensing fees to use the song.

If U.S. District Judge George H. King signs off on the agreement, Warner/Chappell Music would no longer collect fees to use the song, which brought the company somewhere as much as $2 million per year in royalties.

The tentative settlement allows those who paid for use of the song as far back as 1949 to recoup some or all of their money, according to court papers.

Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred J. Hill wrote the tune, originally titled “Good Morning to All,” in 1893 and included it in a children’s music book. The “Happy Birthday” lyrics were added sometime later. The sisters left the copyright with their publisher.

In 1988, Warner began collecting royalties for “Happy Birthday” after it purchased the company that held the copyright.

However, King ruled in September that Warner/Chappell and other prior companies never had the right to charge for use of the song.

Two other groups related to the Hill family also joined the settlement: the Association for Childhood Education International, a designated charity of the Hill family that receives a third of the song’s licensing profits, and the Hill Foundation.

A hearing on the preliminary approval of the settlement is scheduled for March 14 in Los Angeles.

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IKEA Recalls 840,000 Ceiling Lamps over Laceration Risk

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(NEW YORK) — IKEA is recalling about 840,000 ceiling lamps worldwide over a faulty clip that can lead to a laceration injury.

The recall affects two products: HYBY and LOCK ceiling lamps. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “The plastic retaining clips that secure the glass shades to the lamp housings can break and allow the glass shades to fall, posing a laceration hazard.”

So far, IKEA has received 224 reports of clips breaking and lamp shades falling, resulting in 11 injuries. In the U.S., the Swedish furniture chain has been notified of three incidents, none of which resulted in injuries.

Both products in question were sold in IKEA stores worldwide and online. The HYBY lamp retailed for about $13 between October 2012 and January 2016, while the LOCK lamp sold for about $5 between November 2002 and January 2016.

Affected customers are advised to immediately stop using the lamps and return them to any IKEA store for a full refund.

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Twitter Is Changing Your Timeline: What You Need to Know

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s a new era for Twitter.

The social media company, which has long shown an endless stream of tweets in reverse-chronological order, announced today it will now serve users with an algorithmic timeline that will show tweets out of order.

In the coming weeks, Twitter users can turn on the feature in their settings. When logging onto Twitter, they’ll see the tweets that Twitter’s algorithm believes they’re most likely to care about at the top of their timeline, going in reverse chronological order as they scroll down the new timeline.

Twitter’s real-time stream will then be displayed underneath in the same reverse-chronological order, allowing users to also keep track of real-time discussions on Twitter.

In a blog post announcing the change, Mike Jahr, a senior engineering manager a Twitter, said the change would serve users who follow hundreds or thousands of people with a better experience, ensuring they don’t miss the tweets that may matter most to them.

“We’ve already seen that people who use this new feature tend to Retweet and Tweet more, creating more live commentary and conversations, which is great for everyone,” Jahr wrote.

To check the feature out now, go to the timeline section of settings and choose “show me the best tweets first.”

Twitter’s team will be turning on the feature for everyone in the coming weeks, Jahr said, and will make it clear with a timeline notification.

“We love it and think you will too. If you don’t, send your thoughts our way, and you can easily turn it off in settings,” Jahr said.

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Tax Tip: It Pays to Be a Parent During Tax Season

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — All those long nights of lost sleep will finally pay off for moms and dads when it comes time to filing their taxes.

New York tax accountant Janice Hayman says kids can be helpful, “especially if they’re young.”

Each child you claim as a dependant earns you a tax credit of up to $1,000. That’s called the Child Tax Credit — and there are even more savings if you’ve been paying for child care.

“If they’re under age 13 and both parents are working, there is a child and dependent care credit if you are spending $3,000 per child with after school or other dependant care expenses,” Hayman explains.  

You can also claim an in-law or your own mother or father if you’re responsible for their housing.

“If you do have an aging parent living with you and they are your dependent, there can be some variety of tax savings, including if they have medical deductions,” she says.

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Burberry Sues J.C. Penney for Copying Famous Check Design

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)(NEW YORK) — Burberry is suing J.C. Penney for allegedly using the luxury brand’s iconic tartan-check design.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit, filed by Burberry Group PLC in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claimed J.C. Penney Co. sold a quilted jacket and a “scarf coat” featuring the pattern and continued to sell the items for two months despite warnings from the British brand.

The lawsuit said the items were sold by J.C. Penney in an attempt to “deceive and mislead consumers into believing that defendants’ or their products are authorized, sponsored by or connected to Burberry,” reported Fortune.

Both articles were made by New York distributor Levy Group Inc., which was also named as a defendant, according to WSJ.

Burberry’s check design is recognized around the world as a symbol of high-fashion next to Chanel’s interlocking C’s logo and Louis Vuitton’s monogram print. The check pattern was trademarked by founder Thomas Burberry in the 1920’s.

“Used as a badge of origin since at least the 1920s, the iconic check is synonymous with our heritage,” reads a description on the fashion house’s website.

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Stocks Close Slightly Lower as Oil Prices Fall to $28

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After switching between gains and losses during the day, the major indexes closed slightly lower on Tuesday as oil prices and global stocks tumbled.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 12.06 to close at 16,014.99.

The Nasdaq fell 14.99 to end the session at 4,268.76. The tech-heavy index could be headed to a “bear market” if it drops 20 percent from its last record high (currently it’s down nearly 18 percent from its high in July).

The S&P 500 closed at 1,852.21, down 1.23 from its open.

Crude oil was hit hard, sinking over 4 percent as prices fell to $28 per barrel.

Global stocks didn’t end much better. Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped over 5 percent, so far the worst repercussion almost two weeks after the Bank of Japan decided in January to introduce a negative interest rate that would charge commercial banks for some deposits. European markets dropped about 1 percent at the close. Markets in China were closed for the New Year holiday.

LinkedIn shares flopped over 8 percent as the business social-networking site continued to feel investors’ concerns with its weak outlook reported last week. In its fourth-quarter report, LinkedIn said that revenue in quarter one would hit the $820 million mark, lower than the Wall Street-anticipated $867 million.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will give a two-day testimony to Congress starting Wednesday for her first public appearance since interest rates were raised at the end of last year. Investors will be listening closely if she mentions any concern about another possible recession.

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Goodwill Encourages People to ‘Donate Your Ex’s Stuff’ This Valentine’s Day

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Goodwill Manasota(SARASOTA, Fla.) — A Florida branch of Goodwill is offering the broken-hearted a chance to start fresh and do a good deed for Valentine’s Day.

Goodwill stores in the Sarasota, Florida, area are hosting what they categorize as an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign called “Donate Your Ex’s Stuff.”

The idea is single folks can get rid of the physical baggage of a past relationship by donating their ex’s belongings to Goodwill instead of throwing them away.

“We’re telling people they can turn the hate into donate and they’ll feel great in the process,” Kelly Davis Strausbaugh, marketing and public relations coordinator for Goodwill Manasota, told ABC News.

The campaign’s announcement Monday night at a local radio station featured pizza and Taylor Swift songs, according to Davis Strausbaugh.

The actual campaign launches the day after Valentine’s Day, Monday, Feb. 15, giving the broken-hearted time to gather their ex’s belongings or respond to a brutal Valentine’s Day break-up.

“Instead of throwing items away, they can donate to Goodwill and help turn them into jobs,” said Davis Strausbaugh. “We don’t like break-ups but this is a way to make it a little more fun and tongue-in-cheek.”

The Goodwill “Donate Your Ex’s Stuff” campaign was started in 2010 by the Goodwill Keystone Area, in Harrisburg, Penn., a Goodwill Industries International spokeswoman told ABC News.

In addition to the Sarasota-area chapter, the Goodwill of Southern Nevada, in Las Vegas, is also hosting the campaign this year, the spokeswoman said.

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Maryland Man Swamped with Texts Demanding Free Chipotle Burritos

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One Maryland man found out what it’s like to stand between a Chipotle customer and a free burrito.

After mandatory employee meetings temporarily closed more than 2,000 Chipotle restaurants for a few hours on Monday, Chipotle ran a promotion to make it up to their customers. The fast food Mexican chain offered a free burrito to customers who texted “RAINCHECK” to 888-222.

In Maryland, customers who mistakenly added an extra “2” to that number had their messages redirected to Hank Levine.

Levine told ABC News that the first text came in at around 9 a.m. and never stopped. By the end of Monday, he’d received over 200 texts.

When Levine replied to the first text with a question mark, he said the customer responded, “I want my burrito,” clearly unaware of the mix-up.

Levine had to explain that the customer had the wrong number. The customer alerted Levine to the promotion.

“The first thing I did was do it, so now I have a coupon for a free burrito. The second thing I said was, ‘This is going to be a problem,’” said Levine.

Levine reached out to Chipotle through the company’s website and heard back from a customer service representative who told him that she was looking into similar situations elsewhere. The representative offered Levine some coupons for free entrees.

Despite the deluge of texts, Levine has been a good sport about the whole mix-up. He said that as word of his situation spread on social media, he only encountered nasty responses late at night “when college kids went out to get a drink.”

Even though the promotion ended Monday, Levine said he’s still getting texts, though only half of them seem to be from people looking for a free burrito.

“The rest are, ‘Oh, you poor guy!’” Levine said.

ABC News has reached out to Chipotle for comment.

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Red Lobster Gets Sales Boost from Beyoncé

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

Red Lobster(NEW YORK) — Beyoncé’s latest song “Formation” is racking up both views on YouTube and sales at Red Lobster.

The music video posted Saturday features lyrics about enjoying seafood at Red Lobster restaurants.  As a result, weekend sales skyrocketed for the restaurant chain.

“We are absolutely delighted with what we saw over the weekend, particularly the consumer sentiment that we saw expressed,” Kim Lopdrup, CEO of Red Lobster, told CNBC. “It’s clear that Beyoncé has helped create some Red Lobster fans, and we are very grateful to her for that.”

The company calls this sudden spike in sales the “Beyoncé Bounce,” and some employees have already started renaming some menu items after the pop star.

Red Lobster also saw a boost in social media, trending on Twitter for the first time in the brand’s history. 

You definitely slay, @Beyonce. Thanks for one heck of a weekend. https://t.co/7IJfyl76k5

— Red Lobster (@redlobster) February 9, 2016

“We had an amazing weekend, particularly Super Bowl Sunday, which I think helps demonstrate the power of celebrity endorsement and pop culture,” Lopdrup told CNBC.

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Sears to Speed Up Store Closings After Dismal Holiday Sales

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Sears is speeding up its closing of 50 stores after poor sales during the holiday season.

Sears Holding Corp. said in its fourth quarter financial update released Tuesday: “We will accelerate the closing of unprofitable stores, including, but not limited to, roughly 50 stores that we recently announced would be closing in the next few months.”

According to the financial report, sales were down around 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 at both Sears and K-Mart. Sears domestic sales were down 11 percent for 2015.

The holiday sales mostly dropped off in the apparel department.

“The holiday selling season proved to be challenging, with historically warm weather and intense competition pressuring margins and driving comparable store sales declines,” Sears Holding Corp. stated in the report.

Like other retailers, the company plans to put more focus on its digital market, using less physical space, and acquiring a membership model.

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Tax Tip: Filing for Same-Sex Couples

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Marriage equality means tax payment equality. 

New York tax accountant Janice Hayman says there’s no disparity between traditional marriages and same-sex marriages in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service.

“We really don’t have any major differences anymore,” she notes.

The question is whether couples choose to file jointly or as individuals. 

“The combined income will subject them to a whole slew of tax issues that married couples have been dealing with over the years. They will have to look to see if it does make sense to file jointly or separately,” Hayman explains.

She says newlyweds may want to carefully research their options.

“Their witholding during the year may have been fine for their income, but the combined income has them in a higher bracket and they fall short, ending up owing in many instances,” she says.

On the plus side, same-sex parents are entitled to the same dependent care and child tax credits as everyone else.

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Account Switching Now Available on Instagram

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – Instagram has officially created a quick and easy way to switch between multiple accounts.

Starting this week, users can go to their profile settings to add another account.  Once the additional account is added, users can tap their usernames at the top of their profiles to switch between accounts.

Once multiple accounts are created, their respective profile photos will appear in places throughout the app so users can always tell which account they’re using at the moment.

This account switching feature will be available for the Instagram version 7.15 for iOS and Android.

You can learn more on the Instagram Help Center.

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Stocks Sink as Oil Prices Continue to Slide, Dow Trims 400-Point Loss

Posted on: February 8th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks sink amid falling oil prices and fears of an economic slowdown around the world.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 177.92 (over 1 percent) to close at 16,027.05, despite sinking 400 points during the day.

The NASDAQ fell 79.39 (nearly 2 percent) to end the session at 4,283.75, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,853.44 down 26.61 (over 1 percent) from its open.

Crude oil sunk nearly 3 percent as prices fell just below $30 per barrel, causing energy stocks to take a hit. Chesapeake Energy Corporation tumbled over 33 percent at the close and shares in Williams Companies Inc fell nearly 35 percent. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, Chesapeake’s largest shareholder, lost nearly $80 million on Monday according to MarketWatch.

Despite the stock slump, gold prices boasted huge gains as investors continue to worry about economic growth. Gold futures hit nearly $1,200 an ounce for its biggest one-day gain since December 2014.

Chipotle Mexican Grill fell over 3 percent at the close as the food chain tries to earn back customers’ trust after its two E. coli outbreaks. On Monday, Chipotle held a company-wide staff meeting and closed all of its locations to discuss a new food safety program with its employees. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared Chipotle’s E. coli crisis officially over despite not discovering the source of the outbreaks.

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Chipotle Temporarily Closes Restaurants for Company-Wide Meeting

Posted on: February 8th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Chipotle restaurants across the nation are temporarily closing Monday in an effort to educate 60,000 employees about the food-borne illnesses that have rocked the company in recent months. Food safety protocols will also be explained in the meeting.

The company will be live-tweeting the meeting and streaming it on Periscope. More than 2,000 of the company’s restaurants will be closed until 3 p.m. local time.

We’ll be live-tweeting our national employee meeting today to discuss recent and future food safety. And we’ll be on #Periscope at 12pm EST.

— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) February 8, 2016

According to a company press release, the Mexican chain restaurant will be sharing “information as to what may have caused some customers to become ill in 2015.”

E. coli outbreaks at several Chipotle locations caused dozens of customers to become sick and have prompted a federal investigation and several lawsuits.

During Monday’s meeting, Chipotle executives are expected to discuss the enhanced food safety protocols that were put in place after the outbreaks. The protocols involve high-resolution testing of the ingredients, changing workflow to have certain ingredients (like tomatoes) handled at central kitchens and changing the schedule of meat marinating.

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Mobile Payments App Venmo Suffers Post-Super Bowl Outage

Posted on: February 8th, 2016 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s safe to say Super Bowl Sunday was one of the busier nights for mobile payments app Venmo but we’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why.

After the Denver Broncos bested the Carolina Panthers to take home the Lombardi trophy, Venmo users reported difficulty sending money through the app. Venmo’s team acknowledged the issues on Twitter, writing “Our payments are experiencing some slowness but we’re working hard on a fix. Hang tight!#sb50”

Our payments are experiencing some slowness but we're working hard on a fix. Hang tight! #sb50

— Venmo (@venmo) February 8, 2016

We're back, thanks for hanging in there with us. Please let us know if you continue to experience any slowness.

— VenmoSupport (@VenmoSupport) February 8, 2016

The app was back to normal about two hours after the big game, according to status updates on Venmo’s website. While the timing could of course be a big coincidence, some Twitter users had their theories as to why Venmo may have been overloaded.

lol venmo crashed after the super bowl

— Alex Kang (@kangalex) February 8, 2016

LOL Venmo is down right now because everyone is paying up their bets

— Danny Liang (@dannytaughtme) February 8, 2016

Of course there are many other reasons for using Venmo too.

I actually venmo'd my sister $10 to get me a brownie and milk out of my kitchen last night. My kitchen was less than 5 feet away… #worthit

— Cece Guinther (@CeceGuinther) February 8, 2016

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