E-Readers for Real Readers

Posted on: February 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Dedicated devices for reading e-books have been a hot category for nearly a decade, with tech firms from Amazon, Samsung and Barnes & Noble releasing a dizzying number of options in recent years.

Yet while most of the new devices being introduced for reading e-books offer the kinds of bells and whistles that attract a broad consumer base, bookworms – heavy readers who have no interest in games and gadgets – have been left to decide which model is best for them.

Now Kobo – a Toronto-based firm owned by Tokyo-based eCommerce company Rakuten – has introduced what could be the best option for serious readers.

HT kobo ereader h20 sk 140227 16x9 608 E Readers for Real Readers

Kobo Aura H2O

The light-weight Kobo Aura H2O has a 6.8 inch, high-resolution infrared touch screen, a sleek, attractive body design and 1430×1080 pixel resolution, one of the highest resolution screens available on the market. The device also has something the company calls a fully adjustable ComfortLight technology which helps direct light at the page and not your eyes, reducing eyestrain for heavy readers. Aura is even waterproof, allowing bookworms to tote is along the bath beach. Best of all, it boasts battery-life of up two months, far superior to most of its competitors. It sells for $179.99.

“We see the avid reader as the major beneficiary of a device like this,” says Michael Tamblyn, Kobo President and Chief Content Officer. “There is an enormous market out there for serious readers who want a device that they can pick up and read four or five books a month on.”

The new Aura hits the market as more people are devouring books on tablets and e-readers.

According to data from market research firm GFK, of customers who own both an eReader and a tablet, 59% read every day on their eReader as opposed to 41% on their tablet. E-Reader owners buy approximately 30% more books than those who read on tablets/apps, according to research from Kobo.

Meantime, more consumers are buying e-readers as device with color touch-screen, movie viewing, and apps continue to take off . Market-researcher IDC recently estimated that global e-reader shipments reached 19.9 million units last year,

“What this tells us is that consumers are continuing to devour books on their e-readers and tablets,” Tamblyn adds. “There’s a very strong market  for better products that target an expanding group of veracious readers of books on devices.”

Hyundai Recalling Over 200,000 Vehicles for Electronic Steering Problem

Posted on: February 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

crwpitman/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Hyundai is recalling thousands of vehicles due to a steering issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said earlier this week.

According to NHTSA documents, Hyundai Elantra and Elantra Touring vehicles manufactured between June 1, 2008, and April 30, 2010 may suffer issues with the electronic control unit of the electronic power steering. The discrepancy that the ECU may detect could cause the disabling of steering power assist.

“If power steering is lost,” NHTSA says, “greater driver effort would be required to steer the vehicle at low speeds, increasing the risk of a crash.”

In total, NHTSA says the recall affects 204,768 vehicles. Hyundai plans to contact owners of affected vehicles and replace the ECU for free.

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Security Breach Could Impact Up to 50,000 Uber Drivers

Posted on: February 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

QUIQUE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Uber said on Friday evening that a security breach may have affected thousands of the company’s drivers, potentially giving hackers access to their names and license numbers.

The ride-sharing company says it discovered a possible breach in one of its databases in September 2014. Once the possibility of a breach was discovered, Uber said it changed access protocols for the database and opened an investigation.

The company has since determined that a one-time breach led to the unauthorized access to information approximately 50,000 drivers.

“The files that were accessed contained only the name and driver’s license number of some driver partners,” the company said. “To date, we have not received any reports of actual misuse of any information as a result of this incident.”

Still, Uber planned to notify impacted drivers and recommend they monitor their credit cards for fraudulent charges. The company will also provide one year of membership in Experian’s ProtectMyID Alert program for affected drivers.

“Uber takes seriously our responsibility to safeguard personal information,” the statement said. “We are sorry for any inconvenience this incident may cause.”

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Google Reveals Plan for Futuristic New Headquarters

Posted on: February 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Google(NEW YORK) — Google revealed plans on Friday to trade in its nondescript Mountain View, California, headquarters for a proposed new office worthy of a big budget Hollywood science fiction film.

The plan, which was created by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels at BIG and Thomas Heatherwick at Heatherwick Studio in London, includes glass canopies to allow light and air into the buildings.

The plans for developing the North Bayshore area were submitted today to the Mountain View city council for consideration and were posted online, alongside a nearly ten-minute video detailing the project.

Only a futuristic multi-billion dollar company like Google would consider being able to physically move a building — but it’s one of the cornerstones of the project.

Under the glass canopies, lightweight block-like structures that comprise rooms can be re-arranged like pieces of furniture, allowing Google to seamlessly adjust to its staffing needs.

While the buildings will increase Google’s office square footage, the plan is to also open the campus up to the community to create a lively neighborhood feel with retail, restaurants and bicycle paths.

“We’re really making sure that we make spaces very open and accessible so it’s just not for Googlers, but it’s for anyone who lives in the area to come by,” David Radcliffe of Google said in the video.

Mountain View City Councilman Lenny Siegel told ABC News he is concerned about the traffic flow in Mountain View and the housing supply — two factors he will have to consider as he evaluates Google’s plan.

“Having wonderful new buildings with lots of well-paid employees sounds great, but it effects our housing supply and transportation,” he said.

It will likely take more than one year for the proposal to be evaluated and approved and it was unclear how long it would take to make Google’s dream office space a reality.

One thing is for certain, though: Google has come a long way since it started in a garage.

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Canadian City Sues US Guardrail Maker for $500 Million

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC KSAT San Antonio(STRATFORD, Ontario) — The multi-million dollar troubles for an embattled American guardrail maker have extended north of the border as a Canadian city filed a lawsuit this week over the company’s allegedly dangerous and “defective” guardrail design.

The complaint, obtained by ABC News, seeks half a billion dollars in damages on behalf of the city of Stratford, located in Ontario, Canada and alleges Trinity Industries of Dallas, the manufacturer of the ET-Plus guardrail system, “mislead its customers” by not disclosing “secret” modifications it had made to its product.

“Trinity was aware of multiple serious failures of their secretly modified ET-Plus guardrail end terminals, but continued to manufacture and sell the modified version without disclosing the changes, resulting in tens of thousands of the units being installed across Canada,” the complaint reads. “It is believed that there are tens of thousands of these defective, secretly modified, ET-Plus guardrail end terminals on the highways, as well as provincial and municipal roadways, across Canada.”

The ET-Plus guardrail system, which is used in states throughout the U.S., was the subject of an ABC News 20/20 investigation last year. ABC News obtained an internal Trinity email from 2005 in which a Trinity official estimated that making a modification to its widely-used guardrail system — reducing a piece of metal in the end terminal from five inches to four — would save the company $2 per end terminal, or $50,000 a year.

Trinity made the modification that year without alerting U.S. federal or state officials and critics have since blamed the change for rendering the end terminal defective when hit, sometimes impaling vehicles and causing severe injury or death. The company has maintained that the modified ET-Plus is safe and continues to meet federal standards.

News of the complaint from Stratford, which happens to be the hometown of pop star Justin Bieber, was first brought to light by Trinity itself in an annual shareholders report just filed by the publicly-held company in which it disclosed pending litigation.

“The Statement of Claim in this litigation generally alleges that Trinity Industries, Inc., Trinity Highway Products and Trinity Industries Canada, failed to warn of dangers associated with undisclosed modifications to the ET Plus guardrail end terminals, breached its implied warranty, breached its duty of care, and was negligent,” the Trinity earnings report reads.

Trinity spokesman Jeff Eller would not comment on the complaint and told ABC News the company has not yet officially been served.

The Canadian complaint is the second of three class action lawsuits filed against Trinity surrounding the ET-Plus system. In November, a class action complaint was filed in Illinois on behalf of the counties in that state, alleging fraud on the part of Trinity for not disclosing the modifications. And earlier this week, a class action complaint was filed in Wisconsin, also alleging the company was fraudulent in selling the altered ET-Plus to transportation departments.

While three Canadian provinces — Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia — have suspended the use of the ET-Plus on its roadways, the province in which the city of Stratford lies, Ontario, Canada’s second largest province, has not removed the ET-Plus from its list of approved products. According to the complaint, officials there are “actively monitoring the developments in the United States.”

In its latest annual report, Trinity Industries acknowledged that 42 U.S. states have now suspended use of its ET-Plus. The company halted sales late last year, pending results from U.S. government-mandated crash tests of the end terminal.

Those tests, ordered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), were conducted in December and January, in order to determine the ET-Plus’ eligibility to remain on U.S. highways. The product passed the first series of four tests and results of the final four are awaiting release by the FHWA.

Controversy has dogged the eighth and final test, which some say show a clear failure of the end terminal. Helicopter footage shot by a local ABC station shows the guardrail system caused substantial damage to the test vehicle upon impact. Trinity Industries has insisted no conclusions can be drawn from the video alone.

And in a rare move by the normally circumspect company, a Trinity executive used a recent earnings conference call to publicly blast two of the most vocal critics of the crash tests and of the ET-Plus system, Josh Harman and Dean Sicking, as having financial motives for speaking out against its product.

“We expect Mr. Harman and Dr. Sicking will continue their campaign to discredit the ET-Plus and Trinity Highway, ignoring facts and data that confirm the ET-Plus system complies with applicable regulatory requirements,” Theis Rice, Trinity’s chief legal officer, told shareholders Feb. 19.

Harman is a one-time competitor of Trinity Industries who battled the company first as the defendant in a patent lawsuit and later as a plaintiff and whistleblower in a federal case accusing the company of fraud. Harman first brought news of the undisclosed modifications to the government in 2012. A jury found Trinity liable in the federal case and the company was ordered to pay $175 million, which could triple by statutory mandate. The company plans to appeal the verdict.

In the call to shareholders last week, Rice painted Harman as an opportunist who has used the media to make unsupported accusations.

“Should Mr. Harman ultimately prevail in his litigation, he stands to receive somewhere between 20 percent and 30 percent of the monetary amount awarded upon final judgement,” Rice said.

Rice also called out Dean Sicking, a renowned highway safety engineer and guardrail expert who invented the predecessor to the ET-Plus and who has openly criticized the methodology used in the crash tests.

“Dr. Sicking has developed, licensed and is currently receiving royalties on end terminal products that compete directly with the ET-Plus. We believe Dr. Sicking stands to gain financially by discrediting the ET-Plus,” said Rice.

The embattled company has not been known to speak so bluntly of its critics and in responding to ABC News Wednesday, Harman said he believes it is a strategy as the results of the final tests – including the controversial eighth test – await release by the government.

“It’s just another attempt by Trinity to divert attention from the [federal jury] verdict and the fact that one or more of the crash tests recently performed by Trinity at the FHWA’s directive failed,” Harman told ABC News.

Sicking, who is currently conducting football helmet safety research at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, insisted that money is not his incentive for speaking out, noting that he has proposed reinstating an earlier version of the ET-Plus that would actually cut royalties he receives from competing products.

“It is easy to see that any greed present in this argument is on their side,” Sicking told ABC News, adding that he has been the victim of “vicious attacks” in the “battle to do what’s right.”

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Wall Street Ends Week With Losses, Gains for February

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks drifted lower to end the week, but the markets still ended February higher than where they started.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session on Friday at 18,132.70, down 81.72 from its open.

The Nasdaq fell by 24.36 to close at 4,963.53. The S&P 500 fell by 6.24 points to close at 2,104.50.

The markets however were up by 5 percent or more in February.

Drivers in California are receiving a surprise at the gas pumps, as prices have risen in parts of the Golden State to $4 a gallon. Analysts from GasBuddy.com say rise in prices comes from a fire at an ExxonMobil refinery.

The refinery produces 10 percent of all the gas sold in California, in particular a special blend of gas that’s mostly used in the state, which has contributed to the jump in prices.

Southwest Airlines expects to meet a federal deadline this weekend to finish examining 128 planes that were grounded because of missed inspections.  

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing Southwest to keep flying during the inspections of a backup hydraulic system for the rudders.

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Mobile World Congress 2015: Samsung Galaxy S6 and What Else to Expect

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Mobile World Congress/Facebook(NEW YORK) — Smartphone fanatics rejoice: The Mobile World Congress gets underway in Barcelona next week where some of the biggest technology companies are expected to show off the next wave of innovative devices.

While the event doesn’t officially begin until Monday, Samsung is starting the festivities one day early when it live streams its Galaxy Unpacked event at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, during which it is expected to announce at least one, if not two, new smartphones.

Samsung hasn’t said what is on the agenda. However, the South Korean tech giant has been dropping hints along the way about what to expect from an anticipated Galaxy S6. The anticipated smartphone has been expected to take on the curved design that Samsung unveiled with the Galaxy Note Edge.

Photos posted online by Samsung and T-Mobile also suggest the “next big thing” will trade in its plastic backing for an all-metal frame.

“Samsung has to hit a home run to stem their precipitous share losses, particularly on the premium phone range,” Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategies told ABC News.

Samsung recently acquired mobile wallet LoopPay, a competitor to Apple Pay, something Moorhead expects will be referenced on Sunday. However, he said he doesn’t “see it being integrated immediately but very soon afterwards.”

Also expect Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC to compete on Sunday with Samsung when it holds a press event showing off what many believe will be its One M9 device, a follow-up to the One M8 released last year.

“I’m expecting a new premium phablet product with updated specifications and new industrial design,” Moorhead said.

While it’s a wildcard, it’s also possible that HTC could share new insights on how their partnership with Under Armour will bring meld technology and fitness.

Aside from product announcements, the Mobile World Congress is known for hosting talks with some of the biggest players in the technology industry.

Fresh off a vote to preserve net neutrality in the United States, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is scheduled to deliver a speech. Also on the agenda this year are Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Android, Chrome and Apps.

With 1,900 exhibitors, most of the big-name companies will hold press events on Sunday and Monday, clearing the way for the exhibition floor to take the spotlight the rest of the week.

“We could see some surprises with some wearables that we haven’t seen before,” Moorhead said. “I would expect them to follow along the lines of what Apple has done — things that look more like a watch than a cross between a watch and a smartphone.”

Apple is known for doing its own thing. The company won’t be at the event but is instead readying to host a mystery presentation in San Francisco on March 9 where it’s expected the iPhone maker will show off even more features of its Apple Watch, which is set to debut in April.

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Tax Tip: How Volunteering Can Lower Your Tax Bill

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — While volunteering can be rewarding for both you and those you help, you shouldn’t expect to receive much more than gratitude in return when it comes time to file your taxes.

There are “not big benefits from a tax standpoint,” said Tom Wheelwright, the CEO and founder of the CPA firm ProVision.

“Your time is not deductible,” he said, and here’s why: “You don’t have to pick up any income for it.”

However, you may be able to write off some taxable expenses.

“With your volunteering there are some other things that you can take advantage of, depending on the nature of it,” said Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block.

For instance, you can deduct the costs associated with your travel, especially if you’re using your car.

“Say, for example, you’re volunteering for Meals on Wheels, where you’re required to travel as a part of your volunteer services. You’re able to deduct that mileage,” Pickering said.

And, she adds, volunteering is always good for the soul.

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Amazon Envisions Delivery System of the Future with 3-D Printing Trucks

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Drone delivery may be a distant dream for Amazon, but it’s not stopping the e-commerce giant from employing a ground fleet of trucks equipped with 3-D printers to help get goods to customers even faster.

Amazon is obsessed with dreaming up ways to get goods to customers even faster in the future and in a newly filed patent application, the company revealed how its hypothetical trucks would be able to print goods while traveling to deliver them to the customer.

While 3D printers don’t cover everything on Amazon’s site, the idea would be for customers to place an order for something, such as a spare part.

Amazon wouldn’t have to store the inventory and would instead 3-D print what was needed on demand, and deliver it to the customer even faster.

Amazon did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on the proposed delivery system.

Earlier this month, the company’s vision of drones delivering goods hit another roadblock when the Federal Aviation Administration released new proposals for commercial drone operations, but with several caveats that would keep Amazon Prime Air from become a reality.

While the rules could take as long as two years to be adopted, they seem to be a significant roadblock on Amazon’s plans to create a drone delivery network that CEO Jeff Bezos has said he hopes will one day be as common as seeing a mail truck.

“Based on the proposal, even then those rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air to operate in the United States,” Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, said in a statement to ABC News.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers. We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need,” he said.

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Hyperloop: Crowd-Sourced Company Plans Test Track in California

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

HTT/JumpStartFund(PALO ALTO, Calif.) — The first Hyperloop test track could be built as early as 2016 in California, moving Elon Musk’s dream of a high-speed transportation system of tubes one step closer to becoming a reality.

Using Musk’s free design plan, Hyperloop Test Technologies, a crowd-funded company not affiliated with the Tesla and SpaceX billionaire, said it plans to build a full-scale model on five miles of land in California’s Quay Valley.

“This installation will allow us to demonstrate all systems on a full scale and immediately begin generating revenues for our shareholders through actual operations,” Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said in a statement to The Verge.

Musk first unveiled his futuristic idea in 2013, calling it “a cross between a Concord, a rail gun and an air hockey table.” He published the 57-page design plan on both Tesla Motors’ and SpaceX’s blogs as a PDF available for download, allowing anyone to take the design and adopt it.

While Musk described a system that could carry humans at speeds as high as 760 mph, the California test track will likely only reach around 200 mph, Ahlborn told The Verge.

The Hyperloop is a large pneumatic tube, similar to the system used by some hospitals to transport documents, samples and medications in a more efficient manner. New York City also relied on a network of pneumatic tubes to transport mail during the first half of the 20th century.

Last month, Musk tweeted that he plans to build a Hyperloop test track “most likely in Texas” where student teams and companies can test out designs for possible Hyperloop pods.

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IRS Says Nearly 40 Million Tax Refunds Worth $125 Billion Issued Already

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Internal Revenue Service says it has already issued nearly 40 million tax refunds worth about $125 billion.

According to statistics released on Thursday — and accurate as of Feb. 20 — almost 50 million returns have been processed, with 83 percent of those resulting in refunds. The number of returns processed represents approximately one-third of those the agency expects to receive.

The IRS says 92 percent of refunds were directly deposited into the recipients’ accounts, which it recommends as a “safe, quick way for taxpayers to get their refunds.”

The average tax refund issued thus far this year is $3,120, the agency says.

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Google Backtracks on Adult Content Ban in Blogger

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Getty Images(NEW YORK) — After hearing feedback from Blogger users, Google Friday is reversing course on a plan to ban X-rated content on the blogging platform, according to a post on the company’s product forums.

The search giant earlier this week announced a retroactive policy banning “graphic nude images or video” on the site, effective March 23. The new rule would have required longtime users of the blogging platform to delete old content that did not adhere to the policy or instead make their accounts private.

“We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities,” Jessica Pelegio, social product support manager, wrote on Google’s Product forums.

“So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn,” she added.

Blogger users who post explicit content will still be required to mark their pages “adult” so they will be placed behind a warning page, however no additional changes will need to be made to their blogs.

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US Economy Grew at Slower Rate in Fourth Quarter

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A second estimate of the U.S. economy’s growth in the fourth quarter of the 2014 fiscal year was more pessimistic than the initial data, the Commerce Department said.

Despite the first estimate pegging the gross domestic product’s increase at a rate of 2.6 percent, that figure was adjusted down to 2.2 percent, according to a news release Friday. That is far below the third quarter’s growth rate of five percent.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis said Friday that the growth of the U.S. GDP was due in part to personal spending, exports and state and local government spending. The decreased rate at which the economy grew, however, was attributed to “an upturn in imports, a downturn in federal government spending, and decelerations in nonresidential fixed investment and in exports.”

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Barnes & Noble to Split College Business from Retail, NOOK Business

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

jhutchin/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Barnes & Noble announced on Thursday that it would split itself into two “highly focused companies” with one focusing on its college business and the other retaining retail and NOOK Digital business.

The company said in a press release that it had filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Once completed, the split would form two “independent, publicly traded companies.”

“As more focused companies with differing potential growth profiles, capital needs and market dynamics, each company will benefit from strategic clarity and separate management and Board focus,” the company said.

Barnes & Noble hopes to complete the split by August 2015.

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Should Old Navy Advertise ‘Boyfriend’ Jeans to Kids?

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Old Navy(NEW YORK) — Old Navy, the clothing chain known for its moderately-priced clothes and wide range of styles and sizes, is making headlines for advertising its “boyfriend” and “super skinny” styles of jeans to kids.

The chain, which is owned by Gap Inc., has a photo of a young girl in jeans on its homepage next to a label describing the jeans as, “The Boyfriend Skinny Jean.”

Other pages on the website show “Skinny,” “Super Skinny” and “Boyfriend Skinny” jeans advertised for “Girls,” and a picture of a toddler modeling “The Boyfriend Jean” on the “Toddler Girls” page.

The clothing brand offers the same “The Boyfriend” style in women’s jeans, as well as options like “The Diva,” “The Flirt” and “The Sweetheart.”

A writer for the website Jezebel tweeted to Old Navy on Feb. 23, writing, “@OldNavy can you tell me more about these Boyfriend Jeans for small babies.”

 

@OldNavy can you tell me more about these Boyfriend Jeans for small babies pic.twitter.com/lWL4By64mU

— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) February 23, 2015

The writer, Jia Tolentino, followed up her tweet with an article headlined, “Attention Cool Moms: Old Navy’s Boyfriend Jeans for Babies Are On Sale.”

A Old Navy spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News that the product name is “intended to describe only the fit, cut and style” of the popular pants.

“Old Navy creates fashion essentials that celebrate current trends and styles for the whole family. Our product names refer to popular styles, and are intended to describe only the fit, cut and style. It is never our intention to offend anyone, and we appreciate this feedback from our customers,” Debbie Felix, an Old Navy spokesperson, told ABC News.

The co-founder of Big City Moms, a New York City-based resource for moms with over 300,000 members, agrees that the jeans’ titles are just about the style and should not be read into any further.

“I think it’s just being true to their style names,” Leslie Venokur told ABC News. “My kids don’t know what the style is called. I give them jeans and if the jeans are comfortable, they wear them.”

Venokur, who worked in children’s fashion before founding Big City Moms, says the keeping of the same style and name from women’s to girl’s follows a fashion trend.

“The trend in the last couple of years is the whole ‘mini-me’ look, with moms and daughters and dads and sons wearing the same fashion,” said Venokur, mom to a 2-year-old boy and 6-year-old daughter.

“Do they need to change it? No,” Venokur said of Old Navy. “If they want to appease some opinionated parents, then that’s their call.”

A New York City-based psychologist argues that the term “boyfriend” should not even be on kids’ radar at the toddler and under-12 age range.

“Can’t we just buy jeans because we like them, and not have the ‘boyfriend’ label associated with them?,” said Joe Taravella, PhD and supervisor of pediatric psychology at Rusk Rehabilitation at New York University Langone Medical Center.

“It sets up our children to want and need a boyfriend, when at these early ages, this terminology should not be part of their vocabulary or on the radar of what they should be thinking about,” Taravella told ABC News. “I am hard-pressed to understand why the label ‘boyfriend’ was associated with these jeans.”

 

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How Ordinary Americans Are Getting Paid for Their Social Media Posts

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

MicroWorks/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are profiting off your posts.

We’re talking about raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue every time you share your selfies, upload a video, or update your status.

Last quarter, Facebook reported ad revenue of $3.6 billion, and that’s 53 percent more than just one year ago. According to Internet analyst Colin Sebastian, “The vast majority of their $2.2 billion operating income is from selling ads targeted to user news feeds.”

Imagine if you could share in some of that money-making madness.

A new social media upstart called Tsu is trying to do just that. Tsu gives 90 percent of its revenue back to its users.

In an interview with ABC News’ Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, founder and CEO Sebastian Sobczak explained the name Tsu means “aesthetic ideal” in Japanese.

“We feel that rewarding content creators for the commercial use of their likeness and image is the right thing to do so the name goes exactly where we want to be in the marketplace,” Sobczak told ABC News.

One of the site’s biggest challenges is educating people that they can make money from their posts, Sobczak said.

“We are fighting a philosophy. The status quo is everything is going to be free — your photos, your status on social. We just think there is a better way to do it,” he said. “If you are the contributor driving all value for these platforms, there are better ways for you to be compensated for your content.”

The site launched in October 2014, and in just four months, over 3 million people have joined.

Even celebrities ranging from New York Knicks basketball star Carmelo Anthony to musicians like 50 Cent have joined. But you don’t have to be famous to make money.

“You could easily be making hundreds of dollars per week. We have users who are of the same ilk as the beginning YouTubers who were not famous and now making a living out of YouTube. We have those same average Joes on Tsu.”

Here are stories of three ordinary Americans making money on Tsu
:

1. Kimberly Henderson

TSU: @kimberlyhmusic

This single mother of four from South Carolina made over $600 after her lullaby to her 1-year-old daughter went viral on social media.

“I made a lot of money on Tsu in just the short time,” Henderson told ABC News. “I posted the lullaby on Facebook and it got over 27 million views in a week. I have almost 500,000 views on Tsu and I made $157 in one night. You don’t even have to do anything different. You just do it like you post on Facebook. I think people get scared about new things but you actually get to make money from your content.”

Henderson said she is now in talks with major record labels, and baby product maker Cosco Kids flew her out to Los Angeles to record her first single.

In October 2014, Henderson explains she was in a bad accident that almost cost her her life, but her daughter emerged unscathed. “Right after I posted the viral video, a company, Cosco Kids, reached out to help me record my first single and they didn’t even know this — I used to buy all their stuff, it was their car seat that saved my 1-year-old daughter’s life,” Henderson said.

2. Andrew Fromm

TSU: @AFromm

Fromm is a father and songwriter from New Jersey who now lives in Nashville.

Even though he’s written music for some of the coolest musicians we know, including Backstreet Boys, Selena Gomez, NSYNC and Marc Anthony, Fromm told ABC News the music industry is a really rough place to make a living.

“Most songwriters are going through challenges to put food on the table,” he said.

“We make $18 quarterly on Pandora for every 1 million plays. You can’t make a living if streaming becomes the norm. Songwriters are being forced not to create anymore,” Fromm explained.

Sebastian Sobczak, the founder of Tsu, compared those numbers to his social media site, and told ABC News that Fromm makes roughly $18 per day on Tsu. Fromm has been a user on Tsu since October.

“At this point in time you can’t get rich off of Tsu but if it keeps growing you might be able to make a significant amount of money. At least for now I have extra cash, if I make a dollar a day I know it will be $365 per year, you are doing the same things you do on Facebook and Twitter anyway and you don’t get paid for those sites.”

Fromm also explained one of the best ways to make money on Tsu is to expand your network. He brought Kimberly Henderson to the site and is collecting commission.

“When bringing another person to the site, Kimberly Henderson, for example, I brought her over and now I get a referral fee for life. The day she made $157 I made $85. My earnings have significantly increased because she is great at social media,” Fromm said.

3. Kevin Hinkle

TSU: @Kevinhinkle

Homeless Man Becomes a Social Media Sensation

After separating from his wife, Kevin Hinkle said he went from couch surfing and sleeping in the woods in Lake Mary, Florida, to making hundreds of dollars posting videos and photos of himself on social media.

“I spent about 6 weeks in the woods right next to the YMCA. I was able to go in and work out and hook up my laptop and post on Tsu,” Hinkle told ABC News.

Hinkle is playing the role of life coach on this new social network on Tsu. He now has 40,000 followers.

“I was a little cautious because it seemed too good to be true. It took me a few days to realize it is true,” Hinkle explained. “I made a penny my first day and then 4 cents the next day, then it went to 21 cents. Then I was over a dollar in a week or two.”

Hinkle said he has made close to $900 since joining in October and is turning his life around. He said he used Tsu to look for a job helping people.

A 57-year-old women in pain due to medical issues accepted his offer, Hinkle said.

“A lady from Myrtle Beach sent me enough money to rent a car. I am now staying in her home, food shopping for her, preparing all of her food, doing all the dishes,” Hinkle said.

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Wall Street Finishes on Mixed Note as Energy Stocks Fall

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A mixed finish for the markets on Thursday, as energy stocks dropped.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session on Thursday at 18,214.42, down 10.15 from its open.

The Nasdaq, however, rose by 20.75 to close at 4,987.89. The S&P 500 fell by 3.12 points to close at 2,110.74.

The auto industry has hired a Virignia company that makes spacecraft, to find out why air bags can explode with too much force. The airbags, made by the Japanese company Takata, can injure or even kill drivers and passengers.

Lawmakers in California are watching the bottom line when it comes to covering babies’ bottoms. Both Republicans and Democrats are supporting a move to exempt diapers from sales taxes, arguing that it could save families $100 a year per child.

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Tax Tip: Consider Life Changes When Filing Your Return

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Life changes. And as it does, so do your tax deductions.

When you begin the process of filing your 2014 tax return, consider how your life may have changed last year.

“Marriage, divorce, having children. There are so many different things. Retiring…,” New York-based tax accountant Janice Hayman says, naming a few examples.

These changes may affect the number of deductions you can claim.

“The tax professional and the taxpayer need to be in communication with one another about that,” Hayman said.

Even if you had a child or were married as late as December 31, you can still take that deduction for the entire year.

If you want more information on a specific deduction, check out the Internal Revenue Service’s website, IRS.gov.

“It’s the best source, the best starting point. If you feel you need more information you can then contact a tax professional who would have access to different tax libraries,” Hayman said.

Checking IRS.gov is easier than calling the agency, since there are often long wait times over the phone.

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Net Neutrality: The Clever Way Verizon Responded to FCC

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Verizon is so worked up over net neutrality that the company has fired off a scathing statement written in type-writer font to protest the Federal Communications Commission imposing “1930s Rules on the Internet.”

The FCC Thursday voted 3-2 to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

Thursday’s decision is unlikely to change your daily Internet habits and instead helps preserve the status quo, which some companies were pushing to change by offering tiered subscription plans.

Verizon called the vote a “throwback Thursday” for the FCC and said passing “badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors.”

Challengers of net neutrality have expressed worry that regulating the Internet could impact what has become an important part of the economy.

“We’ve got a free and Internet Thursday and it has been a tremendous success,” Bret Swanson, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told ABC News. “The question is why we want to impose 80-year-old regulations on perhaps the most thriving part of our economy.”

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Apple Sends Invite for Surprise Event on March 9

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Apple(CUPERTINO, Calif.) — Apple fans are in for a springtime surprise.

The Cupertino, California, company sent invitations to members of the media Thursday inviting them to “spring forward” at a mystery event slated to be held on March 9 in San Francisco.

Apple is an expert at teasing its events while keeping the agenda under wraps, however it’s fair to expect the event will at least bring some new insights into the Apple Watch.

The flagship wearable device is set to ship in April, however Apple hasn’t yet revealed an exact release date.

The “spring forward” clue could also be a wink to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time on March 8 when people in most states will set their watches ahead one hour.

Let the countdown begin.

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Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Joins Amazon

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Souza / The White House / Amazon.com(SEATTLE) — Amazon confirms that former White House press secretary Jay Carney is joining the tech company.

Carney will be Amazon’s senior vice president leading the company’s newly-created “Global Corporate Affairs” department, which includes the existing public relations and public policy teams.

Carney will split his time between the Seattle headquarters of Amazon.com Inc. and its office in Washington, D.C., where Amazon veteran Paul Misener will continue to run the company’s lobbying efforts.

Carney, who resigned in May from the White House, will report directly to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. After three years as President Obama’s chief spokesman, he went on to become a senior political analyst for CNN.

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Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes for Angering Liverpool Soccer Fans

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Twitter/Dunkin’ Donuts(CANTON, Mass.) — Dunkin’ Donuts is apologizing Thursday for “insensitivity” in a tweet that enraged many English soccer fans.

The food chain, based in Canton, Massachusetts and a sponsor of Liverpool Football Club, tweeted from the company’s official account on Wednesday night with a re-design of the Liverpool crest. Their design used doughnuts and cups of coffee in place of flames that are in memory of 96 fans killed in what’s described as Britain’s worst sporting disaster.

The original tweet, which was later deleted, stated: “Love the LFC crest? Tweet us what you’d want on your personal crest & we might surprise you w/ your own! #LFCReDDs”

Liverpool fans were not pleased.

On April 15, 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and hundreds were injured at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, which was hosting the FA Cup semifinal.

 

Looks like @DunkinDonuts have deleted their tweet. pic.twitter.com/fRz5yPovCW

— Jim Boardman (@JimBoardman) February 25, 2015

 

“We apologize for any insensitivity regarding our tweet supporting an LFC-themed promotion featuring the LFC Crest,” read a statement from Dunkin Donuts, provided to ABC News. “As a proud partner of LFC, we did not intend any offense, particularly to the Club’s supporters. We have removed the tweet and halted the campaign immediately.”

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NHTSA Order Makes Takata Preserve Air Bag Inflators Replaced Under Recall

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

bizoo_n/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on Wednesday that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration had issued an order requiring Takata Corporation to preserve air bag inflators replaced as part of the recall process for the company’s faulty air bags.

Foxx’s statement said the inflators would be kept “as evidence for both NHTSA’s investigation and private litigation cases.”

NHTSA also plans to upgrade its investigation into the faulty airbags to an engineering analysis, which the DOT described as “an important step in determining the actual cause of the air bag failures and the appropriateness of remedies, as well as determining whether Takata’s refusal to notify the agency of a safety defect violates federal safety laws or regulations.”

More than 17 million vehicles with Takata air bags have been recalled due to the risk of those air bags rupturing when they deploy.

Under the NHTSA order, Takata may not destroy or damage any air bag inflators except as necessary to test them, and 10 percent of the inflators must be set aside and made available to NHTSA and the DOT.

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Cuba Flights Now on Sale on CheapAir.com

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

CheapAir.com(NEW YORK) — CheapAir.com announced Thursday that it is now selling flights to Cuba to American travelers on its web site.

But because the sale of direct flights to Cuba from the United States is still not possible, the trip will involve a stop in another country.

The site sells tickets to Havana and requires American travelers to purchase separate tickets, one from the U.S. to Mexico and another from Mexico to Havana. American travelers will need to purchase a Visa in Mexico City.

Relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba announced earlier this year have resulted in a renewed interest in a nation that’s largely a mystery to the vast majority of travelers.

“Since the rule change, we have seen a surge in search volumes for travel to Cuba,” said Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com. “Arranging flights to Cuba is a little complicated, but it’s the kind of thing we’re good at and our technology platform is flexible enough to make it possible. Our team did a great job building it out in just a few weeks’ time.”

But there are still rules in place and criteria that needs to be met for any American who wishes to travel to Cuba.

[Click here to have all your Cuba travel questions answered.]

When a traveler books a flight to Cuba on its site, they will be asked which of the 12 existing criteria they meet before the purchase is complete.

It was already possible to book tickets to Cuba through a third country: CheapAir simply makes the process doable on one travel site.

Last month, travel site kayak announced that American travelers could now search for air travel and hotel accommodations in Cuba on its site. However, booking is not possible.

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Net Neutrality: What’s at Stake for You in Thursday’s Vote

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on net neutrality after a decade-long debate over whether the Internet should be regulated in the same way as public utilities.

After millions of public comments, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this month came out in support for the strongest-ever open Internet protections, which would reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers and impose utility-style regulations.

 

FCC received more than 4 million comments on #OpenInternet during past year that helped shape proposal. It’s time to act.

— Tom Wheeler (@TomWheelerFCC) February 23, 2015

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what net neutrality means for cable companies and consumers:

Cable Companies

While many Internet service providers say they’re committed to a free Internet, what they want from the FCC is more leeway for how they package and sell various Internet plans. Activists have rallied against the idea over the fear it could create toll roads on the so-called “information superhighway.”

Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the former chairman of the FCC, has previously said that over-regulation will not foster an even more open Internet.

What It Means for Consumers

Classifying the consumer broadband service as a public utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act would help control what consumers are charged and their access to Internet service, which would be deemed something critical to society.

In everyday terms, think of it this way: There won’t be any uneven service, so everyone can stream their Netflix queue more or less at the same speeds. Supporters of net neutrality have also said that without regulation, a greater socio-economic digital divide could develop, creating a class of information “haves” and “have nots.”

The President Weighs In

Since the FCC is an independent body, President Obama has no direct oversight. However, it didn’t stop the commander-in-chief from weighing in on the matter of net neutrality last year.

Among the four basic points of the president’s plan are no blocking websites for certain users, no throttling (creating a fast and slow lane), more transparency between consumers and Internet service providers, and no paid prioritization to move to the front of the line.

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Jobless Claims Jump to 313K

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims were slightly higher last week, increasing by 31,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Feb. 14, the number of people filing for benefits rose to 313,000. The previous week, claims stood at 282,000.

The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting that week’s figures.

The four-week moving average, however, climbed higher by 11,500 to 294,500.

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FCC to Vote on ‘Net Neutrality’

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Communications Commission is expected to meet on Thursday morning to vote on the principle of “net neutrality.”

The FCC uses the term “Open Internet,” which it explains uses “free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build to, and it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way.”

At Thursday’s meeting, which begins at 10:30 a.m., the commission is scheduled to vote on a proposal aimed at preventing Internet providers from pushing some content through the web faster in return for additional fees.

The FCC says that favoring “net neutrality,” or the largely equal treatment of all content by Internet providers, would “ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an open Internet today and into the future.”

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Abercrombie And Fitch Discrimination Case Goes Before SCOTUS

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Raghu_Ramaswamy/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court heard a case on Wednesday about a Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie and Fitch because she wore a headscarf.

Samantha Elauf was 17 years old in 2008 when she says the retail company Abercrombie and Fitch denied her a job because she wore a headscarf, telling her she violated their “Look Policy.”

Seven years later, her case is before the Supreme Court, where her lawyers argued she was a victim of job discrimination.

Abercrombie’s legal team said that the hiring employee could have granted Elauf an exception to the “Look Policy,” but that Elauf did not explicitly say she wore the scarf for religious purposes.

Both liberal and conservative justices reportedly questioned the Abercrombie lawyers aggressively on that point.

Elauf’s team says an employee should not have the responsibility to disclose his or her religious beliefs, and that the hiring employee should have volunteered that they could accommodate Elauf’s religious needs.

This isn’t the first time Abercrombie has come under fire for allegedly discriminating against employees wearing headscarves.

In 2013, the company changed its policy and paid a cash settlement to two plaintiffs who said they were discriminated against because they said they needed to cover their heads for religious purposes.

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Massachusetts Man Shipping Snow, With New England Foliage Next

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ShipSnowYo.com(MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Mass.) — The entrepreneur who’s shipping snow from Massachusetts expects his venture to last beyond this record-breaking winter, he said Wednesday.

Kyle Waring, 27, of Manchester-by-the-Sea, about 30 miles outside Boston, said he anticipates to deliver snow at least until July by shipping “snow” from ice rinks. And when that runs cold, he’s turning his attention to another website he launched this week: ShipFoliage.com.

Waring, a product manager that started ShipSnowYo.com last month, said he has sold about 150 orders of snow so far, shipping as far away as Florida and California.

From what began as a joke amid the record-breaking snowfall, he first sold an empty Poland Springs bottle of snow for about $20, warning customers that the snow could turn to water by the time it arrives. But now, he is focusing on his 6-pound and 10-pound products, starting at $89, that are packaged to maintain a cold temperature. The packaging cost is about $15 to $20, he said.

His friends and family think he’s “extremely creative,” he said.

“My friends and family are really proud of me for coming up with a simple idea. My colleagues are really thrilled about it,” he said. “They think I’m completely crazy in a good way. It works well for me because I have to be fairly creative at work.”

Using insulated packaging similar to what’s used for Omaha steaks, Waring will ship to anyone who wants the snow, even residents of Connecticut and New York. The only exception: Massachusetts.

“We’re in the business of expunging snow,” his website states.

If or when the snow runs out in Massachusetts, he will likely have to charge more for the potential product from ice rinks, he said.

“I’m not as concerned but the best snow is fresh snow,” he said.

His wife has been busy helping him during the day while he’s at work, but he also has a simple system to collect snow.

“I just leave Styrofoam boxes outside and let snow fall into the boxes,” he said.

Waring says what he’s doing is perfectly legal, after consulting with a lawyer.

His customers vary.

“Most of my orders come from Bostonians right now and they ship to friends and family, mostly kids. I’m thinking this might be the first time they’ve ever seen snow,” he said, gleaning basic information from customers’ personal messages.

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Year-Round Homemade Girl Scout Cookies Are Now Possible in New Toy Oven

Posted on: February 25th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Girl Scouts of America / ABC News(NEW YORK) — Everyone’s obsessed with Girl Scout cookies — and unless you have superhuman restraint, most of the year you can’t feed the craving.

That’s all about to change this fall with the introduction of the first-ever Girl Scouts Cookie Oven, finally making it possible for avid Thin Mint and Samoa lovers to recreate their favorite cookies at home.

The oven will retail for $59.99 and come with one box of Thin Mint mix. Other flavors, like Trefoils, Coconut Caramel (Samoas), PB Sandwich (Do-si-dos), Chocolate Peanut Butter (Tagalongs) and more, are available for $6.99 per mix.

The idea is 17 years in the making, when Wicked Cool Toys co-president Michael Rinzler was an MBA student and wrote a school project business plan for the oven.

“It’s not the most original idea in the world — it’s a no-brainer — but it was just something that personally I was always very passionate about,” Rinzler told ABC News. “But the Girl Scouts always said no to everyone that pitched it.”

That all changed with new management recently, and Rinzler saw an opening. He got the cookie company to agree to a partnership and plans were set in motion this past July. Wicked Cool Toys developed their own patent-pending toy oven – which Rinzler is very quick to say is better than the Easy Bake with an all-new ceramic heating element – and worked with food scientists to create the cookie mixes.

“We’re not meant as a replacement for selling Girl Scout cookies; we’re meant as a way for girls and boys to have fun and recreate them in their homes,” Rinzler said. “Now you can do it all year long because cookie selling is only January to March.”

In other words, no need to hide those boxes from yourself so you can get a late-year treat.

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