Senate Panel Keeps Up Attack on GM and CEO Mary Barra

Posted on: April 3rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Senate lawmakers were unforgiving in their attacks Wednesday on General Motors and its top official for allegedly covering up problems with an ignition switch in vehicles linked to 13 deaths.

Basically a replay of what happened a day earlier, GM CEO Mary Barra faced intense grilling and accusations that she was either ignorant or deliberately stonewalling on what she knew about the defective ignition and the decision to only begin recalling cars in February when the problem was known as far back as 2001.

Among other things, members of the Senate Commerce subcommittee asked why heads haven’t rolled at GM because of the controversy.

Meanwhile, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill pointed to a 2009 deposition given by GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio in which he claimed to have never signed off on changes to the ignition.

Yet, GM documents showed DeGiorgio had himself approved the change in April 2006, a fact that New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte called “criminal.”

While the Justice Department has begun an investigation into this allegation of possible criminality, Barra said she also wanted to know if there was a cover-up.

However, committee members were not about to let Barra off the hook since she claimed not to have known about the faulty ignition switch until late last year. Barra, who has been at GM since 1980, became CEO just two months ago.

California Democrat Barbara Boxer told Barra, “You’re a really important person to this company. Something is very strange that such a top employee would know nothing.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Tennis Great Andy Murray Is Now a Hotelier

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images for HEAD(PERTHSHIRE, Scotland) — World-renowned Scottish tennis player Andy Murray is the owner of the newly refurbished Cromlix hotel, a 34-acre, castle-like mansion, in Perthshire, Scotland.

The hotel, just three miles from Murray’s hometown, Dublane, was nearly shut down last year until the tennis star rescued it.

The 15-bedroom luxury hotel reopened Wednesday, complete with multiple tennis courts, a croquet lawn and a top-notch dining experience.

But is the ace tennis player really taking a break from his championship career? After recent physical complications forcing him to get back surgery, it would make sense if the Wimbledon and Olympic winner wanted to break away to his very own vacation spot. However, that’s not the case.

The relic just seems to pull at Murray’s heartstrings. The family has a long history with the Cromlix; most recently, his brother Jamie Murray married there in 2010. The recovery was a gesture of gratitude, and way to preserve an important part of his childhood community, according to an exclusive interview with Telegraph Travel.

Murray has yet to visit his newly opened hotel, but in his absence management company Inverlochy Castle Management International along with mom Judy and girlfriend Kim Sears are taking good care of arrangements.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Man Posts Secret Video of Car Repair, Then Gets Sued

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(FENTON, Mo.) — A car dealership in Missouri is suing a customer who is alleged to have secretly recorded repairs and posted the video online.

Jim Butler Chevrolet of Fenton, Mo., about 19 miles southwest of St. Louis, claimed in its lawsuit that it charged for 5.5 hours of labor, but Dwayne Cooney’s video claims the time was much less.

Cooney brought in his 2007 Chevrolet Malibu on Friday, Jan. 31, for a few repairs, according to the lawsuit filed last month in St. Louis County Court that said Cooney agreed to two hours of diagnosis time at $129.95 an hour.

Cooney, 42, told the dealership he needed three repairs — for the tire sensors, key fob and the air bag light, according to the lawsuit.

In mid-February, Cooney published a 17-minute video from his dashcam onto YouTube, called “Dash Cam Video: Dealer Charges 2 Hours to Move Fuse,” describing about 45 minutes of work, the lawsuit claims.

Cooney claimed in the video, which has received thousands of views, “The airbag problem was a fuse was displaced and all he had to do was move the fuse. I was billed 2.5 hours for the airbag repair,” according to the suit.

“We were shocked when this video showed up online and he refused to acknowledge the prior three hours of work in his 17 minutes,” said Brad Sowers, co-owner and general manager of Jim Butler Chevrolet. “As a small family-run business, we’ve got to protect ourselves. This is part of the Internet world. People can say whatever they want until proven false in the court of law.”

The dealership is suing for more than $25,000 in damages.

Cooney said he has cameras installed at his home and in his cars for safety, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We have them in all our vehicles, and they record 24 hours a day for the protection of our family and our vehicles,” he told the newspaper.

Cooney and his attorney have not responded to a request for comment from ABC News.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, the dealership called Cooney to inform him it would not be able to diagnose his car that day, apologizing and offering a free rental car, which Cooney accepted, the suit stated. On Monday, a technician at the dealership began diagnosis of the problem, working 3.22 hours, the dealership claimed in its suit. The technician called Cooney that day to let him know he would need another two hours, to which Cooney agreed, according to the suit.

“The task was complex because no diagnostic codes were revealed by the GM tech equipment,” the court filing said.

Three days later, technicians finally made the necessary repairs and fixed the issues, tallying more than five hours of work on the vehicle, the complaint said — though the dealer only charged Cooney for 4.5 hours: $602.32 instead of $668.38 for five hours.

After negotiating with the dealership, Cooney agreed to a further-reduced bill of $553.61, which included parts and tax, the suit stated.

“I never disputed that they worked on it on any previous day,” Cooney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The question is, if you did, what did you do?”

Cooney told the Post-Dispatch that the dealership offered to drop the suit if he deleted the video and paid $8,000 of the dealer’s legal expenses, but he has refused.

“We offered on several occasions to settle this for a simple apology and a partial refund. Jim Butler insists on suing a former loyal customer,” Cooney told the newspaper.

Computer records show how long the technicians worked on the car and that the dealership tried to meet with Cooney “many times” to no avail, Sowers said. The dealership wants an injunction to remove the video.

With the help of the non-profit group, Public Citizen, Cooney’s homeowner’s insurance company hired a lawyer to represent him, blocking a temporary restraining order to unpublish the video.

“If the defendant has made a false statement of fact about the plaintiff with negligence or actual malice, the plaintiff gets an award of damages, perhaps even punitive damages, but it cannot get an order requiring that the allegedly defamatory material be taken down in the interim,” wrote Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney whom Cooney contacted, in a blog post.

Cooney, who has not yet filed a legal response, has been summoned to a hearing next Monday.

In the meantime, the dealership has created its own website, Gatewaydashcam.com, with an open letter to customers explaining its side of the story.

Sowers, who bought part of the dealership from his father-in-law 10 years ago, said the video has not affected business. But he said he is concerned about future effects of the video living online.

The company sells about 300 cars a month and services about 80 cars a day, Sowers said.

“We may screw up, and if we do we solve the problem, and that’s why our customers like us,” he said.

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Stocks Edge Higher After Roller-Coaster Session

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — U.S. stocks were up and down for most of Wednesday’s session but managed to rally for a fourth straight day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 40 points at 16,573.00. The Nasdaq Composite rose 8 points to 4,276.46. The S&P added 5 points to close at 1,890.90.

An encouraging sign for job seekers: a private survey by payroll processor ADP says U.S. companies hired at a rapid pace last month, creating 191,000 jobs.  That suggests the job market’s recovering from a brutal winter.  

The report is considered by many analysts to be a good indication of what the government’s monthly jobs numbers will look like. Those figures are due out on Friday.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

When’s the Last Time You Heard This?

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Home prices in four states– Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia — broke through their all-time highs.

The housing market is still far from making a full recovery in much of the country. But average U.S. home prices rose 12.2 percent in February, compared with a year ago. Research firm CoreLogic says prices rose 0.8 percent month-over-month from January to February. The average remains about 17 percent below the peak reached in 2006.

Housing experts expect price rises to slow down this year.

Homebuilding sagged during the winter months in most states. With milder weather on the way, the rate is expected to pick up during the spring.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Philadelphia Cream Cheese Revamping Its Image

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Start spreading the news. Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese announced Wednesday that it is adding more fruits and vegetables to its cream cheese brand.

In a statement explaining the shift, the company said “American families are paying closer attention to what they eat and increasingly seeking out more recognizable ingredients.”

The brand’s eight-ounce containers are also getting a new look and stackable shape that prevent the product from shifting on store shelves, the company said.

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Amazon Unveils ‘Fire TV’ Streaming Box

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Amazon(NEW YORK) — With the announcement of Amazon Fire TV, an entertainment streaming box, the hottest entertainment battleground is right in your living room.

The box, which is not taller than a dime, was unveiled in New York City on Wednesday by Amazon’s Vice President Peter Larson, who said the company’s goal was to “invent and simplify.”

“It’s tiny, incredibly powerful and unbelievably simple,” Larson said of the Amazon Fire TV, which runs on Android and will retail for $99. It starts shipping Wednesday.

Users will be able to watch content from Amazon, Hulu, Netlix, YouTube, ESPN on the device, Larson said, and won’t be limited to “one ecosystem” — meaning they can shop around for the best prices for watching their favorite shows.

The Amazon Fire TV comes with built-in Wi-Fi and boasts three times the performance and power of its top competitors — Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku 3, according to Larson.

Users will also be able to play games, including some Amazon originals, and can separately purchase a gaming controller for $39.99 to access even more options.

Also unique to the Fire TV is a voice search option that allows users to speak into a remote in the microphone and search for broad requests, such as “princess movies,” which Larson demonstrated at the launch.

Patrick Moorhead, principal technology analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told ABCNews.com that Amazon’s entrance into the crowded streaming market “makes perfect sense.”

“It’s a conduit for what Amazon does best, which is content,” Moorhead said. “What took so long is they had to find the right cost model for a price they could either give away for free or price absurdly low.”

Moorhead said he expects Amazon’s device to be a “major player” in the streaming marketplace and predicted that it could even overtake Chromecast, which at $35, is currently the bestselling electronics device available in Amazon’s online store.

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New Signs of Spring Growth for US Economy

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Tetra Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — More Americans are finding work.

The latest payroll report from ADP shows that 191,000 jobs were added by employers last month. That’s back to the average of last year, after a winter slowdown largely blamed on the weather.

The February estimate of new jobs was also revised up to 178,000.

What’s encouraging, economists say, is that the improvement in March was broad-based across many industries, involving small and large businesses.

On Friday, the Labor Department will release its monthly jobs report for March.

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Chrysler Recalls 870,000 SUVs over Brake Issue

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(AUBURN HILLS, Mich.) — Chrysler is recalling 867,795 SUVs after discovering that the brake boosters in these vehicles can corrode, making it more difficult for drivers to come to a stop.

The recall involves 2011-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs. Chrysler says these vehicles “have brake boosters with small crimp joints; and these joints may exhibit corrosion when exposed to water. Should water enter the boosters through corroded joints — a previously unseen occurrence — brake function may be compromised if the water freezes.”

The automaker adds that a booster exhibiting corrosion outside of subfreezing conditions “will deliver brake function in compliance with federal safety standards.” However, drivers “may experience excessive brake-pedal firmness.”

So far, one accident has been tied to this defect. No injuries have been reported.

Customers affected by the recall will by notified and instructed to go to a local Chrysler dealer to have a shield installed free of charge that will protect the boosters from corroding. Dealers will also inspect the brake boosters and replace them if necessary.

The recall affects an estimated 644,354 customers in the U.S. alone.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

GM CEO Ignites Wrath of Congress

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Allison Shelley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — General Motors CEO Mary Barra did her best to answer questions Tuesday from D.C. lawmakers about a defective ignition switch in millions of cars that has been blamed for at least 13 vehicular fatalities.

However, when pressed by Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton about why her company would use a part that did not meet GM’s stringent specifications, Barra couldn’t provide an answer.

She also promised to get to the bottom of the reason why GM waited until February to start recalling 2.6 million cars when the problem could be traced back as far as 2001.

However, Barra also told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that it was unacceptable that GM execs seemed to be more concerned about the cost of fixing a faulty ignition that could turn off the power in cars, thus failing to deploy airbags in the event of a crash.

Barra, who only became CEO in mid-January, also spoke of possibly compensating victims and families affected by the ignition defect. This might be a tricky proposition since GM restructured after declaring bankruptcy in 2009, which could make pinning blame on the automaker for crashes prior to then legally impossible.

That fact didn’t sit well with lawmakers on the committee. Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky pressed Barra about if the company will take full responsibility for the accidents.

The CEO replied, “We will make the best decisions for our customers recognizing that we have legal obligations and responsibilities as well as moral obligations.”

Others on the panel were equally frustrated by the answers they were getting from Barra, with one lawmaker referring to them as “gobbledy-gook.”

Hoping to take some of the heat off her and GM, Barra said the company has hired Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who oversaw payouts of billions of dollars in claims after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the BP oil spill, to evaluate what could be done for victims’ families.

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New Cars Sales Heat Up in March

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As things began to thaw out in March, so did the reluctance of many consumers to pull the trigger on buying a new car.

The improving weather brought Americans back to car dealerships with most automakers reporting increased sales from March 2013.

Among the major car companies, Chrysler enjoyed the biggest bump at 13 percent, followed by Nissan with a 8.3 percent increase. Toyota noted a 5 percent increase in sales while General Motors and Ford saw new car purchases rise by 4.1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, from a year ago.

Smaller automakers Kia, Mazda, Subaru and Mitsubishi also enjoyed better sales while Volkswagen, Honda and Hyundai experienced modest declines.

Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said, “The selling pace for the year was slow out of the gate, but the industry remains poised for stable growth in the near-to mid-term.” 

The firm predicts overall sales of 16.1 million vehicles in 2014.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Powerball Winner Claims $425.3 Million Jackpot from February

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

California State Lottery(LOS ANGELES) — A California man came forward on Tuesday to claim the $425.3 million Powerball jackpot from Feb. 19.

B. Raymond Buxton purchased the winning ticket at the Dixon Landing Chevron in Milpitas, Calif., and matched all six winning numbers — 17, 49, 54, 35, 1 and the Powerball number 34. The jackpot is the largest ever won in the state of California and the sixth-largest jackpot in U.S. history.

According to a press release from the California State Lottery, Buxton had already purchased one ticket for the Feb. 19 drawing, but purchased a second ticket during a trip to the Milpitas gas station.

Dixon Landing Chevron will receive a $1 million bonus for selling the winning ticket.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Foodini Machine Promises to 3-D Print Dinner

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Natural Machines(NEW YORK) — Spending hours in the kitchen may be a thing of the past once the fabulous Foodini goes on sale.

The sleek silver machine uses 3-D printing technology to turn fresh ingredients into decadent meals in a way that almost seems like magic.

A prototype of the Foodini was made by Barcelona-based Natural Foods. The company is now trying to raise money on Kickstarter to manufacture its first run of the printers.

Raviolis, pizza, burgers and shaped crackers are among the culinary possibilities that the makers of the Foodini say the machine can make.

The Foodini works by having owners fill up food capsules with real ingredients that are then inserted into the printer.

The foods can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and are ready to eat if they’re made from pre-cooked ingredients.

The company has so far raised almost half of its $100,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Kitchen connoisseurs who donate $2,000 go to the front of the line to get a Foodini, which could be in their homes as early as October, according to the company’s Kickstarter.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Stocks Climb with Favorable Manufacturing Reports

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Stock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New signs of life in the manufacturing sector pushed the markets higher Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 75 points to finish Tuesday trading at 16,532.61. The Nasdaq Composite rose 69 points, closing the day at 4,268.04. The S&P 500 added 13 points and closed at 1,885.52.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose to 53.7 in March, up from 53.2 in February, as the nation’s factories revved up following the rough winter.

March was a good month for most carmakers. Chrysler’s sales rose 13 percent, driven by demand for the new Jeep Cherokee and the Dodge Ram pickup. Suburu’s sales jumped 21 percent, while Ford, Nissan and Toyota’s sales also rose. Volkswagen and Hyundai, however, did not see a sales jump.

General Motors stock was up slightly during after-hours trading. CEO Mary Barra testified to a house panel Tuesday about faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

McDonald’s ‘Hamburger University’ Is No Joke

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

McDonald’s(NEW YORK) — Forget Harvard and Yale, you can get a degree in hamburgers. Yes, hamburgers.

It’s a little-known fact outside the McDonald’s Corp. that the fast-food chain runs a program actually called Hamburger University. There are seven locations around the world, with the flagship 130,000-square-foot facility on the 80-acre Oak Brook, Ill., corporate campus.

“Owners-operators send restaurant managers there to learn how to run a McDonald’s restaurant,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary said. “So it’s really a place where McDonald’s employees can learn and grow.”

Some students might practice what to do if a customer slips and falls, while others learn how to manage the books. The program isn’t free, but owners-operators typically pay for an employee’s participation as “an investment in the future of their employees,” Hary said.

“There’s definitely some of the hands-on simulation work that goes on in the restaurant, but then you’re also learning a lot of the business aspects, like operations and scheduling,” Hary said. “An average McDonald’s restaurant is $2.6 million a year in sales, so you’re really learning to run a McDonald’s restaurant.”

The facility has 19 full-time professors who teach different courses designed for crew, restaurant managers, mid-managers and executives in 28 different languages. More than 275,000 McDonald’s franchisees, managers and employees have graduated from Hamburger University worldwide, with more than 40 percent of the company’s senior leaders graduating from the program.

Founded in 1961 by former McDonald’s CEO Fred Turner, the program started in the basement of a restaurant with an average of about 10 students per class and was originally designed to teach consistency in products. Today, classes have ballooned to more than 200 students, and more than 5,000 people attend each year to learn much more than just how to consistently build a Big Mac.

Now, students can even earn their associate’s degree through 1,600 participating colleges if they take enough courses at the university.

So don’t laugh at a degree in hamburgers.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Google and Pokemon Send Users on Worldwide Quest

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

A screen grab of Google’s new mini-game for its Maps mobile app is seen. (Google Maps/YouTube)(NEW YORK) — This April Fools’ Day, prepare to spend a lot of time scrolling over the Pacific Ocean on your Google Maps smartphone app.

It’s one of the many worldwide hiding places for Pokemon, according to Google, which released an addition to their Google Maps app that lets users search for those popular Nintendo monsters in cities, fields, deserts, forests, mountains and oceans around the globe.

Google is known for their massive April Fools’ Day jokes, including turning Google Maps into a treasure map and telling users they could now search by smell.

To play the new mini game, simply use the Google Maps app on either iPhone or Android, press on the search bar, and then click on the Pokeball next to the “Press Start” text.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

GM Car Victims’ Families Mourn Together over Lost Loved Ones

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Natasha Weigel, who died in a Chevy Cobalt on Oct. 24, 2006, when she was 18 years old, had worn only two dresses during the time that her stepfather, Ken Rimer, knew her.

“Natasha was a tomboy from the day I met her,” Rimer told ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis. “She only wore a dress twice that I knew of — our wedding was one. And the only other time was when she had to wear a dress for school. She was a jock-head as well. Wearing sweats and the hoodies, that was her life. But you know it was just the start of her life. Unfortunately, she’s not with us anymore.”

More than a dozen families of victims who died in accidents involving cars in a massive General Motors recall have shared stories like this with CEO Mary Barra and with lawmakers this week.

Weigel was “the apple of my wife’s eye. …Her only child,” Rimer said, explaining that Weigel and her two friends had visited another friend’s house in Wisconsin, made a stop to go shopping and were returning home.

Weigel’s friend, Megan Phillips, 17, was behind the wheel of the 2005 Chevy Cobalt when the vehicle’s ignition switch turned from the “run” position to the “accessory” position, leading the car to lose all power steering, power braking and the airbag’s ability to deploy, according to a lawsuit filed by their families. The families filed the suit last month in Minnesota District Court against General Motors and the Rosedale Chevrolet car dealership.

Rimer said the car veered off the road and ultimately hit a telephone junction box and two trees.

“They went air-bound over a driveway and within five seconds of the car shutting off, they collided with a set of trees, which caused the fatal accident,” Rimer said.

Weigel later died from her injuries while Phillips experienced “severe brain injury and severe crushing injuries resulting in multiple fractures of bones in her body including chest, face, legs and arms,” according to the lawsuit.

Their 15-year-old friend Amy Rademaker was in the front passenger seat and died one week before her 16th birthday.

Her father, Randal Rademaker, wore a t-shirt with his daughter’s image at her funeral and on Monday on Capitol Hill.

“This is only the second time I ever wore it. The first time was at her funeral,” Rademaker told ABC News.

Rademaker recalled his late daughter’s “crazy,” mismatching style.

“She wouldn’t even want to have matching clothes. She was always a little off the wall in this or that — just a lot of fun. And it all ended that night,” Rademaker said.

Other victims were also young sons and daughters, girlfriends and boyfriends.

Richard Scott Bailey, a U.S. Marine from Phoenix, Ariz., was 18 years old when he died driving a 2007 Chevy Cobalt on April 21, 2008. Bailey was in training to be a radio operator with his squad, according to the Arizona Republic. His mother wiped away tears while lawmakers such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., held up her son’s picture on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Blumenthal and other lawmakers have asked why it has taken seven years for an official recall.

Amber Marie Rose has been called the first known victim of the car defect. After a party on July 29, 2005, the 15-year-old died in a crash involving a 2005 Chevy Cobalt in which the airbag did not deploy.

Laura Christian, her mother, had just started to reconnect with her daughter after giving her up for adoption as an infant.

“I am absolutely appalled they waited this long,” Christian, 43, of Harwood, Md., said of General Motors to the New York Daily News.

Rademaker said he wants GM to get Cobalts off the road for good.

Barra apologized to the families in person during the meeting on Monday night, but Rademaker and Rimer say it’s not enough.

“As Christians, you know, we still feel for one another. And she was sincere in her apologies,” Rimer said, calling her first apology to the families “heartfelt.”

“On the other hand, we’ve got such open wounds and sores from losing loved ones, the apology is accepted but it’s still not the answer that we need,” Rimer said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Lavish California Mansion Sells for $102 Million

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Redfin.com(LOS ANGELES) — Fleur de Lys, a sprawling estate in Los Angeles, has been scooped up by a deep-pockets buyer for $102 million, making it the highest price home sale ever recorded in the county.

Three anonymous billionaires duked it out in a bidding war before one emerged victorious, settling on an all-cash deal for the home that included antique furnishings, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The lavish 50,000-square foot estate looks like a version of Versailles. The main house is reached by driving down a half mile long tree-lined private driveway, according to the Westside Estate Agency, which listed Fleur de Lys.

The estate sits on five acres in Los Angeles’ Westside and boasts a dozen bedrooms.

It was previously owned by socialite Suzanne Saperstein, who first listed the property in 2007.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

GM CEO Issues Statement of Apology, Meets with Victims’ Families

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Steve Fecht for General Motors(WASHINGTON) — Ahead of her appearance before Congress Tuesday afternoon, General Motors CEO Mary Barra released an opening statement that apologizes profusely for the automaker’s delay in recalling over 2.5 million cars with faulty ignition switches.

The defect has been linked to 13 deaths from air bags that failed to deploy after the vehicle’s power suddenly went off.  Barra also met with family members of the deceased for two hours Monday night to express her personal condolences.

All this occurred on the same day that GM announced the additional recall of 1.3 million vehicles for problems relating to the electronic power steering assist. Since February, the automaker has recalled more than six million cars for a variety of problems.

In her statement to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight to be delivered Tuesday, Barra offers “my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall, especially to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured. I am deeply sorry.”

Since lawmakers will want to get to the bottom of GM’s decision to only start the recall last month when the problem could be traced back as far as 2001, Barra says, “When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers.”

A relative newcomer as head of the U.S. car giant, Barra seems to absolve herself of any blame in the statement, which says in part, “As soon as l learned about the problem, we acted without hesitation. We told the world we had a problem that needed to be fixed.”

Barra says that GM has hired former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas “to conduct a thorough and unimpeded investigation of the actions of General Motors. He has free rein to go where the facts take him, regardless of the outcome.”

Just the same, lawmakers on the panel are expected to grill Barra unmercifully about why her company kept making cars with a known defect that could result in death.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Average Gas Prices Rise Again

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Gas prices rose again this week, up 4 more cents. The U.S. Energy Department reports that the average price of regular gas nationwide is $3.58 per gallon.

Californians would likely jump at those prices, as the Golden State has the most expensive gas at $4 per gallon. New York has the second most expensive gas, with an average of $3.75 per gallon.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Los Angeles County Home Among Most Expensive Homes Sold in U.S.

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Creatas/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — A Los Angeles home was sold for $102 million on Monday, the highest price ever paid for a home in Los Angeles County.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the price of the home was driven up by a bidding war involving three international billionaires. Socialite Suzanne Saperstein, who was listed as the seller, has reportedly had the home listed for sale in 2007.

The home sits on five acres and the winning bidder closed the deal in 10 days, paying all cash, the Times reports.

The sale didn’t break the record for highest-priced home sold in state history, which is held by a Woodside, Calif. home that sold for $117.5 million in 2013. Forbes lists only one other developed property as being sold for more than $102 million, the Broken O Ranch in Augusta, Mont., purchased by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke for an undisclosed amount of money, but listed as high as $132.5 million

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Soda Sales Drop to Lowest Point Since 1995

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Wavebreak Media Ltd/Thinkstock Photos(NEW YORK) — U.S. sales of carbonated soft drinks fell by three percent in 2013, a faster rate than the previous two years, bringing overall sales volume to its lowest point since 1995.

According to Beverage Digest, an industry tracker, soda sales dropped by 1.2 percent in 2012 and 1 percent in 2011. Additionally, carbonated soft drink consumption reportedly fell to 675 eight-ounce servings per person in the U.S., down from 701 such servings in 2012. The last time per capita soda consumption fell this low was in 1986.

Among beverage companies, Coca-Cola Co. maintained its top share of the liquid refreshment beverage market, according to Beverage Digest, with 34.2 percent of sales in 2013. PepsiCo came in second with 25.8 percent of beverage sales, seeing their share decrease by 0.5 percent of the market.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

General Motors to Recall 1.3 Million Vehicles for Power Steering Issue

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — General Motors announced on Monday that it will recall more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States after it was determined that they may experience a sudden loss of electronic power steering assist.

GM says that the vehicles notify the driver in the event that power steering assist is lost, and that steering control can be maintained, but that the issue would require “greater driver effort” even at low speeds. Because of this, GM says the issue could increase the risk of a crash.

A press release on GM’s website identified the vehicles subject to recall:

    Chevrolet Malibu: All model year 2004 and 2005, and some model year 2006, 2008 and 2009 vehicles
    Chevrolet Malibu Maxx: All model year 2004 and 2005, and some 2006 model year vehicles
    Chevrolet HHR (Non-Turbo): Some model year 2009 and 2010 vehicles
    Chevrolet Cobalt: Some model year 2010 vehicles
    Saturn Aura: Some model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles
    Saturn ION: All model year 2004 to 2007 vehicles
    Pontiac G6: All model year 2005, and some model year 2006 and model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles
    Service parts installed into certain vehicles before May 31, 2010 under a previous safety recall  

GM will, it says, replace either the power steering motor, the steering column, the power steering motor control or a combination of those parts free of charge, depending on the issue in the particular vehicle.

Some of the vehicles specified in this recall may have been included in previously announced recalls for ignition switch problems. Any vehicle that has been recalled for each of the two separate issues may require separate dealership visits, depending on availability of parts.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

The Best Days to Buy Anything

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — No one can tell the future, but we all can use tools to help us predict when to save the most money. Here are the best days to buy or sell things such as cars, clothing, food and more.

1. The Car Market

The best times to go shopping for a car are the end of the year, quarter or month, says Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars, because sales people at dealerships typically receive bonuses for meeting quota by end of the year, quarter and month.

“During these times, they may be more willing to negotiate and work with shoppers. Also, look for cars that have a new model year coming out when dealers need to clear their lots and make room for the new model year,” Ly said. “Manufacturers typically launch new models later in the summer or fall. That said, in order to get a good deal on a car, consumers should still do their homework and arm themselves with the key information to have a smarter dialogue with the dealer and negotiate a good price.”

2. Groceries

Researchers from Cornell University published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June that found that shoppers who went to grocery stores earlier in the day, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., bought less high-calorie foods than those who shopped later in the day. TheStreet.com suggests shoppers hunt for deals on Wednesdays, when stores begin their weekly discount and coupon programs.

3. Airline Tickets

The best time to buy airline tickets and shop for travel (domestically) is Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, according to Rick Seaney, CEO and co-founder of FareCompare. But he warns that most such discounted airfares are pulled on Thursdays.

Seaney has found the cheapest days to fly domestically are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. The cheapest time to fly is typically the first flight out in the morning, or red-eye flights.

Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive days to travel, Seaney says.

George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, says some airlines have advertised sales for domestic travel on Tuesdays, but the best reductions are unadvertised and can happen at any time.

“A low airfare can pop up any day of the week, any day of the year, or any hour of the day. There’s no magic formula. If there were, we wouldn’t see all these new airfare search tools popping up week after week?” he said.

4. Clothing

Marjie Cader, spokeswoman for ShopItToMe.com, says there may not be “one day” of the week that is best to shop because the average percentage discounts are more significant.

Back in 2008 and 2009, there was more disparity in discounts on various days of the week, but now they are all about the same, she says.

“But, we tend to see retailers add new sale merchandise on Thursday, Wednesday and Friday. So if you are someone who likes to see when new stuff gets marked down, or get access to that week’s new sales, shop on Thursdays,” she said.

5. Gas

The best time to buy gas will of course vary by region, but GasBuddy released a study in January that found most states tend to have the cheapest gas on the weekend. According to the study, 65 percent of states had lower prices during the weekend than the week.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, said the weekend may be the cheapest because the financial markets are closed, potentially leading to little fluctuation in oil or spot prices.

6. Buy or Sell a Home

Different brokers and online articles will advise various times to buy or sell a home. An article from Time says that the first Tuesday is the best day of the month to make an offer on a house because that’s when a homeowner may begin to worry about a lack of offers from weekend house hunters. Meanwhile, the same article advises that the best day of the week to list your house is Thursday, to give buyers enough notice for a weekend open house.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Government to Require Back Up Cameras on Vehicles

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The government is ordering car makers to install rear view cameras in order to save more than 200 lives a year. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration Monday announced the new rule that will apply to road-legal vehicles under 10,000 pounds.

Some cars and trucks make backup warning sounds, but that’s not enough to prevent accidentally backing over a toddler. According to NHTSA, an average of 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries are due to back-up accidents each year. Children under 5 make up 31 percent of those deaths.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents — our children and seniors,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today’s rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents.”

Susan Auriemma backed into her daughter several years ago, and now she says a rear camera could have prevented that.

“Her face was covered in blood her clothing was torn from the impact,” Auriemma said about the incident that injured her daughter who’s now 11 years old and fine.

Congress ordered the backup camera be in place two years ago.  The new government order won’t require them till 2018.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Make-A-Wish Program Raises Flier Miles for Kids

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Make-A-Wish(NEW YORK) — When San Francisco was transformed into Gotham last year to grant the wish of a Batman-loving kindergartener who suffered from leukemia, the city pulled out all the stops to make it a success.

But first he had to get there.

Batkid’s family drove more than five hours from his hometown of Tulelake, in upper northern Caliornia, to reach the City by the Bay. And for many other Make-A-Wish recipients to experience their wishes, they must take to the skies.

“Wish kids travel to almost any destination you can imagine,” Make-A-Wish spokesperson Josh deBerge told ABC News. “It could be to rural South Dakota to be a paleontologist, the Bahamas to parasail or Paris to meet a world-renowned artist.”

And it takes a village to raise those carrier wheels up.

Roughly 2.5 billion airlines miles are needed to grant 10,000 wishes per year that involve travel, according to the Make-A-Wish foundation, one of the world’s leading charities that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

“With nearly 75 percent of wishes involving travel, our need for airline miles is critical,” said David Williams, president and chief executive officer for Make-A-Wish America, in a statement. “Donating airline miles provides an alternative way for supporters of Make-A-Wish to help grant wishes without ever opening their wallets.”

According to the organization, the more popular destinations in the United States include Orlando, Hawaii, Los Angeles/Orange County and New York. And approximately 8 percent of wishes granted involve international travel, said deBerge, with the the most popular overseas destinations being France, Italy and Australia.

Last year, Make-A-Wish raised more than 176 million airline miles — equal to more than 350 round-trip tickets — for wish travel. Some were even provided by celebrities: Professional wrestler John Cena donated 4.5 million miles to the foundation last year, making him “by far the largest donor.”

But as the foundation gears up for the summer travel season they are hoping to exceed that number of donations this spring.

Through the Wishes in Flight April Campaign, individuals who fly on participating airlines including Delta, United, and US Airways can donate their unused frequent flier miles in just a few easy steps by visiting wish.org/miles.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

As Recalls Mount, Lawmakers Will Have Plenty to Ask GM Boss

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — General Motors CEO Mary Barra is expected to face intense questioning during congressional hearings Tuesday regarding the automaker’s recall of 4.8 million vehicles since last month for various problems.

In particular, lawmakers will want to know why GM waited a decade to recall 2.6 million cars with potentially faulty ignition switches that can make the vehicle turn off, deactivating the air bags in the event of a crash.

GM has attributed 13 deaths to the defect, which the company reportedly knew about as far back as 2003.

Late last week, GM expanded its recall of small cars to replace the ignition switch by 824,000. It’s now expected the company will need until October to fix all the switches.

Separately last Friday, the automaker also recalled 490,000 late-model pickup trucks and SUVs due to problems with transmission oil cooling lines as well as 172,000 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruze compacts because of axle shafts that might fracture during driving.

The total of 4.8 million recalls in 2014 is two million more vehicles than were sold by GM in 2013.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

General Motors Expands Recall, Total of 5 Million Cars in Trouble

Posted on: March 30th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — Two new General Motors recalls were announced Saturday, making it a total of five million vehicles now suspected of trouble.

Some 2013 and 2014 Chevy Cruzes were recalled because of a problem with the axle that may fracture and separate during normal driving. Almost 500,000 trucks were recalled for problems with the transmission that could cause fires, and the ignition switch recall was expanded to an additional 971,000 cars from newer model years, including 2008 to 2011, because the same faulty switches in older cars may have found their way into newer cars during repairs.

While there are no known deaths linked to these new recalls, according to ABC News Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, GM says “they’re doing this out of an abundance of caution, especially with the CEO Mary Barra expected to testify before Congress for the first time next week.”

The expanded recall comes just days after Barra– who took over at GM in January– issued an apology to customers. Barra also pledged to conduct her own investigation into why GM took more than a decade to recall 1.6 million cars with ignition switch problems linked to at least 13 deaths.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Couple Allegedly Claimed Welfare and Food Stamps While Living on $1.2 M Yacht

Posted on: March 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) — A Minnesota couple who allegedly claim to be Scottish aristocrats are on the run, accused of claiming public assistance benefits while living on their $1.2 million yacht and driving a $30,000 Lexus.

Andrea Chisholm, 54, and Colin Chisholm III, 62, allegedly collected more than $167,000 in welfare, food stamps, and medical assistance across two states over a period of around seven years, according to a complaint filed with a Minnesota State court.

For the past month, Hennepin County Sheriff’s department has been searching for the couple who are still at large, according to a statement issued by the Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman.

“Mr. … sorry. Lord and Lady Chisholm the third, are fraudsters of the first degree,” Freeman said. “These folks ripped off the system.”

The Chisholms began claiming public assistance in Minnesota in 2005 after telling authorities they were living with Andrea’s mother in Minneapolis. Just weeks after the pair applied for assistance, they also bought an 83-foot yacht for $1.2 million in Florida, which they lived on for 28 months, according to the complaint. They were also claiming benefits in Florida at the same time as they were collecting money in Minnesota, the complaint said.

The couple also allegedly failed to report the nearly $3 million they had deposited in various bank accounts “to support their lavish lifestyle,” and concealed that they had lived in luxury lakeside homes in Deepahaven since 2008 when they moved back to Minnesota, the complaint said.

During this time, the pair continued to receive welfare benefits and medical assistance from the state, including the prenatal care Andrea Chisholm received while pregnant in 2006 and 2007, the complaint said.

“Colin Chisholm portrays himself as a Scottish aristocrat who is a wealthy and successful executive in the broadcasting industry,” criminal investigator Amanda Lange writes in the complaint.

Colin Chisholm was self-employed as the chief executive officer of TCN Network, which purported to be a satellite television and broadband service for countries throughout the Caribbean, while his wife owned a dog kennel that bred and sold pedigree championship puppies, according to Freeman.

None of funds generated by Andrea Chisholm’s business, Strathglass Kennels, was ever reported to the state, the complaint said.

ABC News’ calls and emails to the TCN Network and contacts listed for the Chisholms went unanswered.

All welfare benefits going to the Chisholms were terminated at the end of March 2012, and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the couple, who have reportedly fled the state, the complaint said.

Fraud charges typically carry a probation sentence, but prosecutors said in a statement they will request harsher sentencing “because the Chisholms committed a “major economic offense.”

“It is truly outrageous when persons of considerable means steal from the government and all of us taxpayers through abusing the social welfare system,” Freeman said. “We will prosecute this case with all the capacity we have.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

New NFL App Brings Fans Closer to the Field

Posted on: March 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new app can bring football fans closer to the action on the field– for a price.  

The app, from developer Experience, gets people off their couches and into NFL stadiums by upping the fun factor.

With the new technology you can ask for a seat upgrade or even request access to the field pre or post game. Or if you want the fun to come to you, you can get a cheerleader to come and visit you at your seat.

So far the developer of the app has scored deals with three teams– the Seahawks, Falcons, and Buccaneers– but the deal could be expanded to more stadiums this fall.  

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio