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What to Expect from Google’s I/O Conference

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — Every year Google’s I/O Conference is the place where creators and developers unite to discuss some of the biggest ideas that enrich and change the way people interact with their devices.

This year’s conference kicks off next Thursday in San Francisco. While Google isn’t spilling any of its big plans yet, a look at the agenda online reveals what could be in store.

Android M

At the top of the list is sweet news for Android fans. The next flavor of Google’s Android operating system — dubbed M — could be unveiled next week.

A mention of a May 28 session for an “An Android for Work Update” was quickly scrubbed from the calendar earlier this month, indicating that perhaps one of the big reveals of the conference had been teased too soon. The caption mentioned how Android M can open “huge new markets for hundreds of millions of devices to workers at small business, deskless workers, logistics and warehouse jobs.”

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has once again become a hot topic — with Mirosoft introducing its HoloLens mixed reality goggles earlier this year and Facebook’s Oculus announcing the consumer version of its headset will ship in early 2016.

At I/O last year, Google put a fun spin on the idea, releasing its Google Cardboard glasses that can connect to a smartphone. Earlier this year, Google and partner Mattel also revealed a first look at a revamped virtual reality View-Master using cardboard and Android.

While we’ll have to wait and see if any new big announcements are coming, a session called “Make Believe” next Thursday invites attendees to “explore virtual reality and how it may change our lives.”

Satellite Mapping

Google bought satellite mapping company Skybox last year. We’ll learn more about how the search engine giant plans to leverage that technology in a session called “The Earth in Real Time.”

“With Skybox, we’re looking to take the next step forward in satellite imaging and find new ways to help people use data from space to solve problems on Earth,” the event description said.

In a statement announcing the $500 million cash deal last year, Google said it plans to use Skybox’s technology to bolster Google Maps by keeping its imagery even more “accurate” and “up-to-date.”

“Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in,” the statement said.


With the rise of fitness trackers and wearables, it’s no surprise that Google is carving out some time to discuss Google Fit and how the fitness tracking service is serving millions of users.

“As a fitness developer, how can you use this data to help people lead fuller lives? What kind of data is it and how are we generating it?” the agenda said. “The Google Fit team reveals all in this talk.”

The Future

Expect to hear about Project Ara, Google’s modular smartphone which will be piloted in Puerto Rico later this year. The puzzle-like device allows people to create phones with customized looks and capabilities.

Google also said to expect “wearables that we hope will blow your socks off.”

“Our goal: break the tension between the ever-shrinking screen sizes necessary to make electronics wearable and our ability to have rich interactions with them. Why can’t you have both? We like to build new things. Sometimes seemingly impossible things,” the company said.

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What Mysterious Uber Test Vehicle Was Doing in Pittsburgh

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Uber(PITTSBURGH) — Take one look at the mysterious Uber car spotted on the road in Pittsburgh earlier this month, and it’s clear it isn’t a typical vehicle in the ride-hailing app’s fleet.

A device appears to be rotating on the top of the Ford sedan, along with “Uber Advanced Technologies” emblazoned on the side of the vehicle. A photo of the less than inconspicuous car was posted by the Pittsburgh Business Times.

As Google’s driverless cars prepare to hit the road around the company’s Mountain View headquarters this summer, Uber told ABC News the bizarre vehicle was not a self-driving car.

“This vehicle is part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems,” an Uber spokesperson told ABC News via email.

Uber announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in February to open the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

“The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere,” the company said in a statement announcing the partnership.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has previously expressed a fascination with autonomous driving technology and said at a conference last year that self-driving cars would drive down the cost of hailing a ride since customers would no longer have to pay for the driver, or as Kalanick put it, “The other dude in the car.”

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Google Brings Shopping Experience to YouTube

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — YouTube wants to change the way people buy items and is harnessing the power of its videos to help connect consumers and retailers.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of advertisements and commerce, announced what could be a revenue-boosting plan for the video sharing website Thursday during his keynote at Ad:Tech in San Francisco.

Google is adding products to its TrueView advertisements — the spots that users can skip after watching for a certain amount of time. The hope here is that instead of looking away while the ad rolls, users will click on a product and be taken to the retailer’s website to complete their transaction.

“In a world where people want things right away, this is the ultimate expression of a full-purchase journey within an ad,” Ramaswamy said. “For the first time, viewers will be able to not only learn about products through video — they’ll be able to shop for them as well — seeing product listings within the video itself.”

Ramaswamy said Wayfair, a furniture retailer, used the system for shopping advertisements. When compared to other video campaigns, he said they saw their revenue triple per view, along with a 20 percent increase in their view through rate, the number of people who stick with the ad until it ends.

YouTube also announced Thursday an early preview of 60 frame per second live streaming video. While the new frame rate is still in early preview, it could help YouTube make a play for gamers who broadcast their adventures on Amazon-owned competitor Twitch.

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Wife Corrals Texas Cattle Rancher Into Becoming Vegan

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(APPLETON, Texas) — A family cattle ranch run by a fourth-generation farmer has gone from raising cattle for slaughter into a vegan sanctuary for their herd.

Tommy Sonnen bought his 96-acre farm in Angleton, Texas, 11 years ago and convinced his wife, Renee, to join the ranch life. They got divorced but then remarried one another about six years ago, but not before Tommy’s wife started learning about the vegan lifestyle.

Renee said she couldn’t stand the red trailer leaving every six months to take the next round of calves to the slaughterhouse because of the bonds she made with them.

“I started gaining insight into their souls and naturally started gravitating to the animals in a loving way,” said Renee. “The mother cows would cry into the night and I’d go out and cry with them even at midnight.”

That’s when Renee said she needed her husband to make a change, so she gave him an ultimatum: another divorce or become a vegan.

“I put him between a rock and a hard place,” said Renee. “I made him decide if the cows were more precious than me.”

Renee said her husband offered for her to buy the 29-cow herd from him for $30,000. She raised the money through an online campaign in under four months.

Her once steak-eating husband is now 99.99 percent vegan with the exception of his old leather boots and the occasional “accident” from not reading a food label, according to Renee.

“He did it kicking and screaming but he did it. He’ll finally admit it out loud he feels better,” said Renee, who went fully vegan last October.

They’ve turned their ranch into the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary and submitted paperwork to become a non-profit organization.

The last red trailer left the ranch in February 2014 and Renee said it’s never coming back.

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Wall Street Bounces Back On Energy Stocks

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The markets bounced back on Thursday after investors were motivated to buy energy stocks after seeing a rise in oil prices.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,285.74 on Thursday, up 0.34 from its open.

The Nasdaq was was up slightly by 19.05 to close at 5,090.79. The S&P 500 was up by 4.97, to finish the session at a close of 2,130.82.

Traders were happy on Thursday with news the Federal Reserve would not be raising interest rates until later this year, along with signs of a health job market.

The Labor Department said on Thursday the number of American seeking unemployment benefits fell to a 15 year low, despite a slight rise in applications last week.

Existing home sales dipped last month more than three percent, as the National Association of Realtors says that tight inventory made it a seller’s market.

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Fiji’s Floating Bar and Pizzeria Serves Up Pies in Paradise

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Tor Johnson/Cloud 9(VITI LEVU, Fiji) — There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad pizza.

Now that that’s been established, some places are more enjoyable than others when it comes to enjoying a slice.

Some pizza connoisseurs swear by a red-and-white-checked-tablecloth kind of joint. But we’ll take this floating pizzeria in paradise.

Cloud 9, located in the ocean off the Fijian island of Viti Levu, is now serving wood-fired pizza along with a full bar and weekend DJs.

There are a few different options for getting to Cloud 9 — including a 2.5-hour jet-ski ride — but it’s most easily accessed by a 45-minute speedboat ride from Port Denarau, a major tourist hub, or just 10 minutes from the closest resort: Musket Cove Resort, Lomani Resort & Plantation Resort.

Rather than grab a slice on the run, most visitors choose to make a day out a trip to Cloud 9 and combine swimming, snorkeling, para sailing and sunbathing in the daybeds and hammocks offered with their meal. As many as 100 people can visit Cloud 9 at one time.

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Google Reveals the Problem with Password Security Questions

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Google analyzed hundreds of millions of password security questions and answers, revealing how startlingly easy it is for would-be hackers to get into someone else’s account.

Case in point: What’s your favorite food?

Using one guess, an attacker has a 19.7 percent chance of guessing an English speaking user loves pizza, according to Google’s findings, which looked at hundreds of millions of questions and answers for account recovery claims.

While the questions are meant to provide an extra layer of security, Google found easy-to-guess answers were a problem around the world.

With 10 guesses, an attacker would have a near one in four chance of guessing the name of an Arabic speaker’s first teacher. Ten guesses gave cyber criminals a 21 percent chance of guessing the middle name of a Spanish speaker’d father.

South Korean users were most vulnerable with the question “What is your city of birth?” With 10 guesses, attackers would have a 39 percent chance of getting into a person’s account.

While the study shows how alarmingly easy it is to crack a person’s password security questions, Google said the solution shouldn’t be to add more questions.

Google’s security researchers instead recommend users make sure their account recovery information is current by going through a security checkup. Adding a phone number or back-up email address can help circumvent the issue of someone trying to penetrate your account via the secret questions.

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Unemployment Claims Climbed Higher Last Week

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims were higher last week, increasing by 10,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending May 16, the number of people filing for benefits climbed to 274,000. The previous week, claims stood at 264,000.

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

The four-week moving average, however, decreased by 5,500 to 266,250.

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US Listing of Cars Affected by Takata Airbag Recall Not Updated Yet

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

bizoo_n/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — One day after Takata Corp. announced a recall affecting a total of 33.8 million inflators — one in seven registered vehicles in the U.S. — due to defective airbags, consumers set a record, flooding the U.S. government’s recall website to see whether their car was involved.

The problem: None of the 17 million newly recalled cars have been listed yet on

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said on Wednesday it expected to have most of the vehicle identification numbers uploaded on its by early next week.

A vehicle’s VIN can be found on the driver’s side where the dashboard meets the windshield or on the driver’s side door post.

NHTSA said it was waiting for the VINs to come from automakers. Without the VIN, consumers cannot find out whether their car is part of the new recall.

“This is part of what’s hard right now,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind told ABC News on Wednesday. “Yesterday, we announced the defect. We are waiting and hopefully shortly we will have all the information from 11 manufacturers so that people can look up their VIN and know if their car is affected. … It takes a while. We need to get that online and then we have to make sure next, that the parts are going to be available so when you go to your dealer you can get that replaced.”

Takata’s airbags have been at the center of controversy with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the NHTSA after the company’s airbags were linked to at least five deaths, and more than 100 injuries, according to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. Takata found that one out of 100 recalled bag inflators ruptured during testing, sending shrapnel flying.

Experts advised consumers not to inspect airbags on their own and not to disable them because they are complex and contain explosive chemicals, so there is some risk.

Rosekind said he was going to look up his car’s VIN and suggested that once all the VINs were uploaded onto the site, car owners do the same and then head to a dealer or carmaker.

“I’m a driver. … I’m going to see if we need to get to the dealer,” he said. “I’m going to basically ask, if not demand, that I get a loaner so that if possible I don’t have to drive it. I’m going to push them and call as often as I can to make sure that they get the parts as soon as they can, so it gets fixed.”

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Rocky Wall Street Ride Fueled on Earnings Reports

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

vichie81/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Investors had a rollercoaster day on Wall Street on Wednesday, as investors waited for earnings reports, and word from the Federal Reserve it won’t raise interest rates in June.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,285.40 on Wednesday, down 26.99 from its open.

The Nasdaq however was up slightly by 1.71 to close at 5,071.74. The S&P 500 fell by 1.98, to finish the session at a close of 2,125.85.

Stock prices for the do-it-yourself web company Etsy took a drive on Wednesday, down 20 percent after reporting heavy quarterly losses. This was Etsy’s first earnings report as a publicly traded company.

Staples stocks also felt the pinch and a one percent drop after reporting a sharp loss in first quarter earnings.

Drivers may like the cheaper gas prices at the pump, but investors aren’t as sure. Economists were optimistic that plunging oil prices would boost the U.S. economy, but analysts say it may have actually shrunk earlier this year.

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Bill Gates Reveals What’s on His Summer Reading List

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — What’s the world’s richest man’s idea of a good beach read? Something that makes him laugh or think.

Bill Gates is gearing up for some sun and sand by releasing his billionaire-approved summer reading list.

It will come as no surprise that the books aren’t trashy romance novels, but Gates said he tried to select “a few more things that are on the lighter side.”

Without further ado, here’s what the Microsoft founder recommends people read this summer.

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

“I must have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages that made me laugh out loud,” Gates wrote, referring to his wife.

The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins

What Bill says: “Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford, has a gift for making science enjoyable.”

What If? by Randall Munroe

“The subtitle of the book is ‘Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,'” Gates said. “And that’s exactly what it is.”

XKCD, by Randall Munroe

The anthology of posts from the author’s blog include “cartoons he draws making fun of things — mostly scientists and computers, but lots of other things too,” Gates said.

On Immunity, by Eula Biss

“Biss, an essayist and university lecturer, examines what lies behind people’s fears of vaccinating their children,” Gates said.

How to Lie With Statistics
, by Darrell Huff

Gates loved this 1954 book about how numbers can be distorted with visuals so much that it was one of the few books he said he recommended to everyone at TED this year.

Should We Eat Meat? by Vaclav Smil

“The richer the world gets, the more meat it eats. And the more meat it eats, the bigger the threat to the planet. How do we square this circle?” Gates wrote. “A timely book, though probably the least beach-friendly one on this list.”

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Nintendo Hires Bowser to Be Sales Executive

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Nintendo(REDMOND, Wash.) — Watch out, Princess Peach. Bowser is taking over the Nintendo corporate office.

Pardon us — we have our Bowsers mixed up.

Nintendo had some fun Wednesday with the announcement that Doug Bowser will be joining the gaming company as vice president of sales.

Bowser shares a name with the character in the company’s Mario games who is known for his spiked shell, love of Princess Peach and villainous streak in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Making it clear that Doug Bowser has no relation to the fictional character, Nintendo wrote he would bring “decades of experience, not fire breath” to his new role.

Bowser comes to Nintendo after spending eight years at competitor Electronic Arts.

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Everything’s Bigger in Texas: 46 Bedroom Mansion Hits the Market

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Christy Buck Team at RE/MAX Top Realty(MANVEL, Texas) — Have you ever dreamed of owning a large mansion? Then look no further.

Here’s a home with 46 bedrooms, 26 bathrooms and a nine car garage. And if you’re willing to shell out $3.5 million, then this large home, located at 2354 County Road 59 in Manvel, Texas, could be for you.

The 60,175-square-foot brick home, also equipped with an elevator, sits on a 15-acre lot with a swimming pool and indoor spa.

Realtor Christy Buck told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV that the home, which was built by a doctor and his wife in 2001, was intended to be used as a live-in rehab facility for doctor’s patients.

The catch, for anyone interested in buying the home, is the home needs a lot of work.

Mona Miller, of the Christy Buck Team, tells the Houston Chronicle that they’ve had “some inquires for assisted living,” but “whoever buys the property will probably need to take it down to the building shell and the studs.”

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Coke Says AMC Did Not Pay for Use of Classic Ad in “Mad Men” Finale

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Michael Yarish/AMC(NEW YORK) — Coca-Cola factored prominently into the series finale of Mad Men on Sunday night. The episode ended with footage of the famous 1971 “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial, and the implication that Jon Hamm’s Don Draper had a hand in creating it.

Coca-Cola says AMC did not pay it for the use of the ad, dubbed “Hilltop.” A spokesperson for the soft-drink company tells People magazine, “We’ve had limited awareness around the brand’s role in the series’s final episodes, and what a rich story they decided to tell.”

Mad Men is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, and ‘Hilltop’ is an iconic piece of Coca-Cola history. The finale gave everyone inside and outside the company – some for the first time –­ a chance to experience the magic of ‘Hilltop’ within the context of its creation and the times,” the spokesperson added.

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Four Cancer Charities Accused of Pocketing $187M in Donations

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Four cancer charities and their operators have been charged with shamefully bilking $187 million from consumers, the Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday.

According to the FTC, which worked in conjunction with all 50 states, donors were told that their donations would help cancer patients.

“Those were outright lies,” said Jessica Rich of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Instead, the FTC said on Tuesday that the majority of funds went to several charity executives who lined their own pockets and spent donations on cars, vacations, college tuition, gym memberships, Jet Ski outings and dating site memberships. The FTC said that some also allegedly used charity credit cards at Hooters restaurants and to buy lingerie at Victoria’s Secret stores.

“Some charities use donations to send children with cancer to Disney World,” said South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond. “In this case, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America used donations to send themselves to Disney World.”

The charities included in the federal court complaint brought by the FTC and all 50 states are Cancer Fund of America in Knoxville, Tennessee; Cancer Support Services, also in Knoxville; The Children’s Cancer Fund of America in Powell, Tennessee; and the Breast Cancer Society in Mesa, Arizona.

Also named in the complaint were Cancer Support Services’ president James Reynolds Sr. and chief financial officer Kyle Effler; Rose Perkins, president of Children’s Cancer Fund of America and Reynolds’ ex-wife; and James Reynolds II, James Sr.’s son and the executive director of the Breast Cancer Society.

According to the FTC, millions of donors — from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. — gave an average of $20. From 2008-2012, donations totaled $187 million. The FTC called the charges “one of the largest actions brought to date by enforcers against charity fraud.”

The FTC said that consumers were allegedly tricked into donating to the four charities through slick websites, direct mail and phone-drive solicitations.

The Children’s Cancer Fund of America and Perkins, as well as Reynolds II, Effler and the Breast Cancer Society, agreed to settle the charges against them, the FTC said. Both charities were also dissolved. Litigation reportedly continues for Reynolds Sr. and the Cancer Fund of America, as well as Cancer Support Services.

ABC News’ requests for comment were not returned.

On its website, the Breast Cancer Society posted: “While the organization, its officers and directors have not been found guilty of any allegations of wrong doing, and the government has not proven otherwise, our Board of Directors has decided that it does not help those who we seek to serve, and those who remain in need, for us to engage in a highly publicized, expensive, and distracting legal battle around our fundraising practices.”

“I’m pleased that the FTC and our state partners are acting to end this appalling scheme,” Rich said.

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Housing Starts Help to Push Dow to Record High

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Housing numbers helped to fuel the Dow to close at another record high on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,312.39 on Tuesday, up 13.51 from its open.

The Nasdaq however fell by 8.40 to close at 5,070.03. The S&P 500 was also down 8.40, to finish the session at a close of 2,127.83.

Tuesday was the first four day win for the Dow since early February.

There’s a good chance there’s a home under construction in your neighborhood.  Housing starts jumped more than 20 percent last month, the biggest increase in nearly eight years.

Duke Energy plans to build a $750 million natural gas plant to replace its troubled coal-fired facility in Asheville, North Carolina.  The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is turning to cleaner energy to generate electricity.

The State Department said on Tuesday that Cuba is establishing a relationship with a bank in Florida, clearing another obstacle as the U.S. and Cuba continue to normalize diplomatic ties.

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Takata Corp. Declares Nearly 34 Million Airbags Defective, Agrees to Recall

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

welcomia/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Takata Corporation, a leading global supplier of automotive systems, announced Tuesday that an estimated 33.8 million cars will be recalled due to defective airbags manufactured by a Takata subsidiary.

This is the largest recall of a consumer product in U.S. history, followed by the 1982 Tylenol recall of 31 million bottles of the pain reliever after a poisoning scare.

Takata’s airbags have been at the center of controversy with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after the company’s airbags were linked to at least five deaths, and more than 100 injuries, according to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Takata has dodged liability of these claims until now. The admission that the airbags were defective is a big win for NHTSA, which has been pursuing the company and demanding it take responsibility since November.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which presents a clear path forward to advancing safety and restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public,” Shigehisa Takada, chairman and CEO of Takata Corporation, said in a statement Tuesday.

When an airbag deploys with too much force, it can propel potentially hazardous debris — the reason linked to Takata’s recall. Officials said they believe the problem is directly related to airbags having too much exposure to high humidity and moisture, though Takata has not identified the core cause of the defect, Foxx said.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind praised Takata for taking responsibility and said that the company is “taking a significant step forward.”

Rosekind also said motorists should continue driving their cars, but also look online to see if a car’s VIN number falls under the recall list. If it does, an individual must immediately take their car to their original dealership to get a replacement airbag. They can check their car’s VIN online at

However, while officials believe Takata’s remedy airbags are “safer,” they aren’t sure they are safe enough for the long-haul, Rosekind said, noting that NHTSA will begin working with Takata to test the new airbags. He also said that some car owners may have to go back to have a second airbag replaced, should the new one not be up to par.

The scope of the problem is “not only large, but also very complex, and NHTSA will do its best to provide clarity to consumers,” Rosekind added.

Takata said in March it had boosted production of 450,000 replacement kits per month, up from 350,000 in December, and expects to be producing approximately 900,000 kits per month by September. Takata said it is “confident that newer inflators and those not exposed to prolonged humidity and heat are safe.” Takata said it is also working with other suppliers to further increase the availability of replacement kits for its automotive customers.

Eleven automakers have been affected by the defective products and are expected to release recalls to their customers, and also more information on how many of their cars have been affected.

In April, NHTSA estimated that 12 million vehicles may be affected by potentially defective Takata airbags, and levied about $14,000 a day in civil penalties against Takata for failing to respond to requests for information.

To date, the penalties have accumulated to over $1 million, Rosekind said, but those penalties have been temporarily suspended until they know what the plan is going forward.

Everyone’s ultimate goal is to make sure “that every American gets a safer airbag as soon as possible,” Rosekind said.

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Takata Declares Largest Ever US Recall Over Air Bag Defects

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

welcomia/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on Tuesday that at the Department’s insistence, air bag manufacturer Takata has acknowledged that a defect exists in its air bag inflators and it will recall nearly 34 million vehicles.

Takata has agreed to a national recall of certain types of driver and passenger side air bag inflators, which were made with a propellant that can degrade over time and has led to ruptures that have been blamed for six deaths worldwide
Secretary Foxx also announced that the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Consent Order to the manufacturer, which requires the company to cooperate in all future regulatory actions that NHTSA undertakes in its ongoing investigation of Takata.

“Today is a major step forward for public safety,” Foxx said. “The Department of Transportation is taking the proactive steps necessary to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible, and that the highest risks are addressed first. We will not stop our work until every air bag is replaced.”

The actions on Tuesday will expand regional recalls of Takata passenger-side inflators, which have been limited to areas of the country with high humidity, to nationwide recalls involving more than 16 million vehicles.

They also expand the current nationwide recall of driver-side inflators to more than 17 million vehicles.

The Department has established a new website for drivers — — to provide regular updates on the status of the Takata recall.

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Sneak Peek of Disneyland’s New Fireworks Spectacular, ‘Disneyland Forever’

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(ANAHEIM, Calif.) — Disneyland resort is just days away from unveiling a brand-new fireworks spectacular.

On May 22, “Disneyland Forever” will debut and ABC News got an exclusive look at the preparations that have been underway for weeks.

Watch  below as John Addis, show director of Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, takes viewers into the park after closing to explain why mapping and color correction are so important to getting the show just right for guests.

The show has a total of 25 video projectors. Addis said one goal of Disneyland Forever was to bring the traditional fireworks display down to the people.

“Not only is this a fireworks show,” said Joseph Peters, technical director of Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, “but there are multiple other elements involved. There’s smoke effects and lighting effects.”

“We’re getting closer and progress is being made,” said Peters. “The hardest part is the early steps when it’s just baby steps and you don’t see a lot going on, but now things are all coming together and we’re really looking forward to the opening day when our guests get to view this brand-new fireworks extravaganza.”

Watch Good Morning America on Thursday at 7 a.m. ET with Jesse Palmer live from Disneyland.

Editor’s note: Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

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Why Google and Apple Don’t Want to Give Law Enforcement the Master Key to Your Data

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Google, Apple and Facebook are among the biggest names in technology that have signed an open letter to President Obama Tuesday asking him to reject back doors that could allow law enforcement to access encrypted data.

Posted online by New America’s Open Technology Institute, the letter asks the government to stay out of encrypted data in computers and mobile devices — or risk undermining information security. It was also signed by dozens of cyber security experts and trade groups.

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

“We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology,” the letter said.

By giving the government the master key to decode encrypted data, the signatories said it could leave billions of people vulnerable to cyber criminals and deal a detrimental blow to information security.

Apple last year announced it would turn on encryption for iOS 8 by default, meaning law enforcement would have to have a person’s passcode to access any data on an iPhone. Google’s Android Lollipop also offers users the chance to opt-in to encrypt their data.

FBI Director James Comey told Congress last year he was concerned that smartphone data could become inaccessible in key cases, even with a court order, making it difficult to catch criminals.

The signatories of the letter asked Obama to reject any proposals to insert a back door into their operating systems and threw their support behind a December 2013 report from the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies calling for an increase in the use of encryption.

By protecting data, they said “such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad.”

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Housing Starts Surge to Fastest Pace Since 2007

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New housing construction surged by 20 percent in April, ramping up to its fastest pace in more than seven years.

“Housing starts were up to the highest they’ve been since November of 2007 at an annual rate of 1.14 million,” says David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

Crowe says the slow-moving single-family homes jumped nearly 17 percent and the more volatile apartment sector was up 31 percent.

Some of the surge, according to Crowe, could be making up for a poor start to the year.

“The first quarter, particularly February, March, was probably driven down by bad weather,” Crowe said. “But I do think it also is a general indication that the consumer is coming back into the market.”

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Madonna Expanding Her Hard Candy Fitness Brand

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Madonna is expanding her Hard Candy Fitness brand to include retail products, Billboard reports.

Hard Candy Fitness, which currently has boutique gyms in eight cities across the globe, has announced a partnership with merchandising and licensing company Epic Rights. The deal aims to bring the Hard Candy Fitness lifestyle to those who may not have access to the brand’s gyms.

“We wanted to bring the brand to the public so if they never have a chance to join a Hard Candy Fitness club, they can still experience the Hard Candy Fitness workout wherever they are, and have the best-in-class tools,” Dan Levin, head of Epic Rights’ Celebrity & Lifestyle division, tells Billboard. “As Madonna is to music, pop culture and fashion, we believe Hard Candy Fitness will be the preeminent symbol for a fit, healthy and luxury-infused lifestyle.”

Epic Rights will reveal more details about the deal at the 2015 Licensing Expo in Las Vegas June 9 to 11.

Madonna founded Hard Candy Fitness in 2009. In February, the brand launched a 20-week dance class series at the Broadway Dance Center in New York, inspired by the pop icon’s choreography.

The brand currently has gym locations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia; Santiago, Chile and Sydney, Australia; as well as in Mexico City, Rome, Berlin and Toronto. The company reportedly plans to expand to more locations, including in the U.S., in the near future.

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NHTSA Orders Fiat Chrysler to Hearing Over Recalls

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

File photo. Fiat Chrysler(WASHINGTON) — NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind announced on Monday an upcoming public hearing to gather information on Fiat Chrysler’s performance in 20 recalls affecting over 10 million vehicles on the road.

Rosekind said NHTSA has concerns issues with Fiat Chrysler’s performance in these recalls, including slow completion rates, slow notifications, faulty remedies, and improper actions by dealers.

“These defects are responsible for fires, loss of vehicle control, unintended airbag deployment, fuel leak, and door latch failures. They include recalls of defective Takata airbag inflators, and of vehicles with vulnerable fuel tanks that are responsible for fatal fires,” Rosekind said in a conference call on Monday.

According to NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler has recalled only 21 percent of the total number of Jeep vehicles with vulnerable fuel tanks, and did not greatly increase the speed of the recall after NHTSA sent a letter to the Fiat Chrysler CEO saying they needed to implement “significantly more aggressive steps” to complete the recall.

The hearing will be held on July 2, and will include witnesses from NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler, and members of the public.

If NHTSA determines the company fell short of its legal obligations, they could order a buyback or replacement of defective vehicles.

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Wall Street Again Smashes Records

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The markets once again closed at record highs to start out the trading week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,298.88 on Monday, up 26.32 from its open, a new record high.

The Nasdaq rose by 30.15 to close at 5,078.44. The S&P 500 was up by 6.47, to finish the session at a record close of 2,129.20.

Acquisitions announced on Monday helped to fuel some buying. The Ascena Retail Group is buying the owner of Ann Taylor and Loft stores in a deal valued at more than $2 Billion. Ascena’s brands include Lane Bryant, and Dress Barn.

Apple rose 1 percent after investor Carl Icahn called for the tech giant to increase its buy back of shares.

Endo International of Dublin, Ireland announced on Monday that it will acquire Par Pharmaceutical of Chestnut Ridge, New York as it continues to expand its footprint in the generic drug market.

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Summer Air Travel Projected to be Biggest Ever

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Travelers may want to leave extra time before heading to the airport this summer.

Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for airlines, released a forecast on Monday that summer air travel will rise to its highest level ever this year.  

A4A projects approximately 222 million passengers, or 2.4 million per day, are expected to fly on U.S. airlines from June 1 – Aug. 31, up 4.5 percent from 2014.

That number includes 31 million travelers, 332,000 per day, on international flights – also a record high.

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Samsung Phases Out Wallet in Favor of Samsung Pay

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

CNET/YouTube(NEW YORK) — Samsung Wallet is shutting down as the company prepares to make way for Samsung Pay.

The South Korean electronics company notified users of Samsung Wallet, a passbook for loyalty cards and coupons, that it will be phased out on June 30.

“We have tried to make Samsung Wallet a successful service that would help users throughout their daily lives and help our partners reach their customers in new ways,” a message on the Samsung Wallet website said. “Unfortunately, the usage rate of Samsung Wallet was not what anyone expected.”

Samsung said its Apple Pay rival, called Samsung Pay, will debut sometime this summer. The company hasn’t provided a release date. However, the payments system builds on LoopPay technology that Samsung gained when it acquired the payment company in February.

While Apple Pay requires participating merchants to have Near Field Communication readers, Samsung said its contact-less payments system can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted, allowing users to simply swipe their phone at the point of purchase to make a payment.

Samsung said it plans to introduce Samsung Pay first in the United States and South Korea.

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Going S’mores Crazy This Summer

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Stefanie Tuder/ABC(NEW YORK) — Other than the warming weather, another big indication that summer is coming is the proliferation of s’mores-flavored treats hitting the market. While Starbucks debuted a S’mores Frappuccino flavor a few weeks back, Monday, the much-rumored S’mores Oreos were announced.

So how do these campfire flavored-treats stack up to the real thing? The ABC News team tasted both to find out.

The Cookies:

Though it may not be the official name, it’s way more fun to call these cookies “S’moreos.” With a graham-flavored outside and crème and chocolate center, the core tastes of a traditional s’more are almost all there.

“Smooth, creamy and not too sweet,” one taster said of her initial thoughts.

“It gives you all of the awesome classic s’more flavor without the sticky mess,” another marveled, followed by her wondering how the cookies would “fare in the toaster oven.”

Which leads to the most lacking part of the s’moreos: none of that burnt, campfire flavor.

“It was missing the campfire, the smoky toasted marshmallow taste,” one complained.

Another agreed, “You miss that burnt part and the warmth.”

One taster only saw it as an upside, though: “Though you can’t really compete with the gooey chocolate and burnt marshmallows between graham crackers you make over a bonfire in your back yard, this is probably as close as we’ll get in the city.”

All in all, people liked the cookies — which hit shelves for a limited time on May 22 — as standalones, but when compared to an actual s’more, they didn’t quite stand up to the original.

The Frappuccino:

Unfortunately there was even less s’more flavor in the frap.

“It doesn’t taste like a s’more because the coffee Is overpowering anything that could be identified as a s’more,” one taster complained, but quickly followed it up by saying, “But it’s really good.”

That was the overwhelming consensus: that the drink tasted just like a regular Frappuccino.

“It tastes more like a mocha with whipped cream to me. I definitely get the coffee flavor, but I don’t really taste the other elements, such as the toasted marshmallow or the graham cracker.”

That being said, everyone enjoyed the drink.

“I want this to be my staple caffeine drink every day of my life. Please tell me the calorie count is low!”

Sorry, but the drink clocks in at 500 calories for a grande (compared to around 140 for one real s’more).

Today’s takeaway? Though the S’mores Frappuccino and S’mores Oreos were enjoyed by all, when you want a s’more — make a real one.

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Tim Cook Knocks Android in George Washington University Graduation Speech

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Stephen Lam/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement speech at George Washington University over the weekend and used the opportunity to take a swipe at Android.

“Before I begin today, they’ve asked me to make a standard announcement … about silencing your phones,” Cook told graduates.

“So those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode. If you don’t have an iPhone, please pass it to the center aisle,” he said. “Apple has a world-class recycling program.”

Aside from his Android jab, Cook used the opportunity to challenge graduates to make a difference in the world.

“At Apple, we believe the work should be more than just improving your own self. It is about improving the lives of others as well,” Cook said.

“I took the job and changed my life,” he said. “It has been 17 years and I have never once looked back.”

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When Airbnb Deal Goes Sour

Posted on: May 17th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) — Poonam Sandhu says she has been living in an absolute nightmare for more than a month.

On April 1, the Santa Cruz, California, homeowner started renting out her back master bedroom to a couple on Airbnb, the rent-a-room service.

Sandhu, 33, said the couple paid for two weeks. But when the third week arrived, she said, the couple told her they were waiting for a paycheck and asked to pay her with cash day to day. Sandhu said that because things had been going well, she agreed.

“I trusted in humanity,” Sandhu told ABC News on Saturday. “I had no reason not to trust them.”

She said the couple fought with each other behind their bedroom door and used her possessions. By the end of April, Sandhu said the couple was paying off and on. By May, they’d stopped paying anything.

After police had to come and break up yet another fight, Sandhu said she’d had enough and told the couple to leave. Sandhu, who was no longer under Airbnb insurance protections, said the couple refused.

“They started to sprawl themselves all over the place,” said Sandhu, who added eight surveillance cameras in her home as well as automated locks to alert her to the couple’s comings and goings.

She said her home had been without water for three to four days because the pipes were clogged. “This is my home,” she said. “It’s bad.”

A California lawyer said tenants were given great protections under state law.

“Once someone’s been inside your house for more than 30 days, they’re considered a tenant,” lawyer Leo B. Siegel said. “They’re entitled to 30 days’ notice before you can even file the lawsuit.”

Airbnb said in a statement to ABC News: “We strongly encourage hosts to only book through Airbnb,” which Sandhu did for the first two weeks.

The company also said that it was working on changes to its policies to financially penalize anyone who overstays an Airbnb reservation. Experts also suggested that hosts do background checks on potential guests.

For Sandhu, her home became a maximum-security prison. She said she offered to get the couple a hotel but they turned her down.

Finally, she offered to pay them more than $1,000 to leave. They accepted her offer.

“It’s scary,” she said. “All these things I’m learning the hard way. … I know a lot better now.”

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Under Armour Apologizes for ‘Band of Ballers’ Design

Posted on: May 16th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Under Armour(NEW YORK) — Under Armour is now apologizing for a t-shirt design called, “Band of Ballers,” resembling the iconic picture of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.

The famous Associated Press photo has servicemen raising a flag at Iwo Jima during World War II, but the company’s own design substituted the flag for a basketball hoop and the servicemen for basketball players.

Under Armour apologized on Twitter with three separate tweets after critics took to social media to accuse the company of being disrespectful to veterans.

“We deeply regret and apologize the release of a shirt that is not reflective of our commitment to support and honor our country’s heroes,” Under Armour said in one tweet.

In another tweet the company said they were working to stop the sale of the shirt and wanted to “ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

“Under Armour has the utmost respect and admiration for active duty service men and women and veterans who have served our country,” said the company in a tweet.

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