Amazon Gets FAA Approval to Test Delivery Drones, But There’s a Catch

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

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Amazon’s dream of drone delivery has been cleared for testing by the Federal Aviation Administration, however the small victory for the retailer comes with plenty of restrictions.

The FAA issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to Amazon on Thursday that will allow the company to begin testing its fleet of delivery drones outdoors. Amazon had previously been testing them inside its Washington facility.

Under the new ruling, Amazon will be able to fly its drones outside for the purpose of “research and development and crew training.”

The certificate comes with several strings attached that limit Amazon’s full-fledged ambitions.

During tests, the FAA will require the drones to remain within sight of the pilot — who must also have a minimum of a private pilot’s certificate, the federal agency said.

The drones will only be allowed to fly during the daytime and only in clear weather conditions. They’ll also have to stay at 400-feet or below, according to the FAA.

Amazon will also be held to strict reporting requirements and must send monthly reports to the FAA on the number of flights conducted, how long pilots flew and any malfunctions or deviations from air traffic controllers’ instructions.

Last month, the FAA released a set of proposed rules for drones that seemed to shoot down Amazon’s aerial ambitions. While the new license is a small victory, Amazon still has a long way to go until it can realize its dream of a drone network that delivers packages in 30 minutes or less.

Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, said in a statement to ABC News last month that the company was “committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”

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The Quest to Save the First Taco Bell from Demolition

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

Taco Bell(DOWNEY, Calif.) — It’s weird to think of Taco Bell as a cultural icon. But, reality is — whether good or bad — that fast food chains are as much a part of the fabric and history of the United States as any other element.

So with that in mind, Taco Bell is working under a looming deadline to save its original location from being destroyed.

“When we first heard about the demolition, we were kind of in disbelief,” Taco Bell public relations manager and newsroom editor Matt Prince told ABC News. “We wanted to figure out a way how we could learn more about the situation and get as involved as possible.”

Founded in 1962 by Glen Bell in Downey, California, Taco Bell first set up shop in a 400-square-foot building with arched entryways and a namesake metal bell on the top. There was no room for seating; customers ordered from a counter and ate on the go.

From that prime location in a booming town on a busy street, Taco Bell quickly grew to nine locations within two years, then 100 within five years. After being sold to PepsiCo in 1978, the chain shut down some outdated locations, including the original.

Since then, the building has been the home to two other taquerias, but the property owner decided the land had more value than it was getting, and planned to demolish the building to place a higher value on the land. That’s when the Downey Conservancy got word of the owner’s plans and worked to save the building.

“The building holds a lot of value for Downey and its own personal history, but I think it also holds a lot of value for America and its cultural history and how things were playing out in the mid-20th century,” Downey Conservancy board member Katie Rispoli told ABC News. “Downey was built out around the automobile during this important time period for American culture when Americans were obsessed with cars. It all sort of developed this cultural phenomenon for fast food, and Downey quickly was becoming fast food USA.”

To save the institution, Taco Bell contracted non-profit community organization We Are the Next, of which Rispoli also heads up, to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the building could be moved, how much it would cost and if there is anything wrong structurally.

“I don’t think there’s any question whether or not the building physically can be moved; it’s a very simple process” Rispoli, who recused herself from Downey Conservancy decisions around the project, said. “The questions of if we can do it is more so of how do we need to cooperate with regulatory agencies to make this happen, would we be working with the city of Downey, would we have time to buy land before the building faces demolition, if we do buy land, is it going to be in Downey or somewhere near Downey? So we have a lot of factors we’re considering right now.”

The study is not concluding for another six or so weeks, so there are currently still more questions than answers on the project.

“Whether it’s used for another Taco Bell or as a museum or as community space we don’t know,” Prince said. “That’s the fun conversation we get to brainstorm about now. That’s the next question.”

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ABC News Ordered a Fake Apple Watch from China and This Is What We Got

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

ABC NewsBy BOB WOODRUFF

(NEW YORK) — China is a country where you can find almost anything.

There’s a good chance that if you want it then it is being manufactured in some factory or put together by one of its 1.3 billion citizens. So when I was in Beijing last week I assumed that we could find Apple’s Watch well before it’s officially released.

With our research we found good news and bad news. The good news was that we did find a watch that looks like an official Apple Watch with the same color and shape. The bad news was it is a counterfeit. A knock-off. A fake.

I learned about this because the story was being told in newspapers.

We heard there were two possible knock-offs. One called Ai Watch and the other called the D-Watch. We were told that we could buy one of them in a few stores but we took the easier route to buy online from a company called Taobao.

It is like eBay and Amazon put together. But this company is owned by Alibaba, which is growing fast. With our ABC Visa card our associate producer ordered one last Thursday when I was about to board the plane heading home to New York. In a perfect world I could have bought it online and had them mail it directly to my office in the U.S. But no. Taobao could only send it to an address in China. So when our Beijing team got it they had to send it here, where I got the chance to open it.

What can I say? The differences between the real one and the fake one are huge. On the knock-off there is a screen, but not a touch screen. If you expect an iPhone on your wrist then please just give up. According to the instructions you can use Bluetooth to connect to your phone but only with Android. No chance you can connect to any Apple devices.

So if you want to brag and show off then go ahead and buy one of these. They are much cheaper. We bought ours for $47 instead of the $350 for a real one. It could look good on your wrist but only from afar. Keep it away from the eyes of your friends.

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Exclusive: Inside Apple’s Top Secret Lab for Apple Watch Development

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

ABC News(CUPERTINO, Calif.) — Apple, known for keeping its product developments under the strictest of lock-and-key, gave ABC News exclusive access into its top secret health and fitness lab, where only Apple employees became test subjects for the new Apple Watch.

Apple engineers, managers and developers have been secretly volunteering for the past year in this state-of-the-art lab to participate in rowing, running, yoga and many more fitness activities in order to collect data for the Apple Watch’s inner workings.

“[The employees] knew they were testing something, but they didn’t know it was for the Apple Watch,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations. “We hooked them up with all the masks and so forth, but we would put on an Apple Watch covered up.”

Apple Watch was first unveiled last September and it’s slated to be in stores next month. Ranging in price from $349 for the Apple Watch Sport to $17,000 for the 18-carat gold Apple Watch Edition, the watch contains a “health kit,” which can track everything from your heart rate, calories burned, distance walked and how much the user stands per day.

The lab, Blahnik said, also used “climate chambers,” to have fitness participants test the watch in different environments, and then they would actually have employees go to different places around the world.

“We have traveled to Alaska and gone to Dubai to really test Apple Watch in all those environments, but we also wanted to be able to have a controlled environment here where we could see those extremes,” he said.

Dr. Michael McConnell, a professor in cardiovascular medicine who also directs Apple’s cardiovascular health innovation program, said the Apple Watch will be a game changer in cardiovascular technology.

“We can use the power of something that they carry with them every day to help with measurements and surveys,” he said. “I think it is offering us a new way to do medical research.”

The more a user wears the Apple Watch, the more health data it can collect, and over time, Blahnik said that can be a powerful force in the fitness tech market.

“I think we’ve amassed already what may be one of the world’s largest pieces of data on fitness,” he said. “Our view is, we’re just beginning. We think there’s a lot to this fitness thing…the impact on health could be profound.”

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Parents Would Dip into Retirement Savings, Go into Heavy Debt for College-Bound Kids

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In a perfect world, every parent would have enough money on hand to make sure that their children can get a college education. But that’s the kind of fairy tale that doesn’t even happen in the movies.

In reality, the average college loan debt is approaching $30,000 and some graduates are still paying it off well into their 20s and 30s while some never get out from under it.

With that in mind, the investment firm T. Rowe Price surveyed 2,000 parents who own a retirement account and have children ages 15 and younger to find out how far they’d go to keep crushing loan debt off the backs of their kids.

Children, you’ve got some good folks in your corner because 53 percent told T. Rowe Price they’d sooner take money out of their retirement accounts than put their youngsters in the position of taking out loans.

Meanwhile, almost half said they’d delay retirement in order to pay for their kids’ tuition while 51 percent would go as far as take a second job or work part-time to do the same.

When it comes to putting themselves in a financial hole, parents are basically saying “Bring it on!”

Nine percent claimed they would borrow “whatever it takes” to pay for the child’s college education while 55 percent said they’d borrow $25,000 or more and 23 percent would take on $75,000 or more in debt.

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SeaWorld Names New President and CEO

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

Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) — SeaWorld Entertainment named its new president and CEO on Thursday, selecting Joel Manby, formerly president and CEO of Herschend Enterprises, the largest family-owned theme park and entertainment company in the U.S.

Manby, 55, will assume the dual roles on April 7 and will also join the company’s Board of Directors. David D’Alessandro, who had served as interim CEO, will continue to serve as chairman.

SeaWorld has experienced attendance and revenue dropoffs since the release of Blackfish, a documentary portraying the company’s treatment of killer whales, in 2013.

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Target Reaches Settlement to Pay Customers Who Suffered Loss in 2013 Data Breach

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

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Target reached a settlement to pay up to $10,000 to any customer who can document a loss caused by the 2013 data breach at Target stores.

The settlement was approved at a Thursday-morning hearing at a federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota. On Wednesday night, a Target spokesperson told ABC News that the company was “pleased to see the process moving forward and look forward to its resolution.”

The Washington Post reports that individual shoppers will have to prove they endured losses from the breach. While up to 70 million had personal information such as addresses and phone numbers stolen, it was not immediately clear how many had suffered financial loss as a result.

Target also said it would implement a training program to ensure employees know the proper security practices and periodically review safeguards.

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Stocks Fall Back After Wednesday’s Gains, Unemployment Claims Down from Last Week

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

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After a day of big gains Wednesday, Wall Street closed a bit lower on Thursday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 117.16 to dip back below 18,000 and finish the day at 17,959.03.

The Nasdaq ended the session up 9.55 at 4,992.38, while the S&P 500 slipped 10.23 to 2,089.27.

Thursday was Apple’s first day trading on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The company replaced AT&T on the index on Thursday, but its stock dropped one dollar on the day.

Unemployment claims dropped by 1,000 from last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. 291,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance, bringing the four-week moving average up 2,250 to 304,750.

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Tesla Makes It Impossible to Run Out of Charge

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

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed on Thursday how the electric car company is making it impossible for drivers to ever run out of charge.

A software update for “range assurance” will allow existing Tesla vehicles to communicate every 30 seconds or so with superchargers, alerting the driver if they’re in danger of going out of range.

Musk said it is “basically impossible” to run out of charge on a Tesla with the new software infrastructure.

“You have intelligent charging stations and an intelligent car communicating in a big network. That has never existed before,” Musk said during a conference call with reporters.

The second software update will allow Tesla drivers to optimize their road trips to ensure they have the “most convenient route” to their destination, Musk said.

That includes pit stops along the way where drivers may stop at a hotel or restaurant and use a Tesla supercharger while grabbing a bite to eat.

Musk also teased other features Tesla drivers can expect to see in the future and revealed how the high end electric cars are pretty much able to go from parking lot to parking lot without a driver ever having to touch the controls.

On a test route from San Francisco to Seattle, Musk said a Tesla driver barely touched any controls during the 800-mile trip.

“[It's] technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot but we won’t be enabling that for users with this hardware sweep because we don’t think its likely to be safe in suburban neighborhoods,” Musk said. “It will only be enabled once you’re on a highway or major road.”

Even then, he said, there will be an expectation that drivers will still pay attention to the road instead of taking a nap.

Another feature Tesla drivers can look forward to is called “summon,” which can be used on private property to have a Tesla drive itself to you or put itself to sleep in the garage.

Musk also revealed Tesla drivers can look forward to a valet mode that will limit speed, torque and will protect confidential information when a driver puts their car in someone else’s care.

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Why Spring Cleaning Your Email Inbox Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Spring is around the corner — marking the perfect time to not only clean your home, but also to tidy up your email inbox. That doesn’t mean holding down the delete button until you reach inbox zero.

Email pack rats know what a time suck it is to sift through thousands of messages to find a spreadsheet or the place where you are supposed to meet a business contact for dinner. Searching is possible — but even then that often yields a slew of email clutter.

“All of us use folders and that means I have to spend time figuring out which mail goes in which folder,” Ravin Carr, chief commercial officer at GBS, told ABC News. “These are the unproductive tasks we do with email every day.”

GBS unveiled a new tool for Outlook last month called FewClix that Carr said he uses to find any email he needs in a matter of seconds — an impressive feat considering he said he has more than 90,000 messages in his inbox and doesn’t use folders.

The free version of FewClix integrates into Outlook and offers an easy search solution, allowing users to fill in multiple search fields, including sender, subject, content type and date.

The result is a pared down trove of messages that removes the feeling of the email time suck — and provides an easy way to make sure you’ve answered every email from your boss.

Few Clix Pro comes loaded with more features for $2.99 a year, including the ability to create thousands of super-specific virtual folders that don’t clutter the user interface.

“In the real folder world I can’t do this,” Carr said. “I’ll have thousands of folders and go crazy.”

The bottom line, Carr said, is that people spend hours in their email inbox when they could really be shaving off minutes that could be put to use doing something more enjoyable.

“We want people to reduce the amount of time they spend on email and use it on things that improve their lives,” he said.

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ABC News Investigation Uncovers Hundreds of New Vehicles Across US Sold with Open Safety Recalls

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Each year nearly 17 million new cars are sold in the United States — and according to federal law, those cars are supposed to be free of potential safety defects, including recalls. But an ABC News investigation has confirmed that several hundred vehicles from various automakers were sold with open recalls at over 100 dealerships across the United States. Most of those sales occurred just in the second part of 2014.

So GMA Investigates went undercover to several new car dealerships in New York and New Jersey to find out if new cars with open recalls might be sold to an ABC News producer. When asked specifically about open recalls, some salespeople checked and told the producer that the vehicles did, in fact, have recalls.

Another salesperson told ABC News that the cars had no recalls, when a simple computer check would have disclosed an open safety recall. The ABC News producer spoke with a salesman named Arnie at Hawthorne Chevrolet, in Hawthorne, New Jersey, regarding the purchase of a brand new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. Before arriving at the dealership, ABC News identified a potentially dangerous open safety recall on the vehicle — some vehicles can shift into neutral unexpectedly, losing power in the middle of traffic, for example. But when the producer asked Arnie about open recalls on the nearly $50,000 vehicle, he said there were none.

“Absolutely not,” Arnie told the ABC News producer. ABC News is choosing not to use Arnie’s last name.

Although car salespeople like Arnie are not legally required to inform customers about the recall, the dealership is required by law to fix the recall issue before it is sold. So, the producer gave Arnie a $500 purchase deposit on the vehicle over the phone — and returned two days later to finish the sale.

After driving off the dealership lot with his newly purchased truck, the ABC News producer, along with ABC News Correspondent Gio Benitez, checked the truck’s VIN number on the General Motors website and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) database to see if the recall had, in fact, been fixed by the Hawthorne Chevrolet dealership.

“There it is, 2014 Chevy Silverado. Recall incomplete,” Benitez said as he read the GM website results. “The customer would experience a loss of motive power which could increase the risk of a crash. That’s a serious recall that needs to be fixed.”

A loss of motive power means a vehicle can unexpectedly shift into neutral.

So GMA Investigates returned to Hawthorne Chevrolet for an explanation.

“You sold [our producer] this car and you said there were no recalls on it. But in fact there are recalls on it. In fact a very serious one,” Benitez said.

Arnie expressed surprise that there was a recall on the truck.

“I have to check it out and see. I wasn’t aware,” Arnie answered.

But Benitez wanted to know why Arnie told the producer there was no recall, if he was not sure.

“Why did you say though that there wasn’t a recall?” Benitez asked.

“I don’t remember even talking about that,” Arnie answered.

Benitez then played video footage for Arnie, taken on the producer’s undercover cameras. After viewing video where he said the truck has no recalls, Arnie admitted his error to Benitez.

“When you get a new car it’s always supposed to have all the recalls…to be taken care of,” Arnie said. “And I made a mistake I guess. But I’ll follow up from now on, on all the cars.”

In a statement to ABC News, the president of Hawthorne Chevrolet said: “We have realized that our failure was tied exclusively to human error…From now on we will be cross-checking serial numbers with our service records, prior to delivery, to ensure that each vehicle has been properly tended to.”

General Motors, the manufacturer of the Chevrolet Silverado, told ABC News it “instructs its dealers to complete all open recalls on new and used vehicles prior to sale and delivery to customer.”

NHTSA, the government agency responsible for policing new car dealers on open safety recalls, has fined only two dealerships in 2014 for not adhering to federal law.

NHTSA declined an on-camera interview with ABC News but told GMA Investigates, “Selling a new vehicle that is under recall but has not been remedied is a violation of the law and a risk to public safety. There is no excuse for dealers to sell new vehicles while under recall, and NHTSA has penalized dealers who have failed to meet their safety responsibilities, including two in just the last six months. Anyone with information about dealers selling new cars with safety defects should provide that information to NHTSA so we can investigate and hold dealers accountable for any violations. We also hope that Congress will act soon to provide the same legal protection to used car buyers and rental car customers that the law now extends to new car buyers.”

National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which represents nearly 16,000 new car and truck dealerships around the world, told GMA Investigates, “While we do not comment on how the law may apply to individual situations, auto retailers should comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and operate their businesses in accord with the highest standards.”

ABC News discussed some of its findings from the investigation with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, who sits on the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection.

“Senator, we found hundreds and hundreds of new cars that have recalls on them. And guess what? They were sold,” Benitez revealed.

“Yeah — and that’s just wrong,” Markey responded.

Markey, who says the law barring dealers from selling new cars with open recalls is not enough on its own, said NHTSA needs to do more to enforce it.

“NHTSA has 51 people on its enforcement team. We have a couple of producers looking at this — and we pulled up hundreds and hundreds of cars with these issues,” Benitez said. “Why can’t NHTSA?”

“NHTSA should have done this work,” Markey answered. “It shouldn’t take an investigation by ABC to find this problem.”

Customers shopping for a new car can do their own investigating to help protect themselves from such recalls, by checking their car’s VIN number on NHTSA’s database or the car manufacturer’s website.

Customers can also check their car’s VIN number for free on the MyCarFax mobile application. The application allows customers to plug a license plate or VIN number into the CarFax database to locate any open recalls on the car. It will also alert customers in the case of a future recall.

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This 106-Acre Florida Island Could Be Your Dream Home

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

Courtesy of Michael Saunders & Company(TAMPA BAY, Fla.) — Your dream of owning your own tropical island oasis can now be a reality if you have a knack for bargaining.

The owners of Little Bokeelia Island, a 104-acre island south of the Tampa Bay, Florida, area, are looking for an immediate sale of their slice of paradise, meaning all offers are being considered.

A representative from Michael Saunders & Company, which is leading the sale, tells ABC News the owners have developed and enjoyed the 104-acre island for 26 years, but are looking to immediately sell it so they can focus on a Christian ministry they work with.

Your new island getaway comes complete with a four-bedroom villa, a three-bedroom guest wing, and enough land and amenities to build 28 additional home sites for all your friends and family.

The owners are serious about considering all offers, even though the island is currently listed at $24.5 million. They don’t even have a minimum figure requested.

A $100,000 security deposit can get you a personal tour of the island, lunch included. Offers will be considered until April 30.

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Tax Tip: Getting the Premium Tax Credit from the Affordable Care Act

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — If you bought into the Affordable Care Act, you may end up paying some money back when filing your tax return.

“If you bought health coverage through the federal or state health insurance marketplace, chances are you signed up to get some of that help in advance through advanced payments of what we call the Premium Tax Credit,” says Eric Smith, spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service.

Smith says those who got the tax credit may have wrongly estimated their 2014 earnings — meaning they’ll have to reconcile the cost, either paying more or receiving a tax credit.

“Some people may find they got an advanced payment that was not as much as they actually qualified for, and others maybe a little more,” said Smith. “Some are going to be a little up. Some are going to be a little down.”

Anyone who purchased government-backed health care and didn’t claim the Premium Tax Credit in advance are now eligible to claim it in full.

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FTC Announces Charges Against DirecTV for Allegedly Misleading Customers

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ljhimages/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Federal Trade Commission announced charges against satellite television provider DirecTV on Wednesday, claiming that the company misled its customers on the cost of its programming.

DirecTV allegedly advertised a 12-month programming package without disclosing that the deal required a two-year contract. That contract would increase by $45 per month in the second year, and come with early cancellation fees of $480.

“DirecTV misled consumers about the consumers about the cost of its satellite television services and cancellation fees,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “DirecTV sought to lock customers into longer and more expensive contracts and premium packages that were not adequately disclosed.”

Ramirez called it “a bedrock principle that the key terms of an offer to a consumer must be clear and conspicuous, not hidden in fine print.”

As of December 2013, DirecTV had over 20 million subscribers in the U.S. It is unclear how many users may have been impacted by their allegedly misleading marketing.

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Wall Street Closes with Slight Losses

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A roller-coaster day on Wall Street saw the three major indices post slight losses one day after dramatic drops.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 27.55 to 17,635.39.

The Nasdaq slipped to 4,849.94, down 9.86 from its open, while the S&P 500 closed at 2,040.24, a loss of 3.92.

On Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission announced charges against satellite television provider DirecTV for allegedly misleading customers about the cost of its programming.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee will meet for two days next week. One topic of conversation may be the potential increase of interest rates. For months, the Fed has said it would be “patient” before increasing rates.

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Google Opens First-Ever Shop in London

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Google(LONDON) — Google is taking a leap into the world of brick-and-mortar retail with its first-ever store within a store.

Located inside of a London Currys PC World store, Google’s branded shop showcases the Internet giant’s products — among them, Android phones, tablets, Chromebook laptops and Chromecast dongles.

The experience is set up in a way that allows consumers to understand how the products can seamlessly work together, according to company officials. Google will also be offering classes at the shop focusing on everything from how to stay safe online to learning how to connect your devices.

“The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years,” James Elias, Google’s marketing director in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.

“With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer; from an incredible range of devices to a totally connected, seamless online life,” he said. “We think it’s a genuinely unique try-before-you-buy experience.”

Moving from the practical to the fun, Google is also offering a Doodle Wall where customers can use digital spray cans to dream up their own Google Doodle, which can then be shared on social media.

A surround screen installation will also allow visitors to soar over any part of the world using Google Earth’s images. Virtual “space camps” will also be offered for children where they can learn more about how to code.

Google plans to open two more shops inside of other Currys PC World locations in the greater London area later this year, company officials said.

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Pepsi Challenge Returns with a Bubbly Twist

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The 40-year-old Pepsi Challenge is back with a vengeance and pulling out all stops when it comes to social media.

This time, a year-long marketing campaign will feature celebrities in sports, music and tech who will hold global and local challenges.

Starting Wednesday, Pepsi says it’s launching its “biggest socially-led, content driven initiative ever.” And, yes, there is a hashtag: #PepsiChallenge.

The historic campaign has long touted that “more people” prefer Pepsi in blind taste tests — that is, more than 50 percent, according to Pepsi.

But Coca-Cola still outranks Pepsi Cola in carbonated soft drink market share: Coke has 17.4 percent, followed by Diet Coke at 9 percent, then Pepsi at 8.9 percent, according to Beverage-Digest’s most recent figures, which was in 2013.

In other words, the cola war is back on with Pepsi’s latest marketing move.

But when it comes to all the soda products of the two companies — not just Pepsi and Coke colas — Coca-Cola holds a commanding 29.5 percent of market share compared to Pepsico’s 20.3 percent, according to an IBISWorld report from November about soda production in the United States.

The U.S. beverage business has faced worsening trends. Sales of carbonated soft drinks, which is the biggest category in the industry, continued to fall with worsening declines through 2013, according to Beverage-Digest’s latest results.

To up the ante in the competitive soda race as many Americans are opting for healthier options like juices, Pepsi not only recruited six “Pepsi Challenge Ambassadors” around the world, but it’s also taking its mission to space.

The company is collaborating with UrtheCast for the world’s first full-color ultra high-definition video camera in space. On the International Space Station (ISS), Pepsi will provide the first, “epic film adventure shot from space.”

The new campaign builds on Pepsi’s past efforts to engage people with the brand, as the company has sporadically resurrected the effort. In the 1980s, Welcome Back, Kotter comedian Gabe Kaplan was a spokesman for the ad campaign.

In 2012, PepsiCo Beverages Canada relaunched the Pepsi Challenge with a big rig truck that toured the country and more than 1,000 events.

Pepsi says that millions of people have participated in a Pepsi Challenge Taste test since its inception.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola declined to comment about the Pepsi Challenge.

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Spring Air Travel to Rise to Seven-Year High, Group Predicts

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Get ready for packed planes if you’re planning to fly this spring.

Airlines For America predicts 134.8 million passengers will take to the skies on U.S. airlines between March 1 and April 30. That amounts to 2.2 million passengers per day and marks the highest level in seven years.

Travelers can thank the improving economy for the potentially longer lines and crammed overhead bins.

In response, airlines are increasing the number of available seats, but only by 3 percent, according to the industry group.

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Girl Scout Cookies Drive-Thru Now Open

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains(NEW YORK) — The Girl Scouts have employed a creative new way for you to get your hands on some Thin Mints and Tagalongs.

Located in both Vermont and New Hampshire, Girl Scout Cookie lovers can roll (or walk) through the makeshift drive-thrus and purchase an unlimited amount of boxes.

“They’ve been selling at banks, roping off drive-thru areas in shopping malls, and parking lots,” says Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains CEO Patricia Mellor. “The girls make up the signs, they are the salespeople but the adults are there to supervise to make sure they’re safe.”

For four more weekends, the troops of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains will be working to reach their goal of 1,265,000 boxes sold.

All cash and major credit cards are accepted, Mellor tells ABC News.

It is unclear how many boxes the girls have sold so far.

“We started our booth sales on Feb. 28,” says Kristel Rigoli, director of sales and marketing. “Ten percent of our booths are drive-thrus, 25 percent of our sales come from booths. What we’re finding is the drive-thru style allows an entire troop to participate and I think its wonderful for the girls.”

The chapter plans to continue drive-thrus as a means for selling cookies for years to come.

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Twitter Is a Reliable Barometer of What Grabs TV Viewers’ Attention

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Twitter has got its finger on the pulse of the nation in a lot of ways, including which television programs are grabbing the audience’s attention.

A new Nielsen study says that when people are tweeting about TV shows, it’s generally a “bellwether for general audience engagement.”

Therefore, the way people are reacting to what they’re seeing in their living rooms is reflected on Twitter and vice versa.

Nielsen’s Neuro division arrived at this finding by attaching brain monitors to 300 viewers to track reactions to eight primetime shows on both broadcast and cable TV. Overall, there was close to an 80 percent correlation between brain activity tracing emotion, memory and attention and Twitter TV activity.

Twitter TV has said for some time that it reflects overall public sentiment. As for the TV industry, this information is useful in order to develop strategies to reach bigger audiences.

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Women Fall Behind Men in Saving for Retirement

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Women in the U.S. are not keeping up with men when it comes to saving for retirement, according to a new poll.

The asset management firm BlackRock surveyed 27,000 investors across the world, about 4,000 of them from the U.S.  In all, the poll found that two-thirds of American working-age men have at least started saving for retirement as opposed to 53 percent of women.

Women ages 54-64 who’ve managed to put away some money have an average of $81,300. Men in that same age group, on the other hand, have saved $118,000.

Another problem women seem to have is that they are more averse to taking investment risks than men and fail to invest for growth.

Among other things, women allocate 68 percent of their portfolios in cash and cash equivalents while 59 percent of men do the same. Meanwhile, fewer than three in ten women would assume higher risks compared to 45 percent of men.

In fairness, most women are at a disadvantage since they are more apt to suspend full-time careers to become a family’s primary caregiver.

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Wikimedia Files Lawsuit Against NSA

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

jcamilobernal/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice for “large-scale search and seizure of internet communications.”

A statement posted to Wikimedia’s blog says that the company is joined by eight other organizations and represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in its lawsuit. “We’re filing suit today on behalf of our readers and editors everywhere,” Wikpedia founder Jimmy Wales said. “Surveillance erodes the original promise of the internet: an open space for collaboration and experimentation, and a place free from fear.”

Wikimedia calls privacy “the bedrock of individual freedom,” calling for the NSA to cease use of “upstream surveillance.”

“By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” Wikimedia Executive Director Lila Tretikov says.

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MoneyMutual to Pay $2.1 Million Penalty for Marketing of Illegal Payday Loans

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

TongRo Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — MoneyMutual will pay a $2.1 million penalty, the New York Department of Financial Services said Tuesday, in connection with the marketing of illegal online payday loans.

Montell Williams, who had endorsed the company, withdrew his endorsement Tuesday. “Using Mr. Williams’ reputation as a trusted celebrity endorser, MoneyMutual marketed loans to struggling consumers with sky-high interest rates,” NYDFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said in a statement. Payday lending is illegal in the state of New York under both civil and criminal statutes, the agency statement noted.

The $2.1 million settlement is the first successful enforcement action against a payday loan “lead generation” company.

A spokesman for Williams said that there was no finding of a violation of the law on his client’s part. “Mr. Williams is not blind to the problems of the industry,” a statement read. “His endorsement of MoneyMutual is reflective of its efforts to lead the industry in self-regulation.”

“Naturally, we are deeply concerned any time a consumer reports an issue with any product or service with which [Williams] is associated and, as we always have, we will fully investigate and attempt to resolve any issue brought to our attention,” the statement concluded.

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Google Calendar App Now Available to iPhone Users

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

hillaryfox/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Google’s gorgeous calendar app is ready to take over your iPhone.

The search engine giant released a version of its calendar app for iOS users Tuesday — months after it debuted an Android version.

Boasting a colorful palette in line with the company’s clean, boxy “material design” aesthetic, the Google Calendar app is designed to work with all of the existing calendars set up on a user’s iPhone.

What makes it stand out from other organizational tools is the ability to automatically turn Gmail emails into events that can be saved on a calendar. Assists can also suggest people, places and contacts when a user is entering something into their calendar — making it easy to plan dinner with a group of friends.

The app also offers schedule view, which gives iPhone users a beautiful way to scan their schedule — whether it’s a snapshot of the day or a weekly outlook.

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Losses on Wall Street Despite Highest Number of Job Openings in 14 Years

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The market fell on Tuesday, with all three major indices closing the session below their open, despite encouraging job news from the Labor Department.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 332.78, ending the day at 17,662.94.

The Nasdaq closed at 4,859.80, down 82.64, while the S&P 500 dropped 35.27 to 2,044.16.

The Department of Labor reported on Tuesday that there were five million job openings as of the end of January, slightly more than the end of December 2014. That figure is also the highest level since January 2001.

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From New MacBook to Samsung Galaxy S6: Changing the Way We Charge in 2015

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Stephen Lam/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Goodbye cord clutter, power outlets and fumbling around to get a cable to fit perfectly into a device. This is the year electronics companies are making a push to revolutionize the way we charge the latest generation of devices.

A slate of new releases, from the new MacBook adopting the USB-C multi-purpose charging port to Samsung’s wireless charging Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones, have shown how the process of powering up is getting easier and more innovative.

The USB-C port in Apple’s fanless, thin new MacBook is expected to become a standard in some new devices this year. The cable plugging into the port and a connected device has ends that are the same size, meaning there is no need to have to worry about plugging something in upside down.

It’s also reversible, allowing both peripheral and host devices to share their juice — and it accommodates even speedier data transfers at a rate of 10 GBPS. For users wanting to connect older devices, Apple is selling a USB-C multi-port adapter that can accommodate older electronics, such as cameras and flash drives.

Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman, announced last August the charging standard was ready for production with a single-cable solution equipped for laptops, tablets and mobile devices.

“This specification is the culmination of an extensive, cooperative effort among industry leaders to standardize the next generation USB connector as a long-lasting, robust solution,” Saunders said.

When Samsung showed off its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones at the Mobile World Congress earlier this month, the South Korean electronics company focused part of its presentation on the “relentless innovation” it had pursued, including in the area of mobile charging.

The new devices, which go on sale next month, are outfitted with wireless charging, making power cords obsolete. In ten minutes, Samsung says the devices can get enough charge for four hours of everyday use.

Seho Park, Samsung’s principal engineer, said in a blog post that with a new chip released last year to support multiple charging standards, 2015 will be a game-changing year for wireless smartphone charging.

“Samsung will accelerate to democratize this wireless charging technology with compelling smartphones. With our upcoming Galaxy smartphones, users will be able to enter a new wireless world like never before,” Park wrote. “Two or three years ago, wireless charging was only twenty to thirty percent as fast as wired charging. But since then, we have been able to double the charging speed.”

Even Apple’s new smartwatch is upping the charging game for wearables. While its battery life may differ from other wearables that have some of the capabilities of the Apple Watch, the company promised its first product in the category would be so simple to charge that wearers could do it in the dark.

All it takes to charge the Apple Watch is connecting the device to the company’s MagSafe technology with inductive charging. Apple says the magnet will slide into place with no precise alignment required.

The Nexus 6 released last October also upped the ante for charging. The 6-inch smartphone has a “turbo charger,” which allows users to get as much as six hours of use with just 15 minutes of charge.

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Android 5.1 Lollipop: Google Rolls Out Operating System Update

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Google(NEW YORK) — Google is rolling out a new Android 5.1 Lollipop update that brings stability and performance updates, according to details posted on the official Android blog.

The first update since the new operating system was unwrapped last November includes practical new additions to help users take control of their mobile experience — adding a welcome layer to the latest operating system that has put a strong emphasis on creating an aesthetically pleasing user experience.

Users of the latest Android 5.1 Lollipop update will now be able to use more than one SIM card on a device equipped with several slots, allowing people to share one device or better control their monthly phone bill, according to a blog post from Dave Burke, vice president of Android.

Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices, along with future Android phones and tablets shipped with 5.1, will come with a mechanism that keeps a lost or stolen device locked until the user signs in with their Google account.

The extra level of protection even works if someone resets the device to factory settings, according to Google.

High definition voice calling is the third major update for Android 5.1 Lollipop, allowing for an even clearer phone conversation between compatible devices. Burke also said users will be able to join Wi-Fi networks and control their Bluetooth connected devices easily from the quick settings area of the updated phone.

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Pioneering Tech Blog GigaOm Shutting Down

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — GigaOm, the pioneering tech blog that chronicled Silicon Valley happenings, is closing its doors after a nine-year run.

In a statement posted on GigaOm’s website Monday evening, the company said it was ceasing operations immediately after it was unable to pay its creditors.

GigaOm assets have been turned over to creditors as a collateral, the company said.

“We do not know at this time what the lenders intend to do with the assets or if there will be any future operations using those assets,” a statement attributed to GigaOm management said, adding that the company is not planning to file for bankruptcy.

Founder Om Malik left the site a year ago but in a blog post said “it is not how you want the story of a company you founded to end.”

“I want to thank our investors who believed in the business long before it became fashionable,” Malik said. “And most importantly, I want to thank you dear readers for coming along on this trip of a lifetime.”

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Gold Apple Watch Edition Takes on Competing $10K Luxury Timepieces

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Apple(NEW YORK) — Apple’s upcoming $10,000 gold smartwatch will cost what is to most people a small fortune. Can the gold Apple watch hold up its value as well as some other luxury watches do?

Each Apple Watch “Edition” will be made of 18-karat gold, which is twice as hard as standard gold, and sapphire crystal, according to Apple Inc.

The Edition smartwatch faces competition from a wide range of “benchmark” Swiss watches that can cost $5,000 to $10,000, before competing with the higher-priced, ultra-luxury watches. But unlike these watches, the resale value for old Apple products typically diminishes significantly. For example, older iPhone models are typically sold with deep discounts.

Here are some other sought-after watches that focus on time at similar price points to the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition.

1. $8,985: Rolex Submariner

Rolex’s Submariner watch can be called either a “quintessential” or “generic” Rolex, depending on the watch collector’s view. Various versions cost anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000. One Submariner with Swiss automatic movement, stainless steel and “anti-reflective” sapphire is listed for $8,985 on Amazon.com. Because of the Swiss Rolex brand and “prestige” of this watch, it holds value on the resale market much better than most watches, according to this Forbes column.

2. $9,395: Panerai Radiomir

Water resistant to 330 feet with a 47-mm case, this watch is made by Italian watchmaker Panerai and priced at $9,395 on Amazon.com. The company says it combines “the design and the Italian creativity with Swiss technology.”

3. $10,100: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon 39

Luxury Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre goes super-narrow with a 4.9-mm thick watch with a “moon-phase display” that, you guessed it, shows the phase of the moon. Some collectors appreciate the feature for its utility, where others just appreciate the technical or aesthetic aspect. The sapphire crystal case back reveals the movement of the watch.

4. $10,471: IWC Portuguese Automatic

Priced at $10,470.98 via Amazon, this IWC watch’s model year is 2011. Amazon says the stainless steel watch’s listing price was $14,100.

5. $10,600: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph

With a 40-mm diameter case, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph watch has a convex dial with a “pulsometer scale.”

The watch, in yellow or rose gold, will be sold on April 24 and available to pre-order on April 10. The Apple Watch will be available first in these nine places: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom and United States.

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17 Surprising Things to Know About McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

McDonald’s(NEW YORK) — St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and as loyal fans will tell you, one of the best parts of that is the return of McDonald’s famous Shamrock Shake.

This minty green beverage actually has a sweet history rooted in philanthropy.

Read on for all the details of this cult-favorite beverage – by the end, if you ever needed any reason other than celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to drink a Shamrock Shake, you’ll have 17 of them!

1. The Shamrock Shake was introduced in 1970.

2. It has a mint flavor and green color.

3. It’s made with McDonald’s vanilla reduced-fat ice cream, Shamrock Shake syrup and topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

4. A 12-ounce cup has 530 calories, 11 grams protein, 15 grams fat, 86 grams carbohydrates and 160 milligrams sodium.

5. The shake is only available for a limited time every year around St. Patrick’s Day.

6. Starting in 2012, it was offered nationwide in response to consumer demand.

7. The shake’s history is “rooted in a legacy of love” as McDonald’s likes to say, with its proceeds starting the very first Ronald McDonald House.

8. The story started when Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill’s 3-year-old daughter Kim was being treated for leukemia in 1974. Hill and his wife Fran camped out on hospital benches and sat in cramped waiting rooms during Kim’s three years of treatment.

9. The Hills watched other parents and families of seriously ill children do the same thing. Many of the families had to travel long distances for their children to receive medical treatment and couldn’t afford hotel rooms.

10. The Hills knew there had to be a solution. Fred rallied the support of his teammates to raise funds.

11. Through Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

12. Evans had long dreamed of a “home away from home” for families of children being treated at her hospital. Murray called Don Tuckerman, a friend from the local McDonald’s advertising agency, and asked him what their next promotion was. “St. Patrick’s Day,” Tuckerman said. “Shamrock Shakes.”

13. It was perfect: The milkshakes were green – the Eagles’ color!

14. With the support of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc and regional manager Ed Rensi, Tuckerman launched a week-long promotion around the Shamrock Shake, with all profits to be donated to the cause.

15. Enough funds were raised to help buy an old four-story, seven-bedroom house Evans had found near the hospital.

16. It opened in 1974 as the first Ronald McDonald House.

17. Proceeds no longer support Ronald McDonald House nationally, but local franchises may donate if they’re able.

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