Help Line Staffer Suspended For Robotic Voice

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

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ronald Dillon’s employer didn’t think it was funny that the IT specialist kept answering the customer service phone in a robotic voice.

Dillon’s boss, the New York City Health Department, has suspended him for 20 days.

The case document, claimed that Dillon “states in a slow, monotone, and overenunciated manner, ‘You have reached the Help Desk. This is Mr. Dillon. How may I help you?’”

Dillon denied the accusation that he greeted callers to the Help Desk in a robotic voice, saying that he merely read a script he had been given in a “neutral tone.” According to the document:

“He contended that he articulates each word because he speaks fast and has a Brooklyn accent which is sometimes difficult to understand. He further asserted that he uses this tone to eliminate accusations that he treats callers differently…Additionally, he asserted that he is not a ‘people person’ and does not have the special talents and skills that customer service requires.”

Administrative Law Judge Kara Miller, however, described Dillon as a “disgruntled employee” in her Oct. 7 ruling.

“It may be true that [Dillon] is not a ‘people person’ and relatively new to customer service,” Miller wrote in the case document. “But the audio recordings show that respondent is capable of speaking to callers in a normal tone.”

This was not a one-time offense. The Health Department provided five audio recordings of Dillon putting on his best automation impression between February and April 2013, with other complaints stretching back to October 2012.

Dillon, who has worked for the Health Department since 1976, faces a 20-day suspension without pay.

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Strong Finish to Week on Wall Street, Labor Department Report Shows Wages Increasing

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

tarabird/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The markets closed the week on a positive note, with the closing bell coming as two major indices finished back above milestones they had fallen below during the rough beginning of October.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 195.1, finishing at 17390.52.

The Nasdaq climbed 64.6 to 4630.74, while the S&P 500 ended the day back above 2000 — closing at 2017.81, up 23.16 from its opening price.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on Friday that indicated compensation for civilian workers increased in the last three months. Wages and salaries increased by 0.8 percent since July, and benefits increased by 0.6 percent.

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‘Butterfly’ Seating Design a Boon to Long-Haul Flights

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new in-flight seat design for long-haul carriers could have passengers in premium economy and business class spreading their wings, so to speak.

Hong Kong designer James SH Lee’s “Butterfly Seating Solution” recently took top prize at the International Air Transport Association’s 2014 Passenger Innovation Awards for providing flexible cabin configurations to suit the changing demands for seats from flight to flight.

“With a fixed configuration there are bound to be lost opportunities or inefficiencies,” Lee said in a statement. “Flexible seating configuration helps airlines battle uncertainties. Demand is never constant and predictable — it differs seasonally, across different days of a week, across different markets, across different phases of economy cycle.”

“Butterfly is composed of units of double seats, with the aisle seat offset backwards. It is premium economy when both seats are used,” described Lee on PaperClipDesign.

Additional perks in this configuration include large cocktail trays, seat pockets and an adjustable ottoman.

“When used as business class, the inboard seat is simply flipped over to form a flat surface. The seating unit then becomes a private suite for one passenger, with a seat and a side couch,” he said.

In this configuration, the passenger can choose to spread out while working, or invite another passenger to sit in the couch space for a more social experience. On long hauls, the aisle seat can also be flipped over alongside the “couch” to create a sleeping area.

At 77 inches long and up to 44 inches wide at hip areas, the business-class bed would be one of the largest in the industry.

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NHTSA Fines Ferrari $3.5 Million for Failure to Submit Warning Reports

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

MagicDreamer/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said on Friday that it would fine Ferrari $3.5 million after the company allegedly failed to submit reports identifying actual or potential safety issues for three years.

Federal law requires large manufacturers and their affiliates to submit comprehensive emergency warning reports every quarter in order to give the Department of Transportation notice of potential safety concerns. Ferrari failed to do so over a three-year period, additionally failing to report three fatal accidents.

“There is no excuse for failing to follow laws created to keep drivers safe,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. He also noted that “all automakers will be held accountable if they fail to do their part in our mission to keep Americans safe on the road.”

In addition to the $3.5 million civil penalty, Ferrari will also be forced to take actions to improve its handling of emergency warning reports — including additional training and retroactive submission of past reports.

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Ready, Set, Shop for Holiday Deals

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Online retailers are preparing for the holiday shopping season even earlier this year.

Beginning Saturday, Amazon will unveil many of its holiday deals. Office Depot and Sears will follow by rolling out Black Friday-like deals in the coming weeks.

Walmart, meanwhile, is testing a program to match prices offered by online retailers such as Amazon, according the Wall Street Journal.

The move would keep Walmart competitive this holiday season, but could also affect its fourth-quarter earnings.

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Halloween Friday Food Freebies Include Pizza, Smoothies and Doughnuts

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

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Retail stores typically offer kids free candy on Halloween, but not these restaurants, doughnut shops and cafes.

Arby’s will hold “Trick or Meat” day, adding bacon to your order at any of its locations Friday, so long as you say “Trick or Meat” with your order. Arby’s will even add bacon to your curly fries and Jamocha Shake. Bacon with your shake? Well, why not?

Here are some food-themed Friday freebies on Halloween:

Before you go, check your nearest location for availability, hours and restrictions. Some places even have costume limitations. Krispy Kreme, for example, asks that you don’t wear a mask to its stores.

Baja Fresh

Kids in costume get a free kids meal with the purchase of any adult entree, with this coupon.

Boston Market

Get a free kids meal with the purchase of any individual meal, with this coupon.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Receive a free kids meal, for children ages 10 and under, Friday through Sunday when you buy any adult entree, with this coupon.

Chevys Fresh Mex

Kids eat free at Chevys all week, according to its Facebook page, plus to-go burritos are $5 all day on Halloween.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Go to Chipotle dressed in a costume from 5 p.m. to close and get a burrito, bowl, salad or tacos for $3. Proceeds up to $1 million will benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

HomeTown Buffet

Get a free kids meal on Halloween if your children are dressed in costumes, according to HomeTown Buffet’s Facebook page.

IHOP

Kids 12 and under, one per child, get a free “Scary Face” pancake for dine-in orders on Halloween.

Jamba Juice

Kids 8 and under get a free smoothie on Halloween from 2 to 7 p.m., at participating locations. Meanwhile, adults can customize an oatmeal order for $2 with a coupon, through Sunday.

Krispy Kreme

Come in a costume on Halloween and get a free doughnut, but please don’t wear a mask, says Krispy Kreme.

Old Country Buffet

Kids 11 years old and younger get a free meal when they wear a costume on Halloween, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Olive Garden

Complete an online form for a coupon and get a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entree.

Outback Steakhouse

Two kids eat free on Halloween with the purchase of an adult entree.

Sbarro

Kids get one free cheese or pepperoni pizza with the purchase of any entree if they come in costume, at participating locations.

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Papa Murphy’s CEO Brings Pizzas Home on Halloween, Like His Customers

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

Papa Murphy’s(NEW YORK) — Like his customers who want to spend time with their families on Halloween, the CEO of “take ‘n’ bake” pizza chain Papa Murphy’s will be bringing pizzas to his wife and son tonight.

Friday, Halloween, is the busiest day of the year for Papa Murphy’s, followed by Valentine’s Day, the fifth-largest pizza chain said.

“My family loves pizza too. I have to remember that, because I eat it all day,” Ken Calwell, 52, said. “A lot of times I’ll bring home new pizzas we’re trying at the lab and they’ll get a sneak preview. I have to remember that they haven’t had pizza all day.”

As part of ABC News’ C-Suite Insider series, Calwell explains how Papa Murphy’s is unlike any pizza chain you see on television. Calwell, in fact, proudly touts it as the largest pizza chain that doesn’t advertise on national television. Customers customize the pizza they want, then you take them to bake in your home oven. “Fresh made, fresh created, fresh baked,” Calwell said. The company’s NASDAQ stock ticker symbol is FRSH.

He makes it a point to bring his wife pizza with “pink sauce:” her favorite combination of tomato sauce and creamy garlic sauce.

Here’s more from Calwell about what a pizza-centered house looks like:


For someone who eats pizza a lot, what are your meals like?

“Breakfast in the morning is a refuel from working out so a lot of cereal and fruit and ‘good for you’ stuff,” he said.

“Literally through the day I do miss a lot of lunches because I had pizza in the morning or right after lunch. Pizza becomes a big part of my day. We’re looking at new salads as well. Moms are coming in to Papa Murphy’s not just for pizza but dinner for her family. We’re tasting a lot of dessert and bread items.”

“My wife will ask, ‘What did you have for lunch?’ And she will guess pizza.”

He said his wife is a “big cook…Almost every single night we have a family dinner. We hardly miss one. Dinner’s probably around 7 o’clock every night. We eat a lot for dinner. My son especially. He’s over 6′ 3″ with size 13 feet. He’s growing like a weed. If he’s eating I’ll eat, then one day I decided ‘I can’t do this.’”

What does your workout look like?

“It starts with my son actually,” Calwell said about his 17-year old, who is a competitive swimmer. “We are up at 5 a.m. each day.”

Calwell either goes for a run (four to six miles), bike ride or swims about two miles.

“He swims with all the fast, young guys in one pool. And the other guys are in another pool,” said Calwell, a former marathon runner and triathlete. “We compare workouts every morning.”

(Calwell has had a favorite pair of Asics running shoes since 1979. When he learned they were being discontinued, he bought 22 pairs from the company at $45 a piece.)

“My son swims before and after school so he’s also at the pool from 3:30 to 6 p.m. every day also. I try to get there by 5 or 5:30 p.m. on nights I haven’t gotten a workout in and we go home together for dinner,” he said.

What do you do at work when you’re not tasting pizza?

After he gets to the office, usually by 7:15 a.m., he starts the day with some planning, calls franchise owners on the phone, and attends a lot of meetings.

“We’re so focused on new products right now that a lot of the meetings are around new product launches,” he said.

The company is in 38 states now with 1,440 locations and it is quickly moving east and west.

“We’re not in the Northeast yet. We’re in Baltimore, the Carolinas and Florida, plus southeast in Tennessee and Kentucky. We want to make sure we have a really strong following in the Midwest and West.”

Who’s Papa Murphy’s target market?

Papa Murphy’s target market is a generation (and gender) away from that of larger chains, where the 27-year pizza industry veteran previously worked.

“When I worked at Domino’s and Pizza Hut, they will say their number one day is the Super Bowl. They focus on young males,” Calwell said. “For us, Halloween and Valentine’s Day are our biggest days. We really go after families and moms; so for families and moms, it’s all about family events.”

Similarly, competitor Papa John’s estimates that this year’s Halloween, which falls on a Friday, is estimated to surpass Super Bowl Sunday as their busiest night with 1 million to 1.2 million pizzas sold.

“We find that moms want to give their kids a little food before they go out trick-or-treating,” Calwell said. Along with pizza, Papa Murphy’s sells raw cookie dough that customers can bake at home for a warm dessert. For Halloween, it’s offering an orange chocolate chip cookie “Spooky Dough” and a Jack-O-Lantern Pizza with a face.

Is there a family bed time?

“We’re really boring, because we’re very early to bed. After we have dinner together, he goes up and does homework. It’s time for Sandy and I to catch up on our day, then we’re pretty much in bed by 9:30 p.m.”

Any late nights on the weekends?

“To get up at 5 a.m., I can’t maintain that. The weekends are still swimming again. I get up really early Sunday mornings and do a long bike ride then go to church,” he said. “Our downtime is Sunday afternoon. We like to do outdoor activities so usually go for a hike. We have a river behind us and a fire pit behind our house.”

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Jobs That Make People Scream

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A horror movie or a haunted house isn’t nearly as frightening as some jobs people hold down in this country.

At least that’s what a new CareerBuilder Survey of 3,000 workers found. They were asked what occupation they fear the most with politician topping the list, which probably makes a lot of sense on a number of levels.

Here are the top 10 scariest jobs and why Americans dread them:

  1. Politician
    Dreaded by people who fear responsibility; accountability to a large number of people; rejection.
  2. Microbiologist for Infectious Diseases
    Dreaded by people who fear germs; Ebola; microbes.
  3. Security Guard at Teen Pop Idol Concert
    Dreaded by people who fear a stampede of teens.
  4. Kindergarten Teacher
    Dreaded by people who fear little kid germs; wailing tots; trying to educate wailing tots.
  5. Crime Scene Investigator
    Dreaded by people who fear blood; the fact that it’s never like anything like what’s on CSI.
  6. Animal Trainer
    Dreaded by people who fear angry animals; allergies.
  7. Mortician
    Dreaded by people who fear death.
  8. Radio, Cellular and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers
    Dreaded by people who fear climbing anything taller than a step ladder.
  9. Stand-Up Comedian
    Dreaded by people who fear standing in front of people; rejection.
  10. Parent
    Dreaded by people who fear growing up.

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The Legions of Women Gamers Keep Growing

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Women love playing games and not just the ones that drive men nuts.

The firm Superdata Research says that when it comes to playing games on personal computers and mobile devices, more women do it than men.

Actually, the break down on PC games is slightly over 50 percent across all genres for women and just under 50 percent for men. Women favor role-playing games as opposed to guys who are more into first-person shooter and multi-player games.

Meanwhile, when it comes to mobile games, women are comfortably ahead at 58 percent to 42 percent for the opposite sex.

In fact, the ladies are starting to catch up to men in digital console games as well, which also seems to shatter the belief that women are merely casual gamers.

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FTC Charges Gerber with False Advertising

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

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Federal Trade Commission has charged baby food maker Gerber Products Co. with false advertising for claims that its Good Start Gentle formula will prevent or reduce a child’s risk of developing allergies.

According to an FTC press release, Gerber has advertised the product as having health benefits that it simply does not provide since 2011. “Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company’s ads failed to live up to that trust,” Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich said.

Among the claims that prompted the charges, Gerber’s ads state “you want your baby to have your imagination…your smile…your eyes…not your allergies,” and a separate sticker on the package that says the product is the “1st and ONLY Routine Formula TO REDUCE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING ALLERGIES.”

The FTC says Gerber has presented those claims as FDA-approved. In 2009, the FDA gave permission to Gerber to make a claim regarding one type of allergy — atopic dermatitis — but only if it qualified the statement to make clear that there was “little scientific evidence” for the relationship, according to the FTC.

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NHTSA Calls on Airbag Maker to Provide Documents, Answer Questions

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

bizoo_n/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is stepping up its investigation of the faulty airbags that resulted in the recall of more than seven million vehicles.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said Thursday that the agency is, “compelling [airbag manufacturer] Takata to produce documents and answer questions under oath relevant to our ongoing investigation into defective airbags they have produced.”

The Detroit News reports that Takata must provide those documents by Dec. 1 or face fines of up to $7,000 per day.

The airbags are blamed for at least three deaths and over 100 injuries; in some cases, the canisters holding the bags reportedly shattered as the airbags inflated, sending metal fragments hurtling towards victims. Friedman said he expects the company’s “full cooperation.”

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Teen’s Present From Dad Turns Her Into Multimillionaire on 19th Birthday

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

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) –  A very happy birthday, indeed!

When Deisi Ocampo woke up on her birthday on Oct. 6, she had no idea the gift her father had given her would soon make her a multi-millionaire.

“I rarely play the lottery,” Ocampo, 19, of Chicago, wrote to ABC News. “My dad buys tickets once in a while and thought it would fun to get me two tickets for my birthday.”

The following day, she didn’t think much of it when she scratched off the first set of numbers. But when she finished scratching the second ticket, “I began to shake and sweat out of nervousness,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it was real.”

The birthday girl had won $4 million dollars.

She called her father, who needless to say, was equally stunned.

“He couldn’t believe it,” Ocampo explained of her dad’s reaction. “He thought I was teasing him. When I told him I had won, he asked if it was $500, and I said, ‘No $4 million!’”

But the newfound millionaire isn’t letting the money go to her head. She plans to continue working at a clothing store because her family “is humble and believes in a strong work ethic.”

As for how Ocampo plans to spend the new earnings, she’s being reasonable about that, as well.

“I will share with my dad so he can buy a new home for my mom, dad and sister,” she said. “I plan to use a portion to pay for college since I want to become a nurse and take care of babies.”

When asked if this was the best birthday she’s ever had, Ocampo simply replied, “Definitely!”

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Wall Street Soars on Positive Earnings Report

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

vichie81/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The markets rallied from a down day Wednesday on the back of positive earnings reports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 221.11 point, climbing to 17,195.42.

The Nasdaq jumped to 4,566.14, gaining 16.91 on the day, while the S&P 500 climbed closer to the 2,000 mark, gaining 12.35 to close at 1,994.65.

The Department of Commerce announced on Thursday that the national gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter — exceeding private-sector forecasters’ expectations.

“Today’s advance estimate of real GDP shows that America’s economy is coming back,” Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said. “Recent data show that the U.S. economy has rebounded more strongly than most others around the world, leading the global recovery.”

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Feds Fine Dating Sites for Alleged Use of Fake Dating Profiles

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

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In a settlement just reached, the Federal Trading Commission is fining more than 12 online dating sites about $600,000, saying those sites created fake profiles to lure users into upgrading to paid memberships.

According to the FTC, the sites, all run by parent company JDI Dating, created fake profiles to send messages to users, enticing them to upgrade to paid memberships in order to continue the conversation.

The FTC also said the sites did not disclose that the subscriptions would be renewed automatically, often without the users’ consent.

JDI’s dating sites boast more than 12 million users.

“The websites committed wrongdoing by failing to disclose the automatic renewal terms and they baited and switched by claiming these are the people who like you but they were really fake profiles,” legal analyst Mark Eiglarsh told ABC News.

While browsing a site’s members may sometimes be free of cost, paying to send messages to members is standard and legal in the online dating industry.

For example, Match.com requires that people subscribe before they can send messages to people, but, according to the FTC, other sites, such as FlirtCrowd.com, which is run by JDI Dating, almost always used fake, computer-generated profiles that were designed to trick users into believing they had attracted the attention of an actual person.

In its press release, the FTC says, “The fake profiles and messages caused many users to upgrade to paid subscriptions.”

This is the first time that the FTC has taken legal action for alleged dating deception.

Couples therapist Dr. Mike Dow told ABC News there are two things dating site users should look out for.

“Make sure you’re not looking at a picture that is too good to be true,” Dow said. “If a site is trying to up-sell you at every turn, that may be another red flag.”

JDI Dating did not reply to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook ‘Proud to Be Gay’

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

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Tim Cook is “proud to be gay.” The Apple CEO makes this declaration in an essay titled “Tim Cook Speaks Up” for Bloomberg Businessweek.

While Cook has never been secretive about his sexuality, he admits in the written piece, “this wasn’t an easy choice,” and that he has not publicly acknowledged the subject either — until now.

“So let me be clear,” he writes, “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Cook says privacy remains important to him and does not consider himself to be an activist, but “I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others.”

“So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade off with my own privacy,” he continues.

Earlier this week, Cook encouraged lawmakers in his home state of Alabama to move toward equality for all people, insisting the state had moved too slow on LGBT and racial issues.

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Microsoft Unveils New Wearable Fitness Device

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

Microsoft(NEW YORK) — Microsoft introduced a new wearable health and fitness device that is on sale Thursday.

The Microsoft Band is $199 and works with Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

The device joins the competitive health wearables market with the likes of Fitbit, providing calorie counts and sleep quality measurements.

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Hasbro Makes Move to Help Pay for ‘Operation’ Creator’s Surgery

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

M.L. Gray/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Toy giant Hasbro has stepped forward to help the creator of one of it’s most popular board games, Operation, pay for an operation of his own.

John Spinello, who created what would become Operation, the classic board game that allows players to test their fine motor skills using a tweezer, is in need of a reported $25,000 in oral surgery.

When Spinello — who sold his game for $500 in the 1960s to a toy company that would then license it to game giant Milton Bradley — was unable to pay his medical costs, his friends, toy designers Tim Walsh and Peggy Brown, started a fund on CrowdRise.com to raise the money.

After the fundraising drive went viral, Hasbro stepped forward Wednesday to announce they will purchase the original Operation game prototype that Spinello had planned to put up for auction.

Hasbro took ownership of Operation in the 1980s when it purchased Milton Bradley.

“Today we informed Mr. Spinello that Hasbro plans to purchase the prototype with the hope that the funds will help to defray his medical costs,” the company said in a statement to ABC News. “We plan to proudly display it at Hasbro’s global headquarters in Pawtucket, RI to honor his contribution to Hasbro’s gaming history.”

In Operation, players carefully guide a tweezer through the body of a “patient” to remove his illnesses. If their tweezer motions aren’t precise and they go out of bounds they could set off the dreaded buzzer.

Spinello and his wife, Madeline, said in a statement to ABC News that they feel “really good” that Hasbro has purchased the prototype.

“It will have a happy home in their museum. That’s where it belongs,” the pair wrote. “As for medical costs — everything that is contributing to the success of the campaign is going to make life easier for John [Spinello] and what he needs medically. We feel positive about Hasbro purchasing the prototype — we’re very happy about it.”

The CrowdRise page created by Brown and Walsh has now received over $26,000 in donations, exceeding its $25,000 goal.

“What can we say? We woke up this morning to $25,200!,” Walsh posted on the website Thursday morning. “We can’t thank you all enough.”

“We’re working on a special video thank you coming soon,” he wrote.

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Windowless Planes to Hit Skies in Next Decade

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

Centre for Process Innovation(NEW YORK) — Imagine flying on an airplane and being able to see the clouds all around you. That’s what one company plans on achieving in the next 10 years — an airplane without windows.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a U.K.-based cutting edge technology association, envisioned the next generation aircraft in an effort to conserve fuel, while drastically transforming the customer experience.

“Removing the windows will significantly reduce the weight of the aircraft, saving fuel and therefore reducing operational costs,” says Matthew Herbert, marketing manager for CPI. “The windows will be replaced by high quality flexible OLED displays that are connected to digital cameras integrated into the exterior of the plane.”

Lower operational costs, the company claims, will in turn result in reduced airfares.

In addition to the windowless element, passengers can surf the web, enjoy in-flight entertainment, or change the views from different angles of the plane.

A few months ago, Spike Aerospace, Inc. introduced the concept behind the “world’s first supersonic jet,” called the Spike S-512, which also has a windowless feature.

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Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook ‘Proud to Be Gay’

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

Morning Money Memo:

Apple CEO Tim Cook says he’s proud to be gay. In an essay written for Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook has become the highest-profile business leader to come out as gay. Cook says that while he never denied his sexuality, he never publicly acknowledged it, either. “I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important,” he writes. “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” Three days ago, Cook, 53,  challenged his home state of Alabama to better ensure the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Alabama is among the states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, and it also doesn’t offer legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Cook, who succeeded Apple founder Steve Jobs, is a native of Robertsdale, Alabama, and attended Auburn University. Cook says “being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.” Cook is the highest-profile business leader to come out as gay.

 

AP tim cook ml 141028 16x9 608 Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook Proud to Be Gay

                                                (Photo Credit: Brynn Anderson/AP Photo) 

After facing sharp criticism for weak oversight, U.S. auto safety regulators are telling a company that made faulty air bags to manufacture replacement parts faster and do more testing to find out what’s causing the problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sent letters to Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. and 10 automakers seeking information about air bags.

Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and consumer groups want an investigation of NHTSA. Regulators have come under fire for their handling of GM ignition switches and Takata airbags. “It’s absolutely time for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be put under the microscope because it’s been one major defect after another that they’ve failed the American public on,” says Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group. “All too many of the top officials at the agency go to work for the industry after retiring. People from the industry come to work at the agency, so it’s a revolving door and that’s part of the problem.”

Samsung Electronics says its quarterly profits plunged 49 percent to around $4 billion, the lowest in two  years. Sales dropped 20 percent. Analysts said the Galaxy S5 smartphone launched in April did not sell well. The South Korean company is pledging to overhaul its handset lineup.

The unemployment rate for young veterans is far higher than the nationwide average. Some major corporations are involved in a growing effort to re-train military men and women for civilian jobs. When Army Sgt. 1st Class John McCuen leaves the military next year, he will have a special skill as an auto technician. “It is a 12-week, action-packed course just to give us a job on the outside,” McCuen told ABC News. The course at Fort Hood, Texas, is a partnership between the Army, General Motors and Raytheon. “We learn everything from tearing apart the engines, from troubleshooting the wiring and computer problem,” he said. A new course began this week. McCuen hopes to get a job when he leaves the military with “the same training that any General Motors technician gets when he’s at a dealership.”

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow

Jobless Claims Jump to 287K

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

iStock/Thinkstoc(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims were higher last week, increasing by 3,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Oct. 25, the number of people filing for benefits jumped to 287,000. The previous week claims stood at 284,000, revised up from 283,000.

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

The four-week moving average decreased, however, falling by just 250 to 281,000.

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IRS Announces Tax Guidance Related to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

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

MariuszBlach/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Internal Revenue Service issued tax guidelines regarding charitable and other relief related to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The IRS press release notes two tax designations designed to promote donations and aid for West Africa. Employees, the agency says, “may donate their vacation, sick or personal leave in exchange for employer cash payments made to qualified tax-exempt organizations providing relief” to Ebola victims in West Africa. In doing so, an employee would forego leave in exchange for employer cash payments made before Jan. 1, 2016. That donated leave will not be included in income or wages of the employee, and employers can deduct the amount of the cash payment.

The second guideline allows American employees in West Africa to receive reimbursement from an employer-sponsored charitable organization for medical expenses incurred as a result of the outbreak, without the reimbursement being included in the individual’s income for federal tax purposes.

The announcement follows similar steps taken following other international disasters, including the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the Haiti earthquake.

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Federal Reserve Ends Bond-Buying Program, Will Keep Interest Rates Low

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

Cameron Whitman/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it would end its recession-era bond purchasing program, noting improvement in the labor market and the financial landscape.

According to a press release, the Federal Open Market Committee found at their September meeting that with the economy growing at a moderate pace and improved labor market conditions, the bond-buying program can be ended this month. “Moreover, the [Fed] continues to see sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing progress toward maximum employment in a context of price stability,” the release read.

The Fed did, however, reaffirm its belief that interest rates should remain where they are for the time being.

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Wall Street Dips on Wednesday, Fed to End Bond-Buying Program

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The markets fell on Wednesday, following a strong start to the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 31.44 to 16,974.31, falling back below 17,000 just one day after it jumped back over the milestone.

The Nasdaq slumped 15.06, closing at 4,549.23, while the S&P 500 slid 2.75 to a finish of 1,982.30.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced that it would end its bond-buying program later this month. That decision was made after the Federal Open Market Committee determined that “there has been a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market” since the program was implemented.

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UPS Driver Caught Mishandling $12K Package on Video

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — UPS reps were “horrified” recently when they watched a store’s surveillance video showing one of their drivers treating a package with little care, a store associate said.

“[The UPS driver] just basically threw the thing out the door,” Ray Martel of East Hills Instruments in Westbury, New York, told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.

On Monday, Martel said the UPS driver — who was not the store’s “regular” guy — delivered a box to East Hills Instruments.

When the driver was told that the box needed to be returned to the sender because East Hills did not accept cash-on-delivery items, he became disgruntled, Martel said Wednesday.

“He wasn’t happy to have to bring it back,” he said.

As the driver left the store with the box, containing a sensitive $12,000 pressure gauge, Martel said he went to take a phone call. Later, though, he said the store’s receptionist suggested that he watch the tape.

In the video, the worker flips the box out of the store, not using a cart or a dolly. Martel said the driver didn’t ask for one even though the store has a hand truck.

“It was disappointing to see that happen,” Martel said. “[It was] not the right thing to do. …If he needed help, he could’ve just asked.”

On Tuesday, a UPS representative came to the store to view the tape.

In a statement, the company said: “UPS drivers are trained to handle every package with care. … UPS does not condone this specific driver’s behavior.”

The company apologized to the customer, saying that the problem would be investigated and that corrective action would be taken against the driver.

Martel said tracking late Wednesday showed that the box was still en route to Pittsburgh.

He said he was concerned about the box and that he and UPS were waiting to hear back from the client on the gauge’s condition.

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Apple Pay Competitor CurrentC Falls Victim to Hackers

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

CurrentC(NEW YORK) — CurrentC, the mobile payments solution being tested by Walmart and other retailers, confirmed on Wednesday it has been hacked.

“Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of our CurrentC pilot program participants and individuals who had expressed interest in the app,” Linda Walsh, a spokeswoman for Merchant Customer Exchange, told ABC News in a statement.

“Many of these email addresses are dummy accounts used for testing purposes only. The CurrentC app itself was not affected,” Walsh said.

She added that the breach was communicated to the app’s test users and to the group’s merchant partners — among them Walmart, Target and 7-Eleven.

The mobile payments solution was quietly announced in September, but was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week when it was reported that some retailers involved in the development of CurrentC had taken measures to disable or alter their NFC readers so Apple Pay, a competitor, cannot be used.

A consortium of retailers, including Best Buy, 7-Eleven and Target, are members of the Merchant Customer Exchange, which announced last month that it is working on the mobile wallet, which is expected to be a direct competitor to Apple Pay.

Before the hack was confirmed, Dekkers Davidson, CEO of the Merchant Customer Exchange, posted a blog Wednesday offering new details on CurrentC, user security and why the mobile wallet and Apple Pay will never compete in the same store.

Blocking Apple Pay

Davidson’s message is clear: Retailers are either in or they’re out.

“When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively and we’re proud of the long list of merchants who have partnered with us,” Davidson wrote. “Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines.”

Privacy

While Apple Pay promises to keep your data private, CurrentC is all about letting merchants have more information about what their customers are doing.

Davidson said customers and merchants will be able “to make informed decisions regarding how information can be shared” via a privacy dashboard. MCX may see “limited information” on prescription purchases, such as location and transaction amount, but will “adhere to strict rules regarding the privacy of consumers’ information.”

Data Security

CurrentC will store financial information in a cloud vault, according to a release detailing the service. A “token placeholder” will be used to make transaction, ensuring a user’s sensitive financial data isn’t exposed.

MCX said the mobile wallet will offer “merchant loyalty programs and instant coupon savings, all stored on the phone and available right at the point-of-sale.”

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Chrysler Recalls 380,000 Trucks over Fuel-Heater Housing Issue

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

Chrysler(AUBURN HILLS, Mich.) — Chrysler is recalling 381,876 trucks worldwide over an issue with fuel-heater housings that could lead to a fire.

The affected vehicles are mostly in the U.S. and include 2010-2014 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups along with 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs equipped with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engines.

In a statement Wednesday, the automaker says a terminal connector near the fuel heater in these vehicles “may be subject to friction-induced corrosion. This condition may lead to overheating and potential fuel leakage.”

So far, Chrysler is aware of two cases regarding this issue. In both cases, the fuel-heater housings showed signs of overheating but no fires were reported. There have also been no injuries or accidents connected to this recall.

Owners of affected vehicles will be notified and will have faulty parts replaced free of charge.

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Hewlett Packard Unveils New Sprout Computer

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

Hewlett Packard(NEW YORK) — Hewlett Packard unveiled a new computer Wednesday that is so intuitive you probably already know how to use it.

Called “Sprout,” the dual-screen computer is being billed as a game changer in the desktop market by seamlessly marrying the physical and digital worlds.

The desktop unit looks like a computer, but where the magic happens is in the “Sprout Illuminator” system, which includes a scanner, depth sensor, high resolution camera and a projector.

The result is dimensional images that are integrated into the digital work space and can easily be shared. Users can create collages, designs and collaborate with friends around the world — all while using a personal, hands-on approach.

“Sprout is a long-term play at a long-term bet,” Brad Short, distinguished technologist at Hewlett Packard and the inventor of Sprout, told ABC News. “It has that ‘pour water on the plant and it will grow’ spirituality inside the company. It means a lot to us.”

Featuring a 23-inch diagonal full HD touch screen and a 20-point touch mat, Sprout is the first product available under Hewlett Packard’s “Blended Reality” ecosystem.

Short said the idea for Sprout was born a few years ago when his daughter kept bringing home artwork. They wanted to scan it and share it with family, however a flatbed scanner crushed the projects.

“I was looking for ways to revolutionize the scanning process,” Short said. He got to work and created the first prototype of the device, marrying a computer and a small projector.

Five years later, Sprout is making its public debut — and Short said the possibilities for creation and collaboration are infinite. Potential users include everyone from fashion designers and home decorators to the everyday user wanting a way to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues around the world.

Users can even digitally scrawl on the touch pad making it easy to share notes or even a real-time game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

“It evolved into a way to communicate remotely,” Short said. “The idea of using a product and placing things on the desk [touch pad]…that became another really big inventive part of the experience we were trying to achieve.”

Sprout is available for pre-orders in the United States beginning Wednesday and will be in select retail stores on Nov. 9 for a starting price of $1,899. Hewlett Packard is expected to announce an international roll out plan at a later date.

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Elon Musk Called Orbital Sciences’ Rocket Design a ‘Joke’ in 2012

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

NASA/Joel Kowsky(NEW YORK) — Almost exactly two years before Orbital Sciences’ rocket exploded Tuesday during a launch in Virginia, SpaceX founder Elon Musk mocked his competitor, calling its rocket design a “joke.”

Orbital Sciences Corp., headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, made the Antares rocket for NASA to supply the International Space Station. Investigators are now trying to determine what went wrong with the launch before a safety officer sent a self-destruct command Tuesday evening.

While discussing a possible SpaceX mission to Mars, Musk discussed the failings of large aerospace firms with Wired Magazine. These included an aversion to risk as well as the overuse of “legacy components.”

“The results are pretty crazy,” Musk said in the 2012 interview. “One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s — I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.”

Musk, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

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Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ Campaign Draws Social Media Outrage

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

Victoria’s Secret(NEW YORK) — A recently-launched Victoria’s Secret campaign is coming under a social media firestorm for what some consider body shaming.

The company, long known for featuring beautiful models with enviable figures, may have taken things one step too far with its “The Perfect ‘Body’” advertisements. On its web site, the campaign features a row of 10 underwear-clad women, at least three of whom have visible ribs. The only model who might be considered a size more typical of a woman who is not an underwear model is also the only one who has her back to the camera.

The perfect body campaign is part of the Body by Victoria line of lingerie.

“The Perfect ‘Body’” has ignited a Twitter firestorm and a Change.org petition. The petition calls for an apology and for the company to “take responsibility for the unhealthy and damaging message that their wording ‘The Perfect ‘Body’ sends out to society about women’s bodies and how they should be judged.”

 

I don’t see why Victoria Secret wants people to think the perfect body is when your ribs are showing and you are just skin and bones.

— Megan Picha (@PICHA_chuu12) October 28, 2014

 

The petition has more than 2,800 signatures as of mid-morning Wednesday. It also calls for people who find the ad objectionable to take to social media with the hashtag #iamperfect.

 

it’s the 21st century and we still have to tell big corporate companies to stop body image shaming young girls #iamperfect #victoriasecret

— ThatGirlCalledRuth (@GirlCalledRuth) October 29, 2014

 

Victoria Secret did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Holiday Shoppers Putting Recession Woes Behind Them

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

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Are holiday shoppers ready to spend like they did before the Great Recession?

A new Gallup poll says that seems to be the case but things could change by Thanksgiving.

When asked how much they expect to spend, the average was $781, still off somewhat from the anticipated budget of $866 in 2007 but a lot better than the $616 estimate a year later.

The figure has been rising steadily since the recession and in one other piece of good news, Gallup says that the number of people who say they won’t spend as much as the previous year is at the lowest level since 2007.

Those who project they’ll spend more than in 2013 is 13 percent — about the same as it is every year.

All things being equal, Gallup says that if consumers keep to their anticipated budget during November, overall spending could be 3.8 percent or higher than last year.

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