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Monday
Sep242018

Halloween costume celebrates the ultimate form of rejection

Party City(NEW YORK) -- A Halloween costume poking fun at the devastating act of "ghosting" now exists.

The outfit, sold on PartyCity.com, lists a string of eager, unanswered text messages including question marks and "R U OK!?"

"Ghosting" is defined on Urban Dictionary as abruptly ceasing all communication with friends or someone you're dating, "with zero warning or notice before hand."

"This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just 'get the hint' and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested," according to Urban Dictionary's website.

The blue text bubbles begin with "See u tonight" and a kiss emoji ending with "Guess not!"

Twitter users quickly sounded off on the costume.

"LOL figured out what I'm gonna be for Halloween cause it's happened so many times to me," one woman wrote.

"I can’t believe they really have a costume of how it looks when you’re being curved #ghosted," tweeted another.

Troll all the boys who have ghosted you for $24.99. The costume is available on Party City's website.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Halloween costume celebrates the ultimate form of rejection

Friday
Sep212018

California governor signs law to bar restaurants from automatically handing out plastic straws

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- California has passed a law that will ban restaurants from automatically giving out plastic straws in an effort to help protect the environment, particularly the ocean and marine life.

“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Gov. Jerry Brown of California said in a statement upon signing the bill Thursday. “Ocean plastic is estimated to kill millions of marine animals every year."

The law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, applies only to full-service, dine-in restaurants, not fast-food establishments or other businesses. It sets a fine of $25 per day for restaurants that violate the rule, with the total not to exceed $300 annually.

The initiative is the first of its kind, officials said.

"California is the only state in the nation that has this type of law," Lerna Kayserian Shirinian, communications director for State Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, told ABC News.

Roughly 835,425 straws were picked up from the state's shoreline between 1988 and 2014, according to a statement from Calderon's office. Many additional straws have been picked up inland or around California’s lakes and waterways, the statement said.

“By removing the default behavior of providing straws with every drink, consumers have an opportunity to make a deliberate, small change that will minimize the harmful impacts of single use plastic straws in the environment,” Calderon, who introduced the legislation, said in the statement. “It’s a small but significant step forward and will hopefully set the precedent for the rest of the nation to adopt similar policies that will ensure less plastic ends up harming the environment."

“By removing the default behavior of providing straws with every drink, consumers have an opportunity to make a deliberate, small change that will minimize the harmful impacts of single use plastic straws in the environment,” Calderon said in the statement. “It’s a small but significant step forward and will hopefully set the precedent for the rest of the nation to adopt similar policies that will ensure less plastic ends up harming the environment."

By 2022, the U.S. is projected to consume $600 million worth of single-use straws annually, according to market research Freedonia Group.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep212018

Apple's biggest, most expensive iPhone hits stores

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Apple's biggest and most expensive phones -- the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max -- went on sale on Friday, as some analysts wondered if the high prices will turn off customers.

The cheapest new Xs model starts at $999 for 64GB in memory. The phone that Apple refers to as "affordable," the iPhone XR, which starts at $749, doesn't go on sale until October.

Recently iPhone sales have stagnated, but increasing prices have made up the gap, resulting in record revenue for the company.

On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the price of the new phones on "Good Morning America," saying, "Most people pay about $30 a month for an iPhone or $1 a day."

In Palo Alto on Friday, Cook showed up to greet shoppers at an Apple store. He's been known to drop in to stores during fall product launches.

"It's much more expensive," said Tuong H. Nguyen, a senior principal analyst at Gartner.

He said people may be thinking, "'I just dropped $1,000 last year. And this year's phone is not that interesting. Everything we have right now is awesome. Maybe the new iPhone is slightly more awesome, but it’s hard for me as a consumer to discern the difference. We’re well past the point of meeting our needs with these products.'"

"What does that mean to you as a consumer other than the trophy prestige brand value?" Nguyen said.

This year is an "S" year, meaning that Apple releases a new version of an existing phone, like the XS, rather than putting a new phone on the market.

Nguyen said that Apple always sees a bump in fourth quarter sales because that's when the company releases new products and increases its market share of the smart phone market. But "in the S years the bump is not quite as pronounced," he said.

The new Apple Watch Series 4 also goes on sale Friday. The smart watch will be the first to integrate an ability to detect when a wearer falls and to automatically call loved ones and emergency services if there's no user response to alerts after 50 seconds. It also comes with function able to take an electrocardiogram of the user and send the information to a doctor.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep212018

More than 100 Uber Eats couriers block London streets in protest over change in pay

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- More than 100 Uber Eats couriers blocked roads in London on Thursday to protest what they said is a significant cut in pay by the company.

The couriers, riding scooters and motorcycles, chanted "no money, no food" as they shut down traffic outside Uber Eats's London headquarters for the second day in a row.

The protesters said they were striking in response to the company's announced changes to minimum delivery rates that would affect couriers' pay, according to The Guardian.

“They don’t have access to sick pay, holiday pay and other benefits. They depend on their salary for everything and so the fact they have a pay cut is more problematic for them,” said Henry Chango Lopez, president of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, who said he attended the protest to show solidarity, told ABC News.

The company's change in rates means that some couriers could see their pay per delivery drop nearly 40 percent from £4.60 (equivalent to about $6) to £2.80 (about $3.66), Lopez said.

Uber Eats said in a statement that it changed its payment structure to increase earnings during busy times and that it was setting minimum, hourly-payment guarantees during the transition to the new system.

“In response to feedback from couriers we’ve made some changes to our payment structure in London, which brings it into line with other cities," the company said. "The changes will help increase earnings during busy mealtimes and, as we transition to the new system, we’re introducing minimum payment guarantees of £9-11 an hour."

The couriers' protest comes as Bloomberg reports that Uber is in talks to acquire Deliveroo, a food delivery service in Europe and one of Uber Eats’s bigger competitors in the region.

Earlier this summer, a group of 50 Deliveroo couriers, represented by the Independent Workers Union, won a six-figure payout after the company denied workers minimum wage and holiday pay because they were considered to be self-employed.

“There is no reason for these cuts other than to make more profits for the company and exploit the workers more than they already exploit them” said Lopez.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Amazon unveils 70 new devices and features in surprise announcement

Amazon(NEW YORK) -- Amazon is unveiling 70 new devices and features, the largest ever dropped in one day, the company said.

Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices introduced the products in a surprise announcement at its headquarters at The Seattle Spheres, according to the company's live blog.

The first device to be unveiled was the Echo Dot. The small disc-shaped speaker has "a brand new mic array that gives it better performance. The driver is now much larger — we went from a 1.1-inch driver to a 1.6-inch driver so we can deliver more powerful sound with lower distortion and enhanced bass reproduction," the company's blog said. "The new Echo Dot is now 70 percent louder."

The new Echo Dot will still have coveted features, like a line-out jack and Bluetooth connection, so you can connect it to a separate speaker.

The company also introduced Echo Input, an Echo device without a speaker that will allow people to use Alexa from multiple rooms.

Amazon also launched new features for the company's personal assistant, Alexa.

"We're working on a system to make Alexa more opinionated and personal," the company said in a post on its blog. The new "Follow up" feature boosts the personal assistant's short-term memory. Users can say, "What's the weather in LA?" And then later on, if they ask about a restaurant, the device will know they're still talking about Los Angeles.

The company also introduced "Alexa Captions" on Echo Show and Echo Spot devices for the hearing impaired.

For parents, Alex can start getting kids to bed with "Routines for Kids."

"Parents can now easily create routines for the family using simple templates. So when you say, 'Alexa, good night,' Alexa will say a nice message that you can customize, turn off the lights and start sleep sounds," according to the blog.

The company also introduced Echo Link, which will use existing stereo equipment to control "music selection, volume, and multi-room playback on your stereo" with the Echo or the Alexa app.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Self-styled 'weed nuns' put faith in the healing powers, and profits, of cannabis

ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The Sisters of the Valley, a group of self-styled "weed nuns," are putting their faith in the healing power of cannabis.

Despite their moniker, this nonreligious sorority of radical feminists resides in Northern California farm country. The women grow cannabis on the sun-drenched property, tucked among vineyards and apple orchards. They use a strain of marijuana that eliminates THC, but still contains CBD (cannabidiol), which is touted for its healing properties.

"It's considered hemp because it won't get anybody high, but it's really marijuana," said “Sister Kate," whose real name is Christine Meeusen. "It's medical marijuana, but just like over the years they've been able to develop strains that get you super high. We've also developed strains that don't get you high at all."

The Sisters of the Valley sell products for various ailments including insomnia, arthritis and anxiety. Their top seller is a tropical salve that soothes achy joints. That product alone rakes in $3,000 per day, according to Meeusen.

A few of the women live on the compound, and six of them work on the cannabis business, along with two "Brothers."

"We do need men and we don't want to be exclusive of the men," Meeusen said. "We just want the women to own the businesses and hold all the offices in town."

Meeusen is the matriarch-in-chief at the Sisters of the Valley. The divorced, former marketing consultant raised two children and said she had to start from scratch after her marriage came apart. She said her company grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement and a desire among her and her peers to build their own commune in an environment that allows for "healthy socialism."

"We believe in paying taxes," she said. "We believe quite frankly that America's culture of starving the tax system is wrong, it's morally wrong. Most of us have lived in other places where the tax system actually works."

Meeusen said she lived and raised her children in the Netherlands, which has universal health care.

"Fifty percent of income [in the Netherlands] is paid in taxes," she told "Nightline."

"But guess what? They never pay a hospital bill. They never worry about their retirement or being homeless," she said. "So yes we are very very for a reasonable sort of socialism and that is paying your taxes and taking care of the marginalized."

Unaffiliated with any church, the Sisters of the Valley wear habits around the property, but Meeusen said she doesn't feel like they are making a mockery of religion.

"Religion [has] made a mockery of itself," she said. "We didn't have to help them."

Sister Sierra, aka Sierra Walker, said that this group of women who live, work and pray together "are truly sisters, truly nuns" in that definition.

"We give our hearts and our minds and our souls to what we are doing here," she said. "And I think that we're doing a good job," she said. "I think we're doing a marvelous job, and I think the revival that we needed in our world."

Walker said she is a new acolyte to the group.

"I think as I grew older I came to see things differently and cannabis has been very much on my heart as a healing," she said.

Meeusen added that they all took vows to live simply which she explained is different from a vow of poverty like traditional nuns.

"We do take six vows, we take vows service, of activism, about chastity which requires privatizing our sexuality," Meeusen said. "It doesn't require being celibate but it does require keeping it very private off the grid. We have a vow of living simply which -- speaks for itself."

The sisters said they produce a line of "medical-grade products" on the farm that requires them to wear headgear while handling the crops and oils for hygiene purposes. While they do grow their own cannabis, the sisters also ship in some product from Oregon.

"Generally, people use CBD for chronic pain, also it’s good for insomnia, anxiety, depression," said Sister Alice, aka Alice Fullerton.

CBD products have grown in popularity more recently and are now widely available in 31 states that have public medical marijuana and cannabis programs.

Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.

There are even coffee shops in Los Angeles and New York City that offer droplets of CBD product. According to Forbes, Coca-Cola is also considering adding a CBD beverage.

The booming realm of hemp-derived products is expected to be a $2 billion industry by 2022, according to new data from New Frontier Data.

The Sisters of the Valley said they raked in $1.1 million in profits last year.

"With a just distribution of Mother Earth’s gifts, no one has to live in poverty," Meeusen said. "We're activists for the $15 minimum wage. We're not going to invest our money in ostentatious wealth when we could be creating jobs for other women. That's the goal."

When they aren't making their producers, the Sisters of the Valley live as others do. They surf the Internet, watch YouTube videos and smoke the occasional afternoon joint.

The women said their lives are not dedicated to the herb, but to the idea of sisterhood -- a women-owned and operated business that nurtures others as well.

"We are on a mission to empower women to be their best spiritually, to be their best as an activist and to be in service to their own people and the planet," Meeusen said.

"So we're out to inspire women."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep192018

Do Facebook ads discriminate against women? ACLU files complaint saying 'yes'

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Facebook allows employers to discriminate against women by targeting job listings toward men only — specifically in traditionally male-dominated fields, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU, along with employment law firm Outten & Golden and the Communications Workers of America, filed charges on Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and 10 companies, claiming that they discriminated based gender.

But how does that work?

“We discovered Facebook was allowing advertisers to select the gender of the user it wants to reach and that violates federal law,” ACLU lawyer Galen Sherwin told ABC News on Wednesday. “When you make an ad on Facebook, it allows you to choose whether to target ‘All,’ ‘Men’ or ‘Women.’ Two out of three of those are illegal choices in the context of an employment ad.”

Sherwin noted that the ads referenced in the EEOC complaint are for professions usually dominated by men, such as construction, security, installation and truck driving.

“It’s insidious because it perpetuates the exclusion of women from those jobs," she said. "If you click on the ad, it takes you to the company’s Facebook page, which lists all of their other jobs. But women don’t get the chance to click through and see all of the ads.”

Facebook has had to defend its targeted ads on several fronts recently. Earlier this year, it disclosed that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica misused data from up to 87 million of the company's users.

Then in August, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lodged a complaint that the company allowed ads on the platform to discriminate based on “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.” The complaint follows years of reporting by Propublica and other media groups.

“There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year, we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse. We are reviewing the complaint and look forward to defending our practices,” Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

The company recently removed over 5,000 options to exclude audiences based on ethnicity or religion, Osborne said. The platform is moving toward requiring advertisers to comply with its anti-discrimination policies and the law, he added.

The ACLU complaint documents how specifically tailored the ads can be. In one screenshot, possible categories were: “Bad Moms, Single Dads, Single Moms, Soccer mom and Working Moms.”

Facebook itself was also charged with gender discrimination in its own hiring practices. The ACLU criticized job ads for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, for using the company's "Lookalike Audience" feature, calling it "legally indistinguishable from word-of-mouth hiring, which has long been considered a discriminatory and unlawful employment practice," according to the EEOC complaint.

Other employers who had charges filed against them denied gender discrimination.

Software company Abas USA called the claims “false and reckless” in a statement.

“We did not use targeted Facebook ads to exclude women. Just the opposite. We used a targeted ad in Facebook to specifically include women,” the statement said. The company included the ad, which pictured a woman. “Simultaneously, with the ad targeted toward women, because Abas USA is an equal opportunity employer, we ran the following ad targeted toward men with identical text and link but with a picture of a man.”

The Greensboro Police Department, which was also charged with gender discrimination, issued a statement saying, “Facebook is one channel of an extensive recruiting strategy for the Greensboro Police Department. We are committed to seeking and hiring an inclusive and diverse workforce. We adhere to our city’s policy of diversity and inclusion.”

The City of Greensboro also issued a statement in response. “The City of Greensboro is an equal opportunity employer that seeks to have a diverse workforce, reflective of the community it serves. This organization uses multiple techniques to broaden opportunities for applying and encourages diversity within our workforce. We will not accept generalized accusations that represent anything less than that.”

Another company brought before the EEOC, window replacement company Andersen Corporation, issued a statement saying, "Our primary focus is to build the most talented and most dedicated team in the industry, regardless of who those folks might be, so that we can best serve our customers. In regards to the filing with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we are an equal opportunity employer, and we are proud of the diversity of our workforce. We will not be commenting on specifics of this case."

Messaging in ads can work both ways in fields long considered a province for men.

Elizabeth Skidmore, a carpenter and spokeswoman for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, which isn't involved in the case, said the union had targeted women in job postings by showing images of women working in construction sites on social media posts and job sites. As a result, she said, the number of female construction apprentices has tripled in Massachusetts since 2012.

"It does matter what the ads look like, what the images are, and the words that they use," Skidmore said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep192018

United's new boarding method is designed to slash your time in line

United Airlines(NEW YORK) -- Airline passengers crowding around the gate, waiting for their group to be called, has plagued the flight boarding process for a long time. But United Airlines believes its new, simplified approach to boarding will help alleviate the problem.

The idea began about a year ago when an increasing number of customers complained about time spent standing in line and congested boarding areas, United's Maria Walter, managing director of global operations strategy, told ABC News.

"We didn't want people to feel stress or anxiety before they board," Walter said, adding that customers getting off the previous flight and passengers with disabilities were especially affected by people swarming the gate.

So United scrapped the airline's previous method of diverting passengers into 5 separate lines before boarding. It will continue to have several different groups of passengers, but the number of lines that those passengers wait in will be reduced to two, decreasing the time that people will stand in line before their group is called to board.

While one group boards, the group boarding next will be asked to line up. All other groups will be asked to remain seated. United claims the two-line system will free up space around the gate, and reduce time spent standing in line.

The airline hopes that people in later groups, such as 4 or 5, may spend about 30 minutes less time standing in line during the new process, Walter told ABC News.

United first tested the new system earlier this year with select flights out of certain airports including LAX, Chicago O’Hare, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Like other carriers, the first people to board on United flights are disabled passengers, active military, families with young children, and those who have a high status within the airline. Following that "pre-boarding" group is Group 1, made up of first and business class passengers. Group 2 includes United credit-card holders, passengers with moderate status within the airline, and anyone who purchased priority boarding. Groups 3 and 4 are Economy customers. Basic Economy customers board last.

The airline says the time it takes to board the entire plane isn't necessarily reduced under the new method. Instead, the new system is designed to simply cut down on time that passengers have to stand in line.

This latest adjustment from United reflects an ever-changing landscape of airline boarding processes. American and Delta changed their boarding process last year, and Southwest changed their boarding process in 2007. But none of these changes have eliminated people's habit of hovering around the gate before their group is called.

Reducing overall boarding time has long been a struggle for the airline industry. The various levels of passenger status and more passengers with carry-on bags are among the many reasons boarding is slower now than it has been in previous decades.

Low-cost airlines, such as Spirit, claim faster boarding times because of additional fees on carry-ons that deter customers from bringing bags on board. More customers spending time pushing suitcases into the overhead bins means delays for passengers getting into their seats.

Airlines will continue to work on improving the boarding process, but until they do away with things like carry-on luggage allowances, frequent flyer statuses, and small overhead bins, it’s impossible to create a perfect process.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep192018

Tesla confirms federal probe over Musk tweets, sending shares lower

ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Tesla shares tumbled on Tuesday amid reports of a potential criminal probe over its chief executive officer's statements about taking the company private.

The electric carmaker said it agreed to hand over documents to the Department of Justice in connection with CEO Elon Musk's tweets about taking the publicly traded company private last month, according to a company statement.

Tesla said it was cooperating with the government, but noted that it had not received a subpoena, a request for testimony or any other formal process.

“Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” the company said. "We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

Shares tumbled as much as 7 percent on Tuesday afternoon as investors reacted to the news. The stock closed at $284.89 per share, or about 3.4 percent lower.

Tesla issued the statement after Bloomberg reported, citing two anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter, that the DOJ had opened a criminal fraud investigation over Musk’s Aug. 7 tweets. The investigation is in its early stages and could take months, according to the report.

The company is also at the center of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe into the firm’s practices and communications, according to Bloomberg.

Shares rose as much as 11 percent on Aug. 7 in the wake of Musk's now-infamous tweet.

"Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured," he tweeted.

"Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote," he added in a subsequent tweet, before abandoning the plan.

The scope of the DOJ’s investigation is still unclear, but Stephen Crimmins, a former deputy chief of litigation for the SEC, says Musk’s conduct probably doesn't rise to the criminal level.

"It automatically becomes so high profile that the government enforcers have to be particularly conscientious in taking a look at things," Crimmins told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Crimmins, who spent 14 years at the SEC, said while Musk “speaks loosely,” federal prosecutors would have to prove that he lied in an effort to impact the company’s stock price.

That would be difficult to do, he said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep192018

New birthday cake-flavored Oreos celebrate Mickey Mouse's 90th birthday

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Mickey Mouse is turning 90 this year! For his big birthday, the chief mouse doesn't just get a basic birthday cake. He gets his very own custom Oreos, of course!

Disney teamed up with milk's favorite cookie, Oreo, to mark the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse with limited-edition birthday cake-flavored Oreos.

There are three different Mickey Mouse-themed designs on top of the wafers: a party horn, a big 90 in honor of this major milestone and Mickey Mouse himself, of course.

The release of the Mickey Mouse Oreo is just one of the ways in which Disney is celebrating Mickey's 90th, including gourmet candy collaborations and an interactive art exhibit.

The Mickey Mouse Oreos will be available nationwide starting Sept. 24 while supplies last.

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