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Monday
May252015

Tigerair Offers $9 Flights in Fare War With Competing Airlines

PomInOz/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- In the ongoing fare war between Australia's budget airlines, it would seem that travelers are the current victors.

Tigerair, a short-haul carrier owner by Virgin Australia, dropped roughly 500 fares to the rock-bottom price of $9 per flight on select routes this weekend in a bid to lure passengers away from competitors like Jetstar.

"Introducing Saturday flight fever, every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. aest," tweeted the airline's social media feed on May 23. "Today there's 500 seats for $9* (T&Cs apply)"

A subsequent tweet posted a video of Tigerair flight crew breaking out disco dance moves to celebrate their "grooviest sale ever."

The fire sale lasted for four hours and kicks off what will be a weekly series of similar incentives, according to a spokesperson quoted on news.com.au, which first reported the story.

In the United States, low-budget carrier Spirit Airlines offers an ongoing "$9 Fare Club" membership, charging fliers $59.95 for "exclusive access to discounted fares and vacation packages."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May252015

Actress Nikki Reed Touts Healthy Eating, Natural Food Website

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Actress Nikki Reed played a vampire on the hit franchise Twilight, but off-screen, she's promoting healthy eating options for families in need.

One of them, she said, is Thrive Market, an online marketplace that sells all-natural foods at 25 to 50 percent below retail price. She is a spokeswoman for the marketplace.

For Reed -- who married 36-year-old Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerhalder last month -- the issue hits very close to home.

At a farmers market, the actress said that the fresh items there were "a totally different world" from what she grew up eating.

"I had a single mom, a single mom who made ($15,000) to $17,000 a year, raising two kids in Los Angeles. It was hard ... we ate a lot of fast food and we ate a lot of what came off the dollar menu," she said.

For Reed's mother, buying fresh food was too expensive.

"I actually worked in the cafeteria in exchange for free lunch," Reed said.

Because of her past, Reed is working to make a difference for others who may have challenges similar to those she experienced as a child.

Although it's a common belief that it's costly to eat healthy, Reed said there are alternatives.

"They do make it easy and you know ... my family growing up, this is definitely something my mother would have loved," Reed said. "If my mom had something like Thrive Market as an option for her ... then it would have been a whole different ball game."


ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
May242015

More than 160,000 Trailer Hitches Recalled Over Weak Steel Concerns

papa1266/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Close to 162,000 trailer hitches are being recalled over fears that weak steel can cause the hitch to break.

The recall affects the “U-Haul Power Tow” TS1 and TS2 models, which were sold exclusively at U-Haul outlets, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company behind the hitches, Curtis Manufacturing, said that manufacturing changes in China reduced the strength of the steel in the hitches, which can break when towing near the maximum-rated load.

According to the NHTSA, there have been no injuries or property damage reported.

Curtis Manufacturing plans to notify owners and replace the parts free of charge.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May232015

Buffett: Raising Minimum Wage to $15 Would 'Reduce Employment in a Major Way'

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Billionaire Warren Buffett objected to the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Friday, saying that such a move would "reduce employment in a major way."

"The American Dream promises that a combination of education, hard work and good behavior can move any citizen from humble beginnings to at least reasonable success," Buffett wrote, noting that for many Americans, that very promise has been fulfilled. However, Buffett acknowledges, "recently...the economic rewards flowing to people with specialized talents have grown dramatically faster than those going to equally decent men and women possessing more commonplace skills."

Buffett, the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, cites statistics from Forbes, highlighting the massive wealth of the richest Americans, compared to the "huge number of their fellow citizens...living the American Nightmare -- behaving well and working hard but barely getting by."

The mismatch between American workers and a larger-than-ever swath of available jobs, Buffett says, "is neither the fault of the market system nor the fault of the disadvantaged individuals. It is simply a consequence of an economic engine that constantly requires more high-order talents while reducing the need for commodity-like tasks."

Buffett discusses the importance of education in the op-ed, but notes that "even with the finest educational system in the world, a significant portion of the population will continue...to earn no more than a bare subsistence."

Regarding the increased minimum wage, which has inspired numerous rallies in recent months, including gatherings of fast food workers around the nation, Buffett says that while he may wish every job paid at least $15 per hour, "that minimum would almost certainly reduce employment in a major way, crushing many workers possessing only basic skills."

"Smaller increases, though obviously welcome, will still leave many hardworking Americans mired in poverty," he adds. The solution, Buffett argues, is an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides low-income workers with payments from the government that get smaller as their earnings increase.

"There is no perfect system," Buffett accepts, "and some people, of course, are unable to unwilling to work." Still, he urges, "let's replace the American Nightmare with an American Promise: America will deliver a decent life for anyone willing to work."


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May222015

AAA: Nearly 37 Million Americans Traveling Memorial Day Weekend

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Close to 37 million Americans will mark the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend by hitting the road, a new forecast from AAA shows.

The automobile group projects 33 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home between Thursday and Monday by car-- a 5.3 percent increase over last year.

AAA also expects that 2.6 million Americans will fly to a destination during the holiday weekend, while 1.6 million will be opting to travel by cruises, trains or busses.

Trak Lord, a data analyst for the traffic app Waze told ABC News that drivers should leave early Friday, travel during off-peak on Monday.

“So if you really want to get ahead of that, leave for work about 1-2 hours early. Unless of course you've got an audio book that you really want to finish, in which case, you're golden,” Lord said.

He adds that drivers should plan extra time for the Tuesday post-holiday commute.

“On Tuesday, traffic is actually worse than you'd expect. We generally see a 5 to 6 percent increase in the amount of cars on the road that Tuesday morning,” he said.


ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May222015

Super Fancy Waffle House in the Works in New Orleans

SeanPavonePhoto/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- When you need it, the always-open Waffle House is there. And now, the 24-hour chain is coming to New Orleans in a seriously upgraded way.

Waffle House is adding a feature to its restaurants that will upgrade the experience a bit: The New Orleans location will have an outdoor area -- the first of its kind for the chain -- in addition to its more than 1,700 square feet on the inside.

“We’re actually providing something we’ve never provided on another restaurant we’ve ever done, with a little side bistro courtyard area,” Waffle House real estate executive Bob Pence said at a meeting of New Orlean’s Board of Zoning Adjustments, according to the Mid-City Messenger.

The over 12,000 square feet lot used to be a used car shop, but Waffle House has much bigger plans for the space.

“I think that once we get this built, you will see that it’s probably the fanciest Waffle House restaurant you will ever see,” Pence said. “We tried to make it look a little New Orleans-ish.”

So watch out, all you other Waffle Houses -- there’s a fancy new one on the way.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May222015

Marriott Embraces Text Requests, Signaling Major Shift in How Hotels Service Guests

ponsulak/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Between mobile check-in, automatic check out and even robots delivering room service, hotel guests have decreased their interaction with staff dramatically in recent years.

And this summer, travelers staying at Marriott hotels no longer need to pick up the phone to get even the most unusual requests fulfilled. They can just send a text.

The brand has just announced its new Mobile Request app feature. It was introduced at 46 hotels earlier this month and will launch across the entire portfolio of the Marriott Hotels brand -- 500 in all -- this summer.

"Some 75 percent of people travel with one or more mobile devices and the percentage is higher for younger travelers,” said Matthew Carroll, vice president, Marriott Hotels. “We know today’s travelers want a mobile experience built around their changing needs and desire to communicate on their terms. Mobile Request is the brand’s next evolution since our introduction of mobile check-in, checkout and room ready alerts worldwide."

Mobile Request will be available to the 50 million members of Marriott Rewards, the company’s loyalty program. Members will be able to communicate with their hotel in two ways within 72 hours of their reservation and for the duration of their stay. The “Anything Else?” feature offers guests two-way chat functionality to have conversations in real time with the hosts at Marriott Hotels who can fulfill and confirm their requests. It also offers a drop-down menu with most requested services and amenities, such as extra towels and pillows.

And while a few may bemoan the loss of the personal touch at hotels, industry experts say texting is exactly what travelers want.

"Texting for hotel service is a brilliant idea whose time has come.," Professor Chekitan Dev, hotel expert at Cornell University and author of Hospitality Branding told ABC News. "Today's customer has a very simple mantra for businesses they deal with: I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it, and I want it now. In our age of instant gratification, reducing the response time from wish to fulfillment is key."

He added that his research indicates request response time is closely tied to guest satisfaction and loyalty.

Guests are getting far more creative than pillows and towels. Marriott said guests have requested running routes near the hotel for workouts, car service from the airport and even a cinnamon roll with a candle for a 6-year-old's birthday.

Marriott's not the first hotel to use texting, Dev said, but the hotels using it are still few. Marriott said the two-way chat feature is an industry first.

Texting requests is particularly attractive to millennial travelers, Dev said. They're the "hotel industry’s newest target customer, for whom texting is the preferred mode of communication."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May222015

Wall Street Slumps Into Holiday Weekend

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets remained sluggish heading into the Memorial Day weekend, as investors remained concerned over mixed earnings reports on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,232.02 on Friday, down 53.72 from its open.

The Nasdaq was down by 1.43 to close at 5,089.36. The S&P 500 was down by 4.76, to finish the session at a close of 2,126.06.

The slump came amid what appeared to be positive comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen on an interest rate hike later this year. The board said it will keep a close watch on the recovering economy before pulling the trigger.

Investors are trying to stay ahead of the Federal Reserve, as energy related stocks pushed down after the price of oil dropped.

Investors are not too fazed by new consumer prices edging up for a third straight month. Analysts say the rising costs for housing medical care, furniture, and car driving the increase.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May222015

How These Private Investigators Catch Workers' Comp Fraudsters in the Act

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Workers’ compensation programs are meant to help those who are severely disabled, but some attempt to game the system by faking an injury to collect disability payments, thinking they will never be caught.

Insurance fraud is typically very hard to catch than these cases, so private investigators like Bari Kroll and Bob Kiehn are hired by insurance companies to catch fraudsters on tape.

“The secret to some my success is being a woman. It’s still pretty uncommon for people to think women are private investigators.” Kroll said. “This job isn’t for everyone. But it is for me, because I’m OK waiting for something to happen.”

Kiehn, who is also an ABC News consultant, brought ABC News 20/20 along as observers on a mission to capture video of a farmer suspected of fleecing an insurance company. The farmer claimed that injuries from a car accident caused him difficulty with daily farming.

Kiehn said he was looking to capture “Anything he does that makes him look like he’s working.”

After four hours of surveillance Kiehn was able to film the farmer lifting a heavy object into his truck.

“It’s something for us to start building a case on.” Kiehn said. “You have to have a creative solution… [fraudsters] think they’re five steps ahead of us.”


ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News


Kiehn is the founder and president of National SIU, a company that specializes in insurance fraud investigations, and watch him in action in the video player above. Watch the full story on ABC News' 20/20 on Friday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May222015

What to Expect from Google's I/O Conference

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

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

Android M

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

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

Virtual Reality

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

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

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

Satellite Mapping

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

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

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

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

Fitness

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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