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Friday
Jul292016

Ford Teams Up with Jose Cuervo to Build Greener Cars

The Ford Motor Company(NEW YORK) -- Alcoholic drinks and motor vehicles generally don’t mix, but now Ford Motor Company and Jose Cuervo are teaming up in a way that could be a boon for the environment.

While the car and tequila companies at first seem like an odd pairing, the two are working together to develop sustainable car parts from the byproducts of tequila production, according to an announcement from Ford.

The idea is that parts of the agave plant left over after producing tequila could be used in place of traditional materials like plastic to build things like cup holders and fuse boxes on cars.

To produce tequila, agave plants need to be cultivated for more than seven years. When they are harvested, the the plant’s heart -- known as the “piña” -- is roasted and ground in order to extract its juices, Ford detailed in its announcement. Those juices are then distilled, bottled and shipped to your local bar.

But what happens to the fibers that are left over after that process?

Traditionally, the fibers have been used as compost on local farms or taken by local artists to make agave paper and crafts, the company said.

But Jose Cuervo, which has been in business for more than 220 years, and Ford believe the leftover fibers could be put to use in a more sustainable way.

According to Ford, the typical car has about 400 pounds of plastic. Composite materials made from leftover agave could reduce the use of petrochemicals, making cars lighter and more environmentally-friendly. These materials could even improve a car's fuel economy, Ford hopes.

The carmaker says that the materials are still being tested to ensure that they’re sufficiently durable and heat-resistant.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul292016

Mystery of Who Won $536 Million Jackpot Finally Solved

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The mystery of who won the $536 million Mega Millions jackpot earlier this month has finally been solved.

A couple from Hamilton County, Indiana, with two children has come forward and been confirmed as the winners of the $536 million jackpot, Indiana's Hoosier Lottery officials announced at a news conference Friday.

The prize is the largest ever won by a single ticket holder in Mega Millions history.

The couple, who wished to remain anonymous, had a representative claim the prize on Friday. Indiana law allows the prize to be claimed by a limited liability corporation or legal trust, which allows the winners to remain anonymous if they wish.

The representative said that the couple was "incredibly humbled and overjoyed" about winning, but they also were still "wrapping their heads around" what the prize meant for them.

The couple was born and bred in Indiana, where they said they will continue to live and raise their children, their representative said. The couple emphasized that they wanted to "maintain a sense of normalcy" for their two young children, who are still in elementary school.

Although it was announced earlier this month that a winning ticket for the $536 million jackpot had been sold, the couple had forgotten they bought tickets, according to their representative. They only recently stumbled upon the tickets again and checked to see if any of their numbers matched.

When they went online and realized the winning numbers, 8-19-20-55-73 with a Mega Ball number of 5, matched one of the numbers on one of the five quick pick tickets they had bought, they actually did a double-take and restarted their computer in disbelief, their representative said.

The Hamilton County couple bought the winning ticket at a Speedway gas station in Wayne County, according to their representative. They had been on a road trip to a sports event out of state for their children and had taken a stop to get gas and refreshments.

While in the gas station's convenience store, the couple decided to buy five quick pick Mega Millions tickets, their representative said, adding that it was their first time buying them.

The couple has chosen to claim the $536 million prize in a one-time lump sum payment of $378 million. The final payout will be about $271 million after taxes.

Mega Millions jackpot odds are 1 in 258,890,850. Overall odds are 1 in 15.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul292016

Friday Is National Chicken Wing Day

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Buffalo, BBQ, Teriyaki, Jamaican Jerk, mild, medium, hot, spicy, nuclear -- whatever your pleasure, chicken wings have become an American staple at bars and restaurants. If you love wings and beer, you don't need a holiday to celebrate, but since Friday is National Chicken Wing Day, here's a little history for you.

Buffalo, New York claims to be the birthplace of the Buffalo chicken wing. Legend has it that Teressa Bellissimo created Buffalo wings in 1964 at the Anchor Bar, which she owned with her husband Frank. When her son and some of his friends showed up for a late-night bite, she deep-fried some chicken wings, which were usually reserved for soup stock, then tossed them in butter and hot sauce. They were an instant hit.

They weren’t the first Buffalo restaurateurs to realize the potential of chicken wings. John Young had opened Wings’n Things in 1963, but his wings were breaded and dressed in a tomato-based sauce.

Soon, other restaurants in Buffalo started catching on. Duff’s, in nearby Amherst, started selling them in 1969. In 1977, Mayor Stan Makowski declared July 29 Chicken Wing Day.

According to the National Chicken Council, Americans ate 1.3 billion chicken wings for this year's Super Bowl, enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to have four wings each.

A number of bars and restaurants across the country will be participating in celebrating National Chicken Wing Day on Friday, so check your favorite for a deal.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul292016

Q2 Economic Growth Comes in Below Expectations

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. economy grew 1.2 percent between April and June, the Commerce Department said Friday, far below forecasts.

Economists were expecting growth of about 2.6 percent. This is the third consecutive quarter of sluggish growth.

The government also revised down growth in the first quarter of the year, to 0.8 percent from 1.1 percent.

A slowdown in housing construction and inventory led to the decline.

Personal consumption increased at an annualized rate of 4.2 percent in the second quarter, according to the Commerce Department.

"I think the main message is that despite the disappointment at the headline level, we don't seed much new in this report," Barclay's Chief U.S. Economist Michael Gapen told ABC News. "The most important number in this report continues to be the strength of personal consumption."

He said strong consumption suggested "the household is doing fine" despite slow overall growth.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul292016

As Rich Get Richer, Middle-Income Take on More Housing Debt

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” refers to the notion of people trying to match their neighbors’ acquisitions and other signs of social standing, lest they feel inferior.

Now a study suggests that this phenomenon may be real.

In a recently published paper, Jeffrey Thompson, principal economist for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, said that average-income or moderately affluent people take on more housing debt when they have very rich neighbors.

In areas that are home to the very wealthy, “middle and upper-middle income households take on more housing-related debt,” which leaves them with higher debt payments than others at their income levels, Thompson wrote in the report published on the Federal Reserve's website.

Similarly, as incomes of the super-wealthy rise, the greatest impact is upon those a bit further down the income scale -- the moderately well-off, who then take on more debt and higher payment obligations, Thompson found.

The very wealthy are those at the 99th percentile of income, which averages about $341,000 a year.

The moderately affluent, at the 95th percentile, have average incomes less than half that, $151,000. While even that may sound like a lot, if a computer programmer earning the average for that position of $85,000 per year and a nurse with average income of just over $70,000 form a household, they are at the 95th percentile, according to income figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So are people who aren’t rich really trying to keep up with the Joneses? Or is something else at play? Thompson doesn’t make a definitive conclusion.

“It could be that rising top incomes are fueling increased housing consumption at the top, which in turn inspires debt-financed housing consumption further down the [income] distribution,” Thompson writes.

“Alternatively (or also), rising disposable income at the top of the distribution could be helping to bid up the price of land and housing in affluent neighborhoods,” he writes.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul282016

US Stocks Close Mixed as Jobless Claims Rise

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stocks closed mixed as  jobless claims climbed higher last week, increasing by 14,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

The Dow closed down 15.82 (-0.09 percent) to finish at 18,456.35.

The Nasdaq added 15.17 (+0.30 percent) to close at 5,154.0598, while the S&P 500 gained 3.48 to end the day at 2,170.06 (+0.16 percent).

Crude oil lost about 1 percent with prices hitting just over $41 a barrel.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul282016

Lucky Man Wins Ownership of an Island Resort With $49 Raffle Ticket

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  A man who spent $49 on a raffle ticket has won an entire island resort in the Pacific.

The story begins with Doug and Sally Beitz who 24 years ago opened the luxury Kosrae Nautilus Resort in Micronesia. They raised four sons in paradise. When the Beitzes decided it was time to head home to their native Australia to be with their grandchildren full-time, they came up with the idea to raffle it off. To one lucky person.

That lucky person is reportedly from South Wales. He, like all the other contestants, spent just $49 to enter the raffle.

The Beitzes said their decision to hold a raffle instead of a traditional property sale stemmed from their desire to hand over their lives’ work to someone who had dreamed of island life just as they once did. They wanted their resort to go to a person who would respect the island's precious ecosystem -- not just someone with the deepest pockets.

“We wanted to make our resort affordable for everyone,” Doug Beitz explained. “While we are sad to part with it, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to make someone’s dreams come true.”

Anyone anywhere in the world over the age of 21 was eligible to win. Under the contest's rules, if fewer than 50,000 tickets were sold, the raffle winner would have won a cash prize equal to 50 percent of the total ticket sales instead of the resort.

Adam Beitz, one of the couple's sons, told ABC News that the majority of tickets were sold in the U.S., with Australia as a close second.

The owners say the resort is debt-free and profitable. It has 16 long-term employees, and has a minimum occupancy of 55 percent guaranteed through August 2017.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul282016

Millennial Home Ownership at Historic Low

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Fewer millennials are buying homes than in the past six years, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.

Just 34.1 percent of Americans under the age of 35 owned their home, a decline of 0.7 percent from the second quarter of 2015. Millennial home ownership has fallen 4.9 percent since the same period in 2010.

The fall underscores a trend affecting all age groups. The data released Thursday showed that home ownership has touched a 51-year low.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul282016

Market Analyst Bullish on Pizza During Election Season

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While polls seem to always be shifting as to who's on top in this political season, one market analyst has identified an election winner that may offer comfort of a different kind: pizza.

In a research note to investors, Chris O’Cull, a restaurant industry analyst at KeyBank, said he believes interest in the election has motivated many people to stay home and order in, rather than eat out.

Foot traffic to casual dining restaurants was down 5 percent in June, he wrote.

“We believe the civil and political disruptions that have negatively impacted restaurant dining may be helping pizza operators that deliver to consumers,” he wrote in the note.

Notes like this are short messages sent by analysts and others to advise clients of expert opinion on investments, and are usually not based on any in-depth study. Rather, they are based on the analyst's experience and observations, so they should be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak.

O’Cull told ABC News that his analysis was based on conversations with businessmen and women in the sector.

“We talked to a private restaurant company and they said that their sales had been very weak during the DNC convention,” he said, pointing to anecdotal evidence.

At DeMo’s Pizzeria and Deli in Raleigh, North Carolina, co-owner Anthony DeMarco said he’s certainly noticed an uptick in delivery sales as of late.

“We’ve definitely seen a spike for sure," he told ABC News.

“Throughout this whole summer we were expecting it to be pretty slow,” he said. “We have done a good bit of delivery, a lot of delivery actually.”

O’Cull said that he doesn’t necessarily think people are afraid to dine out or feel uncomfortable interacting with others that share differing political views. Instead, he said he thinks it's simply interest in televised political events.

“More folks are engaged in the political environment right now,” he said. “We’re just seeing more engagement around watching the debates watching the conventions, and so it’s more convenient to watch those events and have food delivered to your home than to go out to a restaurant.”

But it’s not just pizza, he said.

“Any kind of delivery food is going to be popular in this kind of environment,” O’Cull concluded.

It’s hard however to directly connect the election to an uptick in delivery.

According to Bruce Grindy, vice president and chief economist at the National Restaurant Foundation, fluctuations between the order-in and delivery industries are normal.

“The back and forth between casual dining and quick-service segments happens both in election and non-election years,” he told ABC News.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul282016

TPP: What Exactly Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Spanning 30 chapters, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a behemoth of a government document, but its length and complexity are matched only by the impact it could have on the global economy -- and the controversy it has created.

Championed by President Obama, it was one of the few White House initiatives that received bipartisan support.

Donald Trump staunchly opposes it and denounced the trade agreement at last week's Republican National Convention.

Hillary Clinton said in October that she opposed what she has “learned about it” -- after she once said it “sets the gold standard in trade agreements."

Clinton’s somewhat ambiguous position on the deal has been derided by her opponents, many of whom seized on comments made by her friend Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe who said that she would come around to support it if elected president.

The Clinton campaign quickly sought to downplay the governor’s remarks.

But with the trade deal continuing to play a key role in the election, many people are asking: what exactly is the TTP?

In short

At its most basic, the TPP is a proposed trade agreement aimed at promoting investment and trade links between 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

The TPP club includes heavy hitters like the United States, Mexico, Japan and Australia, as well as Vietnam, Brunei and Peru. Notably absent from the group: China.

While the agreement is wide-ranging, it would lower or eliminate many tariffs on trade, introduce new labor standards and encourage environmental responsibility, among other objectives.

An agreement on the deal was reached in early October, after more than five years of talks. It is now awaiting congressional approval.

How is TPP different from other trade deals?

TPP joins an alphabet soup of acronyms representing various trade deals.

Many people confuse it with the “TPA," which is short for Trade Promotion Authority. TPA is the authority granted by Congress to allow U.S. presidents to negotiate trade agreements. Congressional members can vote up or down on these deals but cannot offer amendments.

TPP should also not be confused with “TTIP” -- the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- which involves a different ocean, the Atlantic. That agreement, which is currently being negotiated, is between the U.S. and the European Union and has similar trade objectives to the TPA.

What are the benefits of TPP?

The lower tariffs (taxes on goods that are traded internationally) could have a host of economic benefits for both consumers and producers, experts say.

“The benefit is going to a combination of access to a wider variety of better quality goods and services, it’s also going to be providing employment opportunities -- it’s going to create more export-orientated businesses, more jobs,” Joshua Meltzer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News.

In other words, Meltzer says, consumers will find cheaper-priced goods. It also means that new business opportunities could be created by opening markets in Asia to American-made goods, which in turn, he says, would create jobs.

Additionally, Meltzer says, “The data clearly shows that these export-orientated businesses pay high wages.”

But don’t expect things to change dramatically, he says. The effects could be somewhat muted, since the U.S. is already very open to trade.

The trade agreement also includes provisions that could advance American values abroad -- especially as it pertains to labor and environmental rights.

In November, Obama called it "the highest standard and most progressive trade deal ever concluded.”

“It includes strong protections for workers, prohibitions against child labor and forced labor,” he noted. “It has provisions to protect the environment, to help stop wildlife trafficking, to protect our oceans.”

Why do critics deride it?

Opposition to the TPP generally falls into two categories -- those who think that free trade agreements and globalization generally harm American workers, and those who think the agreement doesn’t go far enough.

Trump has been a fervent critic of the agreement, underscoring his opposition late last month at a rally in Ohio.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster, done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country. Just a continuing rape of our country," he said.

On the opposite end of the general ideological divide lies Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also believes the TPP is a threat to U.S. interests. He repeatedly spoke out against it during his presidential run.

“Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a 'free trade' agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system," according to a statement on the senator's website.

But for others, the deal doesn't go far enough.

For Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, it's not worth the effort, given the expected gain.

“It’s a wet firecracker you ignite and nothing is going to happen," he told ABC News.

For Scissors, the agreement doesn't do enough to boost services industries, which make up the largest part of the U.S. economy.

“The number one thing from [the perspective of] the U.S. as a whole is to open up services and we didn't do that,” he lamented.

How does it affect America's relationship with China?

In many ways, the deal reflects Obama’s ambition to increase U.S. influence in Asia. It also serves as a check on China’s growing economic influence in the region.

“When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy,” Obama said in a statement in October. “We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”

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