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Saturday
May282016

Low Prices at the Pump Fuel Record Travel This Holiday Weekend

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions are hitting the road to travel for the first big weekend of the summer, fueled by gas prices that are 42 cents lower than last year.

A possible record-breaking 34 million Americans are expected to drive this holiday weekend, while the average gallon of gas is just $2.32.

"The cost of traveling was just too high in recent years," Turner Batten, a holiday traveler, told ABC News. "But this year, thankfully, gas prices have dropped and we're able to make a trip like this."

Although gas prices have been rising within the past month, they're expected to stay low for the weekend, which is good news for businesses.

"The crowds are good, and they're spending money," Dan Dinnebeil of Shake Shoppe Arcade in Orlando told ABC News.


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Friday
May272016

Expect Interest Rate Increase 'Probably in the Coming Months,' Janet Yellen Says

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- Another interest rate increase after December's hike may be coming sooner than investors think.

Speaking at Harvard University on Friday where she received the Radcliffe Medal, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen hinted there could be an interest rate hike sometime this summer as long as the economy and the jobs market continued to grow.

“It’s appropriate, and I have said this in the past, I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time, and probably in the coming months such a move would be appropriate,” she said.

Despite signaling a possible rate hike, Yellen still remains cautious.

"One of the reasons I believe it's important to be cautious in raising interest rates is precisely because if we were to raise interest rates too steeply and we were to trigger a downturn or contribute to a downturn we have limited scope for responding and it is an important reason for caution," Yellen said.

Yellen's words echo recent comments made by other Fed officials the past week that have talked about a rate hike happening sometime this summer. Some have even suggested more than one interest rate increase before the end of the year, despite Wall Street expectations that the central bank would hold off.

The Fed will meet on June 14-15 and Yellen is scheduled to hold another speech in Philadelphia on June 6.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May272016

US Stocks Close Higher After Yellen Talks Summer Rate Hike

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Investors are starting to accept an impending interest rate increase ahead of the holiday weekend after comments from Fed Chair Janet Yellen helped Wall Street close slightly higher.

The Dow jumped 44.93 (+0.25 percent) to close at 17,873.22.

The Nasdaq gained 31.74 (+0.65 percent) to finish at 4,933.50, while the S&P pushed up 8.96 (+0.43 percent) to close at 2,099.06.

There was little change for crude oil with prices remaining at about $49 a barrel.

Federal Reserve: Speaking at Harvard University on Friday where she received the Radcliffe Medal, Yellen hinted there could be an interest rate hike sometime this summer as long as the economy and the jobs market continued to grow.

“It’s appropriate, and I have said this in the past, I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time, and probably in the coming months such a move would be appropriate,” she said.

U.S. Economy: Also fueling a key interest rate raise, a revised report from the Commerce Department that showed there was stronger economic growth in the first-quarter compared to earlier predictions. The agency said the GDP grew 0.8 percent in Q1, above the previous estimate of 0.5 percent. Although consumer spending increased 1.9 percent, it was much lower than the fourth-quarter's 2.4 percent increase.

Verizon: After 13 days of negotiations, Verizon Communications Inc. reached a deal on Friday with two unions for a four-year labor agreement. According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, the workers will be back on the job next week.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year contract, resolving the open issues in the ongoing labor dispute between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management," Perez said in a statement Friday. "The parties are now working to reduce the agreement to writing, after which the proposal will be submitted to CWA and IBEW union members for ratification."

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Friday
May272016

Man’s Creative Super Mario Proposal Gets High Score with Bride-To-Be

Courtesy of Shane Birkinbine(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- One man’s creative Super Mario marriage proposal definitely earned him the top score in his bride-to-be’s eyes.

When Pam Edwards was unsuspectingly playing the game alongside her now fiancé, Shane Birkinbine, on May 21, she had no idea she’d soon be winning not only the game, but also a new sparkly diamond ring.

“You can make your own custom levels,” Birkinbine, 39, told ABC News of how he designed the game to pop the question. “I’m more of an introvert so I didn’t want to make a huge deal of it, but wanted something between us that was special and creative. So it came to my mind that I’m going make a special level just for her.”

As Edwards began playing, she was too focused on winning to realize her name was written on the screen.

“Babe, what’s that say?” Birkinbine asks Edwards in the adorable video he took to capture the moment. “The blocks, it spells out your name I think.”

Tickled enough by the fact her boyfriend programmed her name into the game, she still had no idea what was coming next.

“What’s that say?” he continues as she moves the control to see the following question.

As she reads “Will you marry me?” written in blocks on the screen, she’s overcome with emotion, giggling before replying “Yes!”

“I was really surprised,” Edwards, 30, said of the special proposal. “It was so creative and I was just happy because we’re in love and I’m just thrilled.”

Birkinbine said it took him about a week to program the personalized level, and he wasn’t concerned about her finding it on the game because “she wouldn’t just hop on herself,” he said.

“I’m kind of the avid gamer and geek,” he added. “I like a lot of different geeky stuff or science fiction movies. She’s does game with me with sometimes, but it’s not something she’d just log in to do herself.”

As soon as the video ends, Birkinbine got down on one knee with the ring, which he also planned to go along with the theme.

“I had the ring in its original box and then I had that box in a Mario question mark box,” he said. “It’s actually a Yahtzee video game container. I got up off the couch and went over to her and I just said, 'Babe, I love you very much. You’re so kind and sweet and always taking care of me, and you’re the woman I want to be with the rest of my life.’”

The happy couple from Bentonville, Arkansas, is now planning a wedding for this fall.

As for continuing the Super Mario theme in the wedding, “We’ll incorporate some geeky aspects into it, but I want it to be just the way she likes it,” said Birkinbine.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May272016

Verizon Strikes 4-Year Deal with Labor Unions

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Verizon Communications Inc. has struck a deal in principle with two unions for a four-year labor agreement, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said Friday.

The workers will be back on the job next week, Perez said.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year contract, resolving the open issues in the ongoing labor dispute between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management," Perez said in a statement Friday. "The parties are now working to reduce the agreement to writing, after which the proposal will be submitted to CWA and IBEW union members for ratification."

The deal was struck through 13 days of negotiations at the Department of Labor, Perez said, adding he has observed the parties' "good faith commitment to narrowing differences and forging and agreement."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May272016

TSA Head: Lines Won't Make for 'Summer of Misery'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While holiday travelers enjoy their time off this Memorial Day weekend, crowding highways and airports across the country, aviation security will be put to the test.

"I don't think it'll be a summer of misery," Transportation Security Administration Administrator Peter Neffenger told ABC News Friday.

Despite the record number of passengers expected to take to the skies this summer, the TSA head says he's "cautiously optimistic" that the 768 new officers -- combined with a new command center that monitors checkpoint volume in real-time, airport by airport – should help the long lines passengers have been seeing at TSA checkpoints across the country.

Existing TSOs (Travel Security Officers) will also take on more hours: Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson on Thursday submitted a request to Congress to transition 2,784 Transportation Security Officers from part-time to full time -- a step that Johnson said would allow an additional 82,000 passengers to be screened per day.

Lawmakers have been calling for airlines to help ease wait times by eliminating bag fees, which they say force passengers to travel with carry-on bags, rather than checking their luggage.

On Friday, Neffenger told ABC News “that option has to be on the table,” but clarified that “it’s unclear to me how much that impact would be.”

Lawmakers say TSA data indicates that checkpoints serving carriers that charge for bags see 27 percent more roller bags than checkpoints serving carriers that allow passengers to check bags for free.

“Extra carry-on bags is a challenge,” Neffenger acknowledged.

His No. 1 tip to travelers looking to avoid long waits? Enroll in PreCheck or another "trusted traveler program." Roughly 92 percent of PreCheck members stand in line five minutes or less.


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Friday
May272016

This Robot Is Being Taught to Flinch as Though It's Reacting to Pain

Leibniz University of Hannover(HANNOVER, Germany) -- Robots with emotion. Robots that can do our jobs. Robotic friends. Next up: Robots that can feel pain.

Researchers in Germany are developing an artificial nervous system that would teach robots to feel and react to pain, with the intent of helping them to avoid damage to their systems and warn their human co-workers, which could help prevent accidents.

A team of researchers from Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany, described their research at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation last week in Stockholm, Sweden.

In humans, neurons transmit pain. Artificial neurons in the robot would send the same signals, allowing it to determine the scope of the pain, from light to severe.

"Pain is a system that protects us. When we move away from the source of pain, it helps us not get hurt," Johannes Kuehn, one of the researchers, told IEEE Spectrum.

How the robot reacts is also key. Kuehn and his co-worker, Sami Haddadin, wrote in a paper published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters they used human pain research to understand how robotic reflexes could help protect the machines.

Using a tactile fingertip sensor that can feel temperature and pressure, the researchers developed a prototype reflex controller based on how human feel when they experience physical pain. When the force on the sensor passes a certain level, the robot receives alerts, the same way humans would when they experience pain. The robot can then use its protective reflexes.

It's only a matter of time before robots are practically human-like.

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Friday
May272016

Memorial Day Deals 2016: The Biggest Bargains of the Weekend

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Memorial Day has become the unofficial start of summer. The entire weekend is also a big one for sales.

ABC News' Becky Worley has a roundup of the best bargains of the weekend:

AIR CONDITIONERS, GRILLS, CAMPING GEAR

Walmart: $76 off a Frigidaire window unit.

Home Depot: Get 25 percent off select grills and patio furniture. You can also get this 7-piece patio furniture set for just $99.

Lowe’s: A 4-burner grill is marked down to $169 -- that’s 15 percent lower than the lowest price Worley could find online.

Cabela’s: Get camping gear, back packs and sleeping bags for 20 percent off.

MATTRESSES

Memorial Day is considered the best time to buy a mattress. Deals can be had at department stores and specialty mattress retailers, but here’s a tip: There are slew of online mattress companies in business now and they are putting pressure on traditional mattress companies, forcing even more competitive prices.

VACUUM CLEANERS

There are vacuum cleaner sales everywhere. You can get them 25 to 35 percent off at Best Buy, Sears and Target.

CLOTHES

Check with your local store to see if the below deals are available in-store or only online.

The Children’s Place: 50 percent off children’s clothing sitewide at The Children’s Place, Carter’s and OshKosh B’gosh.

Reebok: 20 percent off sitewide using coupon code MEMDAY

Banana Republic: 40 percent off entire purchase online using code BRTAKE40

J. Crew: Extra 30 percent off with code WEEKEND

Land’s End: 50 percent off select swimwear using coupon code STARS

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Friday
May272016

Facebook and Microsoft's Atlantic Ocean Cable Boasts Highest Capacity Ever

the-lightwriter/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Facebook and Microsoft are teaming up to lay an undersea cable system across the Atlantic Ocean that will deliver faster connections to online and cloud services from both companies.

Construction of the cable, called MAREA, will begin in August, according to a statement from both companies, and is expected to be completed in October 2017. MAREA, which is the Spanish word for "tide," will span 4,100 miles from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Bilbao on the northern coast of Spain.

MAREA will take a southern route away from most existing transatlantic cables, which begin in New York and New Jersey. Being separate from other cables will ensure the super high-speed cable is "more resilient and reliable," according to a blog post from Microsoft.

The cable will have the ability to transmit as much as 160 terabytes per second, making it the highest capacity cable of its kind to be laid under the ocean, according to both companies. By comparison, in 2014 Google joined forces with five other companies to build an approximately 5,600-mile undersea cable system spanning the Pacific Ocean, with an initial capacity targeted at 60 terabytes per second.

While the project is built on a collaboration between Facebook and Microsoft, the cable will be operated by Telxius, a unit of Telefónica, a Spanish telecommunications company. Under the agreement, Telxius will also sell capacity to other companies.

Microsoft representatives said in a blog post the company is seeing increased demand for "high speed, reliable connections" for the company's cloud services, along with Bing, Skype, Xbox Live and other products.

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Thursday
May262016

Stocks Finish Mixed on Thursday

Songquan Deng/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Following two days of big rallies, stocks were mixed on Thursday as many Americans start to think about the holiday weekend.

The Dow lost 23.22 (+0.13%) to finish the session at 17,828.29.

The NASDAQ picked up 6.88 (+0.14%) to close at 4,901.77, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.44 (+0.02%) to finish at 2,090.10.

Crude oil dropped 0.48%, lowering the price of a barrel to $49.32

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