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Thursday
May252017

BBB issues nationwide warning about Payless Car Rental

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The Better Business Bureau is issuing a nationwide warning to customers about Payless Car Rental, a major car rental company found at airports across the country.

The BBB says it has received more than 800 complaints about Payless in the past three years and has given the company an “F” rating. Now the organization is urging attorney generals in four states -- California, Florida, Oklahoma and New Jersey -- to investigate Payless and its parent company, Avis.

"They have sales practice issues and contract issues and billing issues with consumers," Amie Mitchell, president of the BBB serving Eastern Oklahoma, told ABC News correspondent Gio Benitez.

Questions about fees are a major part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against Payless after unhappy customers launched a Facebook group claiming they were charged for services they said they didn’t want.

Greg Kohn, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, told ABC News, “Payless has used deceptive business practices in order to lure customers into their shop to rent their vehicles. They use low rates online to get people to use them over other rental agencies, but when you get there they slam you with additional fees.”

One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Richard Alexander, a police officer, says he rented a car from Payless in Las Vegas for a six-day family vacation with an online quote of $217 from a third-party website. He says he walked to the counter wearing a police officer shirt and badge. "The gentleman that waited on us thanked me for my service and offered me a free upgrade," Alexander told ABC News. “I specifically asked him, ‘It’s going to be $217, right?’ I was told yes. I told him, 'I’m covered under my own insurance.' And I believe he was told two or three times I do not need this.”

Alexander says he initialed the agreement expecting to pay a total of $217. But when he returned the vehicle, the total was $528 and included, among other things, insurance and roadside service protection, charges he says he didn’t want.

ABC News Producers rents 4 cars: 1 found with 'dangerous' tires


ABC News producers rented four cars from Payless locations in New York and in New Jersey and had them inspected by Audra Fordin of Great Bear Auto and Body Shop in Flushing, New York. Three of the four cars passed her standard inspection. But when Fordin inspected the car rented from the Payless location at John F. Kennedy International Airport, she told ABC News that all four tires were bald and “dangerous.” She also found holes and called one tire “a blowout waiting to happen.”

ABC News called Payless, which had the car towed. The manager apologized and offered a full refund.

Loss damage waiver insurance included in ABC News Producers’ bill


But that's not all ABC News encountered while renting from Payless. With the two cars producers rented from the LaGuardia and JFK Airport offices, we got exactly what we reserved online, economy cars with no fees for added services. But when producers went to the Newark Liberty International Airport Payless car rental location, specifically asking for a car with no extra charges, they were given a contract that included a $29 per day charge for loss damage waiver insurance. When producers asked the Payless representative about the charge, they were told, “You accepted the total. It comes with it.” But the contract producers were given states in two different places that loss damage waiver insurance is optional. Producers were also charged $5.99 per day for Roadside Service Protection. The Roadside Service Plan appears to be optional on Payless’ website.

When returning the rental car to the Newark office, producers asked about the loss damage waiver insurance. They were told if the insurance was taken off, the rate would have gone up. “You take the insurance, you get a cheaper rate. If you don’t, your rate is even three times higher,” said the Payless representative. The manager told producers they got a deal. “It’s all included in the price under the manager’s special when the client doesn’t have a reservation.”

Payless declined ABC News’ repeated requests for an interview. Instead, the company sent this statement: “We are concerned about any negative rental experiences that you may have had at Payless. We always strive to provide customers with a positive rental experience, and we take customer feedback seriously. We are investigating your concerns with your experiences to ensure that our employees’ statements and conduct always remain consistent with our policies and procedures. The tire problem you described is highly unusual. Safety is a top priority, and we have followed up with the supervisor at that location. While we were encouraged to hear that the Payless employee you spoke with moved quickly to tow the car and provide a refund, we will continue to emphasize and enforce our stringent safety protocols company wide.”

Consumer tips before renting a car


The following tips were provided by the BBB to ABC News. Click here for more terms and information on how to file a complaint.

1. Call several firms to find out if the car you want is available and at what price. Rental companies vary widely in their prices. Make sure you are comparing similar sizes, types, locations, and dates.
2. Inquire about required fees such as fuel or airport fees and additional costs which may affect the price you pay. A deposit may be required if you do not have a credit card.
3. Make a reservation, if possible, as unreserved rentals may cost more. Also, call to confirm your reservation, so to be certain that the car will be available when you arrive.
4. Read the contract before you sign it. Most firms have written their contracts in plain language for all to comprehend.
5. Check the car before driving away. Be sure that any dents or scratches are noted in the contract, so that you will not be charged for damaging the car.


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Wednesday
May242017

What concert venues are doing to protect guests after deadly Manchester Arena attack

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  After 22 were killed and more than 50 others injured in Monday's bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, concert venues and security organizations around the globe are rethinking how they plan to proceed heading into the summer.

Here's what you need to know:

Exit and entry are key

Nick Langella, general manager at the San Antonio Alamodome, which plans to welcome bands including Metallica and Guns N' Roses in the coming weeks, said exits have become a major place of concern after what happened in Manchester.

He told ABC News that the venue already has all the "bells and whistles" like metal detectors and other high-tech tools to screen concertgoers as they enter, but noted that the "tough part" is when "everybody leaves at once" at the end of an event.

"So, we need to come up with a strategy to get in and out at numerous points of entry and exit," he said, adding that those points need to be well staffed.

"This attacker [at Manchester] didn't just pick a target, he did his homework and knew where he would have a number of people," he said of the suspected Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi.

In addition to developing a better strategy for thousands of people to exit a venue, Langella said his venue has opted to do what the NFL has already done and institute a clear bag policy for anyone entering the dome.

"We have to be stringent on everyone entering now, even if it's a cheerleading competition," he added. "Anywhere where we are putting mass people together in one location."

A watershed moment

Chris Robinette, president at Prevent Advisors, a private organization that works in counterterrorism and security, shared sentiments similar to Langella. Prevent Advisors works with parent company the Oakview Group, which collaborates with almost 30 venues for concerts and sporting events around the United States under its arena alliance.

Some of their venues include and are not limited to the AT&T Center in San Antonio, The Forum in Los Angeles and the United Center in Chicago.

Robinette said the Manchester attack was a bit of a "watershed moment" in the event-space security business, as it was well planned out and "fairly sophisticated."

But even so, he said there are a lot of things security and venues can do to improve screening and monitor access space beyond the main event space itself, like parking and other areas outside the actual venue.

"It's part of reorienting our security," he said. "We need to expand our perimeters."

With that can come tech like eye-in-the-sky cameras, running 24 hours on elevated poles to monitor the parking lot or space outside the venue, not just inside, he said. His organization also uses special alert dogs that sniff for vapor trails emitted from explosive devices.

But it's also about implementing these techniques through "process engineering," looking at each building and observing the flow of people in and out. "It's putting more security in those areas," he said.

His company is also looking at what he calls the "big four" when it comes to terrorist attacks, including an active shooter, a vehicle ramming into a crowd, an explosive device and drones.

"They are starting to weaponize drones now," he said. "It's also about coordinating more with local law enforcement to be more vigilant. We should be around the parking lots and not just observe at the beginning, but the end of an event, as well."

Increased local law enforcement

Other venues like the Madison Square Garden Company, which manages such venues as MSG, the Beacon Theater, Radio City Music Hall and others in Manhattan, is also leaning on local police to up their security for upcoming shows.

The Garden, for instance, will continue its Billy Joel residency in the coming weeks with thousands of patrons.

"Madison Square Garden has increased security measures, including a greater police presence, and is continuing to work closely with local law enforcement to ensure we remain informed of any potential concerns," an MSG spokesperson told ABC News.

The same can be said across the globe and in the United Kingdom.

A rep for SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, which will welcome the iconic band Kiss later this month, told ABC News that bags fans can bring in have changed.

"We have been liaising with the appropriate authorities including Police Scotland. Security measures at the Campus have been enhanced including carrying out bag searches and full body searches. Only small bags (35cm x 40cm) [13.8 inches by 15.7 inches] will be permitted into The SSE Hydro and The Armadillo. Larger bags may be checked into the cloakroom in the SEC Centre and will be searched," said Kirsten McAlonan, head of public relations for the venue.

"At certain times, ticket checks will take place at entry points to the Campus with some access routes (such as the walkway to the station) restricted to ticket holders only," she added.

With these added measures, fans should be prepared to arrive early.

"These arrangements will mean that entry to the venues will take longer and therefore we would strongly encourage visitors to arrive early to allow time for access to the events," she said.

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Wednesday
May242017

Ride the Na'vi River at Pandora: The World of Avatar 

ABCNews.com(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- At the center of the highly-anticipated Pandora: The World of Avatar are two new rides: Flight of Passage and Na'vi River Journey.

The land, located inside Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom Park, opens May 27. ABC News got a preview of the the park's largest expansion in history and the chance to enjoy the rides.

Na'vi River Journey is a peaceful boat ride, good for all ages. It coasts through a series of caves and showcases the bioluminescence so central to Disney's story of Pandora.

The journey culminates with the discovery of Na’vi Shaman of Songs and her beautiful music.

By contrast, Flight of Passage is an intense 3D ride through the visually stunning Valley of Mo’ara simulated to take place on the back of a banshee. It's comparable to the iconic Soarin' but with more thrills built in.

Watch our video of the Na'vi River Journey and ride along.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

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Wednesday
May242017

New TSA procedures target electronics, food

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Transportation Security Administration is testing new screening procedures that will require travelers to remove electronics bigger than cellphones and some food items from their bags and place them in bins to be screened separately, ABC News has confirmed. If passengers don't comply, their bag may be opened for a manual inspection.

There is no specific threat associated with these items that requires them to be screened separately and the change is not associated with the ban on laptops and other large electronics on flights originating from some Middle East airports; rather the move is one to increase efficiency. TSA has found that everyday items can appear similar to explosives on an X-ray machine, which slows down lines as officers have to manually inspect bags.

The TSA's goal is to cut down on manual bag checks and keep lines moving by screening these items separately. The change will not apply to Pre-Check passengers, only those in the standard security screening line.

The TSA began testing the processes a year ago at four airports and later expanded it to six more, including Los Angeles International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

The agency does not believe the changes will create longer lines. The TSA claims its testing indicates the time lost while passengers remove items from their bags is made up because fewer items confuse the X-ray machine, allowing scans to run faster and reducing the number of manual bag checks.

The TSA will also be testing a machine that verifies travelers' forms of identification, rather than having an officer manually study passports and driver's licenses. Travelers will walk up to the machine, hand their ID to an officer, who will scan its barcode, and the machine will populate the traveler's information; a boarding pass is not required. The machines will be tested in the Pre-Check lane at four airports beginning this week.

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Wednesday
May242017

Bag containing moon dust from Apollo 11 expected to sell for millions at auction

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 50 years ago, astronaut Neil Armstrong famously made his mark on the moon.

When Armstrong returned from the Apollo 11 mission, he had a bag containing rock fragments and dust he collected from the moon's surface. But over the years the bag mysteriously disappeared.

Now these important space artifacts will go up for auction on July 20, 2017.

Cassandra Hatton, a vice president at Sotheby's, explained that NASA unknowingly lost track of the bag, which protected the Earth and space craft from lunar pathogens, while clearing out items in the Johnson Space Center in Texas. At that time former Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center curator Max Ary gained possession of the item, along with other space memorabilia, to display in his museum.

The bag was later confiscated from Ary and offered three different times in 2014 by a small auction house on behalf of the U.S. Marshall's service, but never received a bid. In 2015 Nancy Lee Carlson, an Illinois woman, paid $995 for the bag at an auction.

 Carlson sent the bag to be authenticated by the Johnson Space Center. The bag's distinct serial number led NASA to confirm the items inside were from the Apollo 11 mission.

According to The Washington Post, NASA wanted to keep the bag. But after a drawn out legal battle, Carlson was able to keep possession of the artifact.

"This bag flew under the radar for so long. It wasn't until [Carlson] brought it in and did all the research that we found out there was moon dust or that it was an Apollo 11 piece," Hatton explained.

The bag represents one of the greatest achievements in space exploration and the chance to own a rare piece of history. Sotheby's estimates the relic could sell for $4 million.

 The item will be up for bid as a part of Sotheby's inaugural Space Exploration-themed auction in New York on July 20 at 2 p.m. ET.

The piece will be on display from June 22-23 and again on July 13-20.

NASA did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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Wednesday
May242017

$24 million lottery winner comes forward two days before deadline

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — On May 23, a new millionaire was made when a winner came forward to claim a $24 million New York Lottery prize just two days before the ticket was set to expire, according to a news release from the organization.

The lucky individual, who will be identified at a later date pending New York Lottery security's background review, said news coverage of the soon-to-expire ticket prompted them to search for the ticket in their home where it was found among other old tickets, said the news release.

The individual purchased the single winning ticket on May 25, 2016 at Renu Corp Grocery & Tobacco located at 158 Church Street in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City.

"We are thrilled that this lucky winner was able to locate this life-changing ticket," said Gweneth Dean, Director of the Commission’s Division of the Lottery in the news release. "We look forward to introducing this multimillionaire who came forward in the nick of time."

The winner came to the Lottery's Beaver Street Customer Service Center in Lower Manhattan to claim the multi-million dollar prize with just two days to spare before the deadline of May 25.

Lottery prizes can be claimed up to a year after a drawing; if they are unclaimed, the winnings are returned to the prize pool for future winners.

The tickets winning numbers were 05-12-13-22-25-35 Bonus #:51.

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Tuesday
May232017

Loved ones search for Manchester missing on social media after concert attack

ABC News(MANCHESTER, England) -- Families and friends of concertgoers who are still missing after the Manchester bombing have taken to social media hoping to find their loved ones.

Social media has become a useful tool to help locate missing people in the wake of a terror attack or natural disaster.

More than 14 million tweets have been posted about the Manchester bombing, including the hashtag #MissinginManchester about people who had not been found, according to Spredfast. Shortly after the bombing, Facebook also launched its safety check feature so users who attended teh concert could mark they were safe.

Families and friends of those still missing have posted pictures and descriptions of when and where their loved ones were last seen.

Among those reported missing is Olivia Campbell, whose mother Charlotte Campbell took to Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the BBC to find her daughter.

"I'm worried sick, if anybody has seen her please contact the police," Charlotte Campbell told the BBC, explaining her daughter had gone to the concert with a friend. "Please somebody must have seen her at some point, just let me know you've seen her."

The families of teenage couple Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry told Sky News they haven't heard from the couple since the concert.

Bernard Wills, 36, the cousin of Curry's father, told Sky News the family remained worried.

"They are a great young couple, really loving, with a bright future ahead and there's nobody that doesn't like them," he said. "Nobody ever has a bad word to say about them, so we're all a bit worried."

Politicians also took to social media in the hopes that missing concertgoers could be found. Alasdair Allan, a member of the Scottish National Party, shared a picture of two missing girls from Scotland on Facebook.

"Very concerned about Laura Macintyre and Eilidh Macleod from Isle of Barra. They were at last night's concert in Manchester and their families are yet to hear from them. Please share," Allan wrote.

Kelly Brewster reportedly was separated from her sister during the attacks, according to Sky News.

There was at least one happy ending after the social media posts. A teen separated from her friends was found after posts were shared showing her in a distinctive yellow sweatshirt. At least 28,000 Twitter users retweeted the picture of the teen, identified as Heather. Eventually, another Twitter user saw the post and reported that Heather's phone battery had died, but she was safe at the same hotel.

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Tuesday
May232017

US stocks close higher with fourth straight day of gains

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A fourth straight day in the green for U.S. stocks as Wall Street nearly earned back last week's losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 43.08 (+0.21 percent) to finish at 20,937.91.

The Nasdaq gained 5.09 (+0.08 percent) to close at 6,138.71, and the S&P 500 finished at 2,398.42, up 4.40 (+0.18 percent) from its open.

Crude oil was about 1 percent higher with prices at $51.50 per barrel.

Winners and Losers:  Apple settled a patent dispute with Nokia, sending shares of the Finnish communications company up 5 percent.

Shoe retailer DSW Inc. sunk 8 percent after disappointing earnings in the first-quarter.

AutoZone also suffered from disappointing earnings and revenue; shares of the auto parts retailer tumbled 12 percent.

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Tuesday
May232017

Lawn company gives 11-year-old who wanted a job his own lawn mower

iStock/Thinkstock(DUNN, N.C.) -- An 11-year-old boy who approached a stranger for a summer lawn mowing job received an even bigger reward for his work ethic: tools to start his own lawn business.

Q'yaron Gadson, 11, was surprised last Friday with a brand new lawn mower, weed-eater and the gas needed to fuel them.

The surprise gifts were orchestrated by Bobby and Kimi West, the owners of Grasshoppers Lawn Care in Dunn, North Carolina.

Bobby West was mowing a lawn in nearby Fayetteville earlier this month when Q’yaron approached him on his bicycle.

"He came up and asked me, 'Sir, if I have experience by this summer would you hire me?,'" West recalled. "I told him that, to be honest, my 15-year-old son is going to be helping me this summer."

Q’yaron rode off on his bicycle, according to West, but returned undeterred around 15 minutes later.

"He came back and said, 'Well, sir, do you have anyone who would have a used lawn mower?'" West said. "I took down his name and phone number."

Q’yaron described himself as being focused on the future in his quest for a job.

"I'm getting older, but I have to find something to do," he told ABC News affiliate WTVD-TV on the day he was surprised with the new lawn-mower. "I can't just sit in the house and play all my life. I have to get outside and do something at least."

On his drive home, West called William Moss, a longtime friend who repairs lawn-mower engines.

"I thought it was a good story," Moss told ABC News. "Most kids that age are on the computer or on the phone. They don’t have an inkling about doing anything."

He added, "This kid wants to work."

The pair decided to buy Q’yaron brand new tools and spent nearly $400 combined to give the boy, a stranger, a chance on his own.

"I called his mom and asked her to make sure that she was okay with us buying him a new one," said West’s wife, Kimi. "His mom was so excited that we saw what she called 'the greatness in my son.'"

Q’yaron's mom, Katrina Gadson, said her son first started talking about getting a summer job around Mother's Day because he wanted to be able to help the family.

"I told him not to worry about it, but he said he was going to help me," Gadson told ABC News. "He said, 'You do a lot for us so I want to do something for you.'"

Gadson said Q'yaron has made close to $60 since receiving the lawn mower and weed eater. He gave his mom $20, which she said he told her was "just because."

"I put it up and if he ever needs it he can have it," she said. "And he’s cut our whole yard, which looks like a professional came and did it."

Kimi West, a mother of two, said she hopes other children see Q'yaron as an example of hard work and success.

"I told him when we surprised him, 'You lead by example, son. With your ambition, your peers are watching you and don’t let anyone say you can’t do something,'" she recalled. "This young man is outstanding in my eyes."


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Tuesday
May232017

Facebook Live to get personal on the public platform

Courtesy Facebook(NEW YORK) -- When Facebook made its Facebook Live feature available around the world in 2016, it gave users the ability to simulate spending time with friends regardless of how far the actual distance between them.

Now, the social-networking company has added a few new features to make the live encounters even more personal.

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled "Live Chat with Friends" and "Live With." Both features will add a bit of a one-on-one feel to the Facebook Live experience.

“Live Chat with Friends” allows users to hold a private chat with a buddy while watching a live feed on a public broadcast.

"You're able to jump back into the public conversation at any time, and you can still continue chatting via Messenger after the broadcast ends," explained Facebook in a post.

This feature is currently being tested on mobile platforms in select regions around the world and will be available to all Facebook users in the summer.

“Live With” allows users to hang out with their friends via live video from anywhere. Users can share their screen with a friend to create more individual interaction. Even though this launched last year to allow public figures to go live with a guest, it's now available for all profiles and pages on IOS, according to the social-networking service.

Facebook has said it aims to make its user experience more interactive and recently launched augmented reality effects for its camera and Facebook Live features.

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