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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Thursday
Dec182014

Jobless Claims Drop to 289K 

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims dropped lower last week, decreasing by 6,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Dec. 13, the number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell to 289,000. The previous week claims stood at 295,000, revised up from 294,000.

The Labor Department said there were no "special factors" impacting that week's figures.

The four-week moving average fell to 298,750 from last week’s revised average of 299,500.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

Six Indicted in Connection with January Chemical Spill in West Virginia

Photo by Tom Hindman/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that Freedom Industries and six former executives of the company have been charged with federal crimes linked to the January 2014 Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia.

"Just a mile upstream from Charleston's primary source of drinking water, the conditions at the Freedom Industries facility were not only grievously unacceptable, but unlawful," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "They put an entire population needlessly at risk."

Former Freedom President Gary Southern, owners and officers including Dennis Farrell, William Tis, Charles Herzing, consultant Robert Reynolds and tank farm plant manager Michael Burdette were charged on Wednesday.

According to the DOJ, those charged engaged in misconduct that included the failure to maintain a containment area around the facility's tanks; failure to make necessary repairs to ensure the effectiveness of the containment area; failure to properly inspect a tank containing the chemical MCHM; failure to develop and implement a spill prevention, control, and countermeasures plan; and failure to develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan and groundwater protection plan.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

Sprint Faces Lawsuit for Alleged 'Cramming'

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Sprint Corporation for alleged illegal billing of wireless customers for unauthorized third-party charges.

"Today...we are suing Sprint for allowing illegal charges to be crammed onto consumers' wireless bills," CPFB Director Richard Cordray said Wednesday. "Consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in [unauthorized] charges...many of these consumers had no idea that third parties could even place charges on their bills."

The CPFD says that third-party billing involved products such as "premium text messages" or "premium short messaging services." These products involve ringtones or text messages containing love tips, horoscopes or "fun facts." Consumers would be charged either a one-time fee between $0.99 and $4.99 or monthly subscriptions costing as much as $9.99 per month. Sprint received a 30- to 40-percent cut of the revenue from those charges, the CPFB says.

According to the CPFB, some of the third-party merchants even tricked consumers into providing their cell phone numbers to receive "free" digital content, and then charged for that content. Others, the CPFB says, simply placed fabricated charges on bills without delivering any goods.

The bureau is accusing Sprint of allowing third parties to illegally charge consumers, automatically billing consumers for illegitimate charges without their consent, disregarding red flags about third parties and ignoring consumer complaints about unauthorized charges.

The bureau says that consumers incurred millions of dollars in illegitimate charges, while Sprint collected hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Earlier this year, AT&T agreed to pay $105 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for cramming.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

Wall Street Gains Back Most of Early-Week Losses, Fed to Keep Interest Rates Low for Now

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street posted gains on Wednesday, largely making up for early-week losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 288.00 to 17,356.87.

The Nasdaq jumped 96.48, closing at 4,644.31, while the S&P 500 rose 40.15, finishing the session at 2,012.89.

Both the Dow and the S&P closed Wednesday higher than they did last Friday, while the Nasdaq was down just slightly.

The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee reaffirmed on Wednesday its decision to keep interest rates low for the near future. That echoes a decision made in October. In announcing the reaffirmation, the committee said that labor conditions continue to improve, citing "solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate." Still, the Fed believes it can "be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

List Ranks America's Worst Charities

iStock/Thinkstock(TAMPA BAY, Fla.) -- A Florida newspaper is out with a list of which charities are naughty and which are nice when it comes to giving money to the people they claim to help.

Number one on the Tampa Bay Times list of the worst charities is Kids Wish Network -- just 2.5 percent of the nearly $138 million it collects is spent on kids wishes.

In a video, Times reporter Kris Hundley says the money is too often siphoned off by a third party.

"These are charities that let their professional fundraisers keep up to 90 percent of all contributions," she says.

Ideally, according to Watchdog groups, fundraisers shouldn't keep more than 35 percent of what they raise.

Getting good grades was Wounded Warrior Project, which funnels 58 percent of its donations directly to veterans.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

Hotel Industry Sues to Block Minimum Wage Increase for LA Workers

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The hotel industry is suing to block a new, higher minimum wage for hotel workers -- like housekeepers in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit challenges an ordinance the Los Angeles City Council passed in October raising the minimum wage to over $15 an hour for workers at many hotels with 300 or more rooms.

The suit was filed by two industry groups claiming the ordinance oversteps federal law by influencing the relationship between labor unions and employers.

But the city argues the ordinance is lawful and valid.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

FedEx's Second Quarter Earnings Fall Short of Expectations

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- FedEx released its latest earnings report on Wednesday, showing a 23 percent jump in earnings in the second quarter. The figure falls short of Wall Street estimates.

As Mike Santoli with Yahoo Finance points out, several factors contributed to the disappointing earnings.

"The revenue per package was down. And here's, for an interesting reason, the wrinkle of lower gas and oil prices actually reduced their revenue on some levels because they add fuel surcharges," he says.

Another factor: the growth of gift cards.

"It's gonna be another gift card-heavy holiday season. Obviously you don't ship those; that doesn't help FedEx and UPS," he says.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

Cuba: What You Can Now Bring Back with You

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The new deal strengthening U.S.-Cuba relations now means you can bring back long-forbidden cigars with you -- but there's a catch.

Americans who gain official approval to travel to Cuba will be the only ones able to bring back up to $400 in goods from their trip and no more than a quarter of that can be made up of alcohol or tobacco products combined.

If the protocols are adhered to, the hand-rolled Havanas won't be making an appearance in American smoke shops any time soon.

Americans' love of cigars runs decades back, as historical lore claims that President John F. Kennedy ordered an aide to get as many Cuban cigars as they could in the hours before he announced the embargo in 1962.

The potential influx of Cuban cigars are just one of the ways that President Obama's announced plans change the way Americans will be able to interact with the long-banned country.

The changes come as a result of Cuba releasing Alan Gross Wednesday morning, a deal that had been in the works for some time.

There are 12 different types of licenses that will be available for individuals to travel to Cuba, ranging from diplomatic missions to trips on behalf of charities, education groups and public art performers, according to the White House.

The White House explained the expansion as a way to improve the economic conditions of the Cuban people.

"The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector," Obama said.

Obama also said that it is "clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect -- today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party."

He concluded, "Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas. We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future -- for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

How Dating App Tinder Was Turned into Crime-Fighting Tool

Buildzoom(SAN FRANCISCO) --- After a start-up company in San Francisco was burglarized several times this year, the co-founder took matters into his own hands and turned to an unlikely source to solve the crimes -- the popular dating app Tinder.

David Petersen, co-founder of 3-year-old BuildZoom, which helps people hire remodeling contractors, created a dating profile of one of the suspected thieves using a surveillance photo. He advertised a $5,000 reward. The profile stated, "I rob offices in SF."

Petersen said the idea has worked. He received emails from people with the name of the alleged female thief and her photo.

"Part of the reason I did this entire investigation myself is just because the San Francisco police wouldn't do anything about it, so we will see where it goes," he told ABC News on Wednesday, noting that his company filed police reports on March 21 and again on July 3.

BuildZoom's building was looted of about 15 MacBook Pros worth about $2,000 each, seven tablets and a few other things, Petersen said.

"I'm 100 percent that it's her," he told ABC News.

Petersen even blogged about the thefts on the company website, including surveillance video and photos from the thefts around July.

He has told the police officer investigating his case about the Tinder leads, but the officer has yet to respond, Petersen said.

"But the photo and name I got of this girl matches exactly, including a hairband, hairline, hair color, nose, etc." Petersen said. "And she was arrested a block from my office stealing a bike -- I have the shot of her in cuffs -- but the police never made the connection."

A spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department said police don't have anyone in custody at this time and it's an open and active investigation. When asked about BuildZoom's efforts in using surveillance photos of the suspect on Tinder, the spokeswoman said the police welcomes efforts to assist spreading information.

"We investigate every incident thoroughly," she said.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec172014

Betabrand's Jeans Could Protect You from Identity Theft

Betabrand(NEW YORK) -- In the future, fashion may be at the forefront of fighting cyber crime.

What sets Betabrand's Ready Active jeans apart from the pack is the radio frequency identification fabric lining a front and back pockets.

The jeans are a collaboration between security company Norton and Betabrand, a retailer focused on creating and selling innovative clothing.

The Norton-approved technology blocks radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication readers, which can be used to scan for credit cards.

"We'd been experimenting with use case for RFID blocking fabric, when Grey, Norton's creative agency approached with the idea of applying it to jeans," Aaron Magness, Betabrand's vice president of marketing, told ABC News in an email. "[We] can't imagine a better partner to work with than Norton on a project like this since they are the known leader in digital security."

The security savvy pants, which met the crowd-funding goal in less than 24 hours, can be purchased for $151.20 while the project is still in crowd funding. The pants will then go up to $168, Magness said.

"Because of the demand we've seen, we've started to move forward with production and they'll be ready to ship in February," he said.

A $198 blazer with an RFID-blocking pocket is also a possibility, however, it still has yet to meet its crowd-funding goal.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio







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