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Tuesday
Jun282016

Volkswagen Set to Announce $15B Emissions Settlement

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — After admitting last year to installing "defeat devices" in 475,000 of its diesel cars, Volkswagen has agreed to pay up to $15 billion to settle claims that it intentionally misled regulators and consumers, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case announced Tuesday morning. Affected owners will have the choice of having Volkswagen repair or buy back the polluting vehicle and owners of the affected vehicles can expect to receive $5,100 to $10,000 in cash compensation.

The fixes offered to Volkwagen owners are designed to lower emissions but are expected to compromise the performance of the car. The company could start buying back the vehicles as early as this fall.

The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission will make an announcement this morning at 9:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C., which they are calling "significant environmental and consumer relief."

The lead attorney for the plantiffs said the German automaker will put $2.7 billion into a trust to fund environmental remediation and commit another $2 billion to promote "Zero Emissions Vehicle technology."

“This historic agreement holds Volkswagen accountable for its betrayal of consumer trust, and requires Volkswagen to repair the environmental damage it caused,” said lead-counsel Elizabeth Cabraser, chair of the 21 member Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC), which negotiated the settlement on behalf of class members.

“To achieve relief for consumers so swiftly on such a large scale is unprecedented," she added.

If the settlement is approved by Judge Charles M. Breyer, it would be the largest consumer auto industry class action settlement in U.S. history.

The scandal came to light last September when Volkswagen admitted that some of its diesel vehicles used illegal "defeat device" software. Regulators said Volkswagen's diesel cars emitted nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at 10 to 40 times the federal limit.

Volkswagen equipped certain 2.0 liter vehicles with software that detected when the car was being tested for EPA compliance, thus producing emissions that were different from actual on-the-road emissions.

The Justice Department also said Volkswagen violated EPA regulations by applying for certification with certain vehicle designs but then importing vehicles with different designs.

The affected vehicles are: 2009-14 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, 2009-15 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, 2010-15 Audi A3 TDI, 2010-15 Volkswagen Golf TDI, 2012-15 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, 2012-15 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI, 2012-15 Volkswagen Passat TDI and the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI.
 
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Monday
Jun272016

US Stocks Continue Sell-Off for Second Day After Brexit Vote

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A second straight day of losses for global markets as the world reacts to Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

The Dow sunk 260.51 (-1.50 percent) to close at 17,140.24.

The Nasdaq tumbled 113.54 (-2.41 percent) to finish at 4,594.44, while the S&P dropped 36.87(-1.81 percent) to close at 2,000.54.

Crude oil sunk about 2 percent with prices hitting over $46 a barrel.

Brexit: Stocks slumped for another day after Brits voted in a referendum to leave the European Union last week. The sell-off has wiped out any gains Wall Street made this year, and Standard & Poor downgraded the U.K.'s sovereign credit rating by two notches because of the Brexit. Ratings agency Fitch has also downgraded the U.K. rating from AA+ to AA with a negative outlook.

Winners and Losers: Fiat Chrysler's stock slipped over 5 percent after Goldman Sachs removed the automaker from its Conviction Buy List because of the economic uncertainty in Europe in wake of the Brexit vote.

Headphone maker Skullcandy jumped about 6 percent after it received a second buyout offer from a private-equity firm. On Friday Skullcandy agreed to an offer from accessory giant Incipio, but now it will “carefully review and consider” an offer from Mill Road Capital Management, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook and Google: In an effort to combat extremist speech, Google and Facebook have quietly started using automated programs to block online radicalization. The move comes as governments have also been trying to remove the content since terror groups have used the internet to post videos and violent propaganda.

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Monday
Jun272016

Ikea Recalls 29 Million Dressers and Chests After 6 Children Crushed to Death

Ikea(NEW YORK) -- At least six children have been crushed to death by toppling Ikea chests, prompting the voluntary recall of about 29 million chests and dressers sold by the popular retailer, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

Ikea and the CPSC tell ABC that at least 36 children have been injured by Ikea chests and dressers, which are prone to tip over when they aren’t anchored to the wall. The deaths -- all children under the age of 4 -- date back to 1989 and are as recent as this February, the CPSC said.

The company is offering a refund or repair kit for affected dressers, including the MALM and other styles, the CPSC said. Further details were not immediately available. Furniture manufactured between 2002 and 2016 will entitle customers to a full refund; consumers can receive a partial store credit for items manufactured before 2002.

Upon request, the company will send a crew to install the wall anchor for customers who don’t want to do it themselves, the CPSC said. In the meantime, the CPSC is encouraging consumers to store the dresser where children won’t have access to it. At least four of the deaths were the result of unanchored chests.

Jaquelyn Collas, of Pennsylvania, found her 2-year-old son pinned between his bed and an Ikea MALM dresser in February 2014, she told ABC News Monday.

“I couldn't tell if there was a heartbeat, you know I was so afraid,” she recalled.

Despite her attempt at CPR, the toddler was pronounced dead a few hours later, she said.

Collas is suing Ikea, claiming the company failed to warn consumers that the “front-heavy” dressers were potentially dangerous, according to the amended complaint, filed in May 2015.

"I didn't know to anchor my furniture and, in my mind, I feel that we really shouldn't have to,” Collas told ABC News. “Get rid of it, it’s dangerous, it’s a really dangerous product.”

In its answer to the suit, Ikea denied any allegations of manufacturing defect or inadequate warning.

"Defendants expressly deny any alleged negligence and carelessness, failure with regard to inadequate warnings or instructions, and the allegation that the dresser was improperly designed, improperly manufactured, defective, unreasonably dangerous or unsafe."

In a statement regarding the voluntary recall, Ikea said that "a child in the US dies every two weeks from furniture, appliances, or TVs tipping over," stressing that it instituted a repair kit program last year "to communicate the importance of wall attachment, which resulted in the distribution of 300,000 kits to consumers who had not used their original hardware."

"Since then, we have been in close contact with the CPSC to evaluate the success of the repair program and the impact it is having on consumers’ actions. We are announcing this recall today given the recent tragic death of a third child," the statement said, referring to the number of children killed by MALM dressers. Three other children have been killed by other-style IKEA chests.

"It is clear that there are still unsecured products in customers’ homes, and we believe that taking further action is the right thing to do," Ikea continued in the statement. "We will continue to work collaboratively with the CPSC on tip-over prevention, development of the ASTM standard, and innovations that will enhance product safety and further reduce the risk of tip-overs."

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Monday
Jun272016

Report: Huge Remodel to Shut Down Waldorf Astoria for 3 Years

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The classic Waldorf Astoria is going to close for three years for a huge remodel.

Chinese insurance company Anbang, which purchased the luxury hotel in 2014 for $1.95 billion, is reportedly planning on converting most of the rooms into private apartments and condominiums, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Renovations are set to start in the spring for about $1 billion, removing 1,100 hotel rooms and hundreds of jobs, when the Waldorf currently has about 1,500 employees, the report said.

According to WSJ, the new Waldorf hotel will have between 300 and 500 luxury guest rooms and the rest of the building will be condos.

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Monday
Jun272016

Robot Deliveries Will Roll, Not Fly Through Washington, DC

Courtesy of Starship Technologies(WASHINGTON) -- “Can you push the crosswalk button for me, please?”

The voice is from a human far away from the intersection at which you are standing. What is in fact standing next to you, emitting the sound, is a 16-inch-tall robot politely asking for help crossing the street.

Meet what could be your next mail, pizza or grocery delivery service.

With a range of up to two or three miles, the robot, developed by Starship Technologies, is designed to service those last mile deliveries.

Henry Harris-Burland, communications manager for Starship Technologies, says the company is testing the devices around the globe, hoping to transform the on-demand delivery industry.

What’s the process of ordering something through Starship? Let’s use pizza as an example:

A customer orders their pizza from a participating store through their personal computer, phone or tablet. When prompted, they will have an option to select “Starship Delivery.”

The robot is either stationed at the store or launched from a nearby hub to fetch the pie.

For security, the recipient is given a pin, which they will be prompted to enter into their app when the robot arrives at their front door. The correctly entered pin will unlock the compartment of the robot holding the customer's hot pizza.

There are some obstacles facing the launch of such a service, but Starship seems ready to hurdle each of them.

For example, crossing a busy intersection could prove very difficult for an automated machine.

In addition to its GPS and computer vision capability, the robot is equipped with nine cameras and two-way audio capabilities. When confronted with any kind of issue or trouble, a human at Starship can take over. The remote operator can have a two-way conversation with those around the robot and also has the ability to use the cameras to see its environment.

The team at Starship has lofty goals for the service.

Over time, the company hopes to work its way up to 99 percent autonomous capability, meaning a remote human operator would only have to intervene about 1 percent of the time.

They hope to make the robots available for 24/7 delivery and for only a $1 fee.

What is it like to come into contact with one of these machines? According to the Starship spokesperson, after 4,000 miles of testing and coming into contact with 400,000 people, 60 to 65 percent of people simply ignore the robot. Most seem unfazed.

Harris-Burland says they have yet to have a single instance of vandalism.

The robot rolls at a human-like pace -- about 4 miles per hour. It sizes up at about 20 inches long and 16 inches tall, can carry 20 to 25 pounds of cargo and runs on about the same amount of energy as a light bulb, according to the spokesperson.

“People don’t want drones above their backyard, above their kids' heads, because if they drop out of the sky, someone is going to get hurt,” Harris-Burland told ABC News.

While Washington, D.C., is a “no drone zone,” lawmakers in the nation’s capital are paving the road for the rolling robots.

The D.C. Council passed the “Personal Delivery Device Act of 2016” on June 22 and approved Starship Technologies to begin testing its product.

Testing in the District of Columbia will begin in September. Residents can expect to see about five of these robots roaming the sidewalks of D.C. when testing begins.

Starship was started by two Skype co-founders.

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Monday
Jun272016

San Francisco Resident Fights Sudden Rent Hike of More Than 400 Percent

KGO-TV(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A San Francisco man faces eviction after his rent suddenly skyrocketed from $1,800 to $8,000 a month, allegedly without warning from his landlord.

Neil Hutchinson has lived in his North Beach home since 2010, his attorney, Mary Catherine Wiederhold, told ABC News.

"This is the largest rent increase I have ever seen," Wiederhold, who represents only residential tenants, said. "This rent increase is above market."

Since the landlord announced the increase and Hutchinson cannot afford the new $8,000 rent, he is now trying to evict him. she said.

"I don't know where I'm going to go if I have to leave here," Hutchinson told local ABC News affiliate KGO-TV. "So, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. I'm struggling here."

He said he filed an appeal with the San Francisco Rent Board but the decision will not come until early August, weeks after he is supposed to evict his home on July 21.

Hutchinson's landlord did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

This June, real estate website Zumper ranked San Francisco the most expensive city for rent in the country. The city has seen growing tensions between landlords and long-time tenants in San Francisco's booming housing market.

Earlier this year a 99-year-old woman faced eviction from an apartment in the Lower Haight neighborhood where she had lived for more than 60 years.

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Monday
Jun272016

Introducing SkySlide: The Glass Slide 1,000 Feet in the Air

KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- Thrill-seekers rejoice.

This Saturday marked the opening of SkySlide, an entirely glass slide suspended over 1,000 feet above downtown Los Angeles. The slide begins on the 70th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower, which is currently the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, and extends 45 feet down to the 69th floor.

The adrenaline-inducing ride lasts only a few seconds, but promises a thrill as passengers glide down on a mat with nothing but 1¼-inch-thick glass separating them from the city below.

The slide is one of many new features now open to the public on the top of the building, now known as SkySpace. At the end of the slide lies an open-air observation deck -- the largest in the city -- with a 360-degree view of the city.

In 2013, property developer OUE Limited acquired the building and began planning new ways to draw people other than businessmen into the space. Work on the deck and slide began in 2014 and cost $31 million total.

Tickets to get into SkySpace are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors, and $19 for children ages 3 to 12. A ride on the SkySlide will cost you an extra $8.

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Monday
Jun272016

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Gets Hacked

Google(NEW YORK) -- Google CEO Sundar Pichai may want to change his passwords Monday.

An account belonging to Pichai on Quora, a question-and-answer social network, appeared to have been briefly hijacked on Sunday by OurMine. The same group claimed to have accessed Mark Zuckerberg's Twitter account earlier this month.

After gaining access to Pichai's Quora account, the group was able to send linked tweets to Pichai's Twitter account, where the CEO has more than half a million followers.

Hacking high-profile targets seems like an unorthodox way to get business attention, but that appears to be OurMine's strategy.

"We are just testing your security," the hackers wrote from Pichai's account. They directed readers to learn more about OurMine's cyber-security services for hire, which range in price from $100 for a social media scan to $5,000 at the corporate level.

A spokesperson for the group told The Next Web: "We are just testing people security [sic], we never change their passwords, we did it because there is other hackers can hack them and change everything."

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Monday
Jun272016

Surprisingly Helpful Baby Products for New Parents

aden + anais (NEW YORK) — The market for baby care products is worth billions of dollars, so it's no wonder new parents can be overwhelmed by the the selection of baby gadgets and playthings.

Besides the obvious "need-to-have" diapers and baby bottles, there are some "nice-to-have" products for parents, depending on your preferences. Zip-up onesies that easily come on and off can be helpful for middle-of-night diaper changes. Similarly, Kimono onesies with buttons mean you don't have to finagle soiled diaper spill-over on a baby's head during clothing changes.

Multi-use products are handy for parents who are already overwhelmed by products. Want a burp cloth that also functions as a baby bib with hidden snap buttons? Brooklyn-based Aden + Anais, which sells swaddles seen on the babies of everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to the British royal family, offers a "premium" pair for $22.

Ariana Horry, owner of Milk and Honey Babies boutique in Englewood, New Jersey, told us the convenient tools she used for her kids, now ages two and seven.

"As a mom of two, I’ve found some surprisingly helpful baby products are the ones that didn't initially come to mind when first shopping for my little ones but when I found myself in a pinch they turned out to be extremely stress saving," Horry said.

Here are some suggestions from Horry and more:

The Baby Shusher (retail: $34.99)


Some parents may find static noise from an old radio can do the trick, but Horry called the Baby Shusher "hands down one of my all-time faves."

"It emits a rhythmic shushing noise that comes in handy to soothe your little one especially when mom, dad or even grandma grows tired of repeating their own shushing sound while rocking baby," she said. "It’s also nice and compact and with the adjustable volume you can even use it on the go."

Another noise aid possibility is the Sleep Sheep noise machine (retail: $30.95) that provides four sounds: mother's heartbeat, spring showers, ocean Waves and whale songs.

The Puj Flyte Tub (retail: $34.99)


Horry said she liked the tub because it's mildew-resistant and fits in most countertop or pedestal sinks.

"The best part is it’s so compact it easily fits in your suitcase so you can use it for both home and travel," she said.

Zoli Buzz B Nail Trimmer (retail: $35)


Many first time parents are apprehensive about initially trimming their little ones' nails, Horry said. But it's so important to keep their nails properly trimmed to avoid the risk of your little one accidentally scratching themselves.

"The Buzz B nail trimmer allows you to safely trim baby’s nails with a cushioned pad that gently oscillates and files the nail," she said. "You won’t need a magnifying glass, which accompanies most infant nail clippers, and you don’t run the risk of cutting the surrounding skin."

It also comes with four cushioned pads for different stages, so it can grow with your baby.

Pillows


Nursing pillows come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and prices.

The My Brest Friend pillow (around $34.95 and up on Amazon) can help moms in the early days of breastfeeding and sleep deprivation. It has a strap that buckles around your waist to help support a small baby during breastfeeding. Another pillow with a buckled strap is one made by Bébé au Lait, which will cost around $50 for the pillow and a slipcover with the buckle. The company touts that mothers can choose to use between one firm side or the other soft side.

Some parents prefer the Boppy pillow (retail: $30 and up) which doesn't have a strap to secure around a mother's waist, but it also touts the multi-use purpose as a sitting or playing aid for the baby.

Other companies also produce breastfeeding pillows like the Ergobaby Natural Curve Nursing Pillow (retail: $70). (Ergobaby is the maker of some popular structured baby carriers, including the newly introduced "Adapt" carrier for babies that weigh 7 to 45 pounds and doesn't require the purchase of a separate "infant insert.") Some parents may or may not like the extra height, firmness and bulk of Ergobaby's pillow.

Sleep sacks


Some parents may find zippered sleep sacks are easier for bigger babies who aren't swaddled. Bébé au Lait sells a range of sleep sacks (retail: $32), including a light, breathable muslin cotton in two sizes: one for babies 6 to 12 months and another for babies and 12 to 18 months.

For a more dense material, a company called Little Lotus makes sleeping bags and swaddles from fabric they say was inspired by NASA spacesuits. The material has 100 percent cotton on the outside and "proprietary" fabric on the inside. The steep $78 starting price allows the company to provide an infant warmer for premature and underweight babies in developing regions with every purchase.

Aden + Anais makes three different types of muslin sleeping bags with materials that fit various ambient room temperatures. The prices of those range from $32 to $54.95. The most expensive has a "hypoallergenic polyester fill."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jun272016

US Markets Tumble as Brexit Fallout Continues

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — U.S. stocks continued their downward slide Monday morning, as investors reacted to more potential fallout from Britain's vote to withdraw from the European Union last week. U.S. stock market futures were down slightly ahead of Monday's opening bell.

Earlier Monday morning, U.K. Treasury Chief George Osborne sought to ease the global markets, saying the U.K. economy is firmly positioned to face the challenges ahead. He stressed that Britain's economy was in a stronger position than it was at the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

"Growth has been robust. Employment rate is at a record high. The capital requirements for banks are ten times what they were and the budget deficit has been brought down from 11 percent of our national income and was forecast to be below 3 percent this year," Osborne said. "I said we had to fix the roof so that we were prepared for whatever the future held and thank goodness we did. As a result our economy is about as strong as it could be to confront the challenge our country now faces."

Early Monday morning, the British pound fell more than 2 percent and the euro continued its decline against the U.S. dollar.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation after the so-called Brexit vote, held an emergency cabinet meeting Monday to discuss plans in the wake of the vote.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Brussels and London to address the fallout.

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