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Tuesday
Sep172019

US police agencies having trouble hiring, keeping officers, according to new survey

stocknshares/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Police agencies across the country are having trouble keeping and hiring police officers, according to a new survey obtained by ABC News.

Produced by the Police Executive Research Forum, the survey shows a "triple threat" for police departments: there is a decrease in applications, early exits and higher rates of retirement.

Agencies participating in the survey reported that there has been a 63% decrease in applying to become a police officer. Departments are also having trouble hiring non-white/minority applicants the most, followed by female officers, according to the survey.

Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of the nation's capital, felt the hit because of increased racial profiling incidents, when someone is targeted because of their race of ethnicity, according to acting Police Chief Marcus Jones.

"I can't ignore that that's a factor. When you do a job that's being highly criticized on a daily basis, we have to ask ourselves, how do we find good candidates that really want to be under that type of scrutiny," Jones said, according to Bethesda Magazine. "If you feel like you're being scrutinized all the time, then this may not be the career that you want, so we understand that that may be a roadblock for us."

More officers are also leaving the profession between one and five years on the job and experienced police officers are retiring at a faster rate than ever before, further depleting the ranks.

PERF said that currently 8.5% of officers are eligible for retirement and another 15.5% will become eligible within five years.

"This is an issue that keeps police chiefs up at night," Chuck Wexler, the executive director of PERF, told ABC News.

The survey points to the number of challenges that a modern-day police officer might face, and indicates it is a challenge to balance the complexities of incidents, such as cyber crimes or having to administer naloxone to overdosing patients. The survey suggests departments consider an applicant's temperament when hiring in an effort to hire people who will be able to make policing a career.

There have been some proactive approaches to broaden the pool of qualified applicants. For example, "some agencies have relaxed their hiring standards, especially with respect to educational levels, prior drug use, tattoos and facial hair. Some of these changes, such as eliminating prohibitions on most tattoos, reflections of broader changes in societal norms that agencies must adapt to," the report explains.

The survey didn't include data about what relaxed policies might have done to help fill the ranks, but indicated that of the departments surveyed 62 have relaxed their tattoo policies.

Police departments are also urged in the survey to find non-traditional methods to hire more law enforcement officers and offers recommendations to agencies for more effective ways to recruit and retain officers. For example, PERF recommends showing "realistic" videos and materials about what police work involves and highlighted Fayetteville, North Carolina, which presents a service-based message to recruits.

Wexler said the survey is important to find out "where agencies are going and how to train for the future."

The survey encompasses agencies from 45 states, the District of Columbia and Canada -- with the majority of answers coming from medium-sized departments.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Supply, demand and 'geopolitical tensions': How oil prices rise 

iStock/tifonimages(NEW YORK) -- Global oil prices spiked Monday by a whopping 20% seemingly overnight after an attack on a major oil facility in Saudi Arabia.

With global consumption at 100 million barrels of oil a day, the sudden rise in oil prices had a ripple effect on international markets, which took a tumble Monday. ABC News spoke to an oil industry expert to break down what exactly causes the prices for this global commodity to rise and fall.

'Supply and demand and anything on either side of that'

As for what causes oil prices to rise? "It's all kind of a balancing act," Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis at fuel price website GasBuddy told ABC News.

"Oil prices are very sensitive," DeHaan said, adding that at a basic level, they are driven by "supply and demand and anything on either side of that."

"Anything that touches on those two things, which is a myriad of issues, this time around on the supply side, it's Saudi Arabia that's having an impact," he added.

"In this case it's pretty shocking that Saudi Arabia suffered this missile attack on its oil infrastructure," DeHaan said. "We are now looking at a sudden unexpected drop in oil production to the tune of millions of barrels."

On the opposite side of that, DeHaan said a "good example of oil prices plunging was when Saudi Arabia signaled in 2014 that they were going to raise oil production."

"An increase in production can cause oil prices to plummet just like an unexpected outage would cause oil prices to soar," he added.

'Geopolitical tensions disrupt the flow of oil'

While factors like supply and demand generally drive the price of oil, "these oil traders are like you and I," DeHaan said, saying that markets can be unpredictable at times.

"There are some expectations that the market does have … the biggest expectation is the one that the Saudis gave us which is that they will be able to restore this production within a matter of days, not weeks," he said. "If that expectation is not met then oil prices will react more vigorously."

Another factor to consider is if there is another attack or a military response "that could also cause oil prices to go up just because of the risk that such action would further disrupt the normal flow of crude oil," according to DeHaan.

"These geopolitical tensions disrupt the flow of oil, whether that oil is flowing to the U.S., oil is a global commodity, so what happens in the U.S. or what happens in the middle of nowhere in the Middle East is going to tilt prices higher or lower for everyone," he said.

"The tentacles of oil reach far beyond the country where action or inaction take place," DeHaan said. "That level of interconnected-ness means that problems no matter where they are affect anyone who consumes oil."

Another factor that can affect the price of oil in "times of crisis" or "major disruption" is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday evening that he authorized the release of in an amount "sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied" in the wake of the news out of Saudi Arabia.

The SPR simply "acts to limit the concern of oil trade being severely disrupted," according to DeHaan.

While DeHaan predicts we're "not to the point of needing that oil just yet," as the Saudis have said they have inventories to utilize to make up for any drop in output, the SPR "would help limit the impact of oil prices and thus gas prices."

Another factor that can bear influence on oil prices is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which has control of about one-third of the world's oil production, according to DeHaan, who said, "they control a significant amount of oil production."
What does this all mean for consumers?

For consumers, "The impact at the pump is kind of directly proportional to the level of shock that any news would bring."

As for short-term effects for consumers from Monday's spike in oil prices, DeHaan says consumers shouldn't be too wary yet.

We may see "gas prices going up a few cents per day for the next few weeks," he predicted. "I'd say the total impact is going up 10 to 25 cents a gallon two weeks from now."

"But I don't think that gas prices will rise above their previous 2019 highs," he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Walmart kicks off car seat recycling event for National Baby Safety Month

Andrei Stanescu/iStock(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Walmart is doubling down on car seat safety for National Baby Safety Month with a first-of-its-kind recycling event.

The longtime top retailer kicked off a car seat trade-in event Monday that will span nearly 4,000 Walmart stores in the U.S. until Sept. 30, according to Walmart.

Customers can take used car seats to the service desk at participating stores and trade it in for a $30 Walmart gift card that can then be put towards other baby items and used online or in stores.

Walmart joined forces with private recycling company, TerraCycle, for the sustainability initiative and said each component of "traditionally non-recyclable car seats" will be diverted from the landfill.

"Safety -- especially car seat safety -- is a top priority for Walmart’s Baby department, so we wanted to use our size and scale to create an event that offered unprecedented access to trade in an outgrown car seat for a gift card," Melody Richards, vice president of Walmart Baby, said in a statement.

TerraCycle CEO and founder, Tom Szaky, added, "We are proud to work with this forward-thinking company to offer families from coast-to-coast a way to give their car seat, the item that has kept their little ones safe, a second-life. Through this event, we expect to divert the plastic equivalent of approximately 35 million water bottles from landfills."

For more about the gift card terms and conditions visit the company's website.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Oil prices jump by 20 percent after weekend attacks on Saudi facility

claffra/iStock(LONDON) — Global oil prices spiked 20 percent when markets reopened on Monday, after a weekend attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities suspended the production of 5.7 million barrels a day. That amounts to roughly 5 percent of the world's total daily crude oil production.

State-run oil company Aramco said in a statement that work was underway to restore production.

The U.S. has blamed Iran for launching nearly a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory into a key Saudi oil facility on Saturday. Saudi authorities said the weapons were Iranian, but stopped short of blaming Iran directly for the attack.

The Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen claimed responsibility for the assault, which hit one of the world's largest oil processing facilities, hundreds of miles from the Yemen-Saudi border, and sharply impacted global oil supplies.

But a senior U.S. official told ABC News that was false: "It was Iran. The Houthis are claiming credit for something they did not do."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first blamed Iran on Saturday, tweeting that there was "no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

Iran has denied responsibility for the attack, accusing Pompeo of "max deceit," as the country's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Saturday.

Brent Crude, which is used primarily as a reference price benchmark for buying and selling oil in Europe and the Middle East, gained around 20 percent as trading opened Monday, before stabling around 10 percent as the day continued.

In terms of gross peak supply loss in millions of barrels of crude today, the suspension of 5.7 million is the largest on record, according to the International Energy Agency. The last disruption of a comparable size came in 1978-9 during the Iranian Revolution, when the production of 5.6 million barrels of crude were suspended Monday.

Dr Valérie Marcel, an associate fellow of Energy, Environment and Resources at think tank Chatham House, told ABC News said the main immediate significance of the attack was “cutting Saudi Arabian production in half.”

“The immediate issue is getting supplies to the customers that are expecting their crude deliveries, and so Aramco is taking measures to be able to meet demand,” she said. “The economic expectations for the country, really it depends completely on the timeline. How long will this disruption last?”

The stabilization of oil prices a few hours after the market opened means that currently there is “not a huge concern” of the price having an impact on important global economies, she said, but if the disruption were to last several weeks, that could change.

Meanwhile, the international community has moved to condemn the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities.

“Just spoke to @SecPompeo about this egregious attack on the security of Saudi Arabia,” the U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted on Sunday. “This was a reckless attempt to damage regional security and disrupt global oil supplies. The UK condemns such behaviour unreservedly.”

Russia has also condemned the attacks, but warned the U.S. against retaliatory strikes on Iran, after President Trump said the U.S. was “locked and loaded.”

“We decisively condemn the strikes on non-military targets” and “the negative consequences arising from this for the world economy,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We firmly recommend against not rushing to any conclusions about who committed this attack on the Saudi oil refineries. We consider it counterproductive to use this event for the inflaming of passions around Iran along the well-known lines of the U.S. And even more unacceptable are the options that are being presented, the envisaged retaliatory strikes which are allegedly being discussed at the present time in Washington.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Man who survived cancer twice wins $4.6M lottery jackpot

Kameleon007/iStock(BEND, Ore.) -- An Oregon man who survived cancer not once, but twice, has finally gotten some luck on his side.

Stu MacDonald purchases a megabucks ticket once a week and usually, his wife Claudia tells him to "get the winning ticket," but the one day she forgot, he wound up with a prize worth $4.6 million.

MacDonald bought his tickets on Sept. 7 from Ashley's Cafe in Bend, Ore., according to the state lottery's press release.

"I am a very lucky guy," MacDonald said. "I have survived cancer twice and here I am. This is amazing."

He won the jackpot on a megabucks quick pick ticket and opted to take the bulk sum payment of $2.3 million, which was worth $1.56 million after taxes.

"We are thrilled to learn that we sold a Megabucks jackpot,” Ashley's Cafe director of operations Tezra Kong, told the Oregon Lottery. “We are excited for the team who sold the ticket. A big congratulations to our guests on their windfall. Some of the seller’s bonus will go back to the team that strive to delight our guests every day here at Ashley’s in Wagner Mall."

Ashley’s Cafe will also receive a 1 percent bonus worth $46,000 for selling the winning ticket.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

More than 49,000 UAW members go on strike against General Motors

iStock/jetcityimage(DETROIT) -- More than 49,000 union workers for General Motors walked off their jobs Sunday night and went on a nationwide strike after negotiations for a new labor contract hit a stalemate.

During a news conference in Detroit Sunday morning, United Auto Workers spokesman Brian Rothenberg said GM workers across the country would form picket lines at 11:59 p.m., 24 hours after a four-year labor contract expired.

"At midnight tonight, the picket lines will go up," Rothenberg said. "But basically, when the morning shift would have reported for work, they won't be there. The picket lines are being set up."

UAW confirmed in a one-sentence statement at 11:59 p.m. that the strike had begun. Workers were filmed marching outside a GM assembly plant in Hamtramck, Michigan, at midnight.

GM officials said they have offered the UAW promises to invest more than $7 billion in the United States, add more than 5,400 jobs and improve benefits.

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways and it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight," GM officials said in a statement Sunday. "We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business.

A strike was called after UAW leaders from across the nation met in Detroit Sunday morning to consider what action to take after the workers' labor contract expired.

Union leaders claimed that GM officials "refused to give even an inch" to reach a new agreement contract.

“We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members, their families and the communities where we work and live,” said UAW Vice President Terry Dittes in a statement after a strike was authorized by union leadership.

Union leaders have argued that GM workers deserved a bigger slice of the company's record profits, which they say have totaled $35 billion in North America over the last three years. In August, GM reported solid second-quarter earnings with income up $2.4 billion, an increase of 1.6% over the previous year.

Union members are calling for higher wages, retention of a health insurance plan in which workers pay about 4% of the costs, an improved pension plan and assurances that GM -- the makers of Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet -- will not close four plants in Maryland, Ohio and Michigan.

While the UAW let the GM workers' contract expire, the union leaders signed indefinite extensions of the current contract with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) workers.

The strike comes nearly a year after GM announced it was laying off 15 percent of its salaried workers and shuttering five plants in North America. At the time, the company said it was "transforming its global workforce to ensure it has the right skill sets for today and the future, while driving efficiencies through the utilization of best-in-class tools."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

2019 Car Seat Check Honor Roll: Top ranked cars for easy car seat installation 

Toyota(NEW YORK) -- Parents of young children know all too well that car seat installation can be a recipe for major headaches. But Cars.com's new list may help make buckling up your babies a breeze.

Kicking off Child Passenger Safety Week, Cars.com rolled out its 2019 Car Seat Check Honor Roll list Monday on ABC News' Good Morning America.

All of the cars and SUVs that made the list received an "A" grade in their assessment based on their intuitive Latch systems and the car-seat fit, according to Cars.com Editor-in-Chief Jenni Newman.

Newman appeared on GMA to announce two of the included models, a 2019 Toyota Camry and a 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Thirteen vehicles made this year's list, the largest one yet, as automakers made improvements to Latch systems to ensure their cars work for modern families, Newman said.

Here are five of the vehicles on the list:

2019 Toyota Camry
: This car is a family favorite, and its redesign offers better accessibility and a slew of new safety features.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe: This two-row mid-size SUV offers a roomy backseat and the latest in safety features, such as blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and more.

2019 Toyota Avalon
: This full-size sedan has just had a makeover. This year, Toyota gave it a new platform, new looks, new powertrains and new technology. Plus, it also has a new Latch system for parents.

2019 Toyota RAV4: This compact SUV is a fan favorite. In 2019, it's offering a new Latch system.

2019 Nissan Murano
: This mid-size SUV should have received extra credit for its safety grade. It can fit three car seats across its backseat. The vehicle can seat five.

You can check out Cars.com's full list of 13 cars here.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

How luxury yacht vacation for black travelers allegedly went adrift

PaulVinten/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A North Carolina man touting himself as one of the captains in the burgeoning black travel community is being accused by a group of vacationers of failing to deliver on promises of a dream voyage on "super premium" yachts, asserting the reality was a bit of a "disgusting" nightmare.

Reginald Cummings, the owner of Black Travel Movement, was also hit with a federal lawsuit late last month for allegedly skirting a $550,000 bill owed to the Maryland-based yacht company that provided the more than two dozen vessels that were used on the week-long Caribbean sojourn.

The "Black Yacht Week" event had echoes of the Fyre Festival, a high-end excursion to the Bahamas that became a debacle with lack of food, water and toilets. The North Carolina attorney general is investigating complaints against Cummings and Black Travel Movement from at least 17 customers about the "Black Yacht Week" trip. The complaints from the customers are not part of the lawsuit against Cummings.

In an interview with ABC News, Cummings declined to discuss the lawsuit but said he is working to resolve the situation with his customers.

"The yacht company failed to deliver to us what we promised our customers,” he says. "My plan is to get this resolved."

He added that "some [customers] have been reimbursed, some have pending litigation, but I expect this to be resolved in 30 to 45 days."

Cummings argued in a motion to vacate a confession of judgment that he had previously signed for the $550,000 bill that the yacht company left him high and dry -- providing him with "inadequately provisioned" yachts resulting in "mediocre meals," captains that said they couldn't accommodate his itinerary and complaints about "rude" staff members and "poor" conditions of the boats. He claims that he was forced into signing the judgment.

Meagan Borgerson, the attorney for Dream Yacht America, said her client did the best it could to provide the vacationers with the proper amenities despite Cummings' "unresponsive communications" leading up to the trip.

"My client's had every intention to provide provisions. They were expected to receive all the food requirements and allergy reports a month in advance, but they weren't given to my clients until a week before the trip," Borgerson said.

"Provisions were delivered to the yachts via speed boats after the first two days of the trip," she added.

'Vacation of a lifetime'

In July 2018, Cummings advertised "2019 Black Yacht Week" in the British Virgin Islands for a price tag of $2,950 for a "premium crewed yacht" or $3,350 for a "super premium crewed yacht," according to court documents and the Black Yacht Week website.

"Why Should Europeans Have All the Fun" one section of the website says, explaining that the trip was a response to Yacht Week. "Picture if you will 15-25 Yachts filled with beautiful black, brown, and beige people sailing and partying around the beautiful beaches of the British Virgin Islands."

The website promised the "vacation of a lifetime" aboard a "luxury catamaran." Both trip packages promised a "professional skipper and a gourmet chef. All meals, snacks, cocktails, and water toys are included," the site said.

"BTM marketed the Black Yacht Week experience as including all meals, snacks, and beverages, free wireless internet, double staterooms with en suite lavatory and shower, freshwater showers, housekeeping services, flat screen TVs, air conditioning, snorkeling equipment, fishing gear, and other water activities, as well as a yacht damage waiver," according to the breach of contract lawsuit.

But some prospective guests said they found the promise of paradise to be a little fishy early on.

"I knew something wasn't right back in July 2018 when paying for the trip," said Jewel Pearson, 52, from Charlotte, North Carolina. "There were problems with the website and when I called, emailed or posted on the Facebook group about straightening out the account, the comment got deleted or Reggie wouldn't remember our previous correspondence."

Cummings, 58, founded Black Travel Movement (BTM) in 2016 and portrayed the company as the "largest and fastest growing online black travel community," according to his website, which also offers excursions to Dubai, Greece and Egypt among other destinations.

The black travel community consist of mostly millennials and women who are interested in or are avid travelers who aspire to see the world safely and on a budget. Most of the groups like Nomadness Travel Tribe and Travel Noire have grown to become an online family where people have made lifetime friendships, met their significant other or sought help during a hardship.

Pearson said she had a decidedly different experience with BTM when her five friends and six others who joined them on the "Black Yacht Week" excursion paid for a "Super Premium Crewed Yacht."

"From beginning to end the experience was an example of horrible communication and customer service, unprofessionalism and misrepresentation," she wrote in a complaint to the North Carolina attorney general's office. "The trip itinerary that had been communicated to all attendees at purchase/registration was changed the night before the excursion began and the changes removed visits to all of the famous sites/attractions that were obviously the initial selling point and attendees and the Charter Company were left trying to figure it out and salvage a trip with no direction from BTM."

Unbeknownst to Pearson and the more than 230 other paying customers who flew to Tortola Island in the Caribbean on June 22, Cummings is accused of stiffing Dream Yacht Americas, Inc. after paying a $60,000 deposit to rent 26 variously sized yachts, according to the lawsuit.

Before the ships left Hodge's Creek Marina, a representative from the yacht company made a final attempt to collect the $551,783.77 debt from Cummings, who promised the funds would come from his business partner, according to the lawsuit.

The company believed Cummings and BTM had the money since "depending on which option the patrons paid or, defendants collected between $678.500 and $770,500," thus having enough to pay off their balance, according to the lawsuit.

Even though Cummings hadn't paid, the yacht company allowed the boats to leave. Cummings was on one of them.

'Purely disgusting'

Customers said they expected the trip would go according to the listed day-by-day itinerary posted on the BTM website. The itinerary listed the caves of Norman Island and visiting the Soggy Dollar Bar for a taste of their painkiller cocktail.

But "our Captain would anchor us somewhere and disappear for hours," Gionna Adams told ABC News in an email. "We went on many adventures trying to find things that should’ve been told to us. Paying extra for taxis etc. what happened to the guide we were supposed to have or the proper itineraries? (Our captain) was also frustrated with the arrangements and what was happening with Reggie and we felt all of that on our trip."

Adams, of Brooklyn, New York, said the gourmet meals they were promised were reduced to hot dogs and the kitchen was unsanitary.

"We had rotting fruit in bowls for display and flies everywhere. It was purely disgusting...we were left to eat out on shore most of the time," said Adams. "I’m embarrassed to say I paid this much for the trip."

"We had to clean the yacht daily, but we had it better than others who had no food, ate hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, their fridge went out, AC went out. Yet, Reggie's yacht had food, drinks, lobster daily," said Pearson, who is seeking reimbursement. She lodged similar complaints to the attorney general.

Another passenger, Crystal Dickerson, who also filed a complaint with the North Carolina attorney general's office, said her first clue that things were askew was when the itinerary changed a week before the trip.

Dickerson, of Washington, D.C., said she and eight others on her yacht were promised gourmet meals, but after their first night of three wingettes, rice and carrots, they spent $500 at the supermarket to provide their onboard chef food to cook.

"I don't fault the yacht company, I fault Reggie Cummings," she told ABC News. "My payments were made to him and Black Travel Movement, not the yacht company. He didn't pay the yacht company either or give them enough time to get the provisions for 26 yachts, he gave them request a week before the trip, that's not enough time when you're dealing with a small island."

"Thank goodness the yacht company felt pity for us and let us go still...We gave our captain and chef a tip still because it wasn't their fault, they were put in a bad position and did their best," she added.

The boat crew and chefs were provided by the yacht company.

'Infuriating'

When the vessels returned to shore on June 29, Cummings was met by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, but he was not arrested, police said.

"This matter was settled civilly between the parties involved. Mr. Cummings was not arrested for any Criminal Offences by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force," Akia Thomas, the police's public information officer, told ABC News.

"Local police were alerted that Mr. Cummings failed to pay the remaining balance," said Borgerson. "Mr. Cummings signed a confession of judgement admitting he owed our clients over $550,000 and that document was filed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland."

In a statement, the yacht company said: "Although Mr. Cummings has since taken the position that Black Travel Movement should not have to pay the amount owed to Dream Yacht due to several complaints made by its members related to inadequate provisioning of a few of the vessels, Dream Yacht has never been provided with that information despite repeated demands and has not seen a dime since the initial nominal deposit to secure the bookings. It is Dream Yacht’s understanding that most of the complaints by the members were regarding portions of the event planned solely by Black Travel Movement, including the lack of transportation to and from Scrub Island and event planning during the charters."

Evita Robinson, the founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, a travel advocacy organization and community, calls Cummings' alleged behavior "infuriating."

"It's infuriating because so many of us laid the foundation to make sure we are legitimized in an industry that does not pay attention to us," Robinson said. "We shatter the stereotypes that are against us and to hear about this, it's infuriating."

Nomadness Travel Tribe is celebrating its eighth year of increasing diversity in the travel industry, connecting black people from around the world to share travel tips and creating a safe space to see the world seamlessly. Robinson's community has grown to over 22,000 black, mostly female travelers and has been compared to the "The Negro Motorist Green Book."

During the Jim Crow Era, blacks were not allowed to travel freely without concern of entering a segregated part of the United States and being arrested, assaulted or killed. "The Green Book" gave blacks a road map to show where it was safe to have a meal, get their car fixed and other travel advice.

"This is not a fast money industry, it doesn't work like that," Robinson said upon hearing about the allegations against Cummings. "This is a service and people industry...you have to do right by these people, don't get it twisted."

Shortly after Pearson and her friends returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina, she launched a private Facebook group called "Black Travel Movement -Trip/Vacation Reviews" where unsatisfied BTM customers could air their grievances and assist one another with getting refunds.

Pearson said she noticed that after lodging her own complaints on BTM's social media pages, they would be erased.

"Had there been a group like this one, none of us would of traveled with Black Travel Movement," said Pearson, a project manager for a financial institution. "When people use the hashtag saying #BlackTravelMovement it looks like it's his trip or group when really it's not."

Robinson, 35, applauded Pearson for starting the closed group saying there's "power in numbers."

"Not all travels groups are perfect. Things happened. But, you'll never want to see a situation when someone is manipulated or there's a pattern of behavior and no one knows about it. Your reputation is everything," said Robinson.

Since 2016, 14 complaints have been lodged with the Better Business Bureau against BTM ranging from poor customer service to paying $1,250 for non-existent concert seats. Only two of the complaints were marked "resolved," according to the BBB website.

The North Carolina's attorney general's office said it has "asked the company for more information, as is our standard process when we receive complaints from people," said spokesperson Laura Brewer.

Cummings' Maryland-based attorney Robert Smith Jr. is looking to vacate the $550,000 judgment against his client. In the motion, Smith Jr. claimed Cummings was coerced into signing the document and the complaints from the customers were not his fault, but the yacht company's.

"As a result of (Dream Yacht Charters) failures and breaches of contract, (Cummings) has suffered, and continues to suffer, severe damage to his reputation, both personally and professionally," according to the motion.

Cummings has received "more than 130 credit card disputes for payment from guests who were dissatisfied by the services provided by (Dream Yacht Charters). At least 14 guests have demanded a full refund," according to the motion.

Cummings declined comment about the breach of contract suit filed in North Carolina. Smith Jr. declined to comment beyond the motion to vacate.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy as part of opioid crisis lawsuits

Pureradiancephoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Purdue Pharma, the makers of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Sunday as part of an agreement for settling a myriad of lawsuits it faces over the nation's opioid crisis.

The agreement is expected to provide over $10 billion to "address the opioid crisis," the company said in a statement.

The bankruptcy filing is also part of the framework for settling lawsuits the company faces from 24 state attorneys general, the company added. As part of the settlement -- which is pending court approvals -- the Sackler family must contribute a minimum of $3 billion in addition to their pharmaceutical company.

“This unique framework for a comprehensive resolution will dedicate all of the assets and resources of Purdue for the benefit of the American public,” Steve Miller, the chairman of Purdue’s board of directors said in a statement.

“This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis," he added. "We will continue to work with state attorneys general and other plaintiff representatives to finalize and implement this agreement as quickly as possible.”

The Sackler family, some members of whom founded and own Purdue Pharma, released a statement regarding the bankruptcy and settlement agreement, which they dub a "historic step towards providing critical resources that address a tragic public health situation."

"Like families across America, we have deep compassion for the victims of the opioid crisis and believe the settlement framework -- now supported by the attorneys general of 29 states and territories and the plaintiffs' steering committee representing thousands of municipalities--is an historic step towards providing critical resources that address a tragic public health situation," the statement reads. "It is our hope the bankruptcy reorganization process that is now underway will end our ownership of Purdue and ensure its assets are dedicated for the public benefit. This process will also bring the thousands of claims into a single, efficient forum where the settlement can be finalized, reviewed by the bankruptcy court to ensure it is fair and just and then implemented."

It continued: "We are hopeful that in time, those parties who are not yet supportive will ultimately shift their focus to the critical resources that the settlement provides to people and problems that need them. We intend to work constructively with all parties as we try to implement this settlement."

Lawyers who have been representing more than 2,000 communities in the civil suit against Purdue Pharma said in a statement, "In anticipation of Purdue's bankruptcy filing, we worked together with county, city, state, and territory government representatives to negotiate a structure to be approved by a bankruptcy court."

"As a result of these collaborative efforts, and unlike other bankruptcies that tie up company revenues, the bankruptcy filing will not prevent us from finalizing an agreement with Purdue to bring opioid recovery resources into the communities we represent," attorneys Paul J. Hanly Jr., Paul T. Farrell Jr., and Joe Rice, the executive committee co-leads from the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, added in a statement.

When news of the tentative settlement was announced last week, however, many state attorneys vowed to keep fighting the makers of OxyContin, the painkiller that many blame for fueling the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the news of the tentative settlement a "slap in the face" to alleged victims in a statement last Wednesday.

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Sunday
Sep152019

First commercial space hotel to have low-gravity basketball, rock climbing: Reports

Gateway Foundation(NEW YORK) -- One company is catering to people's fascination with space by planning to build an enormous hotel for tourists who want to experience life beyond Earth's atmosphere.

The Gateway Foundation plans to build a rotating space station that will produce varying rates of artificial gravity, according to its website.

Utilizing existing technology from the International Space Station, the accommodations are geared toward guests who want to experience life in space but in the luxury and comfort of a hotel.

Activities on board will include low-gravity basketball, low-gravity trampolining and rock climbing, Tim Alatorre, senior design architect of the Von Braun Space Station, told architecture and design magazine Dezeen.

Alatorre likened the travel experience to a cruise or going to Disney World, as it will also feature restaurants, bars, concerts, movie screenings and educational seminars.

The Von Braun Space Station will feature privately-owned modules used for villas, hotels or commercial activity as well as government-owned modules used for research, according to the proposal.

The company plans to be fully operational by 2025 with 100 tourists visiting weekly, according to Dezeen. While the wealthy will only be able to afford space travel at first, the eventual goal is to make the experience open to everyone, Alatorre said.

The Gateway Foundation isn't the only company aiming to widen the opportunity for space travel. In June, NASA announced that it hopes to open up the International Space Station to private astronauts by 2020.

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