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Thursday
May182017

Trump intends to renegotiate NAFTA as early as August

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has formally told Congress that the Trump administration plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, starting a countdown clock until talks between the United States, Canada and Mexico can begin in August.

"NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. Many chapters are outdated and do not reflect modern standards," reads a letter from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to Congressional leadership on Thursday. "I am pleased to notify the Congress that the President intends to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."

The letter begins a 90-day window before beginning formal negotiations as early as August 16.

"The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities under NAFTA," the letter reads.

Trump made renegotiation of NAFTA a staple of his presidential campaign last year, asserting that the United States was at a disadvantage in trade with its northern and southern neighbors. Trump blamed lopsided trade relationships around the globe for the loss of manufacturing jobs and lackluster economic growth.

NAFTA was signed under President Bill Clinton in 1993. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the pact if negotiations are unsuccessful.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso said Mexico welcomes the negotiations and that his nation has been kept informed and will approach the process constructively.

"We understand that this is a 25-year-old agreement," he said at a State Department summit on drug cartels with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday. "The world has changed."

House Speaker Paul Ryan also acknowledged the letter and his intention to work with the Trump team.

"I welcome the administration’s effort to improve and update NAFTA for the 21st century economy," Ryan said in a statement. "Congress looks forward to working hand-in-hand with the Trump administration to achieve the best deal possible for American workers and our economy."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May182017

Classic Disney animation art headed to auction

Walt Disney Studios(NEW YORK) -- A collection of original art from Walt Disney Studios will soon be open for public auction.

Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present the movie memorabilia auction, "An Important Animation Art Collection, The Property of a Gentleman" in New York City on June 5.

The sale will feature more than 290 original Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids, according to Bonhams' press release.

The collection was amassed over 25 years by a private collector who acquired the art through auctions and dealers. It is comprised of multiple titles and items from more than 60 years of Disney animation, Bonhams said.

The collector released his collection to Bonhams for sale in order to share the work with the next generation, Bonhams told ABC News.

The artwork includes images of character favorites like Cinderella, Pinocchio, Bambi and Mickey Mouse.

Villians like Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty in 1959 and the Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 are also available for purchase.

Some of the items, such as a celluloid of Snow White, are estimated to be worth between $25,000 an $30,000.

The collection will be on preview at Bonhams Los Angeles from May 19-21 and then will be on display at Bonhams New York from June 2-5.

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

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May182017

TSA adding additional agents ahead of busy summer travel season

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Even as experts project that a record 234.1 million passengers will take to the skies on U.S. airlines this summer, the Transportation Security Administration says it's prepared for the travel onslaught.

Last summer -- which saw just 224.8 million travelers, or 9.3 million fewer than are expected this summer -- hours-long lines snarled checkpoints across the country, sparking outrage among passengers and airlines alike.

This summer, industry trade group Airlines for America projects there will be about 4 percent more U.S. airline passengers passing through airports worldwide -- about 2.54 million per day from June to August. (A4A refused to speculate whether the potential expansion of the laptop ban -- already in place for flights from 10 Middle Eastern airports, and under consideration for expansion to other areas, including Europe -- could impact its projections.)

Accordingly, the TSA has bulked up their workforce by 2,000 additional officers and 50 more canine teams, compared to last summer.

“As we approach the summer break, securing the travel of millions of passengers daily remains our top priority,” said TSA acting administrator Huban A. Gowadia. “It is well known that terrorists continue to focus on aviation, which is why the TSA continues to focus on providing robust security screening."

The agency has also collaborated with airlines to provide automated screening lanes at some of the nation's busiest airports, including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

So what's driving the influx of travelers?

“Rising U.S. GDP, a steadily improving economy, an all-time high household net worth and historically low airfares are proving to be the perfect combination for the expected growth in summer air travel,” A4A Vice President John Heimlich said in a statement. “We continue to see consumers today shift their spending towards experiences and travel, and airlines are making sure to meet this growing demand."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Chanel draws criticism from indigenous Australians with thousand-dollar boomerang

gavran333/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chanel's latest addition to its high-fashion sports equipment line is drawing accusations of cultural appropriation. The French fashion house announced it would sell a resin-polished, wooden boomerang embellished with the brand's iconic double C logo for a suggested retail price of $1,325. But critics say Chanel is appropriating and disrespecting one of indigenous Australians' oldest and most recognizable hunting tools.

Jeffree Star, a U.S.-based makeup artist, posted a photo of the Chanel boomerang on his Instagram account, and reaction online was swift.

 

Having so much fun with my new #Chanel boomerang 🖤

A post shared by Jeffree Star (@jeffreestar) on May 15, 2017 at 2:27pm PDT

 

One commenter wrote: "A boomerang is a symbolic cultural symbol to the indigenous Australians and this is disgusting, it's being materialized."

According to the National Museum of Australia, boomerangs have "an important role in Aboriginal culture as objects of work and leisure." There are many different indigenous groups in Australia,
including aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders.

Critics have called Chanel's version expensive and impractical. Others have proposed that rather than buying an expensive replica, consumers should learn about the culture behind it. Many balked at
the hefty price tag.

 

 

 

Chanel released a statement saying the brand "is extremely committed to respecting all cultures and regrets that some may have felt offended."

The boomerang is one of five sports products available in the Spring-Summer 2017 pre-collection on the Chanel website. The collection also includes tennis balls, a wooden paddle ball set, a tennis
racket and a stand-up paddle board.

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

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Consumer advocates urge investigation of mystery BMW fires

Doug Terry(WASHINGTON) — Officials from two leading auto safety organizations are calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency tasked with investigating potential defects, to investigate a series of fires in parked BMWs following an ABC News report last week.

Meanwhile, several new consumer complaints from BMW owners reporting similar incidents have appeared in NHTSA’s database and on BMW owners’ blogs in the past several days.

Calling the 43 fires uncovered by ABC News “disturbing,” Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said NHTSA should take a serious look at the reports.

"They definitely should," Shahan said. “They should be investigating and getting documents from BMW and find out what's going on.”

Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, also urged NHTSA to investigate.

"There needs to be a more aggressive approach to look at this," Gillan said.

A NHTSA spokesperson said Tuesday the agency “is monitoring this issue and urges anyone with information on this issue to contact NHTSA.”

The agency is directing consumers to its website, NHTSA.gov, to send a complaint and upload accompanying photos, police reports, insurance reports and other information that may be relevant.

“NHTSA technical experts review each and every call, letter and online report of an alleged safety problem that is filed," a spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

One of the new complaints submitted to NHTSA claimed that a 2015 328XI caught fire while parked in June 2016, meaning the vehicle was then just a year old.

Another complaint reported a fire in a BMW that had been parked on a driveway for four days. “Awoke to a car completely engulfed in flames,” the report states.

Additional consumer complaints, some of them echoing the problems outlined in the ABC News report, poured in through social media among the thousands of comments posted in reaction to the report.

“There are a lot more people out there,” wrote one viewer on Facebook. “This happened to my BMW 6 months ago. I have video and photos.”

Based on consumer complaints to NHTSA, fire department reports, local news reports, complaints from online blogs and interviews with BMW owners, ABC News created its own database of parked BMW vehicle fire incidents in North America over the last five years among various years and models.

Each vehicle was checked through NHTSA’s database and through Carfax, a site that provides a vehicle’s history, using its vehicle identification number (VIN) or its license plate number. Any vehicle that had an open recall for a fire-related issue was eliminated from the list.

ABC News also provided BMW with detailed information – including VIN, the name of the owner and the date of the incident – for the 17 cases highlighted in our investigation so the company could have the opportunity to investigate and comment on each case.

BMW issued a response to ABC News’ investigation on the company’s website, saying that fires are “rare” but the company “takes every incident very seriously.”

“We at BMW empathize with anyone who has experienced a vehicle fire,” the company said. “We understand it is a traumatic event and the safety of our customers is of utmost importance to us.”

BMW also said the vehicle information ABC News provided showed that these vehicles “span an age range of 1-15 years, accumulated mileage of up to 232,250 miles and multiple generations and model types. In the few cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root cause, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure. Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons unrelated to product defect.”

A spokesperson further suggested several other potential causes of car fires other than a manufacturing defect, including a lack of maintenance, improper maintenance by unauthorized mechanics, aftermarket modifications, rodent nesting and even arson.

At a conference of consumer advocates in Washington, D.C. last week, Gillan told ABC News she understood the challenges of investigating auto safety issues that span various years, makes and models of vehicles but argued that those difficulties shouldn’t keep NHTSA from investigating the cause of these fires.

“I understand the complexity,” Gillan said. “But on the other hand, it does seem to me that there’s a pattern here and the agency should look into it.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Starbucks testing coffee ice cubes in 100 stores

Starbucks(ST. LOUIS) — It's an iced-coffee lover's summer dream come true.

Starbucks on Monday began testing coffee ice cubes in iced coffee drinks in two markets, St. Louis and Baltimore, according to spokesperson Holly Shafer. She called it a "very small test" that includes just 100 stores of the nearly 25,000 Starbucks in the country.

"It's one of several tests going on," Shafer told ABC News. "Our scale allows us to test things quickly to see what's next."

She said the company then gathers feedback from customers and employees.

In the participating stores, customers can add ice that's been made using Starbucks coffee to any iced espresso or brewed coffee beverage for 80 cents.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Researchers discover another ongoing cyberattack using NSA hacking tools

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cybersecurity researchers have identified a second ongoing global cyberattack that has quietly hijacked hundreds of thousands of computers around the world, including many in the United States, for a massive cryptocurrency mining operation.

While investigating the WannaCry ransomware attacks, researchers at the private cybersecurity firm Proofpoint stumbled upon another “less noisy” form of malware called Adylkuzz that, the firm says, has likely generated millions of dollars in cryptocurrency for the unknown attackers.

According to Ryan Kalember, the senior vice president for intelligence at Proofpoint, the attack employed the same hacking tools developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and leaked to the public by the hacker group Shadow Brokers in April to exploit vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system.

“I would say the real-world impact of this attack is going to be more substantial than WannaCry,” Kalember told ABC News. “Ransomware is painful, but you can restore operations relatively quickly. Here, you have a huge amount of money landing in some bad people’s hands. That has geopolitical consequences.”

The firm is still working to establish attribution for the attacks, but Kalember pointed out that North Korean-backed Lazarus Group -- the same hacker group linked to the WannaCry attacks -- launched a similar cryptocurrency mining attack in late 2016.

Microsoft released a pair of patches to address the vulnerability exploited by both WannaCry and Adylkuzz, but the firm says computers that adopted those patches after being infected would remain compromised, and networks that have not adopted those patches would remain exposed.

Proofpoint identified Adylkuzz attacks dating back to May 2, which would predate the WannaCry attacks, making Adylkuzz the first known widespread use of the leaked NSA hacking tools. It remained undetected for so long, Kalember says, because its impact on users is far less noticeable than ransomware.

“It takes over your computer, but you probably don’t notice anything other than that the system runs really slow,” Kalember said. “Your computer might be mining cryptocurrency for some very bad people.”

The theft itself is also more subtle. While the WannaCry attack spread ransomware to extort payments in Bitcoin, the Adylkuzz attack created a botnet that steals processing power to mine for Monero, another form open-source cryptocurrency that boasts of being “secure, private, [and] untraceable.”

According to John Bambenek of Fidelis Cybersecurity, who confirmed the existence of a second virus using NSA tools to mine for cryptocurrency, Monero has largely supplanted Bitcoin as the preferred cryptocurrency of cybercriminals. Law enforcement officials have become more adept at tracking transactions through Bitcoin’s public ledger, he said, while records of Monero transactions remain “highly obfuscated.”

“It’s made it extremely attractive for cybercriminals,” Bambenek told ABC News. “There are a handful of people still hanging on to Bitcoin, but the center of gravity is moving in Monero’s favor.”

Perianne Boring of the Digital Chamber of Commerce, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the blockchain industry, defended the Bitcoin community’s efforts to coordinate with law enforcement following the WannaCry attacks but told ABC News her organization does not work with Monero.

“We don’t know them,” she said.

Monero was recently adopted by AlphaBay, one of the most prominent darknet markets to emerge following the disruption of the Silk Road, where users can purchase illicit goods, such as illegal drugs, under the cloak of anonymity.

“Monero is really ugly stuff,” Kalember said. “You’re not using it for anything good. You can’t use Monero to go buy groceries.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May172017

Chanel is selling a $1,300 boomerang

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here we go again. After Nordstrom introduced the $85 Medium Wrapped Leather Stone; $425 pre-muddied jeans with fake mud; and a destroyed high-top sneaker for $1425, now French luxury fashion house Chanel is selling a boomerang for $1,325.

The boomerang is listed on Chanel's website under "Other Accessories" in the 2017 spring-summer pre-collection

The product description lists the item as wood and resin and the color as black. The boomerang is naturally adorned with the Chanel logo.

The BBC reports that not everyone is thrilled about it.

Gabrielle Sullivan, chief executive of the Indigenous Arts Code, said, "It's simply a misappropriation of aboriginal culture.”

Aboriginal artist Bibi Barba said boomerangs are not only a hunting weapon used by Australia's indigenous people, "They are a cultural symbol for us. A lot indigenous artist do artwork on them and this artwork is different in different parts of the country, it holds different meaning."

Barba also points out the irony of the bigger picture, saying, "Chanel and other luxury fashion brands hate it when people steal their logos and make copies of their products. So it would be a good point for them to make amends."

The French company issued a statement saying, "Chanel is extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May162017

Nasdaq sets another record as stocks close mixed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street finished mixed on Tuesday as the Nasdaq reached a new record for the second day in a row.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 2.19 (-0.01 percent) to finish at 20,979.75.

The Nasdaq gained 20.20 (+0.33 percent) to close at 6,169.87 while the S&P 500 finished at 2,400.67, down 1.65 (-0.07 percent) from its open.

Crude oil was about 0.5 percent lower with prices under $49 per barrel.

Winners and Losers: Office supply retailer Staples, Inc. tumbled 3.5 percent after reporting a revenue miss last quarter.

Nature's Sunshine Products announced Tuesday it received a direct selling license in China. Shares of the multi-level dietary supplement-marketer soared nearly 28 percent.

Citi downgraded Pfizer's stock from Neutral to Sell, causing shares of the pharmaceutical company to slide about 2 percent.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May162017

Woman makes dress out of more than 10,000 Starburst candy wrappers

Courtesy Emily Seilhamer (ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa.) -- This woman’s dress sure is one sweet fashion statement.

Emily Seilhamer, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, made the colorful dress entirely out of Starburst candy wrappers.

She said she used more than 10,000 wrappers in total.

“In just one row, there’s about 300 wrappers to wrap it around my whole body,” Seilhamer, 24, told ABC News. “Because it took so long, the Starburst company kept discontinuing some of the colors I was using, so I had to revise the design a couple times. But that’s OK. I actually like this design better.”

It took her five years to complete, with her primarily working on it while in college.

“I would sit for hours folding wrappers while studying for college classes or watching TV,” she recalled. “It also became somewhat therapeutic.”

Her husband’s sweet tooth inspired the project -- his favorite candy is Starburst.

“The first time I met him he offered me a pack of Starburst,” she said of her husband, Malachi Seilhamer. “He gave me a pack and once he broke the ice, he kept bringing me packs of Starburst. We were in drama together and I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to make something out of these. Do you mind saving them?’ He would eat them and bring me grocery bags full [of the wrappers]. I was like, ‘Wow, I can do something pretty big from this.’”

“Thank goodness nobody got any cavities,” she said with a laugh.

Emily Seilhamer said she finished the dress a few months before her husband proposed, which was perfect timing so she could focus her efforts on making her wedding dress instead. But the Starburst dress still holds the most sentimental value to the couple.

“Because we met through the candies, the dress had a spot at our wedding reception for everyone to see,” said Emily Seilhamer.

The artist said she now plans to work on at least one upcycled outfit a year.

“This dress was the start of my hobby doing upcycled dresses,” she said. “I've done one of men's neckties, and just recently a spring dress out of my grandmother's kitchen wallpaper.”

And although her friends thought she was “a little nutty” at first, they’ve since “gotten used to it.”

“Funny thing is, I don't know how to sew,” said Emily Seilhamer. “I know how to use a sewing machine yet I've never actually learned how to follow a pattern. But I am a crafter so I if I can picture something in my head, I can usually figure it out.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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