Amazon reconsiders building new headquarters in New York City: WaPo

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Amazon is re-considering its decision to split its second headquarters between New York and Virginia after mounting local opposition in New York City, according to a report.

The behemoth retailer "is reconsidering its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to a new campus in New York City following a wave of opposition from local politicians," according to a story in The Washington Post published on Thursday. The Post, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, cited two people "familiar with the company's thinking."

The Post story stated that Amazon "has not leased or purchased office space for the project, making it easy to withdraw its commitment. Unlike in Virginia — where elected leaders quickly passed an incentive package for a separate headquarters facility — final approval from New York state is not expected until 2020."

Amazon issued an emailed statement through a spokeswoman, but did not deny Post's story.

“We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors — small business owners, educators and community leaders. Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be."

In November, the company had announced it would build two separate second headquarters: one in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City and the other in Chrystal City, Virginia. The two cities were the winners of a national competition that pitted American cities against each other to woo the retailer and its promise of thousands of high-paying jobs.

But almost as soon as the company made the announcement, vocal politicians on the New York City Council and the New York state legislature, as well as residents and unions, voiced opposition to the plans to offer $3 billion in incentives to one of the world's largest companies owned by the world's richest man.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both praised the Amazon deal as a great prize for the local economy.

Responding to the report of Amazon's second thoughts, de Blasio's office said in a statement, "The Mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers."

The governor defended the deal, while shifting the blame on intra-New York politics.

"The problem is the state Senate has adopted that position and that is what could stop Amazon. And if they do, I would not want to be a democratic senator coming back to my district to explain why Amazon left because I pandered to their politics. It would be a tremendous loss. It is the largest economic development transaction in the history of the state of New York," Cuomo said at an economic development address in Woodbury, Long Island, on Thursday.

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer have been leading the calls against Amazon.

On Thursday, Van Bremer released a statement saying, “Since the Governor and the Mayor announced the Amazon deal, I have joined many to fight it. We rose up and held the line. When a corporation is anti-union, pro-ICE and seeks billions in corporate welfare, we must fight back. It’s not over, but I’m proud of the values we fought for.”

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Prosecutors reviewing Jeff Bezos' allegations of extortion against National Enquirer's parent company: Source

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are reviewing the accusations of extortion and blackmail made by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos against the parent company of the National Enquirer, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News on Friday.

American Media Inc., which owns the tabloid, was granted immunity from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in December of last year as part of an investigation into the president's former personal attorney and longtime fixer Michael Cohen. Prosecutors are now reviewing whether Bezos’s accusations amount to a violation of that agreement, which required AMI to “commit no crime whatsoever” for three years, according to the source.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

AMI said Friday it would "promptly and thoroughly" investigate claims made by Bezos of a blackmail and extortion plot against him involving compromising photographs.

Bezos described the claims in a stunning post on Medium Thursday.

In January, the billionaire CEO and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos, announced that they were divorcing. In a statement released on Twitter, they said the decision comes "after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation."

The National Enquirer later broke a story that alleged Bezos was having an affair. Bezos questioned whether the report was politically motivated and launched his own investigation into the matter.

In a post titled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker" -- addressing David Pecker, who is the chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., the owner of the National Enquirer -- Bezos said that he was approached with an offer from AMI, saying that "they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn't stop our investigation."

Bezos alleges the National Enquirer was attempting to blackmail and extort him using "intimate" photos.

In the Medium posting, Bezos said that the Enquirer offered not to publish the photos in exchange for a public statement from Bezos that the Enquirer's reporting was not politically motivated.

"Of course I don't want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out," Bezos said in his post on Thursday.

AMI defended its actions in a statement Friday but said it would investigate Bezos' claims.

"American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos," the company said in a statement. “Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary."

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Check out the apps that will intercept robocalls and tell you when they're done

Oleksii Spesyvtsev/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Pesky calls from telemarketers may be easier to combat than ever.

With new apps like Robokiller, spam calls are automatically intercepted so that your phone may never even ring.

ABC News' Paula Faris demonstrated the app's functionality on Good Morning America to show that when a robocall was placed, it didn't even come through on her device.

The app automatically answers a robocall and the spammer hears a so-called "answer bot" that keeps the spam caller on the line, wasting that person's time so they can't make as many calls.

After the call ends, the phone with the installed app receives a notification that it successfully blocked the call.

Instead of feeling annoyed by getting a spam call, you'll feel vindicated.

Robokiller is free to download, with a monthly subscription fee of 99 cents.

Many robocalls come up as "unknown" on caller ID, and a lot of phone companies give the option to automatically reject anonymous calls. In most cases, you can dial *-7-7 on your phone to set that up.

The four major cellphone carriers -- AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint -- all have tools to identify and filter spam calls. Most are free.

There are several other apps that block these calls, including Nomorobo, Truecaller and Hiya. Some charge a fee to use, while others are free -- make sure to check the app's fine print.

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Industries, researchers were 'essentially blind' during shutdown data drought

wildpixel/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Though government agencies reopened their doors nearly two weeks ago, experts have warned that the impact of the longest shutdown in history still lingers with continued delays in the release of key federal data.

"We are really fortunate," said Amitrajeet Batabyal, an economics professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. "We are probably one of the very small number of countries who generally puts out very reliable and very extensive data."

For example, Batabyal cited sales data from the Department of Agriculture, which farmers use to make decisions about how to manage crops.

"When you think of the Census Bureau, most Americans think of some folks coming to tally how many people there are in the U.S. every 10 years. But the Census Bureau actually puts out a lot of other information on all types of things," Batabyal said.

The Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis both released information about the delays Wednesday, indicating that some reports will be published more than a month behind schedule. The Bureau of Economic Analysis also indicated it would not publish its fourth-quarter gross domestic product report until Feb. 28, roughly a month later than scheduled.

The delay could affect a range of people and institutions, even the Federal Reserve, Batabyal said.

"You can see how there would be a gap in the Fed's knowledge about the current health of the U.S. economy," Batabyal said.

The Federal Reserve makes decisions that depend, at least in part, on the availability of these reports, he added.

For Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, there's no substitute for the data he lacked because of the shutdown. He said that for close to a month he was cut off from housing information typically provided by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Reports on new-home construction and sales, which are essential for his industry to gauge supply, were sorely missed, he said.

No outsiders have developed similar data sets, Yun said, so there were really no alternatives.

"The industry has been so reliant on the government data," Yun said. "We were just blind about the latest developments."

Even when third parties offer their own versions of this data, experts aren't inclined to use it.

"There is no question in people's minds that generally the data that's put out by the U.S. government tends to be the most trusted, because it's generally nonpartisan," Batabyal said. With private groups "there's always the suspicion that maybe their agenda's skewed."

Yun called the shutdown "a clear, unambiguous negative" for information and for the housing industry. In addition to the uncertainty created by the lack of information, he cited the fear that shutdowns can build among consumers, which, in the real estate market, creates major problems.

"Home buying is such a major expenditure," Yun said. "People need to feel comfortable about what they are purchasing."

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Audi's new Q8 aims to be everything an SUV owner could ask for


(PARK CITY, Utah) -- Remember “peak SUV”?

It was the buzzword two years ago among the automotive coterie. Now, there are more sport-utility vehicles than ever before on the market and carmakers are scrambling to quench demand.

Some SUVs are designed to match the performance metrics of a sports car. Others have morphed into crossovers that resemble a car more than a truck. A few cater to large families that require copious space and seating.

Audi's new Q8 SUV can be all of those things if it wants to be.

I test-drove the Q8 over three days, a 400-mile journey that took me from Park City, Utah, to the tony ski resort community of Telluride, Colorado. The Q8 and I traversed snow, ice, long stretches of highway, no-name towns, craggy landscapes, meandering cattle and Moab’s famed Arches National Park.

Nearly 60 percent of Audi’s sales (223,323) in the U.S. last year were SUVs. The luxury German automaker's best-selling Q5 SUV can be found in practically every parking lot. What did the Q8 have to offer that Audi’s other SUVs did not?

This vehicle has “wide appeal,” Anthony Foulk, senior product manager at Audi, told me at a product briefing.

“It’s an expressive and sporty SUV with lots of utility,” he said. “The car makes life easier for you.”

SUVs are no longer just about utility -- they’ve become a sense of identity for drivers. Industry research firm Edmunds expects SUVs to account for 50 percent of the overall U.S. auto market in 2019, up from 46 percent in 2018.

One Tuesday in January, I left Park City at sunrise. The streets were still slick and coated with snow from the previous day’s storm. The course was set and the journey had just begun. A successful road trip requires three essentials: good tunes, good company and a good car.

The Q8 was my attentive guardian, navigating the strange locales and handling each surprise with agility and confidence: a herd of cattle unwilling to share the road. Melting snow that quickly turned to slush. Hairpin turns up and down winding mountain roads with no guardrails.

The Q8 and I experienced it all -- sun, snow, extreme cold and biting wind. It never once disappointed.

A technological wonderland inside, the Q8’s exterior is aggressive and bold: the octagonal grille, sloping roofline and what Foulk described as its “strong and commanding stance.” This new design language will soon be available in future Audi models.

Sporty SUVs are not a novel concept. Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Maserati, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo have their own dynamic SUV iterations. These vehicles, however, are really designed to attract men more than women, according to Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds.

“The traditional SUV has become synonymous [with] a ‘mommy car,’” she said. “That image is starting to alienate men. Side-swept, sporty SUVs give off a more masculine image.”

The Q8 may not be a big volume seller like Audi’s Q5 or Q7 SUVs but it doesn’t have to be, according to Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Cox Automotive.

“Every global luxury automaker needs a serious SUV lineup,” he said. “There’s no such thing right now has having too many SUVs.”

There’s another reason why automakers are happily building coupe-like SUVs with aggressive designs, he noted.

“It’s more about image than function and purpose,” he said. “A Q8 sends a more powerful image in 2019 than an A8 [sedan]. It says, ‘I am a successful person.’”

With a starting price of $67,400, the Q8 may be out of reach for many. A fully-loaded Q8, with top-of-the line driver assistance packages and luxury perks like an Alcantara headliner, a wireless charging box, top-view camera system and HD LED headlights, can quickly spike the MSRP to $100,000.

Putting aside the price, the Q8 delivers on what matters to most to drivers. The ride comfort was incredible. Visibility was clear even with the lower roofline. The vehicle’s internal computer played the role of co-pilot as needed, lowering the temperature, finding the nearest gas station or turning on the radio when asked with a simple voice command. The Q8’s six-cylinder, 3.0-liter turbocharged engine boasts 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Zero-60 mph takes 5.6 seconds and the Q8 can reach a max speed of 130 mph.

But I wanted more power.

“It’s interesting when we can talk about a car with 335 hp as not feeling fast,” Barry Hoch, director of product planning for Audi America, told me. “It’s a fun time. But given the additional sound deadening [and] the additional enhancements we made to the car, it’s a lot quieter than you’d expect. Sound plays a lot of whether a car feels fast or not.”

Caldwell said cargo capacity matters more to drivers than speed and power.

“The average person buying an SUV is not looking at horsepower,” she said.

The Q8 hit showrooms late last year just as Audi started gearing up for the mass market launch of its all-electric e-tron SUV. With SUVs replacing sedans as an everyday vehicle, automakers need to offer something for everyone. The Q8 is no exception.

“Audi has been a success story. It’s doing strongly,” Caldwell said. “What’s the optimal SUV lineup? That’s what carmakers are trying to figure out.”

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Wells Fargo says 'power shutdown' behind problems with online banking and mobile app

jetcityimage/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Wells Fargo confirmed on Thursday that there were system-wide problems causing outages on its online banking platforms and mobile banking app for the second time in one week.

"We’re experiencing system issues due to a power shutdown at one of our facilities, initiated after smoke was detected following routine maintenance. We’re working to restore services as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience," company spokeswoman Jennifer Langan wrote in a statement to ABC News.

She did not respond to questions about the scope and breadth of the problem or how many customers or locations were affected.

Earlier on Thursday, the embattled bank had tweeted: "We apologize to our customers who may be experiencing an issue with our online banking and mobile app. Thanks for your patience while we research this issue," the bank tweeted on Thursday morning."

It followed up 40 minutes later with another message: "We’re experiencing a systems issue that is causing intermittent outages, and we’re working to restore services as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Customers experiencing issues also tweeted about their problems with using credit and debit cards.

"Direct deposits have been rejected people say, and on social media people are not able to use their cards. Wells Fargo has message to call for support or visit an ATM but those two are down. Branches cannot access accounts either. It's not just the online banking/mobile app," one Twitter user wrote.

Last Friday, the bank also confirmed it had issues with the same functions.

"We’re sorry some of our customers may continue to experience an issue with our online banking and mobile app. We’re working hard to resolve the matter ASAP and will post additional updates here," the bank tweeted on Feb. 1.

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IHOP will serve a giant pancake in a pizza box to get a slice of National Pizza Day

IHOP(NEW YORK) -- IHOP is best known for its namesake menu item — pancakes — but the restaurant is putting a new spin on the classic dish for National Pizza Day.

The International House of Pancakes announced Thursday that it will be serving an oversized version of the restaurant favorite for National Pizza Day, which is this Saturday, Feb. 9.

IHOP shared a short social film that pays tribute to classic pizza commercials on Twitter. "This national pizza day, if you're planning on having a pizza, forget about it," a person in the video says. "Try a pancizza instead."

From Feb. 8-10, customers will be able to choose from three flavors of the pizza-sized pancake, called a "pancizza," which the box says is pronounced, "pan-keet-za." They are cupcake, bacon and cheddar and original buttermilk.

 Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for IHOP, said the restaurant chose to work with its largest delivery partner DoorDash to honor the popular American takeout item — pizza.

"Pizza was one of the first and still the biggest 'circle in a box' take-out and delivery items in America so, naturally, we thought that we could do our very own IHOP, pancakeified version," Haley said in a press release.

The limited time item will be available at IHOP locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and New York City for pickup or delivery, exclusively through DoorDash.

 The breakfast joint sent social media into a spin last summer when it temporarily rebranded itself as IHOB — the "B" stood for "burgers."

The "Pancizza" was created in a collaboration with the brand’s creative agency, Droga5, and it marks a milestone of more than 1,000 restaurant locations that deliver through DoorDash.

To sweeten the deal, IHOP said first-time DoorDash customers can use code PANCIZZA to get a $0 delivery fee on their order.

DoorDash customers who have previously used the app can get free delivery on orders of $10 or more with the code IHOPDELIVERY.

New York City residents can try a free slice of pancizza on Saturday Feb. 9 at Bleecker Street Pizza, which the breakfast chain will be taking over for one day only from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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TSA finds record number of firearms at airport checkpoints

David Tran/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Passengers passed through airport checkpoints in record numbers in 2018, the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday, and they also tried so with a record number of firearms.

While 813,791,287 passengers and crew members passed through TSA screening last year, officers found an all-time high 4,239 firearms in carry-on bags, a 7 percent increase over 2017.

More than 86 percent of the firearms discovered by TSA officers were loaded and about 34 percent had a round in the chamber, the TSA said.

Firearms were intercepted at most of the 440 airports TSA staffs. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, topped the list with screeners finding 298 firearms last year, followed by Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport with 219.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: 298 – an increase of 53 compared to 2017 (253 loaded) Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: 219 (193 loaded) Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: 129 (120 loaded) Denver International Airport: 126 (95 loaded) Orlando International Airport: 123 (112 loaded) George Bush Intercontinental Airport: 117 – a decrease of 25 firearms compared to 2017 (115 loaded) Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: 96 (80 loaded) Austin-Bergstrom International Airport: 93 (76 loaded) Dallas Love Field Airport: 89 (83 loaded) Nashville International Airport: 86 (80 loaded)

TSA has previously said the majority of those carrying a gun through TSA appeared to have forgotten it was in their bag, so the agency regularly publishes the staggering numbers in an effort to remind gun-owners to leave their firearm at home when leaving for the airport.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and TSA may impose civil penalties of up to $13,333 per violation, per person for prohibited items violations and violations of other TSA regulations, according to the agency.

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Delta bets on bigger seats in smaller planes with new A220

Chris Rank/Delta(NEW YORK) -- Delta Air Lines is bucking the trend of narrower seats and fewer video screens with Thursday's launch of its newest plane, the Airbus A220, hoping it will signal a commitment to the passenger experience even on short flights.

The Atlanta-based airline is the first in the country to debut the A220, a single-aisle plane born from a partnership between Canadian manufacturer Bombardier and French manufacturer Airbus.

While many airlines are cutting costs by removing seat-back screens and fitting more passengers on flights by cutting seat space, Delta is betting on a strategy to attract the loyalty of those higher-paying business customers, offering a premier narrow-body plane on routes including New York, Boston and Dallas.

These business routes are often crowded with competition, so Delta's Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mapes told ABC News' Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley he's hoping people will seek out the A220.

"The plane itself becomes something that a passenger is actually looking forward to," Mapes said. "How do we bring an airplane experience to life that really responds to the needs of the customer?”

The A220 has an average main cabin seat width of 18.6 inches, the most in Delta’s fleet and generally an inch wider than its competition.

Passengers on the A220 will also get seat-back entertainment systems while many other airlines are removing those screens and investing in technology that streams free content to the smartphones of passengers.

For those who enjoy looking outside the plane, Delta says every seat has a window -- and that includes the bathroom.

The plane is also made with a lighter composite material and new engines that are 20 percent more fuel efficient.

The aircraft was originally known as part of Bombardier's C-Series until Airbus became a partner in the project. Before the aircraft was ever delivered to Delta, Boeing, an American aircraft manufacturing giant, accused their Canadian rival of illegal and harmful trade practices.

The U.S. International Trade Commission eventually sided with Bombardier in early 2018. Delta has since ordered 90 A220s and expect them to all be delivered and operational by 2023, when it will replace some of their existing short-haul options.

The planes will start on routes popular with business travelers like New York's Laguardia Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. By the end of August, the A220 will be operating on routes to Houston, Minneapolis, Detroit, Salt Lake City and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Notably, the aircraft is not yet slated to serve Delta's largest hub, Atlanta.

Delta originally planned to roll out the aircraft on Jan. 31, but had to delay when the partial government shutdown kept federal regulators from approving it for service.

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'The Amazon Coat' is one of winter's must-have accessories

Orolay(NEW YORK) -- A $140 winter coat from Amazon has become one of winter's biggest fashion must-haves this season.

Colloquially dubbed "The Amazon Coat," the Orolay Thickened Down Jacket has become one of the hottest coat on the streets of frigid cities everywhere. Plus, it comes with the rather democratic price tag of $140, a bargain compared to other parkas and puffers that can cost hundreds of dollars and up.

The jacket has a rating of 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon, with more than 6,000 customer reviews.

Plus, fashion bloggers and magazines are also touting the must-have coat for its puffy pockets, ribboned pulls and expandable sections like snaps on the front and side zippers that can expand for bulky sweaters or pregnant bellies.

The coat is so popular that it even has its own fan-fueled Instagram account, wth more than 1,300 followers.

Helped by a combination of real-world word of mouth, glowing online reviews and Amazon's own search engine ranking, the coat's momentum doesn't show any signs of slowing down. It’s currently on back order and the price has been steadily creeping upward since it’s debut.

For comparison, at $140, this coat is much cheaper than some of the other popular parkas on the market including the Canada Goose Parka which costs $950 and a similar one from Moncler which will set you back $1,600.

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