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Friday
Jul122019

Marriott, Choice hotels say they would not serve as detention centers after ICE raids

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As U.S. cities brace for President Donald Trump's promised immigration raids this weekend, two popular hotel chains said they would not serve as detention centers for immigrants in the event of a housing shortage.

Trump on Friday confirmed plans for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in major U.S. cities this weekend, marking the second time in as many months that he has called for the deportation of "millions" of undocumented immigrants.

Trump tweeted last month that "millions" would be deported.

While administration officials have called that estimate an exaggeration, they confirmed that there are 2,000 people in as many as 10 cities who have been identified as top priorities for deportation.

Sources who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity said that administration officials have internally discussed the possibility that they may need hotel rooms because of limited space in ICE detention centers. Concerns over that possibility have prompted activists to start online petitions to pressure hotel chains to refuse to house undocumented immigrants for the government.

A spokesperson for ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the hotel chains' statements regarding cooperation with ICE in housing migrants rounded up in the raids.

Officials with Marriott, the world's largest hotel chain -- which operates 30 different hotel brands including Sheraton, Courtyard, Ritz Carlton, W and Westin -- said they would not allow ICE to use the company's properties as detention centers.

“We are not aware that any of our franchised hotels, all of which are independently owned and operated, are being asked to serve as detention facilities," a Marriott spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

"We do not believe hotels should be used in this way and will decline any requests to do so. We ask that our franchised hotels only be used for their intended purpose, which is to provide travelers with a welcoming hotel room.”

Another large global chain, Choice Hotels -- which owns Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Clarion, Ascend, Cambria and EconoLodge -- sent a similar statement to ABC News.

“We are not aware that any of our franchised hotels, all of which are independently owned and operated, are being asked to serve as detention facilities," a spokesman for Choice Hotels told ABC News. "We do not believe hotels should be used in this way and will decline any requests to do so. We ask that our franchised hotels only be used for their intended purpose, which is to provide travelers with a welcoming hotel room.”

Hilton, Wyndham Hotels and Best Western -- who are also under pressure from activists to deny facilities to ICE -- did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment on Friday.

"It's hard to underestimate the extent to which this type of operation stretches ICE’s logistics," Brandon Wu, an organizer with immigrant rights' group Sanctuary DMV, told ABC News.

"If they’re really talking about detaining tens of thousands of immigrants in the space of a few days, that is just a massive influx of people that could include renting vans from Enterprise and using hotels as overflow for detention centers."

Enterprise, which is the target of online petitions asking them not to rent vehicles to ICE, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News on Friday.

Wu contended it was important to target hotels because "the raids they are threatening are specifically targeting families, and that includes children.

"And ICE cannot legally detain children in adult detention centers."

"You can’t hold a family unit in an adult detention center, and so we’re making a push to get hotels to pledge not to cooperate with ICE, which would essentially put a big limit on the number of families with children they could actually detain at all," Wu said.

Federal regulations dictate that when a migrant adult traveling with a child is not a parent or legal relative, the child is deemed an “unaccompanied alien child” and put in separate custody.

If an adult is arrested for a crime, the child would not be detained with them. Migrant children cannot be detained for more than 20 days.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Google workers can listen to your Google Assistant recordings, company acknowledges

David Paul Morris/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Dutch language expert working for Google to train its speech technology leaked private information in a breach of the company's security policies, company officials said. The disclosure came after Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS reported that its reporters listened to more than 1,000 conversations recorded by the search giant's virtual assistant, including some that revealed identifiable information about the users.

"As part of our work to develop speech technology for more languages, we partner with language experts around the world who understand the nuances and accents of a specific language," Google executive David Monsees wrote in a blog post posted on Thursday. These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages."

"We just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data. Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again," Monsees wrote.

The admission echoes Amazon's disclosure earlier this year that its workers can listen in and transcribe user conversations directed at Alexa, to train the virtual assistant to be smarter.

"Throughout the world -- so also in Belgium and the Netherlands -- people at Google listen to these audio files to improve Google’s search engine," VRT NWS reported.

"VRT NWS was able to listen to more than a thousand recordings. Most of these recordings were made consciously, but Google also listens to conversations that should never have been recorded, some of which contain sensitive information," VRT NWS reported.

Google officials maintained Thursday that they have privacy safeguards in place, adding that only 0.2 percent of audio is reviewed by its language experts.

"Audio snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process, and reviewers are directed not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google," Monsees wrote.

However there was enough personal information either recorded or associated with the voice recordings for VRT NWS to surprise users by playing audio of their own voice or that of their family members.

The Flemish broadcaster also reported that Google had recorded people's fights, bedroom experiences, and private work conversations, as well as a "woman who was in definite distress."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Sotheby's to auction off rare Nike sneakers, starting bids reach $80,000

code6d/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Sneaker enthusiasts can now get their hands on some of the rarest kicks ever made -- for a hefty price -- as Sotheby’s launches its “Ultimate Sneaker Collection” auction.

The art dealer has partnered with shoe store Stadium Goods to auction off 100 of “the most exclusive and coveted sneakers ever produced by Nike, Air Jordan, Adidas, Yeezy, and more,” Sotheby’s announced Thursday.

Of the sneakers available, the 1972 Nike Waffle Racing Flat “Moon Shoe” was called “the auction’s crown jewel.”

Designed by Nike co-founder and Oregon University track coach Bill Bowerman, the shoe was created for the 1972 Olympic Trials. Is it one of only 12 made, and the only unworn pair of “Moon Shoes” known to exist.

The starting bid for the shoe is $80,000 and Sotheby’s estimates the price will rise to anywhere between $110,000 to $160,000.

“As the famous story goes, Bowerman was first inspired to create the innovative waffle sole traction pattern found on the brand's early running shoes by tinkering with his wife's waffle iron and pouring rubber into the mold to create the first prototype of the sole,” Sotheby’s said.

The other famed footwear includes two pairs of Nike Mag sneakers, from 2011 and 2016, inspired by Marty McFly's kicks in “Back to the Future Part II,” and five pairs of sneakers designed by rapper Travis Scott for his Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 “Friends & Family Collection.

The 2011 and 2016 “Back to the Future” shoes have a starting bid of $11,000 and $40,000, respectively. Scott’s sneakers start at $35,000.

The auction's lowest starting bid is $1,800 for a pair of Air Jordan 1 Retro sneakers.

Those interested can bid online or visit Sotheby's New York office in the Upper East Side to view the public exhibition. Bidding is open until July 23.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Suboxone maker to pay $1.4 billion in largest opioid settlement in US history

alfexe/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Suboxone maker Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB Group) will pay the U.S. government a record $1.4 billion to end criminal and civil probes into the marketing of its addiction treatment medication, making it the largest settlement related to the opioid crisis in U.S. history, authorities said on Thursday.

The settlement will cover multiple investigations into the company's subsidiary, Indivior (formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.), and its alleged illegal marketing of its drug, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

"Opioid withdrawal is difficult, painful, and sometimes dangerous; people struggling to overcome addiction face challenges that can often seem insurmountable," the Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a statement. "Drug manufacturers marketing products to help opioid addicts are expected to do so honestly and responsibly."

Suboxone, which proved to be a blockbuster-selling drug for Indivior, is an addiction-fighting medication that also contains opioids. Indivior was spun off into a separate company from the RB Group in December 2014, but the exposure and looming litigation and probes related to Suboxone were still attached to the parent company.

On April 9, a federal grand jury in Virginia indicted Indivior for "allegedly engaging in an illicit nationwide scheme to increase prescriptions of Suboxone," according to the DOJ. The company denied the charges and trial is scheduled to start in May 2020.

Federal prosecutors charged that Indivior allegedly marketed a version of Suboxone (Suboxone Film) to medical professionals as less addictive and safer than other drugs containing its active ingredient, the opioid buprenorphine, according to the DOJ statement.

Prosecutors also charged that Indivior promoted the company's "Here to Help" web and phone program as a resource for opioid-addiction patients, which they alleged was actually a method of connecting those patients to doctors the company knew were already prescribing Suboxone and other opioids "to more patients than allowed by federal law, at high doses, and in a careless and clinically unwarranted manner," the DOJ statement said.

In addition, the government charged that Indivior announced it would discontinue its tablet form of Suboxone "based on supposed 'concerns regarding pediatric exposure' to tablets, despite Indivior executives’ knowledge that the primary reason for the discontinuance was to delay the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of generic tablet forms of the drug," according to the DOJ statement.

In a statement, Invidior noted its former parent company's settlement.

"Indivior PLC’s case with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is separate from that of RB, and Indivior has no additional or new information related to this matter," the statement read.

As part of the settlement on Thursday, Invidior's former parent company RB Group agreed to a non-prosecution agreement and to forfeit $647 million of proceeds it received from Indivior. It also agreed to not manufacture, market, or sell Schedule I, II, or III controlled substances in the U.S. for three years and to cooperate with future investigations related to Suboxone.

The trial against the RB Group's former subsidiary Invidior is still slated to start next May. Thursday's settlement was only with RB Group, and not Indivior.

In addition, the company also agreed to pay $700 million in civil settlements to the federal government and six states, as well as $50 million to the Federal Trade Commission.

Britain-based Reckitt Benckiser issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

"While RB acted lawfully at all times and expressly denies all allegations that it has engaged in any wrongful conduct, after careful consideration, the board of RB determined that the agreement is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders," the statement said. The company had previously set aside $400 million to settle claims related to its former subsidiary's lawsuits.

Experts said the settlement amount sounded fair.

"Unlike private litigants who are trying to get as much money as possible, DOJ lawyers are trying to come up with what they believe to be a fair settlement for all parties including the public," longtime U.S. attorney and University of Michigan Law School professor Barbara McQuade told ABC News.

In 2007, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma paid $600 million to settle a case with the Justice Department over its marketing claims and three executives pleaded guilty to criminal misbranding.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Hospital CEO resigns, 23 workers fired over excessive doses, deaths

Mount Carmel(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- The CEO of an embattled Ohio hospital resigned on Thursday and nearly two dozen workers were fired amid allegations that the hospital prescribed excessive painkiller doses that led to 25 patient deaths.

Mount Carmel Health System CEO and President Ed Lamb said he planned to resign by July 25, officials announced on Thursday, just weeks after the hospital's former intensive care doctor, William Husel, pleaded not guilty to murder charges in 25 deaths.

"These last months have been difficult for our health care system, and, in times such as these, new leadership has the ability to facilitate healing and help restore the trust of the community," Lamb said in a video statement Thursday.

In addition, Richard Streck, the hospital's executive vice president and chief clinical officer, will retire at the end of September, Lamb said.

It did not immediately name an interim CEO.

The Columbus-area hospital also said it fired 23 employees -- including five physician, nursing and pharmacy management team members -- as a part of its investigation into the potentially fatal doses. Husel's attorney has repeatedly denied claims that the doctor ever intended to kill patients.

Husel is accused of ordering excessive, and potentially lethal doses of fentanyl for patients under his care. The hospital fired Husel in December and placed dozens of employees on leave amid an ongoing internal investigation.

All told, Mount Carmel Health System identified 35 patients who received what the hospital called "excessive" or "potentially lethal doses" of fentanyl, the hospital said.

"We have also undertaken a careful case-by-case examination of the role of every colleague who was a part of the medication and administration of the affected patients, and the members of the management involved in oversight of those colleagues," Lamb said, noting that it would "take time for Mount Carmel to restore our patients."

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Friday
Jul122019

Apple disables Walkie-Talkie app on potential eavesdropping glitch

hocus-focus/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Apple has disabled the Apple Watch's Walkie-Talkie app because of a glitch that could allow a user to eavesdrop on someone else's iPhone without their knowledge or consent, the company said on Thursday.

"We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue," Apple said in a statement to ABC News. "We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible."

The company added that there no known reports of the bug being exploited for eavesdropping.

"Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent,” the company said.

The security flaw was first reported by TechCrunch.

It is the second such eavesdropping bug in the last six months. In February, the company fixed a bug that allowed users to eavesdrop on other iPhone users before a FaceTime chat began.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul122019

Opening dates for "Star Wars": Rise of the Resistance ride at Galaxy's Edge announced

Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks(NEW YORK) -- Fans eagerly awaiting the opening of the long-delayed Rise of the Resistance attraction at Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will have to wait a few parsecs longer.

Rise of the Resistance, which Disney says will "blur the lines between fantasy and reality and will put guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance," will open Dec. 5, 2019 at Walt Disney World and Jan. 17, 2020 at Disneyland.

The 14-acre Galaxy's Edge themed land opened at the end of May at Disneyland in California. A near-identical version is set to open Aug. 29 in Florida.

For now, Galaxy's Edge has one ride. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run allows guests play pilot, gunner or engineer as they fly the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.

Why the delay in opening?

Disney Imagineers have described Rise of the Resistance as the most technologically-complex ride they've ever built, with guests walking and riding on multiple vehicles as they are "captured" onboard a Star Destroyer before finding a way to escape from bad guy Kylo Ren.

The various "first of its kind" ride systems, animatronics and special effects have taken more time than expected to coordinate perfectly, a Disney source said Thursday.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul112019

David Bowie Barbie doll released to celebrate 'Space Oddity' 50th anniversary

Mattel(NEW YORK) -- Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of the release of David Bowie's classic song "Space Oddity," which hit stores nine days before the historic moon landing.

"Musician Artist Icon Introducing #Barbie as #DavidBowie 👩‍🎤, the pioneer of sound and vision whose music continues to show the world how to reach for the stars! " the toy maker tweeted.

If you go to the official Mattel website, there is even more information.

"Introducing Barbie as David Bowie. In a definitive celebration of two pop culture icons, Barbie honors the ultimate pop chameleon, English singer, songwriter and actor, David Bowie, whose dramatic musical transformations continue to influence and inspire," the description reads.

"With a career spanning over five decades, David Bowie was at the vanguard of contemporary culture as a musician, artist, and icon," it continues. "He was, and remains to be, a unique presence in contemporary culture. Dressed as Bowie’s fantastic sci-fi alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, in the iconic metallic ‘space suit,’ this collectible Barbie doll honors the cultural legacy of the musical genius who redefined rock and roll."

The doll sells for $50, and fans are obviously excited about the release.

 In addition to the doll, a new app was launched called "Space Oddity x Unlock The Moon Experience," which lets you access a brand-new mix of the song, created by longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti, one day before its official release. To unlock the track, users must align their mobile phone's camera with the moon. The app is available at SpaceOddity50.com.

The 2019 "Space Oddity" remix will be included on the previously announced vinyl box set "Space Oddity: 50th Anniversary Edition" -- due out Friday -- that features two seven-inch singles.

One disc boasts the original mono single edit of the tune and its B-side, "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud." The other single features new Visconti remixes of both tracks. The new "Space Oddity" remix will also be released Friday as a digital single and via streaming services.

 In related news, a new "Space Oddity" video will premiere July 20 at a multimedia event paying tribute to the moon landing's 50th anniversary at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington, D.C.

The clip combines footage of Bowie performing the song at his 50th birthday concert in 1997 with footage shot and directed by Canadian choreographer Edouard Lock that was used as the backdrop of Bowie's 1990 tour.

The event, dubbed "Apollo 11: A 50th Anniversary Celebration -- One Small Step, One Giant Leap," will feature music from the National Symphony Orchestra and will be staged in collaboration with NASA.

The show also will include performances by Herbie Hancock, Pharrell Williams and others, spoken-word presentations, and pre-taped greetings and/or performances by Elton John and other celebs.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul112019

Amazon pledges to 'upskill' 100,000 workers by 2025

jetcityimage/iStock(SEATTLE) -- Amazon will train up to 100,000 employees -- or one-third of its U.S. workers -- into higher skilled work, company officials announced Thursday.

The move -- and the investment of $700 million for the mega-retailer's "Upskilling 2025" pledge -- comes amid a period of historically low U.S. unemployment and as workers at tech companies are becoming increasingly outspoken about working conditions.

The program aims to "provide people across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network with access to training programs that will help them move into more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon," according to the company's press release.

"While many of our employees want to build their careers here, for others it might be a stepping stone to different aspirations," said Beth Galetti, Amazon's senior vice president of human resources. "We think it’s important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves. With this pledge, we’re committing to support 100,000 Amazonians in getting the skills to make the next step in their careers.”

Experts met the news with cautious optimism.

"There is a debate raging between labor conditions of the future. Companies are working to improve automation and productivity -- but they also cannot become a symbol of job loss," said Simeon Siegal, an analyst who covers Amazon for Nomura/Instinet Equity Research. "To that end, helping to upskill workers, if successful, could help the company’s bottom line as well, all while providing some better PR."

"Amazon’s mega-size globally makes it a good investment to provide skill training for U.S. employees," labor expert Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley, told ABC News. "The move, along with the $15 an hour wage, could well boost morale. That said, there have been real concerns about workplace and health and safety issues in fulfillment centers, aka warehouses."

For example, workers at the company's Shakopee, Minnesota, facility plan to protest the company's policy of using temporary workers and productivity quotas by holding a protest next week to coincide with the company's annual shopping bonanza, Prime Day.

Still, Amazon expects its workforce to hit 300,000 U.S. employees this year, and some of the company's fastest growing jobs require skilled workers.

Over the last five years, the company said its analysis reveals explosive growth in highly skilled jobs. Among the jobs experiencing hiring spikes are data mapping specialists (832 percent growth), data scientists (505 percent), solutions architects (454 percent), security engineers (229 percent) and business analysts (160 percent), according to the press release. Even within warehouse roles, Amazon says there's been a 400 percent jump in highly skilled roles, including logistics coordinators, process improvement managers and transportation specialists.

The company's new training will include tech training for even non-tech "Amazonians" who want to learn software engineering, IT training, robotics, cloud computing and machine learning.

The company is also offering warehouse workers a pre-paid tuition program for occupations of their choice.

Human resource experts praised the move.

"It's a signal that they care about their workers as people," Michael Bush, CEO at Great Place To Work, told ABC News. "When you upskill or train an employee, you're not only helping them at Amazon, you're helping them when they leave Amazon."

"In an age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, when you tell workers, 'your job is not going to be eliminated,' they don't believe that," Bush said. "This helps them at Amazon and in the future."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul112019

Millie Bobby Brown drops her own Converse sneaker collaboration: Shop these 7 picks

Matt Winkelmeyer/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Inspired by Millie Bobby Brown, star of Stranger Things, rising style icon and youth activist, Converse is releasing a collection that explores her "well-documented love of whales and ocean-life."

According to Converse, "the collection combines Millie’s unique ability to always be herself, embrace her passions, and of course, have fun along the way."

Brown is also the youngest person to date to collaborate with Converse.

Available in both Hi and Ox, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star is fully customizable in this collection -- from the foxing, pinstripe, laces, eyelets and logos, the selection allows you to tap your creativity and craft a unique piece to style whatever way you see fit.

These products were curated by the "GMA" editorial team. "Good Morning America" has affiliate partnerships, so we will get a small share of the revenue from your purchases through these links. All product prices are determined by the retailer and subject to change. By visiting these websites, you will leave GoodMorningAmerica.com and any information you share with the retailer will be governed by its website's terms and conditions and privacy policies.


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