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Monday
Apr162018

What to do if you miss the tax filing deadline

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We are a nation of procrastinators, at least when it comes to taxes. Nearly a quarter of Americans wait until the last two weeks before the deadline to prepare their taxes, according to the IRS, whereas some miss Tax Day altogether.

For anyone who is a last-minute filer or missed the April 17 deadline, here's what to do:

File for an extension

If the deadline is fast approaching and it looks like it won't be possible to file those taxes in time, ask for an extension.

If the request is received before Tax Day, it pushes the deadline back another six months and buys time to get everything in order.

This year’s Tax Day is April 17, 2018, so anyone who files an extension then will push the filing deadline to October 15, 2018.

Filing for an extension, before missing the deadline, can be done by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, on IRS.gov.

Filing a late return when expecting a refund

For those who miss the tax filing deadline and are expecting to receive a refund from the IRS, the situation at hand isn’t so dire. Just get those late returns in as soon as possible.

According to tax prep software company TurboTax, three out of four taxpayers receive a refund from the IRS, and last year’s average refund was $2,782. TurboTax adds that, for taxpayers expecting a refund, "there is no penalty for failing to file your tax return by the deadline, even if you don’t ask for an extension."

To file a return after the deadline, either submit the return online through the IRS.gov or other tax programs or send it in by mail before November. After then, the IRS no longer accepts returns filed online, they must be submitted by mail.

Filing a late return when tax payments are owed

Although filing a late return seems easy for anyone expecting a refund, those who owe the IRS money from unpaid taxes are also expected to pay a late payment penalty -- plus interest accrued on the amount that was due on Tax Day.

This is why anyone who owes the IRS additional taxes should file a late return as soon as possible, even if they can’t pay immediately. After filing, payment plans can be set up to pay off the amount due.

Establishing a payment plan


Around 2.5 million taxpayers are currently paying off their tax bills through a payment plan, according to TurboTax.

Anyone in a situation where they owe more than they can pay should file taxes anyway, which will prevent added penalties that increase over time.

To establish a payment plan, apply online with the IRS Online Payment Agreement or attach Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, to a mailed return.

Plan for the upcoming year

Whatever happened with filing taxes this year, on-time or late, thinking ahead to next year's taxes will help avoid the last minute push.

Staying on top of your expenses throughout the year or setting up regular meetings with an accountant can help ensure an easier time on next year's Tax Day.
 
Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr162018

Survey says 60% of parents say they spy on their kids' digital devices

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a study of 2,000 American parents commissioned by the tech company ParentWise, 6 in 10 parents say their kids have no right to privacy in their digital lives.

The study notes that of that 60%, 84% say they have the rights to snoop over their kids' online activity -- as well as their smartphones, computers, tablets, and other devices -- in an effort to ensure their safety in a connected world.

The survey revealed that while nearly all parents polled say they're concerned about what their kids are exposed to online, 64% were focused on talking to strangers online.

But just 39% apparently were uneasy at their kids posting videos and pictures online.

Two-thirds of those polled say their child's cellphone has a negative impact on them, and an overwhelming majority -- some 63% -- say their kid's cellphone "actively hinders" their ability to raise their child properly.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr162018

Over 200 million eggs recalled for salmonella concerns; sold at Walmart, Food Lion stores

Walmart(NEW YORK) --  More than 200 million eggs, some sold at Walmart and Food Lion stores, have been recalled due to salmonella concerns.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 22 people have been sickened by the eggs. The problems were traced back to Rose Acre Farms' production facility in Hyde County, North Carolina.

The company is voluntarily recalling 206 million eggs "through an abundance of caution," the FDA release says. They were sold under the brand names Country Daybreak, Crystal Farms, Coburn Farms, Sunshine Farms, Glenview and Great Value. Great Value is Walmart's store brand. Some of the eggs were also sold at Food Lion supermarkets.

 A number of the eggs were also sold to restaurants, including Waffle House.

The eggs were distributed to nine states: Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting in otherwise healthy people and more serious, even fatal, infections in children or the elderly.

Over 3 million egg-laying hens reside at Rose Acre's North Carolina farm, which produces 2.3 million eggs per day.

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Saturday
Apr142018

Titanic disaster still influences shipping lanes more than 100 years later

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was supposed to be unsinkable.

The RMS Titanic was a passenger liner that attracted some of the richest people in the world to sail on it. On its maiden voyage, the ship left Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, with more than 2,200 people aboard on its way to New York City. Just four days later, it struck an iceberg just south of Newfoundland and sank. The tragic disaster influences Atlantic shipping lanes more than 100 years later.

The Titanic had been called unsinkable for many reasons, but one was that it had 16 watertight compartments to help keep it afloat. According to ship engineers, the Titanic could afford to flood four of those compartments and still sail. However, the iceberg flooded at least five of those compartments -- ultimately dooming the ship.

While the flooding was taking place, many passengers were evacuated in lifeboats. Most of those evacuated were women and children, as it was tradition to prioritize them. There also were not enough lifeboats on the ship to accommodate all the people were on board.

Less than three hours after the Titanic struck the iceberg, the ship broke apart. More than 1,000 people were still on board at that time. It sank in the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15.

More than 1,500 people lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic. Only one in five of those victims' bodies have been recovered. A little over 700 survived.

The wreckage of the Titanic was not discovered until the summer of 1985. It led to multiple films about it, including the 1997 award-winning film by James Cameron.

Historians debate what is to blame for the Titanic sinking. From Edwardian hubris to the captain not heeding ice warnings to the actual construction and planning of the ship itself, the sinking of the Titanic remains one of the most famous sea disasters in history.

The Titanic's tragedy still affects ships to this day. Hundreds of icebergs drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes in early April. This is unusual so early in the year, and the icebergs have forced shipping vessels to detour or slow their speed significantly to avoid impact.

As of March 29, 2017, there were 455 icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, which is a significant increase from the 37 icebergs recorded just two days prior, according to the U.S. Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol in New London, Connecticut. Statistically speaking, that amount of icebergs is typically not reported until late May or early June. These icebergs have been reported very close to where the Titanic sank.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she has never seen such a drastic increase in a two-day period in the decade she's been working with the patrol. She blamed the recent significant increase on a low-pressure storm system that produced hurricane-force winds in the area, causing more icebergs to calve off.

The International Ice Patrol was formed after the sinking of the Titanic to monitor iceberg danger in the North Atlantic and warn ships. It conducts reconnaissance flights, which are then used to produce charts.

The international community "didn't want such a disaster to happen again, so they looked into what kind of measures they could put in place to prevent it," McGrath told ABC News.

Climate scientists are attributing the increase in icebergs to uncommonly strong counter-clockwise winds that are drawing the icebergs south, as well as global warming, which is accelerating the process by which chunks of the Greenland ice sheet break off and float away.

In 104 years, no ship that has heeded the warnings has struck an iceberg, according to the ice patrol.

"For vessels heeding our warnings, there has not been a collision since," McGrath told ABC News.
 He said there was a collision in 2010, but "they were inside our warning area."

The icebergs the patrol typically finds in the shipping lanes measure anywhere from 16 to 131 yards long. McGrath said that, in the 1950s and 1960s, the patrol experimented with trying to destroy the icebergs, even using bombs to blown them up.

"It's almost the opposite of what you want because you're just turning a bigger iceberg into a lot of smaller ones," McGrath told ABC News. "Even the smaller ones can cause an even bigger problem. After those tests, we determined it wasn't a great idea."

McGrath told ABC News that the ice patrol now just tracks the icebergs, forecasting their movement through the water and sending out a warning to vessels in the area.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

US stocks close lower as bank stocks slip

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street finished Friday in the red as bank stocks took a hit.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 122.91 (-0.50 percent) to finish the session at 24,360.14.

The Nasdaq dipped 33.60 (-0.47 percent) to close at 7,106.65, while the S&P 500 finished trading at 2,656.30, down 7.69 (-0.29 percent) for the day.

Crude oil prices were slightly higher at about $67 per barrel.

Winners and Losers: First-quarter earnings for several banks topped expectations, but it wasn't enough for investors. Shares of JPMorgan Chase (-2.67 percent), Wells Fargo (-3.10 percent) and PNC (-4.14 percent) struggled at the close.

Shares of General Electric were up 2.47 percent ahead of its earnings next week.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

Mystery Mega Millions winner claims $533M jackpot: 'It's life-changing money'

iStock/Thinkstock(TRENTON, N.J.) -- Richard Wahl rarely plays Mega Millions -- in fact, he's only ever bought a ticket twice in his life, he said.

But that second time, the Vernon, New Jersey, resident hit the jackpot.

Wahl, 47, scored the $533 million Mega Millions prize with a sole ticket he said he decided to buy, alongside a diet Coke, with the $22 he had in his pocket while stopping at a Lukoil gas station in Riverdale, New Jersey, on March 29. The colossal jackpot is the fourth largest in the game's history, and the largest single jackpot-winning ticket ever sold in New Jersey.

As Wahl checked his ticket during the Mega Millions drawing on March 30, he saw that the first five "easy pick" numbers matched the ones drawn and he was elated. But then he remembered there's a sixth number, the gold Mega Ball, for which a 1 one was drawn.

That number matched, too.

"I went over and looked at that 1," Wahl told reporters Friday, before pausing briefly as tears welled up in his eyes. "I can tell you, it didn't sink in. It was truly amazing."

Mega Millions can be played in 44 U.S. states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Players had been vying for the growing jackpot since January. The $533 million prize marked the fourth time the Mega Millions jackpot has surged past half a billion dollars.

It's the 10th largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

The owner of the Lukoil gas station where Wahl bought the ticket from received $30,000 for selling the winning ticket, according to lottery officials.

“Hearty congratulations to New Jersey for their big Mega Millions win,” Gordon Medenica, Mega Millions lead director and Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director, said in a statement after the drawing.

Wahl, who moved to New Jersey from Michigan with his family in late July for a job opportunity, waited two weeks before coming forward to claim the historic prize. He revealed himself as the mystery winner during Friday's news conference at New Jersey Lottery headquarters in Trenton.

He chose to take the jackpot as a lump sum cash payout, which lottery officials said comes out to $324.6 million.

Wahl told reporters he checked the numbers on the ticket with his wife more than a dozen times as they tried to come to terms with the fact that they were New Jersey's newest multimillionaires.

It's "life-changing money," he said, even though he has a good job with a steady income.

"We cried a lot together as a family, hugged a lot," Wahl said. "It's not only life-changing money for me, but I want it to be life-changing money for others."

Wahl said he will work with a financial team in deciding how to use the money to help family members, friends and others in need. He said some of the newfound fortune will go to his mother, who is currently surviving on a reduced income, and also to his wife's family, who live in Mexico.

"The plan is to do a lot of good things with it," he told reporters. "It will help a lot of my family and friends that maybe struggle every single day, living check-by-check."

And there's a few things he'd like to do for himself, like go on vacation with his family, rebuild a 1963 Corvette and eventually retire from his job as a production manager at AAK Food Service in Hillside, New Jersey.

But nothing too extravagant, he said.

"We're not the type that's going to run out and spend all the money," Wahl said. "We're a humble family. We'll keep our roots."

"It's more important for us to help people as much as possible," he added.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

Russian court bans Telegram after encrypted messaging app didn't grant government access

studioEAST/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --The Telegram encrypted messaging app must be immediately blocked in Russia, a Moscow court ruled this morning after the cloud-based instant messaging service declined to grant government access to its users’ conversations.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal telecommunications authority, told Telegram in mid-2017 it had to hand over the “keys” to users’ encrypted conversations.

But Telegram, founded by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov and operating out of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, refused to do so.

“As with other modern encryption applications, the keys to Telegram users’ private conversations are held on their own mobile or desktop devices,” Telegram lawyer Damir Gainutdinov told ABC News today. “So Telegram runs the service but does not hold anything it can turn over to authorities.”

Telegram had asked Moscow’s Tagansky court to delay the hearing, Gainutinov said, so no company official showed up today in an effort to not “legitimize an outspoken farce by our presence.”

"The whole hearing lasted only 18 minutes,” he said.

Telegram has a month to appeal the ruling. “Of course, we will appeal and then we will go further and appeal to the European Court for Human Rights,” Gainutdinov said.

Telegram is widely used in the former Soviet Union, Middle East and Iran, and is ranked as the world’s ninth most-popular messaging app, reaching 200 million active users in March 2018.

It is the second social media network, after the LinkedIn Corp., to be blocked in Russia. LinkedIn of Sunnyvale, California, was blocked in 2016 when a court found the global professional network guilty of violating a law that requires companies holding Russian citizens' data to store it on servers in Russia

As for Telegram, founder Durov urged users in Russia not to delete or reinstall the application if they experience connectivity issues. “The app would find ways to circumvent Russia’s ban by using built-in systems in the service,” Durov wrote online.

“Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed,” Durov wrote on his Telegram channel, adding that Telegram enjoys “the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleads guilty to conspiracy, money laundering

iStock/Thinkstock(FRISCO, Texas) -- The founder and chief executive officer of Backpage.com, a website linked to human trafficking, has pleaded guilty to charges including conspiring to facilitate prostitution and money laundering.

Carl Ferrer, 57, of Frisco, Texas, will face a maximum of five years in prison. Part of his plea agreement with federal and state authorities includes forfeiting all corporate assets related to the website and making sure it's permanently shuttered.

Federal authorities seized control of the website last week so "it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement released by the Department of Justice on Thursday.

"For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike," Sessions said. "But this illegality stops right now."

Ferrer "has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce and to engage in money laundering," according to the DOJ statement.

Ferrer's plea deal also covers Backpage-related charges in California and Texas, according to court documents.

California Attorney General Xavier Bacerra said Ferrer pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering. As part of the deal, Ferrer will cooperate in aiding the prosecution of two controlling shareholders of the website. Those cases remain in Sacramento Superior Court.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Ferrer pleaded guilty to money laundering and that his company is pleading guilty to human trafficking.

"According to the factual basis of his plea agreement, Ferrer admitted that he had long been aware that the great majority of Backpage's 'escort' and 'adult' advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services, which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada," the DOJ statement said. "Ferrer further admitted that he conspired with other Backpage principals to find ways to knowingly facilitate the state-law prostitution crimes being committed by Backpage's customers."

Since 2004, according to the DOJ, Backpage "has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from publishing 'escort' and 'adult' ads."

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Thursday
Apr122018

Apple's headquarters, facilities now powered by 100 percent renewable energy 

iStock/Thinkstock(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple's spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino, California, is adorned in solar panels, a testament to the company's pledge to power its facility with 100 percent renewable energy.

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in the press release on Monday.

In addition to its HQ in California, its data centers and retail stores in 43 countries, including the U.S., U.K., China and India, run on a mix of wind energy from its farms and solar energy it has purchased. Other sources of renewable energy for Apple include biogas fuel cells and micro-hydro generation systems, and the company also taps a local utility to supply additional energy.

Biogas fuel cells capture methane gas that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere and micro-hydro generation systems are turbines that are installed in free-flowing waterways, Mark Jacobson, the director of Stanford University's Atmosphere and Energy program, told ABC News.

Apple's clean power projects directly contribute to local power grids and the tech giant works to get "materially involved" with wind and solar plants in various areas, Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said during the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference on Tuesday, according to GreenBiz, an online green business news publication.

Apple referred ABC News to Jackson's comments at the conference when asked about its 100 percent renewable energy sourcing.

When Apple does buy renewable energy from another provider for one of its locations, the company stays "true to the regional grid," Jackson said at the conference.

"[This means] the renewable energy purchased by Apple is on the same regional grid that the Apple stores or data centers are on," Jacobson said, "as opposed to on a grid several states away."

Jacobson explained that Apple is "creating new, clean energy that is offsetting energy that they are using. Apple is producing as much or more clean renewable electricity as they are using in all of their operations."

Apple currently has 25 renewable energy projects around the world and 15 more projects in construction, according to the press release.

The company did not say how much it spends to purchase renewable energy.

Apple is one of 100 companies that have committed to 100 percent renewable power with the RE100 campaign, which is organized by The Climate Group with the goal of increasing demand and delivery of renewable electricity globally.

There are a lot of factors to be considered for a company to be able to claim it is sourcing 100 percent renewable energy to power its facilities, said Sam Kimmins, the head of the RE100 campaign. For example, a company can't claim that a clean power plant in one country is providing renewable energy to a facility in another country. Kimmins said the campaign independently verifies the claims its members make about renewable energy.

"A lot of the companies, the way they do it is they approach an agreement with a renewable energy plant," he explained. "Apple has made a great effort in their claims."

Other tech companies that have committed to achieving this goal with the RE100 campaign include Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Google reached 100 percent renewable energy sourcing in 2017 and Microsoft has been sourcing clean energy since 2014, said Kimmins.

By this time next year RE100 anticipates that over 200 companies will have signed on to commit to 100 percent renewable energy, Kimmins noted.

For companies making the switch to renewables it can "help solve energy security, climate, and air pollution health problems associated with fossil fuels and to create jobs," Jacobson explained.

Companies continuing to rely on fossil fuels may contribute to "greater morbidity and mortality due to air pollution," said Jacobson. "For example, in the U.S., 65,000 people die prematurely from air pollution from fossil fuel and biofuel combustion, and hundreds of thousands more become ill. Replacing fossil fuels with renewables avoids this problem."

Apple also announced that 23 of its manufacturing partners have committed to producing Apple products with 100 percent clean energy, according to the press release.

"This makes real business sense and it is defining the business of the future," Kimmins said of Apple's agreements with manufacturers on renewable energy.

Some of Apple's renewable energy projects include additional wind and solar farms across China and clean-powered data centers in Iowa and Denmark. It is also working with a solar company in Japan to install solar panels on the rooftops of Japanese homes.

"This is an ongoing journey for them," Kimmins said about Apple's renewable energy sourcing. "When they open new plants in new countries, they need to create renewable energy for that location."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr122018

Uber launches car-renting service that allows strangers to rent each other's vehicles

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Uber has announced a new service similar to Airbnb, but for vehicles.

It's called Uber Rent and it allows users to rent someone else's car for a fee. The app feature is similar to Zip Car, except instead of renting from a fleet of company-owned cars, you are renting from private people who are making their cars available.

Working with the car-sharing company Getaround, it is expected to start later this month in San Francisco. And if successful, it could expand to other cities.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced the initiative April 11 on the company's website. "Cars are shared by people throughout the city and equipped with Getaround’s technology for instant access. With cars available instantly for rent in the Uber app, fewer people will need to store them in garages for those sporadic grocery store runs, daytime adventures, or weekend getaways," she said.

Prices will remain the same as they are on Getaround, which operates in 15 cities and starts at $5 an hour depending on the type of car you're getting.

All cars are covered by Getaround's $1 million insurance policy. When users sign up to be a driver, they have to provide their driver's license, which the company cross-checks with the DMV to ensure they have a clean record. Getaround is currently available in cities like Seattle, DC, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland.



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