SEARCH

Sunday
Nov122017

Starbucks kicks off holiday season with two-for-one deal

Starbucks(SEATTLE) -- At Starbucks, the holiday season starts with a two-for-one deal.

Through Monday, customers who buy one holiday beverage will get a second one free -- as long as they purchase their drinks from 2-5 p.m.

Two new drinks are being added to the holiday menu this year: a toasted white chocolate mocha and a chestnut praline chai tea latte.

The two-for-one offer is part of Starbucks’ "Give Good" campaign. The Seattle-based company encourages customers to share their extra drink with someone else.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov112017

Fidget spinners that tested positive for lead pulled from Target stores

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Target has removed two models of fidget spinners from its website and began pulling the items from store shelves on Friday after tests showed they contained high levels of lead.

Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck said in a statement to ABC News: “While these two products comply with all CPSC guidelines for fidget spinners, based on the concerns raised, we’re removing them from our assortment. Additionally, we’re working closely with our vendors to ensure all of the fidget spinners carried at Target meet the CPSC’s guidelines for children’s products.”

Earlier, the retailer sold the spinners, which are classified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as “general use” products and not as children’s toys. That distinction means they are not subject to lead limits for children’s products.

The spinners were labeled “Ages 14+” but consumer and health advocates noted that in practice, the spinners are often used by younger children.

CPSC commissioner and former CPSC chairman Elliot Kaye tweeted Thursday: “Seems obvious fidget spinners are toys and should comply with all applicable federal safety standards.”

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group tested several models of fidget spinners and found two models, both sold at Target stores nationwide, that contained “extremely high” levels of lead in the metal and coating. One had 330 times the allowable amount for children’s products.

The group continues to test other spinners from other retailers as part of its annual holiday toy testing project.

Kara Cook-Schultz, toxics director for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, said while the spinners might not be officially classified as toys, in practice they often are.

“Saying fidget spinners aren’t toys defies common sense, as millions of parents whose kids play with spinners can tell you,” Cook-Schultz said.

The group said its testers found the items in Target toy aisles around the country.

In a written statement, Target Corp. said the company is “committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests, and we closely review all product safety claims that are brought to our attention.” It added that CPSC is in charge of determining how the items are categorized.

A Target spokeswoman told ABC News she thought the spinners were “primarily” sold in the front of stores.

Harold Chizick, spokesman for Bulls-I-Toys of Des Moines, Iowa, the items’ distributor, said in a statement: “Safety is one of our top priorities. All of our product are tested and comply with CPSC safety standards.”

The spinners in question are: “Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass,” which tested at 33,000 parts per million of lead in its center circle and 22,000 parts per million in the arm, and the “Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal,” which was found to have 1,300 parts per million of lead in its center circle and 520 parts per million in its arm.

The federal legal limit on lead in children’s products manufactured after August 2011 is 100 parts per million for any accessible parts, with an exception for metal components of bicycles, which are not supposed to have more than 300 parts per million of lead.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all products intended for use by children contain no more than trace amounts of lead. Lead in paint and other surface coatings on children’s products, for example, is limited at 90 parts per million.

The AAP says there is no safe levels of lead in children, pointing to growing evidence that a child’s exposure to lead can cause irreversible cognitive and behavioral problems.

Young children have been harmed by lead in products, such as costume jewelry they may be tempted to put in their mouths. In 2006, CPSC and Reebok recalled metal bracelets after a 4-year-old Minneapolis boy died of acute lead poisoning after swallowing a metal charm from the item.

“Even small amounts of lead in toys can be ingested when transferred from fingers to mouth or from fingers to food,” said national lead expert Dr. Helen Binns, pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a written statement. “Lead harms the developing brain and is easily ingested through normal hand to mouth behaviors.”

Dr. Alan Woolf, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School and a member of the AAP’s committee on environmental health, told ABC News the test results were concerning, especially because the spinners are attractive to young children.

“I don’t know what they are if they are not toys,” Woolf said. “A toy that has 33,000 parts per million of lead in it represents a hazard to a child.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov112017

Six European destinations that are still warm in December

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Europe isn’t usually our first thought when we’re planning a December trip.

The Caribbean, Asia and the whole Southern Hemisphere usually come to mind first -- and for good reason. They are, on the whole, much warmer in the winter months.

But there are some European destinations that also aren't prone to winter’s chill. Just look to the Mediterranean. You may not be inspired to jump in the hotel pool, but you will be able to leave your winter jacket behind as you enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Here are some places where you could go, according to Oyster.com's Elizabeth Smith.

Malta

Average December highs: 61 to 65 degrees F
Average December lows: 52 to 56 degrees F
Average Hours of sunshine: 9:48

Even if you’ve never heard of Malta, you’ve probably seen its famed Blue Grotto on your Instagram feed or in your favorite travel magazine. This Mediterranean archipelago sits between Sicily and the North African coast, where the weather is pleasant all year long. In fact, with more than 300 sunny days and 2,957 hours of sunshine a year, Malta is the sunniest destination in Europe.

The islands themselves offer an interesting intersection of cultures, thanks to periods of rule by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, French and, most recently, the British. Malta became an independent country in 1964, but it retains wonders from throughout its past. The language sounds like Arabic, the food tastes Italian, and the residents drive on the left like Brits.

The main island is only 9-by-17 miles, so a prehistoric temple or labyrinthine medieval city is never more than an hour away. Beyond the impressive history lies a plethora of natural beauty: clear turquoise waters, fossil-studded limestone cliffs and sparkling red-gold beaches. Perhaps best of all -- a trip to Malta won’t break the bank.

Canary Islands


Average December highs: 70 to 73 degrees F
Average December lows: 60 to 63 degrees F
Average Hours of sunshine: 10:24

It feels like summer all year long in the Canary Islands, and Western Europeans regularly take advantage. Despite their geographical isolation 62 miles off the African coast, the islands receive about 10 million visitors a year.

Most of the visitors are hoping to soak up some sun at one of the area’s seafront resorts, but there is more to see in the Canaries. Imagine lunar-like lava fields, looming sand dunes, banana plantations and lush pine forests surrounded by crystal waters.

Of course, if you can escape the office for only a week, you’ll probably have to pick your poison. There are seven unique islands to choose from. We recommend sticking to southern Tenerife or the island of Lanzarote if you want the best December weather amid some of the islands' best outdoor adventure, breathtaking views and roaring nightlife.

The Algarve

Average December highs: 62 to 64 degrees F
Average December lows: 48 to 51 degrees F
Average Hours of sunshine: 9:43

Portugal’s southernmost region is known for its lovely beachside resorts and expansive golf courses. Pair that with mild temperatures, whitewashed fishing villages and blooming poinsettia trees, and you have the perfect December getaway. The northern mountains protect the Algarve from northern and Atlantic winds, so the only breezes that hit the region can be enjoyed for sailing and kite surfing. You will be a tad warmer if you stay east since it’s closer to the Mediterranean.

Whether you head to the Algarve to enjoy the coast or the rugged way of life that remains in the region's interior, you’ll be welcomed by ancient castles, cork-filled hills and golden cliffs. We recommend a walk along one of the many footpaths in the morning, followed by a meal of fresh fish drizzled with local olive oil and wine straight from the vineyard in the afternoon.

If you really need to relax, try a thalassotherapy treatment, which uses seawater and seaweed to soothe and revitalize the body. Bear in mind that some restaurants and attractions in the tourist centers close during the winter. You’ll have no choice but to experience the Algarve as the locals do.

Crete

Average December highs: 59 to 64 degrees F
Average December lows: 49 to 54 degrees F
Average Hours of sunshine: 9:51

Though it has a slightly greater range of temperatures than our other December destinations, you certainly couldn’t call Crete cold. Greece’s largest island and the Mediterranean’s fifth largest, Crete is almost a whole country to itself. As homeland of the Minoans, Crete holds the title of first advanced society in Europe. Greek mythology states it was even the birthplace of Zeus, king of the Gods.

Nestled between Europe, Asia Minor and Africa, Crete is a highly varied island both in landscape and culture. It’s not unusual for a Roman ruin to share a wall with a Turkish bath house, or a mountain range to end in fine sand.

The best reason to visit in December, however, may be the people. Cretans are always friendly, but they’ll have more time to chat in the winter when tourism slows down. Introduce yourself if you see someone playing the "lyra" on the street or sitting alone in a "kafeneia" (coffee house).

Costa del Sol


Average December highs: 62 to 64 degrees F
Average December lows: 46 to 49 degrees F
Average Hours of sunshine: 9:45

Part of Spain’s southernmost community and Europe’s most southerly coast, the Costa del Sol offers plenty of heat during December days with some cool breezes at night. The region is a bit more under-the-radar than the French Riviera or Amalfi Coast, which leaves the 100-mile coastline less crowded and more authentically Mediterranean. Each of the region’s gorgeous beaches has a backdrop of mountain scenery.

Though the area dates back to the Phoenicians, it's the Moorish influences such as the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro citadels in Málaga that truly stand out. Spanish roots are strong too, as evidenced by the bullfighting arena and flamenco shows to the quirky tapas and Picasso museum. (The artist was born here.) By splitting time between the area's capital city and a seaside town such as Marbella or Estepona, you'll get to see it all. You would never guess that it only became a tourist hub as recently as the 1950s.

Cyprus

Average December highs: 63 to 68 degrees F
Average December lows: 49 to 53 degrees F
Average Hours of sunshine: 9:54

In 2013, Cyprus was nearing financial collapse. Now, it’s enjoying a renaissance. Let a warm December vacation be your excuse to visit this island nation at the crossroads of three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa). Somewhere between West and East, Greek and Turkish, beach and mountain, the island has many reasons for you to stay.

Cyprus is steeped in myth and home to multiple archaeological sites, palatial ruins and tombs, with traces to the cult of Aphrodite. Tourism centers around the Neolithic dwellings, Venetian fortresses, Roman mosaics and Islamic mosques of Paphos, but be sure to make time for the vineyards, villages and monasteries scattered throughout the country, as well. Just be sure to come hungry. Cypriots dine meze-style with a spread of small dishes such as hummus; kebab; and their staple product, halloumi.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov102017

US stocks close lower on tax bill worries

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stocks closed lower on Friday as investors worried about delays in corporate tax cuts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 39.73 (-0.17 percent) to finish at 23,422.21.

The Nasdaq gained 0.89 (+0.01 percent) to close at 6,750.94, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,582.30, down 2.32 (-0.09 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices were about 0.5 percent lower at $57 per barrel.

Winners and Losers:  Shares of J.C. Penney soared 14.65 percent after an earnings beat and same-store sales that were double what investors expected in the third-quarter.

Health and medical companies were in the red-- medical device-maker Medtronic's stock fell 1.83 percent and Baxter International tumbled 2.06 percent.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov102017

It's 'Singles Day' in China, the anti-Valentine's Day holiday when everyone goes shopping 

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- It’s that time of year again: the biggest shopping day of the year.

No, it’s not Black Friday. It’s China’s Singles Day, which falls on Nov. 11 every year.

The online flash sale binge on China’s mammoth e-commerce giants, like Alibaba’s Tmall.com and its rival JD.com, begins at midnight Friday China local time and lasts for 24 hours.

For a few years now, Singles Day sales have far surpassed its U.S. counterparts of Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- combined.

Last year, Americans spent a record $12.8 billion online between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, according to analytics firm Adobe Digital Imprints. Impressive until you compare it to the $17.6 billion in sales generated by Chinese consumers in a single 24-hour period during 2016’s Singles Day.

This year, Citigroup told Bloomberg that Singles Day sales are expected to exceed $23 billion. That’s more than the gross domestic product of Iceland in 2016.

So what’s it all about?

Singles Day is China’s anti-Valentine’s Day -- known as “Bare Sticks Day” or “Bare Branches Day” in Chinese -- because the date "11/11" looks like bare branches and "one" is the loneliest number.

Legend has it Singles Day began in the early 1990s in the dorm rooms of Nanjing University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious universities, when a group of single friends bemoaned the lack of significant others and decided to mark the day by organizing activities as a group of singles and soothing their loneliness by buying themselves a gift.

It was originally known as Bachelor’s Day, but soon became an unofficial day for all of China’s youth to celebrate -- or at least feel OK -- about being single.

Then in 2009, sensing a lull between the sales period of China’s National Day on Oct. 1 and Chinese New Year in late January or early February, Alibaba’s Jack Ma saw an opening: retail therapy to soothe lonely hearts.

The first year did only $7.5 million in sales, but just five years later, that record was broken in 12 hours.

What’s up this year?

The Countdown Gala

The countdown toward Singles Day has become a cultural event. Each year Alibaba holds a slickly produced live-streamed and televised countdown gala that has become more and more extravagant. The event held on the evening on Nov. 10 is basically a warm-up act until the flash sales go live at the stroke of midnight.

This year’s gala is set to features appearances by the likes musicians Pharrell Williams and Jessie J, basketball star LeBron James and tennis player Maria Sharapova. Alibaba’s Ma, a tai chi aficionado, is set unveil a short film starring himself performing martial arts alongside Jet Li, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"’s Donnie Yen and Thailand’s Tony Jaa.

Unlimited alcohol supply?

Vendors are also getting creative to cut through the competition. The Chinese liquor brand Jiang Xiao Bai is offering an enticing deal for those who have an insatiable craving for the strong distilled Chinese spirit know as baijiu. As of this writing, Jiang Xiao Bai is offering 28 limited sets of a "lifetime supply" of baijiu for ¥11,111 ($1,672). The pictures of the bottles are wrapped with the words "This liquor is your partner for life."

If you buy their Singles Day set, the company will send you 12 3.4-ounce bottles a month until you die of natural causes, or liver failure. It appears they have taken that into account. The purchase agreement the company is circulating online says that within five years of purchase you can transfer the supply to a family member in the event of the original purchaser’s death.

The agreement also says that if the company folds anytime within 30 years of the purchase then the lifetime supply will be voided.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov092017

AT&T CEO denies considering sale of CNN in massive Time Warner deal

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The CEO of AT&T said he feels no pressure nor has any intention of selling CNN or any more valuable asset in order to close its $85.4 billion deal with Time Warner.

“No. I have never been told that the price of getting the [Time Warner] deal done was selling CNN," said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

The high-stakes acquisition is being held up by the Department of Justice, which has raised red flags for some after President Donald Trump campaigned on blocking the deal because it put too much "power in the hands of too few." The deal would include CNN, a constant target for criticism for the president who has regularly blasted the news company for "fake news."

"Are we really going to make the [Justice Department] use antitrust law to force the sale of a cable channel because the president doesn't like its news coverage?" tweeted Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission. "You can dislike consolidation but still find this extremely disturbing if true."

In a statement to ABC News, Department of Justice's new antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said, “I have never been instructed by the White House on this or any other transaction under review by the antitrust division.”

The White House also denies Trump spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the merger deal.

"The president did not speak with the attorney general about this matter," said principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah. "And no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter."

A Department of Justice official told ABC News that AT&T offered to sell CNN as part of the deal. But the AT&T CEO says he and the company did no such thing.

Nevertheless, the Justice Department says it flatly denied the proposal for AT&T to sell CNN, insisting it wouldn't necessarily resolve their concerns.

According to a Justice Department source, AT&T first raised the possibility of selling off CNN. The source said the Department of Justice told AT&T that one way to resolve concerns is to sell off Turner, which owns CNN, but the Justice Department did not support selling just CNN. Another way to resolve the concerns, the Department of Justice told AT&T, is to sell off DirecTV, according to the source.

Craig Aaron, the president of Free Press, a consumer group who opposes media consolidation in general, denounced the deal.

"While there are plenty of good reasons to oppose AT&T's Time Warner takeover, punishing CNN for trying to hold this administration accountable isn't one of them," Aaron said in a statement.

If the company that wants to acquire the other -- in this case AT&T and Time Warner, respectively -- cannot agree on conditions with the Justice Department, the government can sue to block the deal. AT&T can then take the department to court, a process that has no precedent on this scale under the current administration.

“I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN,” Stephenson said. “And likewise I have never offered to sell CNN. There is absolutely no intention that we would ever sell CNN. So take those two off the table.”

The AT&T CEO went on to express frustration with leaks coming out of the negotiations with the Justice Department, calling the reports "rumors and suppositions."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov092017

Stocks fall on Wall Street amid worry over GOP tax reform plan

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With investors worried about Congressional Republicans' tax plan, stocks closed the day lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average backed off Wednesday's record close, dropping 101.42 to end the session at 23,461.94.

The Nasdaq slid 39.07, closing at 6,750.05, while the S&P 500 finished trading at 2,584.62, 9.76 down from its open.

Republicans in the Senate released an outline of their tax plan this afternoon. They continue to work on the plan behind closed doors, but say they won't touch the mortgage interest deduction. That is, however, part of the House's plan.

WalMart says its stores will open at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day and remain open through Black Friday. That the latest announcement for retailers' holiday shopping sales. The announcement didn't make mention of WalMart's infamous one-hour guarantee -- where you can purchase something online and pick it up in-store one hour later.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov092017

Amazon devices to be sold at Whole Foods locations around the country

Whole Foods Market(NEW YORK) -- Shoppers at Whole Foods stores will soon be able to pick up tablets and other electronic devices while they grab their groceries.

The change was announced Thursday by Whole Foods Market and Amazon, which say that more than 100 of the grocery chain's stores will sell Amazon devices, including the all-new Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV, Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets and others. Additionally, Amazon pop-up shops will appear at five Whole Foods locations in the next week.

Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market in August of this year. It calls the announcement one of a series of "collarborative programs" that it believe will mark "another step forward in the integration between the companies."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov092017

TripAdvisor icon can mark where serious incidents are alleged

Poike/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of accusations that TripAdvisor had deleted from its site posts about crimes against tourists, the popular travel website has implemented a badge to mark hotels where serious incidents are alleged.

The icon, which was issued to three resorts in Mexico, includes a message that reads: "Message from TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor has been made aware of recent media reports or events concerning this property which may not be reflected in reviews found on this listing. Accordingly, you may wish to perform additional research for information about this property when making your travel plans."

All three resorts are high-ranking in popularity with TripAdvisor members.

"Going forward, we will continue to issue the badge any time we believe there is a current health, safety or discrimination issue relevant to travelers as reported on by either our traveler community or by news media. As always, we encourage consumers to do additional research outside of TripAdvisor," company spokesperson Kevin Carter said in an email.

The icon can be used on any properties or businesses reviewed on TripAdvisor, the company said.

"We reserve the right for other properties and businesses to follow where we see credible reports of health, safety or discrimination issues. Our vetting of news reports continues and it is likely more businesses will receive this badge as more information is reviewed," TripAdvisor said in a statement.

Earlier this month, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report featured the story of Kristie Love, a 35-year-old mother of two from Dallas. Love claimed she had been raped by a security guard at a resort in Mexico in 2010 and had posted at that time about the alleged crime on TripAdvisor. Her post, according to the Sentinel, was "repeatedly removed." Two other women told the newspaper they too were raped or assaulted at a resort in Mexico. One of those women says she also tried to report the alleged crime on TripAdvisor, to no avail.

The website issued an apology following the report. In that apology, it was stated that the post had been removed in 2010 when the site was operating under different guidelines.

"A few years ago, we changed that policy to allow more descriptive reviews on the site about first-hand accounts of serious incidents like rape or assault. We recognized then that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like this from being shared," the statement reads.

"Over the last several years, this policy change has yielded many first-hand accounts of serious incidents being published on the platform. A simple search of TripAdvisor will show numerous reviews from travelers over the last several years who wrote about their first-hand experiences that include matters of robbery or theft, assault and rape. We believe any first-hand experience should be posted to our site as a means to communicate to other consumers looking for information on where they should travel."

"When we were made aware that this post had been removed under our previous guidelines, we republished it in line with our revised policy."

Carter told ABC News, "Our new badges are intended for instances in which news reports bring new health, safety or discrimination information to light that may not be present in traveler reviews or forum posts. To be clear, there could also be reviews or forum posts mentioning these issues."

He added: "These badges will remain on TripAdvisor for up to three months; however, if the issues persist we may extend the duration of the badge. These badges are intended to be informative, not punitive."

The resorts that received the badges did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Nov092017

Apple says it reached out to FBI to assist with Texas shooter's phone

ABC News(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple says it "immediately" offered to help the FBI in the wake of Sunday's Texas church massacre after the agency said it was unable to unlock the shooter's encrypted smartphone.

The FBI has refused to identify the make and model of the phone used by the suspected shooter, Devin Kelley, but sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News the device in question is an Apple product.

"Our team immediately reached out to the FBI after learning from their press conference on Tuesday that investigators were trying to access a mobile phone," Apple said in a statement Wednesday. "We offered assistance and said we would expedite our response to any legal process they send us.

"We work with law enforcement every day. We offer training to thousands of agents so they understand our devices and how they can quickly request information from Apple," the statement added.

On Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs said the agency sent a phone belonging to Kelley to its Quantico, Virginia crime lab because authorities could not unlock it. The Sunday morning attack at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs left 26 people dead, according to police, who are including an unborn child in the death toll, and at least 20 others injured.

"It actually highlights an issue that you've all heard about before, the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions. Law enforcement, whether at the state or local or the federal level, is increasingly not able to get into these phones," Combs said. "I can assure you that we’re working very hard to get into the phone and that will continue until we find an answer.

"It could be tomorrow, could be a week, could be a month [from now]. We don't know yet, but we're going to keep working on that phone and the other digital media that we can turn it over to the rangers," he added.

Authorities have not discovered a motive for the shooting.

The FBI has criticized tech companies for how difficult it is to obtain data from locked devices even when they could contain critical evidence.

Federal authorities challenged Apple in court in the wake of the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in which a couple inspired by the Islamic State killed 14 people, authorities said.

The couple died in a shootout with police hours after the massacre, but the authorities eventually managed to unlock the device, an iPhone 5C, without the help of the tech behemoth.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio