Controversy erupts over alleged push to spin off CNN in media mega-merger

serkanozalp/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Amid antitrust concerns over a potential merger between AT&T and Time Warner, a controversy has erupted over whether AT&T would have to sell off CNN to sidestep those concerns.

According to U.S. Department of Justice officials, AT&T offered just days ago to divest from CNN and later sell the news network. But the chairman and CEO of AT&T suggested otherwise.

The government's reservations about the deal stem from the effects of combining AT&T's distribution platforms, including satellite television provider DirecTV, and the wide catalog of content under the Time Warner umbrella, such as Turner Broadcasting, CNN's parent company. On Monday, the Justice Department says it met with AT&T to discuss the matter.

At Monday's meeting, AT&T offered divestment from CNN, but that was flatly rejected by the department's Antitrust Division, Justice Department sources said. AT&T representatives then proposed selling the network, which officials said wouldn't necessarily solve the theorized harm to the public, the DOJ sources added.

AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, responding Wednesday to reporting on the company's conversations with the Justice Department, denied that an offer to sell came from him.

"Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so," Stephenson said in a statement provided to ABC News.

The Trump administration has had a strained relationship with the news network.

The president previously labeled the network's journalism "fake" and "fraud" news and mockingly called the channel the "Clinton News Network" during last year's presidential race against Hillary Clinton.

A senior White House official told ABC News the Justice Department is "the only ones making the decisions here," adding, "we are not involved."

In a statement, the Justice Department said it "is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts. Beyond that, the department does not comment on any pending investigation.”

A lot of different options are on the table for how to proceed, Justice Department officials said. No decision regarding the merger's next steps has been reached, but conversations remain ongoing.

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Veterans twice as likely to be scammed as general public: Survey

BrianAJackson/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Email and phone scammers target everyone. But veterans are twice as likely to lose money to them, according to a survey released by AARP’s Fraud Watch Network on Wednesday.

AARP’s lead fraud researcher, Doug Shadel, said that the con men he’s interviewed have told him the best way to scam a vet is to pretend to be one.

"It's sort of using their sense of patriotism and brotherhood against them,” Shadel said.

Coinciding with the release of the survey, AARP and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced the launch of Operation Protect Veterans, a nation-wide awareness campaign meant to keep veterans from being conned.

Beginning January, all of the more than 30,000 post offices in America will have brochures offering warnings and advice to veterans.

“A lot of the folks who go into those post offices are our folks, so it just seemed like kind of a natural marriage there,” Shadel said of the partnership.

AARP has also released a new version of its Watchdog Alert Handbook to warn veterans of some of the scams that specifically target them, such as attempts to charge them for access to military records, or fake job offers used to mine personal information.

“While veterans are bombarded by the same scam pitches we all receive, our research found that they’re also under special attack by a number of additional scams tailored just for them,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins in a press release.

Shadel, who conceived of the veteran study after noticing the group was overrepresented in an earlier AARP survey on investment fraud, said he wanted to find out how veterans who fall prey differ from veterans who don't.

“One of the big differences was that the victims are much more likely to say ‘I would trust somebody more if they had been in the military,’” said Shadel.

Compared to veterans who did not fall for attempted scams, victims surveyed were also more likely to struggle with a significant amount of debt, relationship problems, serious injury, or loneliness. Especially vulnerable were female veterans, who made up just seven percent of non-victims, but 17 percent of those who did fall prey -- an over-representation of more than 240 percent.

"You're essentially profiling who falls for fraud among the veterans,” Shadel said. “And if you know that, then you can customize your education messages, you can customizes your prevention outreach to those things and address those behaviors directly."

Shadel, who also serves as AARP’s senior state director of Washington, said the next step is to build partnerships with veterans organizations. He is currently organizing speaking events at local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts to help augment the literature that will be provided at the post office.

“That doesn't solve the problem, but that is a really good start in terms of getting people aware of this,” he said.

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Another record close for the Dow on day of gains for Wall Street

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite a sluggish open, Wall Street posted gains on Wednesday, as one index set another record high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a record close for the second straight day, finishing the session at 23,563.36 -- up a slim 6.13 from its open.

The Nasdaq climbed 21.34 to a close of 6,789.12, while the S&P 500 gained 3.74 on the day, a jump of nearly 0.2 percent.

Crude oil closed lower, however. A barrel ended the day trading at $56.81 -- 39 cents lower than Tuesday's close.

Panera Bread Company is buying its biggest competitor, Au Bon Pain. The two had been a part of the same company until Au Bon Pain was sold to a private equity firm in the 1990s.

And Ford Motor Company is partnering with a Chinese firm to develop electric vehicles for sale in China.

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First map to name 'America' for sale at Christie's

AVNphotolab/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Christie's auction house says it has discovered a previously unknown copy of the first map to name America, and the 510-year-old manuscript will be up for sale next month.

The map not only uses the word "America" as the name for the New World for the first time, but it's also the first map to show separate South and North American continents and is the earliest recorded printed terrestrial globe, depicting an accurate illustration of the world in 360 degrees in the form of a set of gores, according to a press release from Christie's on Wednesday announcing the discovery.

The two-dimensional gore map was produced by German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller in 1507 and is one of just five known copies, according to Christie's.

"The discovery of this unknown copy of the Waldseemuller gores marks the most exciting moment of my 20-year career at Christie’s; his cartographic innovations had an enormous influence in the science of map-making and perhaps most significantly, defined history in naming America," said Julian Wilson, senior specialist in Christie's books, maps and manuscripts department in London.

Christie's said it will sell the map at auction in London on Dec. 13, and the piece is estimated to command between $788,000 and $1.2 million.

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Former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer apologizes for 2013 data breach

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer testified apologized for the 2013 data breach that impacted more than three billion Yahoo! accounts.

Mayer testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, alongside former Equifax CEO Richard Smith and Interim Exquifax CEO Paulino Barros, Jr. and Verizon Deputy General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer Karen Zacharia. During her opening remarks, Mayer said Yahoo! had "worked hard over the years to earn our users' trust. As CEO, these thefts occurred during my tenure and I want to sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users."

Mayer said she didn't know about the intrusion in 2013. That admission came when she was asked why the company waited until November 2016 to publicly disclose the breach.

She also admitted that Yahoo! still doesn't "exactly understand how the act was perpetrated."

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Gen Zers fueling growth in online shopping for holiday season, survey says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gen Zers are becoming a larger part of the shopping scene and could be driving more sales online this holiday shopping season, a survey done by Deloitte reveals.

Gen Zers and millenials are planning to spend 61 percent and 58 percent, respectively, of their budget online while Baby Boomers predict spending 48 percent of their budget online, according to the survey.

"What’s happening is more and more consumers are comfortable with shopping online. Millennials are becoming more important [in the retail industry] and even Gen Xers are getting their own spending power," Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, a retail industry analyst firm, told ABC News.

These numbers are relative to household incomes, but overall this holiday season is expected to see a boom in e-commerce unlike past years as online sales shift to becoming the preferred shopping destination, with 55 percent planning to shop online.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they plan to shop in-store.

The remaining respondents plan on shopping through print catalogs and direct mail promotions.

Last year, Deloitte's survey showed an even split at 47 percent preference between the both online and store, making this year the first that online is seen as the preferred option to visiting a local mall or boutique.

“In past holiday retail surveys, we would point out that consumers were combing the internet for deals, comparing prices and looking for recommendations. But when it came time to make the transaction, shoppers would hit the stores,” reported Deloitte in the 2017 survey results. This year, that may not be the case.

Additionally, the timing of when consumers decide to buy also plays a role in where they are shopping, Cohen said.

“All the energy of the retail goes toward getting the consumer to shop sooner ... the retailer tries to move the holiday earlier,” explained Cohen, citing that online shopping changes the way people view Black Friday, as it is not the only time of the year to get the lowest prices. For example, Amazon Prime Day falls in July and is full of a day of deals.

Another reason Cohen said gives online shopping a competitive draw over in-store options is the lack of desire to spend time inside of those stores, but he said the products consumers are shopping for also dictate whether or not they’ll want to go to stores.

Electronics and toys are the largest product groups that are purchased online, while apparel, accessories and impulse items are not as strong in the online shopping sphere, said Cohen.

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Dow reaches new record as Nasdaq dips

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street closed mostly in the red on Tuesday despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching a new record.

The Dow gained 8.81 (+0.04 percent) to finish at 23,557.23.

The Nasdaq slid 18.65 (-0.27 percent) to close at 6,767.78, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,590.64, down 0.49 (-0.02 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices were little changed at $57 per barrel.

Winners and Losers:  Shares of travel companies fell on earnings misses. Priceline sunk 13.52 percent and competitor TripAdvisor tumbled 23.22 percent.

Weight Watchers soared 13.55 percent on a third-quarter earnings report that beat investors' expectations. Oprah Winfrey's investment in the company has paid off-- she's made about $300 million over two years.

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Ronan Farrow sounds off on latest Harvey Weinstein report

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Ronan Farrow is sounding off on his latest Harvey Weinstein report, which alleges the disgraced movie producer hired private investigators to gather information on women who had accused him of sexual misconduct.

Farrow appeared on "Good Morning America" Tuesday to discuss his latest New Yorker piece and what he calls "an international campaign" on behalf of Weinstein to keep his accusers from coming forward.

"This was elaborate and expensive," Farrow said. "This was all conducted in secrecy."

He added, "I think the story makes it clear that they were focusing on everyone trying to get word out about this."

A spokeswoman for Weinstein told The New Yorker about this new report, “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”

Farrow's latest piece alleges Weinstein hired multiple firms -- including Black Cube, an organization run by former intelligence officers -- to gather information from the accusers and from reporters working on stories.

The report claims that one Black Cube operative, whose real name was not used in the story, reached out to Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan, posing as an activist launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace. The story adds that the same investigator also contacted a reporter for New York magazine saying she had allegations against Weinstein to share.

That reporter, Ben Wallace, told The New Yorker, the woman, using a different name than the one she used with McGowan, asked him “about the status and scope of my inquiry, and about who I might be talking to, without giving me any meaningful help or information.”

Farrow said he used a photograph of this operative to conclude that McGowan and Wallace were talking about the same woman.

The operative also allegedly emailed Farrow himself and New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor under an assumed name when they were working on Weinstein stories. Kantor was one of the reporters on the Times story back on Oct. 5, alleging Weinstein reached confidential settlements with some harassment accusers over several decades.

In a statement to ABC News, Black Cube did not admit to working with Weinstein, but did say they work on “uncovering negative campaigns.” However, the company said it does not get involved in “sexual harassment cases.”

“It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work," the company said in a statement. "Black Cube supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the U.S., gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns. The company does not get involved in family disputes or sexual harassment cases. It should be highlighted that Black Cube applies high moral standards to its work, and operates in full compliance with the law of any jurisdiction in which it operates -- strictly following the guidance and legal opinions provided by leading law firms from around the world.”

Since the first Times report on Weinstein in early October, dozens of women have made allegations of harassment and abuse against the former studio head in the New Yorker, on social media and in other media outlets. There have been serious repercussions after the allegations: Weinstein was terminated by his eponymous company, and he later resigned from its board; he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, among other organizations; and his wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, announced last month that she was leaving him. Additionally, he is under investigation by police in four jurisdictions -- New York City, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and London.

Weinstein has denied "any allegations of nonconsensual sex" via his spokeswoman.

"Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual," according to the full statement from Weinstein's spokesperson. "Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”

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Email scam targets Netflix's millions of subscribers

Netflix(NEW YORK) -- An email scam has been specifically targeting Netflix's millions of subscribers, threatening to suspend their accounts if they don’t update their billing information.

The email asks its readers to click the link, leading them to a fake Netflix homepage and prompting them to enter their private information, according to MailGuard, an Australian cybersecurity firm.

Netflix said it is aware of the ongoing scam, adding that the company takes security seriously and has measures in place to detect fraudulent activity.

“Unfortunately, scams are common on the internet and target popular brands such as Netflix and other companies with large customer bases to lure users into giving out personal information,” Netflix said in a statement to ABC News.

The company said it will never ask for any personal information to be sent over email and advised its subscribers to be careful of phishing emails that lead to false websites.

The phishing scam invites victims to use the fake online form to enter their address, driver’s license number, credit card details and more, said MailGuard.

“Scammers can make their fake emails and bogus websites look pretty convincing, so it’s always a good idea to check carefully that the email comes from the actual company domain and not a scammer,” advised MailGuard on their company blog.

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Cutting edges: warranty company says iPhone X is "most breakable ever"

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The iPhone X's thousand-dollar pricetag makes it the most expensive off-the-shelf smartphone to date, and according to the testers at the warranty company SquareTrade, it's also the most breakable, too.

The company puts a host of tech products through their paces, including simulated drops, slops, and rolls -- and despite Apple claiming its phone's glass is super-durable, the X didn't fare too well against every day oopsies.

Using robotic devices to fairly simulate every day mishaps, the testers proved the phones' faces will shatter from an average height drop of six feet, rendering facial recognition and other features inoperable. A drop onto its back shattered the glass such that shards stuck out, and internal damage was done, to boot.

Putting the iPhone X into a tumbler -- kind of like a raffle spinning machine, but meant to simulate a moving drop -- also dinged the thing up significantly.

According to the company, which provides cellphone insurance, Apple will charge more than $250 for a new screen, and other repairs could be upwards of $550, thanks to the fragile features packed into the device.

The testers, aping Apple's AD copy for the iPhone X deemed it, "the most-breakable, highest-priced, most expensive iPhone to repair, ever."

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