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Monday
Apr092018

Major airline association rolls out new certification program for handling live animals

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a leading trade group that represents 280 airlines worldwide, recently announced a new certification program designed to ensure the well-being of animals traveling by air.

The voluntary certification program called the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) for Live Animals Logistics builds on IATA’s current set of animal transportation rules -- widely regarded as the industry standard -- with input from air transport and animal experts to improve service quality throughout the supply chain.

“As an industry, we have a duty of care to ensure that standards and best practices are in place around the world to protect the welfare of these animals,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president of the airport, passenger, cargo, and security. “For those shipping live animals, the CEIV Live Animals program will provide a reliable quality benchmark.”

The certification program, which was announced April 5, involves training personnel to account for the physical and emotional health of animals across a variety of species.

CEIV certification is intended for airlines, airports, ground handling, freight, and animal shipping companies, according to IATA. Companies who obtain the certification will be listed in a registry on IATA’s website.

IATA’s new certification comes after a series of recent headlines involving United Airlines' mishandling of live animals, including the death of a dog after stowing the animal in an overhead bin and loading other dogs onto the wrong flights.

The certification program was developed over the course of at least a year and was not a direct response to the United incidents, IATA spokesperson Perry Flint said. He added that the program was inspired by the success of CEIV Pharma, another IATA certification program for transporting environment-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

United, for its part, told ABC News Monday it will “consider any reasonable recommendation that improves the overall safety and comfort of all animals that we fly.”

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Monday
Apr092018

Judge finalizes $25 million settlement for 'victims of Donald Trump's fraudulent university'

Thos Robinson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Trump University attendees are getting paid back.

A federal judge in the Southern District of California on Monday finalized a $25 million settlement to be paid to attendees of the now-defunct real estate seminar called Trump University.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel's decision came after an appeals court rejected arguments from a Florida woman who attended Trump University and said she wanted to pursue a separate lawsuit.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called the settlement a victory for Trump U. "victims."

"Judge Curiel's order finalizing the $25 million Trump University settlement means that victims of Donald Trump's fraudulent university will finally receive the relief they deserve," he said in a statement, adding that the amount surpassed the initial number the class-action suit initially negotiated.

"This settlement marked a stunning reversal by President Trump, who for years refused to compensate the victims of his sham university," the statement added. "My office won't hesitate to hold those who commit fraud accountable, no matter how rich or powerful they may be."

Trump University was a for-profit series of courses about real estate and entrepreneurship that also pushed people to buy Trump's books.

The courses themselves claimed to teach attendees Donald Trump's secrets to success in real estate. Plaintiffs accused Trump University of false advertising.

Within weeks of Trump's ascending to the presidency, Trump University agreed to settle the claims for $21 million, plus another $4 million for the New York Attorney General's office.

Schneiderman first sued Trump in 2013 for allegedly defrauding thousands of Trump University attendees out of millions of dollars.

The $25 million settlement will recover about 90 percent of the costs of those who attended Trump University, which, as part of the settlement, did not admit to wrongdoing.

The Trump Organization spokesman said when the lawsuit was filed that he had "no doubt" Trump University would prevail if the case went to trial, but a "resolution of these matters" was a priority so Trump could focus on the running the country.

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Monday
Apr092018

87 million Facebook users to find out if their personal data was breached

Chesnot/Getty Images(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- Here's a news feed item that Facebook users may respond to with an angry emoji.

The social media giant is expected on Monday to begin notifying up to 87 million users whose personal information was accessed by a political consultancy that worked for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Facebook plans to place a link at the top of each user's news feed informing them if their data was "improperly shared" in the so-called Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The move comes a day before Mark Zuckerberg, the California-based company's founder and chief executive officer, is scheduled to testify before Congress.

Zuckerberg was on Capitol Hill on Monday in meetings with members of Congress prior to his testifying. He wore a suit rather than his trademark outfit of a T-shirt and jeans.

Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm, allegedly improperly accessed personal data on Facebook through a third-party quiz app, and a whistleblower says the company used the information to build psychological profiles in an effort to target voters with political ads.

Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer announced last week that the Cambridge Analytica breach affected as many as 87 million users, a number that has grown several times since the scandal became public last month. Facebook says the bulk of affected users are in the United States.

The scandal comes about seven years after Facebook signed a consent decree with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission promising it would not share people's personal data without permission from the users.

Cambridge Analytica has denied wrongdoing and in a statement last week said it had data from only 30 million users.

Whether a user's data was accessed or not, Facebook plans to show all people on the site the third-party apps authorized to use their information and provide instructions on how to delete, the company said.


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Monday
Apr092018

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak gives up Facebook where he says profits come from 'the user's info'

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images for Discovery(NEW YORK) -- Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said he will stop using Facebook in protest of how the social media platform and other internet companies handle users' personal information.

Wozniak adjusted his profile on Facebook before deactivating his account and was shocked to see the extent of the platform's data collection, he wrote in an email to USA Today.

"I was surprised to see how many categories for ads and how many advertisers I had to get rid of, one at a time. I did not feel that this is what people want done to them," he wrote. "Ads and spam are bad things these days and there are no controls over them. Or transparency."

Wozniak's announcement comes as Facebook is under fire for its potential mishandling of user data with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that allegedly obtained personal information on as many as 87 million of Facebook users in an effort to influence elections.

Wozniak said he would rather pay to use the social media platform than have his personal information used by advertisers.

"Users provide every detail of their life to Facebook and ... Facebook makes a lot of advertising money off this," he wrote to USA Today. "The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back."

The Apple co-founder did not delete his Facebook account entirely but instead opted to deactivate it so that no one could take his screen name, he told USA Today.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has defended his company's practices, saying in a recent interview that the idea Facebook doesn't care about its customers because they don't pay for the service is “extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth.”

He also said in the interview with Vox that an advertising-supported business model is the only way a company such as Facebook can connect people around the world regardless of their ability to pay.

The social media giant has also announced changes, including revisions to its privacy settings to make it easier for users to control who can access their personal information.

Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday about the company's ongoing data-privacy scandal.

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Monday
Apr092018

Alaska Airlines takes top spot in latest airline quality rankings

FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alaska Airlines edged out Delta Air Lines for the top spot in a new airline quality report from two universities. Overall airline performance improved in 2017, as well, according to the study.

The Airline Quality Rating report, a joint project between Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State Universities, measured four publicly available metrics: on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and customer complaints.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance in 2017 -- 88 percent of flights operated within 15 minutes of the scheduled time -- and Virgin America performed the worst at 70 percent.

On-time performance for the whole industry in 2017 was 80.2 percent, down 1.2 percent from 2016.

Though this particular area was worse, the authors of the study told reporters on Monday that the total airline quality score for 2017, across the entire industry, is the best ever; three of the four metrics measured by the report have improved since 2016.

"The best-ever industry AQR score for 2017 is largely due to improvements in the rate of involuntary denied boardings and the rate of mishandled bags," said Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University. "Consumers have demanded this, and the industry listened and improved."

A year after an infamous incident involving airport police dragging a bloodied passenger off a United Airlines flight in Chicago, nine of the 12 largest U.S. air carriers improved their rates of involuntary denied boardings. The industry overall reported the lowest such rate since 1991.

Delta led the way in 2017 with 0.05 denied boardings per 10,000 customers. Spirit reported the worst rate with 0.82 per 10,000 customers.

However, Spirit had the best baggage handling rate, with only 1.61 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. ExpressJet, an airline that operates as American Eagle, United Express or Delta Connection, had the worst rate with 3.88 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

Southwest Airlines had the lowest rate of customer complaints of all airlines, 0.47 complaints per 100,000 passengers. Spirit had the highest complaints with 5.59 per 100,000 passengers.

Social media complaints have placed pressure on airlines to respond to issues in real time and change their culture of customer service, one study researcher said.

"2017 was a rough year for the airlines in the public’s eye," said Brent Bowen, professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "But the results of the study show that they are making the effort – even if it may seem incremental to the traveling public, the numbers are there."

This is how the 12 largest airlines were ranked for calendar year 2017. Each of their rankings for 2016 are in parentheses:
1. Alaska (1)
2. Delta (2)
3. JetBlue (4)
4. Hawaiian (5)
5. Southwest (6)
6. SkyWest (7)
7. Virgin America (3)
8. United (8)
9. American (9)
10. ExpressJet (10)
11. Frontier (12)
12. Spirit (11)

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Monday
Apr092018

South Carolina resort posts warning after tourists pelt alligator with carrots: 'Don't be stupid'

Fripp Island Activity Center/Facebook(FRIPP ISLAND, S.C.) -- "Don't be stupid."

So states the warning posted by a South Carolina resort urging people not to harass the alligators on the property after tourists threw carrots at one.

"The fine for harassing an alligator is $200," the Fripp Island Activity Center wrote in a post on Facebook. "That's $200 per carrot in this case. Y'all, make good choices. Don't be stupid. This is not how Fripp treats its wildlife."

The post added that the resort has a description of the people involved and said they will be on the lookout.

While alligator attacks are rare in South Carolina, experts say most happen when humans provoke them by feeding, prodding or swimming near them, according to the Island Packet, a local paper.

"These animals are really simple," Fripp Island naturalist Jessica Miller said, according to the Island Packet. "They like to be in their water or bask right by it. We just need to stay back."

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Sunday
Apr082018

Trump once fought efforts to retrofit high-rises with fire sprinklers

@FDNY/Twitter(NEW YORK) -- When Jerome Rose turned on his TV Saturday and saw news footage of flames spewing from a 50th-floor apartment at Trump Tower in New York City, his mind instantly flashed back to 1998 when a blaze at his high-rise residential building less than a mile away killed four of his neighbors and caused him to run for his life.

Rose, now 79, became an outspoken critic of the city's fire laws, which in 1998 did not require high-rise apartment buildings to have sprinklers in residences. Following the fire in his South Park Tower building that broke out in a 19th floor unit owned by actor Macaulay Culkin's family and killed four people, Rose said one of the main people lobbying against retrofitting all high-rises in the city with sprinklers was none other than Donald Trump.

"It's criminal ... that people who live in these high-rise buildings without sprinklers do not have any protection," Rose told ABC News on Sunday.

Fire marshals continued investigating Sunday what caused the blaze to break out in Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, killing 67-year-old art dealer Todd Brassner and injuring six firefighters who battled the blaze.

The fire erupted three months after an electrical fire started on the roof of the skyscraper, injuring three people, including one firefighter, and sent a plume of black smoke wafting over the city.

On Sunday, the city Department of Buildings issued vacate orders for apartment 50-C, where Brassner lived, and the apartment directly above his, officials said. Residents between the 55th and 45th floors of the 58-story building were ordered to remain evacuated Sunday, officials said.

The president has a three-story penthouse on the top floors of Trump Tower, but neither he nor any members of his family were in the building when the fire broke out, officials said.

Following the fire, Trump tweeted praise for the firefighters who battled the blaze and took the occasion to tout Trump Tower as a "well built building."

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro confirmed that the residential floors of the building do not have fire sprinklers because the city did not require high-rises to have them when the building was completed in 1983.

But when the fire broke out on Dec. 23, 1998, in the Culkin family apartment, a big push for sprinklers in all high-rises commenced, Rose told ABC News.

In a Dec. 30, 1998 article in the New York Times, then-City Councilman Archie Spigner, who was chairman of the City Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, said Trump called him to express concern about having to retrofit his buildings with sprinklers. At the time, Trump told the newspaper that he "received and placed calls" to various city officials on the subject, arguing that the cost of equipping buildings with sprinklers -- then about $4 per square foot -- was too expensive.

"After the fire at South Park Tower, I was sitting there with the owners when a phone call came in from a certain real estate developer by the name of Donald Trump," said Rose, a prominent concert pianist and composer. "I had gone up there to invite them to a memorial service ... and I remember the phone call. They said, 'Oh, Donald's on the phone and he was saying that there's going to be a big movement to retrofit all the high-rise buildings in New York with sprinklers.'"

In March 1999, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani signed a law requiring sprinkler systems to be installed in every unit and every common hallway of new residential buildings with four or more units. The law also required sprinklers in existing residential properties, but only ones that undergo renovations costing 50 percent or more of the building's value.

Under the law, buildings like Trump Tower were grandfathered in and not required to be retrofitted with sprinklers.

There was no immediate response from the White House to a request from ABC News for comment.

"What the city of New York does not understand is that every one of these high-rise apartment buildings that doesn't have sprinklers in them ... they're fire traps. Every one of them, because they don't have sprinklers and the [fire engine] ladders only go up to something like the 19th floor," said Rose, who moved out of the South Park Tower building soon after the deadly 1998 fire.

"I'm still angry because it's a damn coverup and the city has covered this up for years and years," he said.

Asked what he would say to Trump in the aftermath of the Saturday's deadly Trump Tower fire, Rose said, "Trump, in order to protect your family and the residents of your Trump Tower, would you invest whatever it cost to protect the people living in your building? And, what is your family's life worth?"

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Saturday
Apr072018

Federal authorities seize Backpage.com

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal authorities have seized the website backpage.com and affiliated websites, according to a notice posted by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies on the site on Friday.

The notice did not detail the reason for the seizure but noted that Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, as well as the offices of the Texas attorney general and California attorney general, were involved.

Backpage.com, an online classifieds site, advertises everything from cars to furniture.

However, critics have said that the bulk of its revenue comes from its adult-oriented section, which advertises for “escorts” and "sensual massages."

backpage.com

While these services are technically legal, law enforcement and some members of Congress have said they are often thinly-veiled code for prostitution and underage sex trafficking.

Backpage has said such ads are constitutionally protected free speech.

Last year, a report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations alleged that Backpage would strip out terms that would signal underage trafficking such as “Lolita, “Little Girl” and even “Amber Alert” from ads in its "adult" section.

The scrubbed ads would then post to the site, the report said.

Backpage could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday's website seizure but previously told ABC News in a statement that it hires moderators who diligently work to screen ads and curb underage trafficking on its site. They added that they have voluntarily undertaken a multi-tiered "policing system to prohibit and report attempts at human exploitation and the advertisement of prostitution" that screens for words and phrases that might "suggest illegal activity." The company also said it actively cooperates with law enforcement and reports suspicious ads to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC.

ABC News' “Nightline” conducted a more than year-long investigation into underage sex trafficking through ads Backpage.com and the efforts to stop it.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, who has long worked on the issue, applauded the website seizure on Friday.

"This is great news for survivors, advocates, and law enforcement in Missouri and across the country, but it’s also long-overdue, and further proof of why our bipartisan legislation is so critical," she said in a statement and added that law enforcement need a measure to allow them to move quickly against websites that knowingly help facilitate the sex trafficking of minors.

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Saturday
Apr072018

Facebook's data changes seem to be impacting Tinder

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- Some online daters had a little more trouble swiping right than normal earlier this week.

On Wednesday, hours after Facebook announced plans to restrict some data access by third-party apps, some Tinder users noticed problems with the app.

Tinder did not specify the reason for the outage in a statement to ABC News, citing only a "technical issue" and saying that the company "found a resolution and quickly resumed service."

But it appears Facebook new policies may be to blame. Scott Steinberg, a trends expert for consulting firm TechSavvy, told ABC News that the problem was likely connected to the tightening of restrictions previously announced by Facebook.

He likened the previous flow of data from Facebook to certain third-party apps to "a pipeline of information that's been flowing." When that pipeline gets shut, "then it can create technical hiccups for apps that rely on the data."

"Platforms like Facebook are taking more steps to protect the sanctity of users' personal data," Steinberg said, adding that individual users are likely not going to be dramatically impacted by changes.

"What happens is, from the developer perspective, it's harder for them to pull information than it was in the past," Steinberg said.

Tinder, like many apps, allows users to sign up using their Facebook accounts. In turn, the user agrees to allow the third-party app -- in this case, Tinder -- to take information off their Facebook profile and add it to their Tinder profile.

As a result, the user's interests, including brands they may have favorited or public figures they've professed to being a fan of, will show up as their "interests" on their Tinder profile -- in theory, allowing potential love matches to connect over common bonds.

In contrast, other apps take less information. A representative for Bumble, a similar online dating app, told ABC News that the company only uses the publicly available information from Facebook users' profiles, including their names, profile pictures, and whatever school or employer the Facebook user features.

The representative said that because Bumble only relies on the public-facing portions of a profile, the app was not affected by the new Facebook changes.

That isn't to say that yet-unaffected apps won't be making changes in the coming weeks and months. Both Bumble and Hinge, another dating app, told ABC News that they are developing log-in options that will allow people to sign on to their apps apart from their Facebook accounts. As of now, the only way that people can sign up for their apps is by verifying themselves through Facebook.

The Facebook changes will apply to any number of third-party apps, not just ones dedicated to finding love in the digital age. Venmo, the popular digital wallet app that helps people share and request funds from friends, did not have a comment for ABC News at this time.

Steinberg said logins separate from Facebook are not the only ways that apps will have to change to adapt to the social network's changes.

"I think what you're going to see is more and more apps trying to get creative with ways to access information ... that once they might have had much freer access to," he said, citing interests or friends that some apps were able to access through Facebook data previously.

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Friday
Apr062018

'Bucket list' cruise ruined by construction work, Norwegian Sun passengers say

Mary Sharp(LOS ANGELES) -- Passengers returning home from a two-week cruise on the Norwegian Sun are irate, saying what should have been the vacation of a lifetime felt more like living on a floating construction site.

The cruise on the Norwegian Sun departed from Miami on March 16 and arrived in Los Angeles on March 31.

According to passengers, after the ship departed, work began on several areas of the ship. Passengers took pictures of thick dust and parts of the ship roped off with yellow caution tape, as well as recorded video of loud noise.

"It was a full-blown construction going on. There was multiple decks, multiple areas," passenger Wayne Jenkins told CTV News recently.

After the ship traveled through the Panama Canal, passengers said, they started smelling chemicals used to resurface multiple ship decks. They even posted images on social media with their faces covered to protect them from what they said was thick dust.

"I want to know what the heck we were exposed to," said Jenkins, who said the cruise had been a "bucket list" adventure for his 82-year-old father.

Some of the more than 2,000 passengers on board the ship even created a Facebook group titled Panama Canal Sun, detailing their ordeals.

One passenger told CTV News that she'd even taken her concerns to the ship's captain.

"[They] were as helpful as they could be," Jill Davies said, "but it was quite clear that it was way beyond their control. This was a decision made by their head office."

Norwegian Cruise Lines told ABC News in an email that it had apologized to its passengers and offered them a free cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line told ABC News: "At Norwegian Cruise Line, the travel experience, safety and satisfaction of our guests is of the utmost importance to us. Recently Norwegian Sun underwent enhancements as part of our continuous efforts to ensure that every ship across the fleet delivers a consistently high-quality passenger experience.

"While we do our utmost to minimize any impact to our guests when these enhancements are being implemented, we do recognize that during a recent sailing, we did not meet the expectations of our guests, nor our own standards, for which we truly apologize. Norwegian Cruise Line is inviting the guests on the March 16th Norwegian Sun voyage to cruise again and fully experience all that Norwegian has to offer with a 100 percent future cruise credit of their fare paid, which can be applied toward another cruise of their choice from now through March 31, 2023. We realize that this gesture cannot replace their recent experience but do hope to have the opportunity to welcome them on board again soon."

Jenkins said he just wants a refund.

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