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Thursday
Feb072019

'The Amazon Coat' is one of winter's must-have accessories

Orolay(NEW YORK) -- A $140 winter coat from Amazon has become one of winter's biggest fashion must-haves this season.

Colloquially dubbed "The Amazon Coat," the Orolay Thickened Down Jacket has become one of the hottest coat on the streets of frigid cities everywhere. Plus, it comes with the rather democratic price tag of $140, a bargain compared to other parkas and puffers that can cost hundreds of dollars and up.

The jacket has a rating of 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon, with more than 6,000 customer reviews.

Plus, fashion bloggers and magazines are also touting the must-have coat for its puffy pockets, ribboned pulls and expandable sections like snaps on the front and side zippers that can expand for bulky sweaters or pregnant bellies.

The coat is so popular that it even has its own fan-fueled Instagram account, wth more than 1,300 followers.

Helped by a combination of real-world word of mouth, glowing online reviews and Amazon's own search engine ranking, the coat's momentum doesn't show any signs of slowing down. It’s currently on back order and the price has been steadily creeping upward since it’s debut.

For comparison, at $140, this coat is much cheaper than some of the other popular parkas on the market including the Canada Goose Parka which costs $950 and a similar one from Moncler which will set you back $1,600.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Feb072019

Cruise line looking for traveler to Instagram adventures

ALEXIUZ/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Since you're posting everything on Instagram anyway, you may as well get paid for it.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is in search of a "Shore Explorer" who will act as the apprentice to the line's Instagrammer-in-Chief. Yes, that's a real job.

The shore explorer will take three weeks to travel the world and capture the on-land experiences available to guests on a Royal Caribbean ship. The destinations include Seward, Alaska; Dubai; Osaka, Japan; Miami; Lisbon; Stavenger, Norway; and the cruise line's own private island, Cococay in the Bahamas.

The job requirements, according to the cruise line, are:

  • User of Instagram on a daily basis (with extensive knowledge of all 40 filters, editing, video content/Stories and IGTV)
  • Ability to take stunning photos and videos (Instagram stories) that capture the essence of an extraordinary experience for others
  • Willingness to travel
  • Unyielding hunger for amazing experiences and daredevil nature – must be willing to try new things
  • Must be proficient on social media
  • Must be available to travel for three consecutive weeks from May-August 2019

Applications are being taken over Instagram. Hopefuls should post their most extraordinary travel story on Instagram (including Instagram Stories and IGTV), tagging @RoyalCaribbeanUK and #ShoreExplorer.

The application pool is limited to residents of the U.K. and Ireland at this time, but RCCL did not rule out the possibility that a similar job would be open to other nations in the future.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Feb062019

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announces plans to scrap pending rule on payday lending

flavijus/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Wednesday took the first steps to roll back regulations on payday lenders by announcing plans to change an Obama-era rule that was set to go into effect later this year.

The proposed rule changes would scrap a regulation that requires payday lenders to assess whether potential borrowers can repay loans before issuing them.

In a statement, the bureau announced that its initial discovery showed that rescinding the rule would increase consumers access to credit.

But the new proposal has consumer watchdog groups, many of whom were fierce advocates for the previous rule, crying foul. They say that reversing the rule will allow predatory lenders to continue to charge annual percentage rates in the triple digits on short term loans that often target low-income communities.

“Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under Director Kathy Kraninger, has officially given predatory debt traps its seal of approval,” said Mike Litt of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “By proposing to get rid of its underwriting requirement, the CFPB is gutting its own protections.”

The proposal also drew criticism from House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, who said in a statement that she was "deeply troubled" by the proposal to "gut a much needed rule that would have reined in payday lenders."

"This proposal essentially sends a message to predatory payday lenders that they may continue to harm vulnerable communities without penalty," Waters said.

The proposal marks one of the first major policy positions taken by Kraninger, the bureau’s new director. She was narrowly confirmed to head the CFPB in December, but plans to reassess the rule were first laid while the CFPB was under the leadership of Mick Mulvaney, who served as the bureau’s acting director before becoming President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff in December.

After years of research under President Barack Obama, the CFPB moved forward with implementation in Oct. 2017, just weeks before Trump appointed Mulvaney as the acting director of the CFPB. It was not set to go into effect until August.

If Wednesday's effort is successful the measures that were expected to go into effect in August will never be implemented. Going forward, Kraninger said in a statement the bureau will now “evaluate comments, weigh the evidence, and then make its decision.”

The bureau’s former director, Richard Cordray, pushed back on the decision on Twitter.

 “It’s a bad move that will hurt the hardest-hit consumers,” he wrote. “It should be and will be subject to a stiff legal challenge.”

Payday lenders, however, argue they are helping to provide a valuable service for the millions of Americans who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and don’t have any savings to handle emergencies.

The Trump administration agreed. Mulvaney, has accused the agency of government overreach.

“Anybody who thinks that a Trump administration CFPB would be the same as an Obama administration is simply being naive,” Mulvaney said in 2017 when he took control of the agency.

Consumer watchdogs say the expected proposal is a continuation of Mulvaney’s efforts to defang the CFPB. Mulvaney was a vocal critic of the Consumer Financial Bureau during his time serving as a South Carolina Congressman and he accepted campaign contributions from payday lending industry lobbyists.

While leading the CFPB, Mulvaney closed investigations into several lending groups, asked appropriations for $0 in funding for the agency and cut back significantly on the CFPB’s enforcement power.

The CFPB was created after the 2008 financial crisis as a way of regulating banks and other financial institutions.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Feb062019

New emojis include more diversity, drop of blood for women’s periods

Unicode(NEW YORK) -- New emojis headed soon to a phone near you include wheelchairs, guide dogs, hearing aids and a drop of blood reportedly meant to symbolize a woman’s period.

The emojis, 230 in all, were announced Tuesday by the Unicode Consortium, which handles the standards of emoji.

This year’s list expands the people represented by emojis to include people with disabilities and people of different ethnicities.

There are 59 brand new emojis (including a mechanical arm and an ice cube) and 171 new variants for gender and skin tone, according to the Unicode Consortium.

The people holding hands emojis now have four combinations of gender and all the various combinations of skin tones, Unicode noted.

One of the most buzzed-about new emojis is a single drop of blood.

Plan International UK, a charity that advocates for girls, said it submitted the proposal for the blood drop emoji after its first entry for a period emoji design, period pants, was not accepted.

The charity is using the emoji with the hashtag #periodemoji to end the stigma around periods.

Foodies will notice the 2019 emoji update includes a waffle, an onion and garlic, butter, falafel and a juice box. For clothes, a one-piece swimsuit, ballet shoes, a sari and a safety vest are all new too.

 Animal lovers can now send text messages that include a sloth, an otter, a flamingo, a skunk an orangutan.

Unicode said to expect the new emojis in September and October, when they "typically" show up in software updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Feb062019

Report: Northeast home to nation’s highest rents as rates continue to climb

Apartment Guide(NEW YORK) -- Looking to live in a city and rent on the cheap? Des Moines, Iowa, might be for you -- but New York City most definitely is not.

Apartment Guide released its 2019 Annual Rent Report, which provides a look at rent prices around the country, and compares the prices of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

The findings also determine which cities are becoming more expensive and more affordable for renters.

In 2018, the Northeast remained the region with the highest rent.

According to the report, "Rental prices in the Midwest and South held at roughly 45 to 50 percent of those seen in the Northeast."

Rent in the Midwest remained the lowest, with one-bedroom apartments averaging a little above $1,000.

In 2018, there was a slight increase for the average price of a two-bedroom apartment, rising from $1,302 to $1,354.

The rent for studio apartments rose at a higher rate -- close to 5 percent, reaching $1,065.

In the most populated city in the United States, New York City, the average price of a studio apartment is a whopping $3,257.

On the other end of the spectrum, in the 100th most populated city -- Des Moines -- had an average studio rent of $870.

Rent in the 25 most populated cities in the U.S.:

Apartment Guide

Cities where rent for a one-bedroom rose in 2018:

1. Newark, NJ - $1,692
2. San Diego, CA - $2,300
3. Des Moines, IA - $1,016
4. Anchorage, AK - $1,150
5. Boise, ID - $1,062
6. Fort Wayne, IN - $$810
7. Chandler, AZ - $1,157
8. Wichita, KS - $863
9. Scottsdale, AZ - $1,478
10. Louisville, KY - $951

Cities where rent for a one-bedroom fell in 2018:

1. New Orleans, LA - $1,418
2. Jersey City, NJ - $2,596
3. Madison, WI - $1,235
4. Corpus Christi, TX - $843
5. Portland, OR - $1,644
6. Houston, TX - $1,231
7. Nashville, TN - $1,408
8. Virginia Beach, VA - $1,092
9. Fort Worth, TX - $1,056
10. Long Beach, CA - $2,048

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Feb062019

The Marie Kondo effect: What to do with all the stuff that doesn't 'spark joy'

STUDIOGRANDOUEST/iStock(NEW YORK) -- If you've been binge-watching Tidying Up on Netflix and rounding up things you don't need anymore, you are not alone.

Thrift stores nationwide are reporting a surge in donations since the start of the year. And eBay, the online trading site, has also seen a surge of new listings since the Jan. 1 premiere of Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, eBay told ABC News' Good Morning America.

If you too have piles of items that no longer "spark joy" -- the key to Kondo’s KonMari method of tidying -- options abound to not only get rid of them, but possibly make money too.

Here are five ways to do it:

1. Donate using an old shipping box

Give Back Box helps you get rid of both unwanted items and clothes and old boxes.

You can print a free shipping label via the Give Back Box website for a local charity. Amazon is also partnering with Give Back Box to offer free shipping labels.

2. Sell clothes online

One popular option to sell your used clothes is ThredUp. You’ll be sent a bag that you fill up and send back. ThredUp sells the items for you and takes a commission.

Other companies, such as The Real Real (for designer clothes) and FlipSize (for kids' clothes), offer similar deals. Many companies will offer to donate clothes that don’t sell, and some accept unwanted shoes, purses and accessories.

Websites such as Poshmark and Tradesy allow sellers to post photos of their still-trendy clothing to market and sell online.

3. Cash in on old electronics

Sell used tech gadgets on sites like Gazelle or u-Sell. On apps like Decluttr, even old CDs and DVDs can be worth real money.

Target offers a trade-in program where you can trade in used electronics for a Target gift card or cash through PayPal.

4. Score rewards at the mall

North Face accepts donations of clothes and shoes of any brand at its stores and gives you $10 off your next $100 purchase in return.

Donate any clothes at a Levi's store and get a voucher for 20 percent off.

H&M stores each have a garment collection box where you can drop off old clothes and score a voucher for a future purchase.

Recycle your old jeans at Madewell and get $20 off your new pair.

Other brands accept donations at their stores but may not give rewards. It's always worth asking!

5. Give back

Second Chance Toys accepts donations of kids' toys and gives them to organizations that support kids in need.

Help support members of the military by donating books to Operation Paperback and old cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Donate your lightly-used bras and unopened menstruation products to I Support the Girls, which gives them to homeless women and girls around the world.

Even old eyeglasses can see new life. The Lions Club accepts donations of eyeglasses and gives them to people in need.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb052019

Former Uber driver Justin Dalton gets life sentence in 2016 Michigan killing spree

Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) -- A former Uber driver who went on a 2016 shooting rampage in Michigan that left six strangers dead and two severely injured was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after loved ones of his victims made tearful statements and asked for the maximum punishment.

Justin Dalton, 48, showed no remorse, refused to offer an apology or make a statement on why he committed the ambush killings of four women and a father and his teenage son in Kalamazoo.

"Our prisons are not designed to be for those folks we are mad at, but for those folks we are afraid of, and you clearly fall into that category," Judge Alexander Lipsey told Dalton at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.

In a surprise move and against the advice of his attorney, Dalton pleaded guilty on Jan. 7 to six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

When he was arrested, he told police that an "evil figure" on his Uber app took control of his mind and body the day he committed the killings in between picking up passengers.

Killed in the Feb. 20, 2016, murder spree were Mary Lou Nye, 62, and her sister-in-law Mary Jo Nye, 60; Dorothy "Judy" Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68; and Richard Smith, 53, and his 17-year-old son, Tyler.

"I suspect that you're whole life you were nothing, a little man with little to offer the world," Barbara Hawthorne's nice, Laura Hawthorne, told Dalton while delivering her victim impact statement.

"You have nothing to give this world," she said. "And having a weapon in your hand that night, gunning down innocent people, somehow made you feel big and powerful and strong. Now look at you. You are nothing but very ugly and dark. You have nothing to give this world. You are nothing."

Dorothy "Judy" Brown's son, Jeff Reynolds, said the murder spree affected more than just the people Dalton shot, telling the killer his "senseless" actions devastated families and the community of Kalamazoo.

"We've waited nearly three years of difficult delays for this evil murderer to be brought to justice," Reynolds said. "Each delay of the trial has reopened the wounds for me and all of the families and has sometimes felt like this would never end."

He said that while the case has concluded, "we will never see closure."

Laurie Smith, the wife of Richard Smith and mother of Tyler Smith, noted that Dalton is married and has children.

"When you were shooting my son and the nine bullets were riveting in and out of his body as he was dying on the ground, were you thinking of your son?" she asked. "Were you angry at your wife and that's why you killed my husband, shooting him over and over seven times as he laid dying on the ground? I don't and never will understand how or why you could do what you did to them, but I hope you think about it the rest of your life every single day."

Tiana Carruthers and 14-year-old Abigail Kopf survived being shot in the rampage.

While giving her statement, Carruthers demanded that Dalton look at her.

"You tried to kill us all. You failed," she said. "I'm standing here, right here in your face ... How does it make you feel? Look at me. How does it make you feel?"

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said it has been 1,080 days since Dalton "terrorized an entire community." He figured at his age, Dalton will likely live another 25 to 30 years in prison, or approximately 10,000 days.

"Ten thousand days doesn't come close to what you deserve," Getting said in court. "I wish somehow it could be more."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb052019

Tyra Banks to launch Modelland, an attraction set to open later this year

Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival(NEW YORK) -- America's next top amusement park is...Modelland!

That's right, supermodel Tyra Banks is opening a 21,000-square-foot attraction in Santa Monica, California, that is aimed at bringing modeling to the masses, according to a press release.

 The amusement park will be the first of its kind and will have state-of-the-art interactive elements, retail, dining and special events in an effort to create a world of storytelling and adventure where all beauty is celebrated.

In an interview with Variety, Banks says this project has been 10 years in the making and that she drew a lot of inspiration from Walt Disney when creating her modeling universe. Her goal was to create something that would leave a lasting legacy.

Much like her successful reality television show "America's Next Top Model," Banks hopes this amusement park will help expand the definition of beauty.

"I want people to feel seen and validated. Modelland will provide the tools for them to do so and empower them to embrace, adorn and celebrate their own unique beauty," Banks said in the release. "Modelland is all about celebrating your flawsome self. We are fun. We are fierce. We are fantasy. And, we are for real.”

The attraction is set to open in late 2019, according to the release, and Banks hopes that it will be the first of many, with plans to open new locations in major cities across the country and even the world.

Banks says Modelland is for people of all ages and genders and that there will be something for everyone within its walls.

We'll have our smizes and struts ready, Tyra!

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb052019

Company loses $190 million in cryptocurrency as CEO dies with sole password

bodnarchuk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Over $190 million in deposits have disappeared into the ether after the CEO of Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange took the password to his grave.

As a result, on Tuesday, a Vancouver court may appoint auditors Ernst & Young to act as an independent third party to oversee proceedings for Quadriga CX. The company applied for creditor protection in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Jan. 31 after delays and the inability to complete transactions.

“For the past weeks, we have worked extensively to address our liquidity issues,” a company letter says. “Unfortunately, these efforts have not been successful.”

Quadriga's problems accelerated when CEO Gerald Cotten died unexpectedly at the age of 30 from Crohn's disease while traveling in India on Dec. 9. His death was announced Jan. 14 on the company's Facebook page by his widow, Jennifer Robertson, who also serves as the executor of his estate.

The problem is that Cotten was the only person who knew the password to access up to $190 million in customer funds. The money is now “unavailable and some of it may be lost,” according to court filings by Robertson.

"The laptop computer from which Gerry [Cotten] carried out the Companies' business is encrypted, and I do not know the password or recovery key,” Robertson said in her filed affidavit. She even hired an expert, who was unable to break through the encryption to access the funds.

The news was first reported by Coindesk on Friday.

Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital currency that use encryption techniques to control their creation and secure transactions independent from a central bank. These encryption techniques make it very difficult to create any kind of counterfeit money or have the accounts hacked.

The Canadian company Cotten co-founded, Quadriga CX, revolves around users depositing funds into their Quadriga account and then trading various cryptocurrencies — predominately Bitcoin — with other users. Its database has around 363,000 users.

Within Quadriga's database, the currency is divided between a hot wallet (coins in the server) and a cold wallet (an offline storage area to protect the coins from hackers). The business was essentially centered around Cotten. He had no physical office and the work was done through his personal laptop. Transferring the coins between wallets was Cotten’s task alone.

Quadriga’s "cold wallets" contain inaccessible assets belonging to around 115,000 customers, according to Robertson's court filings.

Posts on the company's Facebook page have questioned the veracity of Cotten's death and claim that customers were told their fund transfers were underway even after Cotten died.

Now, Quadriga may have to put itself up for sale in an effort to distribute funds to its clients, according to Robertson's affidavit.

A number of web-based conspiracies have been speculated on forums such as Reddit about the locked up cryptocurrency, and Robertson claims she has received a number of threats since Cotten’s death.

Quadriga has posted a letter from its board of directors telling customers that the website will be updated after Tuesday's court hearing.

Aaron Matthews, the head of operations, is Robertson's choice to assume the role of interim president and CEO, according to her statement on the company's Facebook page.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb052019

Corn farmers lash out after Bud Light Super Bowl ad

Stratol/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A controversy is brewing over Bud Light’s Super Bowl ad.

In the commercial, Bud Light used its air time to point out that its competitors, Miller Lite and Coors Light, use corn syrup in their recipes.

MillerCoors, the company that owns both rival brands, took to Twitter to defend its use of corn syrup, saying it is “proud of our beers ... our ingredients.”

And now, the corn industry is also popping off on social media. The National Corn Growers Association tweeted that “America's corn farmers are disappointed” in Bud Light.

Watch the report from ABC News’ Good Morning America below for more on the backlash Bud Light is facing:

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