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Tuesday
Oct022018

Amazon will raise company's minimum wage to $15 for all employees

David Ryder/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- Amazon will be raising its minimum wage to $15 for all employees, the company said in an announcement Tuesday.

The $15 per hour wage will include all types of employee: full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

The company said the wage will benefit more than 250,000 of the company's employees, and another 100,000 seasonal employees.

The federal minimum wage for the U.S. is currently $7.25, though most states have higher minimums.

California announced in October 2017 it would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2023. New York state announced similar measures for New York City residents as part of its 2016-17 budget, with large companies -- more than 11 people -- mandated to raise their wages to $15 by the end of 2018. Washington state has the highest minimum wage in the country at $11.50 per hour, and Seattle, like New York City, has implemented a $15 minimum.

Amazon, which became just the second company ever to cross $1 trillion in worth as company earlier this year, said it plans to push the federal government to increase the minimum.

“We will be working to gain Congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago,” Senior Vice President of Amazon Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney said in a statement. “We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct012018

US-Canada trade deal may mean higher car prices

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. and Canada squeezed out a last-minute deal to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement with a pact expected to affect prices on cars and dairy products across North America and allowing President Trump to deliver on one of his go-to campaign promises.

The new deal was greeted warily by unions and market watchers. Americans avoided a 25 percent tariff on Canadian-made cars, but may still see an increase in prices because of new manufacturing and labor agreements.

The U.S. and Mexico came to a deal at the end of August that will be part of the overarching agreement that includes Canada. The so-called U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, still needs to be approved by Congress and the legislatures of Canada and Mexico before it's implemented.

"It's too soon to declare victory or defeat -- let's just slow our roll before deciding," Celeste Drake, a trade specialist at the AFL-CIO, told ABC News, noting that the latest draft of the deal she saw included text such as "not available or in draft form or missing."

"There could be a lot of changes," she added. "We don't know what's in there. There are some things to like, some things not to like and a lot of unknowns."

For example, the new agreement would require 40 to 45 percent of auto components be made by workers earning the equivalent of $16 per hour, but it's unclear whether $16 would be the average or the minimum earned, or how such a measure would be enforced, Drake said.

In addition, 75 percent of auto parts now need to come from one of the three countries to stay duty-free, according to the agreement. Mexico also would allow autoworkers to unionize.

"If anyone thinks this is a good deal, then you've had the wool pulled over your eyes," Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury said. "What it spells out for consumers is that they'll be paying more. It's the opposite of what NAFTA stood for."

Under the USMCA, the limitation on having auto parts sourced from North America means higher prices that will be passed on to consumers, Drury said.

"If there's something you want," Drury continued, "something on your vehicle that's made in Japan or China, as we go toward electrification and auto-driving, all of these things are new parts -- how do you come down on parts? You go to the cheapest place possible unless you can get it so much cheaper from the foreign place that you can eat up the cost of the tariffs."

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones issued a statement that read, in part:

"New protections for working families and the closing of some loopholes for global companies seeking to ship jobs overseas are a step in the right direction but there is more work to do. We need to be assured that Mexico is going to fix weak labor laws and enforce new worker protections. We need to review and resolve the details of the agreement when they are available."

It's unclear whether the new agreement includes not implementing the 25 percent steel tariffs Trump had threatened. At a veering press conference on Monday, President Donald Trump said the tariffs might stay in place.

In Canada, farmers protested the increase in quotas on U.S. dairy products including milk, yogurt, milk powder and formula. Chicken, eggs, turkeys and American wheat are also headed north in greater volumes.

Still, at least one trade expert said the deal was far from perfect, but needed to be done.

"I think it's the best deal they could have made," said Mark Warner, an international trade lawyer. "They made more concessions for dairy, but it's better than a 25 percent tariff on cars."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct012018

There's a subscription service for everything these days – including cars

Cadillac(NEW YORK) -- Imagine this: a gleaming new car is delivered to your doorstep with a full tank of gas. The baby’s car seat is securely buckled in the back. Your favorite radio stations are pre-programmed. Next month another car shows up. And again. And again.

The latest trend in the auto industry is not electric or self-driving vehicles. It’s subscription services. Instead of a three-year car lease, consumers agree to monthly contracts. All vehicle maintenance costs and insurance fees are bundled into one payment. There are no long-term commitments. A new car can be yours with a tap on an app.

A handful of carmakers including BMW, Porsche, Cadillac, Volvo and Lincoln are already testing these membership programs to build brand loyalty and gain an edge over the competition.

Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book, describes subscription memberships this way.

“It’s an evolution of mobility,” she told ABC News. “You’re paying for flexibility. Car ownership is no longer measured in years.”

BMW launched its subscription service, Access by BMW, this spring in Nashville. It offers three tiers of membership, ranging in price from $1,099 to $2,699 per month. Want to try out that ridiculously fast M5? It’s included in the highest price "M tier," which also gives drivers the ability to take home the German automaker’s i3 electric car and new X2 SUV. (BMW’s i8 supercar, unfortunately, is excluded.)

A company spokesman would not divulge numbers but said feedback from customers has been “heavily positive.”

“Consumers are looking at vehicle ownership in new ways,” he said. “The service allows members to switch in and out of the vehicles anytime and anywhere ... and as often as desired.”

According to Court Kasten, manager of Access by BMW in Nashville, participants in the pilot program are switching out their vehicles twice a month on average. Many are first-time BMW clients.

"There are plenty of customers who have never driven a BMW before," he said. "Others are longtime BMW guys. They value the simplicity and flexibility."

BMW could decide within a year to expand the program beyond Nashville and it has already been forced to tweak it. The M tier now costs $1,000 less than its original $3,700 price and the Legend tier was slashed by $600. A third, more “affordable” tier, was also added.

The biggest barrier to this service is price, Lindland noted, adding that subscription programs are often three or four times the price of a regular lease. There could also be an unintended effect on consumers.

“The risk is that people could become less emotionally attached to their vehicles,” she warned. “It’s a new mindset and a totally different animal.”

According to a recent study by Cox Automotive, one in four drivers has heard of car subscription services. Generation Z and millennials found the subscription model the most appealing compared to Gen X and baby boomers.

Cadillac has been testing its BOOK by Cadillac subscription service in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. For $1,800 a month and a one-time initiation fee of $500, members can choose from a variety of models by making a selection on Cadillac’s app. Eighteen vehicle swaps are permitted in one year and driving mileage is limited to 2,000 miles per month.

Ninety percent of BOOK by Cadillac customers are new to the brand, according to Christopher Smith, a Cadillac spokesman. More importantly, the program has helped shed Cadillac’s stodgy image.

“We are trying to attract a younger demographic with this,” he said. “They want this flexibility. We’re making this as easy and seamless as possible.”

Drivers in the Atlanta metro area have the option of signing up for Porsche Passport, the German sports car maker's subscription program. Need to impress someone? The Porsche 911 Carrera S is yours. Going on a road trip? Take your pick of the Cayenne or Macan SUV. Twenty-two different models are available for a monthly price of $3,000. Or pay $2,000 for eight Porsches.

Having the ability to drive a new car every week or every few months can be tempting. Who doesn’t love that new car smell? But these programs also make driving a little less personal. There’s no customization. What if you want a black M5 instead of red one? How would you feel about a stranger moving your personal belongings from one car to the next?

“We have a lot of stuff in our cars,” Lindland noted. “It’s our storage bin.”

Current drivers may not be swayed by these subscription models. But automakers are preparing for the future.

“This service is a little ahead of its time,” Lindland said. “Drivers today may not see the value in this service. But it will start to gain traction. In 10 years people may not need to buy cars.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct012018

Fitbit data used in arrest of 90-year-old man accused of staging suicide in stepdaughter's killing

San Jose Police Department(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- A 90-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly killing his stepdaughter after investigators gained information from the Fitbit she wore at the time of the incident, according to police.

When authorities responded to a welfare check Sept. 13 at the San Jose home of 67-year-old Karen Navarra, they found her dead at the scene, the San Jose Police Department said.

She had a gaping laceration on her neck, a deep laceration on her head and a kitchen knife in her hand, according to the statement of facts written by police and provided by the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office.

A medical examiner determined Navarra couldn't have caused all the wounds herself and detectives believed the scene was staged to appear as a suicide, the document said.

Police spoke to Navarra's stepfather, 90-year-old Anthony Aiello, who is married to Navarra's 92-year-old mother.

Aiello told police he last saw Navarra Sept. 8 when he brought pizza and biscotti to her at home; Aiello said he stayed there for about 15 minutes then drove home, the document said.

Aiello told police when he was later outside his house, he heard a car honk and saw Navarra drive by waving with a second person in the passenger seat, the document said. Police recovered surveillance video from near Aiello's home and determined Navarra never drove by that day, the document said.

Navarra had a Fitbit Alta HR on her left wrist when she was found, according to police.

The data showed a significant spike in her heart rate Sept. 8 at 3:20 p.m., followed by a rapid slowing, the document said. The Fitbit stopped registering heart rate data that day at 3:28 p.m.

Police also checked surveillance video near Navarra's home and determined Aiello's car was parked in his stepdaughter's driveway from 3:12 p.m. to at least 3:33 p.m. on Sept. 8, the document said.

Aiello, of San Jose, was arrested and charged with murder Sept. 25, police said.

Aiello was read his Miranda rights and interviewed by police, during which he confirmed he was at his stepdaughter's home at about 3 p.m., the document said. Aiello told police he dropped off the pizza, didn't see anyone else in the home and left after five to seven minutes, the document said.

Aiello said his stepdaughter walked him to the door and handed him two roses when he left, the document said.

"During the interview, Aiello was confronted about the information from Fitbit and the corresponding surveillance video indicating that his car was in the driveway,” the document said. “After explaining the abilities of the Fitbit to record time, physical movement and heart rate data," investigators told Aiello his stepdaughter had died before he left.

But Aiello "denied that he was present when she was killed and suggested that someone else might have been in the house," the document said.

During the interview, investigators also told the 90-year-old man that police found two shirts with blood splatter in his garage; he responded that he cuts himself frequently, the document said.

"He was told that the deposits of blood were not localized in one area and were more consistent with splatter," the document said. "Aiello indicated that he might have cut his hand and shaken it while he was wearing those shirts."

Aiello appeared in court last Thursday before being remanded to custody, with no bail, authorities said, adding that he is scheduled to return to court this Thursday for plea proceedings and identification of counsel.

A representative for Fitbit declined to comment to ABC News on the case.

This isn't the first time a Fitbit was used as evidence to make a murder arrest.

Richard Dabate is accused of killing his wife in Connecticut in 2015; a piece of evidence against Dabate is that the victim's Fitbit data contradicted what he told police, according to the Hartford Courant. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Also, when Iowa jogger Mollie Tibbetts vanished this summer, investigators said they were looking into what information could be gathered from her Fitbit. The data was not ultimately used in making an arrest in her killing.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct012018

Man wins $1 million in lottery after playing numbers found in fortune cookie

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Pennsylvania man was a big winner in the New Jersey Lottery thanks to a fortune cookie he opened years ago.

Ronnie Martin of Long Pond, Pennsylvania, won the $1 million prize at US Gas in Hope Township, New Jersey, the New Jersey Lottery said in a press release Friday.

Martin, who regularly stops at the gas station and buys lottery tickets on his way to work, purchased three Mega Millions tickets on July 24 using numbers he saw in a fortune cookie. Martin “liked the numbers and decided to stick with them,” according to the New Jersey Lottery.

Martin returned to the gas station the next day and received a message saying “See Clerk” when he tried to scan one of his tickets. When he told the clerk about the message, Martin was informed that he must have won the $1 million prize, according to the release.

The winning Mega Millions numbers drawn on July 24 were 1, 2, 4, 19, and 29, and the Mega Ball number was 20. The $1 million Mega Millions prize is awarded for having a ticket that matches the first five numbers but not the Mega Ball.

The New Jersey Lottery said that Martin and his wife, Shirley Martin, plan to pay off their mortgage and other bills and then put the rest of the money in their savings.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct012018

Instagram names new CEO: Adam Mosseri

Courtesy of Instagram(NEW YORK) -- Instagram appointed Facebook veteran Adam Mosseri as the new head of Instagram, the company announced on Monday.

Last week Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, CEO and CTO respectively, resigned abruptly amid reported clashes with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, taking Wall Street by surprise. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion.

However, Mosseri's promotion to the top post was announced by Systrom and Krieger in a blog, and naturally, an Instagram post.

"We are pleased to announce that Adam Mosseri, our current Vice President of Product, will become the Head of Instagram starting today. We are thrilled to hand over the reins to a product leader with a strong design background and a focus on craft and simplicity — as well as a deep understanding of the importance of community," the co-founders wrote in the post.

Mosseri joined Facebook as a designer in 2008. At Facebook he worked on the company's mobile product and news feed before moving over to Instagram.

"In his role leading Instagram, Adam will oversee all functions of the business and will recruit a new executive team including a head of engineering, head of product and head of operations," Systrom and Krieger wrote in the post.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep292018

13-year-old boy attacked by shark near San Diego, airlifted to trauma center

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) --  A teenage boy attacked by a shark near San Diego had to be airlifted to a hospital on Saturday morning, according to the City of Encinitas Marine Safety Department.

The teen suffered traumatic injuries to the upper torso and was listed in critical condition, officials said.

The 13-year-old boy was up early on Saturday morning catching lobsters on Beacon’s beach in Leucadia, just north of San Diego, for the first day of lobster season when he was attacked by the shark, Larry Giles, marine safety captain for the department, said during a press conference.

The teen was in water about 9 feet deep around 150 to 200 yards away from the beach, according to Giles.

Three “good Samaritans” nearby — an off-duty Oceanside police department officer, an off-duty California state park lifeguard and a friend of theirs — saw the attack and were able to bring the boy back to the beach on a kayak, where they called 911, Giles said.

“When the bystanders got there, he was conscious, he was above water… and he was talking all the way while he was being transported,” Giles said.

“The shark was seen in the water by the bystanders ... it was in the 11-foot range,” he added.

Giles said that Encinitas lifeguards responded to the scene relatively quickly as they were set to go on duty around that time, and immediately began providing basic life support. They were quickly joined by fire department and paramedics.

The boy was airlifted to a local trauma center. His family asked officials not to identify the child, but provided the hospital with a photo of the boy to distribute to media outlets.

After the boy was taken away, lifeguards began warning other people on the beach about the incident.

“The No. 1 concern was public safety; there were multiple other divers in the area,” Giles said, noting that authorities got people out of the water as soon as they could.

Since the incident, there hasn’t been any shark activity, according to Giles. However, he said that as a precaution, area beaches are closed for 48 hours and they’re asking people not to go into the water until it’s deemed safe.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep292018

Yale researchers develop 'robotic skins' that bring objects to life

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  A group of researchers at Yale University has developed “robotic skins” that can turn any inanimate object into a robot, the school announced.

Led by Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale, the team received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation that begins on Oct. 1.

“It’s wonderful news,” Kramer-Bottiglio said of receiving the grant, believing that the project will yield a “significant advancement in the engineering science of soft robotics.”

The robotic skins are made of elastic sheets with sensors that activates an object from the surface. Kramer-Bottiglio said she initially developed the technology in association with NASA, with the goal to provide astronauts the ability to perform additional functions with the same material — a cost-effective alternative to building robots, according to Yale’s Sept. 19 press release.

“Ultimately, we designed the skins to be applied to, removed from, reoriented on, and transferred between objects,” Kramer-Bottiglio said of the compatibility of the robotic skins in a video for Yale. According to her, the goal of the technology is so “a user can create robots on-the-fly to accomplish variable tasks on demand.”

While she acknowledges that the robotic skins are not consumer-ready yet, Kramer-Bottiglio notes that they “could be in the near future.”

Josh Bongard, associate professor of computer science at the University of Vermont, is a member on the larger project that is funded by the NSF; his role is to design the robotic skins before they are built. Bongard believes that one use for the technology is for natural disaster relief.

“Imagine a roboticized sandbag that can crawl into rubble and shore it up by changing shape, thus making the site safe enough for rescuers to extract human survivors trapped within,” he said. “In a way, these sandbags would be like soft Transformers.”

Kramer-Bottiglio’s research on robotic skins was published in Science Robotics earlier in September. She stated that the new project funded by the NSF will focus on developing the technology to create an intersection between art and engineering.

“We are using a sculpture-inspired approach to create shape-changing robots,” she said.

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Friday
Sep282018

Tesla is heading into a 'challenging period': Experts

VCG/VCG via Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla CEO and chairman Elon Musk for securities fraud on Thursday, it marked the beginning of a “challenging period” for the tech billionaire and the company he founded, experts said.

The SEC brought charges against Musk personally, attempting to bar him from serving as an officer or board member of a publicly traded company, which would mean he’d be ousted from his chief executive job at Tesla and potentially at SpaceX, if the privately owned space travel company ever goes public.

Late Thursday, Tesla issued a statement supporting its founder and CEO, which said: “Tesla and the board of directors are fully confident in Elon, his integrity, and his leadership of the company, which has resulted in the most successful U.S. auto company in over a century. Our focus remains on the continued ramp [up] of Model 3 production and delivering for our customers, shareholders and employees.”

Musk denied the charges, saying in a statement, "This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed. I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way."

However, Wall Street is concerned that potential charges against the company, a criminal probe and shareholder lawsuits could be in the works, analysts and securities law experts said.

“It’s going to be a very long and challenging period for him and the company,” Charles M. Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, told ABC News. “The real concern is private suits brought by disgruntled investors.”

Tesla shares were down 13.9 percent at the close on Friday, at $264.77. But a research note published by J.P. Morgan on Friday morning put a new price target on the shares at $195.

In the note, Tesla analyst Ryan Brinkman wrote: “We see a number of negative implications for Tesla shares stemming from this latest development, the most significant of which relates to the SEC’s request that the court prohibit Mr. Musk from serving as an officer or director of any public company, including Tesla,” which would cause the company's share price to drop.

“Beyond this ‘key man risk’ concern (which we believe is of vital importance) we also see a number of other risks, including the potential for decreased confidence in the company on the part of investors, consumers and suppliers,” Brinkman wrote.

The fraud charges originate from an Aug. 7 tweet Musk sent about taking his publicly traded company private, which said: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured." The SEC charges that Musk knew or was reckless in not knowing that he made false or misleading charges about taking the company off the public exchanges. 

“Musk calculated the $420 price per share based on a 20 percent premium over that day’s closing share price because he thought 20 percent was a ‘standard premium’ in going-private transactions,” resulting in a price of $419, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

To make matters worse, “Musk stated that he rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend ‘would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price,’” the suit says.

"It's so straightforward. That's the problem. He said 'I have the funding,' they say he didn't," Elson said. "The conduct is so obvious, if the SEC hadn't responded, it would make you wonder, what's the point of the SEC?"

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Friday
Sep282018

Facebook says it has found security 'issue' exposing 50 million accounts

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Facebook has found a security “issue” in its "View As" feature that led to an attack on almost 50 million accounts and potentially affecting as many as 90 million users in total, the social media giant announced Friday.

"Attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted 'View As,' a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts,” Facebook's vice president of product management Guy Rosen wrote in an emailed statement.

“Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password every time they use the app," he added.

The profile information exposed in the “View As” profile feature includes a user’s name, gender and hometown.

"We’ve fixed the vulnerability and informed law enforcement," Rosen said. “We have reset the access tokens of the almost 50 million accounts we know were affected to protect their security.”

About 90 million Facebook users who keep the site open on their browsers or mobile phone apps were prompted to log in again on Friday morning as a result of the discovery, the company said.

“We’re also taking the precautionary step of resetting access tokens for another 40 million accounts that have been subject to a ‘View As' look-up in the last year. As a result, around 90 million people will now have to log back in to Facebook, or any of their apps that use Facebook Login,” Rosen said. “After they have logged back in, people will get a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened.”

The announcement comes at an increasingly troubled period for Facebook. On Monday night, the CEO and CTO of Instagram quit abruptly, taking the company and Wall Street by surprise, amid reported tensions with Facebook CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg.

As of Friday, those key positions at the photo sharing app -– which is central to Facebook’s growth -- remained unfilled.

Meanwhile, the company has faced increasing scrutiny from both Congress and European regulators about its data security and privacy issues. The company continues to fight “fake news” scandals associated with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and human rights campaigns around the world.

In addition, the fallout of 87 million users’ data being compromised by British firm Cambridge Analytica continues to pose problems for the company.

The latest security flaw is just another reason for Facebook to reset its leadership structure, said Trillium Asset Management’s Jonas Kron. Trillium owns 52,000 shares of the social media company and has been using its position to advocate for Zuckerberg to step down as chairman of the board and focus on his CEO duties.

“The hits just keep on coming,” Kron told ABC News. “The company needs to get control of the broader narrative, and that’s more than Zuckerberg can handle. This is again, time for an independent chair.”

In response to the attack, Facebook has temporarily turned off the “View As” feature while it conducts a thorough security review, according to the statement.

The company said it discovered the hack on Tuesday afternoon. In a Friday conference call with reporters after the announcement, Rosen and Zuckerberg said Facebook had noticed a spike in activity in increased user access to the site.

The glitch was fixed on Thursday night, the executives said. The company notified the FBI and the Irish Data Protection Commission because of European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) issues.

Facebook said it did not know who the hacker was, or how the data has been accessed, but it was a very “large scale” and complex attack on three discrete bugs in the company’s security systems. Users do not need to change passwords, and credit card information was not affected, the executives said.

"This is a very serious security issue, and we're taking it very seriously," Zuckerberg said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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