SEARCH

Thursday
Jan172019

Facebook removes more accounts linked to 'coordinated inauthentic behavior' in Russia

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Facebook has unfriended more fraudulent accounts tied to Russia.

The social media giant, in a blog post credited to Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, said Thursday that it's removed "multiple Pages, groups and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram."

The two operations discovered by Facebook originated in Russia. One was active in multiple countries, the other was specific to Ukraine and "we didn't find any links between these operations, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," Facebook said.

"We're taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post," the Menlo Park, California-based company added. "In these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action."

No additional details were provided in the blog post.

Exactly a year ago, Facebook, in a similar blog post attributed to Gleicher, announced it had removed 364 Pages and accounts for "inauthentic behavior." A similar announcement was made last August.

Fighting such misinformation, according to Facebook, is "an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded."

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the seventh-richest person on Earth, with an estimated net worth of more than $58 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan172019

For unpaid Coast Guard families, some financial options emerge

shaunl/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Earlier this week, for the first time in U.S. history, active duty military members did not get paid.

That distinction falls to the 41,000 active duty Coast Guard who are currently working without pay while the federal government remains partially shut down, and President Donald Trump squares off against Democrats demanding funding for a border wall.

The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, and not the Department of Defense, which is not impacted by the shutdown.

Coast Guard members usually get paid on or around the first and the 15th of every month. The government was able to find funds for a one-time emergency payment for the Dec. 31 paycheck, but wasn't been able to do so since.

In the meantime, as the shutdown approaches its fourth week, there are some financial options for affected families.

Navy Federal


Navy Federal Credit Union, which says that 100,000 of its eight million members are affected by the shutdown, is offering an advance on direct deposit, basically extending a zero-interest loan to be repaid when paychecks resume, credit union spokesman Mike Rudin told ABC News.

The first of these payments for affected members from the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Interior and Transportation, were deposited on Monday, Rudin said.

Customers must enroll in the program, which does not require a new credit check, but does require an account that has direct deposit. Only about 14,000 of the 100,000 eligible credit union customers have done so, Rudin added.

"We encourage everyone who is eligible to enroll," he said.

The program covers paychecks ranging from $250 to $6,000. For members making up to $500, $250 is deposited. For members making $501 to $6,000 in each paycheck, the amount deposited is rounded down to the nearest $500, and maxes out at $6,000.

USAA/CGMA

San Antonio-based United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is one of the largest banks to serve the military. In the past, USAA, like other military lenders, offered similar zero-interest loans to service members during government shutdowns until paychecks resumed. But this year, USAA had declined to do so, instead offering low-interest loans which require a credit check for existing customers, drawing ire from its customers.

In addition, many customers said USAA denied many these loans, even for people with good credit scores.

However a spokesperson for USAA told ABC News that starting Jan. 16, "Coast Guard service members with dependents will be eligible for interest-free loans of up to $1,000, while service members without dependents will be eligible for up to $750." The loans will be distributed by Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), a nonprofit.

"The CGMA loan assistance is designed to cover an estimated two weeks of shortfalls due to not being paid, such as housing, essential utilities, food, and child care and is available to all Coast Guard service members," USAA spokesperson Matthew Hartwig wrote in an email.

USAA is also offering: "60-day payment deferral on consumer loans (auto, personal, etc.), 90-day payment deferral on credit cards," Hartwig wrote, although "interest will continue to accrue." He added there may be special payment arrangements on auto and home insurance premiums.

Members had previously complained to ABC News that USAA was not offering any loan forgiveness or grace periods for late payments related to the shutdown.

Hartwig said the new initiatives were "not a reversal of policy, at all. As the shutdown continues, we are offering more ways to help our members affected by a disruption in pay. We have also sought ways to help the broader military community affected by the shutdown."

For its part, CGMA says it has budgeted for about 22,000 loans.

"We are focusing on the junior workforce,” CGMA CEO Cari B. Thomas told ABC News, “as they have the most financial need."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

TSA chief: Financial hardships from shutdown prompting absences at major airports

martince2/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the Transportation Security Administration acknowledged to his staff on Wednesday that frontline officers are increasingly calling out of work due to financial hardship caused by the government shutdown, spokesperson Michael Bilello told ABC News.

The agency, tasked with securing the nation's aviation system, reported an unscheduled absence rate of 6.1 percent of the workforce for Tuesday, up from 3.7 percent on the same day last year. Call-outs peaked on Sunday at 7.7 percent compared to 3.2 percent the same day last year.

This week marks the first in which federally employed airport screeners are missing their regular paycheck due to a lapse in government funding. And with most positions paying roughly between $35,000 and $45,000 per year, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told his staff on Wednesday morning that financial hardships are to blame for the call-outs.

A stalemate between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for Trump’s campaign promise of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has created the longest federal government shutdown in history, and forced over 800,000 government employees to go without paychecks.

As call-outs have increased at the agency, long wait times have materialized sporadically across the country, but appeared to stabilize since Monday.

Nearly 100 percent of passengers on Tuesday waited less than 30 minutes and 97.3 percent of passengers, less than 15 minutes.

On Monday, queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport security extended more than an hour long, causing travelers to miss flights, according to ABC-affiliate WSB-TV.

An Atlanta airport spokesperson told ABC News several security lanes were closed Monday morning due to staffing shortages, leading to longer than usual lines.

The security checkpoint at Terminal B in Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport was also closed. Passengers are forced to go through a surrounding checkpoint and then walk or take the train to their gate in Terminal B on the secure side of the airport.

In an apparent effort to raise the spirits of those tasked with keep the country's airports safe, Pekoske announced last week that his uniformed screening officers would receive a one-time bonus of $500 "in recognition of their hard work during yet another busy holiday travel season, maintaining the highest of security standards during an extraordinary period."

Pekoske recognized the bonus wouldn't make up for a full missed paycheck, but tweeted "I hope these actions alleviate some of the financial hardship many of you are facing."

Despite the staffing shortages, TSA has strongly denied any affect on aviation safety. Agency leadership has stressed the country's airports and airlines would not be imperiled by any hit to security operations, citing strict standards and a program that sends screeners and managers from airports under less stressful circumstances to any airport needing backup.

Dubbed the "National Deployment Force," TSA has the ability to quickly dispatch more frontline screeners, canine teams and specially trained Homeland Security personnel. They are often used during major events like the Super Bowl or in the wake of natural disasters when hometown TSA employees are unable make it to work.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

Chef Jose Andres opens restaurant to serve federal workers for free

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The call to action for chef and activist Jose Andres' food relief organization to set up shop in the nation's capital is unlike the usual circumstances under which the group operates, dropping into towns ravaged by hurricanes or burnt to the ground by wildfires.

In those cases, modern technology is often stripped away and volunteers with Andres' organization, World Central Kitchen, have to make their pop-up kitchens and food supply stations work for disaster victims in spite of spotty cell phone service or a lack of electricity.

But in Washington, Tim Kilcoyne, a lead chef with the non-profit, set up a cafe and restaurant to feed federal workers that are fully furnished and already suited with a kitchen, not to mention surrounded by bustling businesses and busy streets. Here, the problem is not a fire or a flood -- they've arrived to help some of the 800,000 government employees who are still without a paycheck on day 26 of the longest-ever government shutdown.

“Whether its activation for a natural disaster or a human disaster — we’re here to support, here to help,” Kilcoyne said.

The pop-up, which opened on Wednesday, is called #ChefsForFeds and will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, to provide federal workers in the nation's capital with free meals at its location between Capitol Hill and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many of the volunteers working to cook for and serve the federal workers who come by are also federal workers themselves, some of whom are looking to fill the downtime they'd normally be spending at the office.

"It seemed like a really good opportunity to give back and do something with my time in a way that's going to be meaningful, and hopefully help some people who are struggling," said Annie Shah, a furloughed federal employee who works for the Food and Drug Administration.

Shah said the last 26 days have made her feel "stir crazy" sitting at home, unable to make travel plans because the government could open at any time. But she's also anxious and wants to keep up the work she was doing.

"I love the work that I do and the people that I work with, and we have a really great mission at the FDA that I love to be a part of," she said.

 On opening day, #ChefsForFeds was ready to feed up to 2,000 federal employees and had already filled its volunteer needs, aided by the help of Shah and others. Tomato fennel bisque, a kale, brussel sprouts and quinoa power bowl and a fried egg sandwich with ham and cheese were on the menu.

The pop-up is part of World Central Kitchen’s food-relief operation, which Andres started in 2010 after a devastating earthquake in Haiti. In the past year, WCK has served over 4.8 million meals to people in natural disasters zones around the world.

 On opening day, #ChefsForFeds was ready to feed up to 2,000 federal employees and had already filled its volunteer needs, aided by the help of Shah and others. Tomato fennel bisque, a kale, brussel sprouts and quinoa power bowl and a fried egg sandwich with ham and cheese were on the menu.

The pop-up is part of World Central Kitchen’s food-relief operation, which Andres started in 2010 after a devastating earthquake in Haiti. In the past year, WCK has served over 4.8 million meals to people in natural disasters zones around the world.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

Ford, Volkswagen join forces on developing electric and self-driving technology

fredrocko/iStock(DETROIT) -- Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen AG are formally teaming up to develop and invest in electric vehicles, self-driving technology and mobility services, the automakers announced Tuesday from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

As part of this global alliance, Ford and Volkswagen will manufacture commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for worldwide markets beginning as early as 2022. The larger commercial vans will be built by Ford for European customers of each brand. Volkswagen will focus on developing and assembling city vans. The automakers collectively sold nearly 1.2 million light commercial vehicles in 2018.

The alliance will "boost competitiveness and better allow us to serve our customers globally," Ford CEO Jim Hackett told reporters during a conference call. "We'll build strength and scale in new opportunities," he said, adding that the business models of each company will be leveraged.

The partnership will also yield significant savings, Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen, explained.

"It's no secret our industry is undergoing fundamental change," Diess said. "We are two strong players with a proud history. It makes sense to pool capabilities and share investments. We will both be able to shape the future of mobility. The partnership significantly improves market position for both brands."

According to Hackett, the alliance does not involve cross ownership and Ford and Volkswagen will continue to market and manufacture discernibly different products.

"We will continue to work as separate and competitive entities," he said.

Asked how the alliance would affect workers, Hackett said he did "not anticipate any work force reduction in our factories."

Hackett and Diess confirmed that their companies were fully committed to making this alliance a success.

"We have highly complimentary strengths," Diess said. "We have developed trust for each other and better understanding of our businesses."

Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader, said the alliance between Ford and VW underscored the need for American automakers to have a robust global strategy.

"As we’ve seen with other partnerships, leveraging two brands, complementary strengths can help close gaps in product offerings as the types of 'in-demand' vehicles continue to change both in America and abroad," he said.

Rebecca Lindland, an independent automotive analyst, told ABC News that more alliances between automakers will become common.

"The levels of investment required for successful execution in the [mobility and autonomous vehicle] space is so enormous, it only makes sense for manufacturers to collaborate with each other," she said.

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis, said the alliance could determine the long-term fate of Ford and Volkswagen -- two iconic automotive brands.

"Automakers aren’t just competing with each other anymore, they’re under intense pressure from well-funded tech companies who are eager to get in on the future of mobility," she said. "Cutting costs by sharing vehicle architectures and manufacturing facilities is just table stakes in this new world and is a nice place to start. However, the key to success will be if Ford and VW can help each other fend off the upstarts and become leading forces in electric and autonomous vehicle technology."

Volkswagen said Monday it would invest $800 million in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant and hire 1,000 new workers as it ramps up production of electric vehicles. Hackett said Ford and Volkswagen have an incentive to cooperate on this technology because of the large investments required.

President Donald Trump praised the announcement on Twitter, writing, "Volkswagen will be spending 800 million dollars in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They will be making Electric Cars. Congratulations to Chattanooga and Tennessee on a job well done. A big win!"

Hackett said more details on the global alliance will be announced in the coming weeks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

Supreme Court hears wine retailer challenge to Tennessee liquor law

dkfielding/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Since the end of Prohibition, the sale of alcohol in the United States has been regulated almost exclusively by state and local governments. But when do those regulations go too far?

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider whether strict residency requirements for retailers of beer, wine and liquor in Tennessee are constitutional or must be struck down.

"It's the first time in over a decade that the Supreme Court has taken a case that could permanently alter the way alcohol is regulated," said Illya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Cato Institute.

By law in Tennessee, an individual must reside in the state for at least two years in order to obtain a one-year sales license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. To renew, the retailer must have lived in the state for at least 10 consecutive years. The rules also apply to corporations and their "officers, directors and stockholders."

"It comes down to, ultimately, whether the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition and gave the states a lot of power -- virtually limitless power -- over alcohol regulation, whether that allows this kind of requirement," Shapiro said.

Critics say the law -- and dozens of similar measures in other states -- erects an impossible barrier to outsiders seeking to do business in Tennessee. They argue that the regulation violates the Constitution's commerce clause which limits state discrimination against out-of-state business interests.

National retail chain Total Wine and More is challenging the law along with Doug and Mary Ketchum, small business owners who moved to Tennessee from Utah in 2016 and wanted to open a wine store to help support their daughter, Stacie, who has cerebral palsy.

"The bizarre durational residency requirements enacted by Tennessee are blatantly protectionist, have no legitimate regulatory purpose, and cannot be squared with decades of this Court's Commerce Clause jurisprudence," they wrote in court documents.

A federal district court sided with Total Wine and the Ketchums. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. And the state of Tennessee did not appeal the ruling.

The Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association, backed by 35 states, asked the justices for a review. They argue residency requirements are permissible under the 21st Amendment and are essential to maintaining public safety, welfare and accountability in liquor markets.

They also contend local sellers know the community best and have its interests at heart.

"The longtime resident who attends football games on Fridays is less likely to be duped by the drum major's fake ID on Saturdays," the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee writes in its brief to the court. "She is also less likely to do business with the town drunk if she knows he will drive around on the same streets that her family and friends use."

The Supreme Court has imposed some limits on state power to regulate alcohol sales. In a 2005 case, it struck down Michigan and New York laws banning out-of-state wine shipments. The ruling resulted in an expansion of direct winery-to-consumer shipments in dozens of states.

The outcome in the Tennessee case could affect the number of retail options available to consumers, the price of products on the shelves and the amount of competition facing local liquor retailers.

"Any erosion of 21st Amendment legal protections is likely to lead to further nationalization and commodification of the alcoholic beverage trade," said Christopher Riano, lecturer in constitutional law and government at Columbia University and general counsel to the New York State Liquor Authority.

"This could lead both to some benefits and also some detriments to consumers and retailers -- but, most significantly, it will make it increasingly difficult for the states to promote temperance in order to protect the public welfare, which is a core value of the 21st Amendment following the failed experiment of federal prohibition," Riano said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

Netflix raising subscription prices, again

wutwhanfoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It's about to cost you more to get your Stranger Things fix.

Netflix is implementing the biggest subscription increase since the video streaming service launched 12 years ago, raising its U.S. prices by 13 to 18 percent, according to Deadline.

The price hikes will take effect immediately for new subscribers and will be phased in over three months for existing subscribers.

Netflix's most popular plan, which offers high-definition streaming on up to two different internet-connected devices simultaneously, will see the largest hike, from $11 to $13 per month. The least expensive Netflix plan, Basic, will now cost $9, up from $8.

The new round of increases is the fourth for Netflix and its first since late 2017.

The extra cash will help to pay for Netflix's huge investment in original programming, building on smash hits like Orange Is The New Black, Stranger Things, The Crown and, most recently, the hit film Bird Box. The increase will also offset the heavy debt it's accumulated trying to fend off competing streaming services.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

Furloughed by the government shutdown? Enjoy a free beer

andresr/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Want to do your part to help out a furloughed federal worker during the government shutdown? How about buying them a beer?

PayItFurloughed.com is making it happen. All you've got to do is make a donation to the cause via the website. PayItFurloughed in turn uses your donation to fund partnerships with Washington, D.C.-area local pubs and breweries who then pour a free cold one to any federal worker of legal drinking age who walks in and flashes their federal ID.

The PayItFurloughed homepage shows what they say is a "real-time tally of all the beers available." The more donations, the more beers. They also say they're working on partnering with D.C.-area restaurants to also offer free meals to furloughed workers, and plan to both extend the service beyond D.C., and expand the model to provide other services to people in need.

As of Tuesday afternoon, over 1,000 beers have been donated, according to a PayItFurloughed tweet.

"Donate to the beer fund now," reads the website's homepage. "Stressed-out federal employees and contractors, who are furloughed or working without pay, score free liquid therapy. Small businesses in the nation’s capital hit hard by the shutdown get some relief. And you feel awesome. It’s a win-win-win."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

Shutdown side hustles: Workers selling personal possessions, starting businesses

Bill Oxford/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Four weeks into the partial government shutdown, unpaid federal workers and contractors have started selling personal property, creating small businesses and spending more time with old friends.

Working for the Coast Guard was always Albert Waterford Jr.'s dream job. The disabled veteran enlisted for two decades and, after his retirement, went back to work for the service as a civilian. His wife, Kate Wells Waterford, is a small business owner who trains horses. For those in the Coast Guard, the furlough has affected them differently because service members in other branches of the U.S. military fall under the Defense Department, for which funding has been approved.

The Waterfords hoped to receive their normal three paychecks this week: one for Albert's retirement from the Coast Guard, one for his job as a civilian and an additional check for his disability from the Veterans Affairs. But because of the shutdown, the couple has started a "furlough sale" to supplement lost income -- selling saddles, halters, bridles and items on social media.

"I called it a furlough [sale] because it is more of an urgency now," Kate Waterford said. "It's really made us re-evaluate our whole lives."

They were able to sell a horse trailer a few days ago and she was already trying to sell a horse before the shutdown began. But as the shutdown has entered the fourth week, the couple told ABC News she'll make a deal with the first person who makes a reasonable offer.

If the shutdown continues, the Waterfords will make more changes. Albert said he'll try to get a job, possibly delivering pizzas. Kate Waterford said she'll sell her personal horse, Portia.

For some, the furlough has inspired new ideas and a new urgency to reinvest in existing businesses.

For John Deal, the furlough has meant he and his wife, both NASA contractors, are out of work without pay.

Deal has owned a heating-and-cooling company for the past 25 years, but before the shutdown it was a part-time gig. Now it's his main source of income. But after Christmas, Deal said the demand for residential work tends to idle.

"Nobody wants to spend money after the holiday, so [it's] kind of slow this time of the year," he said.

Becky Brown, a lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, has been keeping busy throughout the shutdown.

She serves on the board of directors for the non-profit organization The Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island, which works to support the National Park Service to preserve and protect the green space on the Potomac River between Virginia and Washington. Due to the four-week shutdown, National Park Service employees aren't working at the 91-acre island, so in an effort to help her favorite national park, Brown has aided with cleanup efforts.

She recently spent time collecting and bagging trash. And then she had to re-bag the trash after local animals chewed through the bags. Brown also worked with local officials in Arlington, Virginia, to see that the bagged trash would be picked up.

"It's nice to have some way to help," Brown told ABC News.

She takes 5-mile walks daily with her 60-pound dog, Tazwell. The rescue dog who suffers from separation anxiety has loved the extra time with his owner, and for Brown, the extra walking helps her match the amount she would normally do for her daily work commute.

She's spent a lot of time re-connecting with friends, especially ones whose schedules normally would present conflicts with her own. Brown, who also enjoys cooking, hosted a dinner party with several friends -- all women -- to brainstorm about creative endeavors.

A few years ago, she found a creative outlet maintaining a food and cooking blog, "My Utensil Crock." And days before the furlough, Brown began coming up with ideas for another venture, creative greeting cards for government workers called "Federalisms."

"You are essential. I mean, to me. Not to the government," one example reads.

With the extra time Brown currently has, she's devoted her time -- working around the clock -- to launch the new line within weeks.

"I am an optimist, there's nothing I can do," she said. "Me being upset is not going to make the government open any sooner."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan162019

'We're all out of hamberders': Burger King flame broils Donald Trump

ilbusca/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Burger King, home of the Whopper, has joined a growing list of U.S. companies that have roasted President Donald Trump via social media.

After Trump offered up a fast-food feast to Clemson University's championship football team at the White House, the president bragged on Twitter about ordering more than 1,000 "hamberders" -- a spelling mistake quickly corrected.

Burger King's official Twitter account responded on Tuesday with: "Due to a large order placed yesterday, we're all out of hamberders. Just serving hamburgers today."

Trump paid for the "massive amounts of Fast Food" because the White House chefs have been furloughed as part of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio