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Thursday
Dec072017

GE Power announces plan to cut approximately 12,000 jobs

Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- General Electric Power announced plans to cut approximately 12,000 jobs on Thursday, citing lower demands for coal and fossil fuel.

In a press release, GE said the layoffs would affect both professional and production employees. The move is part of an effort to "reach its announced target of $1 billion in structural cost reductions in 2018."

"Traditional power markets including gas and coal have softened," the company said. "Volumes are down in products and services driven by overcapacity, lower utilization, fewer outages, an increase in steam plant retirements and overall growth in renewables."

GE Power CEO and President Russell Stokes called the decision "painful but necessary."

"Power will remain a work in progress in 2018," Stokes added. "We expect market challenges to continue, but this plan will position us for 2019 and beyond."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Dec072017

Writers for Hallmark share inspirations behind some of their Christmas cards

ABC News(LEAVENWORTH, Kansas) -- Christmas is just a few weeks away, but for two tiny towns in Kansas, workers have been preparing for the holiday like busy Santa elves all year.

At the two Hallmark plants in Leavenworth and Lawrence, 1,100 workers are responsible for dreaming up -- and then packing up -- millions of Christmas cards that get signed, sealed and delivered across the world.

"As a Hallmark writer, you kinda get into the spirit a lot earlier than most people do," said Andrew Blackburn, who has worked at the company for eight years.

Blackburn said his parents, Tim and Brenda Blackburn, had inspired him.

The Hallmark company has been celebrating the holiday since 1910. That year, co-founder JC Hall, then 18, traveled from Nebraska to Kansas City, Missouri, and stepped off the train with shoeboxes of postcards.

With help from his brother Rollie Hall, around 1915, JC Hall began making and selling a new kind of card -- a greeting card -- and sending them inside envelopes.

"That was the start," said Lisamarie Soper, Hallmark Gold Crown's district manager.

Hallmark was born.

"From the writing I do to the lettering, the illustration, the design. It all happens right here," said Amy Trowbridge Yates, who's been at the company for more than 12 years.

Kiely Chase, a Hallmark writer for 17 years, drew from her memories with her brothers to help write some cards. She also shared her recipe for writing holiday cards early in the year.

"I'm watching movies, you know, that everybody loves to watch at Christmas time," she said. "I'm listening to favorite Christmas songs, you know, that we all love."

And, with those cards, Hallmark also offers gift-wrapping paper. Every year, 700 million feet are printed and it's all made in America.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

Mixed day on Wall Street despite encouraging news ahead of November jobs report

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks lost steam following a mid-session rally as Wall Street got encouraging news ahead of the government jobs report this Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell again, dropping 39.73 to a close of 23,140.91.

The Nasdaq climbed 14.17, finishing the day at 6,776.38, while the S&P 500 dipped to 2,629.27 at the close.

Payroll company ADP released its latest hiring survey Wednesday, finding that many people seeking jobs are getting them. Private employers, the survey says, created 190,000 jobs in November. The government's figures are due out on Friday.

The trade group Airlines for America says 41 million people will travel by plane for the holidays. That figure would be more than three percent higher than last year.

And oil fell more than four percent Wednesday, a barrel selling for $55.95.

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Wednesday
Dec062017

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to change legal name to Walmart to reflect growth of online shopping

Walmart(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- As part of a change designed to reflect its growing status as an multi-channel retailer, Walmart announced plans to change the company's legal name from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to Walmart Inc. as of February 2018.

"Our customers know us as Walmart and today they shop with us not only in our stores, but online and with our app as well," Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. "While our legal name is used in a limited number of places, we felt it was best to have a name that was consistent with the idea that you can shop us however you like as a customer."

Walmart has more than 11,000 stores and clubs in 28 countries and launched its online shop in 2000. The company will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange as WMT.

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Wednesday
Dec062017

Survey says some employees still 'Scrooge-y' when it comes to holiday vacation  

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Looking forward to taking some time off for the holidays?  

Yeah, neither are a lot of people.  

A new survey from the staffing firm Robert Half reports that American workers aren't taking it too easy, even as the holidays approach.

The poll of more than a thousand workers report just 18 percent said they're taking off the week of Dec. 25.

Sixty-seven percent of those polled said they'll take part of that week off. However, of those, 64 percent confessed they'll check in with the old grind while away.

A separate survey from the firm, polling some 2,700 people in 27 major cities, revealed that 35 percent of them will leave unused vacation days on the table.

Here were the reasons they gave:

- Saving the time for something later -- 43 percent
- Too much work to do -- 21 percent
- No money to go on vacation -- 15 percent
- Feel guilty taking the time off -- 9 percent
- Other -- 9 percent
- Boss discourages me from taking time off -- 3 percent

Here are the highlights of the survey of 27 cities:

- New York City ranks No. 1 for planning to use all vacation days, with some 80 percent of those polled saying they're burning their days.
- Seattle employees top the lot -- at 61 percent -- for workers saving their vacation for a later date.
- Thirty-two percent of workers in Chicago said they're too busy to take time off.
- Workers in Phoenix were most likely, at 12 percent, to say their bosses don't want them taking vacation.
- Cincinnati workers said they feel the most guilty, at 19 percent, about taking vacation time.
- At 28 percent, employees in Miami top the list of those who said they don't have enough money for vacation.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Dec062017

Pizza Hut testing beer, wine delivery with your pie  

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – Pizza and beer go together like, well, pizza and beer.

Pizza Hut clearly realized that: The delivery giant is testing a service that will deliver beer with your pie.

Customers in Phoenix, Arizona, will be able to purchase six-packs of Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top and a local craft beer -- as well as wine, starting in January -- with their delivery.

A special cooler will keep the drinks at the perfect temperature. The convenience comes at a $10.99 service charge.

Drivers delivering the alcohol will have to be age 21, as will the person who pays for the suds at the door.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec052017

Homeless man who helped stranded woman buys home after nearly $400K raised

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- A homeless man who received more than $397,000 through crowdfunding after giving a stranded woman his last $20 to pay for gas now has a place to call home.

Marine Corps veteran Johnny Bobbitt, 34, wrote on the GoFundMe campaign created by the woman he helped, Kate McClure, that he had bought a home over the weekend.

"The feeling is indescribable and it all thanks to the support and generosity that each and every one of you has shown," Bobbitt wrote of purchasing his new home. "I'll continue to thank you every single day for the rest of my life."

McClure started the GoFundMe page on Nov. 10 with a humble $10,000 goal after Bobbitt helped her when she ran out of gas on Interstate 95 on her way to Philadelphia, giving her the last of the money he collected while panhandling, she wrote.

"Johnny sits on the side of the road every day, holding a sign. He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong," McClure wrote. "He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors. A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can."

After the chance encounter, McClure and her boyfriend visited Bobbitt several times to deliver gift cards, cash, snacks and toiletries, she told ABC News last month. The couple decided to create the GoFundMe page so he wouldn't have to spend the holidays sleeping on the street.

The plan worked.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Bobbitt's GoFundMe page had raised $397,769. McClure wrote that in addition to the home, Bobbitt will purchase the "dream truck he's always wanted," a 1999 Ford Ranger. Two trusts will be set up in his name as well, one that will provide him will a small "salary" each year and a retirement trust, "which will be wisely invested by a financial planner."

A bank account was also set up for Bobbitt with funds for everyday needs "that will get him through until he finds a job," McClure wrote. He will also be donating to organizations and people who "have helped him get through this rough patch in his life" over the last couple of years, McClure said.

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Tuesday
Dec052017

US stocks close lower after earlier tech rally

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite an earlier tech rally, U.S. stocks closed mostly lower on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sunk 109.41 (-0.45 percent) to finish at 24,180.64.

The Nasdaq dipped 13.15 (-0.19 percent) to close at 6,762.21, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,629.57, down 9.87 (-0.37 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices were about 1 percent lower and under $58 per barrel.

Winners and Losers:  Intel Corporation was among the technology stocks that gave up ground with shares tumbling 2.36 percent.

Shares of Snapchat parent Snap Inc. climbed 10.10 percent after Barclays predicted the stock could outperform in 2018.

British movie theater operator Cineworld announced it will buy Regal Entertainment for $3.6 billion. Regal's stock soared 9.41 percent.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec052017

Most-wanted holiday toys being resold at major markups because of cyberscalping Grinch bots

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some of this holiday season’s hottest toys are out of stock but being resold online for thousands of dollars above list price because of so-called Grinch bots.

The same cyberscalping technique that can make it hard for consumers to find tickets to concerts and sporting events is now being deployed to buy popular holiday toys. Sophisticated computer programs -- or bots -- are used to make mass purchases online.

In one of the more extreme cases of cyberscalping, a Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition Mini Console that normally sells for nearly $80 is being resold online for $13,000.

In another example, a Barbie Hello DreamHouse that sells for $299 on Mattel’s website is being sold on eBay with an asking price of more than $1,700.

Other cyberscalping listings are for lesser amounts that consumers might pay if they are not aware of the retail price of the item, or if they want to purchase the item regardless of cost.

A Fingerlings monkey that sells for as little as $14.99 at retailers like Best Buy has a price tag of $34.99 on eBay.

eBay shows on its website that 10 users have purchased a Fingerlings toy from one seller for more than $30 each since Sunday.

ABC News reached out to the resellers on eBay when possible.

“It takes away from the true spirit of Christmas,” a woman shopping for holiday presents in the Los Angeles area this week told ABC News.

The Grinch bots have caught the attention of one of the country’s top lawmakers.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York wants to make the technique illegal and is calling on retailers to help crack down on cyberscalpers.

"Cyberbots — we call them Grinch bots — are expanding their reach and unfairly scooping up the hottest toys before parents can even hit buy,” Schumer told reporters Sunday in New York. “The stores and the people who make the products can block the bots.”

Schumer indicated in his statement that he has taken up the issue of cyberscalping of consumer products because the practice puts "middle class folks" at a disadvantage.

"Middle class folks save up—a little here, a little there—working to afford the hottest gifts of the season for their kids but ever-changing technology and its challenges are making that very difficult," Schumer said in a statement also posted on his website. "It’s time we help restore an even playing field by blocking the bots. When it comes to purchasing products online, major retailers should put forth policies that will help prevent future Grinch bots from stealing the season’s hottest toys.”

Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act last year, but the legislation only applies to tickets, not toys. Schumer would like to expand the legislation to include consumer products but that will not happen before Christmas, he said.

The National Retail Federation told ABC News in a statement it would like to work with Schumer to “strengthen enforcement against bad actors.”

“NRF and the retail industry share Senator Schumer’s concerns, and we look forward to working with him and all interested parties to strengthen enforcement against bad actors and take away the tools being used against innocent consumers, particularly during the holiday season,” David French, the federation’s senior vice president for government relations, said.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association told ABC News in a statement its members are “committed to taking precautions to mitigate fraud.”

“Retailers and our suppliers are working around the clock to make sure American families have access to the season’s hottest items,” spokeswoman Christin Fernandez said. “Many retailers already have policies in place to monitor and cap the amount of purchases made on high-demand products both in store and online.”

Fernandez added, “Retailers want to ensure that items purchased from their stores and online are purchased legitimately. The industry is committed to taking precautions to mitigate fraud and illegal transactions to ensure American consumers have a safe and secure holiday shopping experience.”

As for eBay, "supply and demand" are responsible for pricing on the online trading site, it said in a statement.

"As an open marketplace, eBay is a global indicator of trends in which supply and demand dictate the pricing of items," the statement read. "As long as the item is legal to sell and complies with our policies, it can be sold on eBay."

Experts say consumers should know a toy's retail price to prevent being ripped off by a scalper. They also advise shoppers to buy early to stay away from the last-minute rush for the season's biggest toys, and to have patience before making their purchases.

“Maybe you're going to have to wait a couple of weeks or a couple of months to get the toy that you want,” Consumers Union programs director Chuck Bell told reporters Sunday, speaking alongside Schumer.

“But that's a better solution than rewarding these people that are fleecing customers."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec052017

World's largest Starbucks opening in Shanghai

Joshua Trujillo / Starbucks Newsroom(SHANGHAI) -- China, a traditionally tea-drinking nation, is embracing coffee in the metropolis of Shanghai, as the country stands to become the largest market for Starbucks.

The 30,000 square-foot flagship Starbucks Reserve shop opens Wednesday in the heart of West Nanjing Road, a famous upscale shopping street in Shanghai. The store has more than 400 employees and can serve up to 550 people at a time, according to the Seattle-based company.

On Tuesday, crowds sampled fresh brews and watched beans being roasted on-site at the grand opening event for the brand's first international Starbucks Reserve Roastery, focused on serving higher-end gourmet coffee. Five other sites for the specialty Starbucks brand are planned around the world, including two more U.S. locations, one in Japan one in Italy, according to the company. The first Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened in the company's home city of Seattle.

The U.S.-based coffee chain has seen China as a key market, where sales grew seven percent versus a three percent growth in the rest of the world in the past year, according to a company statement. Starbucks currently runs 3,000 stores in China, where it claims to be opening “a store every 15 hours." The company said it plans to open 5,000 stores in the country by 2021.

"China represents the most important and exciting opportunity ahead of us. As our first international Roastery, we will take even bolder steps to make this Shanghai location our most stunning store,” Howard Schultz, executive chairman of the Seattle-based company, said in a company statement.

Despite a long, proud history of tea drinking and the fact that a tall latte costs as much as $4.69 in China, people have taken to coffee and culture of Starbucks with its specialty drinks and free Wi-Fi and bathrooms. They even take Starbucks selfies.

Jack Ma, founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, with which Starbucks is partnering for mobile payment services and other items, said that though Starbucks came to China, which is primarily a tea-drinking country, the Seattle-based company is making "so many people love coffee."

Ma said, for himself, "I don’t like coffee, but I like Starbucks.”

The Shanghai flagship store will offer a range of Chinese teas at a "tea experience bar," as well.

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