SEARCH

Thursday
May172018

Hobby Lobby employees called cops on black customer who apparently looked like a crime suspect 

iStock/Thinkstock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- An African-American man went to a Hobby Lobby store in Alabama to return some merchandise this week when employees called the police because he vaguely resembled a suspect in a check-cashing scheme, he told ABC Birmingham affiliate WBMA-TV.

Brian Spurlock, telling the station he was racially profiled, said he was needlessly embarrassed Tuesday when police confronted him and asked for his identification in front of other customers at the Hobby Lobby store in nearby Trussville.

The Birmingham man was with his girlfriend and her children when the incident occurred at the national arts-and-crafts retailer, he told WBMA-TV.

"These folks look at me like, 'Oh, he stole something. Oh, he did something wrong.' Y'all embarrassed me and [that] hurt,'" Spurlock said of the incident in the interview with WBMA-TV. "That made me feel like I don't need to go in no stores no more because I look like somebody and [police] might arrest me."

ABC News has been unable to reach Spurlock.

Hobby Lobby's corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, did not respond to ABC News’ multiple telephone calls and emails seeking comment.

The Trussville Police Department confirmed in a statement to ABC News that officers were called to the store Tuesday when an employee reported that Spurlock looked like a suspect who "had written bad checks and made fraudulent returns to their store."

"Hobby Lobby did have a picture of the person that was writing bad checks and making fraudulent returns and it looked somewhat like the person in the store but it did not appear to be him," police Lt. Phil Dillon said in the statement.

He said an officer asked to see Spurlock's identification before letting him go.

Spurlock said he had receipts for the items he was returning to the store and showed them to an employee before police arrived.

"She was looking at the receipt that I had and scratching the item off on the receipt. And she said, 'Hey, let me get my manager to see if we [can] return this," Spurlock told WBMA-TV.

When he spoke to a manager, Spurlock said, she told him he couldn't return one of the items because the box was open and that he needed to contact the manufacturer.

"I said, 'Is there somebody else I can talk to that can assist me with this?' She said, 'Yeah, wait,'" Spurlock told WBMA-TV.

The manager asked for his ID and told him they were calling their corporate headquarters, he told the station. As he waited for an answer, a police officer showed up and confronted him.

Spurlock's girlfriend, Ashley Maddox, who witnessed the incident, posted a cellphone video on Facebook of Spurlock’s speaking with the store employee apparently after he was questioned by police.

"I'll be glad to talk to you ... we apologize for the situation," a store employee tells Spurlock in the video. "We were just following directions from our upper management."

In an interview with WBMA-TV, Maddox referred to the outspoken Christian beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby, who successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 that it shouldn't be required to supply birth control to employees under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

"This is supposed to be a Christian store, so why not support the Christian," Maddox said. "But, unfortunately, they're the wrong kind of Christians."

Spurlock's ordeal is the latest in a string of recent incidents in which businesses have come under fire after employees called police on black patrons in incidents that appeared not to warrant police intervention.

In April, top officials of Starbucks apologized to two black men who were arrested after a manager at a Philadelphia Starbucks called police because they occupied a table without making a purchase and refused requests to leave. Trespassing charges against the men were later dropped and the city's police chief also issued an apology for the arrests.

Earlier this month, the president of Nordstrom Rack flew to St. Louis to personally apologize to three African-American teenagers whom employees called the police on and wrongfully accused of shoplifting.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May172018

Bumble Bee Foods CEO indicted for price fixing

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The chief executive officer of Bumble Bee Foods has been indicted on one count of price fixing as part of an ongoing investigation that includes at least three other current or former executives at packaged-seafood producers.

A San Francisco grand jury has charged that Christopher Lischewski conspired with others in his industry from November 2010 to December 2013 to eliminate competition and set prices for canned tuna, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

The government began investigating Bumble Bee Foods, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea more than two years ago, according to the Associated Press. Stephen Hodge, a former executive at StarKist, pleaded guilty to price fixing last year. Two other Bumble Bee executives also have pleaded guilty.

"The Antitrust Division is committed to prosecuting senior executives who unjustly profit at the expense of their customers," Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said in the statement. "American consumers deserve free enterprise, not fixed prices, so the Department will not tolerate crimes like the one charged in today’s indictment."

John Keker, Lischewski's attorney, told the AP his client is innocent and that he will be vindicated.

Bumble Bee, according to the DOJ, already has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a fine of $25 million.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May162018

Toys 'R' Us to auction iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Toys "R" Us is planning to auction its iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe next month, according to Reuters.

The toy giant is planning to sell its intellectual property, which includes its Babies "R" Us brand, in an effort to raise money to pay back its creditors, Reuters reported.

Toys "R" Us is also auctioning off hundreds of website addresses it owns, including sex-toys-r-us.com, ihatetoysrus.com, toysrussucks.com, kinkytoysrus.com and adult-toys-r-us.com, according to Reuters. The company owns those domains as a protective measure.

Toys "R" Us announced in March that it would shutter its stores after more than seven decades as one of the country's most popular toy stores. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017 but announced that it would close all stores following poor holiday sales that year.

Geoffrey the Giraffe first appeared as the company's mascot in 1965, and the first television ad featuring Geoffrey aired in 1973, The Associated Press reported. At the time, Toys "R" Us would sell figurines in Geoffrey's likeness, as well as Lego sets and stuffed animals, according to the AP.

Toys "R" Us did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May162018

Uber says nixing forced arbitration for assault, harassment victims won't apply to class-action suits

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The rideshare company Uber announced Tuesday that it is doing away with a rule that forced arbitration on passengers and drivers who come forward claiming they've been sexually harassed or assaulted. But the move is drawing some criticism for applying only to individuals and not class-action suits.

The policy shift was detailed in a letter titled "Turning the lights on" published on the company's site.

Uber's Chief Legal Officer Tony West wrote that the company "will no longer require mandatory arbitration for individual claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment by Uber riders, drivers or employees."

This update, he continued, will "give riders, drivers and employees options to continue taking accusations of harassment or assaults into arbitration, but also allow for a confidential forum such as mediation or let the case play out in open court," according to the statement.

"Whatever they decide, they will be free to tell their story wherever and however they see fit," West wrote.

But as the company announced its reforms to adjudicating its claims process, New York-based attorney Jeanne Christensen, of the law firm Wigdor LLP, said she was unimpressed.

Christensen said she filed her first sexual assault against Uber in 2015. The case has since expanded, with nine women making up a class-action lawsuit, she said.

Christensen criticized Uber's rebooted policy for not applying to class-action cases.

The company had not responded to the claims made by the nine alleged victims, Christensen said, and rather than provide an answer or file a motion to dismiss, Christensen said Uber filed a third option "saying, 'We can't proceed because it's the wrong venue.'"

"They're saying this case and these claims belong in private arbitration because on the app and embedded deep in the terms of services is a requirement for people to agree to private arbitration," she said.

Uber's motion filed on Tuesday states that "Uber seeks enforcement of its arbitration agreement with Plaintiffs" and that the nine riders who created their accounts between December 2012 and October 2016 "agreed to be bound by Uber's Terms and Conditions."

Those details, the motion states, "including a clear and conspicuous arbitration provision." The motion goes on to state that the nine accusers essentially "waived 'the right ... to participate as a plaintiff or class' in 'any purported class action.'"

In a statement to ABC News, West admitted that while the updated effort "won't apply to class-action suits," it "impacts the vast majority of assault claims we see on our platform."

"So while these changes may not please everybody, we believe they represent big, bold steps forward that will ultimately help us all prevent sexual assault more effectively," West said in the statement.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May152018

Amazon customer says she was charged over $7K to ship toilet paper

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Two Amazon customers are complaining that they were charged outrageous prices to ship everyday household paper products.

Georgia resident Barabara Carroll told ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV that she was charged $7,000 after placing an order for toilet paper in March.

Carroll is a building manager who takes care of janitorial needs, and she placed an order for three boxes of toilet paper to be delivered to her home, she told WSB-TV. When she checked her bank statement days later, she noticed a charged for more than $7,500, she said.

Carroll then checked her order history on the site, which stated that the three cases of toilet paper cost $88.17, but the shipping was a whopping $7,455, she told WSB-TV.

Though she was shocked, Carroll figured Amazon's customer service would take care of the mix-up.

"After I screamed, I thought, 'Oh this is not a problem, this is Amazon, and Amazon will take care of it,'" she said.

However, Amazon did not refund her the money because Carroll purchased the toilet paper from a third-party seller, Carroll told WSB-TV.

"The hardest part is that Amazon doesn’t stand behind their third-party sellers," she said.

A Tennessee couple told CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF that they bought paper plates just before Christmas for $24 and didn't notice until months later that they were charged more than $1,000 for expedited shipping.

Lorie Galloway said she is an Amazon Prime member and doesn't "order anything unless it's free shipping."

Galloway was charged $1,080 to ship one package of paper plates, she said.

When Galloway called Amazon, the customer service representative was floored at the high charge for the plates, which were shipped to Tennessee from Atlanta.

Amazon opened an investigation into the case, but later told Galloway that she was not overcharged for the transaction, WFTV reported.

"If it would have said a thousand and something dollars, I would have noticed that," Galloway told the station.

Amazon told Galloway that the seller was dismissed after similarly charging other customers, according to WFTV. Galloway disputed the charge with her credit card company but said she recently received word that she would be refunded.

Galloway said she's disappointed in the service she received from Amazon and will re-think whether to order from there again.

"If they are not going to take care of their customers, why should I order from them again?" she told WFTV.

In a statement, Amazon said it "is constantly innovating and improving our customer experience. If customers have concerns or feedback, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May152018

'Ludicrous' that artists aren't paid for music made before 1972: Smokey Robinson

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night(WASHINGTON) -- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles recorded hits like Shop Around, I Second That Emotion, and Tears of a Clown. But those classic tunes don't enjoy the same copyright protections as songs recorded after 1972 and digital streaming services and stations aren't required pay royalties for playing the music.

"Those happen to be some of the biggest records I’ve ever been associated with and to not be paid because they were prior to 1972 is ludicrous as far as I’m concerned," Robinson told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. "A lot of work went into making those songs, not just from the artists, but from the musicians, the writers, the producers and people who were involved in making them and they deserve to be compensated."

He said musicians that recorded before February 15, 1972, which is when federal copyright protections kick in, deserve the same compensation as those that recorded after that date.

The 78-year-old Robinson was on Capitol Hill testifying in favor of the Music Modernization Act, a bill that would change music licensing rules to fit with the digital era.

The bill would create a new system for digital music that would change how digital music companies obtain a license for songs and ensure songwriters are paid royalties, add copyright protection for recordings made prior to 1972, and establish a way for producers, mixers, and engineers who worked on recordings to apply for a share of the royalties. The House passed a similar measure last month.

“I know a lot of musicians and producers and writers who are, who have fallen on hard times, and who could really use that money," Robinson told the committee.

Legendary artists Dionne Warwick, Mary Wilson and Darlene Love were also in the audience for the hearing.

Senators on both sides of the aisle gushed over Robinson’s appearance – posting photos of themselves with him on social media.

“Those Motown hits were literally the soundtrack of my life and they inspired me and lifted me up,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said. “The day we get to say I love you back and forth to Smokey Robinson in a Judiciary Committee hearing is a very good day.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May152018

Royal wedding may bring big economic boost for UK

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The thrill of the impending royal wedding extends far beyond the United Kingdom, as travelers are eager to join in on the pomp and circumstance.

From themed flights and royal walking tours, the masses of tourists who are expected to make the trek to London and then Windsor Castle ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding this weekend will give a boost to the British economy.

According to British-based strategic consulting company Brand Finance, the upcoming royal wedding could lead to a £300 million (roughly $405 million) increase in tourism.

The company also estimates that there would be hundreds of millions of pounds accrued through spending in restaurants, in fashion based on the clothes Markle wears to public events both before and after the wedding, as well as merchandise and overall public relations value for the country as a whole.

British Airways announced Tuesday that the airline’s regularly scheduled flight between London and Toronto (which, the airline points out, is “the city where their relationship took off” because Markle lived there while she worked on a television show at the time) on the wedding day will be staffed by a crew made up of two people named Harry, seven people named Megan and one person named Meghan.

The name-checking honors are not limited to staff, as any customer flying out of their main terminal hub in London’s Heathrow Airport on that day who is named Harry or Meghan will get to use the first-class lounge for free ahead of their flight.

And for those looking for a keepsake, famed British ceramics manufacturer Emma Bridgewater has a commemorative mug for sale, which extolls the betrothed as “game changers, free spirits, big hearts & well suited.”

While the whimsy of a royal wedding may seem like lighthearted fun, tourism is big business in the United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

VisitBritain, the U.K.'s tourism board, reports that tourism accounts for £127 billion annually, or approximately $171.5 billion.

More than 100,000 people are expected to flock to Windsor for the wedding, according to the Thames Valley Police.

Airbnb, the home-share company, said that its hosts will be taking in an estimated 42,000 guests in London between Friday, May 18 and Sunday, May 20.

While the company did not provide the exact number of properties that will be taking in guests, the total host income from that period is expected to be more than $16.9 million.

Americans are the biggest population using the company to find their British digs, followed by visitors from France, Germany and Australia.

London isn't the only beneficiary of the increased tourist traffic, however. Airbnb reports that the town of Slough, which is just a 10-minute drive from Windsor Castle, is seeing a 1,438 percent spike in guest arrivals over the wedding weekend, as are nearby Maidenhead, with a 362 percent increase, and Windsor itself, with 194 percent increase, as compared to the same time last year.

VisitBritain reports that their overall expectations for the year are up 4 percent as compared to 2017, which was a record-breaking year itself with 38.9 million visitors. The company expects 2018 to hit 41.7 million visitors.

While Harry and Meghan are the big draws this weekend, the monarchy always serves as a draw throughout the year. There were more than 10 million visits to a castle historic house in the U.K. in 2016 and those visits added up to more than roughly $10.8 billion, VisitBritain reports.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May152018

How to maximize your vacation time and why it is so important to use

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Summer is just a few weeks away, meaning the time when many Americans hit the road for vacation is upon us.

Seventy-four percent of civilian workers had access to paid vacations in 2017, the most recent data available, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Whether or not workers use that paid vacation time is another story.

American workers leave an estimated 705 million vacation days unused each year, according to “State of the American Vacation,” an annual tracking survey of vacation habits.

The national average for vacation is 17.2 days taken per employee each year, according to the survey released by Project: Time Off, an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association.

Why are employees leaving their vacation days unused?

Job stressors ranging from too much work to the fear of being seen as replaceable are all factors in why employees leave vacation days unused, experts say.

The fear that using paid vacation could hurt your career is not something employees need to actually stress out about, according to Eileen Sharaga, a New York City-based career consultant.

“I don’t think [vacation] has any impact on your career. I can be clear about that,” she told “GMA.” “Your career has to do if you’re doing your job well, that’s the most important thing.”

Sharaga advises using judgment when it comes to vacation -- i.e. not requesting it during a big project or when co-workers cannot cover for you -- but focusing more on how well you perform when you are in the office.

“The productivity of your work is what makes you valuable,” she said. “The more valuable you are to your employer, the more latitude they will give you.”

The importance of vacation time

Taking a vacation from your job is about much more than just hitting the beach or being able to explore a different part of the world, experts say.

"When you’re taking vacation time, you’re engaging in stress recovery behaviors that help you get back to normal," said Dr. David Ballard, a psychologist and director of the American Psychological Associations' Center for Organizational Excellence. "If you don’t have that recovery time, then chronic stress can build up and affect us physically and psychologically, and [affect] work performance."

The symptoms you may feel in your body while thinking to yourself that you're ready for a vacation -- tired, lack of motivation, feeling like you're not effective, headaches -- are the same signs of stress, according to Ballard.

"People are under stress pretty chronically and our bodies and brains are not designed to withstand that kind of stress," he said. "We're supposed to deal with [stress] in short bursts because it is designed to help us get out of problematic or dangerous situations."

When you reach a point of stress, there are two things you must do, says Ballard: Reduce the demands placed on you and replenish your resources.

Replenishing your resources can come in the form of a vacation -- as short as even one day -- as long as you completely unplug from work.

"You can take a day off but if you’re still thinking about work or getting pinged with emails, you’re not having that time off," Ballard said. "It’s still on your mind."

Likewise, if you do unplug from work but don't plan ahead and return to even more work, you might as well have just stayed in the office, Ballard explained.

"Some research has shown that if you go back to a mountain of work and the stress level is up, the benefits of the time off are reversed," he said. "Plan and think ahead so you can get the most benefit from your time off and not have to worry about it."

If you are stressed but don't have a vacation day in sight, there are things you can do on a daily basis to keep yourself together until that glorious vacation arrives.

Here are Ballard's five tips:


1. Make time every day when you’re not engaged in work or even thinking about work.

2. Do something that you find relaxing every day, whether it's going for a walk, listening to music, being with friends or meditating.

3. Get involved in a non-work activity that you find interesting or challenging or rewarding.

4. Get good, quality sleep.

5. Seek additional support if you're still feeling overwhelmed and stressed out in a way that is getting in the way of your job performance and personal relationships.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May152018

Tesla Model S was in Autopilot mode during Utah crash, driver says

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The Utah driver who slammed her Tesla Model S into the back of a fire truck last week said the vehicle's Autopilot feature was engaged at the time of the crash, according to police.

The 28-year-old driver, whose identity was withheld, told authorities that she had been looking at her phone and cruising at a speed of 60 mph just before the May 11 crash in South Jordan, Utah, about 17 miles south of Salt Lake City, police said Monday. The truck, a fire department mechanic vehicle, was stopped at a red light at the time.

“While Tesla’s Autopilot feature indicates that a driver must be attentive at all times, the driver admitted that she was looking at her phone prior to the collision,” the South Jordan Police Department said in a statement Monday. “Based upon witness information, the driver of the Tesla did not brake or take any action to avoid the collision.”

Tesla said it had not received any data from the Model S in the crash and could not confirm if the Autopilot was actually engaged. The police department said it could take several days for Tesla to download the vehicle’s data.

"Tesla has not yet received any data from the car and thus does not know the facts of what occurred, including whether Autopilot was engaged," a company spokesperson said in a statement Monday night.

The woman sustained minor injuries, including a broken ankle, while the truck driver suffered from injuries related to whiplash, police said. The Tesla had extensive damage and was barely recognizable after the crash.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who reacted to the accident in a tweet on Monday, said it was “amazing” that the Tesla driver hadn’t been seriously injured.

“What’s actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death,” he tweeted.

“It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage,” he said in a separate tweet.

The Utah accident came just days after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was investigating a Tesla accident that killed two South Florida teens and injured another. The probe marked the federal agency’s fourth active investigation into the electric car maker's vehicles.

Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system is supposed to detect nearby cars and objects to avoid collision, but the company said the feature shouldn’t be used on roads with intersections, stop signs, red lights or suddenly changing traffic patterns, according to the car maker's user manuals.



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May142018

After SCOTUS win, Christie says sports betting in NJ could begin within weeks

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent more than seven years fighting for legalized sports betting in his state. Now the former governor and ABC News contributor anticipates sports betting will begin in New Jersey in just a few weeks.

He told ABC News' Brad Mielke on the "Start Here" podcast that Monmouth Park, a horse racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey, had always pledged to be ready within two weeks after a SCOTUS decision on sports gambling.

"It seems to me by Memorial Day weekend or very soon thereafter, you'll be able to place bets on your favorite sports teams," he said.

New Jersey, home to several casinos along the Atlantic City boardwalk, has largely treated gambling as a bipartisan issue. Several attempts by the state to legalize sports betting were struck down in lower courts over the years.

The Supreme Court heard the case after Christie and the state of the New Jersey appealed a decision from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upholding the federal ban. When Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy took office earlier this year, he replaced Christie as lead plaintiff.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which barred most states from taking sports bets, violated the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Christie said he always knew the Supreme Court would make the right decision because "nobody challenged it before."

"No one had the guts to challenge it before," he said on "Start Here." "It felt like the federal government had spoken on this and that we had to defer. I just didn't believe that was the case."

The NCAA and major U.S. professional sports leagues have argued that sports betting could undermine the integrity of the games. According to Christie, the argument that government regulation could lead to crooked athletes is "silliness."

"Somehow they're saying that when it's run legally and through government regulation, it risks the integrity of the game, but when betting has been run by mobsters and criminals, it doesn't. I mean it's ridiculous."

On college athletes who aren't getting paid and could be influenced, Christie argued: "Who do you think is more likely to try to bribe a kid; a state government or the mob?"

Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development, LLC, operators of Monmouth Park, said in a press conference Monday he is planning to have sports betting “up and running in two weeks,” unless Murphy or the state legislature tell him otherwise.

Christie is a Dallas Cowboys fan, but he wouldn't say if his first sports bet would be on the team. He did confirm he would be at Monmouth Park whenever the racetrack is ready to take bets.

"I don't know who I'm going to place a bet on," he said on "Start Here. "But I have promised the folks at Monmouth Park that on the first day that they're taking sports betting, I will be there to place a bet, and I'm going to keep my promise."

Listen to the full interview with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday’s edition of ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.

"Start Here" is a daily ABC News podcast hosted by Brad Mielke featuring original reporting on stories that are driving the national conversation. Listen for FREE on the ABC News app, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, iHeartRadio -- or ask Alexa: "Play 'Start Here.'"

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio