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Thursday
Jun152017

After directors object, Sony changes plan to sell 'clean' versions of movies

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sony Pictures has relented -- at least partially -- on its plan to offer consumers "clean versions" of previously released movies.

Last week, Sony announced that it would make its cleaned-up broadcast TV or airline versions of 24 movies available to consumers who purchase films on various download and streaming sites. But that plan faced strong objections from some filmmakers and from the Directors Guild of America, reported Variety.

“Directors have the right to edit their feature films for every non-theatrical platform, plain and simple,” the Guild said, adding that releasing a cut made for one platform on another violates the Guild's agreement with the studio.

Judd Apatow, producer of one movie on Sony's list, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, had particularly not-clean words for the plan on Twitter, writing, "This is absolute bulls*** and @sony and @SonyPictures is gonna get hell for F****** with our movies. Shove the clean versions up your a****!"

On Wednesday, Sony announced a change in its plans, saying the studio won't sell clean versions of the movies against directors' wishes.

“Our directors are of paramount importance to us and we want to respect those relationships to the utmost,” Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said in a statement to Variety on Wednesday. “We believed we had obtained approvals from the filmmakers involved for use of their previously supervised television versions as a value added extra on sales of the full version. But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will discontinue it for their films.”

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Wednesday
Jun142017

Federal Reserve raises key interest rate again

Federal Reserve(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate again on Thursday, marking the third hike in six months.

The rate was boosted by a quarter of a point to 1.25 percent.

Following its meeting Thursday, the Fed did not change its forecast and says it still expects to raise rates one more time this year.

"Overall, we continue to expect that the economy will expand at a moderate pace over the next few years," Fed chair Janet Yellen said.

That's in spite of a sluggish economic to start of this year, according to Bankrate.com's Greg McBride.

"At this point, they keep saying that the economic weakness is transitory, it's going to pass, and raising interest rates at this meeting is consistent with that," McBride explained.

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Wednesday
Jun142017

Uber board member resigns after making sexist comment

Uber(SAN FRANCISCO) – An Uber board member has resigned after he made a disparaging remark about women at a company meeting on Tuesday.

David Bonderman, who is also partner at private equity firm TPG, made the comment as a response to another board member, Arianna Huffington. Huffington discussed how instating one woman on a board will encourage more women to join a board.

“Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking,” Bonderman responded.

Bonderman faced major backlash for his remark and later apologized.

This comes at a time when Uber has been trying to overcome recent scandals over sexual harassment allegations and other forms of corporate misbehavior. Its board recently agreed to adopt a 13-page document with recommendations to increase board oversight and hold its executives accountable for misconduct.

Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, announced on Tuesday that he would take a leave of absence from the company.

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Wednesday
Jun142017

Tense? How about a power tool massage?

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Father's Day is the perfect time to save on power tools, but this year, don't be surprised if you see some masseuses in line at Home Depot.

Turns out, jigsaws, rotary sanders and other DIY tools are -- with some appendage-saving modifications -- finding their way into the hands of people in the massage business.  

The Wall Street Journal reports one Orange County, California masseur "balked" at the $3,500 price of a massage device. Instead, he bought a cordless jigsaw for $100, and covered it's cutting edge with a rubber ball. He and his clients say it works wonders on stiff backs and hips.

“In five minutes I can get about 30 minutes of work done,” Randy Fruchter says.

He's apparently not alone. A strength coach at Trinity College in Hartford copped to using a jigsaw mated with a lacrosse ball to the same effect.

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Tuesday
Jun132017

Tech stocks recover as Dow reaches new record

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tech stocks recovered from a two-day sell-off, helping Wall Street finish in the green on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Jones Industrial Average gained 92.80 (+0.44 percent) to finish at 21,328.47, a new record close.

The Nasdaq jumped 44.90 (+0.73 percent) to close at 6,220.37, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,440.35, up 10.96 (+0.45 percent) from its open.

Crude oil was about 1 percent higher with prices over $46 per barrel.

Federal Reserve:  The Federal Reserve has begun its two-day monetary policy meeting and investors will await an announcement on Wednesday of a likely interest rate increase and that the U.S. central bank will shed some of its bonds this year.

Winners and Losers:  "FAANG" stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google-parent Alphabet) all climbed at least 1 percent.

Shares of Cheesecake Factory sunk 10 percent after lowering its guidance for the second-quarter.

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Tuesday
Jun132017

Twitter screamed for these top ice cream flavors across the US

Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This weekend, it felt like summer already in many places across the U.S. -- and that means people were screaming for ice cream, or at least tweeting about it.

Some of the areas with the highest summer temperatures had the most chatter about the cold treat on Twitter. The top states talking ice cream were Arizona and Maryland and the District of Columbia was busy tweeting too, according to data provided to ABC News by Twitter.

While the tried and true classics chocolate and vanilla were the top two most-tweeted flavors across the U.S., number three wasn't their usual companion, strawberry. The third spot was a resounding win for cookie dough ice cream.

States that preferred cookie dough ice cream as their third favorite included: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia, joined by the District of Columbia.

The top five most tweeted flavors included chocolate, vanilla, cookie dough, strawberry and chocolate chip.

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Tuesday
Jun132017

Holocaust Museum starts first crowdfunding campaign to preserve survivors' diaries

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has launched its first crowdfunding campaign in an effort to preserve and digitize more than 200 diaries from Holocaust survivors and victims.

The campaign, called "Save Their Stories: The Undiscovered Diaries of the Holocaust" on Kickstarter, began accepting donations Monday. Dana Weinstein, audience engagement/membership director at the museum, says they chose Monday as it was the birthday of Anne Frank, a famous Holocaust diarist.

"We chose June 12 as the launch date not only because it was her birthday, but because she is the one where most people have their first connection to this history in such a personal way," Weinstein said.

Not only will this campaign provide financial assistance, it will also raise awareness about the importance of remembering the Holocaust and the lessons about the impact of human genocide.

The campaign will serve as a voice to the survivors of the Nazi era. Diaries are recordings of real-time experiences, which can serve as important evidence of the Holocaust.

Diary curator Kyra Schuster says wide varieties of diaries are collected, and then live in the David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center.

"We have a variety of different formats -- bound notebooks, journals, letters written on scraps of paper from inside concentration camps, the back of photographs and student notebooks. The conservation staff was even able to piece together four pieces of paper that looked like a deck of cards," she said.

"We are in a race against time as the survivor generation continues to pass away all too quickly. We want to keep collecting information from those who wrote their stories and tell them in a really robust way," said Weinstein in a phone interview with ABC News.

The fundraising campaign will last for 31 days, and the goal is to reach $250,000 dollars, which will help make the diaries available to the public. If it does not reach its goal, all the money will be returned to the donors.

"We hope this will continue to spark the dialogue and that people will learn from this history and remind us about the individual stories that are behind the staggering lives that are lost. These diaries will be their voices to be understood and learned from," Weinstein said.

The campaign and ongoing project can be found on social media using the hashtag #SaveTheirStories.

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Tuesday
Jun132017

Sears to slash 400 jobs in effort to cut costs

Sears(HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill.) -- Sears will be cutting 400 full-time positions as part of its ongoing restructuring efforts, according to a company statement.

Eligible associates will be provided severance compensation and transition assistance. The retail chain hopes to deliver $1.25 billion in annualized cost reductions.

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, Sears Holdings has actioned nearly $1 billion in annualized cost savings to date, according to the company.  

"We are making progress with the fundamental restructuring of our operations that we initiated in February," said Edward Lampert, chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings. "We remain focused on realigning our business model in an evolving and highly competitive retail environment. This requires us to optimize our store footprint and operate as a leaner and simpler organization."

The majority of the eliminated positions are from the corporate offices at the headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

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Monday
Jun122017

Public Theater stands by its controversial 'Julius Caesar' with Trump lookalike

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After two companies dropped their sponsorship of the production, New York’s Public Theater is standing by its controversial production of "Julius Caesar," in which the title character, a Trump lookalike, is assassinated on stage.

"We stand completely behind our production of 'Julius Caesar,'" the nonprofit theater company wrote in a statement obtained by ABC News. "We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy."

The statement went on to say, "Our production of 'Julius Caesar' in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare's play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park."

Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship of the production over the weekend following an outcry over the production on Twitter.

In a statement on Sunday, Delta Air Lines said it was pulling its sponsorship from The Public Theater "effective immediately."

"No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of ‘Julius Caesar’ at this summer's Free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines' values," the statement said. "Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste."

Later, on Twitter, Bank of America said it was withdrawing its funding for the production.

"The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend," the bank said in a tweet. "Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it."

In the Public Theater's version of Shakespeare's classic play, Caesar, played by Gregg Henry, is portrayed as a Trump lookalike with a gold bathtub and a wife with a Slavic accent, reminiscent of Melania Trump.

In the play's third act, Caesar is knifed to death on stage by a group of women and minorities.

Among those speaking out against the play were Trump's sons.

"I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?" Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Sunday in response to a Fox News story about the play.

Eric Trump praised Delta and Bank of America for dropping its sponsorship.

But not everyone praised the two companies for their decision.

Beau Willimon, the creator of "House of Cards," declared he will no longer fly Delta.

He also urged to others to donate to the Public Theater in light of the lost sponsors.

“Fargo” and “The Leftovers” actress Carrie Coon was among those who heeded Willimon's call.

Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts was pulled into the fracas, and released its own statement that it had nothing to do with the Public Theater's production.

"In the past, the New York Shakespeare Festival has received project-based NEA grants to support performances of Shakespeare in the Park by the Public Theater. However, no NEA funds have been awarded to support this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of ‘Julius Caesar’ and there are no NEA funds supporting the New York State Council on the Arts’ grant to Public Theater or its performances," the statement read.

The Public Theater's "Julius Caesar" began in previews May 23 and is scheduled to run until June 18.

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Monday
Jun122017

US stocks close lower as tech stocks keep tumbling

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The tech sell-off continued for a second day, despite reaching record highs a week ago.

The Dow Jones slid 36.30 (-0.17 percent) to finish at 21,235.67.

The Nasdaq gave up 32.45 (-0.52 percent) to close at 6,175.46, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,429.39, down 2.38 (-0.10 percent) from its open.

Crude oil was about 0.5 percent higher with prices at $46 per barrel.

Winners and Losers:
  "FAANG" stocks slumped in the session, with shares of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google-parent Alphabet all finishing at least 1 percent lower. Netflix's stock tumbled 4 percent.

General Electric's stock jumped on news its CEO Jeff Immelt would retire after a 16-year run. Shares climbed nearly 4 percent.

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