Google CEO announces changes to company's sexual conduct policies

Google(MOUNTAINVIEW, Calif.) -- A week after a massive walk out of its employees, Google says changing how it handles sexual misconduct cases.

In an email to employees Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the way the company handled cases of sexual misconduct, and promised change. Google posted the note to employees in its entirety on the company website.

"We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that," Pinchai wrote. "It’s clear we need to make some changes."

In a move toward more transparency, Pinchai said Google will provide more details about sexual misconduct allegations in internal reports made available to all employees. Those reports will include the number of cases reported, and a list of the types of punishment imposed -- including firings, pay cuts, or mandated counseling. Furthermore, Pinchai said the company is dropping mandatory arbitration of sexual misconduct cases.

These initiatives are part of a new company action plan Pinchai announced in his note to employees Thursday. After encouraging Google employees to inform themselves about the "full range of actions" being announced, he concluded the memo by reaffirming the company's commitment to more progress on the issue.

He wrote, "Thank you all for the feedback you’ve shared with us. This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so."

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Tesla appoints Robyn Denholm as new board chair

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Tesla announced on Wednesday that Robyn Denholm has been appointed as the next chair for its board of directors, replacing CEO Elon Musk.

Musk agreed to step down as chairman of the board earlier this year as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Denholm is currently the chief financial officer and head of strategy at Telstra, the largest telecommunications company in Australia. She will be leaving her role there at the end of her six-month notice period with the company.

“I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value,” Denholm, who’s been on Tesla’s board as an independent director since 2014, said in a statement.

“Robyn has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries, and she has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” Musk said in a statement. “I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”

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Google employee killed by company bus

Google(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- A Google financial analyst in her twenties was killed on Monday night after being struck by a Google bus just outside the company's "Googleplex" headquarters in Mountain View, California, officials said.

The analyst, who Google identified as Emily Hong, was on a city street when she was hit by the bus at the intersection of Charleston Road and Huff Avenue, Mountain View Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told ABC News. Responding officers found Hong lying in the roadway and performed CPR, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Google bus was driven by a human, and was not an autonomous vehicle. The driver is cooperating with police, who said drugs and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the incident.

"We are devastated to learn of the tragic passing of a member of our Googler family,” said company spokeswoman Gina Scigliano in a statement. “Emily worked in the finance organization and was beloved by her colleagues -- she brought an incredible spark to Google. She was inquisitive, creative, analytical, positive, generous and kind -- our deepest condolences are with her family and friends."

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An inside look at Amazon's HQ2 visits to NYC, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- When Amazon officials visited New York's Long Island City as a potential second headquarters, they were impressed with its "Seattle"-like neighborhood vibe and the "scale and infrastructure" it had to offer.

Long Island City is a residential and industrial neighborhood in western Queens that has been transformed into a hipster enclave. MoMA's PS1 contemporary art space and the iconic Silvercup Studios anchor the creative scene, accompanied by craft beer and cocktail bars. High-rise apartment buildings have altered the skyline, as younger New Yorkers opt for a view of, instead of from, Manhattan.

"Long Island City made a real impression. It’s an actual neighborhood. It looks a little like Seattle, with bars and restaurants. It’s clearly what the company is looking for," a source familiar with the negotiations told ABC News.

Although no deal has been inked, an announcement is expected soon, possibly as early as this week. After a competitive nationwide search, the company is reportedly choosing two cities as its new headquarters.

The dual HQ2 is in line with what Amazon has been saying all along: one urban campus, one suburban. Very few places can supply the talent pool Amazon requires for these new 50,000 jobs, according to the source. It's also assumed that those jobs will be split evenly between the two selected cities.

And "the scale and infrastructure is huge" in New York, Newmark Global Strategy managing principal Robert Hess, who consulted for the city on the Amazon bid, told ABC News. "There are very few places on earth who can absorb this kind of project."

The news of a dual-city headquarters was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which also named Crystal City in Virginia and Dallas as contenders. A subsequent report in the The New York Times doubled down on Crystal City and Long Island City.

Hess, who also consulted on the search for the revamped Nike campus in Portland, Oregon, in 2013, said that splitting the headquarters makes sense from a risk management point of view, in case one of the venues encountered unexpected problems or adjustments.

Amazon declined to comment to ABC News.

From 20 to 3

Like other municipalities, New York City and the state of New York have rolled out the red carpet to woo Amazon and the $5 billion the new headquarters is expected to bring. The city already hosts over half a dozen Amazon facilities across three NYC boroughs, including a fulfillment center, a distribution center and its new 4-Star Store in SoHo.

Beginning in October 2017, New York City submitted a proposal featuring four locations: Long Island City, Manhattan's Midtown West/Hudson Yards, downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.

In January, the company narrowed its list of potential cities to 20.

On the first visit to New York, Amazon execs toured two locations: Hudson Yards and Long Island City. The problem with Hudson Yards was that it wasn't a real neighborhood yet despite its development potential, the source said.

In July, Amazon officials came back for a second visit but only saw Long Island City. Company representatives took a ferry tour at sunset, a Citi Bike tour and met with Andy Byford, the CEO of the New York City Transit Authority. Byford reassured the company about the reliability of the subway system, particularly the problem-ridden 7 train, the source said.

At separate appearances on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both said they were unaware if Amazon had made a final decision. Last week, de Blasio announced a $180 million incentive package to improve the Long Island City's infrastructure, including a new school, sewer upgrades, and revamped public spaces.

But not everyone is happy about the idea of Amazon moving into Long Island City.

New York City Council Member Van Bramer wrote in a statement to ABC News: “HQ2 has to work for Queens, not just Amazon. We already have an infrastructure deficit in LIC. We must ask how such a complex would impact the people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. This isn’t a done deal. The local community must be heard here.”

Crystal City, a Washington, D.C., suburb, has long been considered a front-runner for the retailer. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a house in Washington, D.C., and owns The Washington Post. In addition, northern Virginia is an established tech corridor and houses several government agencies -- with potential lucrative contracts for major tech companies.

Arlington County officials declined to comment.

The midterms

In line with Amazon's reputation for secrecy, everything involving HQ2 was locked down for over a year. But stories started leaking right before the midterm elections. After The Washington Post published a story about Crystal City closing the gap on the deal, Amazon's director of economic development, Mike Grella, whose Twitter bio lists his location as "New York, Seattle, DC," tweeted: “Memo to the genius leaking info about Crystal City, VA as #HQ2 selection. You’re not doing Crystal City, VA any favors. And stop treating the NDA you signed like a used napkin.”

A day later he tweeted a photo of his daughter at her first professional soccer game -- in New York.

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Girls Scouts file suit against Boy Scouts over name change

Chuck Fishman/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One year after the Boy Scouts of America announced they would change its name to "Scouts" and start letting girls into their program, the Girl Scouts have filed a lawsuit against the organization.

The Girl Scouts' federal trademark suit claims if the Boy Scouts drop the qualifier "Boy," and use only "Scouts" to refer to its members, it challenges the Girl Scouts brand and mission.

Watch the video below from ABC's Good Morning America for more:

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David Beckham's MLS franchise given green light for stadium negotiations

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation(MIAMI) -- A stadium deal for David Beckham's soccer team is close to a reality.

On Tuesday, Miami voted to give city officials permission to negotiate a no-bid lease deal with Beckham's group.  Beckham's group wants to build a Major League Soccer complex on a public gold course.
The group is also planning to have technology offices, a hotel and retail space on the land, in return for guaranteeing the city about $ 3.6 million in rent annually.

David Beckham and his parnters will negotiate the terms with city officials for the 25,000 seat stadium and transforming the current Melreese Country Club into a 58- acre park.

The group also commited to spend $35 million to clean up toxic waste at the site and to pay employees a living wage.

Beckham is a global icon when it comes to soccer, entertainment and fashion. He started his career with Manchester United and also played for Real Madrid, the LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. He has won four championships in four different leagues around the globe.

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NHTSA investigating GM recall over faulty windshield wipers

General Motors(WASHINGTON) -- A recall issued by General Motors two years ago regarding faulty windshield wipers may soon be expanded to cover approximately 1.7 million vehicles.

In 2016, GM announced it was recalling 2013 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs over an issue that might stop their windshield wipers from working, which could reduce a driver's visibility and increase the risk of a crash.

"In the affected vehicles, the ball joints in the windshield wiper module may corrode and wear over time, possibly resulting in one or both of the windshield wipers becoming inoperative," the automaker explained at the time.

In all, the recall affected close to 368,000 vehicles.

But, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has since received hundreds of complaints involving both vehicles from other model years. Now, the agency is looking at the wiper issue in 2010-2016 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs.

So far, no injuries or crashes have been reported since the recall was opened in 2016.

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Facebook blocks 115 accounts for alleged 'inauthentic behavior' ahead of midterm elections

Facebook(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- Facebook has blocked 115 accounts on its platforms due to alleged "inauthentic behavior" ahead of the 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday.

Facebook made the announcement in a statement Monday evening, saying it blocked 30 accounts on its namesake platform and 85 on Instagram that authorities believe are linked to foreign entities tying to interfere with the closely-watched U.S. elections.

The social media giant said U.S. law enforcement flagged the accounts on Sunday, citing "online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities," according to the statement. Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it immediately blocked accounts and opened an investigation.

Nearly all of the blocked Facebook pages appeared to be written in French or Russian, although the Instagram accounts were mostly in English, the company said, noting that some of the Instagram accounts focused on celebrities and political debate.

"Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly," Facebook said. "But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the U.S., we wanted to let people know about the action we've taken and the facts as we know them today."

Facebook released a statement Wednesday evening, possibly linking some of the blocked accounts to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency.

"Last night, following a tip off from law enforcement, we blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is banned from our services. This evening a website claiming to be associated with the IRA published a list of Instagram accounts they claim to have created," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said in an statement. "We had already blocked most of these accounts yesterday, and have now blocked the rest. This is a timely reminder that these bad actors won't give up — and why it's so important we work with the US government and other technology companies to stay ahead."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned last quarter that the company's sales growth would slow significantly for the remainder of 2018 as it ramps up spending on safety and security.

The company said it deleted 82 "bad actors" from Facebook in October due to coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran. Facebook also disclosed sophisticated attempts from Russia to interfere with elections and promote political discord in the U.S.

An internal investigation into the Iranian accounts found that more than one million Facebook users had followed at least one of the fraudulent pages, while about 25,000 users joined at least one of these politically oriented groups, according to a company statement.

Facebook opened a war room earlier this year in an effort to combat election interference around the globe. The company said its so-called elections war room is the nerve center of the social network's fight against misinformation and political interference.

"Finding and removing abuse is a constant challenge. Our adversaries are smart and well funded, and as we improve their tactics change," the company said in October. "We prohibit coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook because we want people who use our services to be able to trust the connections they make."

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'Donde votar,' Spanish for 'Where to vote,' was Google's top search on election day

Google(NEW YORK) -- The top Google trend search on the morning of the 2018 midterm elections was "Donde votar," Spanish for "Where to vote," providing further evidence that the Latino vote is becoming more of a deciding force in electing political leaders.

Recent surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center show that registered Hispanic voters have been "more engaged in this midterm election" than before.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday also found that Hispanic voters' increased enthusiasm in the 2018 congressional midterms outpaces that of all U.S. adults.

More than 52 percent of registered Hispanic voters said they had given the election "quite a lot" of thought, up 16 percentage points from 2014, according to Pew. In addition, 55 percent of Hispanic voters said they were more enthusiastic about voting, compared with 37 percent in 2014, the survey found.

On the morning of Election Day, the Google Trends Twitter account announced that "Donde votar" was the top trending search in Google in the U.S. Google provided a plug-in for users to type in their address to search for the nearest polling locations after searching "Donde votar" or "Where to vote."

Much of the spike occurred on Monday afternoon, a graph on Google Trends shows, but the search remained No. 1 through election morning.

The factoid could signify an increase in the demographic's voter turnout, which has lagged far behind others in past elections at a rate of 27 percent, according to Pew. In addition, more than 29 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, up 4 million from 2014.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 36 percent of Latino voters said they would be "certain" to vote, a 9 percent increase from 2014.

In California, there were initial signs that Latinos were requesting ballots at a higher clip, and early voting in southern New Mexico indicated strong Hispanic turnout, according to AP.

On Monday, prominent Latina celebrities such as Zoe Saldana, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and Eva Longoria took to the streets of Miami to rally people to head to the polls.

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Midterms spending overview: Total expected to reach $5.2 billion

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the U.S. goes through one of the most contentious midterms in recent years, the amount of spending in the 2018 election is setting records -- both in individual races and overall.

Election overview

According to a projection based on the Center for Responsive Politics' analysis of Federal Election Commission reports, the total amount of money spent on congressional races in this election cycle is expected to reach $5.2 billion, a 35 percent increase from the 2014 midterms.

This includes money spent by candidate campaigns, party committees and various outside groups. With a total of 1,661 Democratic House and Senate candidates and 1,471 Republican candidates, so far, a total of $1.26 billion has come from the Democratic side and a little shy of $890 million has come from the Republican side.

More than $1.3 billion in outside spending has come from more than 3,200 outside groups, including party committees, super PACs and political nonprofits, marking a 60 percent increase from 2014.

Most expensive races

Top Senate races:

Florida Senate: $181 million ($91 million from candidate campaigns, $90 million from outside groups)
Missouri Senate: $119 million ($42 million from candidate campaigns, $77 million from outside groups)
Texas Senate: $107 million ($94 million from candidate campaigns, $14 million from outside groups)
Indiana Senate: $104 million ($36 million from candidate campaigns, $68 million from outside groups)
Arizona Senate: $104 million ($38 million from candidate campaigns, $66 million from outside groups)

In Florida, the Senate race between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott has brought in more than $181 million. More than $91 million of that has come from the two candidates, with challenger Scott outspending Nelson by more than $40 million. The Democratic leadership has jumped in to back Nelson, with major Democratic outside groups spending more than $53 million in support of Nelson and against Scott. Meanwhile, New Republican PAC, a super PAC almost exclusively dedicated to supporting Scott has spent more than $29.5 million against Nelson.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's vulnerable seat in Missouri has brought in more than $76 million from outside groups to the Missouri Senate race. Conservative groups led by Senate Leadership Fund, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Americans for Prosperity, have spent more than $41 million in support of Hawley, while liberal groups have spent more than $35 million in support of McCaskill. Meanwhile, incumbent McCaskill's campaign has outspent Hawley by far, with the vulnerable Democrat spending more than $33 million and the Republican challenger spending $7 million.

Top House races:

California's 39th District: $34.5 million ($21 million from candidate campaigns, $14 million from outside groups)
California's 48th District: $33 million ($13 million from candidate campaigns, $20 million from outside groups)
Washington's 8th District: $30 million ($11 million from candidate campaigns, $19 million from outside groups)
New York's 19th District: $29 million ($15 million from candidate campaigns, $13.5 million from outside groups)
Pennsylvania's 1st District: $29 million ($15 million from candidate campaigns, $13.5 million from outside groups)

In the lower chamber, a toss-up between two minority candidates in California's 39th Congressional District, where immigrants make up a third of the population, has brought in the most money. Democrat Gil Cisneros' campaign has spent $10.5 million, while Republican Young Kim has spent just about $2 million. Kim has a strong backing of House GOP leadership though, with its super PAC Congressional Leadership PAC boasting a $6.3 million in support of Kim. House Democratic leadership is also behind Cisneros, with House Majority PAC and DCCC spending more than $5.2 million in the race.

GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's effort to defend his seat in California's 48th district has also become increasingly expensive, with candidate campaigns spending nearly $13 million and outside groups pouring in nearly $20 million. The Democratic side is eager to unseat the vulnerable Republican, with challenger Harley Rouda leading an aggressive $6 million campaign, and liberal outside groups including Independence USA PAC, House Majority PAC and DCCC spending more than $11 million to back him. Rohrabacher is backed by Congressional Leadership Fund's $4 million campaign.

Top outside groups

Congressional Leadership Fund: $137 million (Super PAC linked to House GOP leadership)
Senate Majority PAC: $112 million (Super PAC linked to Senate Democratic leadership)
Senate Leadership Fund: $93.5 million (Super PAC linked to Senate GOP leadership)
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: $84 million
National Republican Congressional Committee: $74 million
House Majority PAC: $72 million (Super PAC linked to House Democratic leadership)
Majority Forward: $46 million (Super PAC linked to Democratic leadership)
Independence USA PAC: $37 million (Super PAC funded by Michael Bloomberg)
National Republican Senatorial Committee: $33.5 million
America First: $31 million (Super PAC linked to Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale)

Top donors

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson: $113 million
Tom and Kathryn Steyer: $51 million
Michael Bloomberg: $50 million
Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein: $39 million
Donald Sussman: $23 million
James and Marilyn Simons: $19 million
George Soros: $17 million
Steven and Christine Schwartzman: $13 million
Fred Eychaner: $12 million
Kenneth Griffin: $11 million

An official familiar with Michael Bloomberg's contributions told ABC News that Bloomberg's total investment this cycle will be over $110 million, but only about $50 million of that has been reflected in FEC reports so far.

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