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Tuesday
Jul102018

In a nod to passenger allergies, Southwest Airlines to end its signature, free in-flight peanuts 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Southwest Airlines, which for years has marketed its free in-flight peanuts as a perk, announced Tuesday that beginning on August 1, its flight attendants will no longer serve the salty snacks in deference to passengers with peanut allergies.

“We've made the difficult decision to discontinue serving peanuts on all flights,” Southwest said in a statement. “Peanuts forever will be part of Southwest's history and DNA.”

Many airlines have been phasing out peanuts recently due to passenger allergies, but until now, Southwest has held out.

Peanuts have been a part of Southwest’s culture for 47 years, the airline said in a tweet.

They even created a blog for flyers to learn more about the company, called “Nuts About Southwest.”

One of the airlines' most memorable ad campaigns pitched the notion that its airfares are so low that passengers could fly for peanuts.

Known for their salty, honey-roasted nuts in bright red and blue bags, Southwest Airlines says they want to ensure the best and safest on-board experience for everyone, especially for customers with peanut-related allergies.

The airlines will continue to serve pretzels and other free snacks for longer flights.

“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where all customers -- including those with peanut-related allergies -- feel safe and welcome on every Southwest flight,” Southwest officials said in a statement.

While peanut-free Southwest flights may seem like the end to an era, airline officials insisted that the decision won’t affect in-flight service.

“We'll miss the peanuts, but, at the end of the day, it's our Southwest Employees and the Hospitality they deliver that set us apart, far more than peanuts ever could.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul102018

J. Crew is now offering sizes up to 5X

J Crew/ Instagram(NEW YORK) -- More women than ever are now able to shop at J. Crew.

The clothing brand announced Tuesday that it had launched a new line of tops, pants, skirts and dresses that range from XXS to 5X.

Universal Standard, a label that specializes in inclusive fashion, collaborated on the collection. Lisa Greenwald, J.Crew's chief merchandising officer, said that Universal Standard helped with everything from the designs to manufacturing.

This new line, which ranges in price from $50 to $150, comes more than a year after J. Crew and its sister brand, Madewell, expanded the sizes of their denim offerings.

"We recognize our platform as a mainstream American brand and feel proud to have the responsibility and the privilege to do more for our customers," Greenwald said, according to Glamour. "We’re excited to continue working toward more inclusivity and making J.Crew available to everyone. This has been a long process, throughout which we’ve worked very closely with Universal Standard to make sure we’re doing this thoughtfully."

According to a June, 2018 report from Racked, Plunkett Research estimated that an estimated 68 percent of American women wear a size 14 or above, though many retailers do not offer clothing that would fit them. Racked also reported that the numbers are especially rough for high-end brands. Of the 300 or so labels that showed at New York Fashion Week last season, the fashion website reported that only 32 offer up to at least a size 16, and just 14 produce sizes 22 and above.

To make their Universal Standard collaboration more inclusive, J. Crew also plans to group all of the sizes together rather than putting larger pieces on their own. Alexandra Waldman, cofounder and creative director of Universal Standard said, according to Glamour, that this could be "a big step forward in unifying fashion and removing, once and for all, the 'us' and 'them' barrier that has always separated women."

"This is the beginning of a true change in the apparel industry and the start of true inclusivity," Waldman said. "It’s important because it’s not a separate subcategory of a brand, or a quick grab for the larger-sized consumer. It's a dedicated strategy to bring millions of American women into the fold and make them feel part of the style enjoyed only by the smaller women until now."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul102018

TSA finds python hidden in hard drive, stops real-life 'Snakes on a Plane' moment

TSA(NEW YORK) -- Airport security agents stopped a woman from boarding a plane with a python wrapped in a nylon stocking concealed in a computer hard drive Sunday.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said its agents stopped a real-life version of "Snakes on a Plane" from happening after an agent noticed the ball python.

"Agent Neville Flynn would be extremely proud of our officers at the Miami International Airport (MIA). You see, Agent Flynn has HAD IT with snakes on planes, and our officers prevented a young Ball Python from flying the friendly skies this past Sunday," the TSA wrote on Instagram, referencing a line from the 2006 film.

"A traveler on her way to the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados attempted to smuggle the snakelet inside of an external hard drive packed in her checked bag. If you think airplane seats can feel constricting, imagine how this little guy felt! Talk about bad memories!" the TSA continued. "While the python itself posed no danger to anyone on the aircraft, an organic item concealed inside electronics raises security concerns, which is why our officers took a closer look."

"The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ( @USFWS ) was notified. They responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight," the TSA added. "Conversationally, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul092018

How blockchain technology extends beyond cryptocurrency

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Blockchain technology is the foundation behind Bitcoin, and it was a driving force in the cryptocurrency's meteoric rise in value at the end of 2017 into 2018.

There are questions as to how long a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin can keep its market value, however, as the world watched it suffer a significant drop since the beginning of 2018.

There are many believers in blockchain technology though. J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, for instance, once called Bitcoin a "fraud." He admittedly regrets making that comment, but in spite of his skepticism of Bitcoin, his stance on blockchain remains positive.

Blockchain is unfamiliar to many people as it is not widely used. There are a number of tech experts who believe over time, the blockchain could become a popular, secure technology employed to relay goods, currency, and ideas to others.

What is the blockchain?

Simply put, blockchain is a digital ledger. It securely tracks economic transactions and is able to record the trade of a number of goods.

The information that is stored in the blockchain is decentralized, meaning a network of peers governs each transaction, rather than one central body such as a bank. The records are thus easy to verify, accessible, and open to the public.

One important aspect of blockchain, and what makes it so intriguing among technology experts, is its versatility: it is not limited to cryptocurrencies and can be used across different industries.

NPER Project is one such company bringing blockchain beyond the digital currency scope. The team from South Korea seeks to protects the rights of creators and intellectual property (IP) using blockchain.

"We thought one of the most important early sides of indsutry we should innovate with blockchain technology is the intellectual property side... we're focusing on developing our main network now," says Daniel Nam, the company's general manager and operational planner, in a conversation with ABC News.

"Our platform provides not only the creator's IP protections using blockchain technology, but also a business model that everyone can participate when given. You can say it's just another bitcoin with exclusive features related to IP."

The digital asset that would be exchanged, NPER COIN, allows users to transfer intellectual property rights without a centralized institution in place, and it does not restrict the IP market to one specific category.

More on the development of NPER COIN can be found on the project's website.

NPER is one example of how blockchain technology can be used to transcend different industries, and there is belief among some tech experts it can disrupt more industries in the future, including cloud storage, voter fraud, and migrant crises.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul092018

Starbucks to phase out single-use plastic straws for sippy cups, alternatives

Starbucks(NEW YORK) -- Attention all iced coffee, shaken tea and other cold drink lovers -- soon those icy beverages may come in containers that don't use straws, if they come from Starbucks.

The company announced Monday that it will phase out single-use plastic straws from its more than 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020, as part of it's commitment towards more sustainable solutions.

"Starbucks, the largest food and beverage retailer to make such a global commitment, anticipates the move will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from Starbucks stores," the company said in a statement.

The company will be making "a strawless lid or alternative-material straw options available," the statement said.

The new strawless lid, which will become the standard for all iced coffee, tea and espresso beverages, is already available in more than 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Straws made from alternative materials, including paper or compostable plastic, will also be available for Frappuccino blended beverages and for customers who prefer or need a straw.

"For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways," said Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer for Starbucks.

The World Wildlife Fund is also working with the coffee giant on waste reduction initiatives.

"Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species," said Erin Simon, director of sustainability research and development and material science at WWF, U.S. "As we partner with Starbucks in waste reduction initiatives ... we hope others will follow in their footsteps."

This move comes on the heels of eco-friendly initiatives made by other companies including McDonalds and Alaska Airlines, who announced their own plans to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

The airline announced in May that single-use plastic stirrers and citrus picks would be replaced with sustainable organic versions made of white birch and bamboo, beginning this month.

McDonald's made a similar announcement in June that it would scrap plastic straws from restaurant locations in the U.K. and Ireland and replace them with paper straws, starting in September.

Actor and environmentalist Adrian Grenier, who is also a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program, retweeted his support of the coffee chain’s big announcement on Monday.

Other companies and consumers are following the trend towards becoming more environmentally conscious. Stainless steel and paper straws have become hot new items for drinking cool beverages.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul092018

New 'Iridescent' cupcake at Walt Disney World will be a hit on Instagram

Walt Disney World Resort(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- If there's one thing Disney food fans can't seem to get enough of, it's cupcakes.

Now there's brand-new cupcake to add to your cupcake-till-you're-in-a-food-coma list. It's called the Iridescent and it's available at the California Grill atop Disney's Contemporary Resort.

It's as delicious as it is beautiful, and there's also a matching mouse ear headband. In fact, it was the headband that inspired the cupcake.

Walt Disney World Resort

Made with a vanilla confetti cupcake, vanilla buttercream and chocolate pearls, the standout feature of this sweet treat is the strawberry glitter jam in the center. Yes, it's jam with actual glitter. Take that, Instagram followers.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul092018

Issa Rae on the worst advice she never took

Taylor Hill/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- “Insecure” creator and star Issa Rae has forged her own path in Hollywood.

Forgoing the conventional route often taken by actors dictated by casting directors, agents and producers, Rae created her own show: a web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” which became massively popular and in 2013 won the Shorty Award for Best Web Show.

It caught the attention of writer/producer/comedian Larry Wilmore and together the two created HBO’s “Insecure.” Now about to enter its third season, “Insecure” has garnered critical acclaim, named one of the American Film Institute’s top 10 television programs of the year in 2017 and earining Rae two Golden Globe Award nominations.

So when it came to sharing the worst advice she never took it's not surprising that for Rae it was "to do it the traditional way."

Rae tells ABC News' Chief Business, Technology and Economics correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis, that she was told, "No one's checking for internet shows. No one's checking for web series. So just write a traditional spec script, send it to someone, send it to an agent, and you'll break in the industry that way."

Had she listened and tried do it the "traditional way," Rae tells Jarvis, she believes that she "wouldn't be where I am now".

She adds, “Your individuality is such a currency, because it makes you rich. It makes you, you."

Since the first episode of her web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” aired in 2011, Rae has helped to pave the way for other web creators, opening a new door to entry in Hollywood. Today her online content has amassed over 23 million views and over 350,000 YouTube subscribes.

You can hear more from Issa Rae on episode 41 of ABC Radio’s “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Jul082018

JetBlue plane crew comes to rescue of dog with oxygen mask for flight

Steven and Michele Burt(WORCESTER, Mass.) -- Plane passengers rarely describe air travel as a breath of fresh air, but it was literally that for one family's bulldog on a recent JetBlue flight.

The French bulldog, named Darcy, was on a flight from Florida to Massachusetts on Thursday when she started showing signs of distress, according to his owner Michele Burt. The 3-year-old bulldog's tongue began to turn blue, and she was having difficulty breathing.

The crew came to the rescue with an oxygen mask for Darcy. The photos, which have since spread across social media, show the bulldog being treated for hypoxia. The photos are cute, but hypoxia -- a lack of oxygen in the body -- can be deadly.

"I placed the mask over her face, and within a few minutes, she became alert. And after a short time, she didn’t want the mask," Michele said.

Michele thanked JetBlue for its attentiveness to Darcy and wanted to remind people that "good people are doing good things on a daily basis -- even if it is in small ways or big ways."

"We all want to make sure everyone has a safe and comfortable fight, including those with four legs," JetBlue said in a statement to ABC News. "We're thankful for our crew's quick thinking and glad everyone involved was breathing easier when the plane landed in Worcester."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jul072018

Clothing company ASOS introduces 'wheelchair-friendly' jumpsuit

ASOS(NEW YORK) -- ASOS is becoming more inclusive than ever before.

Earlier this week, the clothing company released a fully waterproof jumpsuit that its website noted has been adapted to be "wheelchair-friendly."

Reporter and Paralympic hopeful Chloe Ball-Hopkins collaborated with ASOS on the design, which features a hem that's longer in the back to help prevent the pants from riding up, and adjustable cuffs for setting sleeve length.

In an interview with the BBC News show Victoria Derbyshire, Ball-Hopkins, who uses a wheelchair, explained that the idea came to her after she struggled to find something appropriate to wear to a music festival when the weather took a turn for the worse. She sent an email to ASOS detailing the problem, and the company agreed to work with her.

"There's a lot of people like myself who, in a chair, you get cold very easily, and water and rain definitely doesn't help that. And you've got a lap that can get wet too -- I think people forget that," she said. "At the end of the day, I was, like, 'I need to do something.'"

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul052018

Facebook blocks, then restores Declaration of Independence post

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A newspaper serially publishing the Declaration of Independence on social media this week got an unexpected surprise: Facebook had blocked one of the posts.

The Liberty County Vindicator, a newspaper in southeastern Texas, had been posting portions of the Declaration on Facebook each day leading up to the Fourth of July. But the tenth installment of the foundational document didn't post -- and Facebook said it was because of hate speech.

"Somewhere in paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson wrote something that Facebook finds offensive," Casey Stinnett, managing editor of the Vindicator, said on the paper's website Monday. "The Vindicator received a notice from Facebook saying that the post 'goes against our standards on hate speech.'"

Stinnett speculated that the phrase "merciless Indian savages" was what had triggered Facebook's response.

"He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions," the Declaration's text reads.

"Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as 'Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development' that would have been better," Stinnett wrote. "Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans."

Facebook said the removal was a mistake, noting that in other contexts "Indian savages" could violate the company's hate speech policies.

“The post was removed by mistake and restored as soon as we looked into it," a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News. "We process millions of reports each week, and sometimes we get things wrong.”

In a post outlining its approach to hate speech questions, Facebook notes that intent is one of the factors considered when weighing whether to remove a post.

The social media platform has been under increasing pressure to police content posted on its site following scrutiny over its alleged use in Russian disinformation campaigns during the 2016 election, which featured content that often played on politically divisive rhetoric.

On Tuesday, Stinnett posted an update, thanking Facebook for restoring the post.

"The Vindicator extends its thanks to Facebook," Stinnett wrote. "We never doubted Facebook would fix it, but neither did we doubt the usefulness of our fussing about it a little."

This is not the first time the Declaration of Independence has been misconstrued on social media. Last summer, National Public Radio tweeted out the entire Declaration of Independence in 113 consecutive 140-character chunks, prompting numerous Twitter users unfamiliar with the language in the founding document to lash out – accusing NPR of trying to incite a rebellion against the Trump administration.

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