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Saturday
Jan122019

Megyn Kelly, NBC come to agreement on exit after controversial tenure

John Lamparski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Megyn Kelly's rocky tenure at NBC is over.

Kelly, a former Fox News host, joined the network in 2017 on a large deal and in three marquee roles. She hosted a daytime talk show, started a Sunday night news show and was to be featured in regular political coverage on the network's news programs.

All three roles quickly fell apart as Kelly struggled with attracting viewers and became embroiled in a number of controversies.

NBC delivered the news of Kelly's exit with one sentence late Friday.

"The parties have resolved their differences, and Megyn Kelly is no longer an employee of NBC," a spokesman said.

NBC News reported Kelly will leave the network with the remainder of her three-year, $69 million deal -- about $30 million.

Kelly's daytime talk show was cancelled in October after she made controversial statements about blackface.

She brought up blackface during a segment the week before Halloween while holding a round-table discussion with an all-white panel about offensive costumes.

"But what is racist?" she wondered aloud. "You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface in Halloween or a black person who puts on white face for Halloween. Like, back when I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."

She then defended a white reality star who dressed as singer Diana Ross, saying, "I felt like, who doesn't love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day, and I don't know how that got racist on Halloween."

Kelly gave a tearful apology on the show the next day.

Both Kelly's morning show and Sunday evening news program struggled to find viewers.

The 9 a.m. hour, hosted by Kelly, shot up 10 percent in viewers the month after her exit, according to Nielsen numbers. "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" aired just eight episodes in 2017 -- the last being a much-criticized interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan112019

Air traffic controllers suing Trump administration over missed pay during shutdown

ugurhan/iStock(WASHINGTON) --The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is suing the Trump administration on behalf of the thousands of members of their union that have not been paid during the protracted showdown over border wall funding between the president and congressional Democrats.

The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., claims the administration has violated the Fifth Amendment by depriving workers of wages without due process and violated fair labor regulations by not at least paying minimum wage to air traffic controllers and others who are exempted from furlough during the government shutdown. The suit also claims the FAA didn't promptly pay overtime to union members, an oversight the union says is also in violation of regulations.

The shutdown is hitting U.S. air traffic controllers particularly hard because their numbers are already at a 30-year low, according to NATCA. The number of fully certified air traffic controllers, as they're called, is 10,500 -- the union would ideally like to have 2,000 more. And approximately 2,000 of them are scheduled to retire this year.

The mandatory retirement age for controllers is 56.

Air traffic controllers are generally required to work their highly stressful job of guiding aircraft through the nation's airspace throughout the shutdown without pay.

"It is an unconscionable thing to think that in a profession like ours where safety in the skies is of the utmost importance that we would not get paid," said Jim Marinitti, an air traffic controller in Miami.

More than 200 people were in Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon attending a rally organized by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and leaders from the aviation community over the issue.

Those tasked with keeping U.S. skies safe, with or without pay, had a clear message to deliver: every day the shutdown continues makes the aviation system a little less safe.

"I can't predict what would happen to the system if we had to go on for months or years," said Rob Hoss, a controller based in Tampa, referring to the President Donald Trump's suggestion the shutdown could continue for that long. "There's nobody that can understand that detriment that would be undertaken to the to the flying public if this had to go on any further."

While the shutdown looms, maintenance, inspection, training and modernization programs are deferred. Many FAA safety employees and support staff cannot go to work.

"While we are doing the day to day tasks there's a lot of things that are falling through the cracks," Portland International Airport tower controller Richard Kennington told ABC News. "There's a lot of insidious stuff that the flying public doesn't see that's not happening."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan112019

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launches 10 communications satellites

Jorge Villalba/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Using its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX on Friday launched the final group of next generation communication satellites, known as Iridium NEXT, completing a decade-long project.

The 10 satellites, which are part of a 75-piece constellation, were launched at 10:31 a.m. ET from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

They began their orbit an hour later, SpaceX confirmed on Twitter.

This is the eighth and last set of satellites that SpaceX has launched to replace the world’s largest commercial communication satellite network.

“Iridium is the only satellite communications network that spans the entire globe and Iridium NEXT is one of the largest 'tech upgrades' in space history,” SpaceX said in a statement. “The process of replacing the satellites one by one in a constellation of this size and scale has never been completed before.”

As well as boosting coverage across the globe, the new network will support new services such as Iridium CertusSM, the company’s next-generation L-band broadband, and its AireonSM system for global aircraft surveillance and tracking.

Iridium and SpaceX have collaborated on the project for a decade.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan112019

Today is payday -- but not for hundreds of thousands of government workers

AndreyPopov/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Friday is payday for many Americans, but not for hundreds of thousands of federal workers affected by the government shutdown. They're missing their first paychecks as Congress and President Donald Trump continue feuding over whether to build a border wall.

Friday is day 21 of the partial government shutdown, which this weekend could become the longest in U.S. history.

An estimated 800,000 federal workers are either on furlough or are required to work without pay, with no deal in sight.

Federal agencies stagger pay cycles -- employee checks are issued on different days. One major union, the American Federation of Government Employees, estimated that by Friday about third of the affected 800,000 workers will miss their first paychecks. Another third will miss theirs on Monday, with the remaining missing theirs on Tuesday.

Tony Reardon, head of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents many IRS and Border Patrol workers, called Friday an "ominous day" because it's the day the shutdown finally hits home for many Americans.

"Federal employees started this shutdown nervous and anxious about their future," he said. "Today, many of them will be downright terrified about whether they can make their car payment, their mortgage, their day care bill or their children's tuition bills."

The government shutdown began Dec. 22 after Trump insisted on a border wall as part of a spending package, and congressional Democrats balked. The impasse has led to speculation the president will use a national emergency declaration to build the wall, without direct congressional approval.

Hundreds of federal workers across the country on Thursday organized demonstrations against the shutdown. Rallies were held in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Dallas, and Ogden, Utah.

In past shutdowns, federal workers typically received back pay after the government resumed operating, but an unknown number of contractors are unlikely to receive compensation.

One union that represents security guards and custodians, SEIU 32BJ, said it estimates some 600 of its members who work in the nation's capital as contractors will go without their first paychecks Friday -- paychecks that most of those employees can't afford to miss.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jan112019

You can now rent the $1,300 bassinet that some parents swear by

milanvirijevic/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Parents longing to afford what some consider the holy grail of infant sleepers -- which claims to calm fussy babies so they and their parents can sleep -- can now rent it from the company at a fraction of the price.

The SNOO, a smart baby bassinet that hit the market in 2016, is now available to rent for $4.90 per day -- roughly $147 per month (with a minimum of one-month rental). The original purchase price is a hefty $1,300 compared to other bassinets, many of which can be purchased for $100 or less.

"We are so excited to announce that parents across America can now rent SNOO for dollars a day!" Happiest Baby, the company that makes the SNOO, wrote on its Facebook page, where it claims that the bassinet "is the world's safest, most effective baby bed."

The SNOO was designed by Los Angeles-based pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, based on a theory from his book The Happiest Baby on the Block about "the 5 S's" for soothing babies: swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing and sucking a pacifier.

The product promotes soothing with its womb-like rocking and white noise features. The SNOO automatically responds when a baby wakes up and reactivates sound and motion so they can be soothed back to sleep.

In the SNOO, a baby is swaddled on his or her back and secured with snaps. This keeps the baby from rolling into risky positions, the company's website claims.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest position for babies to sleep is on their backs. The maximum weight for a baby to use the SNOO is 25 pounds, but the company says the SNOO should only be used until 6 months or "until baby can get on hands and knees."

"Once babies start rolling and sitting, which happens between 4 and 6 months, bassinets are not safe anymore," said Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a board-certified pediatrician and Global Health Fellow at Stanford.

Parents have raved about the SNOO since its debut, including celebrity Ashton Kutcher, who reportedly brought it up on Dax Shepard's Podcast, "Armchair Expert," in 2018.

"He was like a 6-hour sleeper and I'm eternally grateful to the SNOO for that," Kutcher said of his son Dimitri, whom he shares with Mila Kunis.

According to Happiest Baby, rental units are reconditioned before they're sent out, which includes sanitizing and a safety check.

In a statement to ABC News' Good Morning America, Karp said the SNOO rental "provide babies with this added safety for approximately the same cost of a daily coffee."

According to Karp, SNOO did a survey with the parenting website BabyCenter, which indicated that sleep deprivation from babies crying is the number one stressor on new parents.

"Besides being a great burden, it can lead to many serious problems: marital stress, postpartum depression, unsafe sleeping practices, obesity, car accidents, missed work, etc.," Karp said.

Ultimately, he is seeking to have the bassinet covered by insurance.

"We have many third-party university studies underway to demonstrate that we can reduce infant sleep death and postpartum depression," Karp added. The status of those studies was not clear.

"Ultimately, our goal is to have insurance companies subsidize this rental, so that parents across the country can have access to SNOO at a very low price (just as they now have access to breast pumps, which are subsidized by the government and insurance)," he said.

Dr. Bracho-Sanchez said she urges parents to consider that some of the behaviors the SNOO tries to address are normal for newborns.

"Many babies are born with a flipped day-night cycle and it takes a few weeks for them to adjust to life out of the womb," Bracho-Sanchez told GMA. "During that time they may cluster feed at night and these feeds provide essential nutrition. I would hate for parents to fall into a false sense of reassurance that their baby's needs have been met."

She went on, "There is also such a thing as the crying curve--babies are known to cry the most around two months of age. This typically coincides with colic, which is very common in babies. The shushing, swaddling and swinging may work, but it also may not."

Bracho-Sanchez also took issue with strapping babies down, as is done with the SNOO.

"Babies also start rolling from their tummy to their back at or around 4 months of age, not before, and it takes them another month or so to roll from their back onto their tummy," Bracho-Sanchez added. "So if the baby is put on his or her back to sleep and the sleeping environment is kept free of pillows, soft bedding, toys, or any other choking hazard, I don't believe strapping babies down is necessary."

But she applauded the SNOO for encouraging parents not to co-sleep with their infants.

"I applaud any efforts to get parents to put their babies on their back to sleep and to avoid bed sharing, the SNOO included," she added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan102019

Fiat-Chrysler could pay $800 million in emissions cheating settlement

wellesenterprises/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Fiat-Chrysler could pay more than $800 million in fines and settlements, the administration announced Thursday, after allegations that the automaker used illegal software to circumvent laboratory emissions inspections on 100,000 diesel vehicles.

That figure includes $305 million the company will pay to settle the claims filed by the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California which alleged that the company cheated on fuel emissions tests. The company will pay $205 million to mitigate the excess pollution and recall the affected vehicles.

On top of those fees, the company could have to pay more than $300 million in settlements for customers in a class action lawsuit. Those payouts are expected to average $2800 for each customer impacted by the recall, according to the company.

EPA and Justice Department officials said Fiat-Chrysler lied to the government after EPA engineers discovered a method of cheating emissions tests among millions of lines of computer code.

"Not only did they violate the law. They also tried to hide their actions. For three years Fiat-Chrysler told us that their vehicles complied with our standards. Yet EPA engineers at our National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory and the office of transportation and air quality caught them cheating, and that is no easy feat," he told reporters on Thursday.

Officials said that, similar to the Volkswagen case, the system in Fiat-Chrysler diesel vehicles used to control pollution from the car's emissions operated differently when it was being tested by EPA than when it was operated on the road. Under the Clean Air Act all new vehicle models have to be certified as in compliance with fuel emission standards to be on the market in the U.S., but individual vehicles are not always tested on a regular basis.

The administration says that vehicles like Ram trucks and Grand Cherokee SUV's met emissions standards when they were tested but then released more air pollution on the road, including harmful nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter that contributes to smog.

"A multinational corporate bad actor, as the administration is saying, seriously violated emissions laws to the detriment of the health and welfare of the people of the United States and that is a very serious offense," Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark told reporters on Thursday.

The company maintains they did not engage in a deliberate scheme to install defeat devices or cheat emissions tests.

"The settlements do not change the Company’s position that it did not engage in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat emissions tests. Further, the consent decree and settlement agreements contain no finding or admission with regard to any alleged violations of vehicle emissions rules," the company said in a press release, adding they hope the settlement helps restore customers' trust.

"We have implemented rigorous new validation procedures and updated our training programs to ensure continued compliance with the increasingly complex regulatory environment," Mark Chernoby, the company’s head of North American Safety and Regulatory Compliance, said in a statement. "Such measures are consistent with our mission to deliver advanced technologies that deliver value to our customers and that enhance the environmental performance of our products."

Officials declined to comment on if or when the administration could pursue criminal charges.

The automaker will recall approximately 100,000 vehicles including model year 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram pickup trucks for the software update. The company could face additional fees if 85 percent of those vehicles aren't recalled according to a schedule as part of the settlement.

Scrutiny of U.S. vehicle emissions grew in 2015 when Volkswagen reached a $25 billion settlement with the Department of Justice after admitting to illegally installing software in diesel vehicles that altered its emissions when undergoing tests. The German automaker recalled roughly 500,000 vehicles in the United States and executives were criminally charged by the Department of Justice.

While the action against Fiat-Chrysler impacts fewer vehicles than the earlier case against Volkswagen, officials said the settlement imposes a higher penalty per vehicle in this case.

Susan Bodine, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement, said EPA's vehicle testing lab has increased oversight since the Volkswagen case and expanded emissions testing. She said EPA caught Fiat-Chrysler earlier because of the increased work from EPA engineers.

EPA and DOJ staff involved in the case kept working during the government shutdown to meet a court-imposed deadline that a settlement be reached by Jan. 10.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan102019

'Infants at work' program at Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa lets babies come to the office

Courtesy Chelsey DeRuyter(NEW YORK) -- Moms who work outside the home are in a constant struggle between being present in their careers and being present with their kids.

For the new moms employed by the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, that struggle has been far lessened by a new program called "Infants at Work."

The program allows a baby -- biological, adopted and fostered -- to come with their parent to work for the first 180 days of the baby's life or until the baby starts crawling, Antoinette Bernich, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, told Good Morning America.

"Having an infant around has been the coolest thing ever," Bernich said of the program's first baby. Finley has been coming to work with her mom, Chelsey DeRuyter, for the last four weeks.

"It’s been an amazing experience," DeRuyter, the Chief Development Officer of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, told "GMA." "At first I was nervous about how I would juggle my responsibilities and role. How was I going to juggle both daughter and being successful at my job? But I've been able to be very productive."

On Thursday, Finley will attend a meeting about membership processes with eight staff in attendance.

"It makes me feel extremely empowered to be both a mom and a person with a successful career. I love being with Finley during these important milestones while being st a job that I love," DeRuyter said.

Over the next few months, four more babies will be born to staff members.

Bernich said "the focus here is still on work. This is an accommodation for working parents to alleviate some stress."

She said this next year will be about learning what works and what doesn't. However, the program as it stands now does have some provisions built in. There's a plan in place for fussiness, she said, as well as a plan if there are some employees who simply do not want to be around babies at work.

"We're going to make this work for everybody," she said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan102019

Government shutdown: Workers face their first missing paychecks Friday

wildpixel/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The ongoing government shutdown is about to turn into the longest one in U.S. history, and that's raising questions about what will happen next.

By Friday, most of about 800,000 federal workers are expected to have missed their first paycheck since the shutdown began three weeks ago. And by Saturday, the funding lapse will be the longest in history at 22 days, surpassing the 21-day holiday shutdown that stretched into 1996.

The missing paychecks are likely to trigger at least some unemployment claims with states, as well as possible resignations by federal workers who have grown tired of the instability. That could include air traffic controllers and airline security personnel, prison guards, food inspectors, Coast Guard personnel and border patrol officers.

Already, an estimated 4,500 people have filed for unemployment in the nation's capital. Airline workers are showing up on Capitol Hill urging Congress to reach a deal, and a separate major union rally is planned for Thursday.

For now, most agencies say there haven't been any major disruptions to government operations because workers deemed essential -- about 420,000 -- have been ordered to keep working despite not being paid. At least two lawsuits have been filed on their behalf, with major unions arguing that requiring work without pay isn't fair.

But as one agency official put it, if the shutdown extends past February, "we'll be digging into the couch cushions" to keep the most important operations afloat.

Here's a look at the latest shutdown developments and what could happen next:

Unemployment claims start coming in

Washington's city government estimates that about 4,500 people -- 3,745 federal workers and 822 federal contractors -- already have filed for unemployment as a direct result of the shutdown.

That's likely just the beginning. Federal workers can file for unemployment benefits where they worked, and, according to one major union, some 85 percent of the federal workforce exists outside Washington. Rules vary from state to state. But it's generally expected that employees would have to repay any unemployment benefits if they receive back pay once the shutdown ends.

There is one small comfort for federal workers though: The Office of Personnel and Management on Wednesday said that employees required to work during the shutdown will be able to reschedule any paid time off they may have lost.

Food stamps OK for now, some housing in question

Food stamp recipients will have access to their full benefits for February, even if the partial government shutdown continues, the Agriculture Department told reporters late Tuesday.

The department said it will work with states to load benefits onto recipients' cards by Jan. 20, just within the deadline for a provision that allows them to pay out benefits, even without a budget.

Still a concern are expiring contracts for a program by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that subsidizes rent and utilities for 1.2 million low-income families. HUD announced that some 1,150 contracts with private landlords have expired since the shutdown, with another 500 set to expire later this month and 500 more next month.

The agency sent the landlords letters earlier this month urging them to dip into any reserves, and an agency spokesman said he didn't expect any evictions to take place because landlords know they will eventually get paid when the shutdown ends.

"There have never been evictions of any kind because of government shutdowns," HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said.

Worth noting though is that if the shutdown stretches into February, which is possible considering the lack of progress in budget talks, HUD and other agencies would be working in uncharted territory.

Feds owe a $5 million water bill

The local water provider in Washington said the federal government is short $5 million of the $16.5 million it owes, according to a recent letter it received from the Treasury Department.

Matthew Brown, chief financial officer at the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, known as D.C. Water, said they usually don't charge late fees to customers like the federal government and the delayed payments won't immediately hurt the water authority's pocket books.

"It would probably be, just off the top of my head, approximately a year before it begins to be a real problem," Brown said.

Air Traffic controllers affected

Also a concern are the air traffic controllers employed by the Federal Aviation Administration. This week, nearly 100 air traffic controllers went to Capitol Hill to call for an end to the shutdown. An association of the workers said they're already at a 30-year staffing low nationwide. They expect their first missing paycheck around Jan. 15.

Food inspections on the line

After the shutdown, routine domestic food inspections were suspended by the Food and Drug Administration, although foreign food inspections continued along with what the agency called surveillance of "high-risk" foods and facilities.

Food and Drug Administrator Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday that the agency is "taking steps" to expand domestic food safety inspections further during the shutdown, focusing on high-risk facilities that make up a third of regular inspections.

Gottlieb told The Washington Post he wants to bring food inspectors back to work as early as next week, though they still would not be paid until the government reopens.

Preventing wildfires

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is calling back employees to staff 38 national wildlife refuges across the country under a temporary 30-day plan that will rely on leftover money from its 2018 budget. Similar to the National Park Services, refuges were accessible to the public, minus the staff or access to visitors centers. The workers that come back will be carrying out prescribed burns to manage the areas and minimize wildfire risk. They will also staff visitors centers and conduct maintenance, as well as continue working on environmental rules they hope to complete before next fall's hunting season.

Some National Parks switch signs to 'closed'

So far, the biggest visible impact of the shutdown for the general public has been at the national parks, where the absence of staff has meant a pileup of trash and safety violations.

But at least one park appears to have had enough. Joshua Tree National Park announced it planned to close temporarily Thursday to deal with sanitation and safety issues. Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee have estimated that NPS is losing $400,000 a day in fees.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jan102019

Feminist city guides shine spotlight on women-owned businesses around the world

Rawpixel/iStock(NEW YORK) -- For female travelers looking to support women-owned businesses, a new travel magazine and website has put together "feminist city guides" for 20 destinations around the world.

Unearth Women has published two print issues so far, but the city guides can be found on their website. The guides cover destinations from London to Jaipur.

"The goal of our feminist city guides is to celebrate the influence of women in cities around the world, their impact on society, and to spotlight female-led businesses," Nikki Vargas, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Unearth Women, told ABC News' Good Morning America.

The magazine relies on local writers and avid travelers to help inform their guides.

"Whether it's the feminist library in Beirut or a female-run gallery in Johannesburg, our guides look at a city through the lens of women's past and present influence on that particular place," Vargas said.

For example, a guide to Portland, Oregon highlights the female-founded Blue Star Donuts shop; the entirely female-run Nightwood Society, a collective of chefs, butchers, farmers and sommeliers; and French restaurant Coquine, led by a female chef.

In Buenos Aires, the guide directs readers to Eva Peron's grave, who founded "pushed for the rights of women to vote and run for office" and Graffiti Mundo, a female owned-and-operated graffiti tour of the city.

Vargas said Unearth Women hopes to publish a new feminist city guide each week.

"Each feminist city guide will strive to go beyond the standard tourist attractions of a destination and aim to celebrate the women of that city," Vargas added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan092019

Source: Fiat-Chrysler to pay more than $300 million in emissions cheating settlement

wellesenterprises/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Department of Justice is expected to announce a major settlement with Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday, resolving allegations that the automaker used illegal software to circumvent laboratory emissions inspections on 100,000 diesel vehicles, according to a source briefed on the matter.

The settlement, according to the source, will include an approximately $305 million fine against Fiat-Chrysler. The amount does not include the cost the company will have to incur in order to bring those 100,000 vehicles back to emissions standards by installing a software update.

This settlement is not expected to outline any criminal charges.

The automaker will recall approximately 100,000 vehicles including model year 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram pickup trucks for the software update.

Fiat-Chrysler and the Department of Justice each declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

Scrutiny of U.S. vehicle emissions grew in 2015 when Volkswagen reached a $25 billion settlement with the Department of Justice after admitting to illegally installing software in diesel vehicles that altered its emissions when undergoing tests. The German automaker recalled roughly 500,000 vehicles in the United States and executives were criminally charged by the Department of Justice.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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