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Tuesday
Sep042018

Montana restaurant pays 109-year-old to eat there for her birthday

Diane Gunter(MISSOULA, Montana) -- A 109-year-old took full advantage of a Montana restaurant's birthday discount -- and then some -- when she was paid to eat there last month.

The Montana Club in Missoula, which offers a percentage off customers' bills based on their age, actually paid birthday regular Helen Self $1.25 for dining there on Aug. 17, Self's granddaughter, 57-year-old Diane Gunter, told ABC News. The amount was a 109 percent discount on Self's bill, Gunter said.

Self, who is Montana's oldest living person, has been going to The Montana Club on her birthday for a decade. The day she turned 99 years old, Aug. 17, 2008, was the only time she paid for a meal there.

"Once she turned 101 she informed me that I had to come in and pay her for her meal," the restaurant's owner, Nick Alonzo, told ABC affiliate KTMF in Missoula.

Every year, Self orders a salad, prawns and a "baked potato with everything on it, and she always eats the whole thing," Gunter said.

"I don't know how," she added.

Self, who was born in 1909 in Hamilton, Montana, shared her simple secret to living a long life.

"Just hard work and keep yourself busy ... Just don't hurt people," she said.

And she hasn't lost her sense of adventure as she's gotten older. On her 100th birthday, Self went on her first ride on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and about four summers ago, she rode on an inner tube on Montana's Clark Fork River, Gunter said.

"I'd never even been myself, but I said, 'I'd go if she goes,'" Gunter said, describing the experience as a "great day."

Most recently, Self went camping with Gunter on Lake Como in Montana's Bitterroot Valley -- one of her favorite spots, KTMF reported.

"We're thinking if someone asked her to jump out of a plane, she'd probably say, 'yes,'" Gunter said.

When she isn't chasing an adrenaline rush, Self enjoys visiting with relatives and going to the Southgate Mall in Missoula, Gunter said. Other than her eyesight and hearing, Self is "in really great health," and has much of her mobility, Gunter said.

Self has been living with Gunter in her Missoula home since 2000, cooking all of the dinners for Gunter and her 10 adopted children up until two years ago. The children's favorite meals were Self's homemade chicken, hamburger dishes and spaghetti, Gunter said.

"She's just a real sweet lady and just thinks of other people, and I think that's what kept her motivated," she said. "You know, these kids that are here, it feels like she has a purpose."

Now, the matriarch boasts a large family of two children, six grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great great-grandchildren, with another on the way, Gunter said.

Gunter believes being surrounded by all the children contributed to her grandmother's long life.

Last year, the Montana Department of Public Heath and Human Services honored Self at the 49th annual Governor's Conference on Aging, where she was the oldest of nine centenarians in the state to be recognized.


This year, Self rounded out her birthday with 21 family members and her favorite birthday cake: white cake with lemon filling, Gunter said.

Self is "surprised" by "each year that goes by" and is now looking forward to her 110th birthday, Gunter said.

"She takes it really well and just says, 'well, good Lord's not done with her yet,'" Gunter said.

Next year, The Montana Club will have to pay her even more to dine there.

The world's oldest living person is a Japanese woman named Kane Tanaka, who is 115 years and 204 days old, according to the Gerontology Research Group, a group devoted to reversing age-related decline, according to its website.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep042018

Steve Bannon uninvited from New Yorker event after celebrity backlash

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New Yorker pulled Steve Bannon from its annual fall festival on Monday amid major pushback from staff and celebrity participants.

Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, was scheduled to headline the star-studded The New Yorker Festival, but the magazine said it uninvited him after participants, including comedians Jim Carrey and John Mulaney, threatened to back out.

“I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think that I’ve ignored their concerns. I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues –– and I’ve re-considered. I’ve changed my mind. There is a better way to do this,” New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote in a statement Monday.

“Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before," he added, "and if the opportunity presents itself I’ll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage.”

The weekly magazine had planned to interview Bannon, which it called a leading creator and organizer of “Trumpism,” as a part of the October festival. Critics slammed the decision, saying it would give the ex-White House staffer a platform to “propel further the ‘ideas’ of white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, and illiberalism,” as described by Remnick's statement.

Remnick pulled the ex-White House staffer on Monday evening, just a few hours after the magazine announced that he would participate.

“The reaction on social media was critical and a lot of the dismay and anger was directed at me and my decision to engage him,” Remnick said, adding that staff members had also objected to the invitation. “Some on social media have said that there is no point in talking to Bannon because he is no longer in the White House.

“But Bannon has already exerted enormous impact on Trump; his rhetoric, ideas, and tactics are evident in much of what this President does and says and intends,” he added.

Sally Yates, Trump’s ousted deputy attorney general, actresses Emily Blunt and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a number of musicians, including Kelela and Miguel, are scheduled to speak at the three-day festival, but some participants said they would walk if Bannon appeared.

“If Steve Bannon is at the New Yorker festival I am out. I will not take part in an event that normalizes hate. I hope the @NewYorker will do the right thing and cancel the Steve Bannon event. Maybe they should read their own reporting about his ideology,” film producer Judd Apatow said.

“I apologize to Susan Morrison as I was really looking forward to our conversation. And I look forward to future @NewYorker Fests & other public, even heated, debates between different voices. But hard pass on this...,” Mulaney said. Comedians Jimmy Fallon, Patton Oswalt and Carrey also said they wouldn't appear if Bannon was there.

The festival kicks off on Oct. 5.

Bannon -- who left the White House in August 2017 in the wake of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia -- blasted the magazine over its “gutless” decision to remove him from the lineup.

"After being contacted several months ago and with seven weeks of continual requests for this event, I accepted The New Yorker's invitation with no thought of an honorarium," Bannon said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep022018

For safety on campuses, law enforcement increasingly turns to apps

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With summer winding down and syllabus week upon college students, campus law enforcement teams are doing their own type of studying -- on the best ways to keep their schools safe.

Colleges and universities are doing that more frequently through school safety apps, which safety officials hope will provide comfort to students and parents alike.

"What students want to do today, is make it convenient for themselves, make it a modality that they're comfortable with," Jay Gruber, chief of public safety at Georgetown University Chief of Public Safety, told ABC News.

Georgetown uses the app LiveSafe, which was founded by a Virginia Tech student after the 2007 shooting on that campus. The shooting, which left 33 people dead and 17 wounded, was the deadliest mass shooting in college campus history.

Among the features LiveSafe provides, it allows students to give anonymous tips on suspicious behavior in a text-like manner, as well as call for rides safely and communicate with campus police.

These apps serve as a necessity for colleges because getting information to students in a timely, effective manner is paramount for campus law enforcement leaders.

At Georgetown, for example, campus law enforcement was able to quickly arrest a man who exposed himself to a student after a student reported it on LiveSafe.

LiveSafe isn't the only app colleges are using to keep students comfortable and safe on and around campus.

Other apps include Rave Guardian and AppArmor, which includes a feature that has the ability to report tips anonymously.

Rave Guardian, an app similar to LiveSafe, provides safety services to college campuses, including the University of Cincinnati, the University of South Carolina and Boise State University.

Gruber stressed the importance of being able to communicate with campus police is helpful and lets the student provide officers with "actionable information."

"The fact that students can use the app to provide the tip in an anonymous fashion has also been important for us as well," Gruber continued.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, crime on college campuses has been at a standstill since 2013 with fewer than 38,000 incidents per year. The data is based on 6,506 institutions with 11,260 campuses and they've been declining from 2008 to 2013.

Beyond violence, school safety law enforcement is utilizing the apps to communicate with its student during tragedies.

Chris Sinkinson, one of the AppArmor's creators, told ABC News that during the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, where 23 people died, colleges were able to check in through the app on students studying abroad to make sure they were safe.

Some colleges describe the app as a "mobile blue light," referring to the emergency blue light stands that can be found around college campuses.

AppArmor designs specific interfaces for each college. For example, the University of Florida uses "Gator Safe," which is tailored to their needs, complete with school branding.

Ed Posey, the associate director of the University of Florida Police Department, who uses the app, told ABC News there are "vast pieces of information" on the app that are helpful to students, faculty and staff. It also includes a directory of what to do if, for example, a student drinks too much.

Posey said there are 100,000 people on campus during game-days and that some go in and stay outside the stadium, so getting information to everyone quickly is important.

He added that the "Gator Safe" app sends messages quicker than a text.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep012018

Papa John’s founder sues company’s board; company dismisses allegations

Michael Hickey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bitter infighting continues within the leadership of Papa John’s.

The company’s founder and largest shareholder, John Schnatter, has filed a lawsuit against Papa John’s International Inc. in Delaware on Thursday, claiming the company’s leadership is causing “irreparable harm” to the business, his attorney told ABC News.

In a statement to ABC News, attorney Terry Fahn, who represents Schnatter, said the company’s board and its current CEO, Steve Ritchie, are causing harm by their “repeated, and ongoing, breaches of the duties of loyalty and care they owe to the company.”

Fahn said the lawsuit is currently under seal and that he could not elaborate on what exactly Schnatter claims the board is doing that has resulted in harm to the company, though in letters posted on the website savepapajohns.com, which is run by Schnatter, the deposed CEO discusses what he alleges are bad financial decisions, insufficient management skills, a toxic senior management culture and misconduct by the company's leadership.

A document posted on the site said a public version of the complaint will be filed “on or before” Sept. 4.

It’s the second lawsuit filed by Schnatter in recent months against the company he founded in 1984. A separate lawsuit was filed on July 26 over what Schnatter claims was the company’s refusal to provide him with documents related to what he said is the “unexplained and heavy-handed way” in which he was treated following reports that he used a racial slur during a conference call in May.

Schnatter resigned as chairman of the company’s board following those reports, and also apologized for his use of “inappropriate and hurtful language.” Now, however, Schnatter writes on his website that he was “falsely accused” of using a racial slur and claims the company took “panic-stricken steps” to distance itself from Schnatter without conducting an investigation into what really happened.

In statements provided to ABC News, a company spokesperson has dismissed the allegations by Schnatter in the most recent lawsuit, writing that he will “do anything to distract attention from the harm caused by his inappropriate words.” The statement also said Schnatter continues to make “reckless allegations in his attempt to regain control and serve his own interests.”

In a July statement addressing the earlier suit, the company said it has been providing Schnatter with all the materials he is entitled to as a director.

Schnatter has been the subject of several controversies during his tenure as the CEO and the face of Papa John’s. In December 2017, Schnatter stepped down from his role as CEO after blaming lagging sales on the National Football League and player protests during the national anthem, which led to boycotts of NFL games.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug302018

Boeing wins $805 million contract for Navy's new drone tanker

Boeing(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Navy has awarded Boeing an $805 million contract for four new MQ-25A "Stingray" unmanned mid-air refueling tankers that will be based on aircraft carriers.

The contract could balloon to $13 billion if the Navy gets the full requirement of 72 Stingrays for its carrier fleet.

The sleek drone resembles a flying wing and is intended to replace existing F/A-18 Super Hornets that can refuel other carrier-based F/A-18 fighters while in flight. The Navy plans to place four of the drones on each carrier in an effort double the ranges of deployed F/A-18's.

The unmanned aircraft will still require pilots at the controls who will pilot the aircraft remotely after it is launched by catapult off a carrier deck.

"MQ-25A is a hallmark acquisition program," said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts. "This program is a great example of how the acquisition and requirements communities work hand in hand to rapidly deliver capabilities to our Sailors and Marines in the fleet."

Boeing was awarded an $805 million contract "for the design, development, fabrication, test, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing for an initial operational capability by 2024," according to a Navy statement.

"This is an historic day," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. "We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the air wing - all at relevant speed."

Placing four of the aircraft on each aircraft will provide the Navy with a more efficient refueling capability than exists now. It will free up the Super Hornets currently tasked with mid-air refueling to carry out additional operational missions and the new drones will be able to operate carry out longer flights to enable refuelings further away from a carrier.

In the air operations over Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, Navy aircraft have carried out long duration missions thanks to U.S. Air Force mid-air refueling tankers that constantly fly over those areas.

The new capability will also enable carrier-based aircraft to fly in areas where Air Force refueling tankers may not be available.

It will also be expensive. The Navy says it wants 72 of the refueling drones for its carrier fleet, that could cost more than $13 billion, if research and development costs are included.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug302018

30 years and $3 billion later, one of America's largest civil works projects set to open on Ohio River

Louisville U.S. Army Corps of Engineers(OLMSTED, Ill.) -- On the banks of the Ohio River in southern Illinois, construction has been underway since the Reagan administration to complete one of the largest civil works projects in U.S. history.

The Olmsted Locks and Dam, a $3 billion project that began three decades ago and took more than 45 million labor hours to complete, is set to open after a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Olmsted, Ill., attended by congressional and Army leadership on Thursday.

They are the final two locks in a system of well over a dozen along the Ohio River reaching 980 miles from Pittsburgh down to Cairo, Ill., that assist vessels in transiting a sea level change of about 460 feet.

A lock is a device used to raise or lower watercraft traveling between stretches of water of different depths on a river or canal, making the waterway more easily navigable.

The two 110-foot by 1,200-foot locks and a roughly 2,500-foot long dam lie at the confluence of the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, an area described as the hub of the American inland waterways.

More tonnage transits through this point on the Ohio River than any other place in America's inland navigation system, the rough equivalent of 25,000 semi-trucks passing through annually. In recent years, approximately 90 million tons of commodities have passed through the two locks and dams that Olmsted replaces -- items like coal, grain, rock and sand, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) which has spearheaded the project.

"We're celebrating that now, as then, we are a great nation that can undertake great works and write new chapters of our history together," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who was serving his first term in Congress when Olmsted Locks and Dam was first authorized with the passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 1988 -- which allocated $775 million for the project.

Since then, the approximately $3 billion cost of Olmsted has been shared by taxpayers and the navigation industry. A tax on diesel fuel paid by the industry goes into a trust fund which has provided 50 percent of the cost of the project, USACE officials said.

In 2014, Congress passed a water resources bill, signed by President Obama, that included additional funds to complete the over-budget project that began decades earlier.

At the time, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called the project "extraordinarily expensive" and "a boondoggle," but acknowledged "we can’t stop because we need the dam.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who attended Thursday's ceremony with McConnell, said the project was "one of the nation's most expensive" projects, but one that represents "money well spent" for America's taxpayers.

Durbin said the new locks and dam will pay for itself in just five years.

The project will solve what has been a major bottleneck for the nation's shipping industry at a critical part of the Ohio River. The "antiquated design and age" of the previous locks and dams, called No. 52 and No. 53, made it "impossible to meet current traffic demands without significant delays," according to USACE.

Delays in transiting through No. 52 and No. 53 had reportedly reached more than 15 hours, if not days or weeks if there were issues with the locks.

"Lock times on the new system will be reduced from five hours to one hour," Durbin said on Thursday.

Faster shipping times mean that the project will provide an estimated $650 million a year in economic benefits to the nation, according to Waterways Council president Mike Toohey.

No. 52 and No. 53, which will be demolished once Olmsted is operating successfully, were originally completed in 1929, with updates added in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that those two locks and dams outlived their projected lifespans by decades. But he urged America to continue investing in modernization of its aging infrastructure system, telling the audience that throughout USACE's civil works portfolio there is a backlog of 1,000 projects totaling $96 billion in need of revitalization.

Though the first lock and dam built by USACE on the Ohio River was in 1885, the complete set of locks and dams for the river was not completed until 1929 at a cost of $125 million. By the late 1950s, as diesel-powered towboats replaced steamboats, it became necessary to replace the older design with modern high-lift locks and dams that could accommodate those vessels.

"It is important to note that these 'modern' locks and dams are aging," USACE officials said in online document about the Olmsted project. "As these projects age, necessary repairs become more frequent and more extensive and therefore, more costly."

Olmsted Locks and Dam is scheduled to become operational in October 2018.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug302018

What's believed to be the most northerly vineyard in the world is up for sale

Lerkekasa Vineyard(GVARV, Norway) -- What is thought to be the world's most northerly commercial vineyard is up for sale in Norway.

The 15 acres of fertile vineyard, which is used to produce award-winning wines, also comes with a national cuisine restaurant, several cottages and three gigantic wine barrels nestled among the vines that serve as overnight accommodations. The property could be yours for as little as $805,000.

Joar Saettem, and his wife, Wenche Hvattum, told ABC News they had developed Lerkekasa Vineyard over the last decade.

"We both wanted a property where we could live and work and spend a lifetime," Hvattum said. "We wanted to create a life and a lifestyle."

Lerkekasa Vineyard sits at a latitude of 59 degrees north, similar to Alaska. But it is a two-hour drive southwest of Oslo.

The vineyard is located in the fruit-growing region of Gvarv, in a valley near Lake Norsjo, protected by hills and mountains that create a microclimate that's one of the warmest places in Norway, according to Saettem.

"We produce about 1,500 liters of red, rosé, white and fruit wine a year," Hvattum said.

For decades, Saettem, a geologist, wanted to be a winemaker. He and his wife even studied courses of winemaking and viticulture.

Grapes were first planted in 2008. Saettem has experimented with 20 varieties to find those that best suit the climate.

"In 2009, we had our first vintage. It was such a memorable year for us," Hvattum said.

From 20 varieties, only Hasansky Sladki from Russia, Solaris from Germany and Rondo from France appeared to grow well in the harsh local conditions, although getting fruit to ripen will always be an issue, even with global warming.

"When I started this project, I knew that climate change would bring higher temperatures," Saettem said. "Climate change is a serious threat, but we wanted to demonstrate that because of it, it is now possible to grow and make wine in northern regions."

Experts from the Paris-based International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) seem to agree with Saettem.

Alejandro Fuentes Espinosa, OIV’s head of viticulture, told ABC News that the map of the wine world is undergoing a dramatic change.

"As global average temperatures rise," he said, "the best lands to plant a vineyard are moving away from the equator, and into the Northern Hemisphere and down into the Southern Hemisphere."

Bob Van Oort, a senior researcher with Center for International Climate Research, told ABC News, "Average warmer temperatures and new, innovative, cold-resistant vines are helping push wine production in Norway, a rare positive spin-off from climate change."

Erik Lidas, a wine expert and head of Norwegian grape growers who awarded Lerkekasa's Nordic Night rose, lists Lerkekasa as the world's most northerly commercial outdoor vineyard.

"There are some other producers that have vines a little further north, but do not have vintage yet or have vines in greenhouses to shield them from the cold," Lidas told ABC News in a telephone interview.

"This vineyard project was a dream come true," said Hvattum, who, like her husband, is 62. "But both of us are aging and we no longer can do this by ourselves. Unfortunately, none of our six children are interested, as they all have urban jobs."

Saettem said he is hoping to find a buyer who would continue his dream of a working vineyard.

"We hope there are more crazy people like us out there to move the boundaries," Saettem said.

"To a new set of adventurers," Hvattum.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Aug292018

A marriage of 2 technologies: Toyota, Uber self-driving car deal

Toyota(NEW YORK) -- Where Toyota sees a minivan, Uber sees a driverless taxi. Now both companies are getting their vision.

Toyota is investing $500 million in Uber, the companies announced Monday, moving the embattled ride-sharing company toward a self-driving future with a partner. The two companies will continue to develop their own driverless technologies to work in sync with a pilot fleet of cars modeled on Toyota’s Sienna minivans.

“You have two systems that are both active,” Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of automotive alliances, told ABC News. “On today’s cars, you have some advanced braking functions. So, in the event you’re approaching a car and the car knows you’re about to hit it, it will actually engage the brakes before you, the driver, does. It’s a backup safety system. That’s what Toyota’s state of the art, advanced, autonomous safety system does."

Uber

“So that will be running passively behind the scenes while our system will be running actively,” Miller added. “Our system will be making the active decision on where the vehicle goes at all times, where it’s turning, the speed, how much brake, how much torque to apply to the wheel, and [it] is the primary autonomy system on the vehicle.”

The two separate systems will approach an agreement in the event a conflict occurs. “We still have plenty of work to do together to identify exactly how the two systems coordinate the decision-making if and when there’s a disagreement on what the situation presents,” Miller said. “All of the scenarios are worked out. The default in the autonomy world is when in doubt, the vehicle will come to a safe stop. That’s what’s hard-programmed in.”

The eventual self-driving fleet, which will be owned and operated by a third party, and ready to deploy in 2021, will start with a small pilot program of a few hundred vehicles, the company said.

The partnership signals the end of Uber’s quest into the driverless car market on its own. It could also indicate an earnest attempt to continue to be regarded and regulated as a technology platform, instead of a transportation company. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stressed the platform in his statement announcing the move. “Our goal is to deploy the world’s safest self-driving cars on the Uber network, and this agreement is another significant step toward making that a reality."

“It’s a piece of a much bigger puzzle," said Larry Downes, project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. "Each of those companies has interesting reasons to get involved with the other. The car companies have awoken to the fact that there’s really a big set of transformational tech coming. The autonomous vehicles are going to happen. No one knows what that means for cars [or] insurance. Everyone is placing bets and hedging them.”

Toyota's safety record and customer service makes the Japanese automaker an attractive partner for Uber. For Toyota, the deal allows it to get into the autonomous car market without bearing all of the risk of developing cars, which can be hard to track and keep properly maintained after they are sold to an individual, industry experts say.

“This is one of the best outcomes they could have for the automated driving program,” Navigant analyst Sam Abuelsamid said about Uber. “From what we’ve seen, they were certainly taking a lot of shortcuts. We saw more accidents on the road with their vehicles, like running red lights and collisions with other vehicles, before that accident in March in Arizona.”

In March, an Uber Volvo SC90 struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in the nation's first fatal crash involving a pedestrian and a self-driving vehicle. The company temporarily shut down its self-driving program in Tempe, Arizona before restarting in Pittsburgh.

Uber denies that the Toyota partnership is a reaction to the accident in Tempe, noting the Japanese auto giant's 2016 investment in its core business, Toyota discounts for Uber drivers, and creative leasing structures for drivers in India.

"This is not something that was initiated after Tempe, it was something that has been going on, was in the works," Miller said. "We had to have our short term focus fully on how we respond to Tempe, what can we learn from it, how can we improve as an organization, but not let this short-term focus distract from what two big global giants wanted to do together long-term. At the executive levels, where we were talking about this deal, we were keeping a long-term view to how this technology was going to be deployed over decades, not months."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug282018

Family racks up $13,000 in iPhone data roaming fees while overseas, but says phones were on airplane mode

KGO(SAN FRANCISO) -- A family on vacation overseas racked up thousands of dollars in data roaming fees despite setting their phones to airplane mode, according to ABC News’ San Francisco station KGO.

Vivian Chung and her children had just returned to their California home from Vietnam, where they were celebrating her mother's 84th birthday, when they received a bill from T-Mobile for $13,470 in roaming and internet charges. When she saw it, Chung said she "almost fainted."

"We know we cannot use the phone and it's always on airplane mode," Chung said. "How could this happen?"

All of the charges were incurred on her son Nicholas’ iPhone within the span of a half hour. When his parents confronted him, Nicholas insisted that he had turned his phone on airplane mode for the entire trip, according to KGO.

"I was confused and scared," Nicholas said. "Because $13,000 is a lot of money. I was like, 'What? I didn't do anything.'"

Nicholas admitted that he had played games on his phone during the flight to Vietnam, but the games were offline and did not use internet.

When KGO looked into data usage, they found that mobile apps that don’t require internet connection still use data to update software, refresh social media and send ads.

According to the support section of Apple’s website, “When cellular data is on, apps and services use your cellular connection when Wi-Fi isn't available. As a result, you might be charged for using certain features and services with cellular data.”

When Chung reached out to T-Mobile about the charge, they agreed to reduce the bill to $3,800. Chung thought that was still too much money, so she reached out to KGO’s investigative team, 7 On Your Side.

KGO contacted T-Mobile about the charges, and the company agreed to cancel them. In a statement obtained by KGO, it said, "Customers on T-Mobile ONE or Simple Choice North America plans have unlimited text and data — as well as low-rate calling — in more than 210 countries and destinations around the world with Simple Global. However, T-Mobile recommends, before a trip, customers who are traveling internationally either call customer care, or check international roaming coverage and rates online."

According to Apple, cellphone users must turn off ‘cellular data’ in the settings section of their phone in addition to switching on airplane mode to ensure that data is not being used.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug282018

Trump claims Google 'rigged' searches against him but company denies it

@realDonaldTrump/Twitter(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump attacked Google in Tuesday morning tweets that accused the company of prioritizing "fake news" in its search results, which the company denies.

The results are “rigged” against him and other conservatives, he wrote on Twitter.

Trump also alleged that 96 percent “of results on 'Trump News' are from National Left-Wing Media” but he did not identify a source or any evidence. He appeared to be referring to a story published over the weekend by conservative media company PJ Media that reported “96 Percent of Google Search Results for 'Trump' News Are from Liberal Media Outlets.”

“Google search results for 'Trump News' shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media," he said. "In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.

“Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed," he added.

A Google spokesperson pushed back on the president's allegations, however, saying its search engine algorithm doesn't include any consideration of politics.

"When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds," the spokesperson said in a statement. "Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology.

"We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment," the spokesperson added.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment expanding on what the president meant by saying the situation "will be addressed."

The president’s tweets come as more tech companies, including Google and Facebook, make investments to limit the spread of misinformation online.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said in March it planned to invest $300 million over the next three years to combat false content on its platforms, including Google Search and YouTube.

“We’re focused on combating misinformation during breaking news situations. Bad actors often target breaking news on Google platforms, increasing the likelihood that people are exposed to inaccurate content,” Richard Gringas, vice president of news products, said in reference to Google Search. “So we’ve trained our systems to recognize these events and adjust our signals toward more authoritative content.

“While we take great care to present the most authoritative information, there are many cases where users can and will find information that’s not authoritative.”

The company is trying to find other ways to help people understand that “not all the results they see are indeed authoritative or accurate,” he added.

Trump's attack on Google is just his latest foray into championing recent grievances issued by conservative media figures who have accused tech companies of unfairly targeting conservative voices.

The president has also threatened to probe allegations of Twitter’s “shadowbanning” conservative accounts, making it more difficult for their profiles to be discovered in the search engine.

And most recently, Trump told a crowd at a campaign rally in West Virginia that he rejected Facebook and Twitter's recent move to suspend or remove accounts that it accused of spreading fake news or hate speech in social posts, including platforms like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' InfoWars.

"You have Twitter, or whatever you have, you have Facebook. But you can't pick one person and say, 'We don't like what he's been saying, he's out,'" Trump said. "So we will live with fake news.”

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