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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Iowa Powerball winner claims $343.9 million check

iStock/Thinkstock(REDFIELD, Iowa) -- A single mother was all smiles (and a few tears) recently when she claimed a $343.9 million check for being one of two winners of the $687.8 million Powerball jackpot.

"I have been extremely blessed to win this big Powerball," Lerynne West, 51, of Redfield, Iowa, said during a news conference Monday at Iowa Lottery headquarters. "This will forever change my life."

West, the mother of three adult daughters and six grandchildren, said she'd worked full time and attended school full time as she raised her children. She thanked her family and friends, some of whom were present at Monday's event, for their love and support.

"My girls and I used to dream of winning the lottery," West said. "Never thought we would be here today."

West said she would take the $198.1 million lump-sum option.

In a news release Monday, the Iowa Lottery said this latest drawing was the largest lottery prize ever won in the state. The other jackpot winner was in New York City, though that winning ticket had yet to be claimed.

West said Monday she usually played the lottery twice a week when she had the money. She said the most she'd ever won prior to the Powerball jackpot was $150.

On Oct. 26, West, who had just purchased her first home, was with her sister when she bought a lottery ticket while grabbing a bite to eat and some coffee. When she got into her sister's truck, she said, she thought she'd put the tickets into her purse.

The morning day after the Oct. 27 Powerball drawing, a friend called her to say that someone had won in Iowa. When she couldn't find her tickets, West said, she called her sister who found them on the floor of her truck and sent her a picture of the numbers. When West checked them against the winning numbers, she was in disbelief.

"I said to my sister, 'Get that ticket, get in your truck and get up here now -- and drive slow,'" West said Monday.

A now-retired health care analyst, West said her winnings would ensure her grandchildren were able to afford college and that she could take care of her family, including seven siblings and her mother.

She said her family had also established the Callum Foundation, named after a grandson who was born prematurely and died a day later, to help others in need.

"I know the responsibility that I have to do good with this money...I do consider myself very lucky and very blessed," she said. "I never want to forget where I came from."

For herself, West said she first planned to replace her Ford Fiesta that has 142,000 miles on it.

"I'm going to get a car big enough that I can take all my grandchildren places now," she said.

The Powerball jackpot winning numbers in Iowa and New York were: 8-12-13-19-27 and Powerball 4. The Power Play number was 3.

All six numbers had to match to split that $687.8 million grand prize, the lottery said.

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Report: Amazon to split new headquarters between two cities, Inc.(SEATTLE) -- Amazon has reportedly changed its mind and is now finalizing plans to spread out its second headquarters across two locations.

Citing people familiar with the matter, The New York Times reports the online retail giant is closing in on deals to move to Queens, New York and Crystal City, Virginia. Both locations will house approximately 25,000 employees.

Amazon is currently headquartered in Seattle. The company announced plans to open a second headquarters in September 2017, and predicted spending over $5 billion in construction.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement at the time. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

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Uber, Lyft and more offer free rides to the polls on Election Day

Uber Technologies Inc.(NEW YORK) -- Organizations are celebrating democracy and helping to make it easier to get out and vote on Election Day.

While it is technically illegal during federal elections to offer free goodies in exchange for voting, many companies get around this by simply running Election Day promotions that don't discriminate based on whether or not you actually got out there and voted.

Not being able to get to the polls is no longer a valid excuse for skipping out on participating in democracy, as a handful of ride-hailing, biking and even local public transportation organizations are offering free or reduced rides on Election Day.

Lack of transportation was found to be the third most common reason for not voting among young people who did not attend college, according to data from the 2016 election analyzed by Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Uber announced earlier this month that it will be partnering with the nonpartisan organizations #VoteTogether and Democracy Works to offer free or discounted rides to the polls. In addition, Uber will offer $10 off a single ride to the polls on Election Day using the promotional code VOTE2018, and only for the cheapest option available in your city (Uber Express Pool, Pool, or UberX). Some restrictions apply, so be sure to check out their website to make sure you can access the free or discounted rides.

Lyft, another ride-hailing service, also announced an initiative to help get people to the polls on Tuesday -- offering 50 percent off rides nationwide on Election Day, plus free rides to "underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation," according to a blog post on their website. You can get more information about the promo codes in your area and how to access the discounted rides on their site.

Zipcar, the car-rental service, is also offering a promotion on Election Day, giving those who rent a car through them on Election Night a $20 credit for a future trip.

Lime, a nationwide bike, e-bike and e-scooter share program, is offering free rides (up to 30-minutes) to your polling locations in more than 100 cities with the code LIME2VOTE18. For more information, visit their website.

CitiBike, a bike-sharing program in New York City, is offering free day passes on Election Day with the code BIKETOVOTE in the Citi Bike app.

Divvy, a bike-sharing program serving the Chicago area, is offering free rides Tuesday with the code VOTE18.

A handful of public transportation systems in cities across the country are also offering free rides on Tuesday, including the Los Angeles' Metro system, the Houston Metro, and the Tampa Bus systems to name a few, so it may be worth checking out if your city or town is participating in some way.

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Uber driver faces manslaughter charges after teen dies while 'car surfing' on vehicle

Suffolk County District Attorney's Office(NEW YORK) -- An Uber driver is facing a manslaughter charge after he allegedly allowed his passengers to surf on the top of his car, causing the death of one passenger after his head struck the roadway.

Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station, New York, was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the second degree by Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini on Monday.

Cheema, an Uber driver, is accused of causing the death of Ryan Mullen, 15, when he drove Mullen and two other teenage boys in his 2010 Toyota Highlander on Sep. 23 between 12:03 a.m. and 12:35 a.m., according to the district attorney's office.

"The passengers asked Cheema for permission to 'car surf,' or ride on the roof of the vehicle as it was moving, and offered him $70 cash," the DA's statement read. "The passengers ultimately paid Cheema $40 and he allegedly allowed them to climb onto the roof of the vehicle while at an intersection."

Two the passengers were on the roof of the vehicle while Cheema continued driving, according to the statement.

"Mullen then fell off the vehicle and struck his head on the roadway," the statement read.

The third passenger recorded video of the incident on his on Snapchat, prosecutors said.

"Mullen, who had suffered severe head trauma, succumbed to his injuries in his sleep later that day," the statement said.

Sini said that while the boys were drinking that night, it does not excuse the "reckless decision" allegedly made by Cheema, who was "contracted to safely bring those boys home and he failed to do that."

"In this day and age, we often encourage people to use ride sharing services because it’s a safe alternative to drinking and driving,” Sini said. "These boys were doing that; they were drinking that night and they made the right decision to contract with a car service."

"Unfortunately the defendant made a reckless decision and engaged in reckless conduct that caused the death of a young boy, and he will be held accountable for that,” Sini stated.

An Uber spokesperson told ABC News that the company is "deeply troubled" by the incident, and it is cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation.

"Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this incident," the Uber spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the rider’s family during this difficult time. This driver has been permanently removed from the app."

Cheema pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip Monday. He is being held at the Suffolk County Jail with bail set at $200,000 cash or $400,000 bond.

If found guilty, Cheema faces a sentence of five to 15 years in jail, prosecutors said. He is due back in court on Nov. 9.

Cheema’s lawyer, Christopher Renfroe, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

But in court Monday, Renfroe said his client has expressed remorse for Mullen's death and does not have a prior criminal record, according to Newsday.

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Amazon offering free holiday shipping to everyone, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- Amazon has found another way to entice holiday shoppers this season: free shipping to everyone, including non-Prime members.

Beginning Monday, the online retail giant said it will expand its free shipping to all customers on items scheduled to arrive in time for Christmas -- with no minimum purchase required.

The offer applies to "hundreds of millions of items," Amazon said, describing the perk as "the largest free shipping selection in the country."

Consumers have long heralded Amazon for its free two-day shipping for Prime accounts on eligible items, prompting other big-box retailers such as Target and Walmart to offer free expedited shipping during the holiday season as well.

Retailers are expected to continue to slash prices as shoppers turn their attention to Black Friday.

About $720 billion in sales are up for grabs for the Black Friday shopping weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

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Unemployment rate stays at 3.7% as 250K jobs added in October

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. employers added 250,000 jobs to their payrolls in October, the Labor Department reported Friday morning, exceeding economists’ expectations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said most of the jobs occurred in health care, manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained unchanged, holding steady at 3.7 percent -- a 49-year low.

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Tennessee whiskey makers moody over Trump tariff tiff

iStock/Thinkstock(PIGEON FORGE, Tenn.) -- President Donald Trump's tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum have left Tennessee whiskey and other moonshine makers feeling moody as they cope with the international backlash and higher import costs.

The U.S. tariffs, announced in early June, led several countries such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union to retaliate and put tariffs on certain American cheese products, steel and American whiskey, among other items.

Trump's tariffs "are definitely a factor" for Tennessee's whiskey businesses, said Ole Smoky Moonshine CEO Robert Hall.

The tariffs on American whiskey have hit Tennessee companies, such as Jack Daniels and Ole Smoky Moonshine, because "roughly 50 percent of Tennessee whiskey is exported," Tennessee Distillers Guild board member Heath Clark told ABC News when the tariffs first went into effect.

Higher tariffs can lead to higher prices abroad which could hurt the bottom line for foreign distributors and, in turn, decreased demand from American whiskey companies.

The candidates to replace Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker both agree that tariffs are not great for Tennessee businesses.

Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn initially said "tariffs are intended to punish bad actors," but has changed her tune saying she is "not a fan of tariffs, and I feel like tariffs are a burden and they put up barriers. I am somebody who says, let's go for freedom, free markets and free people."

Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen has called the tariffs "a tax on Tennessee" and said, "The effect of these tariffs is just like a new tax on Tennesseans. They will drive up prices, hurt our economy and will cost jobs, especially in our important automotive sector. The retaliatory tariffs that are promised to follow will hurt our exports, damaging farmers and even hitting iconic Tennessee businesses like Jack Daniels."

In June, Brown-Forman, the company behind Tennessee’s whiskey brand Jack Daniels, cautioned that the war on tariffs would make it more difficult to predict future earnings.

“The global economy has improved modestly over the last year, including improving conditions in many emerging markets,” the company wrote in their 2018 fiscal results, which were released in June. "However, the competitive landscape in the developed world remains intense, not to mention concerns over potential retaliatory tariffs on American spirits. These factors make it difficult to accurately predict future results."

The company declined to comment on the matter to ABC News for this report.

Nearly six months after countries enacted the tariffs, Tennessee businesses say they have been impacted.

Ole Smoky Moonshine is a company based in eastern Tennessee which distills whiskey and moonshine.

Hall told ABC News that the effect from the tariffs for his company was "immediate" because the tariffs "increased the cost of metal...which for us translates the cost for our lids because we use a lot of metal in the lids of our product."

Even though the metal for Ole Smoky's lids originates in the United States, Hall said "there was a price increase in the middle of the year that related to the tariffs the U.S. imposed" because of a higher demand for U.S. made metal.

Hall called the lids "a significant cost increase."

Hall said that after the price of the metal increased, the company decided against passing the cost onto their customers and opted to leave the price of their product the same.

"We chose not to do that and reduce our [profit] margins as a result," Hall said.

Ole Smoky's is the top-selling moonshine in the world, Hall said, and in some countries, moonshine is included in the retaliatory tariffs imposed by foreign nations.

Due to those tariffs, consumers in foreign nations may end up paying a higher price for their bottle of Ole Smoky Moonshine or Ole Smoky Whiskey.

And while he's been able to keep his prices steady for his domestic customers, he worries he may have to one-day increase prices to compensate for their financial losses. They hope to balance those losses by also opening a fourth distillery in Nashville in early 2019.

"We take problems as challenges that we overcome and the tariffs are a challenge," Hall said. "But we will overcome them by doing other things."

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