Coin-operated karaoke machines are taking over South Korea

ABC News(HONGDAE, South Korea) -- A dollar can buy a pack of gum, a can of soda or a bag of chips. And in South Korea, it can buy an opportunity to sing karaoke.

In South Korea, karaoke, locally called noraebang, has been a culturally important leisure activity for decades. Now it's evolving further to better meet singers' needs.

So-called coin karaoke has emerged as a way for people to have more control over how much time and money they spend on one of their favorite pastimes.

Coin karaoke works like a vending machine, where one can begin by inserting coins or paper money.

"I love coin karaoke," said Jason Li, a college senior who's been practicing k-pop boy band BTS’ song "DNA" recently. "I come here every other day to relieve stress. It’s a routine now."

It's becoming routine for many in South Korea, which now boasts more than 1,900 registered coin karaoke machines among a total of more than 35,000 total karaokes, according to the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Coin Rock Star, a company that makes the machines, said inquiries from potential customers have increased more than 160 percent from January 2017 to January 2018.

"Most of the new karaoke businesses are considering bringing in coin karaoke," said an official from TJ Media, a company that makes karaoke machines. "Given the same area, coin karaoke rooms are twice or three times smaller than the original ones, so it is more economical for the owner."

Coin karaoke booths are compact, with most designed to fit no more than two people. There's usually one remote control, two microphones, the display screen and a slot to insert money. For 500 Korean won, about 50 cents, a user can sing one song, although prices vary slightly. There are change machines outside the booths so customers can exchange large bills for smaller bills.

This shift to shorter singing sessions is dramatic when compared with spending much more money up front to book a room for an hour or for multiple hours, often with a large group to help defray the costs. In short, it gives more people more opportunities to sign more frequently.

"I come to coin karaoke because I can practice singing at a reasonable price," Kim Do Hyun, a customer who stops by coin karaoke at least once every week, told ABC News.

Customers said they don't feel pressured to finish songs quickly or keep singing to fill a whole hour that was booked in advance. And singers also get to enjoy up-to-date track lists, many of which are updated every day to reflect current musical trends.

"The rooms are quite small, so you can sing alone or with an intimate group," Park Jae Young, who came to sing a ballad for herself after school, told ABC News. "It gives convenient entertainment because you can come here any time you want, and there is no need to make a reservation."

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Dropbox removes folder containing explicit photos of female service members

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The file hosting company Dropbox has taken down a folder containing hundreds of explicit photos of American female service members.

The Dropbox folder of topless and nude images included service women's faces, military dog tags, uniforms, and name tags, according to Vice News who first reported the story on Friday.

The discovery of the Dropbox link comes nearly one year to the day that Marine Corps leaders testified before Congress about the thousands of explicit images discovered on the Facebook page, Marines United.

Last March, the commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller called for a culture change in the service, saying he was ultimately responsible for changing how Marines see themselves and treat one another.

But explicit images of female service members are still being shared online, and the new Dropbox folder was not specific to any one military service branch.

"This link has been taken down and banned so it cannot be recirculated on Dropbox," the company said in a statement on Friday. "As always, we investigate reports of content that violate our Acceptable Use Policy. If we find a violation, we take down the content and, when appropriate, take other measures such as banning the content and/or reporting to law enforcement."

A Department of Defense spokesperson told ABC News over the weekend that the Pentagon was aware of reports of the Dropbox link.

"The DoD works closely with our social media partners to monitor platforms and flag any malicious, abusive or terrorist related content," said Tiffany Miller, Office of the Secretary of Defense Acting Director for Digital Media and Strategy.

Military services control their own social media policies, but a change to the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December, allowed Congress to enact a new criminal offense for the military.

The new statutory authority, called the "Wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images," helps DoD hold accountable service members who engage in misconduct, a spokesperson told ABC News.

After "Marines United"
Following the discovery of the Marines United Facebook page last year, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) scanned nearly 131,000 images across more than 168 social media sites and investigated at least 123 persons with reported involvement in the incident, the Marine Corps said Friday.

Twenty-two of those individuals were civilians outside DoD jurisdiction, while 101 were active-duty or reserve Marines. So far, 55 Marines have been held accountable for online social media misconduct, to include courts-martial, administrative separation, non-judicial punishment, and adverse administrative action.

Last summer, a new Personnel Studies and Oversight Office was created in the Marine Corps to "identify opportunities for long-term changes to improve unit cohesion," the Marines said.

While social media misconduct is a department-wide problem, the Marine Corps has come under specific scrutiny in the wake of Marines United.

Overall, the Marines remains an overwhelmingly male force at only about 8 percent female. As the military expanded opportunities for women in combat roles in 2015, the service was initially opposed to that change.

Unlike other branches, the Marines do not integrate men and women in battalions at boot camp, although they are working to increase the amount of training the genders do together — which has been praised by leadership as positive for the Corps.

Last month, ABC News traveled to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, the service's east coast boot camp in South Carolina which includes a battalion of female recruits led by Lt. Col. Misty Posey.

“The value of increasing the amount of integration that occurs between male and female recruits is that with increased exposure and socialization we address some of the attitudes that male recruits might have about female recruits and vice versa,” Posey said.

At Parris Island, the Marines introduced a new phase to the end of training called "Phase Four," the first substantial change to boot camp in a decade and another opportunity to integrate men and women. New male and female Marines will spend the last two weeks of training in the classroom together, tackling a range of issues like hazing, social media, future educational opportunities, fitness, substance abuse, marriage, domestic violence, finances, driver safety, and sexual responsibility.

But, the West Coast boot camp is still exclusively male, meaning those recruits won't be exposed to women until they encounter them later on in follow-on training.

It was only last week that the Marines opened the second part of post-boot camp training, called Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), to women at Camp Pendleton in California. Females attending that training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina have already been integrated with their male counterparts.

Despite the low percentage of women compared to the other services, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn Walters said he expects that number to crest at 11 percent this year.

Walters, who led the task force established in the wake of Marines United, told ABC News at Parris Island that if the service has the "good fortune" to boost the numbers of female recruits significantly one day, the Marines would consider opening the west coast boot camp to women as well.

Marines who spoke to ABC News at Parris Island expressed that how male and female recruits interact at boot camp could have an impact on how they treat each other throughout their career in the Marine Corps and online.

“We need to be a team," Walters said. "If we don’t have dignity and respect for every member of the team, then we will not be successful in combat or in life."

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Elon Musk 'optimistic' about 2019 test flights to Mars but a 'good chance you will die'

SXSW(AUSTIN, Texas) -- The first test flights to Mars could be ready as soon as the first half of next year, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said, but there’s a “good chance you will die.”

"It’s difficult, dangerous, [there’s a] good chance you will die, excitement for those who survive, that kind of thing," Musk told the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, of his timeline for launching a Mars-bound space vehicle.

His spaceship is being built and the test flights will be short, up-and-down trips, Musk told an audience Sunday, adding that the ship will be fully reusable. He didn't say how long the flights would be.

With the expectation that the interplanetary ship will be operational next year, Musk discussed the struggle that pioneering travelers may face.

"I think there aren’t that many people that want to go in the beginning because all those things I said are true. But there will be some who will, for whom the excitement of frontier and exploration exceeds the danger," he added.

Either way, the South African-born engineer conceded, his timeline for launching test flight rockets to Mars is "optimistic."

But a successful trip to Mars could show companies and other countries that interplanetary travel is possible.

"They currently don't think it's possible so that if we show them that it is, then I think that they will up their game and they will build interplanetary transport vehicles, as well," Musk, 46, said.

With the colonization of a new planet, Musk also predicts an "explosion of entrepreneurial opportunities," and that life on our neighboring planet would start by building the fundamentals, like a power plant, glass domes for farming and, of course, pizza joints.

"I think Mars should really have great bars," he added. "A Mars bar."

His comments about Mars came on heels of a successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket last month. It was the company's most powerful, and reusable, rocket yet that helps pave the way for Musk's goal of getting to Mars.

The reusability of rockets is considered a breakthrough, according to Musk, and it dramatically lowers the marginal cost per flight.

Musk's ultimate goal, he revealed in September 2016, is to colonize Mars, a feat he hopes to achieve by drastically reducing the cost of spaceflight, which makes his reusable rockets key.

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More companies are using technology to monitor employees, sparking privacy concerns

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sensors and microchips may signal a new era of a connected workforce, but some experts say these technologies also put employees' privacy at risk.

For example, a recent patent submitted by tech giant Amazon describes an electronic wristband that could monitor employees' tasks. Three Square Market, a tech company based in Wisconsin, started an optional microchipping program for its employees in July 2017. UPS has sensors on its delivery trucks to track the opening and closing of doors, the engine of the vehicle, and whether a seat belt is buckled.

Sam Bengston, a software engineer at Three Square Market, said he readily agreed to be embedded with a microchip.

"I didn't even consider not doing it," he said, adding that he uses the chip to swipe into secure rooms and log into his computer. "It has been really convenient and a really positive experience."

These innovations can blur the line between security risks and better productivity.

"Across companies, across the world, employers are looking to have a more interconnected workforce," said Daniel Ives, a tech industry analyst from GBH Insights. "Big tech companies are looking for ways to give employers a leg up and data insight into their operations and employees."

But those insights may come at a cost to employees' personal privacy.

"From an employee and a personal data perspective, that information is sensitive," Ives said. "If that information gets into the wrong hands, it's no different than a major security breach."

Added Paula Brantner, a senior adviser at Workplace Fairness, a nonprofit public education and advocacy organization that works to promote and protect employee rights: "People don’t realize that there aren’t a lot of laws protecting privacy in the workplace. Part of the issue is that employees may not even be aware of how all the data is being tracked and how it's being used."

How the Amazon wristband is designed to work

A patent for smart wristbands that would be worn by Amazon fulfillment center employees was approved at the end of January.

The wristbands would use ultrasonic tracking of a worker's hands to "monitor performance of assigned tasks," according to the patent application.

The device is designed to emit ultrasonic pulses to alert the wearer to inventory locations, Amazon said, adding that the wristband would reduce the need for regular scanners.

"Every day at companies around the world, employees use handheld scanners to check inventory and fulfill orders," Amazon said in a statement to ABC News. "This idea, if implemented in the future, would improve this process for our fulfillment associates. By moving equipment to associates’ wrists, we could free up their hands from scanners and their eyes from computer screens."

The statement added, "The speculation in the press about these patents continues to be misguided. We do not track nor do we have the intention to track the location of our associates. We develop and implement innovative technologies in our operations to enable an incredible customer experience and to enhance the safety and ergonomics of our processes."

Brantner said she was skeptical of Amazon's intentions.

"The proof will be when and if they implement it, and how it will be used," she said.

How companies track employees

Employers can install video cameras, read postal mail and email, monitor phone and computer usage and use GPS tracking, according to Workplace Fairness.

"The workplace is full of examples that in some way determine whether your work performance adds up," Branter said. "Like production line workers that are forced to work at a certain pace and call centers that track length of time on the phone."

Employers also have access to company emails and computers, she added.

Major tech companies often apply for experimental patents, Ives said, and it's inevitable that tracking will take on new forms.

Why employees may agree to adopt tracking technology

Accepting a certain amount of privacy invasion has increasingly become part of the job, Branter said.

"People are just going to accept this as something they have to do to keep their job," she said. "In some ways, we've already lost the battle."

She noted that data is already being collected about people's movements and stored under unknown conditions. In some cases, employees opt in to be monitored.

More than 50 of Three Square Market's 80 employees agreed to have microchips inserted into their hands. The chip, which was implanted in the skin between an employee's thumb and pointer finger, allows employees to swipe into the building and use the vending machine. The CEO of the company, Todd Westby, said he has one, and his wife and young adult children will soon get their own microchips.

"That particular microchip is not used for tracking, but instead to replace passcodes and badges, used with vending machines to get something, or for getting into a secure areas," explained Daniel Burrus, a tech industry expert and futurist with his own research firm, Burrus Research Associates, Inc. "That's kind of a fringe technology."

Bengston said his Three Square Market microchip saves him at least 20 minutes a day.

"You can basically put any scanable documents or personal data you have on [the chip]," Bengston said. "I have my driver's license on it, so if I get pulled over, I can simply scan [the microchip] and have it right there."

When it comes to privacy or security concerns, Bengston said he isn't worried.

"I know that everything on there is encrypted to the highest level it can be," he said. "As for Big Brother, we carry our phones around in our pockets everyday, which always knows where we are."

The Three Square Market chip uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. The company foots the bill of the microchips, which are $300 each, and if a worker decides they no longer want to participate, they can get it removed.

UPS said it utilizes sensors to ensure the safety of its drivers.

"The sensors are not designed to track our drivers, but rather to monitor vehicle performance and ensure safe vehicle operation," UPS said in a statement. "UPS employees are aware of the sensors on the company’s vehicles and the intent of the technology, which is to monitor vehicle performance and safety. We are and will continue to be transparent with our employees about the use of technology."

The sensors collect data that can be analyzed to improve delivery methods and optimize the vehicles, UPS said.

"We do not discipline our personnel based on the sensor information we collect," UPS said. "If the vehicle is being used in an unsafe manner, we use this information to engage the service provider in further training."

The decision to use tracking technologies should be a conversation between the employer and employee, Burrus said.

"You want to have a good, positive relationship, and high trust [between employer and employee]," he explained. "They have to be open about how they're using the technology. Doing it by permission is better than having [employees] find out later."

Ives agreed that employees and companies should agree on the terms.

"You don’t want to feel like you're being watched," he said. "This is going to be a big topic for years to come."

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With Tax Day looming, $1.1 billion in taxpayer funds waiting to be claimed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tax Day is around the corner. And for 1 million lucky taxpayers, they may be able to cash in from a pot of $1.1 billion in unclaimed funds.

That's the message the Internal Revenue Service wants to get out before April 17, the deadline to file for unclaimed federal tax funds.

The IRS gives taxpayers up to three years to file a claim for a refund. So, for those who didn't file a federal tax return in 2014, there's still time.

"We’re trying to connect a million people with their share of $1.1 billion in unclaimed refunds for 2014,” Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said. "Time is running out for people who haven’t filed tax returns to claim their refunds."

Kautter said students and part-time workers are the likeliest among taxpayers who may have overlooked filing that year.

"And there's no penalty for filing a late return if you’re due a refund," he said.

The median potential refund is $847.

On April 18, however, the money is off-limits. That's when it becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

Beyond their refunds, some low- to moderate-income workers who are eligible for the earned income tax credit could lose up to $6,143 if they fail to file a 2014 federal tax return.

Texas, meanwhile, has the highest number of taxpayers who could cash in -- 108,100 -- and are owed the most amount of money at $121,956,100, according to the IRS. Vermont has the lowest number at 2,100, who are owed a little more than $2 million.

The deadline to file taxes for 2017 is also April 17, two days later than the normal date.

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'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli sentenced to seven years after tearfully begging for 'your honor's mercy' 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison with credit for six months served.

The sentence, which was less than half what the government asked for but more than the 18 months requested by the defense, came after Shkreli sobbed and begged the New York court for "your honor's mercy."

Shkreli, 34, apologized for his "disgraceful judgment" and dispensed with his prior criticisms of the court and his conviction.

"The only person to blame for me being here is me," he said. "There is no government conspiracy to take down Martin Shkreli. I took down Martin Shkreli with my disgraceful and shameful actions."

Shkreli, a former pharmaceuticals CEO who first became infamous for hiking the price of a lifesaving HIV drug, was convicted of securities fraud and faced a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

His persona, cultivated online, before Congress and with the decision to hike the price of the drug Daraprim, led his own defense attorney Benjamin Brafman to concede, "there are times I want to punch him in the face" but the judge assured the court that the "Daraprim pricing is not an issue."

Shkreli, despite his infamous antics, "is a good person" who "cannot always control awkward, inappropriate behaviors," the defense insisted.

But prosecutors said that plainly Shkreli "stole money for his own benefit," calling it "absurd" to cast him as some misunderstood child genius.

"He's a man," the prosecutor said. "He's no better than any other fraudster."

Shkreli has been behind bars since September when a judge found he broke the terms of his bail by offering social media followers money for a hair sample from then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Separately, Shkreli must forfeit nearly $7.4 million, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, ruled Monday, which could force him to give up a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album.

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US Steel bringing back 500 jobs in Illinois after President Trump's tariff announcement 

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A partially-shuttered Illinois steel plant plans to fire up its blast furnace again, putting as many as 500 people back to work following the Trump administration's move to slap tariffs on imported steel.

U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works plant in Granite City, Illinois, had idled a blast furnace and its steelmaking facilities in December 2015, laying off approximately 2,000 workers in response to what the company called “challenging market conditions,” including excess steel capacity globally and “unfairly traded imports,” according to a news release.

“Our Granite City Works facility and employees, as well as the surrounding community, have suffered too long from the unending waves of unfairly traded steel products that have flood U.S. markets,” U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said.

U.S. Steel executives believe President Trump’s move this week to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel will increase demand for steel made in the U.S. They anticipate calling back approximately 500 employees back to work.

“We are deeply, deeply thankful,” James Amos, head of economic development for Granite City, told ABC News. “It’s good news. Everyone who lives in this community knows many people who are going back to work.”

Amos estimates that as many as 400 of the company's former employees never found new jobs after the plant was idled. There are many other industries and workers in town, from truck drivers to restaurant and gas station owners to real estate agents, who will also benefit from Trump's announcement, Amos said.

“Our hope is that this marks the beginning of a much-needed recovery for the domestic steel industry and for American manufacturing,” United SteelWorkers International President Leo Gerard said in a news release. The USW represents 850,000 workers in the U.S., including the steelworkers in Granite City.

“We hope this restart will breathe new life into the community and that the mill can continue to provide good jobs for workers and their families for generations to come,” Gerard said.

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US stocks rally on strong jobs report

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stocks rallied on Friday after a strong February jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 440.53 (+1.77 percent) to finish the session at 25,335.74.

The Nasdaq climbed 132.86 (+1.79 percent) to close at 7,560.81, while the S&P 500 finished trading at 2,786.57, up 47.60 (+1.74 percent) for the day.

Crude oil prices soared more than 3 percent to about $62 per barrel.

Jobs Report:  The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February, the most jobs added since July 2016 and much higher than the 200,000 jobs estimated.  Unemployment was unchanged at 4.1 percent for the fifth consecutive month.

Winners and Losers:  Tech and FAANG stocks (Facebook +1.58 percent, Amazon +1.74 percent, Apple +1.72 percent, Netflix +4.56 percent, and Alphabet +2.79 percent) pushed the Nasdaq to a new record.

Shares of Mattel sunk 7.11 percent after Bloomberg reported that Toys "R" Us is preparing to liquidate its U.S. operations.

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Trump Organization reveals $151,000 in profits from foreign government patrons

Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Trump Organization revealed Friday it donated more than $150,000 in profits from foreign government patrons to the United States Treasury after last week declining to do so.

"On February 22, 2018, The Trump Organization made a voluntary donation of $151,470 to the United States Treasury," George Sorial, executive vice president and chief compliance counsel for the Trump Organization said in a statement.

Sorial said it was a "voluntary" donation that "fulfills our pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar business during President Trump’s term in office."

Government ethics watchdogs have questioned the donation pledge, saying the methodology used does not require the Trump Organization to account for revenues earned from foreign-government patrons of unprofitable Trump properties.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a letter Thursday to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that the foreign government profits could be a violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause - which prohibits the president from taking gifts from foreign governments without permission from Congress.

When the money was first sent to the Treasury Department last week, neither Treasury nor the Trump Organization would confirm the amount. The Daily Mail was first to report the figure Friday.

The money represents profits earned from Trump's inauguration day to Dec. 31, 2017.

Before his inauguration, when he announced he would hand his company over to his two sons, Eric and Don Jr., then President-elect Donald Trump pledged to donate all profits from foreign government patrons at his hotels and other properties.

For example, foreign dignitaries have been seen at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., not far down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The hotel has hosted several high-spending foreign clients.

The international public relations firm MSL Group Americas, whose D.C. office has represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Bahrain Embassy and others, spent more than $270,000 at the Trump Hotel in D.C. Much of that was for work on behalf of their Saudi Arabia employers during the period between Oct. 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, according to a review of the filings foreign groups and their lobbyists make with the U.S. Justice Department.

Bahrain had its 2017 National Day party at the hotel as well, but no public filings disclose how much the embassy spent on the event. Last year the American-Turkish Council held its annual Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations at the Trump International Hotel, too – but no public filing indicates how much was spent.

Trump did not fully divest from his financial holdings, breaking with the precedent set by previous presidents to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

The Trump Justice Department has argued in a previous lawsuit about Trump's continued ownership of his business empire that his earnings does not represent a constitutional violation of his responsibilities as president.

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Toys 'R' Us may close all U.S. stores, sources say

Leon Neal/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Toys "R" Us is preparing to liquidate its U.S. operations after failing to reach a debt-restructuring agreement with lenders or find a buyer, according to Bloomberg.

Struggling under a $5 billion debt load, the company previously announced plans to close 184 stores, or about 20 percent of its 800 stores in the U.S. But the toy store may close the rest of its U.S. branches unless a rescue deal is reached, according to sources.

The toy chain's division in the United States filed for bankruptcy last September. A new $3.1 billion loan was obtained to keep the stores open, but the holiday season did not generate enough sales to secure the division's future, Bloomberg reported.

Toys "R" Us opened in 1948 as a baby furniture store and grew to become the nation's largest toy chain.

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