SEARCH

Friday
Jun222018

Uber driver was watching tv show prior to fatal crash, police say

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images(TEMPE, Arizona) -- The operator of a self-driving Uber in Tempe, Arizona was watching an episode of "The Voice" via a streaming service in the moments before her SUV struck and killed a pedestrian walking her bicycle across the street, according to a police report.

The incident in March raised alarms about the ability of autonomous technology to react to unexpected human behaviors and led to Uber temporarily shutting down its self-driving car operations nationwide. The company has since resumed its operations in San Fransisco and Pittsburgh.

The report released Thursday details the death of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg the nation's first fatal crash involving a pedestrian and a self-driving vehicle.

The operator of the Volvo XC90, Rafaela Vasquez, 44, passed a field sobriety test after the crash, according to police, but records obtained from Hulu indicate Vasquez's phone was playing an episode of The Voice and the stream ended at 9:59 p.m.

The crash occurred at 10 p.m., according to police records.

During the 22 minutes and 11.8 miles leading up to the moment of impact, Vasquez's eyes were off the road for 6 minutes and 47 seconds, according to a police analysis of video inside the vehicle.

“She appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video," the police report says. "Sometimes, her face appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down. Her hands are not visible in the frame of the video during these times."

"The car was in auto-drive," Rafaela Vasquez, 44, is heard telling police on an officer's body camera.

"The car didn't see it, I couldn't see it," she says. "I know I hit her."

Attempts to reach Vasquez for comment were unsuccessful.

Uber told ABC News in a statement on Friday morning the company has "a strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles." The spokesperson added the policy is made clear in training and violation is a fireable offense.

A previous National Transportation Safety Board report said Herzberg had methamphetamine and marijuana in her system. Former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart is currently a safety consultant for Uber.

Police have referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for possible charges.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jun222018

Clothing company aims to raise $100,000 with 'I Really Do Care' line

WILDFANG(PORTLAND, Oregon) -- Wildfang, a clothing brand based in Portland, Oregon, has created a fashion line in response to the jacket Melania Trump wore while en route to visit migrant children in Texas Thursday.

The first lady's sartorial choice -- a green jacket from Zara with the words "I really don't care, do u?" emblazoned on the back -- raised eyebrows though her spokeswoman insisted there was "no hidden message" behind the article of clothing.

Within hours of the photos going viral, the Wildfang team decided to create a small line of clothing, with each piece reading: "I really do care, don't you?"

"Because we now make the majority of our products, we are able to turn things around like this," CEO Emma McIlroy said in a statement provided to ABC News. "When we're passionate about something, we take control of the situation!"

The line consists of a a jacket, a bomber and a T-shirt ranging in price from $40 to $98, and all proceeds benefit RAICES Texas, an organization that provides legal services to immigrants in the border state. McIlroy said that the limited run sold out twice (most of the items have been restocked already) and so far Wildfang has raised more than $30,000. The company's goal is to be able to donate $100,000 to the nonprofit.

"We stand proudly with immigrants and support their rights and RAICES does amazing things for these families," McIlroy said. "We hope to see kids reunited with their parents. That is the goal here. We want to spread awareness, we want people to take action we want you to give all your money to RAICES. They do amazing work!"

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

"Roseanne" spinoff "The Conners" will premiere in the fall without Roseanne Barr

Adam Rose/ABC(LOS ANGELES) -- ABC has greenlit a spinoff series of the now-canceled "Roseanne" -- without the show's embattled star.

On Thursday, the network announced that much of the cast of "Roseanne," including John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman, are set to reprise their iconic roles in the new show, currently named "The Conners" as a working title.

Roseanne Barr will have no financial or creative involvement in the new series, according to the network.

"The Connners" will air on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

“The Conners’ stories demonstrate that families can always find common ground through conversation, laughter and love. The spinoff will continue to portray contemporary issues that are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago,” ABC shared in a statement.

In a joint statement, the announced cast members of the spinoff said they have received a “tremendous amount of support” from fans.

“We have received a tremendous amount of support from fans of our show, and it’s clear that these characters not only have a place in our hearts, but in the hearts and homes of our audience,” the statement read. “We all came back last season because we wanted to tell stories about the challenges facing a working-class family today. We are so happy to have the opportunity to return with the cast and crew to continue to share those stories through love and laughter.”

Tom Werner will executive produce the show.

Last month, "Roseanne" was canceled after Barr tweeted racist remarks about former Obama adviser Valarie Jarrett -- who is African-America -- and compared her to an ape.

ABC is the parent company of ABC News.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

Supreme Court opens up possibility for online sales tax

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a case that could likely mean consumers paying more nationwide, the Supreme Court on Thursday opened the door for states to collect sales taxes on purchases from online retailers even if that company doesn't have a physical presence in that state.

The court overturned a longstanding rule that states can collect sales taxes only on transactions if the retailer has a "bricks-and-mortar" presence in that state. The decision could allow more states to impose sales taxes on companies that operate entirely online.

The internet retailers argued that allowing every state to collect taxes on online sales would cause confusion and unreasonable burdens in today's online-heavy retail economy.

But the court found it is "unworkable" to apply a rule based on physical offices to online sales, saying it caused more confusion as some states maintained that even allowing users to download an app in their state counted as a "physical presence."

"Statutes of this sort are likely to embroil courts in technical and arbitrary disputes about what counts as physical presence," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the opinion.

Kennedy also said that the rule makes no sense, and that the court "should not maintain a rule that ignores these substantial virtual connections" to the state.

Business leaders said the decision helps "brick-and-mortar" stores.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who originally supported the rule at issue, said he now thinks it "can no longer be rationally certified" and supports the decision to overturn it.

Wayfair, the online furniture company named in the case, said in a statement that the decision would not have a noticeable impact on their sales because they already collect sales tax on most transactions, but that it could impact retailers that don't already have that in place.

"Wayfair has long supported a legislative solution that would establish a level playing field for brick-and-mortar and online retailers by permitting states to collect sales tax on online sales. While we believe the court was not the ideal venue for creating this level playing field, we expect that today’s decision will bring clarity and certainty to this issue," Wayfair spokeswoman Susan Frechette said in a statement.

Some retail leaders such as former Office Depot CEO Steve Odland said the decision could raise prices for consumers by increasing sales taxes.

"I think what this does is it essentially levels the playing field," Odland said to reporters. "There is a chance here that it raises prices for consumers by passing on this tax increase. In some cases, the sales tax numbers are 7 or 8 percent, and you would expect to see that passed through."

The attorney general of South Dakota, who defended a state rule that required out-of-state retailers to collect state taxes, said the decision is a win for the state and small businesses.

“Today’s landmark decision is a win for South Dakota and for Main Street businesses across America that will now have a level playing field and tax fairness,” Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a statement.

One federal report released last year found that state and local governments lost out on $8 billion to $13 billion in tax revenue because they couldn't collect sales taxes from online retailers.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

What you need to know about Instagram's new video platform

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Instagram, which just hit 1 billion users, announced a new video format is coming to the platform, and its creators are calling it the "most exciting feature to date."

Vertical videos up to 60 minutes long will now appear in a new tab in Instagram and in a stand-alone video app, IGTV, to be released later this week.

The social media company unveiled the news during an "Instagrammable" live show in San Francisco on Wednesday that showcased the importance of video. Video has been key for social media platforms to get users to spend more time engaged with their apps.

Amid the big rollout, the company's founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, exclusively told ABC News that Instagram plans to roll out a feature in the future that helps users monitor the time they are spending on the app. The feature will include notifications and logging capabilities that would help users know when to put down their device and engage with the real world.

All about IGTV

IGTV is a separate tab within Instagram where users can post vertical, full-screen videos that are as long as 60 minutes. Previously, Instagram limited users to 60-second videos. In a new move, users can also embed links in videos -- key for influencers who use Instagram as a marketing tool.

The move is clearly a competitive shot at YouTube, and Systrom explained that the longer-format videos, combined with Instagram's billion-user reach, give creators more options within Instagram.

"We want to let creators reach their audience wherever they may be. Because of the scale of social media, they can find their audience and find their niche, and that’s what’s special about IGTV," Systrom told ABC News.

While there are some clear differences from YouTube, the most obvious one is format. Instagram is all about mobile users, who hold their phones vertically. Instagram videos will be vertically oriented and full-screen. "We give people a mobile-native, mobile-first format -- they can’t do that anywhere else today," Systrom said.

With more than 25 million followers, Lele Pons (@lelepons) who has been called the "master" of the 60-second video, said she plans to use the longer-format video feature to start a cooking show.

When asked if that’s because she loves to cook, she deadpanned, "I’m not a cook."

All the better to create beautiful, Instagram-worthy kitchen disasters that are relatable for her 25 million followers.

Instagram plans to add time management tools

The standalone app, IGTV, could be critical for video discovery. With people watching lots of videos on their phones, the market opportunity is huge. Instagram wants to compete with not only YouTube, but also Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO.

But that engagement level for teens and tweens can make video a real problem for parents.

Systrom told ABC News that Instagram plans to add features in the future that will notify users when they may be spending too much time on their phone.

"One thing we're going to do is give time management tools for parents and kids, and perhaps even send little alerts to say, 'Hey, I've spent this many minutes, maybe it’s time to put this down and have a conversation with the family,'" Systrom said.

Instagram's terms of service mandate that users are at least 13 years old, but many under that age use the app.

In addition to trying to limit screen time, parents are concerned about user-generated content -- something that has plagued YouTube for years. Systrom said the company works hard with artificial intelligence and paid monitors to flag inappropriate video.

"We’ve got a giant, thriving community that looks out for stuff that may be against our terms and flags it," Systrom said.

Users wanting access to the new IGTV feature in Instagram should go to the app store on their mobile device and upgrade Instagram to version 5.0 or later. Once the new version of the app is installed, you should see a TV icon in the upper right-hand corner of the app, which links to the IGTV feed.

Longer-form videos from accounts you follow will not appear in your regular Instagram feed, so you will have to click into this tab to find them.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

Arkansas man allegedly tries to pay waitress with her own stolen credit card

iStock/Thinkstock(PINE BLUFF, Ark.) -- An Arkansas man was taken into custody on Tuesday after he attempted to pay for a meal with a stolen credit card that ended up belonging to his waitress, authorities said.

Police said Shamon West, 21, stole the woman's purse, along with her credit cards and driver’s license, on Sunday when he allegedly broke into her car at a gas station in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, about 44 miles south of Little Rock.

Police arrested West at a restaurant about two blocks away from where the robbery happened after the victim, Flora Lunsford, went to close out his bill and noticed her own name on the credit card, according to a statement.

She immediately notified police, who arrested him after finding the victim’s driver’s license, Social Security card and other credit cards in his possession.

Police obtained surveillance video from the gas station that showed the suspect entering Lunsford's vehicle just moments after she parked her car and went inside the convenience store, according to ABC affiliate KATV.

The video allegedly shows West as he exits the vehicle with the purse and gets back into his car without paying for gas, KATV reported.

Investigators said they were baffled by the entire situation.

"As a side note, the driver’s license, as all do, had her picture on it," a spokesperson for the Pine Bluff Police Department noted, according to KATV. "Therefore, you would think he should have known what she looked like. Yet, he still handed her own credit card to her."

West faces charges of theft by receiving and forgery, court records show. He was being held at the Jefferson County jail on a $2,840 bond.

It wasn’t immediately clear if he had obtained an attorney as of early Thursday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

Airlines speak out against transportation of undocumented children separated from their family

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Before President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to reverse the administration's family separation policy, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attacked several airlines that said they would not knowingly work with the federal government in cases of transporting children separated from their parents at the border.

DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton lashed out on Twitter, accusing the airlines of "buckling to a false media narrative."

American Airlines acknowledged an existing contract with the federal government, but the airline said it does not know who the government flies nor their purpose for traveling.

"We have no knowledge that the federal government has used American to transport children who have been separated from their parents due to the recent immigration policy, but we would be extremely disappointed to learn that is the case," American Airlines said in a statement.

"We have therefore requested the federal government to immediately refrain from using American for the purpose of transporting children who have been separated from their families due to the current immigration policy. We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it."

Southwest Airlines and United Airlines released similar responses. The carriers stated being unaware of any previous occurrences but asked the government to no longer use their flights to transport immigrant children.

"We have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents," United CEO Oscar Munoz said.

Frontier Airlines also said they would not knowingly engage in transporting separated children.

Delta Airlines released a statement after the president signed the executive order.

The Georgia-based airline said "recent reports of families being separated are disheartening and do not align with Delta’s core values," but it's pleased with the executive order.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

Passengers sue Southwest Airlines over emergency landing, allege they were 'confronted with their greatest fear'

Joe Marcus/Twitter(NEW YORK) -- A group of passengers aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas, Texas, is suing the airline over an emergency landing that followed a fatal engine explosion.

Southwest flight 1380 landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 17 after an engine exploded about 20 minutes into the flight at an altitude of 32,500 feet, causing Jennifer Riordan to be nearly sucked out of the plane. She died after being pelted by metal fragments.

Riordan’s family is not part of the lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court by nine of her fellow passengers on Tuesday. The plaintiffs claim they “were confronted with their greatest fear, the overwhelming horror of being trapped in a plane about to crash.”

One plaintiff, Joe Arenas, is the husband of another passenger, Cindy Arenas, alleges in the lawsuit that he “suffered the loss of consortium of his wife, plaintiff Cindy Arenas, due to the devastating impact upon their marital relationship.”

The lawsuit claims negligence and names the following defendents: Southwest, Boeing and three companies involved in the building of the plane's engine.

“Southwest Airlines negligently failed in its duty to provide the highest degree of care for its passengers whose lives were at risk,” according to the lawsuit. “Southwest Airlines negligently failed to reasonably monitor, inspect, test service, maintain and repair the aircraft and engine.”

Southwest told ABC News: “We do not comment on pending litigations.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

How AMC Theatres plans to compete with MoviePass

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- AMC Theatres introduced a new subscription-based program on Wednesday aimed at giving MoviePass some competition.

AMC Stubs A-List, which rolls out June 26, will allow members to see three movies each week for a monthly fee of $19.95.

Each subscription comes with a three-month commitment, and permits users to make advance reservations and see movies in all formats, including 3D and IMAX.

"We believe that our current and future loyal guests will be interested in this type of program, as AMC Stubs A-List rewards guests with something that no one else offers: the very best of AMC, including IMAX, Dolby Cinema and RealD 3D up to three times per week, for one simple, sustainable price," AMC Theatres CEO and president Adam Aron said in a statement obtained by CNN Money.

The comment has been interpreted to be a dig at MoviePass, which was originally founded in 2011 and has been seen as a major disruptor for the movie business. Currently, it offers two plans: one that costs $9.95 per month and allows users to see a new 2D film every day, or a $7.95 per month version, for which users may see three 2D movies per month. According to the company, MoviePass is accepted at more than 91 percent of theaters nationwide, including AMC Theatres.

However, there have been questions raised recently about the sustainability of MoviePass' business model. Variety reported that the company pays full price for tickets and then discounts them. In April, the company's majority owner, Helios and Matheson Analytics, acknowledged in a regulatory filing that there were doubts about MoviePass' ability to stay in business.

"MoviePass has incurred losses since its inception and has a present need for additional funding. These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern," the document reads.

"If we are unable to obtain sufficient amounts of additional capital, we may be required to reduce the scope of the Company’s planned growth or otherwise alter our business objectives and operations, which could harm our business, financial condition and operating results."

The company wasted no time in taking its own jab at AMC Theatres on Wednesday. On its official Twitter page, MoviePass accuses AMC Theatres of "repeatedly" attempting to sabotage them while looking to turn a profit of its own.

"Heard AMC Theaters jumped on board the movie subscription train," the tweet reads. "Twice the price for 1/4 the theater network and 60% fewer movies. Thanks for making us look good AMC!" MoviePass added.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

Facebook campaign tops $13M to reunite immigrant families separated at border

John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  In a little over four days, a fundraising campaign on Facebook has topped $13 million to help reunite undocumented families split up by the U.S. government at the Mexico border.

The fundraiser page, "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child," was launched on Saturday by three former Facebook employees. As of Wednesday morning, more than 223,000 people had donated to the fund, which was fetching more than $2.2 million in donations a day. Several people donated $260,000 each.

"We are collectively revulsed at what's happening to immigrant families on our southern border," the fund's organizers wrote the campaign's Facebook page.

The page was launched by Silicon Valley power trio Malorie Lucich, and Dave and Charlotte Willner, who were among the original employees at Facebook and now work at Pinterest, the popular image-collecting site. The Willners also work at Airbnb.

The goal of the fund is to raise $5 million.

The money will go to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, and provide legal aid for undocumented immigrant parents arrested on suspicion of crossing the border illegally.

Bond for the parents arrested at the border has been set at a minimum of $1,500. Unlike in the criminal justice system, bail bond companies either do not help people in immigration proceedings or impose strict requirements, according to RAICES.

President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the administration's controversial immigration policies on Monday.

As part of the "zero-tolerance" policy, federal prosecutors have been ordered to file criminal charges against any adult caught crossing the border illegally, including those traveling with minors. The children are being placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, and adults are apprehended by law enforcement.



"Children are not being used as a pawn," Nielsen said at a press briefing Monday. "We are trying to protect the children."

She and Trump said the administration is enforcing laws already on the books.

"The voices most loudly criticizing the enforcement of our current laws are those whose policies created this crisis and whose policies perpetuate it," Nielsen said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions scoffed at claims that the policy harkens back to Nazi Germany after former CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, who served mostly under George W. Bush, tweeted a picture of a Nazi concentration camp and wrote, "Other governments have separated mothers and children."

"Well, it's a real exaggeration," Sessions said in an interview Monday on Fox News. "Of course, in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country."

The policy of separating parents from children at the border had been widely denounced by both Democrats and Republicans. Former first lady Laura Bush penned an op-ed in The Washington Post calling the policy "cruel" and "immoral," and comparing it to Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Lucich and the Willners called the policy "a grave American moral failing."

"These children don't know where their parents are," they wrote on the Facebook fundraising page. "Their parents aren't allowed to communicate with them while in custody. The government hasn't set up a system to reunite separated parents and children if one or both are ultimately released. In many cases, parents have been deported without their children -- sometimes, young children are deported without their parents."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio