ABC - Business News

Pineapple Studio/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has reclaimed the title of richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Gates had been the second wealthiest individual in the world for more than two years, trailing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As of Friday, Bloomberg's data shows Gates is worth $110 billion, while Bezos is just behind at $109 billion.

Bloomberg updates its rankings each day after the U.S. markets close.

Gates' worth has climbed in recent weeks, following the Pentagon's decision to award a cloud-computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon.

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Nod Hill Brewery(Ridgefield, Conn.) -- Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield, Connecticut is the state's first and only 100 percent solar powered brewery.

Started in 2017 by Rob and David Kaye, a father-son team, Nod Hill Brewery powers their equipment with a 287 kilowatt, 700 panel photovoltaic array on the roof of their building.

The array went online on April 4th and off-sets 100 percent of the brewery's electrical usage, along with the usage of two other businesses in the building.

"One of the reasons that we wanted to do it from the beginning is because we actually brew on an electric system, which is somewhat unusual. It's fully electric. We don't use natural gas, steam power, propane or anything," says co-founder David Kaye. "Usually electric brewing systems, they're a little bit more uncommon. You find them in smaller breweries. We're a ten barrel brewery, which is not enormous, but it's on the larger side for an electric set up. That's part of the reason that kind of got us thinking about that."

When setting up the system Eversource, Connecticut's energy provider, limited the array to a 287 kilowatt size based on the buildings past energy usage. This way Eversource would not be paying Nod Hill for a large amount's of excess energy.

On lower usage days, the brewery sends excess energy back to the grid. In addition, there are times during the year that the brewery will have to pull energy from the grid, such as cloudy days and during the winter.

"Whatever we're producing and [when] our consumption is kind of in the same area, then we aren't sending anything back," says Rob Kaye. "Sometimes we're even taking as well. Certain times of the year we'll be taking in some from the grid, but our footprint has gone down, our usage has gone down, probably about ninety percent from using the solar panels."

Rob Kaye purchased the building where the brewery is located for another business he owns. When he and Rob decided to start the brewery they realized it was possible to put up solar panels based on the roof size and shape, along with the buildings past life as a manufacturer of airplane parts.

"We have an immense amount of electricity coming into this building and a lot of buildings do not have that," says Rob Kaye. "Part of the idea in putting this brewery together, we wanted to be as green as possible. It had always been in our plan to go solar, we just didn't know when and [what] the timing of what that would be."

Surprisingly, the costs to set up it up were not overwhelming due to national and state solar programs.

"The government programs that are involved make this very, very worthwhile to do. There are tax credits, there are accelerated depreciation, there's also in the state what's called ZREC, in which we are paid by Eversource to have this," says Rob Kaye. "And then the actual savings is really on top of all those things. When you start to add up all the costs of a tax credit, in monies paid over fifteen years, just on those alone it pays for this and that doesn't include the actual cost savings of the electric."

When the idea for the brewery came together the pair thought they would have a few years before it became a reality, but when they found out there were already 35 brewery applications ahead of them in the state they accelerated their time table.

Since opening in October of 2017, Nod Hill has brewed 70 beers, representing close to 25 different styles.

They produce the typical assortment of beers, including pale ales, IPA's, and Belgian-style's. Since they array has gone up, they have focused on brewing one style of beer based on its color. 

"We've been doing a number of different German style lagers because, generally speaking, a lot of those styles of beer are more light and crisp and easy drinking," says David Kaye. "We've kind of gone with a solar theme with a lot of the names, so we have a beer called Beam, which is our German pilsner, we have a beer called stellar rays, sun runner. It just gives us kind of fodder for coming up with creative names."

They also advertise on all their cans and packaging that they are 100 percent solar powered.

Nod Hill Brewery was the first in Connecticut to go with 100 percent solar power, but there are several other breweries that use solar in the state, including Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, Kent Falls Brewery in Kent, and Brewport in Bridgeport.

Solar power is not just for small breweries, brewing giants like Heineken, Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have also started bringing solar and other renewable power into their supply chain to become more sustainable.

Rob thinks solar power will become the industry norm in the coming years.

"I think anybody can benefit from it and I think you'll see more and more people doing this because, even though we're a little guy we do use a lot of electricity. Now think of that on a larger scale and their economies of scale can be much more than mine because, their usage will be much higher."

As for the future of Nod Hill Brewery, Rob believes they may be able to go completely off the grid with batteries.

"I think the next step here is if they can bring the batteries down to a reasonable price, then we'll be off and that I think would be huge. I think the technology is starting to come through. I don't think it's gonna happen tomorrow, but I think maybe 5-10 years from now that's where we'll all be. And that would even make us feel a lot better. We really don't have to really use anything [non-green energy] at the end of the day.

The brewery has a page where you can see how much energy the system is bringing in and the environmental impact of the system.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


RomanOkopny/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Twitter unveiled its new wide-reaching policy regarding political ads ahead of 2020, after co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced the platform would ban political advertising as social media giants grapple with the veracity and influence of online ads.

The policy outlines how the changes will apply to the political sphere and defines political content as content that references candidates, political parties, elected or appointed government officials, elections, referendums, ballot measures, legislation, regulation, directive, judicial outcome or fundraising. The ban also explicitly blocks super PACs and 501(c)(4)s.

Twitter announced will no longer allow political ad on the platform last month.

"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," Dorsey tweeted, along with a number of additional tweets explaining the reasons why.

"While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions," Dorsey wrote. "Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale."

"We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent. Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we're stopping these too," Dorsey added.

Among the 2020 Democratic field, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign was one of the first to applaud the move.

"We appreciate that Twitter recognizes that they should not permit disproven smears, like those from the Trump campaign, to appear in advertisements on their platform," said Bill Russo, the Biden campaign's deputy communications director in a statement. "It would be unfortunate to suggest that the only option available to social media companies to do so is the full withdrawal of political advertising, but when faced with a choice between ad dollars and the integrity of our democracy, it is encouraging that, for once, revenue did not win out."

Another Democratic hopeful, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, turned the attention to another social media giant, tweeting, "Good. Your turn, Facebook."

Trump campaign manager, Brad Parscale, slammed Twitter's decision, saying in a statement, "Twitter just walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision for their stockholders. Will Twitter also be stopping ads from biased liberal media outlets who will now run unchecked as they buy obvious political content meant to attack Republicans? This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known."

But the effect of Twitter's move might not be as impactful as if Facebook followed suit. For example, while the Trump campaign is spending $15.6 million on Facebook ads and $9.1 million on Google ads since January, they have only spent $6,300 on Twitter ads.

Trump campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, told ABC News that the campaign planned to spend "many" millions over the next 12 months on the platform, after shutting down their Twitter ads back in August.

Twitter CFO Ned Segal also acknowledged on on Twitter, "political ad spend for the 2018 US midterms was <$3M."

The final policy will be shared on Nov. 15 and will go into effect on Nov. 22, Dorsey said, noting there will be a "few exceptions" including ads that support voter registration.

"This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address," Dorsey concluded.

Dorsey's announcement is a striking contrast from Facebook's standing policy, which virtually gives advertisers free reign on the platform to spread disinformation in political ads, amid rising concerns over the influence of social media on voters ahead of the 2020 election.

Not long after Dorsey made the announcement about political ads. Zuckerberg posted about Facebook's political ad policy.

"Right now, the content debate is about political ads. Should we block political ads with false statements? Should we block all political ads? Google, YouTube and most internet platforms run these same ads, most cable networks run these same ads, and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations," he wrote on Facebook.

"I don't think it's right for private companies to censor politicians or the news ... And it's hard to define where to draw the line. Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women's empowerment? Instead, I believe the better approach is to work to increase transparency. Ads on Facebook are already more transparent than anywhere else. We have a political ads archive so anyone can scrutinize every ad that's run -- you can see every message, who saw it, how much was spent -- something that no TV or print media does," he continued.

He also denied that Facebook's political ad policy was about making money. "Some people accuse us of allowing this speech because they think all we care about is making money. That's wrong. I can assure you, from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percent of our business that these political ads make up. We estimate these ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of our revenue next year. That's not why we're doing this," he wrote.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on Capitol Hill as he defended the social media giant's controversial policy about not fact-checking most political ads before lawmakers.

In his congressional testimony, Zuckerberg said his company would not engage in any censorship or fact-checking of political ads - and when pressed by several Democratic committee members, the tech-giant founder argued, "We believe in a democracy, it is important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying."

One of the tensest exchanges for Zuckerberg came when Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questioned him about Facebook's fact-checking policy, and underscored a key flaw in their stance on Freedom of Speech.

"I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Under your policy using census data as well, could I pay to target black zip codes and advertise them the incorrect election date?"

Zuckerberg said, "No."

"Could I run ads targeting Republicans in primaries saying they voted for the Green New Deal?" she asked. In the hearing room, he replied that he did not know the answer.

But the tension between Facebook and Washington goes beyond the halls of Congress -- as several 2020 presidential candidates have scolded the social network site for their policies.

Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., intentionally ran a paid Facebook ad with a completely false claim about Zuckerberg endorsing Trump for president, in order to show how an individual can exploit Facebook's policy and lie to a universe of social media users.

In early October, the Biden campaign sent a letter to Facebook asking to remove a false ad, run and paid for by President Trump's campaign, but Facebook denied their request because the company said it does not violate company policies.

"Our approach is grounded in Facebook's fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is. Thus, when a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third-party fact checkers," Katie Harbath, public policy director, Global Elections for Facebook wrote.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved


Robert Michaud/iStock(NEW YORK) -- United is joining American and Southwest Airlines in extending cancellations tied to the Boeing 737 Max into March.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the aircraft after it was involved in two crashes in Indonesia and in Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people.

Although the timing ultimately will be up to regulators, including the FAA in the U.S., should the airlines stick to these plans, the Boeing 737 Max could resume commercial service just a few days shy of the one-year anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10, 2019. The FAA grounded the jets March 13.

United announced its decision Friday to pull the Max out of its schedule until March 4. United previously extended cancellations related to its fleet of 14 737 Max jets planes through Jan. 5. United said it expects to cancel 5,600 flights from December through February, and 168 flights in early March.

"We won’t put our customers and employees on that plane until regulators make their own independent assessment that it is safe to do so," United said in a statement Friday.

Southwest, which owns the most 737 Max planes, last week became the first U.S. carrier to remove the jet from its schedule into March. American Airlines' decision followed Southwest's by just a few hours, with American saying it intended to add it back into service on March 5.

In both crashes, it appears the angle-of-attack sensor was sending incorrect data, misfiring the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, which pushed the plane's nose down repeatedly even as pilots fought to gain altitude. One of the software fixes Boeing said has been completed is a change to rely on two sensors, not just one, to activate the MCAS. A second software fix is related to the overall flight-control software system.

Boeing on Monday reaffirmed its belief that the jet will be re-certified before the end of the year. The company said it may be possible to deliver new Max aircraft in December, but acknowledged that four key milestones remain before FAA certification, including a certification flight and reaching a consensus on pilot training.

"With the rigorous scrutiny being applied, we are confident the Max will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly," Boeing said, echoing earlier comments.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said on Tuesday the agency's "return-to-service decision for the Max will be based solely on [its] assessment of the sufficiency of Boeing's proposed software updates and pilot training that addresses the known issues for grounding the aircraft."

A former commercial pilot himself, Dickson added, "I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Kiyoshi Tanno(WASHINGTON) -- Amazon is not backing down after the Pentagon awarded Microsoft a lucrative cloud contract deal worth up to $10 billion, saying there was "unmistakable bias" in the government's decision-making process.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, however, defended the Pentagon's decision in a news conference Friday with South Korea's Defense Minister, saying that the awarding of the contract was "conducted fairly."

"I’m confident it was conducted freely and fairly without any type of outside influence," he told reporters. "I will leave it at that."

Amazon has submitted a notice to the Court of Federal Claims indicating it will protest the Pentagon's decision.

Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing offshoot of the online retail company, was long thought by many to be the top choice for a lucrative Department of Defense cloud computing deal. AWS is one of the largest cloud computing platforms in the nation and currently works with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The Department of Defense, however, announced in late October it was awarding the major cloud contract -- dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) -- to Microsoft, after nearly two years of deliberating.

The JEDI Cloud contract has a "ceiling value of $10,000,000,000 over a period of 10 years," the Pentagon said in a statement announcing it had been awarded to Microsoft.

"AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts," an AWS spokesperson told ABC News in a statement on Friday.

"We also believe it's critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence," the statement added. "Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias- and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

The Department of Defense declined to comment on the pending litigation. Microsoft did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Friday.

The challenge from Amazon comes at a time when President Donald Trump frequently attacks the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, on Twitter, accusing Amazon of not paying its fair share of taxes or that the Bezos-owned Washington Post covers his administration unfairly.

In July, Trump suggested that he could intervene in the decision-making process for the contract, saying, “I'm getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon." His comments led Republican lawmakers in the House Armed Services Committee to send a letter warning Trump against intervening.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


alexsl/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In less than a year, Americans will head to the polls in the 2020 presidential election. Last time around, the FBI says, Russian trolls, in coordination with the Russian government, engaged in a sophisticated attempt to influence the American electorate to vote for Donald Trump.

While the effectiveness of the campaign is unknown, three years later, there's no indication that Russia has relented. Former FBI director and special counsel Robert Mueller, during a hearing before Congress last July, testified to the stark reality: “They’re doing it as we sit here,” he said. “And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

And other countries were following suit, he added.

While the inaction of the U.S. government in 2016 has drawn considerable scrutiny, part of what facilitated this was social media platforms' lack of ability and willingness to confront the issue in real time.

So what are some of the biggest social media platforms doing to help protect the U.S. in the 2020 election?

Social media platforms -- one of the main vehicles of overt Russian influence operation in 2016 -- have adjusted, if only reluctantly. Facebook, Google and Twitter have all made changes that make it more difficult for bad actors to spread misinformation, but experts say they could be doing more.

'Lack of imagination'

Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that Facebook was "caught on its heels" in 2016. In reality, this appears to have been a gross understatement. Just a few days after the November 2016 election, Zuckerberg famously said: “Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of content, influenced the election in any way. I think is a pretty crazy idea."

But the platform wasn't alone: a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report found that the FBI outsourced all the work on tracking misinformation and didn’t even alert the platforms when they found it.

“What went wrong was a lack of imagination towards understanding the various threats that their platforms would be taking,” Ben Decker, lead analyst with the Global Disinformation Index, a U.K. non-profit organization carrying out research on Information Disorder, told ABC News.

Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard’s Kennedy Shorenstein Center, noted the power of social media to change the political environment in 2016 through pushing a single misinformation about a single issue like immigration or pushing a false narrative about a political candidate. Social media platforms also allowed the proliferation of several conspiracy theories that thrived online, but did not get mainstream coverage.

“It just goes to erode the trust and self-assurance,” she told ABC News. “This is the main purpose."

While the term "fake news" -- initially used to describe intentionally false stories -- gained currency during the 2016 election cycle, it has fallen out of use among experts somewhat because it has come to be used by President Trump, some far-right and conservative media outlets as well as strong-arm leaders around the globe to refer to stories they don’t like from mainstream media organizations.

In the coming year, you’re more likely to hear about "information disorder" -- an umbrella term encompassing disinformation (intentionally false), misinformation (false but not intentionally misleading) and malinformation (true content removed from its context with the intent to cause harm). One example of malinformation would be how Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee emails in 2016 and leaked certain material. The content was genuine but it was spread with the intent to cause harm.

What the social networks have done...and failed to do

It appears that protections are better now than they were a couple of years ago. Most platforms do "red teaming," a term borrowed from the national security space, where a team of workers tries to find ways to disrupt the system and internal security teams try to figure out how to defend against those. In 2016, by contrast, politicians, media and the platforms didn’t have a good sense of what was going on, which made it a lot easier for the perpetrators.

In addition, nearly all the platforms have vastly bolstered their security teams and they have improved their content moderation filters and algorithms.

Facebook has automated systems that remove content every day and it has made political ads more transparent. To post a political ad -- which Facebook defines as dealing with social issues, elections or politics -- the advertiser needs to provide identifying documentation and declare who is paying for the spot.

Facebook also has teams that work with law enforcement to expose bad actors on the platform.

“We have made changes to our platform that make the techniques we saw in 2016 just much, much harder to do,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, told ABC News. “We share information regularly with the FBI. They share information back with industry partners."

Over the last year, he said, the company has taken down 80 suspect networks.

The platforms also collaborate more now than they did in 2016. Facebook has alerted Twitter to threats, allowing them to expose malicious networks, and vice versa. Twitter, unlike Facebook, has also made huge swaths of data available to researchers and law enforcement. Facebook has refused to share this kind of data, citing privacy concerns.

“Social media platforms have provided really valuable data that's allowed researchers to understand much more of the epidemiology around this big picture: state sponsored disinformation,” said Decker.

Carlos Monje, director of Public Policy at Twitter and Yoel Roth, head of Site Integrity, both emphasized the importance of the data they make available to researchers such as Donovan and Decker. This has allowed researchers to identify networks and the methods they used, which in turn helps Twitter and others prevent these bad actors and others like them operating in future.

“Most of the data was available publicly via the Twitter API at some stage, but we’ve had multiple researchers say that it was only when they had access to the database raw data that they were able to connect the dots on how the disinformation networks worked,” said Roth.

Rather than create a specific team to counter information disorder, Roth said that it has become a part of virtually every Twitter employee’s job duties. Roth also emphasized that much of the detail on specific bad actors, such as their country of origin, only comes to light through collaboration with other platforms and law enforcement agencies around the globe.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, hasn't gotten the same attention as Twitter and Facebook, but because of the autoplay feature, it is one of the most popular social networks, particularly with radical groups.

“There was heightened awareness in 2016, especially around the rise of white supremacist movements," said Donovan.

Google also now tries to counteract disinformation in its search engine results by featuring a pop-up knowledge panel from Wikipedia. At Google, there is also a team which identifies inauthentic accounts much like Gleicher’s team at Facebook. For example, earlier this year, 210 YouTube accounts were disabled when they were found to be part of a coordinated network spreading misinformation related to the Hong Kong protests.

Google refused to put forward someone to speak about its efforts but instead offered a statement saying it was committed to address the challenge.

'Perception hacking' and other new threats

Despite all this innovation, information disorder appears to be a massive and growing problem. According to a recent report from Oxford University researchers the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled to 70 in the last two years.

“The more sophisticated actors will continually find ways around any automated system we build," Gleicher admitted.

Changes to the platforms have forced the bad actors to adapt.

“When you work really hard to conceal who you are, not get noticed, it turns out that makes it a little difficult to run an influence operation,” says Gleicher. “Because the point of an influence operation is to get noticed.”

Another result of this is that malicious groups are using more real people to help spread misinformation. Instead of using bots to amplify a message, bad actors feed misinformation to real people that they have identified as likely to share right-wing content or left-wing content depending on the message being spread.

“Some of the telltale signs of coaxing are now being changed,” said Donovan.

One of her greatest concerns is an attempt at voter suppression, whether its disinformation about the mechanics of voting on Election Day or just attempts to create apathy among voters.

Gleicher calls this trend "perception hacking," where smaller, less-effective networks plant the idea they are larger than they really are, so that the public loses trust in institutions.

Twitter’s Roth says that one of the other new threats his team is tackling is targeting journalists and activists in an effort to amplify their message and make people believe the disinformation networks are larger and more powerful than they actually are. By getting news organizations to publish stories on small disinformation campaign, it can have the effect of making the public think the campaigns are more sophisticated and more widespread and thereby have the intended effect of reducing the public trust in news.

The other threat he highlighted was the use of manipulated video. While he is somewhat concerned about "deepfakes" (manipulated video where the speaker is made to look like he or she is speaking words they never uttered), he is also worried about "shallow fakes," such as the video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that was slowed down to make it appear as if her speech were impaired. Just this week Twitter announced new policy rules which would clearly label manipulated media.

And finally, there is political advertising.

According to Facebook, the Russians spent just $100,000 in advertising in 2016, but the restrictions that platforms imposed has made advertising more important.

“One of the things that advertising allows you to do, even on a small scale, is to just break out of your own echo chambers,” said Donovan.

This raises the specter of fact-checking the ads, which Zuckerberg has refused to do because he does not want to be the arbiter of truth and that the public should be free to make up their own mind about what candidates are saying.

Donovan thinks this is beside the point because she claims Facebook doesn’t have the capability to fact-check these ads even if it wanted to.

"Facebook cannot moderate political ads. It's not that they don't want to,” she says. “There is no system in place that would mark a political ad ahead of time and there's no review process in place where they would make a determination. So they have no prescreening.”

Of course the problem isn't limited to these three giant Internet companies. Ben Decker mentioned that more fringe sites like Reddit, 4chan or Discord "have a significant impact on conversations in YouTube, Twitter and sometimes even Facebook."

Decker is also concerned about closed networks like Snapchat and new platforms such as TikTok which are more popular with young voters.

"I think it's really concerning because there is a lot that we don't know," said Decker. "The more mass migration to new platforms that happens, particularly with younger audiences, it means that the rest of us have less of an insight into exactly what's happening and how it's happening."

So what more can be done?

One thing all the researchers and platforms can agree on is that more collaboration between these tech firms and with law enforcement agencies around the world is essential.

“The problem actually expands beyond just information," says Ben Decker, “but also includes things like violent extremism and coordinated harassment campaigns. So by having a much more macro view of the Internet rather than their specific platform, it could actually help them clean up a number of different problems.”

ABC News partners with Facebook on a news show and is a breaking news provider for Facebook Watch.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Curlanista(NEW YORK) -- Lexi P., 14, knew she wasn't the only one in need of help taming her tresses. So the 14-year-old did something about it.

The teen launched her line of Curlanistas products in 2018 after realizing the important need to empower other young girls who had curly hair like her own.

"I was bullied as well as teased about my hair, and I just hated it," she told ABC News' Good Morning America.

Lexi, who is from Washington, D.C., recalls damaging her natural hair by sneaking to straighten it with hot tools.

"I thought if I had straight hair the bullies would leave me alone," she said.

Through these unfortunate experiences, Lexi was inspired to create her line in hopes of helping other girls who had gone through similar situations.

Lexi's curly girl-friendly stylers include a Magic Curl Cream, Frizz-Fighting Detangler and Curl Defining Custard. Since launching, Curlanistas has quickly grown in popularity and landed in Sally Beauty stores across America after being accepted to the retailer's Cultivate program, which aims to invest, mentor and support innovative emerging hair care brands through mass distribution.

After an accelerated successful launch, Lexi is now paying it forward through the Curlanista Boss Network she created in August.

"I get a lot of messages from girls saying they want to be brand ambassadors and I just couldn't think of a better way to share and inspire my lessons of being a young boss than by launching a boss network," said Lexi. "I'm so excited to meet and inspire other girls to set goals and knock them out."

With over 100 already signed up, Lexi plans to enroll at least 1,000 girls between the ages of 6 to 16, and teach them business-building skills, such as communication, goal setting, business management, money management, persuasiveness and dealing with rejection.

"Some of the girls and their parents have told me how much this program has helped them with their self-esteem," said Lexi. "They also feel empowered to follow their dreams and dream big, by being part of this movement. Some of the girls really look up to me and feel like they are connected because we are around the same age."

She continued, "It makes me feel so good knowing I'm making an impact. If I help one girl dream big and chase her goals, I know I'm serving my purpose."

Lexi believes the free program will give other young entrepreneurs the tools, leadership tips and resources they need to go after what they want while also feeling prepared.

"I would like girls around the world to know they should just go for it," she said. "Just do it, girl!"

"Whatever dream you have, chase it and never give up," she added. "Get out there and tell your parents, friends, family, anyone you trust, about your goals and don't be afraid to ask for help to make it happen."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ColourPop(NEW YORK) -- Right in time for the release of Frozen 2, there's a new makeup collection underway.

On Nov. 15, ColourPop and Disney are releasing a full cosmetics line inspired by Anna and Elsa's princess powers.

The latest launch includes eye shadow palettes, lip gloss, lipstick and glitter.

"Fit for a an ice queen!," ColorPop captioned a video on Instagram announcing the new collection.

Prices range from $8 to $70, and each piece has a unique name such as Elsa Little Snow Luxe Matte Lipstick or Anna Waterfall Glitterally Obsessed.

There is also a rich variety of cool blues, browns and sparkling golds that echo the mood of the upcoming movie.

Items from the new collection can be purchased together or sold separately.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nike(NEW YORK) -- Nike's latest sneaker drop pays homage to hardworking medical workers who deserve it.

Officially releasing on Dec. 7, the new Nike Air Zoom Pulse shoe gives nurses, doctors and home health providers a way to trade in their rubber clogs for something that can really trek through long 12-hour shifts, the company said in a press release.

These sneakers are laceless and easy to slip on. They also have an elastic strap for flexibility and comfort, a rubber outsole for easy cleaning and Nike's Asterix logo that's symbolic of the company's belief that "If you have a body, you are an athlete."

Nike's Air Zoom Pulse sneakers were carefully crafted through insights taken from medical workers at Portland-based OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, the company said.

Through product testing and research sessions, the brand found that nurses walk approximately four to five miles and sit for less than an hour during their long shifts.

There are seven styles available, and six were designed by patients. One hundred percent of proceeds from each of those six versions will be donated back to OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, the company said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Motorola(NEW YORK) -- Motorola is bringing back its iconic Razr flip phone in 2020, but with a price tag of $1,500.

The phone that was the envy of every teen in the early 2000s will still possess the satisfying flip feature, but this time with a 6.2'' touch screen that can close itself in half.

The revamped phone will also feature two displays: meaning you can view and respond to notifications, take pictures and more while the phone is folded closed. You can also flip it open to access the full display for reading articles or watching movies.

The Android phone boasts a 16-megapixel camera with "built-in artificial intelligence" and includes a portrait mode feature to help you take better photos.

The Razr will only be available on Verizon to start and pre-orders begin Dec. 26. The phones will hit stores nationwide on Jan. 9, 2020. It's priced at $1,499.99.

While the Razr's shape and design may be nostalgic, foldable and touch-screen smartphones have popped up recently such as Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Huawei's Mate X.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lokibaho/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Keys, wallet, cellphone -- check. But what about your charger?

As people prepare to travel during the busy holiday season it could be more important than ever to double check that devices are fully charged or at least ensure you have a power adapter base and chord before leaving the house.

‘Juice Jacking’ Criminals Use Public USB Chargers to Steal Data - learn more:
#FraudFriday #fraud #fraudalert #crime #scams #scamalert

— Los Angeles County District Attorney (@LADAOffice) November 8, 2019

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office issued a new warning against those popular public charging stations for a new concern called "juice jacking."

The D.A. urged people to avoid using public USB charging stations at airports and other public locations because it could be susceptible to tampering.

Criminals can load malware onto the convenient charging stations or through the cables left at the kiosk and once a device is plugged in, it becomes infected.

#ICYMI: Avoid using public USB charging stations at airports and other locations. Deputy District Attorney Luke Sisak explains how the “juice jacking” scam works#FraudFriday #fraud #fraudalert #crime #scams #scamalert

— Los Angeles County District Attorney (@LADAOffice) November 12, 2019

The malware could send a full backup of the phone plugged into the affected kiosk directly to the criminal.

Cyber experts and D.A. officials shared a few tips to keep devices and data safe.

  •     Use an AC power outlet, not a USB charging station
  •     Take AC and car chargers for devices when traveling
  •     Consider buying portable chargers for emergencies

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nikada/iStock(SAN DIEGO) -- Federal authorities unsealed an indictment Wednesday alleging that 14 members of an international criminal organization have been ripping off Apple to the tune of $6 million.

The organization, led by three brothers, is accused of importing over 10,000 counterfeit iPhones and iPads from China and then going to Apple stores in states across the country and Canada in order to exchange them for the real thing. They would then ship the real Apple products back to China and other foreign countries to sell them at a premium, according to the indictment.

Apple believes it was duped out of about $6 million in iPhones and iPads.

Zhiwei Liao, 31, owned two cellphone repair businesses in San Diego, and headed up the illegal operation with his brothers, Zhimin Liao, 33, and Zhiting Liao, 30, according to the indictment. Also among the alleged co-conspirators were Dao Trieu La, Zhiwei's wife; Mengmeng Zhang, Zhiting's wife; and Tam Thi Minh Nguyen, Zhimin's wife.

A seventh family member, Xiaomin Zhong, was married to the three brothers' sister and lived in China, according to the indictment.

All three brothers are naturalized U.S. citizens who were born in China.

"While a significant amount of money in any circumstance, this prosecution is about more than monetary losses," U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement. "The manufacture of counterfeit goods -- and their use to defraud U.S. companies -- seeks to fundamentally undermine the marketplace and harms innocent people whose identities were stolen in furtherance of these activities. The United States Attorney’s Office is fully committed to bringing to justice those who seek to damage American markets and consumers through the peddling of bogus products."

The brothers have been charged with, among other things, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud; conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods; aggravated identity theft; and conspiracy to launder money. Each of the five stiffest charges against the men carries a 20-year maximum sentence.

One co-conspirator, Charley Hsu, even allegedly sent a text message to Zhiwei on Sept. 12, 2015 saying the counterfeit phones "look so fake."

The crime ring began as far back as 2014, according to the indictment.

The alleged ringleaders were arrested by the FBI on Wednesday morning, while other defendants are from China, Vietnam and Russia.

Agents seized $250,000 in cash and about 90 iPhones in raids on Wednesday. So far, 11 of the 14 defendants are in federal custody, officials said.

If convicted, the brothers will have to surrender all proceeds, and even five different buildings owned by the family in San Diego.

The FBI identified the three fugitives as Hyo Weon Yang, aka Will Yang; Chia Ming Hsu, aka Charley Hsu; and Xiaomin Zhong, aka Ming Zhong.

A pair of Oregon college students were charged with a similar scheme in April, with authorities saying they cleared $900,000 by importing the counterfeit iPhones from China and then returning them for cash.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


BrianAJackson/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As the year winds to a close, a growing trend might make the tradition of Dry January more popular than ever: the rise of low- and no-alcohol beverages.

The global nonalcoholic beverage market is expected to reach a record value of $1,650.28 billion by 2024, according to a recent report from Zion Market Research, while the consumption of alcohol around the world fell 1.6 percent in 2018, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Terms like "sober curious" are becoming more prevalent, and last month, Whole Foods declared that zero-proof drinks are one of the top-10 food trends for 2020.

Influencing the rise of this trend is a cultural shift toward wellness.

"As health and wellness are on the mind of the consumer, more and more things that are attached to it, such as low-alcohol and no-alcohol products and consumption, tend to rise with it," Devon Bergman, CEO of Social Standards, a consumer analytics company, told ABC News.

Even conversations on social media are shifting. Over the last two years, there has been an 85 percent increase in online discussions about low‑ and no‑alcohol drinking and a significant decrease in conversations about casual and heavy drinking occasions, according to Social Standards Consumer Analytics. Bergman said the consistent rise in consumer interest around low‑ and no‑alcohol beverages suggests the idea of moderation isn’t just a fad; it’s a trend.

And big beverage companies are catching on.

Laurent Grandet, lead analyst for food and beverages at Guggenheim Securities, said that significant players in the alcohol industry are expanding their low- and no-alcohol options as the light beer business is declining.

This year, Heineken and Hoegaarden released nonalcoholic versions of their beer to the U.S., and this summer, Anheuser-Busch’s O’Doul’s brand refreshed its look, enlisting the help of three artists in LA, Chicago and New York City to design limited-edition cans that Fast Company called "pure Instagram bait."

Anheuser-Busch, who is the leader in the low- and no-alcohol beverage space, has even set a goal that at least 20% of their global beer volume will come from the products by 2025.

"We know a growing number of consumers are taking interest in non- and low-alcohol products from brewers," Adam Warrington, VP of corporate social responsibility at Anheuser-Busch, told ABC News, adding, "We are committed to meeting this growing demand."

Anheuser-Busch has also been investing more heavily in a message of moderation. Last year it launched a "Drink Wiser" campaign, encouraging consumers to be mindful drinkers and "Hydrate Between Buds."

They’ve put even more star power behind this year's campaign with Lakers guard Danny Green, a two-time NBA champion, and Anthony Anderson, the Emmy-nominated actor and executive producer of ABC's Black-ish.

Anderson told ABC News that he wanted to be involved with the campaign because of the message.

"My beliefs and the things that I feel we should be doing as far as the public ... this 'Drink Wiser' campaign checked off all of the boxes, and I was just happy to be a part of it," Anderson said.

But the trend isn’t just changing how companies are targeting their consumers, it’s also shifting how consumers are socializing and it's inspiring alcohol-free bars. The number of businesses selling mocktails or nonalcoholic cocktails in the U.S. has increased by 130 percent from October 2018 to October 2019, according to Square and the amount of money spent on Mocktails has increased 600 percent.

"I think a lot of people want to drink less. ... The concept was, what if we had that social aspect without alcohol?" Sam Thonis, co-owner of the alcohol-free bar Getaway, told ABC News.

Thonis opened Getaway in Brooklyn, N.Y., this past April to bring a new type of experience to the neighborhood. The menu, which changes frequently, offers a variety of complex, mixed drinks all sans alcohol.

"We've hit a tipping point where there are enough people who are reexamining this stuff, and now there's some language around it, like 'sober curious,' but I think what's really happening more than anything is that companies and alcohol brands have started trying to cater to that market," Thonis said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


luchezar/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The number of government requests for user data have climbed to a new record, Facebook said in its biannual transparency report.

Those requests rose 16% during the first half of 2019 to 128,617, Chris Sonderby, the vice president and deputy general counsel for Facebook, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

It's more than a fivefold increase from the 25,607 government requests in 2013, the first year Facebook published that data.

The U.S. has submitted the most requests so far in 2019, at 50,714, according to Facebook. Those requests asked for data from 82,461 total users/accounts.

Of those requests from the U.S. government, two-thirds included a "non-disclosure order prohibiting Facebook from notifying the user," Sonderby wrote.

Facebook said it produced data for 88% of U.S. government requests, and that a majority of them, 47,457, were under the "legal process" category that includes search warrants, subpoenas and court orders. In 2013, Facebook complied with about 80% of requests.

"As we have said in prior reports, we always scrutinize every government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid," Sonderby wrote. "This is true no matter which government makes the request. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary.

"We do not provide governments with 'back doors' to people’s information," he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ermingut/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Fast-food giant McDonald's was hit with a lawsuit this week alleging a "toxic work culture" and "pervasive sexual harassment" of female employees.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, former employee Jenna Ries, 32, shared her story of rampant workplace sexual harassment and threats of retaliation or being fired when she fought back at a McDonald's franchise near Lansing, Michigan.

"I lived in constant fear of losing my job because I didn’t want to be treated like trash, and because I didn’t give in to my harasser’s disgusting behavior," Ries said in a statement. "It drove me to tears and ultimately left me no choice but to take action. I’m speaking out now to make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else at McDonald's."

Ries said a swing manager she worked with at the McDonald's franchise would routinely call her a "b****" or "whore" and more, "in front of multiple other co-workers, including the General Manager," according to the complaint.

Moreover, Ries "endured routine physical assaults by the swing manager," the court documents allege. "He frequently grabbed her body parts, including her crotch, breasts and buttocks. He pulled her hair and pushed her into other workers."

On one occasion, the swing manager put his penis in Ries' hand while they were both working in the kitchen, the complaint further alleges.

Ries said that she would respond to the harassment by begging the manager to stop, including telling him to "leave me alone,” and “do not touch me,” according to the complaint. "He responded by yelling at her and threatening to get her fired."

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status and alleges that McDonald's "creates and permits a toxic work culture from the very top," referencing former CEO Steve Easterbrook's firing after engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee. Easterbrook received 26 weeks of severance pay when he was terminated earlier this month.

Even though the alleged conduct took place at a McDonald's franchise restaurant, the lawsuit claims that McDonald's Corporation “maintain national franchise standards to which all of their franchisees are expected and required to adhere, and that affect almost every aspect of the restaurants’ functioning, including practices and policies affecting crew members’ labor conditions.”

The restaurant where the alleged abuse against Ries took place is owned by MLMLM Corporation which could not be reached in repeated attempts by ABC News for comment on Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the "franchise agreement" that McDonald's has with the franchise owner, however, "give the McDonald’s Corporate Defendants unlimited and unrestricted authority to inspect restaurants to monitor workplace conditions, including labor conditions, and to ensure compliance with the standards and policies of the McDonald’s Corporate Defendants."

More than 90% of McDonald's restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent franchisees, according to McDonald's corporate website.

In May 2018, McDonalds workers in nine cities filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging rampant sexual misconduct.

Jamelia Fairley, a McDonald's employee at a corporate-owned store in Florida and a leader in the minimum wage driven Fight for $15 and a union movement within the company, also filed a sexual harassment complaint against the company in May 2019.

Fairley called on the company's new CEO to "sit down with worker-survivors and hear our stories."

“McDonald’s needs to let survivors and our advocates drive the solution," she said in a statement Tuesday. "Nothing is going to change for us, without us.”

Asked to comment on Ries’s lawsuit, McDonald's told ABC News in a statement Wednesday that, "There is a deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world, and McDonald’s is demonstrating its continued commitment to this issue through the implementation of Safe and Respectful Workplace Training in 100% of our corporate-owned restaurants."

"We are encouraged by the partnership and commitment from the National Franchisee Leadership Association and the Women Operators Network that represent franchisees across the U.S. to work with franchisees to implement this important Safe and Respectful workplace training program," the statement added.

In August, the company jointly announced with the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, a body representing more than 2,000 McDonald's U.S. franchisees, that they were rolling out a slew of new workplace trainings aimed at creating a safe and respectful workplace and said it opened up a free intake hotline for any employment concerns.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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