FCC eases restrictions on media consolidation

Nov 16, 2017 11

FCC(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Communications Commission made good Thursday on a promise made by Chairman Ajit Pai last month by eliminating restrictions on ownership of multiple media outlets within a single market.

The decision on Thursday eliminates a rule adopted in 1975 barring shared ownership of a newspaper and a broadcast operation within the same market. “With the newspaper industry in crisis, it makes no sense to place regulatory roadblocks in the way of those who want to purchase newspaper,” Pai said in a statement. “The media landscape has changed dramatically in the last 42 years, and the idea that a company could dominate a media market by owning a radio station and a newspaper is utter nonsense.”

Pai cited the Internet and cable news as new entrants in the media marketplace that make the rule obsolete.

“To be sure, repealing the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule won’t end the newspaper industry’s struggles. But it will open to door to pro-competitive combinations that can strengthen local voices and enable both newspapers and broadcast stations to better serve their communities,” he added.

Critics of the decision say it will lead to further concentration of power to a limited number of large media conglomerates. One such example is Sinclair Broadcasting, a conservative broadcasting company that is looking to purchase the Tribune Media Group for nearly $4 billion. Thursday’s decision would no longer require Sinclair to sell a number of its stations to receive regulatory approval.

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Investors encouraged as House Republicans pass tax plan

Nov 16, 2017 17

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As the Republican-held House of Representatives passed their version of the party’s tax reform bill on Thursday, prompting a late-day rally on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 187.08 on the day, more than earning back Wednesday’s losses to finish the session at 23,458.36.

The Nasdaq climbed 87.08 to a close of 6,793.29, while the S&P 500 added 21.02, ended trading at 2,585.64.

Investors were encouraged by the House’s passage of a tax plan that would be the largest overhaul of the system in more than 25 years. Supporters of the plan expect it to cut taxes for the middle class, while opponents say the benefits would be skewed towards the wealthy and would add more than $1 trillion to the deficit.

The cost of crude oil fell again, this time by 19 cents. A barrel now sells for $55.14.

The American Automobile Association expected 51 million Americans to travel this Thanksgiving, even more than last year. Nearly 90 percent of those travelers are expected to drive despite higher gas prices.

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Mystery shrouds Leonardo da Vinci painting that smashed records at auction

Nov 16, 2017 17

AVNphotolab/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — All eyes were locked on Lot 9 in a packed salesroom at Christie’s auction house in New York during 19 minutes of feverish bidding Wednesday night.

But it was an anonymous bidder who called in to secure the haunting painting depicting Christ, believed to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci, for a cool $450.3 million.

The winning bid for the piece, titled Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), was four times Christie’s pre-sale estimate and smashed the world record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. The sale far surpassed previous world records, including Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers that fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in New York in May 2015.

The 500-year-old oil on panel depicts Jesus Christ dressed in flowing robes and holding a crystal orb in his left hand. Billed by Christie’s as “the last da Vinci,” it’s the only known painting by the Italian Renaissance artist still in a private collection. It’s said to be one of just several paintings from Leonardo’s own hand that still exist.

Loic Gouzer, the chairman of Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department, said the work of art attracted crowds of people while on exhibition in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s auction.

“We toured Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi around the world, and at every stop crowds of people were drawn to this painting, wanting to stand in front of the picture and experience it in person,” Gouzer said after the sale. “Even for me, it is very difficult to pinpoint what it is that makes this painting so poignant, you cannot comprehend the mystery of Leonardo. That is the magic of his work.”

Leonardo painted Salvator Mundi around the same time as the Mona Lisa, and the two works of art “bear a patent compositional likeness,” Gouzer said.

“Leonardo was an unparalleled creative force and a master of the enigmatic. Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one’s mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them — both the Mona Lisa and Salvator Mundi are perfect examples of this. No one will ever be able to fully grasp the wonder of Leonardo’s paintings, just as no one will ever be able to fully know the origins of the universe,” he added.

The provenance of Salvator Mundi is largely shrouded in mystery, however.

According to Christie’s, the painting once belonged to King Charles I of England in the mid-1600s. It was recorded at a 1763 sale and then vanished until 1900, when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson, an art collector. By this time, Christ’s face and hair had been painted over and the painting’s authorship and illustrious royal history had been forgotten.

The painting was consigned to a sale at Sotheby’s auction house in 1958 where it fetched just 45 British pounds. The artwork disappeared once again for almost 50 years, leaving many scholars to believe it had been destroyed, until it resurfaced in 2005 when it was purchased at an American estate sale.

Salvator Mundi was attributed to Leonardo after six years of restoration and research, becoming the first discovery of a painting by the Renaissance master since 1909, according to Christie’s. It was dubbed “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century.”

Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the conservator who started restoring the piece in 2007, recalled the moment she first realized the painting was by Leonardo himself.

“My hands were shaking,” Modestini said in a statement released through Christie’s in October. “I went home and didn’t know if I was crazy.”

Francois de Poortere, head of Christie’s old master paintings department, said the painting has been referred to Male Mona Lisa.

“After centuries of hiding, da Vinci’s Christ as Salvator Mundi stirred unmatched sensation in the art world when it was unveiled on the walls of London’s National Gallery in 2011,” he said.

Prior to Wednesday’s highly anticipated sale, Christie’s had secured a guaranteed bid for the painting of at least $100 million by an anonymous investor.

Christie’s senior specialist Alan Wintermute said witnessing the “masterpiece” appear at auction is “as close as I’ve come to an art world miracle.”

Salvator Mundi is the Holy Grail of old master paintings. Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now,” Wintermute said. “It has been more than a century since the last such painting turned up and this opportunity will not come again in our lifetime.”

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Rare Leonardo da Vinci painting fetches record $450M at Christie's auction in New York

Nov 15, 2017 4

Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A rare painting by Leonardo da Vinci auctioned in New York on Wednesday night fetched over $450 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold.

Fewer than 20 paintings by the Italian artist exist.

The 500-year-old oil on panel, titled “Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”), depicts Jesus Christ dressed in flowing robes and holding a crystal orb in his left hand. It’s the only painting by Leonardo in a private collection, according to Christie’s auction house.

“‘Salvator Mundi’ was painted in the same time frame as the ‘Mona Lisa,’ and they bear a patent compositional likeness,” said Loic Gouzer, the chairman of Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department in New York City.

“Leonardo was an unparalleled creative force and a master of the enigmatic. Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one’s mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them — both the ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Salvator Mundi’ are perfect examples of this. No one will ever be able to fully grasp the wonder of Leonardo’s paintings, just as no one will ever be able to fully know the origins of the universe,” Gouzer added.

Scholars had long believed “Salvator Mundi” was destroyed, until it re-emerged in 2005.

“‘Salvator Mundi’ is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” Gouzer said. “Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries.”

Christie’s had billed the painting as “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century” and “the last da Vinci” and exhibited it in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before Wednesday’s auction.

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Tech stock tumble leads to down day on Wall Street

Nov 15, 2017 0

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A down day for tech stocks pushed Wall Street lower on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 138.19, closing at 23,271.28.

The Nasdaq finished the session at 6,706.21, a slide of 31.66 from its open, while the S&P 500 fell 14.25, ending the session at 2,564.62.

Crude oil prices also fell on Wednesday, with a barrel selling for $55.33, 37 cents lower than at market open.

The U.S. government denied requests from two motor companies asking for more time to test Takata air bag inflators. Those companies, Ford and Mazda, are seeking to avoid massive recalls.

And the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is stepping down by the end of the month. Richard Cordray, a Democrat and a critic of President Donald Trump, is expected to return to Ohio and run for governor.

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Forever 21 investigating possible data breach

Nov 15, 2017 1

LDProd/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Forever 21 may be the latest retailer to have been hit by a credit card breach, the company announced on Tuesday night.

In a press release, the fashion retailer said that it has received a report of unauthorized access to data on credit and debit cards used at Forever 21 stores. “Forever 21 immediately began an investigation of its payment card systems and engaged a leading security and forensics firm to assist.”

The breach may have been isolated to certain point of sale devices, due to “encryption and tokenization solutions” the company put in place in 2015. For now, the company’s investigation is focused on transactions that took place between March and October of this year.

“We regret that this incident occurred and apologize for any inconvenience,” Forever 21’s statement added. “We will continue to work to address this matter.”

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Southwest Airlines pilot arrested after TSA finds gun in his bag

Nov 15, 2017 1

Southwest Airlines(ST. LOUIS) — A 51-year-old first officer for Southwest Airlines was arrested Wednesday morning around 5 a.m. at St. Louis Lambert International Airport for unlawful use of a weapon after Transportation Security Administration officers discovered a 9mm pistol in his carry-on bag, according to an airport spokesperson.

The pilot did not have the authorization to carry a firearm, the spokesperson said.

It’s unclear if he is facing any charges.

“We are aware of a situation involving a Southwest Pilot at St. Louis Airport. We are currently working alongside the appropriate authorities to gather more information. We have no further information to share at this time,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement.

The pilot was said to be scheduled to fly on Flight 1106 to Las Vegas.

Southwest Airlines did not respond to ABC News’ question about the status of the flight.

A TSA official confirmed the arrest of a pilot at the airport and said a spokesperson would be releasing more information soon.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Self-help author Gretchen Rubin talks finding happiness in her own life

Nov 15, 2017 1

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Gretchen Rubin asked the pioneer what she thought was the secret to happiness.

“And she answered me right away. She knew exactly what her answer was. And she said, it was work worth doing.”

Rubin, who is a four-time New York Times bestseller and the host of a weekly podcast, “Happier with Rubin,” says O’Connor’s comment stuck with her.

“I got to the point where I thought, well you know what I would really like to try is to write a book. I would like to actually see if I could become a book writer. At a certain point, I decided that I would rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer,” she says on an episode of ABC Radio’s “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis.”

As a graduate from Yale Law School, it was a twist from her well-prepared career track but one she was compelled to try.

“Many people who are circus performers feel a tremendous compulsion to go and do these kinds of professions,” Rubin says. “And I felt that way.”

In a nod to “Star Wars,” Rubin added, “For me, this call to writing -– once I had a subject, and had this idea that I wanted to turn into a book, it was the Death Star that had me in its gravitational field.

“And it was just pulling me towards it.”

Rubin found herself up for the challenge, and left law to pursue her passion. It led to the books “Profane Waste,” “Power Money Fame Sex” and “Forty Ways to Look at JFK,” among others. And then came “The Happiness Project.” Her breakout novel spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list, sold over 1.5 million copies, and was published in over 30 languages.

As Rubin made the switch from law to the literary world, she recalls the ardent support of her family members as one of the driving forces that made her decision possible.

“I’m very impressed by my family and now that I’m a parent myself, I really do respect even more how willingly they supported me.”

Rubin adds, “They want you to do something that feels safer, because they want to protect you. But the problem is, there is no safe place.”

In her most recent book, “The Four Tendencies,” Rubin goes deeper into territory she herself has had to explore: how individuals respond to inner and outer expectations.

Today, Rubin believes that one of the secrets to happiness came from challenging herself. She says that one of the greatest tensions standing in the way of happiness is “on the one hand we want to accept ourselves, and on the other hand we want to expect more from ourselves.”

“Novelty and challenge do bring happiness, but you have to find the novelty and challenge that’s appropriate for you.”

Hear more of Gretchen Rubin’s interview on this week’s episode of “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis,” available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and the ABC News app.

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13,900 hoverboards recalled for battery fire risk

Nov 14, 2017 1

CPSC.gov(NEW YORK) — Seven companies are issuing new hoverboard recalls after discovering that the battery packs may pose a fire hazard, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Tuesday’s recall involves 13,900 units, bringing the total number to 520,100 since the CPSC began issuing the warnings last year.

Safety officials say the risk is in the battery packs and have found a significant risk of overheating, smoke, fire and in some instances, explosions that cause burns and property damage, according to the CPSC.

The recalls included two reports of property damage, including one recent incident in Louisiana resulting in approximately $40,000 of damage after the unit caught fire.

No injuries were reported in the recalls.

The vast majority of the 520,100 hoverboards recalled stem from a July 2016 announcement involving eight manufacturers and more than 500,000 units.

Hoverboards by Swagway make up more than half of those recalled — 267,000.

ABC News reached out after business hours to the seven companies involved in the recall and did not receive an immediate response.

You can find the recalls here: Smart Balance by Salvage World, Sonic Smart Wheels by Dollar Mania, Tech Drift, iLive by Digital Products, iHoverspeed by Simplified Wireless, Go Wheels by Four Star Imports, Drone Nerds.

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Lawsuit: Some female Uber passengers have 'endured rape, physical violence' from drivers

Nov 14, 2017 0

Uber(NEW YORK) — A lawsuit filed against Uber on Tuesday alleges “thousands” of female passengers have endured “rape, sexual assault, physical violence and gender-motivated harassment” while using the popular ride-hailing service.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco by attorneys for two women identified in court documents only as Jane Doe 1 and 2, is seeking class-action status.

Jane Doe 1 lives in Miami and Jane Doe 2 lives in Los Angeles, according to the complaint, and both claim that they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers.

The complaint states that Uber uses “low-cost, woefully inadequate background checks” for their drivers and does not monitor drivers for “violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired.”

Even after allegations of sexual misconduct have emerged against Uber drivers, the lawsuit claims that: “Nothing meaningful has been done to make rides safer for passengers — especially women.”

A spokesperson for Uber told ABC News that the company is currently reviewing the lawsuit, and that the company takes the allegations seriously.

“Uber received this complaint today and we are in the process of reviewing it,” the spokesperson said. “These allegations are important to us and we take them very seriously.”

Uber announced earlier this month — prior to the lawsuit being filed — that it was implementing a new initiative to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence. Part of the initiative includes an education program for their customer support agents that involves expert training provided by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the company said in a statement posted to its website.

The company simultaneously announced that it was committing $5 million over five years to fund sexual assault and domestic violence “prevention initiatives.”

In the statement, Uber outlined some of the app’s safety features including “GPS tracking, the ability to share a trip with family and friends, and 24/7 support.”

“We will continue to listen, learn, collaborate and build on our commitment to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence,” Uber added in its statement.

Jeanne M. Christensen, one of the attorneys with Wigdor LLP, the firm that filed the lawsuit Tuesday, called on Uber to make public the number of reports it has received about sexual misconduct.

“The company must come forward with information about how many reports it has received about rapes, sexual assaults, and gender-motivated harassment to allow consumers to assess whether Uber really does provide safe rides, especially to women,” Christensen said in a statement.

She added that the recent #MeToo campaign on social media has brought to light many “heinous acts” that female Uber passengers have allegedly experienced.

Christensen continued: “It is time for Uber to ‘Do the right thing. Period.'”

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