Uber hires former Attorney General Eric Holder to probe sexual harassment claims

Feb 21, 2017 3

Uber(NEW YORK) — Uber said on Monday that it is tapping former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help conduct an investigation into sexual harassment claims made by a former employee.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced the move in a letter sent around to company employees which was seen by ABC News.

The announcement came a day after Kalanick vowed to immediately investigate the allegations contained in a long blog post written Sunday by Susan Fowler, who said that she faced sexual harassment while working as a site reliability engineer at the ride-hailing technology company from November 2015 to December 2016, and that her complaints to management had gone unheeded.

In his note to employees, Kalanick said he hired Eric Holder, Attorney General under President Barack Obama, and Tammy Albarran — who are both partners at the Washington D.C.-based law firm Covington & Burling — to “conduct an independent review” of Fowler’s claims.

“I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do,” Kalanick said in the memo. “What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace.”

The company plans to hold an “all hands” meeting on Tuesday to “discuss what’s happened and next steps,” Kalanick’s note said.

Fowler, who currently works for the online payments provider Stripe, wrote in her Sunday blog post that a manager of hers when she worked at Uber had sexually harassed her over online chats. She wrote that after she took screenshots of the conversation and sent them on to HR, no action was taken.

“Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part,” Fowler wrote.

Kalanick on Sunday called the descriptions in Fowler’s post “abhorrent,” saying that the actions described have no place at Uber.

“I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog,” he said in the Sunday statement. “What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.”

“It’s the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations,” he added. “We seek to make Uber a just workplace for everyone and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”

Kalanick also posted his reactions to Twitter on Sunday, embedding a link to Fowler’s blog post.

Uber board member and Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington also promised a “full investigation” on Sunday and asked people to email her directly about the allegations.

According to Monday’s memo, Huffington, along with the company’s human resources chief, will attend the “all hands” meeting on Tuesday and will conduct “group and one-on-one listening sessions” to get feedback from employees.

ABC News could not independently verify the details of Fowler’s story.
 
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11 Travelers Pass Security at JFK Without Proper Screening: Sources

Feb 20, 2017 13

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There was a security breach at JFK Airport in New York Monday morning after 11 passengers were able to pass through a metal detector that was not supervised by a Transportation Security Administration officer, sources briefed on the incident tell ABC News.

Three of those passengers set off the detector’s alarm and continued to their gate. Their carry-on bags were placed on a conveyor belt and screened by a TSA officer.

According to a statement from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the incident occurred sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. at JFK’s Terminal 5 at a TSA PreCheck checkpoint. It took TSA two hours to notify the Port Authority of the security breach.

Sources briefed on the incident told ABC News that security camera footage clearly captured images of the three passengers who set off the magnetometer and later boarded a JetBlue flight to San Francisco. Those individuals were given extra screening upon arrival at SFO, according TSA and Port Authority.

JetBlue declined comment and referred ABC News to TSA.

In a statement, the TSA said there was a “possible security incident” and that “early reports indicate 3 passengers did not receive required secondary screening after alarming the walk through metal detector.”

“TSA conducted security measures at the passengers’ arrival airport. TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen. We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system,” the statement added. “Once our review is complete, TSA will take appropriate action.”

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Mongolia and International Monetary Fund agree to bailout deal

Feb 20, 2017 13

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In an attempt to climb out of intense debt, Mongolia has reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $5.5 billion dollar bailout package.

Yahoo! News reports its main export, copper, has dropped in price by more than 50 percent over the past five years, and the development of mining the sovereign state’s wealth of natural resources has been delayed. Slowing growth in China, the country’s primary customer, has also contributed to the debt according to Yahoo! News.

Mongolia’s national statistics office lists the economy growing at 1.0 percent in 2016 while the debt skyrocket 3.7 trillion tugrik ($1.5 billion).

Yahoo! News additionally reports Koshy Mathai, the IMF’s Asia-Pacific deputy division chief, says the bailout will “restore economic stability and debt sustainability as well as to create the conditions for strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth, while protecting the most vulnerable citizens.”

Mongolia has a $580 million bond payment due in March and will receive a $440 million loan over the next three years.

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Uber CEO orders 'urgent investigation' after sexual harassment allegations surface

Feb 20, 2017 17

Uber(NEW YORK) — Uber’s CEO said he ordered an “urgent investigation” on Sunday after a former employee wrote a blog post claiming that she had been sexually harassed while working for the company and that her complaints to management had gone unheeded.

Uber head Travis Kalanick said in a statement provided to ABC News that he had instructed the company’s head of human resources to immediately investigate the claims contained in a long blog post written earlier Sunday by Susan Fowler, who said that she had worked as a site reliability engineer at the ride-hailing technology company from November 2015 to December 2016.

Fowler, who currently works for the online payments provider Stripe, said that a manager of hers when she worked at Uber had sexually harassed her over online chats. She wrote that after she took screenshots of the conversation and sent them on to HR, no action was taken.

“Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part,” Fowler wrote.

Kalanick called the descriptions in Fowler’s post “abhorrent,” saying that the actions described have no place at Uber.

“I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog,” he said in the statement. “What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.”

“It’s the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations,” he added. “We seek to make Uber a just workplace for everyone and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”

Kalanick also posted his reactions to Twitter on Sunday, embedding a link to Fowler’s blog post.

Uber board member and Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington also promised a “full investigation” and asked people to email her directly about the allegations. Kalanick tweeted that Huffington “has my full support.”

ABC News could not independently verify the details of Fowler’s story.

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Amazon adds 5,000 jobs to its UK workforce

Feb 19, 2017 27

iStock(LONDON) — Amazon will add 5,000 new full-time jobs in the U.K. in 2017.

According to the BBC, the retail giant is looking to fill a range of positions including software developers and warehouse staff.

The jobs will be housed in Amazon’s UK headquarters in London and in the customer service center in Edinburgh. Additionally, Amazon is opening three new fulfillment centers across the United Kingdom.

Amazon’s business is booming. The company rolled out the Amazon Fresh, grocery service last summer before its was unveiled in the U.S.

More expansion for the company could be coming soon. The BBC reports, Amazon is close to launching its own-brand fashion label.

The U.K. is Amazon’s third largest market in the world behind the U.S. and Germany.

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Hitler's traveling telephone sells for $243K at auction in US

Feb 19, 2017 26

Alexander Historical Auctions(CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md.) — A telephone used by Adolf Hitler during World War II has sold at auction in the U.S. this weekend.

The Nazi leader allegedly used the red-painted Siemens phone, which is engraved with a swastika and his name, in the war for the last two years of his life. It is believed to have been Hitler’s personal telephone and was recovered from his bunker in Berlin, Germany, in 1945.

A private American collector bought the telephone for $243,000 at an auction on Sunday, according to Bill Panagopulos of Alexander Historical Auctions. The item was expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.

“It would be impossible to find a more impactful relic than the primary tool used by the most evil man in history to annihilate countless innocents, lay waste to hundreds of thousands of square miles of land, and in the end, destroy his own country and people…with effects that still menacingly reverberate today,” a description for the listing said.

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Kraft Heinz withdraws bid to buy Unilever

Feb 19, 2017 25

iStock(CHICAGO) — The Kraft Heinz Company has pulled its offer to buy Unilever.

The U.S. food company and Unilever, which houses such brands as Hellman’s and Dove, announced the decision on Sunday.

The two companies said in a press release they hold each other in high regard and that Kraft Heinz has the utmost respect for the culture, strategy and leadership of Unilever.

Shares in Kraft Heinz soared 11 percent after reports of its bid for Unilever on Friday.

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Cats get purr-fect retro glamour shots to help them get adopted

Feb 19, 2017 24

Chesapeake Humane Society(NEW YORK) — These kitties are ready for their close-up.

Retro glamour photos were taken of the cats at Chesapeake Humane Society in Virginia to boost their chance of being adopted.

The results are absolutely purr-fect.

“We were talking about different ways to get the cats noticed this week,” Michelle Dumas, the Humane Society’s volunteer and marketing coordinator, told ABC News. “This year we decided we wanted to something a little quirky to get some attention. We all started talking and it just kind of snowballed from there.”

The organization was inspired to do the photos in honor of Homeless Animal Awareness week.

“We Google-imaged for some interesting backgrounds and had those set up in the meantime,” executive director Deborrah Grulke said of the hilarious laser beams, sparkle bursts and graffiti-covered walls.

Teresa Stephens, the organization’s outreach and events coordinator, took the furry feline’s portraits with staff members and now they’re going viral after being posted to Facebook. One cat has already been adopted as a result of the quirky photo shoot.

“The inspiration for the photos was family photos gone wrong,” said Grulke. “We really did it for fun. We knew we needed a hook to get people to start sharing them and the end result was definitely what we were going for.”

The Humane Society already has plans for more crazy photo shoots in the near future.

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Hitler's traveling telephone up for auction in US

Feb 18, 2017 27

Alexander Historical Auctions(CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md.) — A telephone used by Adolf Hitler during World War II is up for auction in the U.S. this weekend.

The Nazi leader allegedly used the red-painted Siemens phone, which is engraved with his name and a swastika, in the war for the last two years of his life. It is believed to have been Hitler’s personal telephone and was recovered from his bunker in Berlin, Germany, in 1945.

“It would be impossible to find a more impactful relic than the primary tool used by the most evil man in history to annihilate countless innocents, lay waste to hundreds of thousands of square miles of land, and in the end, destroy his own country and people…with effects that still menacingly reverberate today,” a description for the listing said.

The auction will be held by Alexander Historical Auctions on Sunday and is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.

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Chrissy Teigen wants more Asian models on runways, 'I want it to be a normal thing'

Feb 18, 2017 21

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Chrissy Teigen is not new to speaking her mind.

As New York Fashion Week came to a close Thursday, the mixed-race model, whose mother is Thai, is speaking out about diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry.

“I want it to be a normal thing to be able to see Asian models,” Teigen, 31, told E! News at Sports Illustrated‘s Swim 2017 launch party Friday night.

“I think Asian models are really underrepresented in the industry, of course, especially on the runways or in magazines,” she added.

John Legend’s wife noted that it was important for her to speak up “as a Asian woman and someone that maybe a lot of people don’t think is Asian because I’m mixed.”

Teigen’s father is of Norwegian and German descent.

Teigen also shared her thoughts on cultural appropriation, a topic that has gotten attention since Vogue magazine published a fashion spread in its diversity issue of white model Karlie Kloss appearing as a geisha.

“I personally am not offended by cultural appropriation of any sort because I feel like it does pay homage, but at the same time there are a lot of beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Asian women that could do the same thing,” Teigen said Friday.

For her part, Kloss posted an apology on Twitter Wednesday after the fashion spread was released.

“These images appropriate a culture that is not my own and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive,” she wrote. “My goal is, and always will be, to empower and inspire women. I will ensure my future s hoots and projects reflect that mission.”

The fashion spread has since been removed from Vogue’s website.

ABC News reached out to a rep for the magazine for comment, but has not heard back.

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