About the author  ⁄ WFIN

Wesley Mann/FOX News via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Roger Ailes, the embattled chairman of Fox News, may have forever changed the media landscape but his future — and that of Fox News — remains uncertain.

“He didn’t just create Fox News, he changed television news as a result,” said Frank Sesno, former White House correspondent and bureau chief for CNN who is now a professor at George Washington University. “One thing Roger Ailes didn’t do is groom an obvious successor.”

In the wake of allegations of sexual harassment from former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, there are reports that Ailes is negotiating his exit from the company he built. Attorneys for Ailes told ABC News that while proposals have been discussed, there is no exit agreement in place. Ailes has denied all of Carlson’s allegations.

“Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup,” he said earlier this month.

A departure, if it does indeed happen, would mark the end of a chapter for one of the most storied and influential careers in the history of American media.

A Start in Entertainment and Politics

Ailes began his career in media by working for The Mike Douglas Show, which gave him “a keen eye for production,” said David Folkenflik, NPR’s media correspondent and author of Murdoch’s World: The Last of the Old Media Empires, about 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News.

But Ailes was much more than a television producer. According to Folkenflik, Ailes was able to walk the line between entertainment and politics with ease, and “didn’t see sharp distinctions between” the two worlds.

He advised President Richard Nixon, helping the president connect with voters over the relatively new medium that was television.

“He would stage certain kinds of televised specials where [Nixon] could be seen taking questions from voters,” Folkenflik said. “It made him seem responsive, it made him seem confident.”

Ailes went on to advise Presidents Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1988, according to Folkenflik.

Fox News Era

In 1996, Ailes was instrumental in the launch of Fox News — a 24-hour cable channel that would come to be a heavy-hitter in the American media landscape.

“Fox set a bar, and Fox had a voice, and Fox had an audience that proved to be disaffected with the media as it existed before,” said Sesno, who is now the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. “He was focused, and politics is about winning, and he brought that ethos to Fox News.”

But to some observers, Fox News’ success was built on the back of division.

Matt Sienkiewicz, assistant professor of communications and international studies at Boston College, told ABC News that “the key to Ailes’ financial success — the core contribution — was understanding that in the 21st century the news business was going to make money dividing people rather than uniting them.”

As the media environment got more competitive, “he realized that the strategy that was going to be most profitable was going to be limit your approach, pick your lane of people — in his case older, mostly white, conservatives – and lock them in,” Sienkiewicz noted.

Throughout his tenure at Fox News, the channel has enjoyed tremendous appeal with certain audiences. Even as Ailes’ alleged scandal broke, the network continued to draw viewers.

“Fox News Channel was the most-watched basic cable network for the week of July 11, both in the total day and prime-time dayparts,” said a post on the TV Newser website, which covers television ratings. “This represents the 6th consecutive weekly win for FNC, which was up 56.5 percent in total prime time viewers and up 56 percent in total day viewers compared to the same week in 2015.”

Sienkiewicz says the network’s success can be attributed to a style of news coverage that Ailes pioneered.

Ailes knew that “if you want people to watch, you have to entertain them. You can’t just inform them,” said Sienkiewicz said, adding that Ailes’ background as an entertainment producer gave him the skills needed to create a news network. “It is a fantastically successful media business.”

Succession

While 21st Century Fox maintains that Ailes is “at work,” his lawyer would not deny that negotiations for Ailes’ possible departure from the network were ongoing.

An email to a Fox News spokeswoman requesting comment on the progress of any negotiations was not immediately returned.

If Ailes does leave, it isn’t clear who could take his place.

“I assume it will be somebody who is within the organization,” said Sienkiewicz. “I would be surprised if they went outside.”

But what is certain is the politics-as-entertainment legacy that Ailes instituted won’t soon be forgotten.

“He started smash-mouth politics, and now smash-mouth is the nominee of the Republican party,” said Sesno.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkish authorities have announced they will temporarily stop abiding by the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that “during times of war or serious public emergency” countries can act outside of their obligations so long as they do not violate international laws.

Turkey ratified the international treaty in 1954 and suspending it means the country would no longer have to follow its laws on torture, for example. In addition, some Turkish government officials have suggested reinstating the death penalty, which has led to criticism abroad.

This comes a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country was implementing a state of emergency for three months following a failed coup last week.

At least 60,000 people, including members of the military, police, judges, civil servants and teachers, have been rounded up after Erdogan vowed that “all the viruses” will be “cleansed.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, urged Turkey in a statement to “respond [to the coup] by upholding the rule of law, by strengthening the protection of human rights and by reinforcing democratic institutions.”

He added: “In the aftermath of such a traumatic experience, it is particularly crucial to ensure that human rights are not squandered in the name of security and in the rush to punish those perceived to be responsible.”

Zeid expressed concern that a large number of judges and prosecutors were suspended and stressed the importance of respecting the presumption of innocence, due process and fair trial guarantees.

The advocacy group Amnesty International said in a statement that it was “investigating reports that detainees in Ankara and Istanbul have been subjected to a series of abuses, including ill-treatment in custody and being denied access to lawyers.”

“Those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice, but cracking down on dissent and threatening to bring back the death penalty are not justice,” according to the statement.

Turkish politician Mehmet Simsek took to Twitter to assuage those who opposed the decision, pointing out that France also temporarily suspended the treaty following last year’s terror attacks in Paris.

“The state of emergency in Turkey won’t include restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press. It isn’t martial law of 1990s,” he tweeted. “I’m confident Turkey will come out of this with much stronger democracy, better functioning market economy & enhanced investment climate.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims were slightly lower week, decreasing by just 1,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending July 16, the number of people filing for benefits fell from an unrevised level of 254,000 the previous week to 253,000, marking the 72nd consecutive week initial jobless claims came in below 300,000. It’s the longest streak since 1973, the Labor Department says.

The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting that week’s figures.

The four-week moving average decreased by 1,250 to 257,750.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump raised doubts about whether the United States under his leadership would come to the aid of its NATO allies in Europe in the event of an attack by Russia, in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.

When specifically asked about his views of Russia, the newly-minted Republican nominee said that if that country attacked some of the small Baltic States, which are the most recent members of NATO, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.” NATO’s collective defense agreement requires all member countries to come to the aid of any member state that is attacked.

Trump also said during the interview that as president he would question the security agreements the United States currently has with the 28 members of NATO, and that he’d pull back troops deployed around the world, citing economic reasons.

“We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” Trump said to The Times. “That doesn’t sound very smart to me.”

Trump elaborated on his foreign policy plans in the interview, saying the United States has to “fix our own mess” before trying to influence the behavior of other countries.

“Look at what is happening in our country,” he told The Times, referring to the recent mass shooting of Dallas officers earlier this month. “How are we going to lecture when people are shooting policemen in cold blood?”

Throughout Trump’s year-plus long campaign, he has advocated to “Make America Great Again,” and has bucked the Republican establishment by promising to “rip up” free trade deals with Mexico and Canada.

However, he told The Times that he’d like to continue existing agreements only if U.S. allies “stopped taking advantage” of Americans.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Walmart(NEW YORK) — Wal-Mart is getting a head start on removing chemicals from a number of its products.

In an effort to get ahead of household chemical regulations signed into law last month by President Barack Obama, Wal-Mart will ask suppliers to remove an array of chemicals from all products. The Wal-Mart request includes removing those chemicals from beauty products, which is an argument not yet heard by the Senate.

The company provided a list of the chemicals that it has asked suppliers to remove from products, including a number of solvents and preservatives.

The chemicals Wal-Mart says it will remove from its products include:
– Toluene
– Dibutyl Phthalate
– Diethyl Phthalate
– Nonylphenol Exthoxylates
– Formaldehyde
– Butylparaben
– Propylparaben
– Triclosan

Wal-Mart says that suppliers have already removed 95 percent of the chemicals by weight, and that they will continue to work with suppliers to eliminate potentially harmful chemicals.

The Environmental Defense Fund said in a blog post Wednesday that Wal-Mart “has made major strides regarding the commitments set forth in its policy,” and that the company “has set in place effective systems to measure and track progress over time.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a “master product plan” for his company Wednesday night — based on a document he reportedly completed during a recent “all-nighter.”

Tesla, which earlier this week changed its URL from teslamotors.com to the more succinct, and notably more generic, tesla.com, recently offered to acquire SolarCity, a solar energy company run by Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Musk promised to include details of the proposed merger in the plan.

However, the automaker has faced intense scrutiny over the past few weeks following two collisions involving autopilot, a driver-assist program that uses cameras and radar to automatically change lanes, navigate traffic, and brake to avoid collision.

The autopilot program reminds users to keep their hands on the wheel, prepared to take over at any time –- and Musk has said that the ultimate responsibility for driving lies with the driver. Nevertheless, the company faced an outcry after a 40-year-old Tesla enthusiast was killed in Florida in May when his Model S, driving on autopilot, crashed into a tractor-trailer it had failed to detect in its path.

Some investors grumbled that Tesla should have disclosed the crash more quickly, but Musk fired back, saying in a statement, “There is no evidence to suggest that Autopilot was not operating as designed and as described to users,” and noting the fatality was the first in more than 130 million miles of autopilot driving. (In comparison, the U.S. average is one fatality per 94 million miles driven.)

Less than two months later, however, in early July, a Model X on autopilot swerved off the road and struck a cable rail in Montana. No one was injured, and Tesla says the driver did not have his hand on the wheel despite repeated alerts from the vehicle.

Musk released his plan for the company Wednesday night, including the creation of solar-roof-with-battery products, manufacturing alternative types of vehicles, including SUVs and pickup trucks, and expanding the self-driving capabilities of Tesla vehicles.

Musk notes that the new plan comes as the “first master plan that [he] wrote 10 years ago is now in the final stages of completion.”

He admits that his initial plan was risky, in fact, writing that “starting a car company is idiotic and an electric car company is idiocy squared.”

He defends the merger between Tesla and SolarCity, saying that the creation of energy generation and storage technology can’t be done while the two are separate companies, while also insisting that the company will push forward with self-driving technology despite the two accidents reported this year.

“When used correctly,” Musk says, even partially autonomous driving “is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Jfanchin/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Kids water bottles sold at L.L. Bean retailers around the country are being recalled after the company learned that the exterior base of the bottles contain high levels of lead.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that the recall affects five styles of bottles with printed graphics. The prints include “Dino Bones,” “Flower Power,” “Orange Grid camo,” “Purple Tie Dye Butterfly,” and “Robo Shark.” In total, approximately 6,700 water bottles are being recalled.

Consumers should immediately stop using the bottles and contact L.L. Bean for a full refund.

A sticker at the bottom of all recalled water bottles includes the item identification number 297684, as well as PO#844 and BB2D2-LLB-R45-O413.”

L.L Bean says the lead issue was found in routine testing by the manufacturer and the CPSC notes that there have been no reports of lead posioning due to use of the bottles.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) — Former Attorney General Eric Holder will join Airbnb in their effort to help craft an anti-discrimination policy.

The company announced Holder’s hiring in a blog post on Wednesday. Pointing to recent shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas, which have sparked protests around the country, Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky offered an update on his June vow to “review every aspect of the Airbnb platform to help ensure we are doing everything we can to fight bias and discrimination.”

Chesky says that in addition to Holder, the company has sought assistance from Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C. Legislative Office, and leading civil rights attorney John Relman.

He says the review is only about half-complete, but promised not to “repeat our prior mistakes and delays,” and that Airbnb will “be smart and innovative and…create new tools to prevent discrimination and bias that can be shared across the industry.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Benjamin Haas/Hemera/Thinkstock(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) — A Guantánamo inmate who detailed his captivity in the best-selling memoir, Guantánamo Diary, was cleared for release, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who has been held at the detention camp in Cuba for 14 years with no charges, was cleared for release by a panel of U.S. officials, the Periodic Review Board, the ACLU said.

Slahi, a native of Mauritania, wrote about his captivity and interrogations in his memoir.

A Change.org petition that calls for his release has garnered more than 44,000 signatures.

“My brother has survived the most brutal torture and interrogation practices with courage and kindness,” Slahi’s brother, Yahdih Ould Salahi, wrote on the petition.

A Department of Defense spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that Slahi has been designated for transfer but that his release will not happen until the U.S. negotiates with another country to accept him. The Periodic Review Board posted a document stating simply that they had determined that continued detention of Slahi “is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

The document also noted “clear indications of a change in the detainee’s mindset,” which contributed to the decision.

An unclassified detainee profile of Slahi found on the Periodic Review Board website suggests why Slahi was held. The profile, dated February 2016, says he trained at an al-Qaeda camp and “established a broad network of terrorist contacts while living in Germany, Canada, and Mauritania.” He was arrested in Senegal in January 2000, moved to Mauritania, but was arrested again in 2001 and was taken to Guantanamo in 2002, according to the profile.

Although Slahi has been cleared for release, it is unclear when he will actually walk free.

“We’re delighted for Mohamedou and his family, but the new chapter in his life won’t start until the Pentagon actually transfers him, and it should begin that process immediately,” Hina Shamsi, one of Slahi’s attorneys and director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a statement. “There are still dozens of other men trapped in the misery that is indefinite detention at Guantánamo. Time is running out for President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo and prevent its injustice from tarnishing his legacy.”

The ACLU also said that the government of Mauritania will welcome him back into their country upon his release.

“We are thrilled that the PRB [Periodic Review Board] has cleared our client,” Nancy Hollander, Slahi’s attorney, said in a statement. “We will now work toward his quick release and return to the waiting arms of his loving family. This is long overdue.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

pavalena/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Gambling debts at Las Vegas casinos, posh penthouses in New York City, sprawling mansions in Los Angeles, paintings by Monet and Van Gogh and a luxurious private jet were all paid for with money stolen from innocent citizens, according to U.S. authorities.

The thefts were part of a global scheme they said was tied to at least one senior government official in Malaysia. In all, more than $3.5 billion of Malaysian taxpayers’ money was allegedly “misappropriated” through U.S. banks and other financial institutions around the world. As a result, U.S. officials are trying to recover more than $1 billion in assets associated with the crime.

“Why does this matter so much to us? Certainly there’s a lot going on in the world right now –- terrorist attacks, violent crime, serious threats to American citizens and people around the world. Why does a corruption case halfway around the world matter so much to us?” FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wondered Wednesday at a press conference in Washington.

“When corrupt officials bring their ill-gotten gains to the United States, they also bring with them their corrupt practices and disregard for the rule of law,” he continued, “and that presents a threat to our economy, it impacts trade and investment, it fuels the growth of criminal enterprises and undermines our fair democratic processes.”

In addition, the more the U.S. government can do to promote stable governments, “the more we do to ensure U.S. national security,” McCabe said.

In 2009, the Malaysian government set up an investment fund, known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or “1MDB,” to seek foreign investors and boost economic development in Malaysia.

But almost immediately, billions of dollars received by 1MDB were “siphoned off” into a “complex web” of foreign bank accounts and shell companies run by senior 1MDB officials and their associates, according to the assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors and investigators say they want to recover the more than $1 billion in assets paid for with money laundered through the United States and traceable to the conspiracy.

Some of the money allegedly stolen from 1MDB was used toward a movie studio that helped produce the award-winning film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. U.S. authorities also want to seize any future profits from that investment.

Court documents name a relative of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as one of those who received money from 1MDB and implicate a person identified only as “Malaysian Official 1.” Federal authorities today would not say whether “Malaysian Official 1” is the prime minister.

“We will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt, a platform for money laundering or a place to hide and invest stolen riches,” said Eileen Decker, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

Caldwell called the announcement “a significant milestone” in the fight against global corruption. ‘

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →