Review Category : Top Stories

How Venmo Is Turning Into a Hilarious Social Network

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — If you use Venmo, you already know how convenient it is to pay your friends instantly, splitting the bill at dinner without hitting up an ATM or getting exact change. With a couple of taps on the app, your portion of the bill is settled, and you didn’t even have to irritate the server by handing over seven credit cards.

But lately, it seems the handy app is something more, morphing into a full-fledged social network as more users join and many get creative with their eye-raising payment explanations, which are public to other people on the app. Venmo, whether you realize it or not, has become a place to brag about your wild night out and clue in friends on who you’ve been sharing cabs with.

“Once I’m on the app, I definitely find myself scrolling through,” Jarell Cardoza of San Francisco told ABC News.

He uses the app to split rent and bills with his roommate, and also when he goes out with friends or his girlfriend.

Today, payments for “forgetting my wallet like a scrub,” “Costco goodies” and “kale” were among the thousands of transactions visible on the global newsfeed of the app. Venmo conceals actual dollar amounts paid or charged, but everyone can see who is paying whom, and for what — from bills to late-night jaunts to the strip club.

And the descriptions are increasingly hilarious.

“It’s almost like the same thought that goes into sending a tweet goes into what you write for Venmo,” Keisha Follins, 36, told ABC News. “Because you know other people are going to see it and you want it to be amusing.”

When Venmo users log in to make a transaction, many find themselves staying a while — browsing their friends’ activity like one would on Facebook or Twitter.

“I did that yesterday and I felt kind of creepy because I was like: Why do I care about what other people are doing?” Follins said. “But it kind of encourages you to be funny when you write something. It’s entertaining.”

Cardoza also uses the app to see what his friends are up to, sometimes stumbling upon cryptic emoji-filled payments.

“When you see a 4 a.m. New York City charge with double horns on it, I find myself wondering and sometimes shooting a text, like, ‘What was that about?’” he said.

Allyson White of New York City also gets a laugh out of some of the outrageous Venmo posts.

“I’ve seen a lot of funny ones around bachelorette parties,” said White, 25. “A lot of people seem to communicate only in emoticons, which makes it funnier. If I can think of something clever on the spot, I’ll try to make it funny.”

Adding to the social aspect is Venmo’s version of friend requests. Users connect with people they know through email and Facebook, so while their transactions will show up in your main newsfeed, they’re not necessarily people you exchange cash with. Just like Facebook, it’s a passive way of knowing what someone you don’t even talk to anymore is up to nowadays.

Users can even like or comment on transactions.

Venmo is a free app available on iPhone and Android platforms.

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Human Trial for Ebola Vaccine to Begin This Week

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The first human trial for an investigational Ebola vaccine is set to begin this week.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted the National Institutes of Health to expedite safety testing for several vaccines already in the works. Since March, the deadly virus has killed 1,552 people, according to the World Health Organization, which predicted last week that the virus could infect 20,000 people in the next six months.

An Ebola vaccine is different from the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which two Americans received last month and is designed to treat an existing Ebola infection rather than prevent one.

“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

The NIH is developing the vaccine with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Although Fauci said the vaccine has “performed extremely well” in primate studies, it has not yet been tested in humans.

The phase 1 clinical trial set to begin this week at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will involve 20 human subjects between the ages of 18 and 50, according to the NIH.

Researchers will use the study to determine whether the vaccine is safe and see whether it prompts an immune response necessary to protect against Ebola. No human subjects will be infected with Ebola.

A $4.7 million grant will also go toward Ebola vaccine trials in September at the University of Oxford in England, as well as centers in Gambia and Mali, according to GlaxoSmithKline. In all, 140 patients will be tested.

Though Ebola was discovered nearly 40 years ago, it was so rare that drug manufacturers weren’t interested in investing in finding a vaccine for it, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Its rarity also made it impossible for scientists to conduct field studies.

“There’s always the layperson’s query of ‘Why don’t they rush this?’ ‘Why don’t these guys work a little later at night?’” Schaffner told ABC News in July. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”

GlaxoSmithKline became involved in the Ebola vaccine because it bought Swiss vaccine company Okairos AG in 2013. Okairos, originally a Merck spinoff, had been working on the vaccine with the NIH since 2011, a GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman told ABC News.

Although Fauci said in July that it would take until late 2015 for a vaccine — if successful — to be administered to a limited number of health workers, GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement that the grant will also enable it to manufacture 10,000 doses of the vaccine while the trials are ongoing. If the vaccine trials are successful, it will be able to make stocks available immediately to the World Health Organization.

The NIH said it should have initial data from the trial in late 2014.

The trial for different vaccine is set to begin at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. This vaccine was a collaboration between the federal Department of Defense and Iowa pharmaceutical company NewLink Genetics Corp.

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Western Governments Step Up Efforts to Block ISIS Recruits

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(LONDON) — Alarmed by the attempt by a 16-year-old French girl to travel to Turkey this weekend allegedly to join the Islamic militant army of ISIS, the French government is urging parents to call a toll-free hotline if they know of anyone they believe may be considering joining the terror group.

It was the latest attempt by Western governments to prevent their citizens from joining the jihadist group where they could be trained in terror tactics and bring those lethal strategies back home.

The French teenager was arrested Saturday in the Nice airport in the south of France as she tried to board a plane to Turkey with the alleged intention of joining ISIS in Syria. Authorities announced that several hours later, they caught a 20-year-old man who had allegedly recruited her and paid for her plane ticket. The girl’s parents reportedly had no idea about their daughter’s plans and the statement said that airport police were responsible for her arrest.

In a statement released Sunday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the parents of young people to use the hotline if their children exhibit “a disturbing trend of violent radicalization.”

The hotline was established just over four months ago — well before the threat posed by ISIS was fully understood by the American public — and the Interior Ministry reports they have received almost 300 calls. A quarter of those calls were about children who were suspected of getting involved with the terrorist group and 45% were about suspicious women and girls. It is unclear how many of those calls led to arrests.

France is the Western country with the most citizens who have joined ISIS and militant fighters in Syria and Iraq. An estimated 700 French citizens have joined the cause, followed by 500 citizens of the United Kingdom who have come under similar suspicion.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at Parliament Monday calling for greater anti-terror legislation, including giving police the ability to seize passports at airports. He said that the measures will help address “specific gaps in our armory.”

The proposed changes come three days after the British government increased their national terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe” for the first time in three years. The “severe” threat level is the second highest in the U.K.’s threat level system, topped only by “critical” which is used to indicate that an attack is “expected imminently.”

U.S. security forces took a different approach when they realized there was a 19-year-old woman in Denver who was planning on traveling to Turkey to join a jihadist group after connecting with a 32-year-old Tunisian man.

The woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, had eight interviews with police and FBI agents over the course of the six months leading up to her arrest at Denver’s international airport on April 8 – and the charging document reveals that she repeatedly spoke about her support of jihad and how she wanted to associate with terrorists in the hope of helping them. The Justice Department confirmed on Aug. 11 that a plea deal had been reached in the case but they did not release any information about what the deal entailed.

The British push to have police take passports away from suspected jihadist fighters comes nearly two months after the Australian government began doing so.

“I’ve canceled a number of passports on the advice of intelligence agencies,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said June 16.

An estimated 150 Australians are believed to have joined the fighting in Syria.

“We are concerned that Australians are working with them [ISIS], becoming radicalized, learning the terrorist trade, and if they come back to Australia, of course it poses a security threat,” Bishop said.

American authorities have not announced specific steps they have taken to prevent citizens from joining ISIS or other Islamic groups, though they have reported an estimated 100 or so cases of U.S. citizens leaving the country to train and fight with ISIS. Special attention is being paid to Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota as nearly a dozen of the suspects have ties to the city.

The White House confirmed the death in Syria of Minnesotan Douglas McAuthur McCain, who records show was born in Chicago but was schooled in Minneapolis. An opposition group in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, claimed McCain was fighting with ISIS. The FSA also claimed another American ISIS member had been killed in recent fighting.

FBI officers have been aware of disaffected Muslim youths traveling abroad to join radical groups for years, as many Minnesotans went to fight in Somalia starting in 2007.

“In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call… [but] we’ve now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them,” Kyle Loven, the FBI’s Chief Division Counsel in Minneapolis, told ABC News.

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Prince William and Kate Spotted in London Train Station

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appeared just like any other young parents returning home after a quick country trip away as they rushed through one of London’s busiest train stations Friday.

William and Kate, both 32, caused a few double-takes as fellow travelers spotted them beneath the baseball caps they each paired with casual clothes while carrying their own bags through the rush-hour crowd at London’s Kings Cross station.

The Duke and Duchess were spotted traveling with their beloved dog, Lupo, but without their 1-year-old son, Prince George.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said ABC News’ royal contributor, Victoria Murphy, of the high-profile couple’s low-profile means of travel. “I think that they are very keen to do things in the most efficient way and also in the most cost-effective way and I think that they want as little fuss as possible.”

“They think like other people: What’s the best way to get from A to B,” Murphy said.

The royal couple was believed to be traveling home from Norfolk, the site of their country home, Anmer Hall, where they will be living when Prince William begins his new job as an ambulance helicopter pilot.

William and Kate were also spotted out together on a date night during their time away. The royals were reportedly seen walking hand-in-hand into a local pub that Prince William had driven his wife to himself.

Kate has reportedly been busy decorating Anmer Hall, a gift from the queen for William’s 30th birthday, to make it a home fit for two future kings. The 10-bedroom mansion is based on the queen’s 20,000-acre private Sandringham estate in Norfolk, close to the East Anglian Air Ambulance service, where Prince William will work.

The home is in the final stages of a two-year renovation, including a large conservatory for the family. It already includes a pool and tennis court and renovations are said to have reportedly added accommodations for protection officers and Prince George’s nanny.

Prince William will begin a five-month training period for his Air Transport Pilot’s license this month, the palace has said.

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Children Shoot Semiautomatic Weapons at NM Firing Range

iStock/Thinkstock(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) — A New Mexico shooting range encourages children to practice shooting semiautomatic weapons, despite a fatal accident this week involving a 9-year-old girl in Arizona.

Calibers, a shooting range in Albuquerque, New Mexico, lets children as young as 8 pull the trigger on handguns, rifles and even semiautomatic weapons, according to ABC affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque.

The children can shoot “Uzis, MAC-11s, AR-15s, and AK-47s,” Calibers Training Director Jordan Nighbert told KOAT.

It’s common for children to shoot the weapons at the range, he said.

One Calibers customer, John Thompson, even added that he first took his kids shooting when they were only 6.

“To take the curiosity from it,” Thompson told KOAT, explaining his motivation. “Whether they like it or not, they respect them.”

No one has ever been hurt while a child shot a gun at the Calibers firing range, Nighbert said.

That’s in contrast to the case of an Arizona firing range where a 9-year-old accidentally shot and killed her gun instructor last Monday. The girl was shooting a semiautomatic Uzi.

Nighbert doubts that such an accident could happen at his gun range. He only allows children to shoot semiautomatic weapons with barrels longer than 16 inches, he told KOAT.

“With a short barrel, it’s a very short movement for that barrel to cover my body and put me in danger,” he said. “With a long barrel, even if you had poor recoil control, the muzzle can’t cover my head.”

Nighbert also said Calibers considers a customer’s shooting skill, physical skill and maturity before allowing children to shoot weapons.

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Top Tips to Ease Back Into the Office After Summer Vacation

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — What may be worse than a “case of the Mondays?” The day after a three-day weekend. Here are some steps to help ease the transition back to work.

Returning to the office on Tuesday morning will feel to many like the last day of beaches, pools, and sunshine itself. (But take heart: the last day of summer is technically weeks away.)

Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing firm based in Chicago, offers easy steps to take both during the weekend to provide a healthier transition after your time away from the office.

Here are healthy things to consider for a smooth transition back into the workplace after a vacation.

Before Returning to the Office:

1. Create a Task List

“Employees should write down where each project stands and the immediate steps they need to take once upon return. No one wants to stress during a break, so plan everything ahead of time,” Gimbel said. “Coming back to a to-do list will allow you to hit the ground running.”

2. Scan Emails

“The employee may resent the fact that they have to work outside of the office, but at the end of the day, the pros outweigh the cons in dedicating an hour for managing an inbox or checking voicemails,” Gimbel said.

Upon Returning to the Office:

1. Get to the Office Earlier

Gimbel suggests at least an hour earlier on their first day back to get organized.

“That way they are prepared to meet as soon as their managers get in to recap anything they’ve missed,” he said. “Employees have to be laser-focused, which means putting phones away and not constantly checking social media updates or looking at the trip’s photos. They shouldn’t set themselves up for distractions.”

2. Consider the Week Ahead

Before going home that first day, employees should create an agenda of what the rest of the week will entail, he suggests.

3. Consider Office Social Dynamics

It’s important that employees are empathic to their teams who may have picked up their slack while out, he said.

“It wouldn’t hurt to write a quick thank-you note to team members who did work on their behalf. Appreciation goes a long way,” he said.

4. Stay on top of Updates

If the employee works directly with clients, they should make calls to each when they return to simply catch up and recap where projects stand, regardless if coworkers filled them in or not, Gimbel said.

5. Use the Energy!

With the exception of diverted planes due to belligerent passengers, hopefully your vacations allow you to rest and recharge.

“Being on a vacation revives an employee who may have spent months at the office without taking a trip,” Gimbel said. “Bring that fresh energy into the office and apply it to current projects.”

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Monday Marks Dark Anniversary in Russia

Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Monday marks one of the darkest anniversaries in Russia’s recent history.

Ten years ago, on Sept. 1, 2004, a group of 32 pro-Chechen gunmen burst into School Number 1 in Beslan in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia. They stormed the school during the “first bell” celebration marking the beginning of the school year.

More than 1,000 people – children and adults – were held hostage for three days: 334 of them were killed, most dying in a bloody gun battle when Russian special forces stormed the school gymnasium where the hostages were being kept, which the militants had littered with mines and bombs. More than 800 hostages were injured.

The hostage crisis in Beslan and the bungled rescue was a defining moment in Putin’s war in southern Russia. The sole gunman who survived was jailed but spared the death penalty.

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Jordin Sparks: I Can’t Wait to Be Mrs. Jason Derulo

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images via ABC(LOS ANGELES) — Jordin Sparks is a Grammy-nominated singer and actress, but she is also a big football fan — an Arizona Cardinals fan to be exact.

“I was born into a football family,” Sparks told ABC News, adding that her father played pro ball in the NFL for the Giants and Cowboys. “This is not just a guy’s sport. Women can have fun and love watching too.”

With that in mind, Sparks, 24, was just recently named NFL Women’s Apparel Brand Ambassador and couldn’t be more excited about the honor.

“I love the sport, you don’t have to twist my arm,” she told the NFL when they asked her to take part. “Sports is something that me and my family always bond over. We get together and watch the games and nana [her grandmother] will make Sunday lunch. We’ll eat and watch the games.”

So, Sparks loves football and the Cardinals — that’s decided. The one thing she can’t decide on is what name to put on the back of her customizable NFL jersey.

“I’ll probably be putting either Sparks or Derulo on the back of my jersey,” she said, possibly opting to put her boyfriend Jason Derulo’s last name on the jersey. “I haven’t decided yet.”

And a jersey is exactly what Sparks is comfortable in the most.

“My style has always been more tom boyish,” she said. “I’ve always been comfortable wearing sweatpants and sneakers, that’s always a go to.”

She continued, “Since American Idol happened and getting into this crazy world, all the glamor and stuff, I’ve definitely gotten to explore more fashion. I don’t really have a stylist right now, so everything you see on the carpet has been me finding them or finding the dress, or reaching out to see if I can borrow a dress. It’s been fun.”

For example, last weekend at the MTV VMAs, “I loved my outfit, it looked great and Jason was my best accessory because we matched. But the whole time, I could not stop thinking how much I wanted to be in sweats and socks!”

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Scoreboard Roundup – 8/31/14

(NEW YORK) — MLB: Toronto Blue Jays 4 (69-67) – New York Yankees 3 (70-65)

Boston Red Sox 3 (60-76) – Tampa Rays 0 (66-71)

New York Mets 6 (64-73) – Philadelphia Phillies 5 (62-74)

Cincinnati Reds 3 (66-71) – Pittsburgh Pirates 2 (71-65)

Chicago White Sox 6 (62-75) – Detroit Tigers 2 (74-62)

Baltimore Orioles 12 (79-56) – Minnesota Twins 8 (59-77)

Houston Astros 3 (59-79) – Texas Rangers 2 (53-83)

St. Louis Cardinals 9 (73-63) – Chicago White Sox 6 (61-76)

Los Angeles Angels 8 (83-53) – Oakland Athletics 1 (78-58)

Seattle Mariners 5 (73-62) – Washington Nationals 3 (77-58)

Los Angeles Dodgers 7 (77-60) – San Diego Padres 1 (64-71)

Arizona Diamondbacks 6 (57-79) – Colorado Rockies 2 (54-82)

San Francisco Giants 15 (74-62) – Milwaukee Brewers 5 (73-63)

Atlanta Braves 1 (72-65) – Miami Marlins 0 (66-69)

Cleveland Indians 4 (70-64) – Kansas City Royals 2 (74-61) Suspended in the top of the 10th due to rain

NCAAF: (10) Baylor 45 (1-0) – SMU 0 (0-1)

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Kasey Kahne wins the Oral B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

NASCAR Camping World Truck: Ryan Blaney wins the Chevrolet Silverado 250

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Scoreboard Roundup – 8/31/14

(NEW YORK) — MLB: Toronto Blue Jays 4 (69-67) – New York Yankees 3 (70-65)

Boston Red Sox 3 (60-76) – Tampa Rays 0 (66-71)

New York Mets 6 (64-73) – Philadelphia Phillies 5 (62-74)

Cincinnati Reds 3 (66-71) – Pittsburgh Pirates 2 (71-65)

Chicago White Sox 6 (62-75) – Detroit Tigers 2 (74-62)

Baltimore Orioles 12 (79-56) – Minnesota Twins 8 (59-77)

Houston Astros 3 (59-79) – Texas Rangers 2 (53-83)

St. Louis Cardinals 9 (73-63) – Chicago White Sox 6 (61-76)

Los Angeles Angels 8 (83-53) – Oakland Athletics 1 (78-58)

Seattle Mariners 5 (73-62) – Washington Nationals 3 (77-58)

Los Angeles Dodgers 7 (77-60) – San Diego Padres 1 (64-71)

Arizona Diamondbacks 6 (57-79) – Colorado Rockies 2 (54-82)

San Francisco Giants 15 (74-62) – Milwaukee Brewers 5 (73-63)

Atlanta Braves 1 (72-65) – Miami Marlins 0 (66-69)

Cleveland Indians 4 (70-64) – Kansas City Royals 2 (74-61) Suspended in the top of the 10th due to rain

NCAAF: (10) Baylor 45 (1-0) – SMU 0 (0-1)

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Kasey Kahne wins the Oral B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

NASCAR Camping World Truck: Ryan Blaney wins the Chevrolet Silverado 250

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