Review Category : Top Stories

Facebook and Instagram Experience Brief, Widespread Outage

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Facebook and its Instagram service experienced a widespread outage for about 40 minutes early Tuesday.

The social media company said the outage affected customers in the U.S., Asia and Australia.

In a statement to ABC News, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Earlier this evening many people had trouble accessing Facebook and Instagram. This was not the result of a third party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems. We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”

Facebook has approximately 1.25 billion users and Instagram has about 300 million.

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Huge Blizzard Pounds Much of the Northeast

Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Northeast was struck by a significant blizzard Monday night into Tuesday that paralyzed much of the New York metropolitan area while the storm continued to move up through New England.

Snow totals varied with accumulations expected anywhere from six inches to as much as two feet or more.

In anticipation of the first major snowstorm of 2015, governors in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all declared states of emergency.

Even President Obama, who is traveling abroad, was briefed on the storm as White House officials got in touch with state and local officials on the eastern seaboard.

Well before the snow started Monday, thousands of flights were cancelled for both Monday and Tuesday, affecting the travel plans for people as far away as Los Angeles.

In the New York metro area, officials shut down roads and mass transit systems as the storm intensified.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced at separate briefings that the New York City subway, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North and New Jersey Transit would all be reducing service dramatically leading up to total closures for the subway, LIRR and Metro North at 11 p.m. and for NJ Transit at 10 p.m.

New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority said that Monday night was the first time snow has shut down the entire subway system.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio also told residents not to underestimate the storm.

“Prepare for something worse than we have seen before. Prepare to be safe. Take every precaution,” he said. “Now is the time to get ready for this extreme weather.”

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Fidel Castro Expresses Doubts About US Politics, Says He Hasn’t Spoken with US Officials in Letter to Communist Newspaper

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images(HAVANA, Cuba) — Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro says that he has no confidence in the United States policy and that he has not exchanged a single word with U.S. officials.

In a letter penned for communist newspaper Granma, Castro said that he was not flatly rejecting a peaceful solution to the conflict between the two nations. He urged that any peaceful and negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and any and all Latin American nations that do not involve or employ force should be treated in accordance of international principles and norms.

Instead, Castro defended his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, who announced last month, at the same time U.S. President Barack Obama did, that the two nations would work to repair their relationship. Fidel said his brother had taken steps that fall under his authority. Castro said that he would always defend the cooperation and friendship with all countries of the world, including political adversaries.

The first round of high-level talks in decades between the two nations began last week, with Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson calling them “cordial and respectful.”

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UPS Says No Pickup, Delivery Service Tuesday in Some Northeastern States

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — UPS announced on Monday night that it would not pick up or deliver packages in six full states and parts of two others on Tuesday due to severe winter weather.

The company said it would “work to ensure the safety of our employees while minimizing effects on service.” It noted that “contingency plans are in place to ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as possible as conditions permit.”

The UPS service disruption will impact Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as portions of New Jersey and New York.

Travel bans were put in place on Monday for roads in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as numerous other counties in New York and other Northeastern states that prevent non-emergency personnel from driving.

UPS notes that its service guarantee doesn’t apply when “transportation networks are disrupted due to events of this nature.”

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Kim Kardashian Shares Behind-the-Scenes Photos From Her Sexy Shoot With Kanye West

ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) — Kim Kardashian is giving fans a sneak peek into her photo shoot with Kanye West.

The couple is shooting a new ad campaign for Balmain, one of their favorite design houses.

“This was so much fun! Getting 2work w my husband& my friend @olivier_rousteing ! How did I get so lucky! #BalmainLove,” she wrote on Twitter.

This was so much fun! Getting 2work w my husband& my friend @olivier_rousteing ! How did I get so lucky! #BalmainLove pic.twitter.com/rRKeR2jD2S

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

Kardashian, 34, and West, 37, have been fans of Rousteing’s for some time, and invited him to their wedding last year. Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, has also used Kendall Jenner as a runway model for the brand.

Most recently, Kardashian and West starred in an ad campaign for the brand, which will debut in March.

Here are some behind the scenes of our Balmain ad campaign shoot This is me & @olivier_rousteing discussing the looks pic.twitter.com/NvwKVwEvad

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

Then things got really serious pic.twitter.com/OQlRNQAvGH

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

Fitting with @olivier_rousteing @balmainparis #BalmainLove pic.twitter.com/uwYAHZ5sVS

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

He’s happy about this look!

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Kim Kardashian Shares Behind-the-Scenes Photos From Her Sexy Shoot With Kanye West

ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) — Kim Kardashian is giving fans a sneak peek into her photo shoot with Kanye West.

The couple is shooting a new ad campaign for Balmain, one of their favorite design houses.

“This was so much fun! Getting 2work w my husband& my friend @olivier_rousteing ! How did I get so lucky! #BalmainLove,” she wrote on Twitter.

This was so much fun! Getting 2work w my husband& my friend @olivier_rousteing ! How did I get so lucky! #BalmainLove pic.twitter.com/rRKeR2jD2S

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

Kardashian, 34, and West, 37, have been fans of Rousteing’s for some time, and invited him to their wedding last year. Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, has also used Kendall Jenner as a runway model for the brand.

Most recently, Kardashian and West starred in an ad campaign for the brand, which will debut in March.

Here are some behind the scenes of our Balmain ad campaign shoot This is me & @olivier_rousteing discussing the looks pic.twitter.com/NvwKVwEvad

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

Then things got really serious pic.twitter.com/OQlRNQAvGH

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

Fitting with @olivier_rousteing @balmainparis #BalmainLove pic.twitter.com/uwYAHZ5sVS

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 26, 2015

He’s happy about this look!

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Phillip Phillips Sues to Get Out of His “American Idol” Contact

Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Former American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is suing the show’s producer, 19 Entertainment, and its affiliated companies to get out of his contract.

The singer claims in paperwork that he’s been “manipulated” by the company over the past few years.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” Phillips told ABC News in a statement. “The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with. I look forward to being able to make my own choices about my career and to being able to make great music and play it for my fans.”

Phillips, 24, filed a petition with the California Labor Commissioner, claiming that he was obligated to play gigs that did not benefit his career, such as one show he did for free for JetBlue, and that the production company regularly withheld information about his career from him. For example, he claimed he only found out the name of his album when the public did. Phillips also alleged that 19 Entertainment receives as much as 40 percent of any of his endorsement deals.

At the core of the petition is the Talent Agencies Act, a California law that states that only licensed talent agents can negotiate gigs for their clients. Phillips’ legal team aims to show that the producers were violating the TAA.

Phillips’ lawyer, Howard King at King Holmes Paterno & Berliner, called the deal “oppressive” and “fatally conflicted.” In a statement, he said: “Phillip appreciates the opportunity provided to him by American Idol and always expected the producers to share in the rewards of his subsequent success. However, he never anticipated that the producers would favor their own interests above his career or commit egregious violations of the California’s Talent Agencies Act. Thankfully, California has a long history of protecting artists from being victimized by people illegally operating as de facto talent agencies.”

However, 19 Entertainment stands by the deal.

“We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together with Phillip, working closely to help nurture his extraordinary talent and advance his career. We have always acted in the best interest of Phillip,” a spokesperson for the company told The Hollywood Reporter. “We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”

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Phillip Phillips Sues to Get Out of His “American Idol” Contact

Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Former American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is suing the show’s producer, 19 Entertainment, and its affiliated companies to get out of his contract.

The singer claims in paperwork that he’s been “manipulated” by the company over the past few years.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” Phillips told ABC News in a statement. “The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with. I look forward to being able to make my own choices about my career and to being able to make great music and play it for my fans.”

Phillips, 24, filed a petition with the California Labor Commissioner, claiming that he was obligated to play gigs that did not benefit his career, such as one show he did for free for JetBlue, and that the production company regularly withheld information about his career from him. For example, he claimed he only found out the name of his album when the public did. Phillips also alleged that 19 Entertainment receives as much as 40 percent of any of his endorsement deals.

At the core of the petition is the Talent Agencies Act, a California law that states that only licensed talent agents can negotiate gigs for their clients. Phillips’ legal team aims to show that the producers were violating the TAA.

Phillips’ lawyer, Howard King at King Holmes Paterno & Berliner, called the deal “oppressive” and “fatally conflicted.” In a statement, he said: “Phillip appreciates the opportunity provided to him by American Idol and always expected the producers to share in the rewards of his subsequent success. However, he never anticipated that the producers would favor their own interests above his career or commit egregious violations of the California’s Talent Agencies Act. Thankfully, California has a long history of protecting artists from being victimized by people illegally operating as de facto talent agencies.”

However, 19 Entertainment stands by the deal.

“We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together with Phillip, working closely to help nurture his extraordinary talent and advance his career. We have always acted in the best interest of Phillip,” a spokesperson for the company told The Hollywood Reporter. “We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”

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Harry Reid Undergoes Successful Surgery on Right Eye

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was released from the hospital on Monday after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his right eye.

The surgery was previously scheduled as part of his recovery from an exercise-related injury earlier this month. A statement from Reid’s office said the surgery took about three and a half hours and successfully removed a blood clot and additional blood from the front of his right eye. Doctors also repaired the orbital bones that were fractured in the accident.

Sen. Reid was under full anesthesia during the surgery, his office said. The statement noted that “doctors…are optimistic about his prospects for regaining vision in his right eye but there is no definitive verdict yet.”

Reid is expected to spend this week recovering and monitoring the Senate floor through meetings and phone calls with fellow senators.

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Standard and Poor’s Downgrades Russia Credit Rating to Junk

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Standard and Poor’s has lowered the rating of the Russian ruble to BB+/B amidst negative economic outlook.

The agency notes a “significant change in our perception of Russia’s monetary flexibility over the 2015-2018 forecast horizon and the effect we expect Russia’s weakening economy to have on its financial system.” The downgraded credit rating comes as the ruble has been hurt by the continuing decrease in oil prices and the ongoing tension with Ukraine.

The ratings agency also said it views Russia’s institutional and governance as a rating weakness. “Political power is highly centralized with few checks and balances,” Standard and Poor’s says, “we do not currently expect that the government will be able to effectively tackle the long-standing structural obstacles…to stronger economic growth.”

As part of the rating, Standard and Poor’s gave Russia poor marks on institutional and economic assessments and neutral marks for external assessment, fiscal performance and monetary assessment. The only strong grade Russia received in the latest rating was for its “modest” debt burden.

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