Review Category : Top Stories

US Assists in South Korean Ferry Search and Rescue Efforts

Shannon Jensen/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — The United States Navy is assisting in search and rescue efforts related to the sunken South Korean ferry, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced Friday.

The Seventh Fleet will aid in the mission, with the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard assigned to a search area 15 nautical miles from the shipwreck site. The capsized vessel, Sewol, plunged into the waters off South Korea’s coast on Wednesday, with more than 400 people on board.

Rescue teams are on the lookout for more than 250 people who are still missing, many of whom were high school students headed on a class trip. In addition to the Navy ship, two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters are conducting operations within the search area.

“We’re ready to provide further assistance as needed,” Psaki said.

Capt. Joey ‘JT’ Tynch, commanding officer of the Bonhomme Richard, said South Korean responders have been efficient with their efforts. Psaki also noted the U.S. and South Korea will exchange liaison officers to facilitate communications during the mission.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the passengers and crew of Sewol and their families,” Tynch said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Security Breach May Have Affected 2.6M Michaels Customers

payphoto/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(IRVING, Texas) — Three months after learning of a possible security breach, Michaels announced on Thursday that it has discovered evidence confirming it was indeed attacked.

The arts and crafts chain said in a statement “that systems of Michaels stores in the United States and its subsidiary, Aaron Brothers, were attacked by criminals using highly sophisticated malware that had not been encountered previously by either of the security firms” running the investigation.

Approximately 2.6 million cards used in Michaels stores between May 8, 2013 and Jan. 27, 2014, and 400,000 cards used between June 26, 2013 and Feb. 27, 2014 at 54 Aaron Brothers stores may have been affected.

“The affected systems contained certain payment card information, such as payment card number and expiration date, about both Michaels and Aaron Brothers customers. There is no evidence that other customer personal information, such as name, address or PIN, was at risk in connection with this issue,” Michaels said in the statement.

So far, the retailer has received “limited” reports of fraudulent card use.

Michaels says the incident is now fully contained and the malware no longer presents a threat to shoppers at either store.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Powerful Earthquake Shakes Central Mexico

iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) — A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Friday morning, sending people streaming out of high-rise buildings and into the streets for safety.

The earthquake was felt strongly in the resort city of Acapulco where many Mexicans are on Easter vacation.

It was also felt in the capital, Mexico City, but local reports indicated there was no major damage.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Wine in a Paint Can? Yes, Really!

McCann Vilnius(NEW YORK) — Beaujolais Nouveau has long suffered an unflattering comparison to paint thinner for its bright, cidery aromas that fly in the face of soft, juicy Merlot or peppery Cabernet Sauvignon.

But a European ad agency has turned that association on its head with some striking new packaging — a paint can, of course.

Each year, McCann Vilnius, the oldest ad agency in Lithuania, creates a limited-edition packaging design for the latest Beaujolais Nouveau vintage. For 2014, the agency chose to wink at the fact that too much red wine can stain one’s teeth and released “Couleur Nouveau” in a purple paint tin.

A color chart on the back of the can even indicates the shade your teeth will turn depending on how many glasses of wine are consumed.

But with the stunt-marketing vessel only available in limited quantities, many may purchase them for sheer conversation pieces rather than actually imbibing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Huge Orangutan Mellows Out in Surgery

SUTANTA ADITYA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — They might need a bigger operating table.

An Indonesian vet removed gun pellet shrapnel from a 14-year-old male orangutan reportedly rescued in Sumatra this week after it was shot by poachers.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry works with orangutan rescue groups in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, the only two locations where the endangered primates still live in the wild.

The species’ biggest threats are habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Society.

Indonesia is rapidly losing forest space as palm oil plantations expand, and illegal trade of orangutans, particularly babies, continues to thrive, according to the group.

Orangutans are also hunted for their meat or to prevent damage to crops.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Walmart Sends Chills Through Money Transfer Business

Walmart(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) — Big changes are coming to the money transfer business. Walmart announced on Thursday that it’s entering the market, leaving competitors shaking in their boots.

Walmart-2-Walmart will be available to customers on April 24. The world’s largest retailer says the money transfer service will allow customers to “transfer money to and from more than 4,000 Walmart stores nationwide for up to 50 percent less than similar offerings on the market.”

Walmart teamed up with Euronet Worldwide’s Ria Money Transfer for the new service. It will have two pricing tiers: customers will pay a fee of $4.50 for transfers up to $50 and $9.50 for transfers up to $900.

Shares of MoneyGram fell nearly 18 percent after the announcement. Western Union shares, meanwhile, are down more than 5 percent.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Prosecutors Seek Arrest Warrant for Ferry Captain

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — Divers entered the doomed Sewol ferry in waters off South Korea’s coast Friday, hoping to find additional survivors as prosecutors seek an arrest warrant for the ship’s captain and two crew members.

West Maritime Police told ABC News that the captain — identified as Lee Joon-seok, 68 — left the bridge before the vessel sank on Wednesday, leaving the steering and command to the ship’s third mate, someone with just over a year’s worth of experience.

Transcripts of a ship-to-shore exchange and crew member accounts show that the captain delayed the evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official told the ship it might have to evacuate.

As the ferry tilted before its watery descent, the passengers were told to put on life jackets and stay where they were. Some of them huddled together. That’s how search crews found several bodies on Friday, some of the 28 confirmed dead. The death toll is expected to rise much higher.

Coast Guard officials say 268 of the ferry’s 475 passengers remain missing. Most of the missing — 239 — were students on a class trip from Danwon High School.

The school, located in Ansan, near Seoul, has become a place of grieving. Relatives waited inside the school’s gym as authorities arrived, sharing dreadful updates — another body discovered, another young life cut short.

A vice principal at the school was found dead on Friday, hanging from a pine tree near the gym, authorities told ABC News. He was a passenger on the ship, one of the survivors.

Strong currents and rain hampered Friday’s rescue efforts. Rescue crews pumped compressed oxygen into the ship Friday, in the desperate hope that someone needs it.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Wedding Registry App Lets Couples Add Items from Anywhere

Zola(NEW YORK) — Couples heading to the altar can now add items from multiple stores to one simple registry.

Brides-to-be can use their smartphones to scan the bar codes of products in any store or add links from online retailers with the new app from Zola, which launched Thursday. And users aren’t limited to products — they can also add dance lessons, wine tasting tours, cooking classes or honeymoon funds to their registry.

“We want couples to be able to register for anything they want — products, honeymoon cash, experiences,” Zola founder and CEO Shan-Lyn Ma told ABC News.

More than 10,000 couples have signed up since Zola launched its website in October. The new app, only available on iOS, adds a fun feature called Blender.

“It’s a quick and easy way to browse and add products to their wedding registry,” Ma said. “You swipe right to add and left to dismiss — similar to Tinder.”

The feature pulls products and experiences from multiple vendors, all sourced directly by Ma’s team.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide all the things someone might love to have with their fiancé, to create their lives together,” she said. “Whether that’s stuff for the kitchen or the home or a honeymoon.”

The app is also more interactive than a traditional registry. Couples can create collections to group similar products together and also add comments to let friends and family know why they want a particular item.

Instead of posting a link to Bloomingdale’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond, couples share their Zola link.

“We found the vast majority of couples today have a wedding website of some kind,” Ma said. “So they post the link there.”

When friends or family find a gift they want to purchase, they pay through Zola’s website and the couple gets an alert those funds are in their account.

The couple makes the final purchase.

Ma acknowledged it’s an extra step, but says that way the couple can control when the product gets shipped.

“Couples said this was a big problem,” she said. “It was hard to plan when your gifts would arrive or manage the returns process. We found people were having boxes arrive unexpectedly. They weren’t sure if they wanted to open them, or keep them or return them. We developed a tracker so you can device when and what will be sent to you.”

The app is free and will expand to other mobile platforms within the next few months.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Anti-Semitic Leaflets in Ukraine Raise Suspicions

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The reports circulated like wildfire: fliers surfacing in the eastern Ukrainian town of Donetsk ordering Jews there to register with the local government or face deportation.

U.S. officials quickly condemned the leaflets, with Secretary of State John Kerry mentioning it at the beginning of his remarks in Geneva, Switzerland, after emerging from an eight-hour meeting on the situation in Ukraine.

There is a concerted disinformation campaign going on, with all sides of the conflict trying to paint the other as extreme. But it’s not clear where the leaflets came from and how many were distributed. Still, the reports raised an outcry.

“This is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It’s beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engaged in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or ideology or whatever place they crawled out of, there is no place for that,” Kerry said.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, added on CNN, “It’s chilling. I was disgusted by these leaflets.”

“Reports of Jews being forced to register by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine are chilling, outrageous and must be universally condemned,” Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, tweeted.

The Russian government has previously floated the specter of anti-Semitism in eastern Ukraine and Crimea as one of the reasons why its intervention in the region was necessary. And there have also been isolated incidents of various types of religious intolerance throughout Ukraine.

“I don’t have more details on where the leaflets are coming from, but I know we’re looking into it,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said shortly after Kerry spoke, adding that the United States would take any instance of anti-Semitism in Ukraine seriously even if, as one reporter put it, “it turned out that it’s just some dude running around with a mimeograph machine throwing these leaflets around.”

Representatives of three separate Jewish organizations in Donetsk told ABC News that they didn’t even know whether the flyers existed beyond images that appeared on news sites.

“Just let us live normally, we live normally, we have a normal life,” an exasperated member of one of the Jewish groups said.

Reporters from the Daily Beast visited the room in the government building where Jews were told by the pamphlet to go to register, and found it empty.

Even still, rumors of the leaflets were enough to elicit responses from members of Congress, like Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

“I urge you to do everything possible to ensure that Jewish and other minority communities throughout the country are protected from any form of prejudice,” Lowey wrote in a letter to Kerry.

And the word “Jews” quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

But even if the flyers do not represent the official policy of what pro-Russian activists now call the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” U.S. government officials and Jewish groups remained vocal in their condemnation of anti-Semitism in any form, organized or otherwise.

“The ADL today condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, Ukraine, and called on all parties involved in the political conflicts in Ukraine to refrain from ‘cynical and politically manipulative’ exploitation of anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a statement to Mashable.

“We are skeptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Calif. Hotel World’s First to Crowdfund

Courtesy Cary Brazeman(PALM SPRINGS, Calif.) — Turns out crowdfunding can be used for way more than the creation of a hands-free cookie dunker.

For the first time, a hotel is using crowdfunding to make guests partial owners and, in the process, expedite improvements the property wants to make. Since announcing the crowdfunding platform on Wednesday, the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs has received hundreds of thousands of dollars — much of which will be used to add a nightclub and update the pool area.

The minimum investment is $10,000. But whether a person invests at the rate, or ten times that amount, the VIP benefits of being a partial owner are the same. Hotel investors will have free use of the hotel owner poolside cabana, 25-percent discounts off the best available room rates, free room upgrades and priority and prime seating at the hotel restaurant.

Hotel crowdfunding, said Andy Carpiac, the hotel’s majority owner, is a “winning formula.”

Sophisticated investors are looking for a home away from home, he said. “They come and visit and spend money and the more they visit, the more their investment appreciates. It attracts the exact kind of customers we want.”

He called the crowdfunding concept “cutting edge” and said that’s why it’s the perfect fit for his hotel.

“We’re a destination hotel, an entertainment destination,” he said.

The crowdfunding for the hotel is being handled by Realty Mogul, a real estate crowdfunding company. Jay Samit, executive chairman, said it’s a way for people to pool investments and diversify, plus get access to something that was previously reserved for the “big boys.”

“It’s going to fundamentally change the hospitality industry,” he said. “The [hospitality] business is perfectly suited to [crowdfunding]. “You go to Palm Springs, go to ‘your’ hotel, and you’re spending money that’s going back into your own pocket.”

Samit predicts this is the next trend in hospitality. Since making the announcement on Wednesday, Realty Mogul’s been “flooded” with inbound calls, from “the biggest chains you can think of” to “famous boutique hotels.” He’s fielding calls from hotels in Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles. He said he imagines this working especially well for a place with a loyal following and repeat visitors, like a hotel in a college football town that people tend to visit repeatedly anyway.

“It’s another way to diversify and make money from your desktop.” And from your travel.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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