Review Category : Top Stories

CEO Will Live on $70,000 Worker Wage, Thinks His Life Will Be Luxe Enough

Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The CEO of a credit-card payments company in Seattle said executive pay is “out of whack,” so he’s cutting his own pay and creating a minimum salary for his workers. Now, he will be earning $70,000 like many of them, and he’s OK with it.

Dan Price, 30, announced this week that any employee at his company, Gravity Payments, making less than $70,000 annually will receive a $5,000-per-year raise or be paid a minimum of $50,000, whichever is greater. The aim: By December 2017, everyone will earn $70,000 or more.

To facilitate this change, Price said his salary will decrease to $70,000 from about $1 million until or unless the company’s profits are greater than last year’s approximately $2.2 million.

“My salary wasn’t $1 million because I need that much to live, but that’s what it would cost to replace me as a CEO,” Price told ABC News. “I think CEO pay is way out of whack. It ended up impacting me, because I want the company to be sustainable even if something happens to me. Temporarily, I’m going down to the minimum until the company gets back to where it was.”

Price started the company in 2004 when he was only 19 years old, and when he said the cost of living in Seattle was much lower than it is today. When asked what life will be like for him at a lower pay, he said, “I haven’t even thought about that at all, too much. My life started pretty simple, in a lot of ways. I don’t have a lot of financial obligations or debts.”

Price grew up in rural southwestern Idaho with four brothers and later studied music at the Christian Seattle Pacific University. When Gravity launched, the company paid $24,000 per year even for senior positions. Price said he was paid less than that for the first five years in business.

Today, the company, which pays an average salary of $48,000, has 120 employees — and 70 of their paychecks will grow with this plan. Of those, 30 will double their salaries, Price said.

“I may have to scale back a little bit, but nothing I’m not willing to do. I’m single. I just have a dog,” Price said.

He owns a three-bedroom home, where he likes to host guests and is admittedly “a nice place for sure,” he said. He’s been driving the same car for the last 12 years: an Audi that he bartered for at a local car dealership in return for credit card processing from his company — “so, basically, for free,” he said.

Price chose the $70,000 figure based on a 2010 Princeton University study that showed happiness is positively impacted up to $70,000 or $75,000 per year; but increases above that figure did not have a significant positive effect on happiness.

He said his friends include the super-rich, who invite him on their private planes and expensive yachts.

“I have an incredibly luxurious life, for some reason, but I don’t end up paying for a lot of it,” he said.

He also has friends who earn $40,000 a year. Hearing of their struggles and those of others struggling to make ends meet inspired him to make a dent in the country’s growing income inequality.

Plus, after all, he said, he’ll live comfortably at $70,000.

“I’m a big believer in less: The more you have, sometimes the more complicated your life gets,” he said.

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CDC: Ebola Vaccine Trial to Begin in Sierra Leone

Pawel Gaul/iStock/Thinkstock(FREETOWN, Sierra Leone) — The fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday it would begin testing an Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone.

About 6,000 health and frontline workers will receive the vaccine in five different districts around the nation. The study is intended to look at the “safety and efficacy” of a candidate vaccine.

“A safe and effective vaccine would be a very important tool to stop Ebola in the future, and the frontline workers who are volunteering to participate are making a decision that could benefit health care professionals and communities wherever Ebola is a risk,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “We hope this vaccine will be proven effective, but in the meantime we must continue doing everything necessary to stop this epidemic — find every case, isolate and treat, safely and respectfully bury the dead, and find every single contact.”

Participants in the study will receive the vaccine and be followed for six months to track how well it protects workers from the Ebola virus.

Because transmission of Ebola has slowed significantly, it’s not clear how well the study will be able to determine the efficacy of the proposed vaccine.

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SpaceX Blasts Off for International Space Station Grocery Run

NASA TV(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — The SpaceX grocery run to the International Space Station is a go.

Elon Musk’s private space company sent a Dragon capsule packed with goodies into space Tuesday afternoon with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket, which is expected later to attempt a controlled landing on a floating barge.

The launch had been given a 60 percent chance for liftoff because of weather conditions. With less than three minutes left on the countdown, the initial launch was scrubbed Monday because of an anvil cloud within 10 nautical miles of the launch site at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Dragon has vital cargo on board, including 4,000 pounds of supplies for astronauts at the International Space Station such as science experiments, food and a Lavazza espresso machine especially developed for space. It is slated to arrive at the International Space Station Friday.

The mission is also the third time SpaceX has attempted an historic rocket recycling test.

The first try barely missed its target while the second attempt in inclement weather led to a fiery crash landing.

Having the ability to recycle rockets is something SpaceX founder Elon Musk said will “revolutionize access to space.”

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred,” he said.

The Falcon 9 reusable rocket demonstrated in a test flight last year how it is supposed to perform. Video showed the rocket blasting off from the SpaceX test facility and soaring to 1,000 meters before coming back down to Earth for a controlled landing.

Musk said Tuesday that the takeoff was successful, and that the rocket landed on the droneship, but that the landing was “too hard for survival.”

Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015

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Wall Street Mixed After Higher Retail Sales Figures

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The markets posted small gains on Tuesday, rallying from early session losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day at 18,036.70, up 59.66 from its open.

The S&P 500 climbed nearer to the 2,100 mark, finishing the session up 3.45 to 2095.88.

The Nasdaq, which had fallen as low as 4,952 on Tuesday morning finished at 4,977.29, just a 10.96 point loss.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales climbed by nearly one percent in March. The bulk of that growth was attributed to increases in car sales and construction activity.

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday announced that first quarter net earnings fell by 8.6 percent. Still, Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky said the quarter showed “strong underlying growth…driven by new products and the strength of the core business.”

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‘Pope Francis Effect’ Partly Credited with Increase in Exorcisms

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ROME) — Pope Francis has another feather to add to his pontiff hat. He has been credited, in part, for easing American-Cuba relations, riling Turkish sentiment by referring to an Armenian genocide, and, lately, for an increase in the number of exorcisms performed globally.

The Argentine pope has, indeed, encouraged exorcism priests in their fight against “the Devil’s works” and said late last year that the Catholic Church needs to help “those possessed by evil.”

The diocese of Milan, for instance, increased the number of exorcism priests to 12 from five recently, The Telegraph reported, and the diocese of Rome doubled its number to 10. In fairness, the Milan diocese hotline for exorcisms predates Francis’ papacy by a year.

“People believe possession of Satan is a problem and the Catholic Church is making sure they have quality control on these issues,” Steven Engler, professor of religious studies at Canada’s Mount Royal University in Calgary, told ABC News Tuesday.

The pope’s roots in Latin America may be an influence on growing attention and activity, Engler said.

“Pope Francis’ openness about speaking about the devil reflects his Latin American background and that reflects an openness in the church in using this particular lens for problems that people experience,” Engler said.

The “phenomenon” of exorcisms has been noticeable in most parts of the world, including in Africa and Latin America, Engler said, and they are increasingly accepted in Europe because of the pope’s openness.

Engler said he doesn’t believe there’s an increase in symptoms described as demonic possession. But he said there has been an increase in the past decade in the number of priests who are trained for exorcisms, which is an official Catholic ritual, like baptisms.

“Religions offer a diagnosis and prescription for the human predicament: what’s the problem and solution? The Christian answer has been a little ambivalent,” Engler said. “The problem is original sin or Satan, and those are two sides of the same coin.”

In Brazil over the years, Engler has noted billboards from local Catholic communities advertising exorcisms, in part while competing with the Pentecostal church.

“If there’s a boom, it’s not a boom in people needing exorcisms,” he said, “it’s the Catholic Church trying to manage the issue.”

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‘Pope Francis Effect’ Partly Credited with Increase in Exorcisms

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ROME) — Pope Francis has another feather to add to his pontiff hat. He has been credited, in part, for easing American-Cuba relations, riling Turkish sentiment by referring to an Armenian genocide, and, lately, for an increase in the number of exorcisms performed globally.

The Argentine pope has, indeed, encouraged exorcism priests in their fight against “the Devil’s works” and said late last year that the Catholic Church needs to help “those possessed by evil.”

The diocese of Milan, for instance, increased the number of exorcism priests to 12 from five recently, The Telegraph reported, and the diocese of Rome doubled its number to 10. In fairness, the Milan diocese hotline for exorcisms predates Francis’ papacy by a year.

“People believe possession of Satan is a problem and the Catholic Church is making sure they have quality control on these issues,” Steven Engler, professor of religious studies at Canada’s Mount Royal University in Calgary, told ABC News Tuesday.

The pope’s roots in Latin America may be an influence on growing attention and activity, Engler said.

“Pope Francis’ openness about speaking about the devil reflects his Latin American background and that reflects an openness in the church in using this particular lens for problems that people experience,” Engler said.

The “phenomenon” of exorcisms has been noticeable in most parts of the world, including in Africa and Latin America, Engler said, and they are increasingly accepted in Europe because of the pope’s openness.

Engler said he doesn’t believe there’s an increase in symptoms described as demonic possession. But he said there has been an increase in the past decade in the number of priests who are trained for exorcisms, which is an official Catholic ritual, like baptisms.

“Religions offer a diagnosis and prescription for the human predicament: what’s the problem and solution? The Christian answer has been a little ambivalent,” Engler said. “The problem is original sin or Satan, and those are two sides of the same coin.”

In Brazil over the years, Engler has noted billboards from local Catholic communities advertising exorcisms, in part while competing with the Pentecostal church.

“If there’s a boom, it’s not a boom in people needing exorcisms,” he said, “it’s the Catholic Church trying to manage the issue.”

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Obama Recommends Removing Cuba from Terrorism List

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama recommended on Tuesday that the United States government reverse its long-standing policy designating Cuba a state sponsor of international terrorism.

The White House issued a statement declaring the administration’s “intention to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation” several days after the president returned from the Summit of the Americas in Panama, where he met with heads of state from across the region, including for the first time with Cuban President Raul Castro.

The momentous shift will lift 32 years of numerous financial sanctions against Cuba and represents the latest attempt by the Obama administration to restore relations with the Communist stronghold after more than five decades of a diplomatic freeze.

Cuban officials had made clear during the course of recent negotiations with Washington that relations could never be fully normalized as long as the country was designated as a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

The policy review began following Obama’s announcement in December to begin normalization dialogue with the island nation.

“I’ve instructed Secretary [of State John] Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. This review will be guided by the facts and the law,” he said during the announcement. “Terrorism has changed in the last several decades. At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.”

Obama will send his decision to Congress, which has 45 days to consider the new policy. Should Congress seek to block the measure, it would need to create a veto-proof law declaring Cuba remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It’s unlikely Congress has votes to complete such a task.

The Communist Cuban government was added to the terror list in 1982 after the State Department determined the country repeatedly provided support to terrorist organizations in Latin America, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But the State Department acknowledged recently those ties had “become more distant.”

Syria, Sudan and Iran are the only other countries remaining on the list.

On Thursday while in Jamaica at a meeting with Caribbean leaders, the president hinted at his decision to remove Cuba from the list.

“Throughout this process, our emphasis has been on the facts,” Obama said. “We want to make sure that given this is a powerful tool to isolate those countries that genuinely do support terrorism, that when we make those designations, we’ve got strong evidence that’s the case and as circumstance change, that list will change as well.”

The decision is expected to draw criticism from those opposed to normalizing relations with the Castro regime in Cuba.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said after the December announcement that changes to the terror designation would serve to “tighten this regime’s grip on power for decades to come.”

Cuban officials, meanwhile, have said not only was the designation unwarranted, but also removing it is critical to the process of restoring relations. The banking sanctions associated with the terror designation are so strict that Cuban diplomats cannot even use credit cards while visiting Washington, D.C. or the United Nations in New York, and Cuba’s interest section cannot process credit cards for visa applications.

Cuba’s leading diplomat told ABC News in February that the decision to put them on the list has always been political.

“People are in disbelief every time they realize that Cuba has been included in the list of so called state-sponsors of terrorism,” Josefina Vidal told ABC News’ Jim Avila in an exclusive interview. “It has always been a political decision, not a decision based on real facts. Because it’s a fact of life, that from the territory of Cuba, terrorism has never been organized, financed, or executed or implemented toward any country in the world including the United States.”

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Spokane Schools Expel Students with Missing Vaccination Records

iStock/Thinkstock(SPOKANE, Wash.) — Parents in the Spokane, Washington, school district were warned this day would come. And now, the school district has kept its promise to pull all students from class who aren’t compliant with state vaccination laws.

As of Monday, nearly 1,000 students who either did not submit records proving their shots were current or did not sign an exemption waiver were expelled, Spokane school district spokesman Kevin Morrison told ABC News, adding that the numbers are not yet available for Tuesday.

Morrison said the school district had been calling and emailing parents since February to let them know about the upcoming expulsions. To help parents get their kids up to date and return to the classroom, the school district has been holding free vaccination clinics in various public schools, Morrison said. They also have made exemption waivers readily available for parents who don’t want their kids to get the shots, he said.

“This is about mandatory compliance with the law, not mandatory vaccination,” Morrison said, adding that in March parents received one final warning sent by certified mail.

Jim Young had to leave work to take his young son to one of the clinics after receiving a call Monday that his child had been removed from class. He immediately took his child to the school’s clinic so he could return to school, he said.

“Yeah, I got calls saying that they hadn’t got records yet,” he told ABC News affiliate KXLY in Spokane. “I showed up and they said if I come down here [to the clinic] and he can be done so I said ‘fine.’”

When the school leadership reviewed the district’s vaccination records early in the year, they found nearly 6 percent of the population — about 5,000 students — did not have complete vaccination records, Morrison said. Thanks to a relentless education campaign, Morrison said by the time Monday came, only 922 students were missing records.

One day after removing 143 kids from the classrooms, combined with those who complied on their own, that number has already been cut in half, he said.

Washington State has one of the highest vaccination exemption rates in the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records show. Nearly 5 percent of kindergartners opt out of at least one required vaccination. Spokane County’s rate is around 9 percent, more than triple its 1997 rate, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

While Spokane has not had any measles cases in the past several years, it did have a smattering of whooping cough cases last year. The minor outbreak was worrisome enough to prompt the school district officials to get their records in order, Morrison said.

In the event of a widespread outbreak, unvaccinated children will be asked to stay home from school for at least 21 days, Morrison said. This is a legal requirement in Washington and many other states, he pointed out.

“I want to thank our leadership for taking a real strong stand on this,” Morrison said. “We really needed a wakeup call to make sure if something did happen we are as prepared for it as we can be.”

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Retail Sales Jump Nearly 1% as Weather Warms

Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Retail sales are finally starting to thaw out now that spring is here.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales rose 0.9 percent in March after falling during the first two months of the year.

The increase was buoyed by jumps in both car sales and construction, 2.7 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. Purchases of furniture (up 1.4 percent) and clothing (up 1.2 percent) also helped.

“We’re finally seeing consumers emerge from their winter hibernation and spend on big ticket items like vehicles, furniture and appliance purchases. We also saw them get back out to the malls and walk the malls a bit, buy some new spring clothing, and go out to eat,” says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

“What they didn’t do is spend online or spend on food at the grocery store, which is a good sign actually, because it means we’re actually using that savings at the pump to spend on a little discretionary,” she adds.

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Al Qaeda Group Says Top Cleric Killed in Yemen

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Al Qaeda’s most lethal branch said on Tuesday that its top cleric, a man with a $5 million American bounty on his head, has been killed in Yemen, as the Arab nation falls deeper into chaos.

The group said in a statement posted online that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, also spelled al-Rubaish, was killed in a “crusader strike” over the weekend “after he spent almost two decades carrying out jihad against America and its agents.” The statement did not say who exactly al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) believed carried out the purported strike.

The U.S. has killed a number of high ranking AQAP leaders in recent years through targeted drone strikes, as part of its sustained counter-terrorism operations in the area. U.S. officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report.

Al-Rubaysh is described by the U.S. as a senior “sharia” official in AQAP who “provides the justification for attacks conducted by AQAP.” He is also accused of being the group’s “senior advisor for AQAP operational planning, and is involved in the planning of attacks.”

Al-Rubaysh was held in Guantanamo Bay prison from 2002 to 2006. AQAP said after he was released, he “quickly joined his brethren at AQAP.”

The spiritual leader appears to have played a similar role in AQAP as Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was a top cleric and recruiter in AQAP before he was killed in a CIA drone strike in September 2011. After his death, the U.S. said al-Awlaki too was involved in the terror group’s external operations.

Al-Rubaysh’s alleged death comes amid widespread violence in Yemen where Saudi Arabia is now leading an Arab coalition effort, supported by U.S. intelligence and logistical support, to repel a Houthi rebel assault against the remnants of Yemeni government forces.

Last week, the United Nations said the crisis was “getting worse by the hour.” In February, all U.S. government personnel left Yemen as the security situation deteriorated and the American embassy was closed.

AQAP, the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda, has been previously described by U.S. officials as the affiliate that posed the greatest threat to the American homeland.

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