Review Category : Top Stories

Sony Pictures Plans Town Hall as Hackers Promise ‘Christmas Gift to Come’

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton is holding a town hall meeting with employees Monday over the company’s leaked emails.

The California meeting comes after a recent attack by hackers calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” with the group releasing additional email correspondence and data, and promising a “Christmas gift to come.” The FBI is now reportedly advising employees on how to manage the leak of their personal information.

Co-editor in chief Andrew Wallenstein of Variety said the release of stolen files puts Sony Pictures in a compromised state.

“It’s hard to believe they could be bracing for much worse, but I’ll bet you, they are,” Wallenstein said.

In the latest round of embarrassing leaks, an early version of the top-secret script to the newest James Bond movie, Spectre, was stolen as filming was set to begin, which Wallenstein says could prove expensive.

“It could cost up to $100 million just to clean up the mess that these leaks are causing,” Wallenstein said.

The flood of stolen data covers everything from Social Security numbers to salaries. New reports claim emails show two Sony executives mocking Will Smith’s children, Jaden and Willow. Another exchange bashes Leonardo DiCaprio, calling him “despicable” for pulling out of the Steve Jobs biopic, while another leaked exchange features a Sony executive supporting a sensitive George Clooney, upset by bad reviews of The Monuments Men.

Sony launched a counterattack to the cyberwar, sending a letter to news organizations, including ABC News, asking them to delete and avoid publishing what it calls “stolen information.”

In its letter, Sony says the hackers are “explicitly seeking to prevent” the studio from releasing the upcoming movie The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogan. The satirical movie, which features a fictitious assassination plot against North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, is set for release Christmas Day.

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Sydney Hostage Crisis: At Least 12 People Flee Lindt Chocolate Shop, Standoff Continues

Daniel Munoz/Getty Images(SYDNEY) — Up to seven new hostages have been seen fleeing the Lindt chocolate shop, meaning that there are believed to be 12 people who have emerged from the cafe since a man took control of the shop on Monday morning local time.

Police were seen storming the cafe on local TV, with explosions heard.

The new wave of hostages emerging from the shop comes shortly after the suspect was identified as Man Monis, according to Australian news reports.

Monis is believed to be a self-proclaimed Islamic “sheikh” who is known to Australian police because he was allegedly involved in dozens of counts of sexual assault, according to Australia’s 9News.

He was born in Iran as Manteghi Bourjerdi and migrated to Australia in 1996, according to the station.

Two people inside the cafe were seen holding up a flag with Arabic writing on it that has been used by extremists in the past — raising fears that a terror attack was unfolding in Australia’s largest city.

Video also emerged early in the standoff showing people being held inside the shop with their hands held in the air.

The first three people who fled sprinted out of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe about six hours into the standoff, while two women — wearing aprons — frantically ran from a side exit and into the arms of heavily-armed SWAT team police officers waiting outside.

At the same time, media personalities said they received calls from hostages during the standoff.

It is unclear exactly how many people remain inside the cafe.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, speaking at a news conference as the situation stretched into the night, said authorities remain committed on ensuring that the hostages are safely released.

“We have the very best negotiators in the world on the job,” Scipione said.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said people should proceed as usual on Tuesday morning, but should work from home if their offices are located within an exclusion zone near the standoff.

Police negotiators have been in contact with the armed hostage-taker, but the motive remains unclear, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said.

Burn said authorities are monitoring all forms of communication, including social media, for any information that might help resolve the standoff.

Earlier in the day, Scipione said there is at least one armed person holding the hostages in the cafe, who have been kept there against their will since 9:30 a.m. local time on Monday.

In a statement on Facebook, Lindt said, “We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and kind support over the current situation at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place. We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families. The matter is being dealt with by the authorities and we are waiting for any updates from them.”

Meanwhile, Muslim leaders in Australia condemned the attack on Facebook, saying they “condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam.”

“We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a news conference earlier in the day. “We don’t know that this is politically motivated although there is some indications that it could be. We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm.”

Several nearby offices were evacuated as a precaution, police said.

The State Department said the nearby U.S. consulate was evacuated.

People inside buildings in the neighboring streets were directed to remain indoors and stay away from open windows.

“There’s a real sense of alertness, awareness and a bit of shock to be honest,” said Lisa Martin, who works in an office nearby the cafe and was in lockdown. “To know that there are so many people just having coffee and a chocolate are now in a hostage situation is really sobering.”

Abbott, the prime minister, said the country’s National Security Committee of Cabinet has convened for briefings on the situation.

“This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner,” he said.

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Year In Review: Marathon Announces Major Expansion

12/15/14 – 5:30 A.M.

We begin our look back at 2014 in Findlay and Hancock County today, with a look at an announcement that promised to be a big economic driver for the community. On February 3, Marathon Petroleum announced a major expansion in downtown Findlay.

Audio: Gary Heminger

Marathon CEO Gary Heminger said many locations were scouted for a permanent home for MPLX, but ultimately the decision was made to keep it in Findlay. Heminger added he believed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was committed to solving the flooding problems in Findlay, making it desirable to stay here…

Audio: Gary Heminger

The new buildings announced by Marathon in February included a new office complex for MPLX, two new parking garages, and the potential for a new hotel in downtown.

Construction on the parking garage at the corner of Sandusky and East Street began in the spring. Completion of the entire project is expected to take up to three years.

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Aussie Uber Riders Blast Service for Exorbitant Rates During Hostage Crisis

David Ramos/Getty Images(SYDNEY) — The app-based ride service Uber was blasted online early Monday morning after reports from Sydney, Australia, indicated that the company’s drivers were charging a minimum of $100 to escape the armed hostage crisis in the city’s business district.

One business executive sent Mashable screenshots of the Uber app that showed the company was charging up to four times the normal rate because “demand is off the charts.”

After a firestorm erupted on social media, Uber released a statement saying, “We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney. Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely.”

The company said it will reimburse passengers who had been charged extra during the time when the surge pricing was in place, but added that the higher rates were still in place “to encourage more drivers to come online and pick passengers up from the area.”

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Sydney Hostage Crisis: Hostages Share Gunman’s Demands in Chilling Phone Calls

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images(SYDNEY) — Media personalities in Australia say they received calls Monday from hostages in the Sydney cafe standoff.

Ray Hadley was hosting his radio show on Australia’s 2GB station when he says a hostage called in on his show’s open line. Hadley did not put the hostage on-air live — worried about the risks — but says he spoke to the hostage in four conversations before police negotiators took over.

“I could hear the hostage-taker in the background issuing instructions to him on what to request me to say on air,” Hadley told ABC News.

With the armed gunman nearby, the hostage couldn’t say much over the phone, especially nothing negative, Hadley recalled.

After speaking with the male hostage, Hadley consulted with police. A negotiator eventually arrived to his studio, picking up the conversation.

Other hostages, meanwhile, spoke off-air to the negotiator, Hadley said.

Hadley says the situation became “heart-wrenching” when a mother called into his show, saying her 18-year-old son was being held hostage inside the café.

“She was in a situation where she was feeling terribly bad for the hostages, and then she suddenly realized her own boy was inside there, being held hostage,” Hadley said.

Mark Burrows, a reporter with 9 News Australia, said he also spoke with two hostages who called his newsroom directly.

“The first one, as I spoke to her, the gunman was actually reeling his demands through her, a long list of demands,” Burrows said. “I think No. 1 was that he wanted to speak to someone with authority, but mainly the prime minister, and there were quite a few other of those demands.”

“I asked her whether she was OK, she seemed reasonably relaxed.”

About an hour later, another hostage called, Burrows said, with the second hostage in a more “agitated” state.

“Again she had the gunman hovering over her, making these demands through her,” Burrows said. “That lady was far more anxious, far more agitated, because she got the feeling nothing was being done, but that’s not the case.”

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The Mall Matters to Millennials

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Being online is second nature for today’s millennials, but online shopping for the 16- to 26-year-old female segment apparently takes a backseat to the mall when it comes to finding holiday gifts.

According to a new survey by Teen Vogue, 65 percent of 16- to 26-year-old females have done or will do the majority of their holiday shopping in brick-and-mortar stores compared to 35 percent who will shop online.

The number-one reason for going to the mall rather than shopping online is the respondents like to see the products that they’re thinking about buying in person. The second-biggest reason for choosing the mall over online is the girls want to hang out with their friends.

The top three reasons millennials look forward to spending time at the mall during the holidays are:

  • Store decorations and window displays – 75 percent
  • The music – 53 percent
  • Collecting festive shopping bags – 46 percent

Respondents expect to spend an average of $287 during the holiday season on the five friends and family they’ll buy for, and on themselves.

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Three Escaped Alabama Inmates Captured by US Marshals

Pictured from left to right: Justin Terrell Gordon, Demarcus Woodard and Gemayel Culbert. (Choctaw County Jail)(BUTLER, Ala.) — The three inmates who escaped from a rural Alabama jail on Saturday have all been recaptured.

The U.S Marshals Service says Demarcus Woodard, 23, Justin Gordon, 23, and Gemayel Culbert, 32, are all back behind bars after escaping from the county jail in Butler City after overpowering a guard.

Gordon, who was in jail on charges of burglary, arson and armed robbery, was captured less than 24 hours later in Tuscaloosa, about an hour and a half away from the jail, said U.S. Marshal Sixto Boyer.

Culbert, who was in jail accused of murder, was captured Sunday at a family member’s house in Bellamy, Alabama, said Boyer.

Woodard, who was also in jail on capital murder charges, was apprehended Sunday night at an apartment in Tuscaloosa, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Choctaw County Sheriff Tom Abate said the guard was lured into a cell after one of the men appeared to be vomiting. After entering the cell, the jailer was attacked by the inmates and had his keys and cellphone stolen. Two of the inmates wrapped a towel around the jailer’s face and sprayed it with Lysol and fled after the jailer became unconscious.

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Sydney Hostage Situation: 5 People Flee Lindt Chocolate Shop

ABC News RadioFive people have fled from a Sydney cafe after they were taken hostage — with others still held inside as neighboring blocks remain locked down as police tried to make contact with the armed perpetrator, authorities said.

The hostages were being held in the Lindt Chocolat Café, a chocolate shop and cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, the city’s financial district where the Reserve Bank of Australia and several commercial banks have their main offices. The area is also close to the New South Wales state parliament.

Two women wearing Lindt Cafe aprons were seen running out of the building’s side door.

Earlier, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn confirmed that three other people had gotten away.

“The first thing we will do is make sure they are OK and then we will work with these people to find out some more information,” Burn said. “Our No. 1 aim is to resolve this incident peacefully.”

Police negotiators are in contact with the armed hostage-taker, but the motive remains unclear, Burn said.

Earlier in the day, video emerged showing people being held inside the shop with their hands held in the air. Two women were also seen inside the cafe holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said there is at least one armed person holding an undisclosed number of hostages in the cafe. Police have not yet had contact with the hostage-taker, he said, adding that the situation began Monday at 9:45 a.m. local time.

In a statement on Facebook, Lindt said, “We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and kind support over the current situation at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place. We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families. The matter is being dealt with by the authorities and we are waiting for any updates from them.”

They are also looking at the flag the hostages have been pictured holding. Scipione also said police have not yet confirmed it is a terrorism event, but they are acting in a manner consistent with a terror attack.

“We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a news conference earlier in the day. “We don’t know that this is politically motivated, although there is some indications that it could be. We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm.”

Several nearby offices were evacuated as a precaution, police said. People in buildings in the neighboring streets were directed to remain indoors and stay away from open windows.

“There’s a real sense of alertness, awareness, and a bit of shock to be honest,” said Lisa Martin, who works in an office nearby the cafe and was in lockdown. “To know that there are so many people just having coffee and a chocolate are now in a hostage situation is really sobering.”

Earlier, video that aired on Channel 9 Australia showed police with weapons drawn, their attention focused on the cafe. Police said emergency services had responded and streets around the area had been closed.

“New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney,” Abbott said.

He said the National Security Committee of Cabinet has convened for briefings on the situation.

“This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner,” he said.

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Hostage Situation in Sydney Financial District

ABC News RadioA police operation is under way in downtown Sydney, Australia, where several people are being held hostage in a cafe, police said.

New South Wales Police said there was also an operation at the Sydney Opera House.

The hostages were being held in the Lindt Chocolat Café, a chocolate shop and cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, the city’s financial district where the Reserve Bank of Australia and several commercial banks have their main offices. The area is also close to the New South Wales state parliament.

Police would not say how many hostages were being held inside the cafe, how many suspects might be inside and how they might be armed.

Some of those being held could be seen through the shop’s windows with their hands held in the air.

Two people were also seen inside the cafe holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it.

Video aired on Channel 9 Australia showed police with weapons drawn, their attention focused on the cafe.

Police said emergency services had responded and streets around the area had been closed.

Some nearby offices were evacuated as a precaution, police said. People in buildings in the neighboring streets were directed to remain indoors and stay away from open windows.

“New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

He said the National Security Committee of Cabinet has convened for briefings on the situation.

“This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner,” he said.

New South Wales police confirm to ABC News that they were responding to an incident at the Sydney Opera House. They said the situation is ongoing.

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Sen. Schumer Calls for Probe into Why Airfares Aren’t Dropping

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Sen. Charles Schumer wants to know why airfares aren’t dropping along with the price of fuel.

“With oil prices going way down, why aren’t consumers getting the benefit and seeing ticket prices go down, when instead, they’re still going up?” Schumer, D-N.Y., asked during a news conference Sunday.

To get some answers, he is calling for a federal investigation.

“There are many, many questions that demand answers, and today we are demanding those answers — quick answers — from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice,” the senator said.

Schumer said the situation is a “lose-lose for consumers, and it’s just not fair.”

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