Review Category : Top Stories

Space Elevator Could Be Rocket Alternative for Astronauts

Thoth Technology(PEMBROKE, Ontario) — A proposed space elevator stretching 12 miles into the stratosphere could cut out the need for rockets to shuttle astronauts into space, according to a proposal from a Canadian company.

It sounds like an idea out of a science fiction novel, but Thoth Technology has been granted a patent for an inflatable, pneumatically pressured tower stretching 12.5 miles high. The top of the so-called space elevator would serve as a liftoff point to space, potentially saving more than 30 percent of the fuel of a conventional rocket, according to the company.

“From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and reflight,” Brendan Quine, the inventor of the ThothX Tower, said in a statement.

By removing the need for the vertical launch of a rocket, energy can be saved, allowing space passengers to catch a horizontal flight, much like a passenger plane, from the top of the space elevator.

Aside from being a final stop for astronauts before heading out of this world, Quine wrote in a filing with the United States Patent Office that the tower could help with wind-energy generation, communications, scientific research and tourism.

While it’s just an idea for now, the patent moves it one step closer to potentially being another way to revolutionize space travel.

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Laverne Cox Says She Was ‘Intimidated’ to Work with Lily Tomlin in “Grandma”

Charles Sykes/Bravo(NEW YORK) — Lily Tomlin stars in the new movie comedy Grandma, playing Elle Reid, a self-described misanthrope who’s forced to face her past when her 18-year-old granddaughter comes to her for help.

Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox also stars in the film as a tattoo artist, who’s friends with Reid. Cox said it was a dream come true to work with Tomlin — although Cox was intimidated at first.

“I was so intimidated because she’s a legend,” she said on Monday’s Good Morning America. “And I walked onto set and she was so sweet and so approachable and a fan of my work, which is pretty amazing and it was just a delight. I could listen to her tell stories all day long.”

As for her role: “I love the idea of playing a tattoo artist,” Cox said. “I don’t have any tattoos myself, but I have known a lot of people who have and there’s something really interesting about the relationship that tattoo artists seem to have with the people they give tattoos, too. And there’s something ritualistic for people who get tattoos and I was really interested in that world.”

Ultimately, Cox says, Grandma is about family. “Most people can relate to having a family that’s a little dysfunctional, maybe very dysfunctional, but at the end of the day you’re there for each other,” she said.

Grandma, also starring Julia Garner and Judy Greer, is out Friday.

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Android M Is for Marshmallow: Sweet Details on Operating System Update

Android Developers Blog(NEW YORK) — It’s official — Android M is for Marshmallow.

The operating system update was first previewed at Google’s I/O conference in May, however the company kept its sweet name under wraps until this week, announcing the final preview of Android M, also known as Android 6.0, is ready for download for developers wishing to test their apps.

The consumer version will be available to the public sometime this fall, according to a blog post from Jamal Eason, Google’s product manager of Android.

“The preview images are near final but they are not intended for consumer use,” he wrote.

What makes Android M stand out from its predecessors (also named for desserts, including the most recent KitKat and Lollipop) are performance enhancements, including an easier way to find information in apps and updates to Google Now, the Android virtual personal assistant.

A power saving mode called Doze will help keep the system in a sleep-like state in order to conserve battery life. Another feature is an app’s permissions system, allowing users to approve or deny security settings for an app on a case-by-case experience.

Android Pay, Google’s newest answer to the mobile wallet, is also being supported in the update. Working with built-in fingerprint support in Android M, users will be able to use Near Field Communication readers in their phones to pay at certain retailers.

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Today on the Trail — 8/18/15

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Where will the 2016 presidential candidates be on Tuesday? Read below to find out their campaign schedules:

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

The Democratic candidates both are in Las Vegas Tuesday, again trying to woo labor. The AFL-CIO is a critical endorsement, and they will spend part of Tuesday trying to court them — behind closed doors.

Jeb Bush

The former Florida governor is talking national security in South Carolina on Tuesday.

Scott Walker

Scott Walker is giving a speech in Minneapolis Tuesday on how he will repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own plan.

At the Iowa State Fair

On the other side of the aisle, it’s another busy day for Republicans at the Iowa State Fair. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will both speak from the soapbox at 11 a.m. ET and 5 p.m. ET, respectively.

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Japan’s Largest Airline Announces Star Wars-Themed Planes

cwssandra/iStock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) — Japan’s largest airline announced that it will unveil two new Star Wars-themed planes in the coming months.

As part of an agreement with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd., All Nippon Airlines will boast planes that depict characters BB-8 and R2-D2 on their exteriors. The new planes will join a previously announced R2-D2 jet.

All Nippon Airlines first launched the Star Wars Project in April, saying they would also include in-flight decorations, including headrest covers, napkins and cups featuring characters from the franchise.

The airline will also exclusively offer all six currently released Star Wars films as part of its in-flight entertainment options.

The three jets will fly from Tokyo to cities including Vancouver, Seattle, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Sydney and Beijing. Additional routes could include flights to New York, Chicago and Houston, but the airline notes that routes are subject to change.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

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Footage of Suspect in Bangkok Bombing Emerges

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images(BANGKOK) — Authorities say they have found surveillance footage that shows a suspect in the bombing in Bangkok, Thailand on Monday.

The video, which was first aired by Thai news agency Thairath, shows a man in a yellow shirt with a black backpack walking through the crowd at the Erawan Shrine. He can be seen dropping the backpack onto a bench and departing.

The video’s time-stamp shows that it took place just about 20 minutes before an explosion that killed more than 20 people and injured at least 100 more.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Police said that no groups — including elements opposed to the military government — had yet been ruled out.

On Tuesday morning, a second explosion was captured on CCTV footage. Police said an explosive device was thrown from the Taksin Bridge near Sathorn Pier, but no one was injured.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok issued a security message to all Americans in the country, urging them to “maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

At least one person from the United Kingdom was killed in the Erawan Shrine attack on Monday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said. “The loss of life and injury in Bangkok is horrific and I condemn this callous act of violence against completely innocent and unsuspecting members of the public,” he said in a statement. The British victim was a resident of Hong Kong, according to Hammond.

British officials have offered asssitance to Thai authorities in their investigation.

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Lack of Sunblock Leaves Woman With Permanent Dark Facial Marks

Undated photos of Kaitlin Menza, 28, and two years later after a sunburn left her with permanent dark patches on her cheeks and forehead that are still visible. Courtesy Kaitlin Menza(NEW YORK) — Kaitlin Menza is fair-skinned and has always been careful when she’s out in the sun, wearing big hats and using lots of sunscreen.

One day she didn’t reapply sunblock and ended up with sunburn that wouldn’t fade. Weeks later, Menza had developed permanent dark patches on her cheeks and forehead that are still visible two years later.

Menza, a 28-year-old contributing editor with, wrote about her experience for the magazine.

The Brooklyn-based editor didn’t believe the sunburn was that bad, she wrote in the Aug. 4 article.

“I took the usual steps: cooling Aloe vera gel, extra moisturizer in the morning and at night, and sitting on my hands to keep from picking and peeling … Three weeks later, panic started to bubble up. The sunburn wasn’t going away at all,” she wrote. “In August, I was a bridesmaid and had to coat my face in foundation to even try to approximate an even skin tone. This step would soon become a normal part of my morning routine.”

Menza learned that she had melasma, a common disorder that causes discoloration of the skin.

Menza’s dermatologist, Dr. David Colbert, said his patient was an ideal candidate for the condition because she of her fair-skinned Irish complexion, her lack of sunblock that day and her being on a birth control pill.

“To have this damage is really embarrassing. It’s your face. It’s what people are looking at all day, so it’s been really tough,” Menza told ABC News.

There are products on the market to mask melasma damage.

“If you have some more specific dark spots or acne or scarring then you can apply some concealer right on the spots where you have that damage,” Joanna Douglas, Yahoo Beauty’s senior beauty editor, said.

Menza has tried a number of treatments but she’s still stuck with the discoloration.

“I was surprised that it only takes one day, one afternoon, one really bad sunburn to damage your skin,” she said.

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E-ZPass Toll Road Users Targeted in Email Scam

Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — People who use toll road transponders such as E-ZPass are being targeted in an email scam.

The emails claim, fraudulently, to involve outstanding toll bills.

AAA Mid-Atlantic Spokesman John Townsend received one of the emails. The email demanded an appearance for an unpaid toll.

“If you use E-ZPass, you would probably think you’ve gone through a toll booth or toll plaza and your transponder didn’t work,” Townsend said.

“They don’t really care who the victim is; they will go after an auto club and its members, or anyone who uses the E-ZPass,” he said.

The phishing scam casts a wide net, hoping to ensnare a couple of vulnerable users. The emails appear official, but when users click on an attachment to pay, the scammers can gain access to a user’s computer and personal information. A similar scam emerged last year.

“This is absolutely a classic phish, and what they bank on is sheer numbers, because they are sending spam email to literally millions of people,” said ABC News contributor Brad Garrett, a former FBI special agent.

Experts recommend avoiding unfamiliar emails that involve attachments or ask for personal information.

One way to avoid clicking on suspicious emails involves hovering over the sender’s email address and ensuring that the sender’s actual address matches up.

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Former Virginia Police Officer Charged with Second-Degree Murder for Role in 2013 Shooting

Vladstudioraw/iStock/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) — A former Virginia police officer was formally charged with second-degree murder on Monday in connection with the 2013 shooting of an unarmed man in the doorway of the man’s home.

Officer Adam Torres fatally shot John Geer following reports of a domestic dispute. Witnesses have said that Geer had his hands up when he was shot. Torres has previously told investigators that he believed Geer might have a weapon hidden in his waistband.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said that the he will “respect the decision of the special grand jury and its process.”

“We will move forward and do our best to make sure tragedy is the last resort of anything we have to do in a use of force situation,” Roessler added.

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Synthetic Identity Fraud: A New Kind of Costly ID Theft You’ve Never Heard Of

Tommy Maenhout/Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Identity theft has been an ever-growing problem, but authorities say there is a new twist on an old problem for us to worry about: Synthetic identity fraud.

“Synthetic identity fraud is when the fraudster uses one true piece of your identity… and then combines it with fake information, so perhaps a different name, a different date of birth,” said Eva Velasquez, the CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center.

By some reports, synthetic identity fraud now accounts for 85 percent of all identity fraud in the United States, costing an estimated $2 billion a year, according to investigators.

“The scope can vary and there are some very large fraud rings,” Velasquez said. “Particularly when they’re using online platforms, they can affect tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people.”

Investigators say that one form of synthetic identity fraud started with the sale of CPNs, or Credit Profile Numbers, by credit repair companies.

“A CPN is a multi-digit number that looks very similar to a social security number,” said Major Don Woodruff of the Duluth Police Department in Duluth, Georgia. “And it what’s given to people by these credit card repair companies for them to go out and open up new accounts.”

To see how it works, two ABC News Nightline producers visited one credit repair company in Baton Rouge undercover and posed as consumers, while they secretly filmed the meeting on hidden camera.

The owner offered to sell our producers a CPN, and said it was a replacement for a social security number. He also told them they could use it to open up new credit cards, after advising them to alter their addresses. This then creates a new profile in the eyes of credit card companies, now unable to link the customer with their old social security number and, presumably, bad credit.

The Electronic Transactions Association, a trade group made up of credit card issuing banks, says “consumers that choose to place one of these CPNs … (or another fake nine-digit number) on a credit application will be committing a federal crime, “ adding that “our member companies detect and deter crime everyday through security technology built to prevent fraud and insulate consumers from liability.”

When asking about CPNs, the owner told our producers, “We build them.”

“We go into the system, we apply for this new credit profile through the Social Security Administration,” he said.

For a fee of $350, he told our producers he would sell them a CPN, but there was a catch, saying, “You use an address that you’ve never stayed at before, because any address you’ve stayed at is associated to your personal credit.”

“It’s 100 percent legal, we go to the FBI,” the owner continued. “I always tell people to go and do your research, go do your research. Some people say CPNs are illegal. The only reason they say they’re illegal because a lot of stuff comes up as fraud because a lot of people don’t know how to use them.”

But the Social Security Administration told ABC News that under no circumstances do they issue CPNs. Robert Feldt, an agent with the SSA also added that “despite what many of these credit repair websites imply… CPNs are not legal.”

The FBI also confirmed to Nightline that they do not issue CPNs and know of no government agencies that do, which leads to questions about what so-called “CPNs” actually are.

“CPNS are basically just numbers that are sometimes made up,” said Major Don Woodruff. “It could be that they give you a CPN that is actually is a social security number of someone that’s not you.”

Authorities say social security numbers that have not yet been issued to anyone can be found through flaws in certain government websites, and that synthetic identity fraud can go undetected because credit card companies rarely investigate to see if the number and the person’s name match when someone goes to open new credit.

“When the credit card companies are assuming the liability of these fraudulent charges, they do have to recoup that money in some way,” Eva Velasquez said. “That generally translates into higher fees and higher interest rates.”

When Nightline confronted the owner, he told us he gets the CPNs legally from an independent agency and has done nothing wrong.

To prevent falling prey to synthetic identity fraud, Velasquez said people should be on the lookout for red flags.

“When they are looking to do business with a company, they should do their homework, and look to third party verification services, such as the Better Business Bureau,” she said. “We always say anybody that’s offering an immediate clean up and immediate fix, that’s a big red flag.”

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