Business Headlines
Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The Sisters of the Valley, a group of self-styled "weed nuns," are putting their faith in the healing power of cannabis.

Despite their moniker, this nonreligious sorority of radical feminists resides in Northern California farm country. The women grow cannabis on the sun-drenched property, tucked among vineyards and apple orchards. They use a strain of marijuana that eliminates THC, but still contains CBD (cannabidiol), which is touted for its healing properties.

"It's considered hemp because it won't get anybody high, but it's really marijuana," said “Sister Kate," whose real name is Christine Meeusen. "It's medical marijuana, but just like over the years they've been able to develop strains that get you super high. We've also developed strains that don't get you high at all."

The Sisters of the Valley sell products for various ailments including insomnia, arthritis and anxiety. Their top seller is a tropical salve that soothes achy joints. That product alone rakes in $3,000 per day, according to Meeusen.

A few of the women live on the compound, and six of them work on the cannabis business, along with two "Brothers."

"We do need men and we don't want to be exclusive of the men," Meeusen said. "We just want the women to own the businesses and hold all the offices in town."

Meeusen is the matriarch-in-chief at the Sisters of the Valley. The divorced, former marketing consultant raised two children and said she had to start from scratch after her marriage came apart. She said her company grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement and a desire among her and her peers to build their own commune in an environment that allows for "healthy socialism."

"We believe in paying taxes," she said. "We believe quite frankly that America's culture of starving the tax system is wrong, it's morally wrong. Most of us have lived in other places where the tax system actually works."

Meeusen said she lived and raised her children in the Netherlands, which has universal health care.

"Fifty percent of income [in the Netherlands] is paid in taxes," she told "Nightline."

"But guess what? They never pay a hospital bill. They never worry about their retirement or being homeless," she said. "So yes we are very very for a reasonable sort of socialism and that is paying your taxes and taking care of the marginalized."

Unaffiliated with any church, the Sisters of the Valley wear habits around the property, but Meeusen said she doesn't feel like they are making a mockery of religion.

"Religion [has] made a mockery of itself," she said. "We didn't have to help them."

Sister Sierra, aka Sierra Walker, said that this group of women who live, work and pray together "are truly sisters, truly nuns" in that definition.

"We give our hearts and our minds and our souls to what we are doing here," she said. "And I think that we're doing a good job," she said. "I think we're doing a marvelous job, and I think the revival that we needed in our world."

Walker said she is a new acolyte to the group.

"I think as I grew older I came to see things differently and cannabis has been very much on my heart as a healing," she said.

Meeusen added that they all took vows to live simply which she explained is different from a vow of poverty like traditional nuns.

"We do take six vows, we take vows service, of activism, about chastity which requires privatizing our sexuality," Meeusen said. "It doesn't require being celibate but it does require keeping it very private off the grid. We have a vow of living simply which -- speaks for itself."

The sisters said they produce a line of "medical-grade products" on the farm that requires them to wear headgear while handling the crops and oils for hygiene purposes. While they do grow their own cannabis, the sisters also ship in some product from Oregon.

"Generally, people use CBD for chronic pain, also it’s good for insomnia, anxiety, depression," said Sister Alice, aka Alice Fullerton.

CBD products have grown in popularity more recently and are now widely available in 31 states that have public medical marijuana and cannabis programs.

Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.

There are even coffee shops in Los Angeles and New York City that offer droplets of CBD product. According to Forbes, Coca-Cola is also considering adding a CBD beverage.

The booming realm of hemp-derived products is expected to be a $2 billion industry by 2022, according to new data from New Frontier Data.

The Sisters of the Valley said they raked in $1.1 million in profits last year.

"With a just distribution of Mother Earth’s gifts, no one has to live in poverty," Meeusen said. "We're activists for the $15 minimum wage. We're not going to invest our money in ostentatious wealth when we could be creating jobs for other women. That's the goal."

When they aren't making their producers, the Sisters of the Valley live as others do. They surf the Internet, watch YouTube videos and smoke the occasional afternoon joint.

The women said their lives are not dedicated to the herb, but to the idea of sisterhood -- a women-owned and operated business that nurtures others as well.

"We are on a mission to empower women to be their best spiritually, to be their best as an activist and to be in service to their own people and the planet," Meeusen said.

"So we're out to inspire women."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Facebook allows employers to discriminate against women by targeting job listings toward men only — specifically in traditionally male-dominated fields, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU, along with employment law firm Outten & Golden and the Communications Workers of America, filed charges on Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and 10 companies, claiming that they discriminated based gender.

But how does that work?

“We discovered Facebook was allowing advertisers to select the gender of the user it wants to reach and that violates federal law,” ACLU lawyer Galen Sherwin told ABC News on Wednesday. “When you make an ad on Facebook, it allows you to choose whether to target ‘All,’ ‘Men’ or ‘Women.’ Two out of three of those are illegal choices in the context of an employment ad.”

Sherwin noted that the ads referenced in the EEOC complaint are for professions usually dominated by men, such as construction, security, installation and truck driving.

“It’s insidious because it perpetuates the exclusion of women from those jobs," she said. "If you click on the ad, it takes you to the company’s Facebook page, which lists all of their other jobs. But women don’t get the chance to click through and see all of the ads.”

Facebook has had to defend its targeted ads on several fronts recently. Earlier this year, it disclosed that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica misused data from up to 87 million of the company's users.

Then in August, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lodged a complaint that the company allowed ads on the platform to discriminate based on “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.” The complaint follows years of reporting by Propublica and other media groups.

“There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year, we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse. We are reviewing the complaint and look forward to defending our practices,” Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

The company recently removed over 5,000 options to exclude audiences based on ethnicity or religion, Osborne said. The platform is moving toward requiring advertisers to comply with its anti-discrimination policies and the law, he added.

The ACLU complaint documents how specifically tailored the ads can be. In one screenshot, possible categories were: “Bad Moms, Single Dads, Single Moms, Soccer mom and Working Moms.”

Facebook itself was also charged with gender discrimination in its own hiring practices. The ACLU criticized job ads for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, for using the company's "Lookalike Audience" feature, calling it "legally indistinguishable from word-of-mouth hiring, which has long been considered a discriminatory and unlawful employment practice," according to the EEOC complaint.

Other employers who had charges filed against them denied gender discrimination.

Software company Abas USA called the claims “false and reckless” in a statement.

“We did not use targeted Facebook ads to exclude women. Just the opposite. We used a targeted ad in Facebook to specifically include women,” the statement said. The company included the ad, which pictured a woman. “Simultaneously, with the ad targeted toward women, because Abas USA is an equal opportunity employer, we ran the following ad targeted toward men with identical text and link but with a picture of a man.”

The Greensboro Police Department, which was also charged with gender discrimination, issued a statement saying, “Facebook is one channel of an extensive recruiting strategy for the Greensboro Police Department. We are committed to seeking and hiring an inclusive and diverse workforce. We adhere to our city’s policy of diversity and inclusion.”

The City of Greensboro also issued a statement in response. “The City of Greensboro is an equal opportunity employer that seeks to have a diverse workforce, reflective of the community it serves. This organization uses multiple techniques to broaden opportunities for applying and encourages diversity within our workforce. We will not accept generalized accusations that represent anything less than that.”

Another company brought before the EEOC, window replacement company Andersen Corporation, issued a statement saying, "Our primary focus is to build the most talented and most dedicated team in the industry, regardless of who those folks might be, so that we can best serve our customers. In regards to the filing with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we are an equal opportunity employer, and we are proud of the diversity of our workforce. We will not be commenting on specifics of this case."

Messaging in ads can work both ways in fields long considered a province for men.

Elizabeth Skidmore, a carpenter and spokeswoman for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, which isn't involved in the case, said the union had targeted women in job postings by showing images of women working in construction sites on social media posts and job sites. As a result, she said, the number of female construction apprentices has tripled in Massachusetts since 2012.

"It does matter what the ads look like, what the images are, and the words that they use," Skidmore said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

United Airlines(NEW YORK) -- Airline passengers crowding around the gate, waiting for their group to be called, has plagued the flight boarding process for a long time. But United Airlines believes its new, simplified approach to boarding will help alleviate the problem.

The idea began about a year ago when an increasing number of customers complained about time spent standing in line and congested boarding areas, United's Maria Walter, managing director of global operations strategy, told ABC News.

"We didn't want people to feel stress or anxiety before they board," Walter said, adding that customers getting off the previous flight and passengers with disabilities were especially affected by people swarming the gate.

So United scrapped the airline's previous method of diverting passengers into 5 separate lines before boarding. It will continue to have several different groups of passengers, but the number of lines that those passengers wait in will be reduced to two, decreasing the time that people will stand in line before their group is called to board.

While one group boards, the group boarding next will be asked to line up. All other groups will be asked to remain seated. United claims the two-line system will free up space around the gate, and reduce time spent standing in line.

The airline hopes that people in later groups, such as 4 or 5, may spend about 30 minutes less time standing in line during the new process, Walter told ABC News.

United first tested the new system earlier this year with select flights out of certain airports including LAX, Chicago O’Hare, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Like other carriers, the first people to board on United flights are disabled passengers, active military, families with young children, and those who have a high status within the airline. Following that "pre-boarding" group is Group 1, made up of first and business class passengers. Group 2 includes United credit-card holders, passengers with moderate status within the airline, and anyone who purchased priority boarding. Groups 3 and 4 are Economy customers. Basic Economy customers board last.

The airline says the time it takes to board the entire plane isn't necessarily reduced under the new method. Instead, the new system is designed to simply cut down on time that passengers have to stand in line.

This latest adjustment from United reflects an ever-changing landscape of airline boarding processes. American and Delta changed their boarding process last year, and Southwest changed their boarding process in 2007. But none of these changes have eliminated people's habit of hovering around the gate before their group is called.

Reducing overall boarding time has long been a struggle for the airline industry. The various levels of passenger status and more passengers with carry-on bags are among the many reasons boarding is slower now than it has been in previous decades.

Low-cost airlines, such as Spirit, claim faster boarding times because of additional fees on carry-ons that deter customers from bringing bags on board. More customers spending time pushing suitcases into the overhead bins means delays for passengers getting into their seats.

Airlines will continue to work on improving the boarding process, but until they do away with things like carry-on luggage allowances, frequent flyer statuses, and small overhead bins, it’s impossible to create a perfect process.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Tesla shares tumbled on Tuesday amid reports of a potential criminal probe over its chief executive officer's statements about taking the company private.

The electric carmaker said it agreed to hand over documents to the Department of Justice in connection with CEO Elon Musk's tweets about taking the publicly traded company private last month, according to a company statement.

Tesla said it was cooperating with the government, but noted that it had not received a subpoena, a request for testimony or any other formal process.

“Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” the company said. "We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

Shares tumbled as much as 7 percent on Tuesday afternoon as investors reacted to the news. The stock closed at $284.89 per share, or about 3.4 percent lower.

Tesla issued the statement after Bloomberg reported, citing two anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter, that the DOJ had opened a criminal fraud investigation over Musk’s Aug. 7 tweets. The investigation is in its early stages and could take months, according to the report.

The company is also at the center of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe into the firm’s practices and communications, according to Bloomberg.

Shares rose as much as 11 percent on Aug. 7 in the wake of Musk's now-infamous tweet.

"Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured," he tweeted.

"Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote," he added in a subsequent tweet, before abandoning the plan.

The scope of the DOJ’s investigation is still unclear, but Stephen Crimmins, a former deputy chief of litigation for the SEC, says Musk’s conduct probably doesn't rise to the criminal level.

"It automatically becomes so high profile that the government enforcers have to be particularly conscientious in taking a look at things," Crimmins told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Crimmins, who spent 14 years at the SEC, said while Musk “speaks loosely,” federal prosecutors would have to prove that he lied in an effort to impact the company’s stock price.

That would be difficult to do, he said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Mickey Mouse is turning 90 this year! For his big birthday, the chief mouse doesn't just get a basic birthday cake. He gets his very own custom Oreos, of course!

Disney teamed up with milk's favorite cookie, Oreo, to mark the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse with limited-edition birthday cake-flavored Oreos.

There are three different Mickey Mouse-themed designs on top of the wafers: a party horn, a big 90 in honor of this major milestone and Mickey Mouse himself, of course.

The release of the Mickey Mouse Oreo is just one of the ways in which Disney is celebrating Mickey's 90th, including gourmet candy collaborations and an interactive art exhibit.

The Mickey Mouse Oreos will be available nationwide starting Sept. 24 while supplies last.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Peter Timmullstein bild via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Following an interview given by a former "Sesame Street" writer who said he wrote the beloved characters Bert and Ernie as if they were gay, the show has said otherwise.

"Sesame Street" on Tuesday tweeted, "As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves."

Focusing specifically on their orientation, the statement continued, "Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics ... they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."

The response from the show comes two days after Mark Saltzman, who is openly gay, spoke to Queerty about his own coming-out story, and the iconic duo came up. Saltzman was a writer on the show from 1985 to 1998.

"I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked, 'Are Bert and Ernie lovers?' And that, coming from a preschooler was fun," he said. "And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were. I didn't have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie [his partner] and I as 'Bert and Ernie.'"

When referencing "Arnie," the writer was talking about Arnold Glassman, his partner of 20 years before he died in 2003.

Saltzman continued, "Yeah, I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And Arnie as a film editor -- if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn't that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert and Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to 'Sesame Street.' So I don't think I'd know how else to write them but as a loving couple."

He admitted he never told the head writer he was writing the characters this way, adding, "there's not a Bert and Ernie float in the Pride Parade."

And while a 2013 New Yorker cover suggested the pair were gay, the show released a similar statement at the time, once again saying puppets don't have a sexual orientation.

Still, Saltzman added, "The New Yorker cover was kind of vindication."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Level Airlines(NEW YORK) -- When Erin Levi booked a $179 one-way flight to Paris on Level airlines for a friend's wedding a few weeks ago, she joked that it was too good to be true. It was.

When the travel writer arrived at Newark Airport on Sept. 9, she couldn't find her gate -- it was as if her flight didn’t exist.

Levi, 35, had entered her information into the airline's website to check in hours earlier. She had run into an error message while trying to choose a seat but otherwise hadn't noticed anything unusual. Unbeknownst to her, Level's launch of its Newark to Paris service had been delayed until Sept. 18, information that never appeared on the company's website.

"My flight doesn't exist!" she texted her friends from the airport. "Airline hasn't started transatlantic operations apparently!"

At the airport, Levi couldn't find a counter or an agent for Level, so she double-checked her ticket. It read "OpenSkies," a boutique airline operated by British Airways. So she headed to their counter. It was there, she said, she was told Level had delayed launching the Newark to Paris route and was given a number to call.

By that point, though, it was past midnight, and no one was answering the airline's hotline. So Levi bought a new ticket on Wow airlines, hoping to be reimbursed for the $319.98 she paid for the last-minute seat.

"I've traveled to over 40 countries -- even on a handwritten ticket to Uzbekistan -- and this has never happened before," Levi told ABC News.

A 'prudent decision' to postpone flights

But Levi is far from alone. Some Level customers said they never received emails saying that their flights had been canceled, or found out only upon arriving at the airport and being handed a sheet of paper. Others received emails that went to junk mail. Almost everyone ABC News spoke to said the company should have updated their website to reflect the change in business plans or cancellations.

Level is owned by International Airlines Group, the European parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia Airlines. It is among the latest low-cost, long-haul carriers to begin offering transatlantic flights, joining a market served by companies including Wow, Primera Air, XL Airways, Norwegian and Air France subsidiary Joon. As these discount airlines have fought to compete amid widespread industry consolidation, corners have been cut -- and customers are often the ones who are most impacted.

To its credit, Level has been forthright about its recent mistakes.

"Indeed, on August 20th, we took the prudent decision to postpone by two weeks the launch of our operations between Paris and New York, planned for September 4th, for operational reasons," Hugo Trac, Level’s communications and marketing manager, wrote in an email to ABC News. "Customers impacted by this launch delay have been alerted by email, sent to [the] address registered in their booking (or to the travel agency that did the booking)."

"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused and delay to our passengers’ travel plans,” Trac said, adding that the airline is offering a full refund for tickets and rebooking on an alternative flights for alternative dates.

But sometimes, alternative dates aren't possible: Levi was heading to Europe for a wedding and needed to be there. She said that although she had received a confirmation email from the airline when she booked her flight, she never received an email about the cancellation. Other customers told ABC News they also showed up at the airport to find their flights were canceled. Some passengers said they did receive cancellation messages before setting off for their flights, but the notices were still so last minute they had to abruptly change vacation plans and spend much more than they'd budgeted.

'A stupid reason not to pay'

Florian Duval received an email 15 days before his trip from Paris to New York that his flight had been canceled -- but the email went to junk mail, so he didn’t see it right away. He bought a last-minute XL Airways round-trip flight for 345 Euros, about $403, roughly $134 more than his original ticket.

Duval said he was struck by the confusion of his fellow passengers as they fought to get their tickets refunded.

"Seeing that many people are affected by cancellations, and we are very poorly informed, I decided to create the Facebook group. And, above all, recommend everyone around me to never ever fly with Iberia-Level!" he said.

The closed group Vols annulés Septembre [Canceled flights September] 2018 [Iberia via Level via OpenSkies] had 50 members as of Monday who said they were trying to get refunds from the company for their botched flights. Duval recently got a refund for his flight.

Other passengers have united on social media, too. Passengers from canceled flights on Level's Montreal to Paris route have been extremely active and formed two Facebook groups: LEVEL vol annulé du 06/08 [Level canceled flights of June 8], which has more than a hundred members, and Level vol annulé 16 juillet 2018 [Level canceled flights July 16], which has nearly 200 members.

Neela Parsnani said her Level flight from Montreal to Paris was canceled after passengers boarded for an hour. The passengers were shuttled to a hotel and promised dinner, but the restaurant was out of food, and her children went to bed after eating peanuts from the bar. Parsnani said she wasted vacation days sorting out re-routed flights and was forced to fork out for last-minute tickets from Montreal, cabs, meals and other expenses.

When she went to get her refund from Level, she said she was asked to send several rounds of documentation to the company and jump through other hoops.

"There's always a stupid reason not to pay us. At one point, I had to send my children's birth certificates. The communication with them is awful. They're amateurs," Parsnani told ABC News.

Parsnani is now on a WhatsApp chat group with about 100 members from her canceled flight who share tips on getting refunds, she said.

Confusion over who to call

Similarly, Level's inaugural Martinique-Paris service was also delayed.

"For same reasons as Newark, our operations to Martinique have been postponed, too," Trac wrote in his email to ABC. "First flight to/from Martinique was originally planned on September 3rd. It will now starts on October 1st."

Yet as of Tuesday, the website said flights to and from Martinique would launch in September.

Part of the problem echoed throughout the Facebook groups and interviews with more than a dozen stranded passengers is that the different operating companies add to the confusion. Some people booked their tickets on the Iberia Airlines website, some booked through Level's site and some booked through third-party sites like Expedia. Others passengers' tickets were issued through OpenSkies.

But Level maintains that it has notified customers.

"We applied the same process in terms of passengers' option[s] for both Newark and Martinique. An email has been sent to [the] passenger's email address filed in the booking details (or email [for] travel agencies if booking [was] done by them, as they are in charge of advising their clients). In communications sent to clients, [it] was mentioned that customers who purchased through a travel agency should claim a refund through the agency directly; customers who purchased through should contact Iberia for a refund and customers who purchased on claim a refund from Level directly," Trac wrote. "Our customer service is dealing with each request and every client will get an answer from our service."

When asked whether Level had been overly ambitious and launched transatlantic service before it was ready, Trac wrote: "We offer transatlantic service with Level from Paris to Montreal and Guadeloupe since July 2nd. We needed to ensure the robustness of our schedule before we launch these additional routes (Martinique and Newark), which is why we took the prudent decision to delay their start."

'Desperate to find a way home'

Pablo Ferreiro-Mazón, an architect from Galicia, Spain, learned this the hard way. He was already on vacation with his wife and son in the Caribbean. The family planned to island hop, so he booked an Aug. 17 Level flight from Paris to Guadeloupe, a route launched by Level in July. They booked a return to Paris from Martinique, Level’s new route, for Sept. 3. On Aug. 21, he received an email from the airline stating that their flights were canceled.

With spotty cell phone service in Guadeloupe, he tried calling Iberia -- an airline he said he's flown his entire life and has some status with -- several times, which proved difficult and expensive. There was no direct number provided for a refund or alternate plans, he said, so he kept trying, with calls often costing 30 or 40 Euros each. After several days, Ferreiro-Mazón said, he got through to an agent who told them the Martinique service launch had been delayed and offered to rebook them for Sept. 23.

"You cannot tell a family you have to stay there another 20 days," Ferreiro-Mazón, 53, said. Aside from the cost of the hotel, he and his wife, a doctor, had to go back to work and his son had to get back for medical school. "As you can imagine, we were quite desperate to find a way home."

The family finally paid 401 Euros, about $466, to fly another airline back to Guadeloupe to catch the Level flight to Paris on Sept. 2. That meant cutting short their stay in the Caribbean, and sacrificing their pre-paid hotel and car rental. In addition, they flew back to Paris a day earlier and had to spend extra on a hotel room there before making their flight back to Spain, he said.

But Ferreiro-Mazón said it's not about the money.

"For a week, we were very worried about this situation," he said. "I don't know how to value that. You are on holiday, moving from one island to another. You are worried and you should not be worried about this on holiday."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images(HAWTHORNE, Calif.) -- SpaceX announced on Monday night that its first moonshot passenger will be Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire estimated by Forbes to be the 18th-richest person in Japan.

He'll be the first private passenger to visit the moon in the company's much hyped Big Falcon Rocket -- if the launch happens.

"I choose to go to the moon!" said the 42-year-old Maezawa, who founded Japan's largest online fashion mall and is worth almost $3 billion.

The announcement was made at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The launch is scheduled to happen in 2023.

"I love the moon," Maezawa told ABC News' David Kerley following the announcement. "I like to do the things that never have been done before. So I want the challenge to go to the moon."

The announcement was a relief for the Japanese billionaire, who punctuated a question about the announcement with "finally." He told ABC News he's long dreamed of going to the moon.

"It's always been there, it's always been inside of me," Maezawa said, before transitioning to Japanese to say the moon has always "felt like it's protecting me."

"In Japan, you look up at the moon, and it looks like a rabbit," he said, noting that 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac.

It's not the first time the company has made this kind of announcement. In February 2017, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced the first two paying customers had put down a deposit to fly around the moon without landing in the smaller Falcon Heavy rocket sometime this year. In June, the company announced that wouldn't happen.

Earlier this year, on Feb. 6, the Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, launching a red Tesla Roadster driven by a Starman mannequin.

Earlier in the day, Musk was sued for defamation by the British driver he had accused of being a "child rapist" and pedophile via tweets and emails to media.

SpaceX has succeeded in its goal of building reusable rockets.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Mark Brake/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Elon Musk was sued on Monday for defamation by a British diver he accused of being a "pedo."

Diver Vernon Unsworth filed a lawsuit against the SpaceX and Tesla founder, over tweets Musk sent during the rescue of a Thai boys soccer team in June and July.

"Elon Musk falsely accused Vern Unsworth of being guilty of heinous crimes," his lawyer, Lin Wood, wrote in a statement emailed to ABC News. "Musk’s influence and wealth cannot convert his lies into truth or protect him from accountability for his wrongdoing in a court of law."

The lawsuit, which blasts the "unlawful, unsupportable, and reprehensible accusations" by Musk that Unsworth "is a pedophile and child rapist," was filed in a Los Angeles federal court.

Unsworth is seeking more than $75,000 in damages, attorney fees, and a court order stopping Musk from making further allegations. Musk resides in California and his two companies, SpaceX and Tesla are headquartered there.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. SpaceX, which is announcing its first private passenger for a flight to the moon later on Monday, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The battle of words dates back to earlier this summer when 12 Thai soccer players and their coach were trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand. The story caught Musk's attention, who, unprompted, sent a mini-submarine to assist with the rescue.

In a CNN interview that followed, Unsworth, an experienced diver who assisted in the rescue, said Musk's mini-submarine was a "PR stunt" that has "absolutely no chance of working."

In response, Musk criticized Unsworth several times via his Twitter account, using slang to call the diver a pedophile.

"You know what, don’t bother showing the video," Musk tweeted on July 15. "We will make one of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it." He later deleted the tweet.

“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists," Musk wrote in an email to a Buzzfeed reporter, employing a pair of expletives to underscore his point.

“He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”

“As for this alleged threat of a lawsuit, which magically appeared when I raised the issue (nothing was sent or raised beforehand), I...hope he sues me,” Musk's email continued, again using an expletive to underscore his point.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Brit Morin is the force behind the popular digital media and e-commerce company Brit Co., a go-to destination for millennial women looking for DIY tips and other information on health, beauty, food, fashion, relationships and more.

Recently named by Inc. as one of the most creative entrepreneurs of 2018, Morin created Brit and Co. to build a community and help people tap into their own creativity.

She founded the company in 2011 after leaving a job at Google, where she worked under Marissa Mayer. She was only 25 at the time and although she knew she wanted to start a business, what she ended up creating wasn’t exactly what she expected.

“I actually was on the track to starting a different company; it was more of a health-oriented startup,” Morin told ABC News’ chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis.

As she worked to develop her startup, Morin was also planning her wedding, using her knack for DIY projects and digital design to make much of what she needed by hand.

“I was getting married and started making everything for my wedding and putting it on my blog,” Morin said. “I was like, ‘Oh this is a fun side thing that I'm doing,’ and then I started to get a little bit of a following doing that.”

As women began reaching out to Morin for guidance on how to create wedding accessories ranging from handmade flowers to custom tie designs, the seeds for Brit and Co. were planted.

“I created a digital design in an illustrator for a pattern that then I exported onto fabric and then I sewed my husband's tie for the wedding...My flowers were handmade. I didn't have any real flowers; they were all handmade wooden...I did the whole thing and I had so much fun doing it. And all these women were asking questions like how did I make those flowers and how they wanted to do that.”

Morin decided that she could build a space to help women creatively express themselves. She created a few weeks worth of content and, with $5,000, hired an engineering and design agency to build the initial website. Morin already had somewhat of a social following from her personal blog and leveraged those followers to drive initial traffic.

“The initial strategy was, ‘OK, I'm going to make enough content to create enough engagement that people come back to my site, and then I'm going to build apps and all these different categories -- wedding, food, home -- and create utility services in these categories and then redirect them to download the apps. And so the content was just part of the funnel. What happened was like people just started really liking the content.”

The business made six figures in its first year, momentum that led Morin to her seed round of financing which allowed her to hire a team. From there Brit and Co. started to grow rapidly, and today the business has raised over $40 million in funds, creates hundreds of pieces of content a month and reaches over 175 million people online and across platforms.

Recently the company has evolved past the digital realm with conferences and pop-up experiences to bring together a growing community of “Brit girls”.

“I just feel like a group of women working together for the same mission is so much more powerful than one person alone,” Morin said.

Building a community was always important to Morin, who said the worst advice she ever got ran counter to that idea.

“The worst advice I’ve ever received was to make myself a huge celebrity and not worry about the business behind it," Morin told Jarvis. "To me that’s always been wrong because everything I wanted to do is around creating a community.”

She said she got the advice early in her venture, and realized that she could go in that direction if she chose.

“I was so early on and YouTube stars were a thing and TV stars of course were always a thing, and it felt like it could be a nice way to go if I were not so obsessed with the idea of motivating hundreds of millions of women around the globe to be more creative and confident in themselves.”

She added, “It would have been a much smaller idea without the full potential of what we’ve achieved now.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Amazon(SEATTLE) -- Amazon is investigating reports that employees have offered to disclose private sales data and delete negative consumer reviews in exchange for cash.

An Amazon spokesperson told ABC News on Monday that the company launched an internal probe in light of a report in The Wall Street Journal that claimed employees may have sold data and accepted bribes from independent merchants.

Such practices are in violation of the company’s policy and employees and merchants could face criminal and/or legal penalties if caught, according to the spokesperson.

“We are conducting a thorough investigation of these claims,” Amazon said. “We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties.”

Some employees have offered to sell confidential data that could give merchants an edge over over their competitors, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing unidentified sellers who have been offered and purchased the data.

Amazon did not give the number of employees or merchants involved in the probe.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the Journal report said Amazon was investigating “a number” of incidents involving employees in the U.S. and abroad who were suspected accepting the bribes.

The practice is more common in China, where brokers for Amazon employees offered private information and reviewer email addresses to independent merchants in exchange for between $80 and $2,000, according to the WSJ report.

Amazon told ABC News that it has policies and systems in place to protect internal sales data.

“We implement sophisticated systems to restrict and audit access to information,” the spokesperson said. “We have strict policies and a code of business conduct & ethics in place for our employees.”

Amazon once sued more than 1,000 people who allegedly sold fake product reviews in an effort to mislead customers, according to a 2015 complaint.

Merchants caught abusing the platform could lose their accounts on the platform and face legal action, the company said Monday.

“In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems,” the Amazon spokesperson said, “and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ten years after the financial crisis caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, houses or both, the head of the nation's largest bank said he knows many people remain angry at banks.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis that some in the public see it as unfair that banks, which helped to spark the crash through high-risk lending, got a federal bailout while many ordinary people suffered.

Dimon said some banks caused the problem. "And I understand that the American public looks at it and it's unfair, and it was,” Dimon said in an exclusive interview for This Week.

He said the public sees it as "the elite Washington banks" being bailed out, while they suffered. "And there's some truth to that. They didn't see ‘Old Testament’ justice. So I understand why there is a lot of anger out there," he added.

The crisis -- the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression -- was triggered by the bursting of a bubble in housing prices that had been fueled in part by increased risk in mortgage lending. Housing foreclosures soared, and unemployment reached 10 percent. But despite allegations of irresponsible lending and wrongdoing by some big banks, the U.S. government helped bail out some of the largest financial institutions, and no bank executives were prosecuted.

“All the banks got help. I mean, I think the government did the right thing; I want to give full credit," Dimon said. "But not all the banks needed that. And all those banks, including JPMorgan, continued to lend money every day to all their clients nonstop around the world.”

Now, with unemployment below 4 percent and high consumer confidence, Jarvis asked Dimon how much credit President Trump deserves for the strength of the economy.

The JPMorgan Chase CEO said Trump's policies have been beneficial. "When President Trump was elected, confidence skyrocketed -- consumers, small business, large corporate -- and because pro-business, pro-competitive taxes, pro-some regulatory reform."

"It's impossible to tease out how much, but it has helped the economy, just like President Obama helped to stop the economy from getting much worse," Dimon said. “Yeah, he should take some credit for that.”

Dimon added that the banking system is strong, and the collapse of a major institution like that of investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008 could not happen today. “The banking system is very, very, very healthy. And regulators should actually take a little bit of a victory lap because Lehman would not happen today,” he said.

Dimon spoke to Jarvis after a public panel at JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday where he took aim at Trump, suggesting he could beat the president in an election.

“I said this before Trump was elected, 'You're not going to get a wealthy New Yorker elected,'" Dimon said at the panel. "That was dead wrong. And by the way, this wealthy New Yorker actually earned his money; it wasn't a gift from Daddy."

He added, "I'm as tough as he is. I'm smarter than he is. I would be fine. He could punch me all he wants -- it wouldn't work for me. I'd fight right back.”

Afterward, in his one-on-one interview with Jarvis, Dimon walked back his remarks.

“I shouldn't have said it," Dimon said to Jarvis, adding that he did so "more out of frustration and a little of my own machismo.”

"But I shouldn't have said it," he said, adding that it "also proves I wouldn't be a good politician.”

Dimon’s remarks at the panel prompted a response from Trump, who slammed the banker as lacking the “aptitude” or “smarts” to run for president.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Businesses from Tesla to Pepsi to breweries both large and small have stepped in to offer help to victims of Hurricane Florence.

Anheuser-Busch is sending more than 300,000 cans of drinking water in six truckloads to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia from its brewery in Cartersville, Georgia, the company said in a press release.

MillerCoors donated 80 pallets of water from its brewery in Virginia to American Red Cross shelters in the region, the company said.

Smaller breweries are also joining in. Blue Blaze Brewing, which brews 5,000 barrels a year in Charlotte, North Carolina, filled its tanks with drinking water and sterilized its kegs for anyone, including from restaurants and other businesses, who may need to take a keg of fresh water.

“We wanted to be able to provide the community with fresh water in case of flooding, power outages, or downed trees, because the stores have run out," Blue Blaze owner Craig Nunn told ABC News. He said his company was preparing especially for needs early next week "when what everybody’s bought runs out, if there’s still infrastructure issues.”

Two other North Carolina breweries -- The Dreamchaser's Brewery and Resident Culture Brewing Co. –- are also pitching in.

Chef José Andrés, who provided meals to Puerto Ricans after the devastation left by Hurricane Maria last year, is now in Wilmington, North Carolina, helping those in need.

His team is delivering fresh food to evacuees, homeless shelters, emergency workers and local police.

Pepsi is giving back to its birthplace -- New Bern, North Carolina -- which was overwhelmed by torrential flooding from Florence.

The PepsiCo Foundation said it's donating $1 million to relief agencies and 350,000 meals to help those devastated by the storm.

New Bern "is the birthplace of Pepsi," Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi tweeted. "We wouldn’t be here without you and we are here for you now and always. #NewBernStrong"

Further up the coast in New Jersey, Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City opened its doors to let Hurricane Florence evacuees stay for free.

Amazon is also stepping in to help. It debuted a new Alexa donations feature, which enables customers to donate to the Red Cross by saying: “Alexa, donate to Hurricane Florence disaster relief.”

Offline, the company has prepped 40 of its warehouses east of the Mississippi with Amazon-donated products that can be shipped as needed. The company, which recently hit a $1 trillion valuation, also donated 100,000 food items and more than 30,000 bottles of water to Feeding America, Amazon announced in a blog post.

Tesla is helping its owners by expanding the battery capacity for affected customers until mid-October. The eligible Model S and Model X vehicles with 40kWh, 60kWh and 70kWh batteries will have their capacity expanded to 60kWh or 75kWh in the affected areas, according to a company spokesman.

Tesla also opened up all of its express-charging stations in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia to allow free charging of its cars.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW BERN, N.C.) -- As Hurricane Florence clobbers the Carolinas, millions of residents have evacuated, leaving thousands of homes and businesses empty, including an especially attractive target for looters: gun stores.

The Carolinas are home to more than 3,300 federally licensed firearms dealers, but with law enforcement stretched thin during the storm and its aftermath, criminals can take advantage.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has recommended that gun dealers take measures to safeguard their businesses by securing or moving their inventories of guns to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.

“During hurricanes and similar natural disasters, ATF regularly communicates with the Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) in the affected areas to ensure they are employing best safety practices available to secure their inventory and records during the storm,” ATF spokesman Christopher Elolf told ABC News.

During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there were 35 reports of gun store burglaries with 1,012 guns stolen, according to ATF.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008, there were just six reports of burglaries with 158 guns stolen.

Last year, before Hurricane Harvey, ATF issued an alert to gun shops before the storm, encouraging dealers to secure their inventories before the storm and to offer help to any stores that needed it.

As Hurricane Harvey flooded most of Houston, there were reports of five gun store burglaries with 109 guns stolen.

The owners of Cash America Pawn watched remotely on their surveillance system as burglars looted their gun shop.

Harvey’s floodwaters prevented authorities from getting to the store before the crooks made off with 84 rifles, shotguns and handguns.

The threat of stolen guns is magnified by the danger they pose when they are sold on the black market.

“These crimes result in double harm. Not only are the FFLs victimized -- at times, assaulted or killed in the course of a robbery -- the stolen firearms fuel the illicit market, too often ending up in the hands of violent criminals who wreak havoc in our communities and pose an immediate threat to our partners on patrol who confront them,” ATF Acting Directory Thomas Brandon said in testimony before Congress.

ATF is also the federal coordinating agency for public safety and security assistance during the response to Hurricane Florence. That means there are teams of federal agents already deployed to the hurricane zone, ready to respond to incidents, including gun store burglaries.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ten years ago this week, as the nation’s subprime mortgage crisis deepened, Lehman Brothers submitted the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history -- a flashpoint in the country’s worst financial downturn since the Great Depression.

The firm was heavily involved in subprime mortgage lending. As people began to default on their loan payments, their houses were foreclosed on, and they were forced to leave.

The problem was felt most acutely in Lee County, Florida, which became the nation’s capital of foreclosure.

“You walked down a street and you saw houses vacant, people stealing the air conditioners for the copper,” said Lee County Commission Chairman Cecil Pendergrass.

Entire subdivisions suffocated under waist-high weeds, boarded-up windows and blackened swimming pools.

Ten years later, Karen Tighe is still recovering.

“Everything is up in the air,” Tighe said in a small, squat duplex rental in Cape Coral, Florida. She was packing, forced to move because her rent was going up beyond what she could afford.

Lehman’s bankruptcy was preceded by the federal takeover of home mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were put under the conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHHA) after the housing market collapsed and the subprime mortgage crisis reached a critical stage.

"I have determined that the companies cannot continue to operate safely and soundly, and fulfill their critical public missions without significant action to address our concerns," then-FHFA Director James Lockhart said in a news conference at the time.

Then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called it “necessary” and promised it would “strengthen the U.S. housing market and promote stability in our financial markets."

Ten years later, stability is still lacking for Tighe, who lost her job, her home and her savings during the financial crisis.

“I’m shaking when I think about it too much,” she said.

As Tighe tells it, her bank took money from her account to pay a mortgage payment that was five days late. Her checks began to bounce.

“We lost the house. I lost my job. We were basically dumpster diving, looking for things in the trash we could take to the flea market and sell," she said. She survived that way for two years, liquidating “the silverware, the china, anything that I had of value.”

Tighe and her husband finally landed in the small duplex that backs up to a drainage basin where blue jays squawk in the trees, ducks waddle by and an osprey camps in an elevated nest. She had been juggling odd jobs to pay the $1,030 monthly rent before the landlord raised it to $1,600.

“We’re coping the best way we can,” Tighe said. “You try to see the beauty in each day, the positive in each day. But some days, it gets really hard.”

It was one of those days as Tighe waited for word on whether her application for a loan to buy a small trailer home would be accepted. The last 10 years have taken a toll on her credit.

“Every month is survival for us when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “We have been for the last 10 years.”

Tighe gripped a mug of strong coffee -- “Minnesota black” she called it, reflecting her Midwestern roots -- and took a wistful look at the setting she was about to leave.

“I know we’re going to survive," she said. "Sometimes the fear of not knowing is scary. I’ve got a tent in the garage if it comes to that.”

Thankfully, it did not come to that. Tighe’s loan application was accepted, and she and her husband took possession of a trailer home this month.

“Life is full of trials and tribulations, and we climb out of them,” she said. “We’ll be OK.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


WJTN Headlines for Sept. 20, 2018

There are problems with an overpopulation of deer in some parts of Jamestown, but now there is also an issue with the predators that hunt them....     That was brought into c...

Read More