<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Business News - [PHI Feature]Business]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/businessen-usSat, 21 Jul 2018 09:10:59 -0400Sat, 21 Jul 2018 09:10:59 -0400NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Krispy Kreme to Buy Insomnia Cookies ]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 17:34:10 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Insomnia+Cookies+50+box.jpg

Doughnut-maker Krispy Kreme is buying a majority stake in Philadelphia-based Insomnia Cookies for an undisclosed sum.

The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme made the announcement Friday.

Krispy Kreme CEO Mike Tattersfield says in a statement they are "delighted" to add Insomnia to the company. The late-night bakery specializes in warm cookie deliveries.

Seth Berkowitz will remain in charge of Insomnia after the close of the sale later this year.

Berkowitz founded Insomnia Cookies in 2003 when he was a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Insomnia Cookies]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks to Open DC Store Where Baristas Know Sign Language]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 11:35:47 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Apron_Sign_Language.jpg

This fall, Starbucks will open a store in Northeast Washington, D.C., where all employees will know American Sign Language. 

The store will be staffed by 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing employees from around the country who are fluent in sign language, the company said in a press release Thursday. The store will be located at 6th and H Street NE, near Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating deaf culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society," said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf.

The unique store will be modeled after the company's first-ever signing store, which opened in Malaysia in 2016. 

The D.C. store will feature artwork and a custom mug designed by a deaf artist. The store will have an open layout and low-glare reflective surfaces to help with communication. 

Customers who are new to sign language will be offered other communication options for placing their orders. 

The store is scheduled to open in early October. 

Photo Credit: Starbucks]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Hits the Fed, Again: Tightening Hurts All We Have Done]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 15:57:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/trump-powell-diptych.jpg

President Donald Trump criticized the Federal Reserve's monetary policy again.

"The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates - Really?" Trump said Friday on social media. 

Trump's latest comments come a day after his initial critical remarks about the Fed were revealed Thursday on CNBC. In a stinging and historically rare rebuke, Trump expressed frustration with Fed policy in the exclusive interview. 

“I’m not thrilled,” he told CNBC's Joe Kernen in the interview that aired in full Friday. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I don't really — I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.” 

Fed officials, including Chairman Jerome Powell, have raised interest rates twice this year and have pointed to two more before the end of 2018. The Fed did not comment on the president's remarks Thursday. 

After Trump’s criticism of the central bank aired on Thursday, the White House sent a statement to clarify the president’s remarks. 

"Of course the President respects the independence of the Fed. As he said he considers the Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell a very good man and that he is not interfering with Fed policy decisions," the statement said. “The President’s views on interest rates are well known and his comments today are a reiteration of those long held positions, and public comments." 

But then Trump hit the Fed again on Friday in the tweet. 

Later Friday, a White House official told CNBC that Trump is worried the fed will raise interest rates two more times this year.

The U.S. dollar fell and stock futures declined slightly as the president doubled down on his criticism of the central bank. 

Earlier in his series of tweets, Trump also said multiple nations are manipulating currencies to the detriment of the U.S. 

"China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day - taking away our big competitive edge. As usual, not a level playing field...," he said on Twitter. 

— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here is more from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Pa. Could Make $500M in Taxes Off Legal Weed, Auditor Says]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 12:05:05 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/medicalmarijuanadispensarythumb.jpg

Pennsylvania's elected fiscal watchdog says legalizing and taxing the sale and use of marijuana at 35 percent could add more than a half-billion dollars to state coffers.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an analysis on "Regulating & Taxing Marijuana" Thursday that said there are about 800,000 regular users of the drug in the state.

DePasquale, a Democrat, says the retail market could be about $1.7 billion, based on studies in other states that indicate adult users typically spend about $2,100 a year on marijuana.

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Possession or sale of the drug for other purposes remains a crime, although Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several other Pennsylvania cities have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

DePasquale says nearly 21,000 adults were charged last year with low-level marijuana offenses.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Teen Turns Slime Into a Six Figure Salary]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 06:12:32 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/SLIME+KID.jpg

At just 15 years old, Samantha Zumwalt is the head of her own company. The teen launched it last February after begging her mom to buy her a box of Borax to create the slime she’d seen all over the Internet.

"She told me no, 'I don't want slime all over the house'," said Zumwalt. 

But eventually, she got her mom to cave. It took only a weekend of creating and playing with her own gooey, sticky substances to decide there was a market for unique variations. 

With her mom's blessing, Zumwalt launched "Samantha Slime Shop" on Etsy with dozens of types of slime differentiated by glitter, charms, colors, textures and even scents. 

Her first month in business, a friend was her only sale. But after sending her slime to popular Instagram accounts for review, she was flooded with sales. 

“We were getting 50 to 100 orders a day. Some days we were getting more than 100 orders,” said Zumwalt.

That's when she turned to her mom Jessica Burks for help. Together they moved the business from a corner in their kitchen to a spare bedroom, eventually outgrowing both and letting "Samantha Slime Shop" operations take over both the living and dining rooms. 

Looking at the space now, Burks simply laughs.

“It actually had furniture and a television. Now we have my kitchen table as a conference table and shelves just full of slime,” said Burks.

In what once was her dining room, an industrial stand mixer is the center piece to mix up large batches of their most popular products.

When it comes to the business side of things, Burks encouraged Zumwalt to figure out the accounting and business management on her own. 

"I made her do all the ground work so she would know, because there’s no point in doing it if you don’t learn anything from it," said Burks. 

Zumwalt said they're lessons that came easily. Perhaps because she was there right next to her mom during business school years before.

“I got my bachelors in accounting and my masters in business administration all while I was working full time and raising Samantha. Sometimes she’d come to class with me because I couldn’t find a sitter… I think when you’re young like that, you just soak it all up like a sponge," said Burks. 

And while they don’t know how long the slime trend will hold out, for now they’re working to build the business that’s already providing Samantha a 6 figure salary.

"That's really big. I think that's so cool,” said Zumwalt.

Of course, mom agrees.

"I'm here to support her in whatever she needs to make her dreams come true,” said Burks.

For now, there are still a lot of unknowns about what those dreams will be.

While some have encouraged Zumwalt to try her hand at Shark Tank to snag an investor, she wants to remain in control of her product. Mom is encouraging the homeschooler to jump into college early.

But for now, Zumwalt wants to stay in the slime business as long as it remains trendy. After that, she hopes her entrepreneurial spirit will lead her to another project. 

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Promotes Job Training as Employers Search for Workers]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 18:01:50 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/trump-meeting-2.jpg

Promoting a robust economy, President Donald Trump pressed U.S. companies and trade associations on Thursday to enhance their job training programs as employers search for qualified skilled workers to fill vacancies.

"We need people with training," Trump declared.

At an event in the East Room, Trump told corporate leaders and workers that the nation's students and workers need more opportunities to attain apprenticeships, vocational opportunities and job training. The president said nearly two dozen companies and trade organizations had agreed to sign a pledge to provide the training for their workforce during the next five years.

"Companies are pouring back into our country — companies that frankly left 10 and 20 years ago — and they're coming back and we need people to work for those companies," Trump said. "We need talented people. We need people with training."

The president's 2016 campaign included a pitch to help the "forgotten men and women" who have suffered amid globalization and a shifting economy. The pledge and an executive order Trump signed creating a national council for U.S. workers and a workforce policy advisory board aim to address the needs of manufacturing workers as the president has engaged in trade disputes that have rattled the economy.

The White House said the "Pledge to America's Workers" would provide at least 3.8 million new career opportunities for students and workers over the next five years, including apprenticeships, work-based learning and continuing education.

Some of the companies signing the pledge include Apple, Boeing, General Motors, FedEx, The Home Depot, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Walmart. Several trade associations also committed to the job training initiative, and Trump welcomed several members of Congress and state and local officials, including Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The administration wants to bring millions of Americans who are not working or searching for work — and therefore aren't included in the unemployment rate — back into the job market. More people with jobs would accelerate economic growth and could help the White House achieve its goal of sustained growth of 3 percent or higher.

The additional workers could also help fill 6.6 million open jobs, a near-record high and more than the number of unemployed workers.

Yet a lack of skills is just one reason some Americans have given up the job search. Economic research has found that opioid addiction and related health problems have sidelined millions of Americans.

Most labor economists agree that there are plenty of middle-skill jobs that don't require a college degree but do need post-high school education or training.

These include jobs in advanced manufacturing, where workers on factory floors increasingly deal with software and robotics. Many health care jobs such as radiology and physical therapy are growing and don't require college degrees. The same is true for marketing and sales jobs in banking and insurance firms.

The aging population and retirement of baby boomers is also a challenge. The proportion of Americans ages 25 to 54 who are working or looking for work has risen steadily in the past three years. But that increase has largely been offset by retirements, leaving the overall percentage of Americans in the workforce stuck at about 63 percent.

Trump made a big push last year into promoting apprenticeships as a form of job training, but he declined to commit significant funding, and the results of his initiative have yet to deliver on his promises.

For the former reality television star, the discussion about apprenticeships was irresistible.

"That's an interesting word for me to be saying, right? 'The Apprentice.' I never actually put that together until just now. That was a good experience, I will tell you that," Trump said to laughter. "I can't get away from that word. It's a great word!" 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Lays Into the Federal Reserve, Says He's 'Not Thrilled' About Interest Rate Hikes]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 15:03:54 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/trump-powell-diptych.jpg

In a stinging and historically rare criticism, President Donald Trump expressed frustration with the Federal Reserve and said the central bank could disrupt the economic recovery. 

Presidents rarely intercede when it comes to the Fed, which sets the benchmark interest rate that flows through to many types of consumer debt. 

Fed officials, including Chairman Jerome Powell, have raised interest rates twice this year and have pointed to two more before the end of 2018. 

Trump, in an interview with CNBC, said he does not approve, even though he said he "put a very good man in" at the Fed in Powell. 

“I’m not thrilled,” he told CNBC's Joe Kernen in an interview to air in full Friday starting at 6 am. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I don't really — I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.” 

“But I don’t like all of this work that goes into doing what we’re doing.” 

Markets reacted to Trump's comments, with stocks, the dollar and Treasury yields all falling. 

Fed officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Fed officials did not comment on the president's remarks. The White House, in a statement after the interview excerpt aired on CNBC, emphasized that Trump did not mean to influence the Fed's decision-making process. 

"Of course the President respects the independence of the Fed. As he said he considers the Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell a very good man and that he is not interfering with Fed policy decisions " the statement said. “The President’s views on interest rates are well known and his comments today are a reiteration of those long held positions, and public comments."

Trump helped usher through a massive tax cut late last year that slashed the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and lowered marginal rates across the board. 

In return, the president has delivered powerful stock market gains and an economy on pace to grow nearly 3 percent in 2018, well above its post-recession rate before he took office. 

Powell has said he believes the economy is strong enough for the Fed to continue on its path of normalizing rates, which were held at a historically low level during the recovery. 

Still, Trump said he’s concerned that the timing may be poor and that it will put the U.S. at a “disadvantage” while the Fed’s counterparts like the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan maintain loose monetary policy. 

The president acknowledged that his comments are unusual but said he doesn’t care. 

“Now I’m just saying the same thing that I would have said as a private citizen,” he said. “So somebody would say, ‘Oh, maybe you shouldn’t say that as president. I couldn’t care less what they say, because my views haven’t changed.” 

“I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up,” he said. 

Trump’s comments are likely to stir criticism. The Fed’s independence from political interference has been a hallmark of its existence, so Trump’s comments have little precedent. 

Former Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told CNBC that Trump is out of line. 

“One of the hallmarks of our great American economy is preserving the independence of the Federal Reserve. No president should interfere with the workings of the Fed,” Fisher said. “Were I Chairman Powell, I would ignore the President and do my job and I am confident he will do just that.”

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here is more from CNBC.

Photo Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[S. Korean Firm Says It’s Found Sunken Russian Treasure Ship]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 13:49:33 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/SouthKoreaGoldWarship.jpg

A South Korean company's claim to have found a sunken Russian warship has triggered investor frenzy amid speculation the ship was carrying an enormous amount of gold when it sank 113 years ago. South Korea's financial regulator subsequently issued a warning against possible investment losses.

The Seoul-based Shinil Group said Tuesday its divers discovered what a wreck it identified as the 6,200-ton Dmitrii Donskoi, which went down during the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war off an eastern Korean island. The company speculated about 200 tons of gold bars and coins that are worth 150 trillion won ($132 billion) would still likely be aboard the ship.

Shinil released photos and videos taken by search submarines, which showed markings on the stern the company said was the ship's name in Russian. It said it hoped to hoist the ship from its depth of more than 400 meters (0.25 miles) within months.

Other companies have made similar claims, but none has taken actual steps toward raising the wreck. One of them, Dong-Ah Construction, was accused of spreading false rumors to bump up its stock prices and later went bankrupt.

Shinil was founded on June 1 reportedly with about 100 million won ($87,800). The company is unlisted but its president recently agreed to acquire shares in a local company, Jeil Steel.

After Shinil's announcement on the Russian ship, Jeil's stock prices rose by 30 percent on South Korea's KOSDAQ market on Tuesday. They continued their steep rise on Wednesday morning before Jeil in a regulatory filing clarified that Shinil's president would be its second-largest shareholder, not the largest, if the deal goes through. Jeil also said it has "no relation to the treasure ship business." Jeil's stock prices dropped more than 20 percent after Thursday's trading.

South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service said Thursday that it's closely monitoring trade activity involving the shares of Jeil Steel. An agency official said that the regulator was watching out for possible deceptive practices involving the trade of Jeil shares, including inducing investors through false information.

"Investors should beware because it's uncertain whether the ship is salvageable and whether Shinil would be able to gain ownership of the assets even if it gets permission to raise it," said the official, who didn't want to be identified citing office rules. "Dong-Ah Construction made similar claims over the same ship but failed to deliver on its promises and went bankrupt, causing huge losses for investors."

Russian scholars have said in the past that Russia was unlikely to put so much gold on a single ship and that it must have been much safer to move it by train. They also have said some gold coins could have been aboard the ship to pay the salaries of Russian navy officers.

It's unclear whether Shinil would receive South Korean government approval of its salvage plans.

Local laws aimed at preserving national territory and property require the company to deposit 10 percent of the estimated value of the shipwreck before starting its salvage works.

An official at the Pohang Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries, which has authority on Shinil's case, said it hasn't formally discussed the company's claim because Shinil has yet to submit a request to seek a salvage right. The official, who spoke anonymously because he wasn't authorized to speak media on the issue, said Shinil must deposit 15 trillion won ($13.2 billion), based on the company officials speculation how much gold is likely aboard the ship.

Shinil disagreed on the amount of its possible deposit, saying what it has officially located was the shipwreck, not treasures on it. It estimated the shipwreck's value at 1.2 billion won ($1 million) and planned to put down 120 million won ($105,540) as a deposit. Company spokesman Park Seong-jin said his company will file a request for the ship's salvage right later this week.

Some experts also said it's unlikely that the Donskoi, a thickly armored warship with more than 12 artillery pieces, 500 sailors and presumably 1,600 tons of coal, would have had room for 200 tons of gold, which would be double the current gold reserves at South Korea's central bank. And there's questions about the gold's worth being estimated at $132 billion — the Bank of Korea's 104 tons of gold reserves are valued at around $4.8 billion.

Even if the ship is hoisted and treasures are found, their ownership could be disputed.

A South Korean Financial Ministry official responsible for the issue said that Russia may be able to claim ownership. Park disputed that, saying 80 percent of the potential treasures would belong to the company while the rest would go to a South Korean government coffer. He cited related South Korean law and an international court ruling on a similar case.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Lee Jin-man/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Coachella Organizers Buy Delaware's Firefly Music Festival]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 13:26:22 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Firefly+Msuic+Festival+Night.jpg

The Firefly Music Festival has been sold to AEG Presents, the producer behind Coachella.

Los Angeles-based AEG announced the acquisition of the Delaware festival in a statement Wednesday. The festival has been held annually at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware, since 2012. It has hosted entertainers such as Chance the Rapper, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty.

In 2014, AEG and subsidiary Goldenvoice, the founder of Coachella, partnered with Chicago-based Red Frog Events to help produce and promote Firefly and became its majority owner. AEG is now acquiring the remaining ownership shares and will expand its role in the festival.

Several members of the team that managed Firefly are joining AEG, including Firefly Director and co-founder Stephanie Mezzano.

Next year's Firefly will be held in June.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Firefly]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Delta Employees Claim They Were Fired for Speaking Korean]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 13:16:54 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-997250706.jpg

Four former Delta employees who were allegedly told by a manager not to speak Korean because it made other workers feel uncomfortable are accusing the airline in a lawsuit of discrimination after they were fired last year, NBC News reported.

The employees — Ji-Won Kim, Lilian Park, Jean Yi and Jongjin An — were Delta customer service agents at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and say they were reprimanded for speaking Korean, even though they were assigned to work flights to South Korea, according to their suit.

"Many other employees frequently spoke to each other in their native languages during their shifts and were not admonished or coached not to do so," read the suit, which was filed May 31. The women began speaking publicly about the case this week.

The complaint says the women were told they were being fired in May 2017 for allegedly offering unauthorized upgrades to customers, which the women said was standard practice. The lawsuit also claims the women were sexually harassed by another customer service agent and were retaliated against after complaining about it. The harassment, according to the suit, continued after two of the women reported it to Delta leadership.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Family of KFC’s Colonel Sanders Counters Papa John's Founder]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 11:28:53 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/kfc-logo.jpg

The family of KFC’s Colonel Harland Sanders has come to his defense after Papa John’s founder John Schnatter suggested the colonel had used the N-word but hadn’t faced criticism for doing so. 

Colonel Sanders’ grandson Trigg Adams told the Louisville Courier Journal on Wednesday that it is “an absolute lie” that Sanders used the racial slur or any other racially offensive words. 

“He’s a weasel,” Adams said of Schnatter. “Because he's prejudiced, he’s trying to say somebody else was, too. (Sanders) had absolutely no prejudice against anybody.” 

Sanders, who died in 1980, donated more than $20 million to charities, including to black churches, which he sometimes attended, Adams added. 

Schnatter resigned as chairman last week after admitting to using the racial slur during a conference call, and apologizing for it. 

Schnatter was on a call with marketing agency Laundry Service in May when he tried to downplay comments he made about the National Football League and allegedly said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s," and complained that the KFC founder never faced public backlash. The call was a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to prevent future public relations fumbles and came to notice after Forbes magazine reported it last week. 

Then on Friday, Schnatter told Louisville radio station WHAS that he was “just talking the way that the Colonel talked.” 

In a statement, Colonel Sander's great-granddaughter Cindy Wurster Sjorgen, said that Sanders "was known to throw around a few cuss words but never a racial slur. For Mr. Schnatter to use the colonel as a scapegoat for his own horrible, disgusting mouth and racist beliefs is inexcusable." 

Both Papa John’s and KFC owner Yum Brands are headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Fast-food chain Wendy’s had preliminary merger talks with Papa John’s before Schnatter stepped down, a source familiar with the situation told CNBC. The deal talks highlight the opportunity potential acquirers see in improving Papa John's technology and scaling up in a still fragmented pizza chain industry. Still, the public relations fall out that followed Schnatter's resignation is likely to complicate any potential deal. 

Since his resignation, Papa John's has worked to distance itself from Schnatter, prohibiting him from talking to the press, removing him from the pizza chain's advertising materials and revoking his office space at the company's headquarters. 

The company has more than 5,000 locations and around 23,000 employees worldwide.

— CNBC's Lauren Hirsch contributed to this report.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here is more from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Comcast Drops Out of Twenty-First Century Fox Bidding War]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 09:56:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ComcastBidFoxSky.jpg

Comcast said Thursday it would not pursue its bid to buy assets of Twenty-First Century Fox, choosing to focus on its offer for Britain's Sky. 

Shares of Comcast jumped 2.9 percent in premarket trading, while shares of Fox fell 1.2 percent. 

The announcement ends one of the biggest battles in the media industry this year, as Comcast fought with Disney to acquire Fox's movie studio and television assets. Disney had recently outbid Comcast's $65 billion all-cash offer with a $71 billion cash and stock offer. 

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement, "I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company." 

Complicating matters was Comcast's bidding for Sky, which is 39 percent owned by Fox. The two companies were also engaged in a bidding war there, with two new offers on the table last week, Fox's valuing Sky at $32.5 billion and Comcast's raising that to $34 billion. 

CNBC's David Faber reported earlier this week that the U.S. government's decision to appeal a court ruling allowing AT&T to go ahead with its acquisition of Time Warner had given Comcast reason to pause in its pursuit of the Fox assets. The government had sought to block the AT&T deal on competitive grounds. 

Fox's Rupert Murdoch was also seen as favoring the Disney offer, Faber reported, citing sources. 

On CNBC on Thursday, Faber said he called Iger about the Comcast announcement and actually broke the news to the CEO. Iger replied, "Holy crap," according to Faber. 

Iger also added that it was an exciting development and Disney will be working on regulatory approvals.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC, CNBC.com and this site.

Here is the statement:

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) today issued the following statement regarding its pursuit of the assets Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to sell to The Walt Disney Company: “Comcast does not intend to pursue further the acquisition of the Twenty-First Century Fox assets and, instead, will focus on our recommended offer for Sky.”

Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast Corporation, said, “I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company."

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here is more from CNBC

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Rutgers Tuition Is Going Up for Upcoming Academic Year]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 09:18:04 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/TLMD-rutgers-nj-new-brunswick-st1.jpg

Rutgers University has approved a tuition increase for the upcoming school year.

The university's board of governors voted Wednesday to raise tuition and fees by 2.3 percent, or about $337.

This increase means the average in-state undergraduate student at its New Brunswick campus will pay about $27,681 for the upcoming school year.

Tuition rose 1.85 percent last year, 1.7 percent in 2016 and about 2 percent in 2015 and 2014.

Kathy Dettloff, the university's vice president of financial planning and budgeting, says financial aid will offset the increase for the majority of students.

University President Robert Barchi says Rutgers is facing "significant financial challenges" and must make "difficult choices" to keep tuition increases low.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Launches Spacecraft Higher Than Ever]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 23:24:59 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/blu-origin-launch.jpg

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket company shot a capsule higher into space Wednesday than it's ever done before.

The New Shepard rocket blasted off from West Texas on the company's latest test flight. Once the booster separated, the capsule's escape motor fired, lifting the spacecraft to an altitude of 389,846 feet. That's 74 miles or 119 kilometers.

It's part of a safety system intended to save lives once space tourists and others climb aboard for suborbital hops.

Wednesday's passenger was Mannequin Skywalker, an instrumented dummy in a blue flight suit that's flown before, plus science experiments.

The booster and capsule — both repeat fliers — landed successfully. It was the ninth test flight and lasted 11 minutes.

"Crew Capsule looks great even after it was pushed hard by the escape test. Astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing," Bezos said in a tweet . "Great engineering and the lucky boots worked again."

Blue Origin has yet to announce when it will start selling tickets or how much flights will cost. Launch commentator Ariane Cornell promised it would be soon. "It's coming," she said.

Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, aims to send people and payloads into orbit from Cape Canaveral. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development.

He's named his rockets after NASA's original Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Blue Origin via AP]]>
<![CDATA[FB CEO Uses Holocaust Example to Defend Takedown Policies]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 23:22:39 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/zuck-blue.jpg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a podcast interview released Wednesday that his social network does not remove posts that deny the Holocaust because the company wants to allow its users to make unintentional mistakes, NBC News reported.

Zuckerberg volunteered the example of Holocaust deniers unprompted in the middle of a discussion on the Recode Decode podcast about Facebook’s role in the spread of hoaxes and false news stories.

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he said. “I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.”

“I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” he continued, before the interviewer, Kara Swisher, interrupted him.

“In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead,” Swisher said.

Zuckerberg backtracked later on Wednesday, saying in an email to Swisher that he did not mean to defend the intent of Holocaust deniers, according to a copy of the email posted by Swisher.

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Delta Airlines Gets Backlash For Pit Bull Service Dog Ban]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 10:10:48 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/delta_pitbulls_0717_3525789.JPG

Dog owners and animal advocates say Delta Airlines’ new ban on pit bulls as service and support animals is unfair, and they are calling for the ban to be lifted.

Thousands of people around the world signed a petition against Delta's ban, which went into effect on July 10. The airline prohibited all pit bull-type dogs from flying on their planes as service or support animals. Now, the company is facing backlash worldwide.

At Mineta San Jose International Airport, a professional service dog trainer said he understands the airline’s pit bull concerns but blames owners for skipping the right kind of training. It's not the breed, he said.

"Pit bulls are not more dangerous than other dogs," said Franck Kangah, a professional dog trainer. "I've seen little dogs that were more dangerous than other pit bulls."

A petition on Care2.com has gathered more than 100,000 signatures to fight Delta’s ban.

The U.S. Department of Transportation told NBC Bay Area "a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal is not allowed under the department’s Air Carrier Access Act."

Gisselle Nuñez, the owner of a full-breed, blue nose pit bull named Murphy, says the Delta ban gives the breed a unwarranted bad wrap.

"The question is, Delta Airlines: What is your criteria for banning this particular breed?" Nunez said. "Show us the research, show us the facts, but don’t perpetuate negative perceptions."

The airline has reported that some of its employees were bitten by pit bulls on flights.

Kangah, who trained Murphy for 10 months, said he understands Delta’s concern but argues it’s the owners’ fault for failing to put the dogs through the right training.

"Without the proper training, like true, proper training of a service animal, you’ll have accidents like that of a dog biting another dog or even a dog pottying inside a plane," Kangah said. "If you see the obedience, you automatically know, that is a service dog. You can see the difference between a really trained service dog and not a true service dog."

Delta Airlines did not reply to questions about what type of facts or research it used to make the ban decision.

Southwest Airlines does not restrict pit bulls on its flights, the company said in an email to NBC. JetBlue doesn’t address specific breeds within its pet or service animal policies.

Pit bulls cannot be brought onto American Airlines planes as checked luggage but are allowed to be on the company’s planes as service animals or paid pets, a company spokesman said.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) says it is looking into possibly changing the rules for service animals on flights and has received more than 4,000 public comments on the issue. 

Right now, airlines can refuse service animals if "there are factors precluding the animal from traveling in the cabin of the aircraft." Such factors include the animal's size and weight, whether the animal would pose a threat to the health and safety of other passengers and whether it would cause a significant disruption of cabin service, the DOT said. 

—Scott Gelman contributed to this story

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area/Nunez family]]>
<![CDATA[Not 'Milk'? Soy, Almond Drink Makers May Need New Description]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:30:09 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/156509135-Curious-Cow.jpg

Soy and almond drinks that bill themselves as "milk" may need to consider alternative language after a top regulator suggested the agency may start cracking down on use of the term.

The Food and Drug Administration signaled plans to start enforcing a federal standard that defines "milk" as coming from the "milking of one or more healthy cows." That would be a change for the agency, which has not aggressively gone after the proliferation of plant-based drinks labeled as "milk."

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb talked about the plans this week, noting there are hundreds of federal "standards of identity" spelling out how foods with various names need to be manufactured.

"The question becomes, have we been enforcing our own standard of identity," Gottlieb said about "milk" at the Politico event Tuesday. "The answer is probably not."

Standards of identity have been the source industry spats as American diets have evolved, including fights about what gets to be called mayonnaise and yogurt. More recently, there are disagreements over what to call meat grown by culturing cells, a science that's still emerging.

The FDA can't just change the way it enforces a standard without warning, Gottlieb said. Since it plans to take a different approach to enforcement, he said the FDA will have to first develop guidance notifying companies of the change and ask for public comment. That guidance will probably be issued in a year, he said.

Gottlieb said the agency expects to get sued, since dictionary definitions are broader and say milk comes from a lactating animal or a nut.

The National Milk Producers Federation said it welcomes Gottlieb's recognition that the labeling practices of many "plant-based dairy imitators" violate federal standards. The industry group had recently renewed its push for the FDA to crack down on nondairy drinks calling themselves "milk."

The Good Food Institute, which advocates for plant-based alternatives, says the term "milk" should be permitted with modifiers for nondairy drinks.

"For the same reason that you can have gluten-free bread and rice noodles, almond milk and soy milk are the most clear and best terms for describing those products," said Bruce Friedrich, the group's co-founder.

The FDA declined to comment on whether the agency would enforce other standards, such as for yogurt.

U.S. regulators want to remove a health claim about the heart benefits of soy from cartons of soy milk, tofu and other foods, saying the latest scientific evidence no longer shows a clear connection.

Monday's announcement by the Food and Drug Administration marks the first time the agency has moved to revoke a health food claim since it began approving such statements in 1990. The claim that soy protein can reduce heart disease appears on about 200 to 300 products in the U.S., according to industry figures, including popular brands like Silk soy milk.

Calls to WhiteWave Foods Company, which markets Silk brand soy products, were not immediately returned Monday.

The FDA first approved the language about the benefits in 1999 based on studies suggesting soy protein lowered a type of heart-damaging cholesterol in the bloodstream. But some later studies have failed to show a clear link.

One 2005 study by the U.S. government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that soy products had little effect on bad cholesterol. The FDA began reevaluating the food claim in 2007 and said Monday "the totality of the evidence is inconsistent and not conclusive."

The agency will take comments on its proposal for 75 days before moving ahead. If the language is removed, companies may still be able to use a less definitive statement about soy's benefits by including a disclaimer or description of the mixed evidence.

Consumer advocates backed the proposal, arguing that earlier research misinterpreted soy's effect on cholesterol.

Bonnie Liebman, a nutrition scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, explained that a person might benefit by replacing red meat with soy, but the benefit would be from the reduction in red meat, not because of anything special in the soy protein.

The FDA estimates it will cost companies between $370,000 and $860,000 in upfront costs to re-label their products, according to a federal filing posted online.

An industry group for soy manufacturers disputed the FDA's decision and pointed to 12 other countries, including Canada, that have approved health labeling claims making the link between soy protein and heart benefits. The group, Soyfoods Association of North America, said it would make its case to the FDA during the comment period.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto, File]]>
<![CDATA[Papa John's Founder Says Stepping Down Was a 'Mistake']]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:16:33 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/071818schnatter.jpg

Papa John's founder John Schnatter says the pizza chain doesn't know how to handle a "crisis based on misinformation" and that he made a "mistake" in agreeing to step down as chairman.

Schnatter says the board requested that he step down as chairman without "any investigation" and he should not have complied, according to a letter his representative says was sent to the board Saturday.

The contents of the letter were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Papa John's, which has started scrubbing Schnatter's image from its marketing materials and says it is evaluating all ties with Schnatter, did not respond to a request for comment.

The company said over the weekend it "specifically requested that Mr. Schnatter cease all media appearances, and not make any further statements to the media regarding the company, its business or employees."

Schnatter, who remains on Papa John's board, is the company's largest shareholder.

"I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted," Schnatter says in the letter.

A representative for Schnatter declined to comment on whether he was considering legal action.

In the report last week, Forbes said Schnatter used the N-word during a media training session in May, and that the incident led the marketing agency to sever its ties with the company.

Schnatter says he used the word while describing how Colonel Sanders spoke, but that he would never use it as an epithet.

He also said in the letter to the board that the agency asked for a higher payment than had been agreed to. The marketing firm, Laundry Service, did not respond to requests for comment.

Schnatter had already resigned as CEO last year after blaming disappointing sales on the NFL leadership's on the controversy surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem.

In the letter Saturday, Schnatter said that incident was also mishandled by the company's leadership "from a public relations standpoint" and that what he said was not racist.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Rob Kim/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla Buyers Worry They'll Lose Access to Tax Credit]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:08:15 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18183596005629.jpg

In March of 2016, Keith Reynolds flew from California to Atlanta so he could claim his spot in line at 4 a.m., and get a three-hour head start on his West Coast competitors.

Tesla was taking $1,000 deposits for its new electric car, the Model 3, priced starting at $35,000. And Reynolds had to have one. He managed to land near the top of the waiting list.

Flash forward more than two years, through much-publicized production delays. Reynolds is still waiting.

And now, like others in the U.S. on a waiting list of about 420,000 worldwide, he worries that the looming phaseout of a $7,500 federal tax credit will put the cost of the car out of his reach.

"The tax credit was going to be huge," says Reynolds, 45, who works in digital advertising, lives in Laguna Hills, California, and drives a 9-year-old Audi A3 compact car.

Last week, Tesla sales hit 200,000 since the start of 2010 — the point at which federal law requires the credit for rechargeable electric vehicles to be phased out. Tesla buyers will continue to get the full credit through the end of the year. Then it drops to $3,750 for six months and $1,875 for another six months before ending entirely on Dec. 31, 2019.

That means buyers need to be behind the wheel of a new Tesla by the end of the year to get the full $7,500 tax break — essentially a 21 percent discount off the base model's sticker price.

Many Model 3 customers will tire of waiting and drop out, predicted Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis at AutoPacific Inc., an auto research and consulting firm. "By then they will have been waiting for three years possibly," he said.

Tesla wouldn't comment on the possibility of losing buyers from the waiting list.

But if buyers bail, it could put the company's future in peril, costing sales and desperately needed cash flow for Tesla at a critical time in its 15-year history. Tesla is using the Model 3 to move from a niche maker of expensive electric cars for the wealthy to an automaker for the masses.

CEO Elon Musk has promised to turn a profit in the second half of this year, but Tesla has lost money in all but two quarters in its eight years as a public company. In the first three months of this year it burned $1 billion as it ramped up Model 3 production at a Fremont, California, factory. The company had $2.7 billion in cash at the end of March.

In March, Moody's Investor Service sounded an alarm, downgrading Tesla's debt into junk territory and warning that it won't have cash to cover $3.7 billion for normal operations, capital expenses and debt that comes due early next year. Tesla has said Model 3 sales will generate cash and drive profits.

Musk began sleeping at the factory in an effort to fix automation and other problems that much of the year held output to around half of the goal he set last summer of 5,000 Model 3s per week. The company built a heavy-duty tent to add space to make more Model 3s and said it reached 5,000 per week at the end of June.

Like many of those still on the waiting list, Reynolds wants to order a Model 3 priced closer to the $35,000 base. The cheapest version only comes in black, with other colors costing at least $1,000 more.

At present, Tesla is selling only pricier versions with longer-range battery packs. The last time Reynolds configured one on Tesla's website, the lowest price was $49,000, beyond what he can afford.

He wants the car badly enough that he'll spend over $40,000, as long as California and federal credits still cut the price to around $35,000. He'll hang on until the end of this year. Beyond that, he said he'll likely drop out if there's no federal credit and "if no configuration options are made for the frugal, penny-pinchers like myself."

Others on the waiting list interviewed by The Associated Press said they were worried about losing the tax credit. Several recent buyers and customers on Tesla internet forums expressed similar concerns.

Most Tesla buyers who already got the tax credit — about 120,000 — are wealthier people who didn't need it to buy Tesla's more expensive Model S and Model X, which can cost over $100,000, said Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. He said the tax law should have had an income limit for eligibility. "If you can afford to buy a $140,000 Tesla, you don't really need the incentive," he said.

The only other automaker that's close to losing the tax credit is General Motors, which has sold about 185,000 electric cars and should hit 200,000 early next year, according to the Edmunds.com auto pricing site. (Edmunds regularly provides content, including automotive tips and reviews, for distribution by The Associated Press.)

Kelley Blue Book analyst Rebecca Lindland put down a refundable $1,000 deposit on a Model 3 in April of 2016 because she believes in Musk's crusade to cut auto emissions to zero. Three months ago, she canceled her order, partly because of the delays, partly because she now wants a hatchback.

Lindland also wondered if she'd ever get the car. "I've already been on the list for two years," she said. "I need all-wheel-drive, and I would have to wait another year."

She doesn't think Tesla will be able to keep making 5,000 cars per week, and she is skeptical of the cars' quality and worried that Tesla could run out of money, unable to service vehicles.

Christian Kingery, a Seattle-area web developer, was among the first to order a Model 3 in 2016. He wanted a loaded version with all-wheel-drive for rainy weather, but was troubled by the prospect of losing federal and Washington state tax credits.

He compromised and ordered a rear-drive version in April. But his delivery date was delayed, costing him the Washington credit, which he says was worth $3,000 before it expired in May.

When all-wheel-drive became available, he switched his order, pushing delivery to September.

Although Kingery is frustrated, he still wants the car. "Tesla is doing something that no other carmaker is doing, in a way that no other carmaker is doing," he said.

Like Reynolds and Lindland, he knows about the Model 3's impressive handling, 310-mile battery range and futuristic interior with all the controls on a touch screen.

He will just have to wait a little longer to drive one.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP Photo, File]]>
<![CDATA[State High Court Upholds Philly's Soda Tax]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 18:57:09 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Soda+Tax+234+Soda+Cans.jpg

Philadelphia's tax on soda and other sweetened drinks was upheld Wednesday when the state's highest court rejected a challenge to the law by merchants and the beverage industry.
   The Supreme Court ruled the 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy is aimed at distributors and dealer-level transactions and does not illegally duplicate another existing tax.
   The four-justice majority said the state taxes sales at the retail level, a cost that falls directly on consumers, but the beverage tax applies to distributor and dealer-level transactions.
   ``The payer of the beverage tax is the distributor, or in certain circumstances, dealers, but never the purchasing consumer,'' wrote Chief Justice Thomas Saylor for the majority.
   Philadelphia's enactment of the soda tax has inspired several other cities around the country to pass similar measures. The Philadelphia tax is formally called the ``sugar-sweetened beverage tax'' but applies more widely to include some drinks with sugar substitutes.
   The beverage tax raised nearly $79 million in 2017, over its first 12 months in place.
   Both dissentingjustices said the tax does duplicate taxes already in place on retail sales of soda in the city, violating the Depression-era Sterling Act.
   ``A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and, whether styled a retail tax or a distribution tax, the levy here at bar, like the state sales tax, raises revenue specifically by burdening the proceeds from the retail sale of sugar-sweetened beverages,'' wrote Justice David Wecht, who dissented. ``This the Sterling Act does not allow.''
   If fully passed on to consumers, Philadelphia's soda tax represents an increase of $1.44 on a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles.
   Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, hailed the decision, saying the ruling ``offers renewed hope for tens of thousands of Philadelphia children and families who struggle for better lives in the face of rampant poverty.''
   The tax benefits schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries. 
   Shanin Specter, a lawyer for the consumers and groups that challenged the tax, said they were disappointed with the decision.
   A bill to invalidate the Philadelphia soda tax and prevent other municipalities from imposing one is pending in the state House. 

Philadelphia's tax on soda and other sweetened drinks was upheld Wednesday when the state's highest court rejected a challenge to the law by merchants and the beverage industry.

The Supreme Court ruled the 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy is aimed at distributors and dealer-level transactions and does not illegally duplicate another existing tax.

The four-justice majority said the state taxes sales at the retail level, a cost that falls directly on consumers, but the beverage tax applies to distributor and dealer-level transactions.

"The payer of the beverage tax is the distributor, or in certain circumstances, dealers, but never the purchasing consumer,'' wrote Chief Justice Thomas Saylor for the majority.

Philadelphia's enactment of the soda tax has inspired several other cities around the country to pass similar measures. The Philadelphia tax is formally called the "sugar-sweetened beverage tax'' but applies more widely to include some drinks with sugar substitutes.

The beverage tax raised nearly $79 million in 2017, over its first 12 months in place.

Both dissenting justices said the tax does duplicate taxes already in place on retail sales of soda in the city, violating the Depression-era Sterling Act.

"A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and, whether styled a retail tax or a distribution tax, the levy here at bar, like the state sales tax, raises revenue specifically by burdening the proceeds from the retail sale of sugar-sweetened beverages,'' wrote Justice David Wecht, who dissented. "This the Sterling Act does not allow.''

If fully passed on to consumers, Philadelphia's soda tax represents an increase of $1.44 on a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, hailed the decision, saying the ruling "offers renewed hope for tens of thousands of Philadelphia children and families who struggle for better lives in the face of rampant poverty.''

The tax benefits schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries.

Shanin Specter, a lawyer for the consumers and groups that challenged the tax, said they were disappointed with the decision.

A bill to invalidate the Philadelphia soda tax and prevent other municipalities from imposing one is pending in the state House.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pay Down Debt or Save Money? How to Allocate Your Cash]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 11:55:39 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/071818creditcarddebt.jpg

It's one of the most common questions financial advisers hear: should I prioritize paying down debt or building up savings?

Americans have a cozy relationship with debt — student loans, credit cards and car loans are commonplace. The Federal Reserve said that consumer borrowing rose $24.5 billion in May alone to hit almost $3.9 trillion.

And that doesn't include mortgage or real estate-secured debt, like home equity lines. Add rising interest rates to that mix and you've got quite the budget burden.

Debt can help advance your life, for example by paying for an education to get a job or buying a car to get to work. But paying it back also uses up money that could be set aside for emergencies, retirement or other expenses.

Research shows most Americans are ill-prepared to face a minor financial hiccup, let alone the cost of retirement.

So how do you meet these competing demands? We talked to a few financial experts for their tips.

First, take a good look at what you're up against. How much debt do you have and at what interest rates? How much savings do you have?

Other questions to consider, according to SoFi certified financial planner Alison Norris, include: are you only making minimum payments? Are your finances a source of stress in your life?

Then look at your budget - knowing how much money you have to work with will help you figure out what is feasible moving forward, said Charlie Bolognino, a certified financial planner in Bentonville, Arkansas. The budget is the key to unlocking solutions.

"We hear we are supposed to do all these things with money — save it, spend it, invest it and get out of debt — but there's only so much money to go around," said Bolognino.

Come up with a strategy you can stick with.

A successful plan will address both debt and savings in concert, to make the most of the money you do have.

It's not about focusing on one issue then moving on to the next, but rather a matter of determining where your spending priority is, said Bruce McClary of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

A rule of thumb is to allocate 20 percent of your take-home pay to savings and debt payments. How you divvy that up will depend on your priorities.

One thing the experts agree on: make emergency savings a top priority. Don't worry about getting several months of savings set aside. Even $500 can provide peace of mind.

This allows you to handle life's unexpected emergencies, like a car repair or lost cell phone, without further running up debt.

Tackling your highest interest rate debt needs to be near the top too. The average interest rate on credit cards is around 17 percent and more interest rate hikes are anticipated in the near future, according to McClary.

Compare that to the single-digit interest rate you might get from a standard savings account and it's an easy decision.

"It's the best time ever to not carry a balance," he said.

Calculate how long it will take to pay off your debt — knowing that date will remind you there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Then think about your lower-interest rate debt like federal student loans. While it may be tempting to turn your back on longer-term savings, don't - that is just trading today's financial ruin for another down the road.

Don't overlook opportunities for workplace retirement savings accounts, particularly if your employer matches your contribution. Failing to give at least the amount up to that level is like leaving money on the table, said Paul Golden of the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Some employers may have additional benefits to help with saving or paying down student loans. Pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories recently rolled out a unique program that makes a 5 percent company contribution to the 401(k) of employees who contribute 2 percent of their pay toward their student loans.

That helps them reach both financial goals of retirement savings and student loan repayment.

If you find you simply cannot make minimum payments on your debts or have exhausted your financial options, reach out for help through a nonprofit credit counseling organization.

"There's a point when you can't go it alone anymore," McClary said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Marriott Hotels Eliminating Plastic Straws by 2019]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 06:19:08 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/marriottGettyImages-538555926.jpg

Marriott International plans to remove plastic straws and drink stirrers from all of its 6,500 hotels and resorts worldwide by next year.

The world's largest hotel company said Wednesday that the move will eliminate approximately 1 billion straws and 250 million stirrers by July 2019.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott says the year-long timeframe will let hotels deplete their existing supplies and identify alternatives to plastic straws. Customers will be given alternatives upon request.

Marriott is the latest big company to ditch plastic straws. Starbucks and American Airlines announced plans to eliminate plastic straws last week. Hilton Hotels and Hyatt Hotels Corp. have also said they plan to stop using plastic straws by the end of this year.

The push to ban the straws gained traction after a viral video in 2015 showed rescuers removing a straw from a sea turtle's nose. Plastic straws are too small and lightweight to be easily recycled, and many wind up in the ocean.

Some Marriott hotels have already begun eliminating plastic straws. In February, more than 60 Marriott hotels in the United Kingdom banned them. Hotels in Costa Rica, Hawaii and Australia have made similar moves.

The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida was using 65,000 straws each month before it eliminated them in March, said Amanda Cox, the resort's director of sales and marketing.

Cox said the 810-room resort — which has 10 restaurants — now puts biodegradable paper straws in its pina coladas and sugar cane stirrers in its mojitos. It serves other cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages without straws, but will provide paper ones upon request.

Cox said the move was a natural one on the island, which is a nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles. She said resort guests and convention planners had been asking about the hotel's environmental practices.

"Guests choose to vacation here because it's a tropical paradise," Cox said. "We have to protect it the best we can."

Cox said banning straws has gone over well with patrons, partly because the resort has posted signs explaining why straws aren't offered. The resort had anticipated that half of patrons would request paper straws for their ice tea and other beverages, but Cox said only about 20 percent have made that request.

Marriott has made other moves to reduce its environmental footprint. Earlier this year, it began replacing small bottles of shampoo and conditioner with in-shower dispensers at many of its hotels. The company says it will have the dispensers in 1,500 hotels by the end of this year, which will eliminate 35 million plastic toiletry bottles annually.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Why Is Facebook Keen on Robots? It's Just the Future of AI]]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:09:41 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/FBGettyImages-876766956.jpg

Facebook announced several new hires of top academics in the field of artificial intelligence Tuesday, among them a roboticist known for her work at Disney making animated figures move in more human-like ways.

The hires raise a big question — why is Facebook interested in robots, anyway?

It's not as though the social media giant is suddenly interested in developing mechanical friends, although it does use robotic arms in some of its data centers. The answer is even more central to the problem of how AI systems work today.

Today, most successful AI systems have to be exposed to millions of data points labeled by humans — like, say, photos of cats — before they can learn to recognize patterns that people take for granted. Similarly, game-playing bots like Google's computerized Go master AlphaGo Zero require tens of thousands of trials to learn the best moves from their failures.

Creating systems that require less data and have more common sense is a key goal for making AI smarter in the future.

"Clearly we're missing something in terms of how humans can learn so fast," Yann LeCun, Facebook's chief AI scientist, said in a call with reporters last week. "So far the best ideas have come out of robotics."

Among the people Facebook is hiring are Jessica Hodgins , the former Disney researcher; and Abhinav Gupta, her colleague at Carnegie Mellon University who is known for using robot arms to learn how to grasp things.

Pieter Abbeel, a roboticist at University of California, Berkeley and co-founder of the robot-training company Covariant.ai, says the robotics field has benefits and constraints that push progress in AI. For one, the real world is naturally complex, so robotic AI systems have to deal with unexpected, rare events. And real-world constraints like a lack of time and the cost of keeping machinery moving push researchers to solve difficult problems.

"Robotics forces you into many reality checks," Abbeel said. "How good are these algorithms, really?"

There are other more abstract applications of learnings from robotics, says Berkeley AI professor Ken Goldberg. Just like teaching a robot to escape from a computerized maze, other robots change their behavior depending on whether actions they took got them closer to a goal. Such systems could even be adapted to serve ads, he said — which just happens to be the mainstay of Facebook's business.

"It's not a static decision, it's a dynamic one," Goldberg said.

In an interview, Hodgins expressed an interest in a wide range of robotics research, everything from building a "compelling humanoid robot" to creating a mechanical servant to "load and unload my dishwasher."

While she acknowledged the need to imbue robots with more common sense and have them learn with fewer examples, she also said her work in animation could lead to a new form of sharing — one in which AI-powered tools could help one show off a work of pottery in 3-D, for example.

"One thing I hope we'll be able to do is explore AI support for creativity," she said.

For Facebook, planting a flag in the hot field also allows it to be competitive for AI talent emerging from universities, Facebook's LeCun said.

Bart Selman, a Cornell computer science professor AI expert, said it's a good idea for Facebook to broaden its reach in AI and take on projects that might not be directly related to the company's business — something that's a little more "exciting" — the way Google did with self-driving cars, for example.

This attracts not just attention, but students, too. The broader the research agenda, the better the labs become, he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images]]>
PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]><![CDATA[Eagles QB Carson Wentz Re-Ups as NRG Ambassador]]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 13:18:02 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Carson+Wentz+PRJ.JPG

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has extended his deal to serve as an 'ambassador' for electricity supplier NRG through the 2018-19 season.

NRG, based in Philadelphia, in October 2016 became the first area company to sign an endorsement deal with Wentz.

Financial terms of that deal, as well as the extended deal, are being kept confidential.

“We’re thrilled to have Carson return as an NRG ambassador for another season,” said NRG General Manager and Vice President Mike Starck in a statement. “He has made the Philly area his home, and we look forward to working with him across the region.”

Read the full story here.

For more business news from PBJ, click here

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Business Journal]]>
<![CDATA[Petco Tries to 'Amazon-Proof' Its Business With a New Store]]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 11:24:07 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/petcoach.jpg

Petco is trying to Amazon-proof its business. Time will tell if the strategy really works. 

The privately held pet-goods retailer has just opened a new service-focused store that aims to give shoppers something they can't buy online. A pilot location opened this past Friday in San Marcos, California. Called PetCoach, it offers grooming, training, veterinary care, dog walking and more to pet parents, in addition to a limited assortment of products. 

The company said it plans to open more of these spaces in the future, using the San Marcos location as a testing ground. Part of this experiment also includes a new membership option. 

"If you aren't testing and trialing new things you are going to struggle to be really relevant five years from now," Brock Weatherup, executive vice president of strategic innovation and digital experience at Petco, told CNBC. Keeping the growing audience of "millennial pet owners" in mind, Petco wanted to "be able to figure out what the world of retail looks like five years from now," he said. 

The launch of the new PetCoach store comes as the pet-goods industry overall has been under increasing pressure, with margins being squeezed thinner. 

Amazon has its own pet food brand called Wag. Privately held rival PetSmart acquired Chewy.com, a pet food and product site, in 2017 in a deal sources say was valued at roughly $3 billion. The company though, has been slow to integrate, which is leaving it grappling with the debt-load it brought. 

Then, pet brand Blue Buffalo, now owned by General Mills, has been moving out of the specialty space and into mass retailers like Walmart and Target, forcing companies like Petco and PetSmart to either bring in other specialty brands or invest in their own to compete. Earlier this year, Petco announced a partnership with JustFoodForDogs to bring fresh items into stores. 

"I've studied Amazon and I'm impressed by them and admire them," Weatherup said. "But we feel really good about our chances to Amazon-proof our business. ... We believe there's a huge part of what we do that Amazon cannot [do]."

At the new PetCoach space, customers will be able to drop off their pets to work with trained specialists, in addition to the other services available there. Online, appointments to PetCoach can be booked in advance, and Petco will also offer digital access to health advice from licensed veterinarians, if care is needed immediately or in the middle of the night.

At 12,000 square feet, PetCoach is smaller than a typical Petco store, and two-thirds will be dedicated to services, with the remainder used for products for sale, Weatherup said. 

The company is also testing a new PetCoach membership with the store launch. It costs $9 per month and gives customers a handful of free veterinary visits for their pets every year, along with discounted rates on all the merchandise inside. Petco might consider adding a yearly membership option down the line, depending on customer feedback, Weatherup added. "We're in the early stages of doing a lot of these things."

Petco has been down a bumpy road as a retailer. 

In 2000, the San Diego-based company went private in a leveraged buyout by Leonard Green Partners and Texas Pacific Group. It then launched Petco.com in 2001, on the heels of the dotcom boom that began around 1995. Just a year later, Petco went public again and at that time had roughly 600 stores across the U.S. 

Following four years of being a public company, Petco in 2006 was taken private again by a group of private-equity firms, which were led by TPG, in a deal valued at $1.4 billion. CVC Capital Partners and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board then in 2015 agreed to buy Petco for roughly $4.6 billion. The company operates more than 1,500 Petco and Unleashed by Petco stores today. Petco also late last year acquired PupBox, a subscription service for dog owners. 

"What we're doing [in San Marcos] today will look very different a year from now. If it doesn't, then I've failed," Weatherup told CNBC. "This is where people go to be educated. ... Even the small things are really important."

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here is more from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Petco]]>
<![CDATA[Sistahs in Business Expo in Philly]]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 10:13:08 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/200*120/Brittney+Shipp+Vivica+A+Fox+Sistahs+in+Business.JPG

NBC10 meteorologist Brittney Shipp served as emcee for the Sistahs in Business Expo at Temple University on Saturday. Actress Vivica A Fox talked about her secrets to success and signed copies of her book.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Why Your Amazon Prime Membership May Not Be Worth the Price]]>Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:04:54 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/amazon+packages.JPG

One hundred million people have signed up for Amazon’s Prime subscription service. The company recently raised the price to $119 a year. The service offers customers free expedited shipping, music and movie streaming, along with a bunch of other lesser-known programs. 

But is paying a premium price to shop on Amazon really worth it? 

Free Shipping
The biggest feature that’s included with Amazon Prime is its free, two-day shipping, which the company says is offered on hundreds of millions of items, along with same-day delivery on some items. But that’s not the only way to get stuff shipped to you to for free. If you don’t mind waiting a bit longer, non-Prime members can receive items in five to eight days with a $35 minimum order. 

Competitors like Target and Walmart have upped the ante by offering free, two-day shipping on orders over $35, without any subscriptions. 

If you want to see how often you really use your Prime shipping benefits, you can download a copy of everything you’ve ordered from Amazon in the last couple of years. When I looked at mine, I found that I did most of my shopping right before Christmas. So if you’re mostly using Prime around the holidays, you can actually just subscribe to it by the month for $13 and then cancel it after the new year. 

Prime Video
Prime also gets you a subscription to its streaming video service. But Prime Video pales in comparison to Netflix. While Amazon is pouring about $5 billion into original content in 2018, Netflix says it will invest $8 billion into premium shows and movies. A survey by Morgan Stanley revealed that 39 percent of consumers said Netflix had “the best original programming,” while Prime Video only scored 5 percent. 

Prime Music
Prime gives you access to Amazon’s basic tier of its Prime Music service, which includes free streaming of around 2 million songs. However, that doesn’t even come close to Spotify’s free service, which has around 40 million songs, if you don’t mind the occasional ad. 

Whole Foods
Prime membership offers an extra 10 percent off sale items at Whole Foods as well as some additional weekly deals. 

If you shop exclusively at Whole Foods, these savings will add up over time, but for the rest of us the savings are probably only a couple of dollars here and there. On a recent trip, I didn’t save anything at Whole Foods using my Prime membership. 

Other Benefits
Amazon also offers a number of smaller benefits — like the ability to rent one free Kindle e-book a month, unlimited use of video game streaming site Twitch and a discounted subscription to The Washington Post. 

The Verdict
If you are someone who makes a lot of small purchases on Amazon, the convenience of the free, two-day shipping is invaluable. But, if you’re someone who rarely shops on Amazon, and doesn’t mind waiting a few extra days to get your stuff, you should definitely save your money. Without the convenience of free two-day shipping, you might even find yourself spending less money shopping online.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here is more from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Prime Day Brings Deals, But Also an Outage]]>Mon, 16 Jul 2018 15:50:55 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amazonGettyImages-938685102.jpg

Amazon Prime Day 2018 started on July 16 at 3 p.m. ET, although an outage brought error messages to some shoppers.

Today.com has done a round-up of good deals and will keep updating this page as new top deals come in.

Some early deals on Monday were Echo Dots for $30 (normally $50) and a Toshiba 50-inch 4K HD Smart LED TV for $290 (normally $400).

Click here for more recommendations from Today.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[No More Late-Night Snacks at Popular Center City Wawa]]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 08:11:25 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/wawa-split.jpg

After a series of incidents, one of Philadelphia’s most visible Wawa stores is no longer open for a late-night snack.

The Wawa store at Broad and Walnut streets in Center City ditched the chain’s normal 24/7 hours for 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours over the weekend.

"We have adjusted the hours at our Broad and Walnut store due to challenges we've had since the store opened," Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce said.

Two stabbings occurred at or near the Broad and Walnut Wawa store back in June.

The store, considered a flagship location when it opened in 2015, has been a popular late-night spot for people during a night out at nearby bars.

Other Center City Wawas at 19th and Market streets, 22nd and South streets and 1707 Arch Street remain open 24 hours a day, Bruce said.

Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia]]>
<![CDATA[What's New for Amazon's Prime Day? Deals at Whole Foods]]>Mon, 16 Jul 2018 07:30:35 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/969758744-Amazon-Fulfillment.jpg

Amazon's Prime Day deals are coming to the aisles of Whole Foods as the online retailer seeks to lure more people to its Prime membership after a recent price hike.

This year's sales event, which starts July 16, will be six hours longer than last year's and will launch new products. Amazon hopes to keep Prime attractive for current and would-be subscribers after raising the annual membership fee by 20 percent to $119 and to $12.99 for the month-to-month option. Outside of Prime Day, Amazon has added special discounts for Prime members at its more than 460 Whole Foods U.S. stores and has been adding new TV shows and movies on its video streaming service.

"They want Prime to be a must-have membership," says Suzanne Tager, who heads Bain & Co.'s retail and consumer products practices.

Prime Day, created by Amazon in 2015 to mark its 20th anniversary, has inspired other e-commerce companies to invent their own shopping holidays. Online furniture seller Wayfair introduced Way Day in April, becoming its biggest revenue day ever. While Prime Day brings in more revenue for Amazon, too, it also helps boost its Prime memberships. It had more sign-ups during 2017's event than any other day in the company's history, Amazon said at the time, without providing specific numbers.

Here's a look at what's new for this year's Prime Day:

WHOLE FOODS IN THE MIX: Expect discounts on groceries as well as in-store events, such as cooking demonstrations, says Jamil Ghani, the global vice president of Amazon Prime. And at its more than a dozen Amazon Books stores, discounts will expand beyond devices.

IT'S LONGER: After extending the daylong event to 30 hours in 2017, this year's Prime Day will be 36 hours long, starting the afternoon of July 16 and running through July 17.

NEW PRODUCT LAUNCHES: Several companies have agreed to launch new products on Prime Day, Amazon says. Among them, a Fingerlings unicorn doll whose horn lights up and a Delta kitchen faucet that can be turned on through Amazon's Alexa voice assistant.

PRIVATE LABEL PUSH: Amazon has been increasing its line of store brands, and it'll be offering deals such as 25 percent off its Rivet furniture brand, which didn't exist a year ago. Other deals include 30 percent off its Mama Bear diapers and baby products.

MORE COUNTRIES: Amazon has been expanding its Prime membership around the world, and four new countries will be a part of Prime Day this year: Australia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Singapore. Amazon disclosed for the first time this year that it had more than 100 million paid Prime members worldwide.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CVS Apologizes After Managers Call Cops on Black Customer]]>Sun, 15 Jul 2018 18:21:20 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/03-11-2014-cvs.jpg

CVS Health is apologizing after a black customer says white store managers in Chicago accused her of trying to use a phony coupon.

Camilla Hudson posted cellphone video of one of the managers appearing nervous. Morry Matson's left hand shakes as he calls police around 11:30 p.m. Friday.

The 53-year-old Hudson says another manager directly challenged her when she tried to use a manufacturer's coupon for a free product. She tells The Associated Press that he was "hostile."

The Facebook video show Matson talking to police on the phone. No action was taken when officers arrived.

CVS apologized to Hudson. The company says it doesn't tolerate discrimination against customers and that it's investigating the matter.

Matson is running for Chicago City Council and was a state delegate for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Sales and Employment Likely to Grow, Economists Say ]]>Mon, 16 Jul 2018 02:32:37 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jobsAP_16230695166503.jpg

Most U.S. business economists expect corporate sales to grow over the next three months and hiring and pay to rise with them.

But a majority of the economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics say the corporate tax cuts that the Trump administration pushed through Congress have yet to affect their plans for hiring or investment. The administration had promoted its tax cuts, which were heavily tilted toward corporations and wealthy individuals, as likely to raise worker pay and promote corporate investment and expansion over time.

The NABE also said a majority of respondents from goods-producing companies said their companies were delaying investment, raising prices or taking other steps in response to the Trump administration's trade conflicts with other nations.

The results of the quarterly survey being released Monday reflect responses from 98 of the NABE's members between June 14 and June 27.

Sixty-eight percent of the business economists said they foresee sales growing over the next three months. And for a fourth straight quarter, a higher proportion of respondents reported rising sales at their companies. All the panelists expect the U.S. economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, to expand over the next 12 months.

Goods producers — a category that includes manufacturers, farmers and construction — are most optimistic, with 94 percent saying they expect sales to rise over the next three months.

Fifty-one percent of the economists said wages rose at their companies between April and June, and they expect pay to keep rising over the next three months. It was the first time since the NABE began analyzing such data in 1982 that it has reported such strong wage growth over two quarters. Forty-one percent of respondents said their companies expect to hire in the next three months.

"Labor market conditions are tight, with skilled labor shortages driving firms to raise pay, increase training, and consider additional automation," Sara Rutledge, chair of the NABE's Business Conditions Survey, said in a statement.

Overall, the respondents reported little impact so far from the Trump administration's tariffs against China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico. A majority — 65 percent — said the trade disputes haven't led their companies to change hiring, investing or pricing so far.

But among goods-producing companies — which are directly affected by the tariffs and the counter-tariffs by America's trading partners — a majority said they had made one or more such changes. Twenty-six percent of the goods-producing companies said they had delayed investments, and 16 percent said they had raised prices.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mike Groll/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Find the Sweetest Deals on National Ice Cream Day]]>Sun, 15 Jul 2018 11:16:34 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-143450561+%281%29.jpg

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. To make sure you get your fill of the tasty treat, these are the best discounts at ice cream chains (and Whole Foods!) around the country.

Baskin Robbins is offering a buy-one-get-one deal on ice cream cones for customers who download the store app. A BOGO 99-cent sundae and $2 discount on medium milkshakes are also available, according to Today.com.

Coldstone Creamery is giving away one free custom creation with the purchase of another when customers sign up for the rewards app. Carvel has a BOGO deal on cones and cups of soft-serve. And Marble Slab Creamery and MaggieMoo's Ice Cream will both be giving away a free kid-sized ice cream cup or cone when you buy a regular cup or cone.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods is selling two pints of Ben & Jerry's for just $6, when one pint is usually $5 or more.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Papa John's Starts Pulling Founder's Image From Marketing]]>Fri, 13 Jul 2018 17:27:41 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/John-Schnatter.jpg

Papa John's, which has featured founder John Schnatter as a spokesman in logos and TV ads, has begun pulling his image from its marketing and pledged to assess its diversity practices in response to his use of a racial slur. 

Schnatter's face was off some materials by Friday, though the pizza chain said there are no plans to change its name. Schnatter is still on the board and is the company's largest shareholder — meaning he remains a key presence.

CEO Steve Ritchie said Friday the company will retain an outside expert to audit its processes related to diversity and inclusion. And he said senior managers will hold "listening sessions" to give employees a platform for any concerns.

"Papa John's is not an individual. Papa John's is a pizza company with 120,000 corporate and franchise team members around the world," he said in a statement.

Schnatter came under fire this week after a Forbes report that he used the N-word during a media training conference call in May. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the word.

Schnatter subsequently said he would resign as chairman and issued a statement of apology acknowledging the use of "inappropriate and hurtful" language.

In a radio interview with WHAS in Louisville on Friday, Schnatter said he was "just talking the way that the Colonel talked." He said the comment was taken out of context but that he nevertheless felt "sick" about the incident.

"I said it, and it's wrong," he said.

In addition to appearing in TV ads in the past, Schnatter's image has been on packaging and in a logo that usually is all over the website of the Louisville, Kentucky-based company.

Papa John's has acknowledged in regulatory filings that Schnatter's role as its pitchman could be a liability if his reputation was damaged. The company got a taste of that last year, when Schnatter stepped down as CEO after blaming disappointing pizza sales on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem.

Keith Hollingsworth, a professor with Morehouse College's business department, said keeping Schnatter in the marketing and advertising would signal to people that the company does not have a problem with his comments, or that it doesn't think they are a big deal.

"Five years from now, they might be able to start bringing him back. But at the moment, you have to be very decisive and show you take this very seriously," Hollingsworth said.

The company cannot afford to alienate customers, with sales already under pressure from rivals such as Domino's. For the first three months of this year, Papa John's said a key sales figure fell 5.3 percent in North America.

Schnatter owns nearly 30 percent of the company's shares, which fell after the report but rebounded when he said he would depart as chairman. They ended little changed Friday.

Other fallout continued Friday. The University of Louisville said it will remove the Papa John's name from its football stadium, and that it will rename the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at its business college. Earlier in the week, the school said Schnatter resigned from its board of trustees.

Major League Baseball had also said it was indefinitely suspending a promotion with Papa John's that offered people discounts at the pizza chain after a player hit a grand slam.

Papa John's International Inc., which began operations in 1984, has more than 5,200 locations globally.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek/Invision/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA['It's Heartbreaking': Build-a-Bear CEO Sorry for Sale Chaos]]>Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:03:42 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-997231380.jpg

The head of Build-a-Bear Workshop is apologizing after a special "pay your age" sale drew "extreme crowds" to malls and shopping centers, forcing the company to close lines during the promotion and turn away customers across the U.S, Canada and the U.K.

"There was really no way for us to have estimated those crowds," CEO Sharon Price John said Friday on the "Today" show. "We were fully stocked, fully staffed. If I could do it over though — if there was a way to extend the day to just make sure we service everyone, I would have loved to have seen everyone get a bear."

The popular kids' toy store on Thursday offered customers the chance to pay their age for any stuffable animal. But after kids and adults flocked to their local workshops in hopes of getting a customizable animal for cheap, Build-a-Bear said local authorities asked it to shut down lines and stop accepting new customers over safety concerns. Some lines were capped off after stores had only been open a few hours, and there were people who reported waiting some six hours before even entering stores, where they continued to stand by before purchasing a toy.

"It was beyond anything we could have ever imagined," John told Hoda Kotb and Willie Geist.

Build-a-Bear has hosted promotions before, such as its National Teddy Bear Day celebration, which offers customers a discounted price on a special-edition bear. John said the company is "used to crowds." 

But the CEO said buzz around "Pay Your Age Day," the first of its kind for Build-a-Bear, "really started to wind up about 24, 48 hours prior to the day." The company even advised customers on social media that lines could be long and worked with local malls to prepare for increased sales. Still, the turnout "far surpassed anything we ever could have known."

John, who has three children herself, said the chaos of the promotion is "heartbreaking" and does not represent what Build-a-Bear is about.

"I know that the most disappointing moment is when a kid is super excited and something doesn’t happen," John said. "There was no ill intent. Our objective at Build-a-Bear is to make kids happy. For 21 years we’ve been creating experiential retail and making sure kids have their favorite friend that they’ve made themselves. It's a very empowering process, and we take that very seriously."

Build-a-Bear gave vouchers for future purchases to guests who were present in lines but were not served. The $15 coupons were also made available online to Build-a-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada. Those members must log on to their accounts by midnight July 15. All discounts related to the "Pay Your Age Day" event are valid through August 31.

After news spread of the Workshop's failed sale, another company for kids attempted to cash in on Build-a-Bear's mishap. Chuck E. Cheese's advertised a special treat for visitors on its Facebook page Thursday night: "Didn’t get to Build A Bear? Come in on 7/13, pay your child’s age, and they will get 30 minutes of All You Can Play. Offer available Friday, 7/13 only in participating U.S. locations where Chuck E.’s Play Pass is available (Maximum $9 for 30 minutes)."

Photo Credit: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Blockbusters in Alaska Set to Close; 1 Store Left in US]]>Fri, 13 Jul 2018 08:08:17 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/blockbusters.jpg

Alaska's last two Blockbuster video stores are calling it quits, leaving just one store open in the U.S.

The stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks will close for rentals after Sunday night and reopen Tuesday for video liquidation sales through the end of August, said Kevin Daymude, general manager of Blockbuster Alaska.

"It's going to be crazy," Daymude said of the temporary reopening. He said residents were sad when they heard the news and many people have been reminiscing about their Blockbuster memories.

The news was announced to Alaskans on Blockbuster Alaska's Facebook page.

The closures come just two months after the host of HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" sent a jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in the 2005 movie "Cinderella Man" and other items to the Anchorage store, which displayed it in an effort to ramp up business.

Daymude says the buzz from the Oliver connection brought more people to the store.

"You would not believe how much business we got just from that memorabilia alone," he said. "I can't thank John Oliver or his show enough."

But it wasn't enough to counter a planned lease increase at both Alaska locations.

The jockstrap will probably go to the franchise owner, Alan Payne, who lives outside Austin, Texas.

A request for comment from HBO was not immediately returned.

In its heyday, Blockbuster had 15 stores in Alaska, Daymude said. Some stores in more remote, less populated parts of the state began closing in the early 2000s.

In recent years, Blockbuster stores have vanished in most of the U.S.

But their survival lasted longer in Alaska, with some crediting expensive internet as a factor in keeping many people renting videos rather than streaming.

The closures will leave the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, as the sole holdout.

"How exciting," said the Bend store's general manager Sandi Harding. "It might end up being a little chaotic for a couple of weeks."

As for the fate of that store, the future looks good.

"We have no plans on closing anytime soon," Harding said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pay-Your-Age Causes Chaos at Build-a-Bear]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 20:23:16 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Pay-Your-Age_Causes_Chaos_at_Build-a-Bear.jpg

A Build-a-Bear promotion caused chaos and long lines at malls all over the area on Thursday. Now, some parents are still upset about the situation.]]>
<![CDATA[Justice Department Appeals AT&T-Time Warner Merger Approval]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 17:07:33 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/TWbldg.jpg

The Justice Department will appeal the AT&T-Time Warner merger approval, according to a court document filed Thursday.

Shares of AT&T slipped 1 percent in after-hours trading Thursday, CNBC reported.

In June, a federal judge ruled that the $85.4 billion deal was legal and imposed no conditions on the merger.

At the time, the Justice Department expressed its disappointment with the ruling. The government argued that the deal would make the pay-TV market "less competitive and less innovative."

AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier in the U.S., maintains that the deal would help the company attract customers — and compete with companies like Amazon and Netflix — by bundling entertainment with mobile service.

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Detaining Migrant Kids Is Now a Billion-Dollar Industry]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 17:09:26 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/southwest-key-ext.jpg

Detaining migrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade, an Associated Press analysis finds.

Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million dollars in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep migrant children in government custody.

Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states — Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

They are being held while their parents await immigration proceedings or, if the children arrived unaccompanied, while they are reviewed for possible asylum themselves.

In May, the agency issued requests for bids for five projects that could total more than $500 million for beds, foster and therapeutic care, and "secure care," which means employing guards. More contracts are expected to come up for bids in October.

HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said the agency will award bids "based on the number of beds needed to provide appropriate care for minors in the program."

The agency's current facilities include locations for what the Trump administration calls "tender age" children, typically under 5. Three shelters in Texas have been designated for toddlers and infants. Others — including in tents in Tornillo, Texas, and a tent-and-building temporary shelter in Homestead, Florida — are housing older teens.

Over the past decade, by far the largest recipients of taxpayer money have been Southwest Key and Baptist Child & Family Services, AP's analysis shows. From 2008 to date, Southwest Key has received $1.39 billion in grant funding to operate shelters; Baptist Child & Family Services has received $942 million.

A Texas-based organization called International Educational Services also was a big recipient, landing more than $72 million in the last fiscal year before folding amid a series of complaints about the conditions in its shelters.

The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities. The organizations originally concentrated on housing and detaining at-risk youth, but shifted their focus to migrants when tens of thousands of Central American children started arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

They are essentially government contractors for the Health and Human Services Department — the federal agency that administers the program keeping migrant children in custody. Organizations like Southwest Key insist that the children are well cared for and that the vast sums of money they receive are necessary to house, transport, educate and provide medical care for thousands of children while complying with government regulations and court orders.

The recent uproar surrounding separated families at the border has placed the locations at the center of the controversy. A former Walmart in Texas is now a Southwest Key facility that's believed to be the biggest child migrant facility in the country, and First Lady Melania Trump visited another Southwest Key location in Phoenix.

Advocates on both sides of the aisle criticize the growing number of kids housed in government shelters, but they have different reasons — and they blame each other.

"You can't put a child in a prison. You cannot. It's immoral," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who has been visiting shelters.

Gillibrand said the shelters will continue to expand because no system is in place to reunite families separated at the border. "These are real concerns that the administration has not thought through at all," she said.

But President Donald Trump says cracking down on illegal immigration ultimately can lead to spending less money and having fewer migrants in government custody.

"Illegal immigration costs our country hundreds of billions of dollars," he said at a recent rally. "So imagine if we could spend that money to help bring opportunity to our inner cities and our rural communities and our roads and our highways and our schools."

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a "zero tolerance policy" directing authorities to arrest, jail and prosecute anyone illegally crossing the border, including people seeking asylum and without previous offenses. As a result, more than 2,300 children were turned over to HHS.

In a recently released report, the State Department decried the general principle of holding children in shelters, saying it makes them inherently vulnerable.

"Removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort," the report said. "Studies have found that both private and government-run residential institutions for children, or places such as orphanages and psychiatric wards that do not offer a family-based setting, cannot replicate the emotional companionship and attention found in family environments that are prerequisites to healthy cognitive development."

Some in the Trump administration describe the new policy as a "deterrent" to future would-be immigrants and asylum-seekers fleeing violence and abject poverty in Central America, Mexico and beyond.

But Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families — an HHS division — said the policy has exposed broader issues over how the government can manage such a vast system.

"It was never intended to be a foster care system with more than 10,000 children in custody at an immediate cost to the federal taxpayer of over $1 billion dollars per year," Wagner said in a statement.

The longer a child is in government custody, the potential for emotional and physical damage grows, said Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"The foundational relationship between a parent and child is what sets the stage for that child's brain development, for their learning, for their child health, for their adult health," Kraft said.

"And you could have the nicest facility with the nicest equipment and toys and games, but if you don't have that parent, if you don't have that caring adult that can buffer the stress that these kids feel, then you're taking away the basic science of what we know helps pediatrics."

A judge in California has ordered authorities to reunite separated families within 30 days — and the government said Thursday about half of the children under 5 have been reunited with parents.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP
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<![CDATA[Fast-Food Chains Agree to Allow Workers to Change Branches]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 16:00:35 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18193696359447.jpg

Seven national fast-food chains have agreed to end policies that block workers from changing branches — limiting their wages and job opportunities — under the threat of legal action from the state of Washington.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced binding agreements with the companies — McDonald's, Auntie Anne's, Arby's, Carl's Jr., Jimmy John's, Cinnabon and Buffalo Wild Wings — at a news conference Thursday. McDonald's had previously announced plans to end the practice.

The so-called no-poach policies prevent franchises from hiring workers away from other franchises of the same chain. That's been considered convenient for franchise owners, but has blocked experienced workers at one franchise from getting better-paying jobs at others, potentially keeping tens of thousands of employees around the country stuck in low-wage positions.

Without access to better job opportunities at other franchises, workers have less leverage to seek raises in their current positions, Ferguson said.

"Our state antitrust laws are very clear: Businesses must compete for workers the same way as they compete for customers," Ferguson said. "You can't rig the system to avoid competition."

In separate agreements filed Thursday in King County Superior Court in Seattle, the companies denied that their policies are illegal, but said they wanted to avoid expensive litigation.

Ferguson credited them for quickly agreeing to end the practice nationwide in response to his legal threats and said fast-food chains that don't follow suit will be sued. The seven chains have more than 500 locations in Washington.

On Monday, a coalition of 11 Democratic state attorneys general, led by Maura Healy of Massachusetts, announced a separate investigation into the no-poach agreements at several chains, including Arby's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Little Caesars, Panera Bread, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Wendy's.

Ferguson said his office began investigating early this year, prompted by a New York Times article detailing how such policies had stifled wages for fast-food workers.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File]]>
<![CDATA['Extreme Crowds' Force Build-a-Bear to Close Lines on 'Pay Your Age Day']]>Fri, 13 Jul 2018 00:08:42 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/buildabearchaos2.jpg

After Build-a-Bear Workshop offered customers the chance to pay their age for any stuffable animal, the company was forced to close its lines at all U.S. and Canadian workshops as "extreme crowds" filled shopping centers and throngs of people wrapped around stores and buildings.

The company said in a statement on its website that the response to the company's first-of-its-kind sale "has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history." It added that at the request of local authorities, the company cut off lines and stopped accepting new customers at stores over safety concerns. This resulted in "long lines, extensive waits and disappointed guests."

Some lines were shut down after stores had only been open a few hours. Build-a-Bear said the crowds "greatly exceeded our expectations." 

With kids and adults hoping to get a customizable animal for cheap, social media posts showed local workshops stuffed with eager customers and lines spilling into the hallways of malls.

In New York City, parents with small children were still waiting in line at the 34th Street shop at 1:30 p.m., telling NBC4 they had been there since 6:30 a.m. Some said once inside the store they waited hours just to purchase a bear.

One woman yelled "We need somebody" as she confronted staff members over what she said was a lack of monitoring people who were skipping the line.

"It was not worth it," one child said after a long wait.

The Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista, California, posted Build-a-Bear's statement to its Facebook page and customers replied confused and upset.

"The store or the mall should give out vouchers for customers to return at a later date to obtain their bear. Seems a bit unfair, and both entities should have prepared for a response like this when offering this type of promotion," one Facebook user wrote on the post.

Video from NBC7 showed a sprawling line stretching out of the town center's doors and wrapping around the back of the building.

In Illinois, police could be seen responding to the growing crowd at Orland Square Mall, NBC Chicago reported. A flood of people could also be seen at Oakbrook and Woodfield Malls. Though the lines were long, NBC5 reported customers received their discounted bears without incident.

In response to the chaos, Build-a-Bear gave vouchers for future purchases to guests who were present in lines but were not served. Vouchers were also made available online to Build-a-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada. Those members must log on to their accounts by midnight July 15 and use the voucher by August 31.

The sale allowed customers to choose any of the "furry friends" available at local workshops and pay their age number for it. The company said no one would pay more than $29 for a bear on the special date — regardless if the purchaser is in their 30's or older. Build-a-Bear required no identification or proof of age.

Many of the animals are normally in the $20-30 range, with some costing as low as $10 and some as high as $75.

The day-long event was set to serve as a kickoff for a larger, year-round celebration of birthdays in which those 14 and under can receive a "Count Their Candles" invite. Kids can pay their age for a special bear during their birthday month.

The discount was also being offered at U.K. stores. Police said lines formed at a workshop in England "about a mile long," the BBC reported. Several stores closed for the rest of the day due to the crowds.

Parents reported wait times of up to nine hours in at some locations in England, according to DailyMail.com.

"We have overwhelming data that indicates Build-A-Bear is synonymous with childhood, and nearly one-third of our sales are associated with birthdays," said president and chief executive officer of Build-A-Bear-Workshop Sharon Price John.

Photo Credit: Brad Luck
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<![CDATA[Leading E-Cig Maker Juul to Sell Lower-Nicotine Pods]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 10:28:09 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/cms1172.jpg

Juul Labs is addressing one of the most common criticisms levied against the e-cigarette company: the amount of nicotine in its vaping liquids. 

The leading e-cig maker will soon introduce lower nicotine options for some of its flavor pods. A tiered approach to nicotine levels is thought to help people who are trying to quit smoking because they can gradually wean themselves off nicotine, the substance that makes cigarettes addictive. 

Under Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the Food and Drug Administration has approached nicotine products as existing on a continuum of risk, where conventional cigarettes are the most harmful and alternatives like e-cigarettes are less harmful. Gottlieb has advocated to encourage smokers to switch to other products on the continuum, realizing that not everyone can or wants to quit. Juul has framed its e-cigarettes as an option for adults looking to switch. However, the product has been gaining in popularity among teens and people who never smoked. 

Juul currently does not offer different nicotine levels like some other e-cigarettes. Instead, all of its pods contain 5 percent nicotine, the equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. 

Starting in August, Juul will introduce 3 percent nicotine pods for its mint and Virginia tobacco flavors. They'll offer limited quantities at first with the intention to make them widely available in October. The lower-nicotine pods will cost the same as the traditional ones, $15.99. 

The two flavors are some of Juul's most popular ones, though they're not the most commonly criticized. Anti-tobacco advocates and lawmakers say fruity flavors like mango and creme brulee appeal to teens and mask the fact that each pod contains addictive nicotine. They've stepped up their attacks as more teenagers have started using the e-cigarettes. 

“JUUL Labs wants to meet the needs and preferences of adult smokers who are on their journey to switching from cigarettes, and we hope the availability of different nicotine strengths will continue to allow adult smokers the ability to explore what is best for them," CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement. 

Juul has become such a phenomenon that it's earned its own verb: Juuling. Sales have skyrocketed almost 800 percent over the past year, catapulting Juul to the clear market leading spot with 68 percent of share, according to recent Nielsen numbers compiled by Wells Fargo. 

The company has pledged $30 million over the next three years to research, youth and parent education, and community engagement efforts. In June, Juul said it would stop featuring models on its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts and start featuring former smokers who have switched. 

Schools around the country have also begun to educate parents and students about e-cigarettes. 

Juul's fast growth has enticed some investors. It has raised $650 million of a $1.25 billion fundraising round, according to a regulatory form it filed this week. The round would value the start-up at $15 billion, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. 

Its growth has also attracted perhaps unwanted attention from regulators. The FDA took a rare move earlier this year in issuing a 904(b) letter, which refers to the section of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. It was the first time in three years that the FDA has sent such a letter. 

In its request, the FDA asked Juul for a slew of company materials, including marketing documents and research on whether certain products' design features, ingredients or specifications appeal to different age groups. Gottlieb has been vocal about his belief that e-cigarettes can help adult smokers switch to alternatives, but not at the expense of addicting a new generation to nicotine.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Read more from CNBC here:

Photo Credit: Press Herald via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Inflation Reaches 2.9 Percent in June, Highest in 6 Years]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 09:44:44 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-878290518.jpg

Consumer prices rose in June from a year earlier at the fastest pace in more than six years, lifted by more expensive gas, car insurance, and higher rent.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the consumer price index ticked up just 0.1 percent in June. But inflation jumped 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the largest annual gain since February 2012. Core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2 percent in June and 2.3 percent from a year earlier.

Solid economic growth and supply bottlenecks have pushed inflation past the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target, after price gains had languished below that level for six years. That is a key reason that Fed officials expect to raise short-term rates twice more this year.

Price gains may intensify if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat Tuesday to slap tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, including furniture, hats, and handbags. If implemented, those duties, combined with tariffs put in place last week, would mean about half of China's imports would be subject to extra duties, likely boosting costs for consumers.

Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics, said overall inflation may decline in the coming months as the recent gas price spikes level off. Prices at the pump averaged $2.88 a gallon nationwide Thursday, down 3 cents from mid-June.

"Nonetheless, with the labor market exceptionally tight and activity expanding strongly, we think that core inflation has further to rise," Hunter said in a research note. "The prospect of further tariffs on Chinese imports will only add to that upward pressure."

Household appliance prices rose in June from a year earlier at the fastest pace in five years, Hunter noted, lifted by a 13 percent increase in washing machine costs. Trump imposed tariffs on washing machines in January.

The Fed's preferred inflation gauge has increased at a slower pace, up 2.3 percent in the past year. But most economists expect the Fed will raise rates a total of four times this year as it attempts to keep inflation in check without cutting off growth.

With consumers and businesses spending more, trucking firms have struggled to hire enough workers to keep goods moving. That has boosted shipping prices, lifting costs for businesses that may soon be passed on to consumers.

In June, gas prices increased 0.5 percent and have soared 24.3 percent in the past 12 months. That has sent prices at the pump toward nearly $3 a gallon, sucking more money from consumers' wallets and offsetting roughly a third of the benefit from last year's tax cuts.

Fuel oil has surged nearly 31 percent in the past year, pressuring airlines. Delta cut its full-year profit outlook Thursday, citing a $2 billion surge in fuel prices. Airlines have tried to offset rising fuel costs in a number of ways, including additional charges for passengers like bag fees.

Rents rose 0.3 percent in June and overall housing costs have increased 3.4 percent in the past year. Auto insurance prices also increased 0.3 percent last month and have jumped 7.6 percent from a year earlier.

New and used cars and medical care have also become more expensive. Clothes and household furniture fell in price last month.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[A New Round of Proposed Trump Tariffs Would Hit US Consumers]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 04:57:12 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/usAP_18192598680909.jpg

Now consumers are in the cross-hairs.

Americans could soon find themselves paying more for goods they might not have known were imported from China. It's a potential consequence of a new round of tariffs the Trump administration is proposing to slap on Chinese imports as soon as September.

And it marks a new phase in the U.S. trade war with China. Before now, the administration had deliberately avoided imposing tariffs on consumer goods in order to spare U.S. shoppers from direct economic pain. But late Tuesday, when the administration issued a list of 6,000 products worth $200 billion that it proposes to hit with 10 percent tariffs, it included consumer items ranging from baseball gloves to seafood, vacuum cleaners, toilet paper and burglar alarms.

The administration will hold hearings on the proposed list late next month. President Donald Trump is threatening to impose the tariffs in retaliation for duties that China slapped on $34 billion of U.S. goods on Friday. Those duties, in turn, were a response to new tariffs the United States had imposed on China.

If China were to back down, the Trump administration might hold off on the newest tariffs. But economists say Beijing is unlikely to do so.

"Consumers will feel it and perhaps as early as Christmas," said Mary Lovely, an economics professor at Syracuse University who studies trade.

On Friday, the administration imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports. Consumer goods made up only about 1 percent of that amount.

But Tuesday's list includes food and agricultural products, handbags, hats and furniture — a group of items that, by themselves, account for nearly one-quarter of the $200 billion in Chinese goods that would be subject to the new proposed tariffs, according to data compiled by trade research firm Panjiva.

Other products that would be affected include window-mounted air conditioners, Christmas lights, car parts, refrigerators and roughly $350 million of frozen tilapia filets, according to data from Panjiva. Of all the frozen tilapia the United States imports, roughly 83 percent comes from China.

The tariffs might even affect some of the "Make America Great Again" — or MAGA — hats sported by many of Trump's supporters. David Lassoff, a company manager for California-based Incredible Gifts, is stockpiling the hats because importers have told him that the MAGA hats might be affected by the tariffs. Incredible Gifts buys the hats from China and embroiders them in the United States.

Lassoff said he has tried to acquire the hats from American manufacturers, but customers are unwilling to pay more. Incredible Gifts sells the hats for $16.99 on Amazon.com; Lassoff said they might cost twice that if they were made in the United States. If the tariffs were imposed on Chinese-made hats, he said, he would consider acquiring them from another low-cost country like Vietnam.

For now, Lassoff is hoping that the big companies that sell them, like Walmart and Amazon, are lobbying against the tariffs.

So far, many Americans are enjoying a solid economy and haven't felt an impact from Trump's trade fights. Nor have there been noticeable political consequences, though some Republican senators have sharply criticized the administration's embrace of tariffs.

"Consumers are feeling good, but if they see prices start going up, there could be a backlash," said Rod Sides, U.S. leader of retail at Deloitte. "The average consumer hasn't yet internalized what the tariffs mean to them and haven't seen prices rise."

Economists are struggling to foresee any end in sight for the burgeoning trade dispute between the two largest economies. No high-level talks are being held, and none have been scheduled.

Trump "isn't giving people off-ramps through negotiations," said Rod Hunter, a trade lawyer at Baker McKenzie and a former trade official in the George W. Bush administration. "You have to allow your counterparty to find a graceful way to give you the outcome that you want."

Most economists say the direct effect on the U.S. economy will likely be small. Greg Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics, has calculated that the $250 billion in tariffs Trump has imposed or threatened to place on Chinese imports could shave growth by about 0.3 percentage point next year.

Still, the indirect effects could be greater, he said. Corporate executives may delay investment projects. And the stock market could retreat, thereby reducing Americans' wealth and ability to spend.

The trade fight "is a big risk to the economy, not least because we're only in the early stages of what could be a significant escalation," he said.

Levi Strauss & Co.'s CEO Charles Victor Bergh told analysts on a conference call Tuesday that he's concerned that worsening trade conflicts could disrupt the global economy.

"Tariffs at the end of the day are a tax, and companies are going to have to figure out how they're going to pay that tax and it's mostly going to come through higher pricing, which is going to slow the economy down," Bergh said.

Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for the Home Depot, said some of the products on the list — like lumber and carpet — won't affect his company because it receives most of those from the U.S. and Canada. But other items, like hand tools, lamps or fans, could be affected.

"It's a bit of wait and see," Holmes said.

He said that cost increases from tariffs are normally passed through to consumers — but not always directly. For example, Home Depot might spread the added tariff costs over several products so the Chinese-made product wouldn't necessarily absorb a big price increase.

These wouldn't be the first tariffs to affect the company. In January, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on foreign-made washing machines, which are sold by Home Depot. Holmes said the tariffs so far haven't reduced demand.

AP Business Writers Dee-Ann Durbin and Anne D'Innocenzio contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: John Raoux/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Papa John's Chairman Resigns After Admission of Racial Slur]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 05:44:54 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/John-Schnatter.jpg

After admitting to using a racial slur in a May conference call, John Schnatter resigned Wednesday night from his position as Chairman of the Board of Papa John's, the company said in a press release. 

In a written statement published to their website, Papa John's said the company would move to appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks. The company said Olivia Kirtley would act as the company's Lead Independent Director. 

Following a Forbes report on the incident, Schnatter, the company's founder, admitted to using the N-word during a conference call in May. 

Forbes said Schnatter used the N-word during a media training exercise. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the word.

"News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true," Schnatter said in a statement released by Papa John's. "Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society." 

Schnatter stepped down as CEO last year after blaming slowing sales growth on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem. He remains chairman of the company he started when he turned a broom closet at his father's bar into a pizza spot.

Papa John's shares fell nearly 5 percent Wednesday after the report, closing at $48.33.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Comcast Raises Bid for Sky to $34 Billion, Tops Fox's Offer]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 21:38:43 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ComcastBidFoxSky.jpg

Comcast Corp. on Wednesday raised its offer for Britain's Sky in a deal valuing the pay-TV group at $34 billion, topping a raised bid of $32.5 billion from Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox.

Comcast said its cash offer has been recommended by Sky's independent committee of directors and that it has committed financing required for the deal, NBC News reported.

The company said it expects to complete the acquisition before the end of October 2018.

Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of this station.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[How a Mother and Her Son Made Wine Condoms Into a Thing]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 20:18:20 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Wine+Condoms.jpg

When Laura Bartlett left her friend’s house one night in 2012, carrying an unfinished bottle of wine covered in plastic wrap and secured by a rubber band, she was less concerned with how pretty the hack looked than she was with spilling her wine. 

After she got home, her then 20-year-old son, Mitch Strahan, joked that her makeshift wine stopper looked like a condom. 

“We just kind of laughed about it,” Bartlett, 51, tells CNBC Make It

But the joke stuck. 

“It was just a funny idea until one day, several months later, he was like, ‘I think I’m going to do this. I think I’m going to make a wine condom,'" Bartlett recalls.

What started as a successful Kickstarter campaign to create the wine stoppers with a sense of humor — which raised nearly $10,000 in 2014 — is now a legitimate business. Bartlett and Strahan's Wine Condoms have now surpassed $1 million in total sales, they are featured in Paper Source stores around the country and the product is currently being considered by a big box convenience store. 

But at the start, Bartlett, who was working in marketing for a bank, and Strahan, who was waiting tables, didn’t know where to begin. They just knew they wanted to make condoms for wine bottles. 

“We couldn't get them made at a condom factory because true condom packaging was [done] on an assembly line,” which wouldn't allow for customization, Strahan says. Instead, they worked with an overseas glove manufacturer to find the proper molds for a product that would fit a wine bottle and sourced packaging from a company that made pill sample packets to mimic the appearance of a traditional condom wrapper.

After production issues and costs racked up, the venture ended its first year at a loss even after the crowdfunding raise. But encouraged by word-of-mouth sales and the response to their Kickstarter campaign, the duo decided to continue. Bartlett even cashed an insurance check (for her spare garage’s leaking roof) to pay for a new batch of Wine Condoms when some defective ones broke and needed to be replaced. 

“It took a lot of convincing from me too. I’m like, ‘I promise, we’ll make that money back,’” Strahan remembers telling his mom. 

But big breaks in the ensuing months made the gamble worth it, starting with the product being featured as a holiday gift idea on the "Today" show in 2014. Two years later, a Wine Condoms video profile from LADbible, a U.K.-based online publication, went viral on Facebook and now boasts over 30 million views. 

“Any time we got some major publicity, the response was really great,” Bartlett says.

Last year, Bartlett and Strahan sold over $500,000 worth of Wine Condoms, mostly through Amazon, and are projecting annual sales to cross the $750,000 mark in 2018. Now that the business has scaled, instead of storing product in Strahan’s apartment, they've moved it to a 3,000-square-foot warehouse near Dallas. 

Four years ago, if anyone had suggested to Bartlett that the company would grow to be as big as it has, the idea would have been as laughable as the plastic wrap contraption that sat on her counter and started it all. The journey has taught Bartlett and Strahan that even if you don’t have any experience launching a business, it can be figured out with just a few internet searches. 

“Don't wait for somebody to give you the blueprint — go find the blueprint,” she says. “We paid a bunch of our time and money to chase down that blueprint, but look where we are now. It’s because we didn’t give up.”

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here are more stories you may like from CNBC:

Photo Credit: CNBC]]>
<![CDATA[New Aerie Campaign Highlights Women with Medical Conditions]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 15:56:10 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/aerie-bra.jpg

From unretouched photos to models with diabilities, Aerie for American Eagle is promoting body positivity across its website and social media platforms.  

The brand released new images this week featuring models who use wheelchairs and arm crutches, as well as those affected by Type 1 diabetes and vitiligo. 

Abby Sams, one of the campaign's models, took to Twitter to express her appreciation. 

People took to Twitter to thank Aerie for including images of people who represent them.

This is not Aerie’s first campaign that challenges conventional beauty standards. Since 2014, the brand has used the hashtag #AerieREAL on Instagram and Twitter to showcase unretouched photos and celebrate the beauty of women with different body types.

Other brands have also jumped on the body positive movement.

In 2016, Target launched a #NOFOMO campagin. The hashtag, which stands for "no fear of missing out," encouraged women to celebrate their bodies without shame during the summer swimwear season.

The brand followed up in 2017 and 2018 with the #TargetSwim campaigns featuring models of all sizes. Images were not altered using Photoshop. 

As for Aerie, the brand plans to continue promoting girl power and body positivity through its diverse models. 

"We hope we can continue to grow not only as a brand, but as an advocate for representation and inclusion," the company wrote on Twitter. 

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<![CDATA[Papa John's Founder Used N-Word on Conference Call]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 16:23:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/papa-johns.jpg

Papa John's founder John Schnatter admitted to using the N-word during a May conference call and apologized for the comments after Forbes magazine detailed the incident in an article Wednesday. 

“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true," Schnatter said in a statement released by Papa John's. "Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.” 

Schnatter was on a call with marketing agency Laundry Service when he tried to downplay comments he made about the National Football League and allegedly said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s," and complained that the KFC founder never faced public backlash. The call was a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to prevent future public relations fumbles. 

“The past six months we’ve had to take a hard look in the mirror and acknowledge that we’ve lost a bit of focus on the core values that this brand was built on and that delivered success for so many years,” CEO Steve Ritchie said in an internal memo obtained by CNBC that was sent Wednesday to team members, franchisees and operators. "We’ve got to own up and take the hit for our missteps and refocus on the constant pursuit of better that is the DNA of our brand.” 

Shares of Papa John's fell by as much as 5.9 percent to a new 12-month low of $47.80 a share in intraday trading Wednesday following the report. The news erased $96.2 million in market value. Papa John's is down 12.5 percent year to date while Domino's shares are up 47 percent over the same time period. 

"Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting," a company spokesman told CNBC. "Our company was built on a foundation of mutual respect and acceptance." 

Laundry Service, which is owned by sports agency owner Casey Wasserman, reportedly cut ties with an unnamed client in late May due to "the regrettable recent events that several employees of Laundry Service witnessed during interactions with a client’s executive,” according a letter obtained by Bloomberg

Shelley Lewis, a spokeswoman for Laundry Service, declined to comment. 

Public relations consultant Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants in Irvine, California, told CNBC that it was a "colossal boneheaded move of which they will now have to rethink if they want to use him as a spokesperson." 

The incident underscores the risks of using an individual to represent a brand, said crisis communications consultant Dan Hill, CEO of Hill Impact. 

“This is the danger when organizations are too tied to a personality,” Hill told CNBC. “We saw it with Subway and Jared ... when things are going well and those people are popular, and they are doing smart things, it works. But then you have a single point of failure and it’s that person’s actions that reflect on the entire organization.” 

The Forbes report comes just seven months after Schnatter abruptly exited the C-Suite. Schnatter faced backlash in November for critical statements he made about the NFL that ultimately caused the league to remove Papa John's as an official sponsor. 

He blamed NFL leadership for hurting the company's performance because it hadn't resolved the ongoing controversy over players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. 

While Schnatter is no longer the CEO of Papa John's, he is still chairman and is tied with the brand's image and is featured prominently on the company's pizza boxes. 

“I think the big thing for them going forward is how do they distance themselves entirely from John?" Hill said.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. Here are more stories from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek/Invision/AP
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<![CDATA[Sistahs in Business Expo]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 14:57:14 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Sistahs_In_Business_Expo.jpg

Entrepreneur Aisha Taylor Issah talks what will be taking place during the Sistahs in Business Expo, a celebration of entrepreneurial women of color this upcoming Saturday in North Philadelphia.]]>
<![CDATA[Free Slurpee Day Is Here! 7-Eleven's Annual Holiday Returns]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:13:46 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/slurpees.png

The coolest, cheapest way to beat the heat on Wednesday is here.

July 11 — or 7-Eleven Day — is the convenience chain's annual holiday where its signature slushy drinks are given away for free. Although many of their stores are now open 24 hours, the promotion will only run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In honor of the company's 91st birthday, they've also released a Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries Slurpee flavor based off the beloved cereal brand.

Stop by your local 7-Eleven — there are hundreds of locations spread out in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware — to claim the free small frozen drink with your name on it.

Photo Credit: Facebook/7Eleven]]>
<![CDATA[Pfizer to Lower Drug Prices Following Talk With Trump]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 02:22:16 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/pfizerGettyImages-655297240.jpg

Following a discussion with President Donald Trump, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Tuesday that it would roll back planned drug price increases for July, NBC News reported

The president said he met with Pfizer CEO Ian Read, as well as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to discuss Trump's "drug pricing blueprint" and came away with a vow from the company to roll back price increases "so American patients don’t pay more."

Pfizer in a statement said its prices would be "deferred" to levels seen 10 days ago, "as soon as technically possible, and the prices will remain in effect until the earlier of when the president’s blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year — whichever is sooner."

Trump praised the move, writing on Twitter, "We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same. Great news for the American people!"

Photo Credit: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[American Airlines Says It's Getting Rid of Plastic Straws]]>Tue, 10 Jul 2018 16:00:07 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AAcoffeeGettyImages-614266550.jpg

American Airlines says it will stop using plastic straws and drink stirs and replace them with biodegradable alternatives.

American said Tuesday that starting this month in its airport lounges it will serve drinks with straw and wood stir sticks and begin moving to what it called eco-friendly flatware.

The world's biggest airline says that in November on board planes it will replace plastic stir sticks with ones made from bamboo. The airline says the moves will eliminate more than 71,000 pounds of plastic a year.

Some cities have banned plastic straws because they are often not recycled and wind up as trash in landfills and oceans.

Starbucks and other food companies have recently announced they will phase out plastic straws and polystyrene foam cups from its stores by 2020.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Delco-Born Brick & Brew to Open 3rd Location in Chesco]]>Tue, 10 Jul 2018 13:32:03 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Brick+and+Brew+Media+PA.jpg

Delaware County-born restaurant brand Brick & Brew is expanding to new territory with its third location.

Founded by restaurateur and managing partner Tom Kane, Brick & Brew has two locations, both in Delaware County: an outpost in Havertown and another in Media, which are crossing their fifth- and second-year anniversaries, respectively.

The Prohibition Era brand broke ground for its third location at 400 E. King St. in Malvern in Chester County, expected to open in early 2019, marketing director Marcus Dent told the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The gastropub will join neighborhood eateries: cafe and restaurant Malvern Buttery, pub and grill Flying Pig Saloon and Christopher's, a Neighborhood Place.

Find out more about the new restaurant at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: Google Street View]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Is CNBC's Top State for Business in America This Year]]>Tue, 10 Jul 2018 10:37:58 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/texas-flag1.jpg

Riding the rising tide of energy prices — and the job growth that goes with it — Texas lands the top spot in CNBC's 2018 America’s Top States for Business rankings.

This is familiar territory for the Lone Star State, which becomes the first four-time winner in our annual study, now in its 12th year. But it has been a long time coming. This is the first time since 2012 that Texas has claimed top honors. Not coincidentally, West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil — the state’s most important export — peaked at just over $108 per barrel that year, a figure it has not seen since. But it has risen enough — around 60 percent in the last year, powering through the $70-per-barrel mark in June — to turbocharge the $1.6 trillion Texas economy.

“The Texas economy remains in a broad-based expansion,” said Dallas Federal Reserve economists Christopher Slijk and Jason Saving in a recent report. “The state’s energy sector continues to boom, and areas of the state tied to oil and gas are growing at their strongest pace since 2014.” 

Texas has added more than 350,000 jobs in the past year, with the largest increase in the energy sector. Put another way, 1 in 7 jobs created in the United States in the past year was created in Texas.

More from CNBC on America's Top States for Business: 

Texas is home to 39 companies in the Standard and Poor's 500 index, including AT&T, ExxonMobil and Texas Instruments. And it boasts some of the nation's largest privately-held companies, including supermarket operator H-E-B, Neiman Marcus Group and Hunt Oil. 

With solid economic growth last year — including a torrid 5.2 percent state GDP increase in the fourth quarter — Texas finishes first in our Economy category this year. That is up from No. 25 last year, when oil was priced in the mid-$40s per barrel. 

And rising energy prices have a ripple effect, according to Roger Guenther, executive director of the Port of Houston, which is seeing booming traffic in related products, like imported steel pipe. So far, at least, Guenther said tariffs have done little to stem the flow. 

“As the price of oil goes up and more drilling occurs, it’s up from 3 million tons a couple of years ago to, we expect, 5 or 6 million tons of steel this year,” he said.

But Texas is no one-trick pony, notching top 10 finishes not just in Economy but in five of our 10 categories of competitiveness, including Workforce (No. 7), Infrastructure (No. 1), Technology and Innovation (No. 9) and Access to Capital (No. 3). The state finishes with 1,651 out of 2,500 possible points. 

As always, we rank all 50 states on more than 60 metrics across our 10 categories. Using our tried-and-true methodology, we assign a weight to each category based on how frequently the states cite it in their sales pitches to business. That way, we rate the states based on their own standards. This year’s categories and point totals are:

  • Workforce: 425 points
  • Infrastructure: 400 points
  • Cost of Doing Business: 350 points
  • Economy: 300 points
  • Quality of Life: 300 points
  • Technology & Innovation: 225 points
  • Education: 200
  • Business Friendliness: 150 points
  • Access to Capital: 100 points
  • Cost of Living: 50 points

The Texas Formula
Since we introduced our rankings in 2007, Texas has never finished outside the top five overall, always following the same basic formula. It started under former Gov. Rick Perry, who is now U.S. Secretary of Energy, and has continued under his fellow Republican successor, Gov. Greg Abbott. The state prides itself on business-friendly regulations, smart spending and low taxes. Texas levies no individual income tax and no corporate tax. 

“As far as I’m concerned, the only good tax is a dead tax,” said Abbott in his 2017 State of the State address. The state does not always meet those priorities. This year, for example, it finishes No. 18 for Cost of Doing Business, due in part to property taxes averaging around 1.9 percent — among the highest in the nation — and No. 21 for Business Friendliness because of a sometimes difficult legal climate. 

Following the formula also means that Texas has some of the same weaknesses it had the last time it finished on top. 

Texas finishes No. 37 for Education, with some of the lowest high school test scores in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 82 percent of people over age 25 have a high school diploma — the second-lowest percentage in the nation.

And the state finishes No. 31 for Quality of Life. It is not that Texas is necessarily a bad place to live, but the violent-crime rate is high, with nearly 1,500 murders in 2016 — or more than 400 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI. And Texas also has the largest percentage of people without health insurance — nearly 17 percent, according to the Census Bureau. 

The state also gets poor marks for inclusiveness. It is one of only five states with no public-accommodation law protecting its citizens against discrimination. 

The Texas legislature, which meets every other year and is next scheduled to convene in January, has shown little wariness about venturing into social territory, despite warnings from business leaders about scaring away top talent.

In 2017 lawmakers considered a so-called “bathroom bill” that would have regulated transgender people’s use of public facilities. The bill died amid staunch opposition from business groups, but backers are promising to reintroduce it next year. 

Another measure, which critics call the “Show me your papers” law, bans local sanctuary policies on immigration. The law went into effect earlier this year after surviving a federal court challenge. 

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee to unseat Gov. Abbott in November, said such measures are bad for business in Texas. 

“This is the Texas brand that’s going out — the bathroom bill, the show-me-your-papers bill. I call them the job-killing bills,” she told CNBC. “We used to be called the friendly state. Let’s get back to who we really are.” 

Polls show Gov. Abbott with a comfortable lead in his bid for a second term. 

Also looming on the Texas horizon: potential budget woes. 

While the state’s finances are pristine on paper, balancing the massive Texas budget creates more accounting challenges every year. Already, the state budget director and the Legislative Budget Board have instructed agency heads to not only hold the line in their funding requests for the next biennium but also submit alternative budgets that include a 10 percent cut. 

For now, Texas’ many attributes — especially that booming economy — are overshadowing those issues. But if the price of oil declines, hurting a key source of state revenue, or if the United States finds itself in an all-out trade war that curtails imports and exports, Texas’ status as Top State could be vulnerable. 

Best of the Rest
Rounding out the top five are some perennial contenders and some returning favorites. 

Washington, last year’s Top State, makes a solid run at a first-ever repeat win. The Evergreen State’s economy was the fastest growing in the nation last year, at 4.4 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. But our Economy category also considers other areas where Washington stumbles a bit, like the state’s $13.8 billion in unfunded pension obligations. Factor in recurring weaknesses, such as poor infrastructure and high costs, and Washington is ultimately no match for a resurgent Texas.

Utah vaults back into the upper echelon at No. 3. Our 2016 Top State had slipped to No. 8 last year. Job growth in the Beehive State, at about 3.4 percent in the past year, actually beats Texas on a percentage basis. Utah’s Silicon Slopes tech region is thriving, with more than 6,500 start-ups and tech companies now based there. Along with that comes growing demand for housing, and that is fueling a construction boom. Utah has added some 50,000 jobs in the past year — a 3.4 percent increase, which is the biggest in the nation. 

Longtime followers of this study recall that in the early years, Virginia and Texas regularly battled it out for the top spot. But as the Great Recession took hold and the size of the federal government’s presence in Virginia shrunk, the Old Dominion slipped away in our rankings. In 2018 Virginia is back with a solid fourth-place finish. Not only does the state have the educated, available workforce that employers demand, it also has become a leader in business friendliness with the passage earlier this year of a bipartisan regulatory reform bill aimed at reducing regulations by 25 percent in the next three years. 

Colorado eases back into the top five after last year’s No. 6 finish. The one thing lacking in the Centennial State’s otherwise stellar workforce is enough workers. Unemployment is low, just 2.8 percent, forcing Colorado employers to recruit talent from elsewhere. Job growth in the state remains strong, but the premium wages resulting from the labor shortage are adding to the state’s already high costs. 

Biggest Movers on the List
This year’s most improved state is New York. While still in the bottom half, at No. 27, the Empire State jumps 11 spots from last year’s No. 38 finish, thanks to solid improvement in its economy. State finances are in good shape, the housing market is strong, and only California is home to more Standard and Poor’s 500 companies. New York is also a leader in incentives and tax breaks for businesses, to the consternation of some watchdog groups. According to government figures compiled by the nonpartisan group Good Jobs First, New York spent more than $4 billion in state and local revenues on business subsidies last year, more than any other state. 

Not to get carried away, however; the state is still loaded with problems. It is one of America’s most expensive places to live and do business. Taxes, wages, utility costs — even rent for office space — are among the highest in the country. Economic growth is tepid at best. Several high-profile public works projects championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo are under way, such as the complete rebuilding of New York’s LaGuardia Airport and the new Mario Cuomo Bridge north of New York City. But for now, the state’s infrastructure is among the worst in the nation. 

Other big improvements include Idaho, rising nine spots to tie with Michigan for No. 11, thanks in part to a boom in manufacturing as the state seeks to position itself as home to what some are calling the Silicon Valley of the food business. Chobani is in the midst of a $20 million expansion at what it says is the world’s largest yogurt plant in Twin Falls. 

Arizona (No. 20) and Nevada (No. 33) each move up six spots with the help of a surge in construction as the states tackle housing shortages, though both states get failing grades in education. 

The biggest decline this year belongs to North Dakota, plunging 10 spots to No. 31. Once considered the great American success story — the state finished third in our rankings back in 2013 — the shale oil boom that powered the state cooled considerably when the price of oil began falling the following year. Production is rebounding now as prices rise, but not before an exodus of college-educated workers hit the state. Nearly 5 percent of North Dakotans with a bachelor’s degree or higher moved out of state in 2016, according to the Census Bureau, knocking the Peace Garden State down to No. 30 from No. 12 last year in our all-important Workforce category. 

Other notable declines include Kentucky, which falls seven spots to No. 42. The Bluegrass State is facing a $40 billion pension shortfall, prompting Standard and Poor’s to lower the state’s credit rating in May.

In No. 7 Georgia the economy is not the problem — it remains among the strongest in the country. But the Peach State falls five places due to a slight rise in utility costs and a rising crime rate. 

States With Economic Woes
We rank all 50 states, so if there are top states, there must also be bottom states. 

Maine and Rhode Island tie for No. 45 this year. In Maine the issue is its workforce, one of the least productive workforces in the country, based on economic output per job. Rhode Island has been working on its infrastructure, financed by its first-ever tolls on trucks, launched in June. But it still finishes last in the category. 

At No. 47 is Hawaii. Not only are costs prohibitive in the Aloha State, but it slips to a rare second-place finish in our Quality of Life category (behind Vermont) due to an uptick in crime. 

No. 48 West Virginia — last year’s bottom state — avoids an embarrassing repeat at No. 50, thanks to a relative rebound in its economy. Coal production has rebounded from depressed levels. West Virginia University researchers say output jumped 24 percent in the first half of last year, from 75 million short tons to 93 million. But the same report warns that growth is likely to level off soon.

Mississippi slips one spot to No. 49 this year. While the Magnolia State offers America’s lowest cost of living, that likely has less to do with thrift than the fact that the state’s economy is the second worst in the nation. 

Which brings us to state No. 50, which has the nation’s worst economy. 

Alaska’s economic woes are epic, with a budget shortfall this year of $700 million. It could have been worse. The state was looking at a shortfall $2.4 billion, until Gov. Bill Walker and the state legislature agreed for the first time to use earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund — the state’s oil wealth — to partially close the gap. 

Alaska’s problems go beyond the budget. The state also does poorly on costs, technology and innovation, education and access to capital. 

One might think that the rising oil prices that powered Texas to the top of our rankings this year would also help Alaska. After all, North Slope crude oil tends to command a higher price than the Texas variety, and Alaska officials say production is up in response to the higher prices. But everything is relative. Alaska oil is also more expensive to produce, and the Department of Revenue is forecasting output to level off. 

And then there is that budget deficit. It will take much more than a brief increase in oil prices to tackle that, leaving Alaska stuck at the bottom — for 2018, at least. 

We want to know what you think about our 2018 rankings. Follow our coverage on all  CNBC platforms, and talk about it on social media using the hashtag #TopStates. This article first appeared on CNBC.com.

Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chick-Fil-A Giving Away Free Food Tuesday — With a Catch]]>Tue, 10 Jul 2018 09:17:46 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/chick-fil-a6.jpg

Chick-Fil-A is giving away free food Tuesday, there's just one small catch — you have to wear a cow costume.

To celebrate Cow Appreciation Day, the chicken retailer is giving away free entrees to anyone who turns up at the store wearing something that gives a nod to the bovine-kind.

Chick-Fil-A suggests people dress "udderly crazy," but also say you can wear "any sort of cow apparel" to get the special offer.

That appears to mean if you wear any sort of cow-related item — ears, cow-print tee, hat or scarf — you can get your pick of a free entree at any outlet between opening and 7 p.m.

The fast food chain has put together a gallery of inspiration here. 

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[1st Trial Over Roundup Weed Killer Cancer Link Claim Under Way]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 23:23:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/roundup-suit-0709.jpg

Lawyers for a school groundskeeper dying of cancer asked a San Francisco jury on Monday to find that agribusiness giant Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup likely caused his disease.

Dewayne Johnson's lawsuit is the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits saying Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Johnson sprayed Roundup and a similar product, Ranger Pro, at his job as a pest control manager at a San Francisco Bay Area school district, according to his attorneys.

He sprayed large quantities from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck, his attorney, Brent Wisner, told jurors during his opening statement. When the wind was gusty, it would cover his face, Wisner said. When a hose broke once, it soaked his entire body.

Johnson read the label carefully and even contacted the company after developing a rash, but was never warned it could cause cancer, Wisner said. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 42.

"The simple fact is he is going to die. It's just a matter of time," Wisner said, showing jurors photos of lesions on Johnson's body that he said were caused by cancer. Johnson sat nearby.

Wisner added, "Between now and then, it's just nothing but pain."

George Lombardi, an attorney for Monsanto, said non-Hodgkin's lymphoma takes years to develop, so Johnson's cancer started well before he began working at the school district.

Many government regulators have rejected a link between the active ingredient in Roundup — glyphosate — and cancer. Monsanto has vehemently denied such a connection, saying hundreds of studies have established that glyphosate is safe.

"The scientific evidence is overwhelming that glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer and did not cause Mr. Johnson's cancer," Lombardi said during his opening statement.

The trial is expected to last about a month. Johnson is seeking unspecified damages against Monsanto.

The outcome of Johnson's case will not affect the hundreds of other lawsuits in state and federal courts, but it may serve as an indicator of how the others might go.

St. Louis-based Monsanto developed glyphosate in the 1970s, and the weed killer is now sold in more than 160 countries. Farmers in California, the most agriculturally productive state in the U.S., use it on more than 200 types of crops. Homeowners use it on their lawns and gardens.

The herbicide came under increasing scrutiny after the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a "probable human carcinogen" in 2015.

A flurry of lawsuits against Monsanto in federal and state courts followed, and California added glyphosate to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Monsanto has attacked the international research agency's opinion as an outlier.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is safe for humans when used in accordance with label directions. A draft report by the agency last year concluded the herbicide is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The report noted that science reviews by numerous other countries had reached the same conclusion.

A federal judge in Sacramento in February blocked California from requiring that Roundup carry a label stating that it is known to cause cancer, saying the warning is misleading because almost all regulators have concluded that there is no evidence glyphosate is carcinogenic.

Another federal judge presiding over hundreds of lawsuits like Johnson's is deciding whether the claim that Roundup weed killer can cause cancer is supported by good science.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Uber to Add Scooter Rentals as It Invests in Startup Lime]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 23:53:51 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/uber-lime-0709.jpg

Uber is getting into the scooter-rental business.

The ride-hailing company said Monday that it is investing in Lime, a startup based in San Mateo, California.

"Our investment and partnership in Lime is another step towards our vision of becoming a one-stop shop for all your transportation needs," Rachel Holt, an Uber vice president, said in a statement.

Holt said Uber will add Lime scooters to the Uber mobile app, giving consumers another option for getting around cities, especially to and from public transit systems.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Customers can rent Lime scooters in more than 70 locations in the U.S. and Europe and leave them parked for the next customer to ride. The company is looking to buy tens of thousands of motorized foot-pedal scooters to expand its reach.

For Uber, the move follows its purchase earlier this year of Jump Bikes, which rents electric bicycles in a half-dozen cities including San Francisco, Chicago and Washington. Terms were not disclosed.

Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi aims to turn Uber into the Amazon.com of transportation, a single destination where customers can go to hitch a ride in a car and on other modes of transportation _ even buy rides on city buses and subway systems. Uber also has a food-delivery service.

Rival Lyft is looking for new rides too. Last week, it bought part of a company called Motivate that operates Citi Bike and other bike-sharing programs in several major U.S. cities including New York and Chicago. It will rename the business Lyft Bikes. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.

While the often brightly colored rental bikes are becoming a more common sight in the U.S., they have already gained widespread use in China and parts of Europe.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images photos]]>
<![CDATA[P.J. Clarke's in Philadelphia to Hire 100 Before Opening]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 12:49:51 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/PJ+Clarkes.JPG

There's no opening date in sight yet for the P.J. Clarke's restaurant and bar set to open at the Curtis building, but officials are looking to onboard 100 people.

The 134-year-old, New York-based P.J. Clarke's in early 2016 announced they would take up 11,000 square feet of space at the Curtis building at 6th and Walnut streets for a 200-seat restaurant.

The opening date has been delayed — it was originally set for summer 2016 when the restaurant was announced — and a job fair could signal its upcoming opening, which is now set for later this year.

Find out more about the new restaurant at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: Google Street View]]>
<![CDATA[Univ. of Delaware Hikes Tuition for This Fall]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 10:04:42 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/217*120/University+of+Delaware+Sign+Money+Udel.JPG

Tuition rates are going up at the University of Delaware.

The school announced Thursday that undergraduate tuition and fees for in-state students will increase by 4 percent for the upcoming year, to $13,680. Tuition and fees for out-of-state students will rise by 3.5 percent, to $34,310.

The total cost for most undergraduates, including room and board, will exceed $26,500 for in-state students and $47,000 for out-of-state students.

The tuition increases at the Newark-based school are in addition to fees announced earlier this year that will be imposed on certain majors. Beginning in the fall, students in the nursing, engineering and business schools will pay a $1,000 yearly tuition surcharge.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks, Citing Ocean Threat, Is Ditching Plastic Straws]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 16:52:49 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/starbucksnewlidStrawless_lids_%285%29.jpg

Starbucks will eliminate plastic straws from all of its locations within two years, the coffee chain announced Monday, becoming the largest food and beverage company to do so as calls for businesses and cities to cut waste grow louder.

While the straws account for a small percentage of the pollution that ends up in the ocean, they've become a flashpoint because they're seen as an easy way to reduce waste.

"There are several of these single-use items the public is realizing, hey, we don't actually need these," said Denise Hardesty, a scientist with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who studies plastic pollution.

A week after its hometown of Seattle banned plastic drinking straws and utensils, Starbucks said Monday that by 2020, it will use straws made from biodegradable materials such as paper and specially designed lids. The company already offers alternative straws in Seattle.

Straws often become trash because their small size makes them difficult to recycle.

Other cities, like Fort Myers Beach in Florida, have banned plastic straws, and similar proposals are being considered in New York and San Francisco. The push to ban the straws gained traction after a viral video in 2015 showed rescuers removing a straw from a sea turtle's nose in graphic detail.

The issue of waste more broadly is coming up in company boardrooms.

In February, Dunkin' Donuts said it would eliminate polystyrene foam cups from its stores by 2020.

McDonald's said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations. The burger chain also said this year it would use only recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its soda cups, Happy Meal boxes and other packaging by 2025.

Plastic drinking straws make up only about 4 percent of plastic trash by number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in waters around the globe each year.

Still, the advocacy group 5 Gyres notes that the top five biggest sources of single-use plastic are plastic bags, water bottles, to-go containers, to-go cups and straws.

Other plastic items have also been targeted in recent years.

Several local governments have enacted bans and fees on plastic bags. Reusable water bottles have also gained popularity as a way to reduce use of plastic water bottles, with refilling water stations popping up on college campuses and elsewhere.

One reason big chains say it will take time to change practices may be the difficulty in securing adequate supplies. Imperial Dade, a food service and janitorial supplies distributor based in New Jersey, says it's seen a huge spike in demand for alternative straws in recent months.

"Our biggest challenge is trying to locate alternative sources so we can satisfy the demand," said Laura Craven, the company's director of marketing.

Craven also said she's starting to see more awareness about the need for exemptions for straws that bend, which people with disabilities and others may need. Starbucks says it expects an alternative it has to work in that regard.

The strawless lids will begin to appear in Seattle and Vancouver Starbucks this fall, with phased rollouts within the U.S. and Canada next year. A global rollout of strawless lids will follow, beginning in Europe, where they will be used in some stores in France and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Starbucks]]>
<![CDATA[An Extended Holiday Weekend at the Jersey Shore]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2018 14:10:39 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/borgatauber.jpg

Since July 4th was on a Wednesday this year, the holiday fun is leaking into this weekend and that means more money for Atlantic City businesses.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Teva Moving Headquarters From Montco to North Jersey]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2018 11:22:07 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Teva+PBJ.PNG

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is moving its North American headquarters from North Wales, Montgomery County, to North Jersey, and taking hundreds of jobs with it.

The global generic drug manufacturer, based in Israel, said it plans to establish a new headquarters for Teva Pharmaceuticals USA in Parsippany-Troy Hills. Teva plans to expand its existing Parsippany-Troy Hills location, where the company has 232 employees, to nearly 350,000 square feet.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the move to New Jersey will include the transfer and creation of more than 800 positions. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has approved $40 million in performance-based tax credits, spread out over 10 years, for Teva to support its expansion project.

Find out more about the new facility at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

<![CDATA[US Added 213K Jobs in June; Unemployment Rate Up to 4 Pct.]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2018 09:34:21 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jobsAP_16230695166503.jpg

U.S. employers kept up a brisk hiring pace in June by adding 213,000 jobs in a sign of confidence despite the start of a potentially punishing trade war with China.

At the same time, the unemployment rate rose to 4 percent from 3.8 percent, the government said Friday, as more people began looking for a job and not all of them found one.

On the same day that the Trump administration began imposing tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing hit back with tariffs on the same amount of U.S. goods, the job gain showed that the 9-year old U.S. economic expansion — the second-longest on record — remains on firm footing.

Still, average hourly pay rose just 2.7 percent in June from 12 months earlier, meaning that after adjusting for inflation, wages remain nearly flat. The low jobless rate has yet to force employers to offer higher wages in order to fill job openings.

One reason that some employers may not be feeling pressure to raise wages is that more people are beginning to look for work, thereby keeping up the pool of job applicants: The ranks of unemployed people seeking jobs jumped by 499,000 in June, which caused the unemployment rate to rise from its previous 18-year low.

Manufacturers added 36,000 jobs last month; the education and health sector added 54,000. But retailers shed 21,600 jobs, with the losses concentrated at general merchandise stores.

In its report Friday, the government revised up its estimate of job growth in May and April by a combined 37,000. Over the past three months, the economy has produced a robust average monthly job gain of 211,000.

The broader U.S. economy appears sturdy. Economists are forecasting that economic growth accelerated to an annual pace of roughly 4 percent during the April-June quarter, about double the previous quarter's pace.

Signs of strength have helped bolster hiring despite the difficulty many employers say they're having in finding enough qualified workers to fill jobs.

Manufacturers and services firms have said in recent surveys that their business is improving despite anxiety about the tariff showdown between the United States and China. Housing starts have climbed 11 percent so far this year. Retail sales jumped a strong 0.8 percent in May in a sign that consumers feel secure enough to spend.

Though economic growth appears to be solid, the gains have been spread unevenly. President Donald Trump's tax cuts have provided a dose of stimulus this year, but the benefits have been tilted significantly toward wealthy individuals and corporations. Savings from the tax cuts enabled companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index to buy back a record number of shares in the first three months of 2018.

Yet the tax cuts have done little to generate substantial pay growth. Most economists say they still think the low unemployment rate will eventually force more employers to offer higher pay in order to fill jobs.

The economy also faces a substantial threat from the Trump administration's trade war with China and from other, ongoing trade disputes with U.S. allies, including Canada and Europe. Any escalation in the conflict with China could disrupt hiring as companies grapple with higher import prices and diminished demand for their exports. On Thursday, Trump floated the prospect of imposing tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese imports.

The Trump administration has also applied tariffs on steel and aluminum from allies like Canada and Mexico and has threatened to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement with those two countries. Trump has also spoken about slapping tariffs on imported cars, trucks and auto parts, which General Motors has warned could hurt the U.S. auto industry and drive up car prices.

Automakers added 12,000 jobs in June, but the tariffs could weigh on that industry's job growth in the coming months.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mike Groll/AP, File
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<![CDATA[Unsealed Lawsuit: Opioid-Maker Placed Profits Over People]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 23:41:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/OxyContin-tabs.jpg

A newly unsealed lawsuit by Tennessee's attorney general says the maker of the world's top-selling painkiller directed its salesforce to target the highest prescribers, many with limited or no pain management background or training.

Citing the public's right to know, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said Thursday that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has dropped its previous efforts to shield details of the 274-page lawsuit in state court. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Knoxville News Sentinel had also requested that the lawsuit's records become public.

The lawsuit says Purdue violated a 2007 settlement with the state, placing profits over people with a deceptive narrative that claimed its opioids were safer than they actually were. The lawsuit also says the Stamford, Connecticut-based company targeted vulnerable people, including the elderly.

Purdue did so while relying on continued users and high doses, according to the lawsuit: 104.3 million OxyContin tablets were prescribed in Tennessee from 2008 to 2017, with 53.7 percent of them 40 milligrams or higher. And more than 80 percent of Purdue's business consistently came from continued users, the lawsuit says.

For example, Purdue called on two providers 48 times after law enforcement told Purdue the pair was responsible for significant interstate OxyContin diversion, the lawsuit says. The company called on another provider 31 times after the provider's license was place on restrictive probation related to high-prescribing of controlled substances, the lawsuit adds.

The state's lawsuit says Purdue kept pushing to sell its products despite a litany of red flags.

"Purdue continued to make sales calls in spite of credible reports of patient overdoses, indictments, adverse licensure actions, a provider admitting he was addicted to heroin, a knife fight outside a provider's office, muggings over controlled substances outside of a pharmacy linked to a specific provider, a clinic that had no examination tables or equipment, an admission by a provider that he was running a pill mill, a provider changing the name of his practice shortly after he was notified of a state investigation into his practice, a patient being coached in the waiting room about how to fill out intake forms, armed guards in provider waiting rooms, high numbers of patients who purchased OxyContin in cash, high numbers of out-of-state or out-of-county tags in providers' parking lots, accusations of insurance fraud, choreographed urine screenings and pill counts, standing-room-only waiting rooms, and additional signs of problematic high volume practices," the lawsuit states.

Purdue has denied claims in lawsuits nationwide over the scourge of opioid abuse, saying it will defend itself. In Tennessee, there were 1,631 overdose deaths in 2016, including 1,186 from opioids, according to the state Department of Health.

Tennessee filed its complaint last month at the same time Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada and Texas brought similar lawsuits claiming unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Toby Talbot/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Average US 30-Year Mortgage Rates Fall to 4.52 Percent]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:14:55 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-200478945-001.jpg

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, offering a slight degree of relief to would-be homebuyers.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 4.52 percent from 4.55 percent a week ago. Rates have declined in five of the past six weeks. Still, the average rate has increased from a year ago when it stood at 3.96 percent.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 3.99 percent from 4.04 percent a year ago.

Mortgage rates have declined as investors have bought 10-year U.S. Treasury notes, causing their yield to decline. The yield peaked in May at 3.11 percent and has since dipped to 2.83 percent as the financial markets have sought a haven amid risks of a trade war.

Despite the recent declines, long-term loan rates remain near their highest levels in seven years. The average 30-year mortgage rate reached a high this year of 4.66 percent on May 24; the 15-year rate hit 4.15 percent that day.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[AC's New Hard Rock Casino Adds Online Gambling]]>Wed, 04 Jul 2018 09:10:36 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/Atlantic_City_Hard_Rock_Casino_Starts_Online_Gambling.jpg

New Jersey's thriving internet gambling market has grown a bit bigger.

The Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City went live with its internet gambling operation on Tuesday afternoon, five days after its brick-and-mortar casino opened its doors.

David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, told The Associated Press the casino's equipment and systems passed all the necessary tests, and were cleared for full operation as of noon.

"Our online gaming team has done an amazing job launching one of the most dynamic online gaming experiences in the industry," said Matt Harkness, Hard Rock's Atlantic City president. "We're excited to extend the Hard Rock brand beyond the Boardwalk and let casino players (play) across the Garden State."

The site, www.hardrockcasino.com, became the 26th legal internet gambling site in New Jersey.

And another one might not be far behind. The Ocean Resort Casino, which also opened its doors last Thursday, the same day as Hard Rock, is preparing to offer internet gambling as well.

Rebuck said Ocean Resort's internet gambling operation is still in its testing phase with state gambling regulators.

Six casino licensees operate internet gambling in New Jersey: Borgata, Golden Nugget, Hard Rock, Resorts and Tropicana, and Caesars Interactive-NJ, which includes Caesars and Harrah's. Other gambling companies that partner with Atlantic City casinos also are approved for internet gambling in the state.

Internet gambling began in New Jersey in Nov. 2013 and has been growing steadily.

Last year, internet gambling brought in $245 million for Atlantic City's casinos, or roughly 10 percent of their total revenue.

Combined with sports betting, which just began last month in New Jersey, the casinos have two new revenue sources they lacked during a brutal two-year stretch in which five of the city's 12 casinos shut down. Two of them, Revel and the Trump Taj Mahal, reopened last week as Ocean Resort and the Hard Rock, respectively.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Fireworks Businesses Capitalize on July 4th and New Law]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 19:49:55 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Fireworks_Businesses_Capitalize_on_July_4th.jpg

Stores were packed Tuesday with customers-- and for the first time, Pennsylvania residents can get in on the fun. That's because it's now legal to buy consumer grade fireworks and set them off legally. Local businesses are taking advantage.]]>
<![CDATA[Big Makeover for Iconic Philly Building]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 19:43:49 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Big_Makeover_for_Iconic_Philly_Building.jpg

A multi-million dollar makeover for one of Philadelphia's most iconic buildings. The Bourse Building is in the heart of the historic district, and in a matter of weeks, it re-opens to the public.]]>
<![CDATA[Cheesecake Factory Sued for Alleged Racial Discrimination in Calif.]]>Mon, 02 Jul 2018 22:30:05 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/cheesecake-factory-logo.jpg

Three black women are suing the Cheesecake Factory, alleging they were discriminated against during a 2017 visit to the Redondo Beach restaurant by a male white server who used the term "you people" and by a manager who told them, "you are nobody." 

Latonia Whyte, Kimberly Jones and Lucy Ngaujah also allege in their Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that a female white manager threatened to sue them for taking cellphone footage of non-black customers being served after the plaintiffs were allegedly denied service.

The lawsuit filed Friday seeks unspecified damages on allegations of civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Sidney Greathouse, vice president of legal services for the Cheesecake Factory, issued a statement Monday regarding the lawsuit.

"We do not tolerate discrimination in any of our business practices," the statement read. "While we will not comment on the facts of the case, we deny the allegations in the complaint and look forward to this matter being resolved in the appropriate forum."

The trio went to the Cheesecake Factory on Harbor Drive on July 1, 2017, to belatedly celebrate Jones' birthday, their suit states. About 20 minutes after Whyte and Ngaujah were seated, a white server told them, "I'm closing you both out and you people should leave," the complaint alleges.

The two women looked at each other in surprise as the server then said, "Our computers are down and I'm not serving you people," according to the lawsuit, which says the server then told them the computers would not be working for another 17 to 20 hours.

The two accepted the server's offer to bring them soup, but it was served cold, the complaint states.

Jones arrived later and the three plaintiffs saw non-black customers being served food, including white guests adjacent to their table, but the server refused to tend to the plaintiffs, telling them, "I gave you soup. You can pay for your drinks and leave. If you want to order food, go to the bar," the suit alleges.

After Whyte asked if they were being treated different because there are black, the server replied, "Yeah, that too," according to the lawsuit.

Two managers were working that night, including a white female who was dismissive of the plaintiffs after Ngaujah complained and a male who said he would serve them instead, the suit states. The plaintiffs "finally gave their food order two hours late," according to their complaint.

The female manager came to the trio's table and demanded that Whyte turn over her cellphone for recording images of non-black guests being served, according to the suit, which alleges she threatened to sue the plaintiffs and told them, "You all think you're celebrities. Everybody wants to sue and you are nobody."

Eventually, a black server came to the plaintiffs' table and served them the rest of the night and they paid their bill of just under $95 before leaving, the suit says.

Several days later, Whyte says she spoke to a guest relations expert about the alleged discrimination. In response, she received by email a $25 Cheesecake Factory gift certificate accompanied by a message that stated, "Very sorry to learn this visit was so disappointing," the suit states.

<![CDATA[New Casinos Bring New Hope to Atlantic City]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 09:02:30 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Holiday_Weekend_Down_the_shore.jpg

As thousands of people flock to the Jersey Shore for the July 4th and the weekend to come, Atlantic City has two new casinos that city officials hope bring a big boost.]]>
<![CDATA[Paint Colors Can Affect Home Resale Value: Report]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 02:31:59 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/paintGettyImages-88841699.jpg

The real estate website Zillow recently released a report showing how different paint colors can impact a home's resale value, "Today" reported

The company looked at more than 135,000 home sales around the country to gauge the way paint colors affected prices and found that color is most significant on front doors. Houses with black or charcoal gray front doors sell for $6,271 more than expected, the report said. 

Additionally, the report found that living rooms painted light taupe sold for about $2,793 more than expected and bathrooms with light blue or periwinkle walls sold for for about $2,786 more than expected. 

In the kitchen, the tuxedo cabinet trend — pairing white or light-colored upper cabinets with dark navy or black lower cabinets or kitchen island cabinets — increased value, while kitchens painted red led to a decrease in value. 

Photo Credit: Sylvia Serrado/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Facebook Probe Now Includes FBI, SEC: Report]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 00:22:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/FBGettyImages-876766956.jpg

A federal probe into Facebook's sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica now involves the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department, the Washington Post reported.

Representatives from these agencies have joined the Federal Trade Commission in the inquiry, the newspaper reported, citing five unnamed people familiar with the matter. Those people spoke on condition of anonymity because the probes are not complete.

The probe reportedly centers on what Facebook knew in 2015, when it learned that the political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users. Facebook didn't disclose the incident with the political firm, which later worked for the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates, until this March.

The Post said the probe will look at why Facebook didn't inform users or investors earlier. Investigators are examining actions and statements of the company and its executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, according to the report.

Facebook confirmed to The Associated Press that it has received questions from these agencies and said it is cooperating with the inquiry.

Representatives from the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An SEC spokesperson declined to comment. The FTC said in March it was looking into whether Facebook engaged in unfair acts that hurt consumers, and which might have violated a consent decree it reached with the FTC in 2011.

Facebook shares fell 1.2 percent in after-hours trading following the report Monday, after rising 1.6 percent in the regular session.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Yelp Can't Be Ordered to Remove Defamatory Posts, Court Says]]>Mon, 02 Jul 2018 23:18:57 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/080417+yelp+generic.jpg

Online review site Yelp.com cannot be ordered to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm that a judge determined were defamatory, a divided California Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched case that internet companies had warned could be used to silence online speech.

Justices agreed in a 4-3 opinion, saying removal orders such as the one attorney Dawn Hassell obtained against Yelp "could interfere with and undermine the viability of an online platform."

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that Yelp had said could lead to the removal of negative reviews from the popular website and leave consumers with a skewed assessment of restaurants and other businesses.

Hassell said Yelp was exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort.

Her attorney, Monique Olivier, said in a statement that the ruling "stands as an invitation to spread falsehoods on the internet without consequence."

She said her client was considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hassell's 2013 lawsuit accused a client she briefly represented in a personal injury case of defaming her on Yelp by falsely claiming that her firm failed to communicate with the client, among other things.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donald Sullivan found the online statements defamatory and ordered the client and Yelp to remove them. Hassell said the client failed to answer her lawsuit or remove the posts, so she had to seek a court order demanding that Yelp do it.

A second judge and a state appeals court upheld Sullivan's order.

"Ms. Hassell did exactly what she should have done," Olivier said Monday. "After both the defamer and Yelp refused to remove untrue and damaging statements, she obtained a judgment against the defamer, and sought to enforce that judgment by requiring Yelp to remove the defamation."

Yelp said the lower court ruling would give businesses unhappy about negative reviews a new legal pathway for getting them removed.

Aaron Schur, a deputy general counsel for Yelp, said in a blog statement that Monday's decision assures online publishers in California that they "cannot be lawfully forced to remove third-party speech through enterprising abuses of the legal system."

Internet giants Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft said in a letter to the California Supreme Court that the lower court ruling "radically departs from a large, unanimous and settled body of federal and state court precedent" and could be used to "silence a vast quantity of protected and important speech."

Three of the California Supreme Court justices agreed with Yelp that the removal order violated a 1996 federal law that courts have widely interpreted as prohibiting internet companies from being treated as the speaker or publisher of users' posts.

"In substance, Yelp is being held to account for nothing more than its ongoing decision to publish the challenged reviews," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in an opinion joined by associate justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger agreed that the removal order against Yelp was invalid, but for a different reason.

In a dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar said nothing in the 1996 federal law allows Yelp to "ignore a properly issued court order meant to stop the spread of defamatory or otherwise harmful information on the internet."

"Even — indeed, perhaps especially — in a society that values free expression, people expect courts and statutes to offer them minimal protections from disparaging misrepresentations or abject lies deliberately circulated to the public," he wrote.

The dissent raises important questions about how to govern the internet, said Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law.

Still, Goldman said the court of appeal ruling upholding the removal order against Yelp was an "outlier" and would have led to "open season on internet companies."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Automakers, Manufacturers Oppose Trump Call for Auto Tariffs]]>Fri, 29 Jun 2018 17:01:00 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GMAP_18165739163973.jpg

Automakers, manufacturers and classic-car enthusiasts are coming out against President Donald Trump's plan to consider taxing imported cars, trucks and auto parts.

General Motors warned in a filing Friday with the U.S. Commerce Department that the threat of auto tariffs "risks undermining GM's competitiveness against foreign auto producers" by driving up the cost of imported components and raises the risk that GM will face retaliation in other countries.

The National Association of Manufacturers said in its filing that the tariff plan would "put the U.S. manufacturing sector at a global disadvantage, undermining growth and job creation throughout the United States."

And Toyota Motor North America said the tariffs "would have a negative impact on all manufacturers, increasing the cost of imported vehicles as well as domestically produced vehicles that rely on imported parts" — such as the company's Kentucky-built Camry.

Friday is the deadline for public comments on Trump's call for a Commerce investigation into whether auto imports pose enough of a threat to U.S. national security to justify tariffs. The president has cited national security concerns as the reason for slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, drawing retaliatory tariffs from the European Union, Mexico, Canada, Turkey and India.

Car collector Guy Mace of Springfield, Missouri, was one of many classic-car enthusiasts who wrote in to call for used cars and parts to be excluded from any tariff. "Antique and classic cars (have) nothing to do with national security," Mace wrote. "A wide-ranging industry is involved in the collection of antique and classic cars, and literally thousands of car enthusiasts, auction houses, and repair/restoration shops derive their livelihood from this industry."

AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[US Consumer Spending Weak in May, While Inflation Speeds Up]]>Fri, 29 Jun 2018 14:54:32 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-878290518.jpg

U.S consumers increased their spending just 0.2 percent in May, a disappointing result after two months of much stronger gains. Meanwhile, inflation — as measured by a gauge monitored by the Federal Reserve — rose at the fastest pace in six years.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the tiny rise in spending last month followed much stronger increases of 0.6 percent in March and 0.5 percent in April. It was the poorest showing since spending had fallen 0.1 percent in February.

Inflation, by a gauge that is preferred by the Federal Reserve, was up 0.2 percent in May and 2.3 percent over the past 12 months. That is the fastest 12-month pace since 2012 and stands above the Fed's optimal target of 2 percent annual inflation gains. However, the central bank has signaled that it is willing to let inflation run above 2 percent for a time, given that it had fallen short of that mark for six years.

The Fed in June boosted its benchmark rate for a second time this year and projected that it would raise rates four times this year. Analysts said that the rise in inflation seen in Friday's report should keep the Fed on track.

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, and economists are counting on solid gains to propel growth after a slow start to the year. But the weak May reading on spending may call that forecast into question. In advance of the report, many economists had been looking for a more robust increase of around 0.5 percent in spending.

After Friday's report on spending, economic forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisors trimmed its tracking forecast for second quarter GDP growth from an annual rate of 5.4 percent to a still-strong 4.8 percent. But other economists said projections that the first quarter's 2 percent growth rate would double to 4 percent or better might prove too optimistic.

"Right now, the extended period of strong growth that so many are predicting is just a wish and a hope," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. "I am not saying that the tax cuts are having no impact on growth... but as of now, I think the added spending has been disappointing."

Incomes grew a solid 0.4 percent in May, supported by strong growth in wages and salaries.

Some analysts argued that the weak spending gain seen in May was heavily influenced by a drop in spending on utility bills that reflected milder weather during the month. They predicted a rebound in June when spending on utilities returned to more normal levels.

With the income gain outpacing the increase in spending, the saving rate rose to 3.2 percent of after-tax incomes in May, up from 3 percent in April.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[US Long-Term Mortgage Rates Fall; 30-Year at 4.55 Percent]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:57:31 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-939091174.jpg

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates were flat to lower this week. The benchmark 30-year rate marked its fourth decline in the past five weeks.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages was 4.55 percent, down from 4.57 percent last week. By contrast, the 30-year rate averaged 3.88 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans was unchanged from last week at 4.04 percent.

Long-term loan rates have been running at their highest levels in seven years. The average 30-year mortgage rate reached a high this year of 4.66 percent on May 24; the 15-year rate hit 4.15 percent that day.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point.

The fee on 15-year mortgages rose to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 3.87 percent from 3.83 percent. The fee remained at 0.3 point.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images/EyeEm, File]]>
<![CDATA[Goodbye, Geoffrey: The Final Hours of Toys R Us]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:59:44 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-932489130+edited.jpg

Toys R Us is closing its last U.S. stores by Friday, the end of a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores, brightly colored logo and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.

But many of the children who happily sang the "I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid" jingle grew into busy parents who found shopping online more convenient. The company, which also owned the Babies R Us chain, was hobbled by $5 billion in debt after a leveraged buyout that left it unable to invest and keep up.

As the last of the U.S. stores close, more than 30,000 workers will be looking for work. Toys R Us' troubles have also shaken some big toy makers like Mattel and Hasbro.

Customers who were still devoted will be looking elsewhere to shop. Retailers like Walmart and Target are expanding their toy aisles to fill the hole, while Party City is opening 50 pop-up toy shops this fall.

Toys R Us filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last fall and pledged to stay open, but had poor sales during the critical holiday season as customers and vendors shied away. In January, it announced plans to close about 180 stores, but then in March it said it would liquidate the rest of the 700-plus stores.

Will the Toys R Us name and mascot disappear forever? An auction for the company's name, baby shower registry and various trademarks is set for late July. The 16-foot tall statue of Geoffrey the Giraffe that greeted visitors at Toys R Us headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey will be moved to a children's hospital in the state.

Many long-time employees were hoping to retire at a place they called home.

"I'm never going to have a job like Toys R Us," said longtime employee Patty Van Fossan, 54, from Boardroom, Ohio, who was among a group of workers at protests in New York, fighting for severance that they believe they are owed. "It was the best job I had. I was surrounded by children."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Wineries Hedge Against Climate Change, Move to Cool Climates]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:52:02 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/climatechangewine.jpg

When an Oregon valley famed for its wine heats up under the afternoon sun, Pacific Ocean winds rush through a dip in the mountains, cooling the grapes in Jeff Havlin's vineyards.

The Van Duzer Corridor, the lowest point in Oregon's Coast Range, has become a go-to place for wineries and vineyards hedging their bets against climate change. Winemakers and vineyard owners in a 95-square-mile (246-square-kilometer) section of the corridor have applied to become the newest American Viticultural Area, with the wind its predominant feature.

"When the temperature drops, you need a jacket in August," said Havlin, who on a recent afternoon was driving a utility vehicle through his vineyards.

From South Africa's drought-stricken vineyards, to France's noble chateaus, to sunny vineyards in Australia and California , growers and winemakers say they are seeing the effects of climate change as temperatures rise, with swings in weather patterns becoming more severe.

So they are taking action — moving to cooler zones, planting varieties that do better in the heat, and shading their grapes with more leaf canopy.

As areas once ideal for certain grapes become less viable, causing earlier harvests and diminished wine quality as grapes ripen faster, once-iffy sites like the Van Duzer (pronounced van DOO-zer) Corridor are coming into their own.

Northern California's Petaluma Gap, which like the Van Duzer Corridor sucks in ocean breezes, was designated one of America's newest viticultural areas in December. Receiving an American Viticulture Area designation allows winemakers to emphasize the unique characteristics of their wine, determined by climate, geography, soil and other factors.

"Even though we have those heat waves just like Napa and Sonoma, we still have the cool breeze in the afternoon and the cooler temperatures at night and the fog in the morning," said Ria D'Aversa, director of ranch operations at McEvoy Ranch, a Petaluma Gap vineyard.

The area's slogan: "From wind to wine."

California winemaker Ehren Jordan said: "People would have looked at you like you had three heads if, 30 years ago, you told someone you were going to grow wine grapes there."

His Failla winery, based in the Napa Valley, recently bought 80 acres (32 hectares) in the Van Duzer Corridor and opened a winery nearby. The corridor now has a half-dozen wineries and at least 17 commercial vineyards, with more on the way.

Grapevines can tolerate heat and drought, and dry farming is traditionally practiced in parts of Europe. But the past four years have been the planet's hottest on record, and more warming is expected.

Even minor weather variations that occur vintage to vintage can change the grapes' sugar, acid and tannin content, affecting the wine's taste and characteristics.

Familia Torres, a major wine producer based in Spain with wineries in California and Chile, bought land 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) high in the Pyrenees foothills as an investment in cooler climates.

Average temperatures at the company's vineyards have risen 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) over 40 years, with the result that harvests are now about 10 days earlier than 20 years ago, company president Miguel A. Torres said in an email.

Torres called climate change a "very serious worldwide problem" for winemakers and said that, beyond changing viticulture practices, they should also try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Severe drought in South Africa's Western Cape caused a 15 percent drop in the grape harvest, officials announced in May, saying wine prices will likely go up as a consequence. A predicted long-term drying trend has serious implications for South Africa's wine industry, said Wanda Augustyn of VinPro, which represents the nation's wine producers and stakeholders.

"In the longer term, producers will have to look at quality, drought-resistant vines which produce more flavor, acidity and intensity, but have lower water needs," Augustyn said.

Winemakers are starting to set up in Brittany, France's northwesternmost region, which previously was undesirable because of Atlantic wind, rain and lack of sunshine.

These days, vineyards are even planted as far north as Sweden.

Greg Jones, one of the world's authorities on climate change and wines, will be there this summer as a keynote speaker at the VitiNord wine conference, which will examine cooler-climate wine production. Sixteen cool climate regions warmed by 2.52 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 Celsius) from the late 1800s through 2015, Jones noted at an earlier conference.

"If things keep going the way they're going, then we have some real challenges," Jones said. "If you're growing grapes in a given environment today with what we have going on out there, you should be trying other varieties in small numbers to see how they perform."

While the warming trend is pushing some hotter wine regions out of optimum temperature range, it has made places like Oregon more suitable, particularly for pinot noir, a finicky, thin-skinned grape.

When the pinot noir pioneers arrived in Oregon from California in the 1960s, they had to contend with shorter growing seasons, more frost, winter freezes and more rain during harvest time, Jones said. They adjusted their farming techniques, and the climate became milder.

Now, "we're in the sweet spot," Jones said in his office in Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, where he is director of wine education and a professor of environmental studies.

But eventually, if the trend continues, that perfect intersection between the weather and the grape clones being used today will fade.

Willamette Valley Vineyards, just south of Salem, Oregon, is already preparing for that.

The winery began growing grapes in the cooler Eola-Amity Hills, northwest of Salem, in 2007. It is also grafting different root stocks onto vines to produce pinot noir and chardonnay clones that perform better in longer, hotter growing seasons and that go deeper into the soil, making them more drought-resistant.

"When you plant, you won't get your first crop for four years, and your first wines in six years. And you won't know if it's a really great site for maybe 20 years," said winery director Christine Collier Clair. "So when planting, you shouldn't be thinking about what's good for me now. You need to look pretty far out."

As she spoke, customers enjoyed glasses of wine on a deck with a view of vineyards budding in the spring sunshine, the forested mountains of the Coast Range beyond.

"It's our goal to keep this winery going for centuries to come," Clair said. "We've been on this property for 37 years, and we want to be a winery that has sustained, just like some of the French chateaus have been there since the 1600s."


AP journalists Christopher Torchia in Johannesburg and Haven Daley in Petaluma, California, contributed to this report. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[3 Ways Chipotle Mexican Grill Plans to Win Back Customers]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 12:49:57 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/866377992-Chipotle-Burritos.jpg

Chipotle Mexican Grill is launching a new campaign to win back customers by remaking the troubled burrito chain into a lifestyle brand, CNBC reported.

New CEO Brian Niccol told investors Wednesday that he'd be closing up to 65 underperforming locations and will add a new menu, which may include a happy hour with $2 tacos and a late-night offering.

He also said the company is speeding up mobile and online orders, as well as updating lighting and painting.

Niccol is pulling from the same playbook he used when he led Taco Bell, where he added mobile ordering and payment and changed the slogan to "Live Mas."

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA['Hard Rock' & a View of the 'Ocean' as AC Casinos Rise Again]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 19:00:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/atlantic-city-casinos.jpg

Movie stars lent an air of celebrity glitz to a gritty seaside gambling resort Thursday as Atlantic City reclaimed two of its shuttered casinos, and more than 6,000 of the 11,000 jobs it lost during a brutal stretch of casino shutdowns.

The Hard Rock, which was the former Trump Taj Mahal, held a mass guitar smashing ceremony inside its concert arena that holds nearly 8,000 fans. "Black Panther" star Michael B. Jordan was among those helping to christen the facility.

Just as that wrapped up, the Ocean Resort Casino, the former Revel, held a ribbon cutting a few hundred yards north on the Boardwalk at which actor, singer and die-hard New England Patriots fan Mark Wahlberg had to eat crow in front of hundreds of Philadelphia Eagles fans who reminded him of the outcome of February's Super Bowl.

"I gotta say: E-A-G-L-E-S!" Wahlberg shouted out from a staircase on the Boardwalk outside the Ocean Resort. The actor and his family have one of the casino's many restaurants.

"We hope to be here at lot," he said. "Come enjoy this beautiful place."

The mood was celebratory in a city that has had little to celebrate in recent years. After losing five of its 12 casinos since 2014, Atlantic City now has nine. The openings have generated cautious optimism for the seaside gambling resort that once was the only place in America outside Nevada with casinos, but which has struggled mightily as gambling spread in surrounding states.

"We believe in Atlantic City," said Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International. "We truly believe that Atlantic City's best days are in front of it."

The two shuttered casinos reopened ahead of schedule Wednesday afternoon after being cleared to do so by New Jersey gambling regulators. Allen said the company had spent $500 million renovating the former Taj Mahal property.

"We promised you we wouldn't just paint it and put up a guitar," he said.

Julie Herron, of nearby, Galloway Township, New Jersey, was awestruck when she walked inside the Hard Rock on Thursday.

"It's beautiful, just fantastic," she said. "It's really uplifting. The music is awesome, just the rhythm. Sometimes all you need is rhythm."

A few hundred yards north at the Ocean Resort, Alesia Shropshire celebrated her 51st birthday with a big win at the slots.

"I played $10 for 15 minutes and won $260,' she said. "We will definitely be back next week."

Her husband, Nate, said the redesign of the casino floor was immediately evident.

"They did an amazing job making it feel welcoming," he said.

Inside the casino, the line to sign up for players' cards stretched from the casino floor out into a lobby, but no one was complaining. Similar long lines for players' cards were evident at Hard Rock, too.

Elvis Presley's Rolls Royce is one of the first things patrons see after they pass underneath the giant replica of a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar (cherry sunburst model) at Hard Rock casino's front entrance.

"I've been an Elvis fan forever," Joe Emanuele said. Driving (very carefully, with a police escort) from a warehouse in nearby Pleasantville, New Jersey, to the casino site, Emanuele, whose vast portfolio at Hard Rock International includes securing music memorabilia, parked his derriere in the same leather seat that once supported the "King of Rock 'n' Roll."

"You feel a little bit of prestige behind the wheel," he said. "This is Elvis' car that he picked the Beatles up in when they first came to Los Angeles."

The car is part of a vast trove of memorabilia on display at the Hard Rock. There are gowns worn by Stevie Nicks and Whitney Houston, and guitars played by Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Katy Perry. There's a leather stage outfit worn by Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry.

There's even a New Jersey memorabilia room, including the handwritten lyrics to "Dreaming" by Blondie's Debbie Harry, a Hawthorne native, along with stuff from Bon Jovi, Wyclef Jean, Southside Johnny, and a Western Union telegram confirming a $20,000 payment for Ray Charles to perform a concert on Atlantic City's Steel Pier in 1978. And no one forgot the "Chairman of the Board" Frank Sinatra, who was born in Hoboken.

At the Ocean Resort, owner Bruce Deifik has fixed most of what Revel's former customers said they didn't like about the place. It now allows smoking, will have a buffet within a few months, has a reconfigured casino floor to make it easier to get around, and glass safety barriers have been installed on the main escalator that made many patrons uncomfortable.

It has a golf simulator, a restaurant where kids and their parents can order cereal at any time of day, and six swimming pools. Popular features from Revel that are coming back include an outdoor pool day club, and a rock 'n' roll burlesque club.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Move Over, UPS Truck: Amazon Delivery Vans to Hit the Street]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 09:00:41 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amazonGettyImages-938685102.jpg

Your Amazon packages, which usually show up in a UPS truck, an unmarked vehicle or in the hands of a mail carrier, may soon be delivered from an Amazon van.

The online retailer, wanting more control over how its packages are delivered, rolled out a program Thursday that lets entrepreneurs around the country launch businesses that deliver Amazon packages. They'll be able to lease blue vans with the Amazon logo stamped on it, buy Amazon uniforms for drivers and get support from Amazon to grow their business. In return, Amazon gets more ways to ship its packages to shoppers without having to rely on UPS, FedEx and other package delivery services.

With these vans on the road, Amazon said more shoppers would be able to track their packages on a map, contact the driver or change where a package is left -- all of which it can't do if the package is in the back of UPS or FedEx truck.

Amazon has beefed up its delivery network in other ways: It has a fleet of cargo planes it calls "Prime Air," announced last year that it was building an air cargo hub in Kentucky and pays people as much as $25 an hour to deliver packages with their cars through Amazon Flex.

Recently, the company has come under fire from President Donald Trump who tweeted that Amazon should pay the U.S. Postal Service more for shipping its packages. Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations, said the new program is not a response to the president, but a way to make sure the company can deliver its growing number of orders. "This is really about meeting growth for our future," Clark said.

Through the program , Amazon said it can cost as little as $10,000 for someone to start the delivery business. They don't have to lease the Amazon blue vans, but if they do, those vehicles can only be used to deliver Amazon packages, the company said. The entrepreneur will be responsible for hiring delivery people, and Amazon would be the customer, paying the business to pick up packages from its 75 delivery centers around the country and delivering them to shopper's doorsteps. An Amazon representative declined to give details on how much it will pay for the deliveries.

One man who was part of Amazon's test of the program, told reporters that the number of packages Amazon needs to be delivered keeps his business busy.

"We don't have to go make sales speeches," said Olaoluwa Abimbola, who has hired 40 workers in five months. "There's constant work, every day. All we have to do is show up."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Russian Oligarch Loaned $10M to Manafort Business: Docs]]>Wed, 27 Jun 2018 23:15:15 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/oleg-and-paul.jpg

A search warrant application unsealed Wednesday revealed new links between one-time Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin.

In an affidavit attached to the application for a warrant allowing federal investigators to search one of Manafort's residences, an FBI agent said he had reviewed tax returns for a company controlled by Manafort and his wife that showed a $10 million loan from a Russian lender identified as Oleg Deripaska.

FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating the financial links between Manafort and Deripaska, a metals magnate who is known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was among the Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the U.S. in April.

The July 2017 application to search Manafort's Virginia apartment was granted, NBC News reported, and provided key evidence that led to indictments of Manafort stemming from Mueller's ongoing probe into connections linking members of the Trump campaign team to Russian oligarchs and government officials who may have been involved in interfering with the 2016 U.S. election.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty in Washington and Virginia on charges including conspiring to launder money, bank and tax fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent for the pro-Russia Ukraine government.

Photo Credit: AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[You Can Play With Your Food! JELL-O is Now a Toy]]>Wed, 27 Jun 2018 11:22:44 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jelloplay.jpg

Who says you can't play with your food?

JELL-O, the brand best known for gelatin and pudding products, unveiled JELL-O Play, a new line of JELL-O gelatin toys designed to inspire parents and kids to engage in free play and fun. 

"We want to inspire parents and kids to set their imagination free with a line of gelatin toys celebrating free play and fun,” says Katy Marshall, Marketing and Sales Lead of Springboard, the new Kraft Heinz platform dedicated to nurturing, scaling, and accelerating growth of disruptive food brands, including JELL-O Play. “JELL-O Play is a toy you can eat. There are no rules to what you can make when you let your creativity out of your head, onto your plate, and into your mouth,”  Marshall said in a press release announcing the new product.

The edible toys can be molded, shaped and built into various forms and were built around themes chosen to spark kids’ creativity.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Lexus Recalls Cars to Fix Fuel Leaks That Can Cause Fires]]>Tue, 26 Jun 2018 15:16:00 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/LexusGettyImages-102557238.jpg

Toyota's Lexus luxury brand is recalling about 121,000 cars worldwide because of fuel leaks in the engine that can cause fires.

The recall covers certain 2006 through 2013 IS350 cars, as well as the 2010 through 2014 IS350C, and the 2007 through 2011 GS350 and GS450h. All have 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engines.

Toyota says a diaphragm material in the fuel injection system can harden over time and crack, allowing fuel to leak. The company would not say if the problem has caused any fires, crashes or injuries.

Most of the recalled cars are in the United States.

Dealers will replace the fuel delivery pipe with a new one containing improved parts at no cost to customers.

Owners will be notified by mail starting in early August.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Threatens Harley-Davidson With Tax Punishment for Move]]>Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:00:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18176411243842.jpg

President Donald Trump sought Tuesday to avoid blame for Harley-Davidson's decision to move some motorcycle production overseas and threatened to tax the manufacturer "like never before!" as punishment for the planned production shift.

The Milwaukee-based company said Monday it came to its decision because of retaliatory tariffs it faces in an escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and the European Union. The company had no immediate response Tuesday to the president's assertions.

Trump warned the iconic American brand that any shift in production "will be the beginning of the end."

"The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!" Trump said in one of several tweets Tuesday morning about Harley-Davidson. It was unclear what the president was referring to or how he could impose taxes on a single company.

Trump offered no clarity later in the day when he was asked about tariffs during a White House photo-op with Congress members.

"Harley-Davidson is using that as an excuse and I don't like that because I've been very good to Harley-Davidson and they used it as an excuse," he said in response. "And I think the people who ride Harleys aren't happy with Harley-Davidson and I wouldn't be either."

The president has held up the motorcycle maker as an example of a U.S. business harmed by trade barriers in other countries. But Harley-Davidson had warned last year against responding to foreign trade barriers with higher American tariffs, saying the levies could negatively impact sales.

The company reiterated Tuesday that it was moving some production of motorcycles destined for sale in the EU to its existing international facilities to "address the additional tariffs imposed by the EU." It did not respond directly to Trump.

Trump recently imposed steep tariffs on aluminum and steel imported from Canada, Mexico and Europe in his bid to level the trade playing field and reduce trade deficits between the U.S. and its trade partners. But those trade partners feel insulted by Trump and have decided to retaliate.

The U.S. and China are also volleying back and forth over tariffs.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that Harley-Davidson had already announced it was closing a Kansas City plant and moving those jobs to Thailand. But union officials are the ones who claimed the jobs were being shifted to Thailand. Harley-Davidson has denied a link between Kansas City and Thailand.

"That was long before Tariffs were announced," Trump said on Twitter. "Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse. Shows how unbalanced & unfair trade is, but we will fix it....."

Trump said he's getting other countries to reduce and eliminate tariffs and trade barriers, citing India as an example, and to open up markets.

Harley-Davidson executives met with Trump at the White House last year after Trump canceled a visit to the company's headquarters in Milwaukee because protests had been planned.

"When I had Harley-Davidson officials over to the White House, I chided them about tariffs in other countries, like India, being too high," Trump tweeted. "Companies are now coming back to America. Harley must know that they won't be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!"

Trump added that the administration is finishing a study on imposing tariffs on cars from the EU.

"A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never!" Trump tweeted. "Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end - they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!"

Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, whose Wisconsin district includes Harley's plant in Menomonee Falls, said the EU has a long history of abusive trade practices but urged Trump to address abuses without harming jobs in the U.S.

"It's unfortunate that such a strong Wisconsin company like Harley-Davidson has to bear the brunt of this trade dispute," Sensenbrenner said. "I understand that the President is a tough negotiator, but I urge him to consider a more targeted approach that protects American workers and businesses." 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Stocks Skid as Trade Worries Spread to Technology Companies]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 21:01:39 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Stock-market.jpg

Wall Street's jitters over escalating trade tensions spread to the technology sector Monday, sending stocks tumbling.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell for the ninth time in 10 days, and broader gauges also slumped, as investors feared high-tech companies could be dragged into the broadening trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

Tech stocks have been a pillar of the long-running bull market. But they were roiled Monday by reports that the Trump administration intends to limit exports of some high-tech products to China, and will also limit investment in technology firms by companies with substantial Chinese ownership.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested the investment restrictions wouldn't be limited to China and the market's losses deepened. The Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point was down almost 500 points.

The trade-related downturn was not limited to high-tech socks. Harley-Davidson said it would move some production overseas to avoid tariffs the European Union is placing on motorcycles made in the U.S. Those tariffs were a response to taxes the U.S. placed on steel and aluminum from Europe. Its stock fell 6 percent to $41.57.

The market recovered from its lows after Peter Navarro, one of President Donald Trump's top trade advisers, told CNBC there was no plan for investment restrictions and that the administration's probe into alleged technology theft is limited to China.

"We hear one thing one hour and something that contradicts it the next hour or the next day," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab. "Nobody knows what to think or what to believe. It makes it really tough to invest."

All but one of the 72 technology companies listed on the S&P 500 index fell Monday. Those companies have done far better than the broader market over the last year and a half and investors had considered them to be less vulnerable to tariffs than other sectors like manufacturing.

Taxes by the U.S. on tens of billions of dollars in imports from China, and retaliatory taxes by China on U.S. goods, are set to take effect in less than two weeks. While few investors expect a full-blown trade war, Frederick said talks appear to be going in the wrong direction.

"Every day you get closer to those particular dates it gets more worrisome," he said. Frederick said that is likely to lead to more market volatility.

The S&P 500 index shed 37.81 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,717.07, its worst loss since April 6. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 328.09 points, or 1.3 percent, to 24,252.80. The Nasdaq composite fell 160.81 points, or 2.1 percent, to 7,532.01. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 28.07 points, or 1.7 percent, to 1,657.51.

China is attempting to become a global leader in biotechnology, electric vehicles and other industries, and the reports said the administration wants to slow Beijing's progress in those areas. Trump has threatened to put tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. He's also pressuring China to buy more U.S.-made goods.

Chipmaker Micron Technology, which gets half its revenue from China, lost 6.9 percent to $53.16 and Advanced Micro Devices fell 4.4 percent to $15.11. Nvidia sank 4.7 percent to $239.12.

Germany's DAX fell 2.5 percent and London's FTSE 100 gave up 2.2 percent. France's CAC 40 shed 1.9 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.3 percent. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.8 percent and in South Korea the Kospi was little changed.

Retailers and other companies focused on consumers fell as investors sold some of the stocks that have done the best this year. Amazon lost 3.1 percent to $1,663.15 and Netflix dropped 6.5 percent to $384.48.

The S&P 500 index of technology companies and the index of consumer-focused companies are both up 10 percent this year. The S&P 500 is up 1.6 percent.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.87 percent from 2.89 percent.

Elsewhere, cruise lines dropped after Carnival cut its annual profit forecast. The company cited the rising cost of fuel. Carnival fell 7.9 percent to $58.54 and competitors Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruises also slumped.

Investors still responded positively to deal reports. Broadcaster Gray Television jumped 16 percent to $14.85 after it said it will combine with Raycom in a deal the companies valued at $3.6 billion. Campbell Soup rose 9.4 percent to $42.23 after the New York Post said Kraft Heinz is interested in buying the company. Kraft added 0.2 percent to $63.32.

Benchmark U.S. crude dipped 0.7 percent to $68.08 per barrel in New York. It climbed 4.6 percent Friday, its biggest one-day gain since late 2016. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 1.1 percent to $74.73 per barrel in London.

OPEC countries agreed to produce more oil Friday, but investors aren't sure the cartel will produce as much crude oil as it says it will.

Wholesale gasoline lost 0.9 percent to $2.05 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.2 percent to $2.10 a gallon. Natural gas dipped 0.7 percent to $2.92 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell 0.1 percent to $1,268.90 an ounce. Silver lost 0.8 percent to $16.33 an ounce. Copper fell 1.3 percent to $2.99 a pound.

The dollar fell to 109.45 yen from 109.91 yen. The euro rose to $1.1704 from $1.1663.  

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/ GettyImages]]>
<![CDATA[Party City to Open Toy City Pop-Ups After Toys R Us Demise]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 13:56:34 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-948559534.jpg

Party City will open about 50 Toy City pop-up stores later this year that will run through the holiday season, the company said in a statement, according to CNBC. They hope to fill a gap left by Toys R Us, now bankrupt, and closing its remaining stores this week.

"The creation of a Toy City concept to complement our temporary seasonal retail strategy is a logical extension of our brand; one that will allow us to leverage our existing pop-up store capabilities and capitalize on the category whitespace that has recently been created,” said CEO James Harrison.

Party City said it will roll out the temporary toy stores alongside its Halloween City pop-up shops in “optimal” markets where it found attractive leasing options. The company will also expand its online market for toys, Harrison said.

Photo Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Harley, Stung By Tariffs, Shifts Some Production Overseas]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 17:49:45 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18176411243842.jpg

Production of Harley-Davidson motorcycles sold in Europe will move from U.S. factories to facilities overseas, the Milwaukee-based company announced Monday, a consequence of the retaliatory tariffs the EU is imposing on American exports in an escalating trade war with the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump has used the iconic American motorcycle maker as an example of a U.S. business harmed by trade barriers in other countries, but Harley had warned that tariffs could negatively impact its sales.

The European Union on Friday began rolling out tariffs on American imports including bourbon, peanut butter and orange juice. The EU tariffs on $3.4 billion worth of U.S. products are retaliation for duties the Trump administration is imposing on European steel and aluminum.

Harley-Davidson said in a regulatory filing Monday that EU tariffs on its motorcycles exported from the U.S. jumped between 6 percent and 31 percent, adding about $2,200 per average motorcycle exported from the U.S. to the EU.

The impact on U.S. workers because of Harley-Davidson's decision was not immediately clear. Harley-Davidson declined interview requests Monday but said in prepared remarks that the company "maintains a strong commitment to U.S.-based manufacturing which is valued by riders globally."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's trade policies Monday during a press briefing.

"The EU is attempting to punish U.S. workers with unfair and discriminatory trade policies, and President Trump will continue to push for free, fair and reciprocal trade and hopes that the EU will join us in that," Sanders said.

And the president weighed in online, admonishing the company for its move. 

"Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag," he tweeted Monday afternoon. Trump said he'd "fought hard" for the company, that the E.U. tariffs have "hurt us badly on trade" and dismissed the company's claim that higher taxes made the production shift a necessity. "Taxes just a Harley excuse," he said, appending the tweet with an ambiguous "be patient!"

Harley-Davidson Inc. sold almost 40,000 motorcycles in the EU last year, its second-largest market after the United States, according to the company. The EU sales make up almost 16.4 percent of Harley-Davidson's worldwide sales. In the U.S., Harley-Davidson sold 147,972 motorcycles last year, according to company data.

"Increasing international production to alleviate the EU tariff burden is not the company's preference, but represents the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles accessible to customers in the EU and maintain a viable business in Europe," the company said in its prepared remarks.

Harley-Davidson said it will not raise its prices to avert "an immediate and lasting detrimental impact" on sales in Europe. It will instead absorb a significant amount of the cost in the near term. It anticipates the cost for the rest of the year to be approximately $30 million to $45 million.

Shifting the production overseas could take up to 18 months, the motorcycle maker said.

The company is already struggling with falling sales. In January, it said it would consolidate its Kansas City, Missouri, plant into its York, Pennsylvania, facility. U.S. motorcycle sales peaked at more than 1.1 million in 2005 but then plummeted during the recession. It wasn't immediately known whether any other facilities would be consolidated.

"Harley-Davidson's announcement today is the latest slap in the face to the loyal, highly-skilled workforce that made Harley an iconic American brand," Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said in a statement. The union represents Harley-Davidson workers in Milwaukee, and the Kansas City and York plants.

"Will Harley use any excuse to ship jobs overseas?" Martinez added. "Does Harley even understand what 'Made in America' means?"

The Trump administration has started fights with trading partners around the world, imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, provoking retaliation from close U.S. allies including the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey. And it has announced tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods — a tariff list that could swell to $450 billion if Beijing refuses to back down and counterpunches with retaliatory moves.

"More firms will follow Harley's lead and move production overseas," says Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies trade. "Can't blame them. Many companies are being put in very difficult positions."

Lovely said Harley and other companies face retaliatory tariffs in Europe and elsewhere if they try to export products. Trump's tariffs also raise costs on imported parts they need to manufacture in the United States.

Meanwhile, the maker of Jack Daniel's, Brown-Forman Corp., said Monday it would have to raise the price of its product sold in the EU because of the tariff hike, Bloomberg reported.

Wisconsin's elected leaders said the decision pointed to the need to expand markets.

"This is further proof of the harm from unilateral tariffs," said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. "The best way to help American workers, consumers, and manufacturers is to open new markets for them, not to raise barriers to our own market."

Gov. Scott Walker echoed those comments, saying increasing markets for Wisconsin and American-made goods will reduce the trade imbalance and needs for tariffs.

"The ultimate goal, if we could get there, is no tariffs or if anything few tariffs on anything," said Walker, a Republican. "That's what I'm going to push for, ways that we can get to a level playing field then we don't have this tit for tat on any number of products out there."


Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed from Madison, Wisconsin and AP Business Writer Paul Wiseman contributed from Washington.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic/AP Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Corporate America Increasingly Avoids Gun-Industry Business]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 03:01:20 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/gunsAP_18151735528530.jpg

With Gary Ramey's fledgling gun-making business taking off in retail stores, he decided to start offering one of his handguns for sale on his website.

That didn't sit well with the company he used to process payments, and they informed him they were dropping his account. Another credit card processing firm told him the same thing: They wouldn't do business with him.

The reason? His business of making firearms violates their policies.

In the wake of high-profile mass shootings, corporate America has been taking a stand against the firearms industry amid a lack of action by lawmakers on gun control. Payment processing firms are limiting transactions, Bank of America stopped providing financing to companies that make AR-style guns, and retailers like Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods imposed age restrictions on gun purchases.

The moves are lauded by gun-safety advocates but criticized by the gun industry that views them as a backhanded way of undermining the Second Amendment. Gun industry leaders see the backlash as a real threat to their industry and are coming to the conclusion that they need additional protections in Congress to prevent financial retaliation from banks.

"If a few banks say 'No, we're not going to give loans to gun dealers or gun manufacturers', all of a sudden the industry is threatened and the Second Amendment doesn't mean much if there are no guns around," said Michael Hammond, legal counsel for Gun Owners of America. "If you can't make guns, if you can't sell guns, the Second Amendment doesn't mean much."

The issue has already gotten the attention of the Republican who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho sent letters criticizing Bank of America and Citigroup, which decided to restrict sales of firearms by its business customers, over their new gun rules in the wake of the Florida high school shooting in February.

"We should all be concerned if banks like yours seek to replace legislators and policy makers and attempt to manage social policy by limiting access to credit," Crapo wrote to Citigroup's chief executive.

Honor Defense is a small operation with a handful of employees that include Ramey's son and his wife who work out of a non-descript building in a Georgia office park north of Atlanta. In 2016, its first year, it sold 7,500 firearms. Its products — handcrafted 9mm handguns that come in a variety of colors — can now be found in more than 1,000 stores.

When Ramey noticed that neither Stripe nor Intuit would process payments through his site, he submitted a complaint with Georgia's attorney general's office, counting on help from a state law that prohibits discrimination by financial service firms against the gun industry. But the state rejected it, saying that credit card processing is not considered a financial service under state law.

He views the credit card issue as companies "infusing politics into business."

"We're just a small company trying to survive here," Ramey said. "It's hard enough competing with Smith & Wesson, Ruger and Sig Sauer."

The financial industry actions came amid a broader pushback by corporate America in the aftermath of the Florida shooting. Delta and United Airlines stopped offering discounted fares to NRA members, as did the Hertz, Alamo and National rental car companies. First National Bank of Omaha, one of the nation's largest privately held banks, decided not to renew a co-branded Visa credit card with the NRA.

Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods both decided they would no longer sell "assault weapons" or firearms to people under age 21. REI, an outdoor-gear shop that doesn't sell firearms, joined in and decided it would stop selling such items as ski goggles, water bottles and bike helmets made by companies whose parent firm, Vista Outdoor, manufactures ammunition and AR-style long guns.

There's been election-year response from some lawmakers, notably in Georgia where Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor, led a move in the Legislature to kill a tax break on jet fuel to punish Atlanta-based Delta over its NRA actions. The move cost the airline an estimated $40 million.

Gun-control advocates have applauded the efforts, saying it demonstrates responsible leadership at a time of paralysis in government. Experts say it's a sign that the business world views wading into the gun debate as not at all risky — and, in fact, potentially beneficial to their brand.

"Companies by and large avoid these issues like the plague and they only get involved — whether they're credit card companies or airlines — when they feel like doing nothing is as bad as doing something and they feel completely stuck," said Timothy D. Lytton, professor at Georgia State University's College of Law and author of "Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts."

The gun industry acknowledges that there's nothing requiring companies from doing business with gun manufacturers or dealers. Monthly reports from the federal government show background checks to purchase a firearm are up over last year so far, so the early actions apparently have not put a dent in sales.

Still, the industry believes it needs stronger laws against financial retaliation in the future.

"We may have to seek legislation to make sure it can't be done and that you can't discriminate against individuals from lawful exercise of a constitutional right," said Larry Keane, senior vice president and legal counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers. "Imagine if banks were to say you can't purchase books or certain books aren't acceptable. That would be problematic and I don't think anyone would stand for that kind of activity by the banking industry."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Lisa Marie Pane/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Pa. Moves Toward Full Tax Deduction for Capital Purchases]]>Thu, 21 Jun 2018 14:20:28 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/20171221+Harrisburg+Capitol.jpg

A provision of the budget package making its way through Pennsylvania's Legislature would put the state in line with a federal tax change letting corporations immediately expense 100 percent of a qualifying capital purchase.

Lawmakers say Pennsylvania is perhaps the only state that isn't allowing the deduction. A House Appropriations Committee analysis says allowing the deduction will create a $102 million tax break in the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.

But Rep. George Dunbar says the effect on state tax collections will eventually be revenue neutral. 

Lawmakers say the legislation would let corporations immediately deduct 100 percent of the cost of new and used capital investments, such as buildings and equipment.

The temporary change would last for five years through 2022 before phasing down over five years.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Supreme Court: States Can Make Online Shoppers Pay Sales Tax]]>Fri, 22 Jun 2018 12:33:19 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/packagesAP_18104003175767.jpg

States will be able to force more people to pay sales tax when they make online purchases under a Supreme Court decision Thursday that will leave shoppers with lighter wallets but is a big financial win for states.

Consumers can expect to see sales tax charged on more online purchases — likely over the next year and potentially before the Christmas shopping season — as states and retailers react to the court's decision, said one attorney involved in the case.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Thursday overruled a pair of decades-old decisions that states said cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue annually. The decisions made it more difficult for states to collect sales tax on certain online purchases, and more than 40 states had asked the high court for action.

The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a customer's purchase to a state where the business didn't have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn't have to collect sales tax for the state. Customers were generally responsible for paying the sales tax to the state themselves, even if they weren't charged, but most didn't realize they owed it and few paid.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.

"Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States," he wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Kennedy wrote that the rule "limited States' ability to seek long-term prosperity and has prevented market participants from competing on an even playing field."

The ruling is a victory for big chains with a presence in many states, since they usually collect sales tax on online purchases already. Now, rivals will be charging sales tax where they hadn't before.

Some of the big chains typically have a physical store in whatever state a purchase is being shipped to. Amazon.com, with its network of warehouses, also collects sales tax in every state that charges it, though third-party sellers who use the site don't have to.

Until now, many sellers that have a physical presence in only a single state or a few states have been able to avoid charging sales taxes when they ship to addresses outside those states. Online sellers that haven't been charging sales tax on goods shipped to every state range from jewelry website Blue Nile to pet products site Chewy.com to clothing retailer L.L. Bean.

Sellers that use eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also haven't been collecting sales tax nationwide.

Under the ruling Thursday, states can pass laws requiring out-of-state sellers to collect the state's sales tax from customers and send it to the state. More than a dozen states have already adopted laws like that ahead of the court's decision, according to state tax policy expert Joseph Crosby.

Retail trade groups praised the ruling, saying it levels the playing field for local and online businesses. The losers, said retail analyst Neil Saunders, are online-only retailers, especially smaller ones. Those retailers may face headaches complying with various state sales tax laws, though there are software options to help. That software, too, can be an added cost. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council advocacy group said it will "create havoc for small businesses and the marketplace."

Chief Justice John Roberts and three of his colleagues would have kept the court's previous decisions in place.

"E-commerce has grown into a significant and vibrant part of our national economy against the backdrop of established rules, including the physical-presence rule. Any alteration to those rules with the potential to disrupt the development of such a critical segment of the economy should be undertaken by Congress," Roberts wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The lineup of justices on each side of the case was unusual, with Roberts joining three more liberal justices and Ginsburg joining her more conservative colleagues.

The case the court ruled on involved a 2016 law passed by South Dakota, which said it was losing out on an estimated $50 million a year in sales tax not collected by out-of-state sellers. Lawmakers in the state, which has no income tax, passed a law designed to directly challenge the physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect sales tax and send it to the state.

South Dakota wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued several of them: Overstock.com, electronics retailer Newegg and home goods company Wayfair. After the Supreme Court's decision was announced, shares in Wayfair and Overstock both fell, with Wayfair down more than 3 percent and Overstock down more than 2 percent.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard called Thursday's decision a "Great Day for South Dakota," though the high court stopped short of greenlighting the state's law. While the Supreme Court spoke approvingly of the law it sent it back to South Dakota's highest court to be revisited in light of the court's decision.

The Trump administration had urged the justices to side with South Dakota.

The case is South Dakota v. Wayfair, 17-494. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jessica Gresko/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Water Balloon Slingshots Top List of Unsafe Summer Toys]]>Thu, 21 Jun 2018 12:01:18 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WATCH+Summer+2018.JPG

A Boston-based consumer watchdog group has warned of the dangers to children of water balloon slingshots, lawn darts and other summer toys.

Those playthings top a list of 10 questionable toys issued Thursday by World Against Toys Causing Harm, better known by its acronym, W.A.T.C.H.

Others include low-riding wheeled toys; swimming pools; all-terrain vehicles; toys with small parts; baby pools and garden buckets; backyard water slides; high-powered water guns; and bounce houses and backyard trampolines.

The group says more than 2.5 million American children are injured each summer. It says many of those accidents are preventable.

Last summer, the organization singled out fidget spinners — those popular plastic and metal toys that users spin around a finger — saying they pose a choking hazard.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: NBC10 Boston]]>
<![CDATA[Hotel Boom in Center City]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 23:46:32 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Hotel_Boom_in_Center_City.jpg

The Cambria Hotel had its grand opening in Center City. It's part of a hotel boom in Philadelphia with more openings and jobs to come.]]>
<![CDATA[Businesses Angry Over Sewer Authority Costs]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 19:02:59 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Businesses_Angry_Over_Sewer_Authority_Costs.jpg

A big bill no one saw coming has business owners in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania outraged. They say they received unexpected costs from the Sewer Authority.]]>
<![CDATA[Instagram Unveils New Long-Form Video Service]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 23:29:36 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/IGTV.jpg

Facebook's Instagram app is loosening its restraints on video in an attempt to lure younger viewers away from YouTube.

The expansion announced Wednesday, dubbed IGTV, will increase Instagram's video time limit from one minute to 10 minutes for most users. Accounts with large audiences will be able to distribute programs lasting up to an hour.

Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV. It will give Facebook more opportunities to sell advertising.

It's the latest instance in which Instagram has ripped a page from a rival's playbook in an effort to preserve its status as a cool place for young people to share and view content. In this case, Instagram is mimicking Google's YouTube. Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults.

Instagram is moving further from its roots as a photo-sharing service as it dives headlong into longer-form video.

The initiative comes as parent company Facebook struggles to attract teens, while also dealing with a scandal that exposed its leaky controls for protecting users' personal information.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told The Associated Press that he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns who turn into internet sensations with fervent followings among teens and young adults.

That is what's already happening on YouTube, which has become the world's most popular video outlet since Google bought it for $1.76 billion nearly 12 years ago. It now boasts 1.8 billion users.

Instagram, which Facebook bought for $1 billion six years ago, recently crossed 1 billion users, up from 800 million users nine months ago.

Perhaps even more importantly, 72 percent of U.S. kids ranging from 13- to 17-years old use Instagram, second in the demographic to YouTube at 85 percent, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Only 51 percent of people in that age people now use Facebook, down from 71 percent from a similar Pew survey in 2014-15.

That trend appears to be one of the reasons that Facebook is "hedging its bets" by opening Instagram to the longer-form videos typically found on YouTube, said analyst Paul Verna of the research firm eMarketer.

Besides giving Instagram another potential drawing card, longer clips are more conducive for video ads lasting from 30 seconds to one minute. Instagram doesn't currently allow video ads, but Systrom said it eventually will. When the ads come, Instagram intends to share revenue with the videos' creators — just as YouTube already does.

"We want to make sure they make a living because that is the only way it works in the long run," Systrom said.

The ads also will help Facebook sustain its revenue growth. Total spending on online video ads in the U.S. is expected to rise from nearly $18 billion this year to $27 billion in 2021.

Lele Pons, a YouTube sensation who also has amassed 25 million followers on Instagram, plans to launch a new cooking show on IGTV in hopes of increasing her audience and eventually generating more revenue. "I am looking forward to making videos for both YouTube and Instagram," she said. "It's like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. You will never know what you like better unless you try both."

IGTV's programming format will consist exclusively of vertical video designed to fill the entire screen of smartphones. By contrast, most YouTube videos fill only a portion of the screen unless the phone is tilted horizontally.

Snapchat began featuring vertical video before Instagram, another example of its penchant for copying rivals.

But Systrom sees it differently. "This is acknowledging vertical video is the future and we want the future to come more quickly, so we built IGTV."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu/AP]]>
<![CDATA[AMC Now Offering Three Weekly Movies for One Monthly Fee]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 14:38:34 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amc494104254.jpg

About a year after expressing a desire to opt-out of movie subscription service MoviePass, AMC Theatres announced plans Wednesday for a comparable program that will allow customers to see up to three movies per week for one monthly fee.

As part of its new AMC Stubs A-List program launching next week, moviegoers pay $19.95 per month, AMC Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Colanero told NBC. There aren’t any restrictions on movie times, movie format or theater location. The number of movies customers can see — for a maximum of 12 per month — doesn’t carry over from week to week.

There aren’t any blackout dates, Colanero said.

The announcement comes after AMC attempted to distance itself from MoviePass, the service that allows users to see one movie a day in theaters for $9.95 a month. In an August statement, AMC called MoviePass’ business model “shaky and unsustainable,” but the theater chain ultimately backed down.

MoviePass customers are able to purchase movie tickets for Regal, Cinemark and AMC locations. 

“Our concern back then [with MoviePass] was about price point and that remains our concern today,” Colanero said. “We feel like we put together the right price value combination and economically viable [model].”

AMC Stubs A-List program members will also receive free upgrades on popcorn and soda, free refills on large popcorn and express service at box offices and concession stands. As part of the service, customers won’t be charged an online ticketing fee and will be able to reserve tickets for future movies in advance.

MoviePass offers two similar plans: one for $7.95 monthly that allows users to see three movies per month and the $9.95 unlimited plan. MoviePass customers will still be permitted to use the service to purchase movie tickets at AMC theaters even after the Stubs A-List program takes effect, a MoviePass spokeswoman confirmed to NBC.

“We are absolutely thrilled that AMC has finally stepped up to embrace a model that we’ve known all along will be the future of our industry,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “It’s important to recognize that they will only be able to service 23% of the nation’s theaters and MoviePass subscribers get a better deal in more than 91% of them, including AMC. Beyond that, our key differentiator is that we pave a path of success for independent and small theater chains, where we will continue to focus our efforts.”

Customers can begin enrolling in AMC’s program Tuesday.

Photo Credit: George Rose/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nemours Makes Move to New South Jersey Facility]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 10:34:01 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nemours+dupont.JPG

Nemours Children’s Health System is moving a South Jersey pediatrics health center to a new site this week in an effort to provide better access for patients.

On June 19, Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Voorhees will close and reopen nearby as Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Cherry Hill.

The 10,405 square-foot-facility at 325 Marlton Pike East in Cherry Hill, was created at a cost of nearly $3 million. It will offer specialty care, therapy services and X-rays. The office will have specialists in: allergy, behavioral health, cardiology, developmental medicine, endocrinology, gastroenterology, imaging/x-ray, nephrology, neurology, orthopedics, pulmonology, rehabilitative medicine, surgery, therapy and weight management.

Find out more about the new facility at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

<![CDATA[Banking by Smart Speaker Is Here, Along With Security Issues]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:42:35 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18165534896387-Voice-Assistant-Banking.jpg

Hey Alexa, what's my bank account balance?

Big banks and financial companies have started to offer banking through virtual assistants — Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google's Assistant — in a way that will allow customers to check their balances, pay bills and, in the near future, send money just with their voice. And with the rapid adoption of Zelle, a bank-to-bank transfer system, it soon could be possible to send money to friends or family instantly with voice commands.

But the potential to do such sensitive tasks through a smart speaker raises security concerns. Virtual assistants and smart speakers are still relatively new technologies, and potentially susceptible to being exploited by cyber criminals.

Regional banking giant U.S. Bank is the first bank to be on all three services — Alexa, Siri and Assistant. The company did a soft launch of its Siri and Assistant services in early March and this month started marketing the option to customers.

Other financial companies have set up virtual assistant features. Credit card companies Capital One and American Express both have Alexa skills that allow customers to check their balances and pay bills. There are other smaller banks and credit unions that have set up Google Assistant or Alexa as well.

"We want to be there for our customers in any possible way that we can," said Gareth Gaston, executive vice president for omnichannel banking at U.S. Bank.

For now, U.S. Bank is keeping the features available through bank-by-voice fairly restrictive. Customers will be able to check bank balances, pay U.S. Bank credit cards and mortgages, ask Alexa or Google the due dates on bills, and other basic functions. Money cannot be transferred from a U.S. Bank account using voice yet, Gaston said, but the bank is considering the option.

Asking Google, Alexa or Siri for the weather or to tell a joke is one thing, but it's a whole other issue when these assistants access and share sensitive personal information. These apps will typically announce a person's available balance over the speaker, which has the potential to create awkward situations at parties.

In the case of Google and Alexa, users must create a secure connection between their bank and the assistant through Alexa's Skills or Google's Actions. All banks require the use of a four-digit PIN before they will provide balance and bank account info over these speakers, and suggest making those PINs different from the one on a customer's ATM card.

Apple's Siri is the most restrictive of the three virtual assistants, only showing a user a bank account balance on a screen, and not allowing other features like paying bills. Banks can integrate Siri into their iPhone and iPad apps, but Apple's HomePod smart speaker that launched earlier this year does not currently accept banking commands. A company spokeswoman declined to say whether that feature was coming.

Google Assistant has the capability to do individual voice recognition, providing one additional level of security on that platform, but that is not implemented on U.S. Bank's Action yet. Security experts say that additional level of security could be foiled, however.

"Users' voices can be recorded, manipulated, and replayed to the assistants," said Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher with Kaspersky Lab. "Also, with access to banking accounts and abilities to transfer and pay out money, remote financial fraud may be within the reach of cybercriminal groups soon."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mark Lennihan/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Atlantic City's Ocean Resort Casino (Ex-Revel) Seeks License]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 07:15:49 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Ocean_Resort_to_Offer_Sports_Betting.jpg

Eight days before it plans to open, Atlantic City's Ocean Resort Casino will go before state gambling regulators to seek a casino license.

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission will begin hearing Ocean Resort's licensing case Wednesday afternoon, and has set aside time on Thursday should more consideration be necessary.

The casino, formerly known as Revel, shut down in September 2014. It was sold in January to Colorado developer Bruce Deifik, who renamed it and set about changing much of what customers didn't like about it.

The casino floor has been reconfigured, smoking will be allowed and there will be a buffet starting this winter.

Both Ocean Resort and the Hard Rock will open their doors on June 28.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Starbucks to Accelerate Store Closings Next Year]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 23:21:14 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/starbux.jpg

Starbucks says it will accelerate its store closings in the U.S. next year as it tries to boost sluggish sales.

The Seattle-based company announced Tuesday that it will close 150 underperforming stores in heavily penetrated markets, up from the usual rate of 50 closings a year.

The company also said it expects 1 percent growth in global sales for the third quarter, a period that encompassed an uproar over the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks. Starbucks closed its U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias training for its employees.

CEO Kevin Johnson told investors the company halted its marketing campaign for cold beverages while it addressed with controversy, which may have affected sales.

Starbucks shares slipped nearly 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images (File)]]>
<![CDATA[GE to End More Than 100-Year Run on Dow; Walgreens Added]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 20:12:30 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GEGettyImages-2793928.jpg

General Electric will be dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average next week, ending the conglomerate's more than 100-year run in the 30-company blue chip index.

S&P Dow Jones Indices said Tuesday that GE will be removed from the index before the open of trading next Tuesday. Its slot will go to drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Boston-based GE was an original member of the Dow Jones industrials dating back to 1896. It had been a continuous member of the Dow since 1907.

Its place among the most stable publicly traded U.S. companies has been shaky in recent years, however.

GE has shrunken dramatically since it became entangled in the financial crisis a decade ago. It shed most of its financial-service businesses to focus on its high-tech industrial operations.

In January, GE revealed that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company over a $15 billion hit taken to cover miscalculations made within an insurance unit.

The company's woes have hammered its stock in recent years.

GE shares closed at $12.95 Tuesday, down 78 percent from their high of $60 a share in August 2000. The decline has also been steep more recently. The shares are down more than 60 percent from their most recent peak in July 2016. The stock is down 26 percent so far this year.

The stock-price slide is a key factor in GE's exit from the Dow, which is calculated using the prices of 30 large, or "blue chip" stocks from various U.S. industries.

The low price of GE shares means the company has a weight in the index of less than one-half of one percentage point, S&P Dow Jones Indices said.

Walgreens Boots Alliance's share price is higher, and it will contribute more meaningfully to the index.

The move to drop General Electric Co. from the Dow also reflects how industrial companies are playing a less prominent role in the U.S. economy than technology, finance, health care and consumer companies, such as Walgreens.

"Today's change to the DJIA will make the index a better measure of the economy and the stock market," said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Tuesday's announcement added to GE's stock woes. It came after the close of trading on Wall Street, but in after-market dealings, GE's shares fell 1.4 percent. Those of Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., meanwhile, jumped 3.2 percent.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Alexa, Send Up Breakfast: Amazon Launches Echo for Hotels]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:56:13 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/alexa-for-hotel.jpg

Alexa has a new job: hotel concierge.

Amazon has launched a version of Alexa for hotels that lets guests order room service through the voice assistant, ask for more towels or get restaurant recommendations without having to pick up the phone and call the front desk. Marriott has signed up for the service, and will place Amazon Echo smart speakers in 10 hotels this summer, including its Westin and St. Regis brands.

It is another way for Amazon to sell its voice assistant and devices to businesses and get Alexa in front of more customers. Amazon already sells a version of Alexa for workplaces, and has struck deals to place Alexa in cars and refrigerators. Alexa has become an important part of Amazon's business because it keeps users attached to Amazon services, such as music streaming.

Amazon said data from hotel guests will be deleted daily, and Marriott said those who don't want an Echo device in their room can ask to have it removed.

Hotels will be able to customize the responses Alexa gives their guests, such as nearby restaurant recommendations or pool hours. Other tasks that Alexa for Hospitality can do include checking guests out of their room, turning on the lights or playing lullabies to help them fall asleep.

Later this year, Amazon will allow hotel guests to link their Amazon.com account to Alexa so they can listen to their music playlists or audio books during their stay. Shopping, however, won't be allowed through the hotel version of Alexa, Amazon said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[3 Money Tasks You Shouldn't Tackle on Your Own]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 08:47:46 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/irs+exterior+sign.JPG

No one cares as much about your money as you do, but never asking for help can be dangerous — and expensive.

In a previous column, I detailed the hazards of trying to do your own estate plan and how problems often aren't apparent until it's too late to fix them. The following financial tasks also are more complex than they may seem, and the consequences for ignorance can be severe. Hiring expert help may ultimately save you a bundle.

People have to make a lot of decisions around the time they retire. Many of those choices are irreversible and can have a dramatic impact on future comfort.

If you withdraw too much money from your 401(k) or IRAs, for example, you could run out of cash before you run out of life. Retiring in a bad market is particularly dangerous, since you're siphoning money from a shrinking pool and the amount you spend won't be able to benefit from the inevitable upturn.

But you also can make a mistake by hoarding your money, perhaps wasting the precious early years of retirement when your energy and health would allow you to travel or pursue other interests, says Ken Hevert, senior vice president for retirement investing at Fidelity Investments.

Social Security claiming strategies, pension payout options and financing medical care in retirement are other issues that could use an objective second opinion from a fee-only financial planner. You can get referrals from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, the Garrett Planning Network and the XY Planning Network.

Former tax litigator Cari Weston (no relation) remembers listening in horror as a CEO client's wife started chatting with their IRS auditor. The wife had been told not to volunteer information, but she casually mentioned traveling via private jet to vacation at their property in Mexico. The auditor responded by expanding his corporate audit to include the client's international property and his personal use of a company jet.

"Chitchat can get you in a whole lot of trouble," says Weston, now director of tax practice and ethics for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

Another way to get into trouble is to think you know more than you actually do. The tax pros who represent clients in IRS audits have to be familiar not just with the tax code, but also with IRS regulations, rulings and procedures, plus relevant case law. They learn from experience when to fight a finding or request more information, and when to acquiesce, Weston says.

In Weston's view (and mine), the only audits taxpayers should consider handling on their own are the automated kind. That's when the IRS' computerized matching program spits out a notice about a discrepancy between the information you reported (say, your income) and what your employer or the bank reported.

"If you know what the problem is and can express yourself clearly, you can respond," Weston says. Otherwise, hire a tax pro, such as a CPA or enrolled agent, who is qualified to represent taxpayers in IRS audits. You can get referrals from the American Institute of CPAs and the National Association of Enrolled Agents.

People who are good with details and deadlines can file their own Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, especially if they have little or no property to lose, says Edward Boltz, vice president and legislative chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

The chances of something going wrong, however, rise with the complexity of the case and the assets involved. Mistakes can cause people to lose property they otherwise could have kept, while missing deadlines can result in their case being dismissed.

Chapter 13 bankruptcies, which require a three- to five-year repayment plan, are hard to complete even with an attorney, and almost impossible to finish without legal help.

One 2011 study by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Central District of California found only 55 percent of Chapter 13 filers represented by attorneys reached the confirmation stage, where payments can begin. But fewer than half of one percent of "pro se" filers — those representing themselves without a lawyer — made it that far. A recent larger, six-year study of 123,000 cases nationwide found 41.5 percent of Chapter 13 filers who had lawyers completed their plans, compared with just 2.3 percent of those without representation.

Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free or discounted initial sessions. You can get referrals from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, the American Bar Association or your state's bar association.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Audi CEO Detained in Germany Diesel Emissions Case]]>Mon, 18 Jun 2018 09:46:10 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/audi-ceo.jpg

German authorities on Monday detained the chief executive of Volkswagen's Audi division, Rupert Stadler, as part of a probe into the manipulation of emissions controls.

The move is an extension of the emissions scandal that has rocked Volkswagen since 2015 and led to billions in fines, the arrest of executives and the indictment in the U.S. of its former CEO.

Stadler's detention follows a search last week of his private residence, ordered by Munich prosecutors investigating the manager on suspicion of fraud and indirect improprieties with documents.

"Audi CEO Rupert Stadler was provisionally arrested this morning," the company said in a statement. It said shortly afterward that a judge had ordered him kept in custody pending possible charges at prosecutors' request.

The company said that it couldn't comment further due to the ongoing investigation, but stressed that "the presumption of innocence remains in place for Mr. Stadler."

German news agency dpa reported that prosecutors decided to seek Stadler's arrest due to fears he might try to evade justice. A former head of Audi's engine development unit is already in investigative detention.

A total of 20 people are under suspicion in the Audi probe, which focuses on cars sold in Europe that were believed to be equipped with software that turned emissions controls on during lab testing and off again during regular driving to enhance road performance.

Audi said in a statement last week that it was "cooperating with the authorities" in the probe.

Volkswagen first admitted in 2015 of using software to cheat on U.S. emissions tests. That has cost it $20 billion in fines and civil settlements.

Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States and nine managers, including former CEO Martin Winterkorn, were charged there. Two are serving prison terms; Winterkorn and the others remained in Germany and are unlikely to be extradited.

German authorities this month fined Volkswagen $1.2 billion as part of their own investigation. They are also investigating Winterkorn and 48 others.

The arrest of the Audi CEO comes just weeks after Volkswagen tapped a new CEO to move the company past the scandal. Herbert Diess was given the top job in April and he said that besides focusing on new technologies, like electric cars, he wanted to build a more open, values-based culture to avoid the cheating that led to the emissions scandal.

Volkswagen shares were down 2.1 percent at 157.66 euros in Frankfurt trading.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: picture alliance via Getty Image]]>
<![CDATA[Nike Sorry After Naval Academy Says Logo Resembles Crest]]>Sat, 16 Jun 2018 04:05:14 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/naval-academyGettyImages-564112467.jpg

Nike Inc. apologized after the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland said the similarities between a logo for a clothing line and the academy's historic seal are undeniable.

Nike said in a statement Friday that they don't feel it is appropriate to move forward with the collection.

The Washington Post reports the logo is a collaboration between Nike and Undefeated, a Los Angeles sportswear line. The logo and the crest both depict a shield flanked by columns. The Undefeated's shield has tally marks while the academy's has an approaching ship.

In a statement, Naval Academy spokeswoman Jennifer M. Erickson said the academy appreciates Nike's decision to no longer use the logo, saying the decision is respectful of the academy, its students and alumni. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Why Many Americans Aren't Benefiting From Strong US Economy]]>Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:37:45 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18158746334830-Home-Buyers.jpg

"The economy," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell declared this week, "is doing very well."

And it is. Steady hiring has shrunk unemployment to 3.8 percent — the lowest since the 1960's. Consumers are spending. Taxes are down. Inflation is tame. Factories are busy. Demand for homes is strong. Household wealth is up.

Yet the numbers that collectively sketch a picture of a vibrant economy don't reflect reality for a range of Americans who still feel far from financially secure even nine years into an economic expansion.

From drivers paying more for gas and families bearing heavier child care costs to workers still awaiting decent pay raises and couples struggling to afford a home, people throughout the economy are straining to succeed despite the economy's gains.

They are people like Katy Cole, a 33 year-old music teacher from North Creek, New York, who's still repaying her student loans. It took her two years of working a second job to repair her credit and amass enough money to try to buy a home with her boyfriend. She just gave birth last month — the fourth child in her blended family — which means having to take unpaid leave from her school job.

"As far as the numbers saying everyone is working, that's great," Cole said. "But is everybody surviving? I don't think so. In a great economy, everybody is thriving — and not just a certain group."

When analysts at Oxford Economics recently studied American spending patterns, they found that the bottom 60 percent of earners was essentially drawing on their savings just to maintain their lifestyles. Their incomes weren't enough to cover expenses.

"Many people are still living on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis," said Gregory Daco, head of U.S. economics at Oxford.

Daco and other economists describe the economy as fundamentally healthy, a testament to the durable recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. The job market, in particular, is booming. But even many people who have jobs and are in little danger of losing them feel burdened and uneasy.

Here's a look at the economy from their perspectives:

Even with inflation running at a relatively low 2.4 percent, one particular expense is weighing on anyone idling in traffic: Gasoline prices have surged 24 percent over the past year to a national average of $2.94 a gallon, according to AAA. That's the highest average since 2014.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley have estimated that the increase this year will likely eat away a third of people's savings from Trump's tax cuts. Gas prices are still below their high reached roughly a decade ago. Yet the increase this year represents an additional financial burden on consumers and businesses compared with a year ago.

A strong job market can actually be a curse for would-be homebuyers. With more people drawing paychecks and able to afford a home, demand has intensified. Yet the number of homes listed for sale is flirting with historic lows. The combination of high demand and low supply has driven prices to troubling high levels.

It's not just that home ownership is largely unobtainable in San Francisco or Seattle. The Case-Shiller index shows that home prices are rising more than 6 percent annually in Atlanta and Minneapolis. In the Detroit metro area, they're up nearly 8 percent over the past 12 months. By contrast, average hourly wages have risen just 2.7 percent over the past year.

The real estate brokerage Redfin says the median sales price in the 174 markets it covers has jumped 6.3 percent over the past year to $305,600. A general rule of thumb is that buyers can afford a home worth roughly three times their income. So the median home sales price far exceeds what a typical U.S. household earning a median $57,000 income can manage.

On top of that, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are growing costlier. The average interest rate on these mortgages has jumped to 4.62 percent — from 3.95 percent at the start of the year — according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.

$100 trillion. That's roughly the net worth of U.S. households and nonprofits, according to the Federal Reserve.

Problem is, America's wealth is increasingly lopsided, with the affluent and the ultra-wealthy amassing rising proportions and everyone else benefiting modestly if at all.

The top 10 percent of the country holds 73 percent of its wealth, a share that has crept steadily up since 1986, according to the World Inequality Database. The most sweeping gains are concentrated among the top 1 percent; this group holds nearly 39 percent of the wealth. And they're arguably poised to become even more prosperous because Trump's tax cuts largely favored the wealthiest slice of individual taxpayers.

Contrast that with the middle 40 percent of the country, a group that would historically be considered middle class. In 1986, they held 36 percent of the country's wealth; now, it's just 27 percent.

Worse off is the bottom 40 percent of Americans: They have a negative net worth and almost no financial cushion in case of an emergency.

Most Americans can't draw on stocks, rental properties, capital gains or significant home equity to generate cash. They depend almost exclusively on wages. And after adjusting for inflation, the government reported that Americans' average hourly earnings haven't budged over the past 12 months.

Employers increasingly favor college graduates over people with only a high school diploma. Out of the 2.6 million jobs added in the past year, the government's job data shows that 70 percent of them went to college graduates. Workers who have graduated only from high school made up less than 1 percent of the job gains.

It wasn't this way in May 2000, when the unemployment rate was nearly as low as today. Back then, only 30 percent of new jobs went to college graduates. Census figures show that only 30 percent of Americans older than 25 have college degrees, which means a majority of the country isn't receiving the full benefit from the sustained job growth.

For all their good fortune as the favored recipients of job growth, there's a major downside for recent college graduates. Obtaining a degree has increasingly coincided with ever-higher student debt loads. Since 2004, total student debt has climbed 540 percent to $1.4 trillion, according to the New York Federal Reserve. About 60 percent of college graduates from 2016 held debt, with an average of $28,400, according to the College Board. That figure doesn't include any graduate school debt. The Urban Institute found that advanced degree students borrowed an average of $18,210 in 2015 — about triple what undergraduates borrowed that academic year.

Mounting student debt could hinder the buying of homes and formation of families that helped growth in previous decades. A survey last year by the National Association of Realtors found that student debt was delaying home ownership by seven years among millennials, a generation it defined as people born between 1980 and 1998.

Children are immensely expensive. For nearly a third of families, the costs of child care swallowed at least 20 percent of their income, according to a survey posted in March by the caregiver jobs site Care.com. Nearly a third of parents said they went into debt to cover child care expenses.

When Care.com assessed how much its members were spending on day care centers for infants yearly, the average cost was $10,486, and it ranged as high as $20,209. Nannies were even pricier.

Research also suggests that some women remain outside the workforce because of the comparatively weak family leave and child care policies in the United States relative to those in other developed economies. A result is that families are forgoing income that would otherwise benefit them and the economy.

When the unemployment rate was last around 3.8 percent in 2000, the proportion of women who either had a job or were looking for one was peaking. For women ages 25 to 54, that proportion — called the labor force participation rate — was roughly 77 percent in 2000. It's now 74.8 percent.

If women's labor force participation were to return to 77 percent, there would be 1.4 million more women in the work force.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Barely Moves Needle on Gender, Diversity in Workforce]]>Fri, 15 Jun 2018 04:29:13 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/googleload.jpg

Google barely raised the number of women and under-represented minorities among its ranks, while it got less white and more Asian over the past year, according to the search giant's fifth annual diversity report.

The report released Thursday comes a week after shareholders voted down proposals to study linking executive pay to diversity goals and as it grapples with ongoing lawsuits over gender discrimination

Google bumped the percentage of its female employees up by a tenth of a percentage point to 30.9 percent.

Despite falling more than 2 percent, white workers remained the majority at 53.1 percent, while Asians grew more than a percentage point to 36.3 percent. Black and Latino workers grew a tenth of a percent to 2.5 and 3.6 percent.

Google says it needs to do more on diversity, and added new data on hiring, attrition and gender by ethnicity. The new data showed black workers left the company at far higher rates than other groups. The report said its efforts at improving diversity must include "creating an inclusive culture" and not just boosted hiring.

Google is part of Alphabet Inc., which is based in Mountain View, California, and employs about 85,000 people.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How Fox's Businesses Would Match Up With Disney and Comcast]]>Thu, 14 Jun 2018 03:49:53 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/fox-GettyImages-825221664.jpg

Competing bids from Comcast and Disney for the bulk of Twenty-First Century Fox come as the media landscape changes and companies get more involved in both creating and distributing content.

X-Men and other movies from Fox's studios would help beef up Disney's upcoming streaming service. Comcast, already a major cable operator, would get a larger portfolio of cable channels including FX and National Geographic.

Comcast's $65 billion cash bid Wednesday is higher than what many analysts were expecting and tops Disney's all-stock offer, valued at $52.5 billion when it was made in December. (Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns this TV station.)

GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives said Comcast's price "speaks to Comcast really wanting these key assets." Disney is expected to make a counter offer.

Each bid raises different regulatory concerns, though this week's approval of AT&T's takeover of Time Warner signals that regulators might have a hard time stopping mega-mergers.

Here's how the companies would match up:

Fox's film studios, with "Avatar," X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Deadpool, would pair well with Disney's studios. This includes reuniting the Marvel franchises X-Men and the Avengers, as some of those characters were already in Fox's hands when Disney bought Marvel in 2009. Disney also has the Muppets, Pixar and "Star Wars."

In fact, Fox and Disney might pair too well, as far as regulatory concerns go. BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield estimates the combined studios make up 45 percent of worldwide box office revenue. A larger studio could use its power to keep its movies in more theaters longer and squeeze out rival movies.

Comcast's Universal movie business has such franchises as "Jurassic Park." The Fox properties would expand Comcast's reach, though the company would have just 25 percent of the box office with Fox added, according to figures from Box Office Mojo.

Fox's TV productions include "The Americans," ''This Is Us," ''Modern Family," and "The Simpsons." Its networks include FX Networks and National Geographic. The Fox businesses would pair well with Disney channels like ABC, the Disney Channel and Freeform. "Modern Family" already airs on ABC.

Comcast owns NBCUniversal, including the NBC broadcast network, CNBC and USA. Comcast's studios produce "Chicago Fire" and "Will & Grace," both airing on NBC.

Comcast might run into regulatory problems because the cable operator would control a larger portfolio of content along with its distribution. However, a federal judge on Tuesday approved a similar attempt by DirecTV owner AT&T to buy Time Warner. The judge rejected the government's fears that the AT&T deal could lead to higher prices for consumers or hinder online alternatives from getting content.

Regardless of which company prevails in buying Fox, the Fox television network and some cable channels including Fox News will stay with media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Disney's deal includes getting Fox's regional sports network, which shows hometown sports in several cities including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. Those networks would complement Disney's nationally focused ESPN. Disney recently launched ESPN Plus, a separate streaming service with more local offerings. That service could benefit from Fox's regional offerings.

Comcast already has similar regional networks through NBC Sports, including ones in Boston, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area. Getting the Fox networks would expand Comcast's territorial reach.

Whichever company prevails will control streaming service Hulu. Currently, Comcast, Disney and Fox each has a 30 percent stake, with Time Warner owning the other 10 percent. With Fox's share, either Comcast or Disney would end up with a controlling 60 percent stake.

Disney already plans an entertainment-focused streaming service in 2019. If Disney prevails, it could combine that with Hulu or keep them as separate services.

If Comcast prevails, Disney's service could be less appealing, as it wouldn't have Fox video. Comcast doesn't currently have similar streaming ambitions and wouldn't benefit as much from the Fox video.

Internationally, Fox's cable and international TV businesses are part of the offerings. That's key for Comcast, which has a limited overseas presence.

Disney and Comcast had already been at battle in the U.K. over Sky, an operator of television channels. Fox has a 39 percent stake in Sky and has been trying to buy outright, with the intention of selling the full company to Disney as part of that deal. U.K. regulators have given the OK to that offer if Fox sells Sky News. Regulators there also have cleared Comcast's $30.7 billion offer for the 61 percent of Sky that Murdoch doesn't own.

Other international networks include Fox Networks Group International, Star India, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.

Comcast and Disney have made extensive use of their portfolios at their theme parks in California, Florida and overseas. Disney, for instance, is expanding its attractions related to "Star Wars." On the flip side, Disney turned its Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a major movie franchise. Comcast's Universal Studios has attractions based on Universal's "Fast and the Furious" franchise.

Either company would be able to expand its opportunities with Fox, though the theme parks have historically been able to reach licensing deals with rival studios. Universal, for instance, has rides based on Fox's "The Simpsons" and Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter." Disney has licensed Fox's "Avatar" for its "Pandora" park within Walt Disney World.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Weak Pay Growth Puzzles Fed Chief, Just Like Everyone Else]]>Thu, 14 Jun 2018 00:55:19 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/fed-AP_18164717076056.jpg

Halfway through a news conference Wednesday, the head of the world's most powerful central bank was asked a question weighing on the minds — and the checking accounts — of Americans everywhere:

When will people finally start getting meaningful pay raises?

Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, had no satisfactory answer.

He called it a "puzzle." And then, as if measuring his words, he said he wasn't prepared to call it a "mystery."

Puzzle or mystery, the source of the consternation is this: The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to a multi-decade low of 3.8 percent. A shortage of qualified people to hire has frustrated many employers who have complained that they can't fill job openings.

In theory, those two factors should combine to unleash a wave of robust pay raises for everyone from construction crews, teachers, accountants and hotel clerks to engineers, janitors, butchers, baristas and even summer interns.

It hasn't happened — not in most industries, anyway.

Powell acknowledged that he couldn't say for sure why wage growth remains generally tepid. He said he "certainly would have expected pay raises to react more" to falling unemployment.

Echoing what other economists, including his predecessors and colleagues at the Fed, have suggested, Powell offered up one likely factor: the economy's relatively low productivity growth. Put simply, American workers aren't generating enough additional value for each hour on the job.

Some economists say companies have invested too little in capital equipment that would accelerate worker productivity. Others say earlier technological breakthroughs that did speed productivity have yet to be duplicated. But no one is sure.

"So it's a bit of a puzzle," the chairman mused, somewhat philosophically. "I wouldn't say it's a mystery. But it's, it's a bit of a puzzle."

Powell didn't explain his distinction between puzzle and mystery. But he has used similar formulations before. In 2017, as a Fed governor, Powell told CNBC that the persistence of inflation remaining below the central bank's 2 percent target after years of monetary stimulus was "kind of a mystery."

Yet in recent months, inflation seems to have picked up, driven by higher oil prices. Fed officials estimated Wednesday that inflation would run slightly above its target through 2020. That forecast appeared to suggest that low unemployment and a gaping federal budget deficit in the wake of President Donald Trump's tax cuts would finally keep inflation at or above the Fed's annual 2 percent target rate.

This newfound inflation is actually something of a challenge for many workers. After factoring in inflation, average hourly earnings have been flat for the past year, the Labor Department said this week. For workers who aren't supervisors, wages have actually fallen slightly despite the rush of hiring in an economic expansion on the verge of completing its ninth year.

What economists call the "Phillips curve" — which says low unemployment should accelerate pay growth — appears to be broken or twisted. Or at least operating on a severe delay.

Other economists have suggested answers that go beyond the Fed's mandate of using interest rates, asset purchases and public communication to stabilize prices and maximize employment. The liberal Economic Policy Institute released a study in 2016 showing that the long-standing decline in union membership had come at the expense of worker pay raises.

Other economists note that Americans have found themselves increasingly in competition with foreigner workers who earn less and that this factor has suppressed wages in some industries.

Separate research has that found higher wages are now concentrated at exceptionally profitable tech darlings like Facebook, where federal filings show median pay topped $240,000 last year. Workers at many less profitable firms are being left behind.

Then there's the issue of some workers being forced to sign non-compete agreements. And there's the rise of what economists call a "monopsony." That tongue-tripping term refers to industries or communities with just a few very large employers. Research has found that employers in such cases can limit pay growth because workers have few options to quit for similar jobs at rival employers.

On Wednesday, Powell ended his new conference with an answer to a question about whether most workers will see significant raises, given the money that major companies are pouring into stock buybacks rather than into pay.

The Fed chairman stressed that he still thought a strong job market would propel faster pay growth in time. Yet, he added, referring to companies that reward investors above workers, "we don't really have the tools that will address the distribution of profits and that kind of thing."

With those words, Powell left the lectern.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Comcast Challenges Disney With $65B Bid for Fox]]>Wed, 13 Jun 2018 21:46:55 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/893038418-Fox-Studios-Hollywood-Los-Angeles.jpg

Comcast made a $65 billion bid Wednesday for Fox's entertainment businesses, setting up a battle with Disney to become the next mega-media company.

The bid comes just a day after a federal judge cleared AT&T's takeover of Time Warner and rejected the government's argument that it would hurt competition in cable and satellite TV and jack up costs to consumers for streaming TV and movies. The ruling signaled that Comcast could win regulatory approval, too; its bid for Fox shares many similarities with the AT&T-Time Warner deal.

Comcast says its cash bid is 19 percent higher than the value of Disney offer as of Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal and others reported earlier that Comcast had lined up $60 billion in cash to challenge Disney for media mogul Rupert Murdoch's company. Disney's offer was for $52.5 billion when it was made in December, though the final value will depend on the stock price at the closing.

"This is a golden offer that will put considerable pressure on (Disney CEO Bob) Iger and Disney to step up their game on another bid," GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives said. "This is even higher than the Street thought, which speaks to Comcast really wanting these key assets."

The battle for Twenty-First Century Fox comes as traditional entertainment companies try to amass more content to compete better with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers' attention — and dollars.

If the Comcast bid succeeds, a major cable distributor would control even more channels on its lineup and those of its rivals. That could lead to higher cable bills or make it more difficult for online alternatives to emerge, though there is not yet evidence of either happening following other mergers. For Disney, a successful Comcast bid could make Disney's planned streaming service less attractive, without the Fox video.

Content is becoming more important as ways to deliver content proliferate. Cable companies like Comcast are no longer competing only with satellite alternatives such as DirecTV, but also stand-alone services such as Netflix and cable-like online bundles through Sony, AT&T and others.

Disney already started its own sports streaming service and plans an entertainment-focused one late next year featuring movies and shows from its own studios, which include Marvel, Pixar and "Star Wars" creator Lucasfilm.

With the Fox deal, Disney would get more content for those services — through the studios behind the Avatar movies, "The Simpsons" and "Modern Family," along with National Geographic. Marvel would get back the characters previously licensed to Fox, reuniting X-Men with the Avengers.

Comcast, meanwhile, has been leading the way in marrying pipes with the entertainment that flows through them. It bought NBCUniversal's cable channels and movie studio in 2013 and added Dreamworks Animation in 2016.

The Philadelphia company has been tinkering with the traditional cable bundle, offering stand-alone subscriptions for some types of video along with smaller bundles of cable channels delivered over the internet. Comcast has said it will add Netflix to some cable bundles.

With Fox, Comcast would expand a portfolio that already includes U.S. television rights to the Olympics and comedy offerings such as "Saturday Night Live."

Whichever company prevails would also control Fox's cable and international TV businesses. That's key for Comcast, which currently doesn't have an international presence. The Fox television network and some cable channels including Fox News and Fox Business Network would stay with Murdoch's family under either deal, as with the newspaper and book businesses under a separate company, News Corp.

Fox shareholders are set to vote on the Disney bid on July 10. Despite Comcast's higher offer, it's not immediately clear whether Fox's board would entertain it. According to regulatory filings, an unnamed company, widely thought to be Comcast, previously made an offer for Fox. But Fox went with Disney because of concerns it would face more regulatory scrutiny with the other company.

That was before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled in AT&T's favor and rejected the government's argument that its takeover of Time Warner would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars more to stream TV and movies. The government worried that AT&T, as DirecTV's owner, could charge Comcast and other rival distributors higher prices for Time Warner channels like CNN or HBO. In turn, that could drive up what consumers pay. AT&T and Time Warner argue they're simply trying to stay afloat in the new streaming environment.

Disney wouldn't face the same issues because it isn't a television distributor as the way Comcast and AT&T are. But if Disney gets Fox, the combined movie studios would account for 45 percent of worldwide box office revenue, according to BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield. That could raise regulatory objections. A larger studio could use its power to keep its movies in more theaters longer, dampening competition from rival studios.

Disney and Comcast had already been at battle in the U.K. over Sky TV. Fox has a 39 percent stake in that company and has been trying to buy outright, with the intention of selling the full company to Disney as part of that deal. U.K. regulators have given the OK to that offer if Fox sells Sky News. Regulators there also have cleared Comcast's $30.7 billion offer for the 61 percent of Sky that Murdoch doesn't own.

In addition to the $35-per-share cash offer, Comcast agreed to pay a $2.5 billion termination fee if the deal doesn't pass regulatory muster. It also agreed to reimburse Fox for the $1.5 billion-plus break-up fee it agreed to pay to Disney if their deal doesn't go through.

Disney and Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of this station

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images]]>
PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]><![CDATA[Live Nation Picks Local Caterer for New Met Philly Venue]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 14:29:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Philly+Met+Opera+House+Philadelphia+Met.jpg

The Met Philadelphia is months away from completing its transformation, and Live Nation has zeroed in on a Philadelphia company to be the venue's exclusive food service and retail provider.

Brûlée Catering will be the exclusive food and beverage provider for The Met Philadelphia, Live Nation announced Monday. It will manage and operate the venue's dining, including full-service options and a beverage program.

In the coming months, Live Nation and Brûlée, owned by Philadelphia-based Spectra, will announce partnerships with several local celebrity chefs.

It was announced in May 2017 that entertainment company Live Nation signed a lease for and would occupy The Met, which was built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein but had been in a state of decay for decades. The move could help reverse North Broad's reputation. 

Read more about the new venue on PBJ.com.

For more business news from around the region, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: Artist's Rendering]]>
<![CDATA[Charitable Giving in US Tops $400 billion For First Time]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:47:53 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ZuckCharity.jpg

Fueled by a surging stock market and huge gifts from billionaires, charitable giving in the United States in 2017 topped the $400 billion mark for the first time, according to the latest comprehensive report on Americans' giving patterns.

The Giving USA report, released Tuesday, said giving from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reached an estimated $410 billion in 2017 — more than the gross domestic product of countries such as Israel and Ireland. The total was up 5.2 percent in current dollars (3 percent adjusted for inflation) from the estimate of $389.64 billion for 2016.

"Americans' record-breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid," said Aggie Sweeney, chair of Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the annual report. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Giving increased to eight of the nine charitable sectors identified by Giving USA. The only decline was for areas related to international affairs.

The biggest increase was in giving to foundations — up 15.5 percent. That surge was driven by large gifts from major philanthropists to their own foundations — including $1 billion from Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell and his wife, Susan, and $2 billion from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Other sectors with increases of more than 6 percent included education, health, arts and culture, environment and animal welfare, and public-society benefit organizations — groups which work on such issues as voter education, civil rights, civil liberties and consumer rights.

Despite the record-setting total, Americans' level of generosity is no higher than it was decades ago. For 2017, giving by individuals represented 2 percent of total disposable income — down from 2.4 percent in 2000 and the same as the rate in 1978. Similarly, total charitable donations have hovered around 2 percent of the gross domestic product for many years; for 2017, that figure was 2.1 percent.

Una Osili, a dean and economics professor at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, says the school's research shows that the percentage of U.S. households making charitable donations has declined steadily in recent years, from about 67 percent in 2000 to 56.6 percent in 2015 — the latest year for which data is available.

She said giving rates for lower- and middle-class families had dropped significantly since the 2008 recession, while the giving rate for the wealthiest 20 percent of households was relatively steady.

Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said many fundraisers in the U.S. — while pleased with the recent increase in gifts — are unsure what lies ahead.

If trade wars break out, she said, that could weaken the economy to the point at which it deters some donors. She said fundraisers also worry that some middle-class donors may cut back on giving if changes in the new tax law no longer give them a deduction for their charitable donations.

Alluding to the surge of mega-gifts by the wealthy, Palmer added, "Some people feel they don't need to give any more."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mayors of 7 US Cities Where Marijuana Is Legal Form Group]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:16:39 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Weeeed.jpg

Mayors from seven U.S. cities in states with legal marijuana said Monday they have formed a coalition to push for federal marijuana policy reform just days after President Donald Trump expressed support for bipartisan congressional legislation to ease the federal ban on pot.

Mayors from Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and West Sacramento — all in marijuana-friendly states — sponsored a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston that asked the U.S. government to remove cannabis from a list of illegal drugs, among other things.

It was approved unanimously by the broader gathering Monday, Larry Jones said, a spokesman for the conference.

Mayors from Oakland, California and Thornton, Colorado weren't sponsors but pledged to advocate for federal reforms.

"As mayors of cities that have successfully implemented and managed this new industry, we have hands-on experience that can help Congress take the right steps to support other local governments as they prepare to enter this new frontier," said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, who led the coalition. "We all face common challenges."

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said marijuana businesses employ thousands of people and generate millions of dollars in Oregon.

"Cannabis prohibition has failed. It has failed to keep our children safe, it has failed law enforcement, and it has especially failed communities of color disproportionately targeted and prosecuted for low-level drug offenses," he said in an email Monday.

"Eventually, legalization will come to every state — and we want to make sure it's done so safely and effectively."

The resolution comes after Trump said he would "probably" back a bipartisan congressional effort to ease a U.S. ban on the drug that about 30 states have legalized in some form. The bill supported by both parties was introduced June 7 and would dramatically reshape the nation's legal landscape for pot users and businesses.

The federal ban that puts marijuana on the same level as LSD and heroin has created a conflict with states that have legalized pot in some form, creating a two-tiered enforcement system at the state and federal levels.

The legislation with four sponsors, including Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, would ensure states have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders. Some U.S. restrictions would remain, however, including sales of non-medical pot to people under 21.

"I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he's doing," Trump told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Friday, when asked about the legislation. "We're looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes."

The mayors' resolution adopted Monday asks Congress, among other things, to:

  • remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act
  •  allow employers in the marijuana industry to take tax deductions similar to those allowed in other businesses
  • provide guidance to financial institutions that provide banking to cannabis businesses
  • extend legal access to medical marijuana for U.S. veterans

The resolution's approval means that the U.S. Conference of Mayors as an organization will now create federal policy recommendations to submit to Congress starting next year.

CORRECTION (June 12, 2018, 8:16 a.m. PT): An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect number of mayors who formed a coalition to push for federal marijuana policy reform. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Don Ryan/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Judge Approves AT&T-Time Warner Merger]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 22:40:17 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ATTMerge.jpg

A federal judge approved the $85 billion mega-merger of AT&T and Time Warner on Tuesday, potentially ushering in a wave of media consolidation while shaping how much consumers pay for streaming TV and movies.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon green-lit the merger without imposing major conditions as some experts had expected. The Trump Justice Department had sued to block the $85 billion merger, arguing that it would hurt competition in cable and satellite TV and jack up costs to consumers for streaming TV and movies.

Now, the phone and pay-TV giant AT&T will be allowed to absorb the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio, "Game of Thrones," coveted sports programming and other "must-see" shows. The Justice Department could appeal the ruling, although it said only that it is considering its options.

The ruling could open the floodgates to deal making in the fast-changing worlds of entertainment production and distribution. Major cable, satellite and phone companies are bulking up with purchases of entertainment conglomerates to compete against rivals born on the internet such as Amazon and Google.

Waiting in the wings are potential big-billions deals involving 21st Century Fox and Disney, Verizon and CBS, T-Mobile and Sprint. Comcast and Verizon are also jockeying for position in the new landscape.

A combined AT&T-Time Warner could also get a boost from Monday's official end of net neutrality —the Obama-era rules that barred broadband and wireless companies from favoring their own services to the detriment of rivals like Netflix. AT&T and Verizon now can give priority on their networks to their own movies and TV shows, while hurting rivals such as Amazon, YouTube and future startups.

"The impact from this decision will have wide reaching ramifications across the telecommunications, media, and tech industry for decades to come," said GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives.

The merger would combine a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels that programming to consumers. AT&T cast it as a necessary step at a time when people spend more time watching video on phones and tablets and less time on traditional live TV on a big screen.

Leon said the government failed to prove that the merger would lead to higher prices and other harm to consumers. Despite Justice Department lawyers taking their "best shot," he said, their evidence was "too thin a reed for this court to rely on."

Leon added that he wouldn't temporarily block the merger for a possible appeal by the government. The "drop dead" deadline for completing the merger is June 21. If it's not wrapped up by then, either company could walk away, and AT&T would have to pay a $500 million breakup fee.

The ruling was a stinging defeat for the Justice Department. Opposing the merger forced federal antitrust lawyers to argue against standing legal doctrine that favors mergers among companies that don't compete directly with each other.

Another wild card: When first announced in October 2016 , the deal drew fire from then-candidate Donald Trump, who promised to kill it "because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." Trump has also publicly feuded with Time Warner's CNN, calling it "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news." The president's statements didn't come up during the trial.

John Bergmayer, senior counsel at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said the decision could have long-lasting negative effects thanks to "the many other mergers it will encourage." In a statement, Bergmayer called for "reinvigorated regulatory oversight of the video marketplace."

Dallas-based AT&T is a wireless, broadband and satellite behemoth that became the country's biggest pay-TV provider with its purchase of DirecTV. It claims about 25 million of the 90 million or so U.S. households that are pay-TV customers.

AT&T general counsel David McAtee said the company plans to close the deal on or before June 20. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: CX Matiash/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[New Disclosure Shows Growing Kushner Wealth, Debt]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 22:41:54 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/javanka.jpg

Financial disclosure forms released late Monday show that White House special adviser — and President Donald Trump's son-in-law — Jared Kushner's wealth and debt both appear to have risen over the year, an indication of the complex state of his finances and the potential conflicts that confront some of his investments.

Disclosures issued by the White House for Kushner and his wife, Trump's daughter Ivanka, showed that Kushner held assets totaling at least $181 million. His previous 2017 disclosure had showed assets in at least the $140 million range. Kushner and Ivanka Trump, jointly held at least $240 million in assets last year.

The financial disclosures released by the White House and filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics routinely show both assets and debts compiled in broad ranges between low and high estimates, making it difficult to precisely chart the rise and fall of the financial portfolios of federal government officials.

The White House released the disclosures for Kushner and Ivanka Trump on a heavy news day, while the world's media lavished attention on President Trump's preparations to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un for talks over nuclear weapons. The White House had released the president's own financial report last month.

A spokesman for the couple said Monday that the couple's disclosure portrayed both assets and debts that have not changed much over the past year — and stressed that Kushner and Ivanka Trump have both complied with all federal ethics rules.

"Since joining the administration, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have complied with the rules and restrictions as set out by the Office of Government Ethics," said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for the couple's ethics lawyer, Abbe Lowell. "As to the current filing which OGE also reviews, their net worth remains largely the same, with changes reflecting more the way the form requires disclosure than any substantial difference in assets or liabilities."

One of Kushner's biggest holdings, a real estate tech startup called Cadre that he co-founded with his brother, Joshua, rose sharply in value. The latest disclosure shows it was worth at least $25 million at the end of last year, up from a minimum value of $5 million in his previous disclosure.

The bulk of Ivanka Trump's assets — more than $50 million worth — was contained in a trust that holds her business and corporations. That trust generated over $5 million in revenue last year.

She reported a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., worth between $5 million and $25 million. The hotel has been a focus of lawsuits against the president and ethics watchdogs who say Trump is violating the Constitution by profiting from his office as diplomats spend big money there.

The disclosure also showed that Kushner has assumed growing debt over the past year, both expanding his use of revolving lines of credit and taking on additional debt of between $5 million and $25 million as part of his family company's purchase last year of a New Jersey apartment complex.

A series of interim financial reports last year showed that Kushner had increased lines of credit with Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Signature Bank, each from at least $1 million to $5 million. Such moves do not mean that Kushner has yet accumulated that debt, but has the ability to do so.

The new disclosure shows that Kushner did take on a new debt last year with Bank of America worth between $5 million and $25 million — but jointly with other investors in Quail Ridge LLC, a company used for his family firm's purchase of Quail Ridge, a 1,032-unit apartment community in Plainsboro, N.J., near Princeton. The disclosures also showed that Ivanka Trump owns an interest in that purchase through a family trust.

The disclosure showed that Kushner reported making at least $5 million in income from the development since Kushner Companies bought the complex in September. The family business has made a splash with high-profile deals for buildings in New York City in the past decade, but lately has been returning to its roots by buying garden apartments in the suburbs.

Under an ethics agreement he signed when he joined the administration in early 2017, Kushner withdrew from his position as CEO of Kushner Companies. But even as a passive investor, he retains many lucrative investments — which ethics critics have warned could raise conflicts of interest.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Rival Restaurants, Analysts React to IHOP Name Change]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 17:46:53 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/061118ihobcorrect.jpg

The International House of Pancakes, commonly referred to as IHOP, created a social media frenzy last week, when it announced intentions to change its name to “IHOb.” But customers had to wait until Monday to find out what the “b” represented.

In a news release, the company said the “b” stands for “burgers,” and the name change is part of a rebranding campaign to promote the restaurant’s new line of Ultimate Steakburgers. The restaurant changed its Twitter handle to “@IHOb” and opened an IHOb restaurant in Hollywood, California. It also debuted a new commercial.

However, while the new hamburgers will remain on the menu, the “IHOb” campaign will end later this summer, a restaurant spokeswoman said in an email to NBC.

“This tongue-in-cheek name change is specifically tied to the campaign launch and is meant to show that we’re just as serious about our burgers as we are about our pancakes,” the spokeswoman said. “But, we’ll always be IHOP, and we’ll always have pancakes … now people can just get pancakes with their burger.”

Several national burger joints responded to the name change on Twitter, with White Castle remarking it plans to change its name to Pancake Castle. Whataburger wrote that it would never change its name to Whatapancake, and Red Robin joked it’s “as serious about pancakes as @IHOb is about burgers.”

Wendy’s said it’s “not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard,” and Moon Pie revealed its intention to keep its name. Burger King changed its Twitter name to Pancake King. 

Three industry experts questioned the temporary name change, noting that it adds additional competition. Industry analyst Michael Lieberman said the brief change “seems like an ineffective strategy.”

Carly Fink, the Principal Head of Strategy and Research for marketing firm Provoke Insights, characterized the decision as risky. Restaurant Consultant Aaron Allen said the change is one that will “go down in the international house of branding blunders.”

Still, the company is excited about the newest menu additions.

“Everyone knows that IHOP makes world-famous pancakes so we felt like the best way to convince them that we are as serious about our new line of Ultimate Steakburgers as we are about our pancakes, was to change our name to IHOb,” said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for IHOb restaurants, in a news release.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of IHOP
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PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]><![CDATA[PennDOT to Construct $33M Facility in KOP Ahead of New Hires]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 13:49:11 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/PennDOt+Snowplow+generic.JPG

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will break ground on a new traffic management center in 2020, an approximately $33 million project that makes way for the state agency's plans to boost its headcount.

A new two-story, 30,000 square-foot facility will be built on a parcel of land near PennDOT's current center in King of Prussia. That space is operating at 40 percent over capacity, and a larger facility will cut down on the overcrowding while making room for new hires, officials said at a Thursday press conference.

Maintenance of new technologies in Pennsylvania’s transportation systems, particularly along Interstate 76, will require PennDOT to hire new employees. The current facility does not have enough space for those hires and the update systems, PennDOT Deputy Communications Director Brad Rudolph said.

Find out more about the new facility at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: NBC10 - J.R. Smith]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Lawmakers Look to Block Credit-Card-Only Sales at Stores]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 13:09:37 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/web_-_police_look_for_owner_of_money.jpg

New Jersey lawmakers advanced legislation to prohibit credit-card-only sales in the state.

The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee advanced the measure barring so-called cashless sales on Monday. The bill doesn't apply to mail or online purchases.

Democratic Assemblyman Paul Moriarty sponsored the bill and says it's necessary to prevent discrimination against people who don't have access to credit cards.

He also cited a 2017 article on Visa offering businesses up to $10,000 if they discontinued accepting cash by going all digital.

Violating the measure carries a civil penalty of up to $2,500 for first-time offenses.

The Treasury Department says there's no federal statute mandating private businesses accept cash for payment.

Treasury says businesses are free to establish policies on taking cash unless there is a State law to the contrary.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA['B-Hold' the New Name of Restaurant Formerly Known as IHOP]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 17:35:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ihob.jpg

It wasn't bacon, breakfast or butternut squash, but lettuce tell you what the b stands for in the name of the restaurant formerly known as the International House of Pancakes, or IHOP.

It's burgers.

IHOP revealed last week that it was changing its name to IHOb, but didn't give up what the b stands for. 

On Monday morning, the restaurant revealed that it will henceforth be known as the International House of Burgers.

The name change comes as the restaurant chain debuts a line of seven "Ultimate Steakburgers."

"We're always going to have pancakes on the menu, we're always going to be IHOP, but America loves burgers, and America loves IHOP, and we thought this was a fantastic combination to bring America’s burgers to an iconic brand like IHOP," said IHOb President Darren Rebelez on "Fox & Friends," Fox News reported.

Other fast food chains like White Castle and Wendy's took to Twitter to mock the newly burger-focused company for flip-flopping on flipping pancakes and burgers.

Photo Credit: ihob
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<![CDATA[Behind the Misleading Claims Fueling America's Bourbon Boom]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 06:30:36 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bourbonGettyImages-835143852.jpg

Bourbon has become increasingly popular across the United States, but many recognizable and artisan American whiskey brands are sourcing their product from massive wholesale distilleries or taking creative liberties in how they market their product — negating claims made to market their brands, NBC News reported

Widow Jane, for example, doesn't distill its most well-known product: 10-year-old straight bourbon (the company is less than 10 years old). It's bought in bulk from a distiller in Kentucky, and the special water they highlight on their bottles doesn't actually come from the Widow Jane Mine itself, just from nearby, sources told NBC News.

Making matters more confusing, terms such as "small batch," "craft" and "hand-crafted" have no set legal meaning — they are just marketing terms. 

Without being fluent in the industry's jargon, it can be "very hard to figure out who’s actually distilling their own whiskey," according to Colin Spoelman, co-founder and master distiller of Kings County Distillery, which distills all its own spirits in Brooklyn.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Why One Judge's Decision Could Change the Fate of US Media]]>Sat, 09 Jun 2018 13:31:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-474782114.jpg

A senior judge at the U.S. District court for the District of Columbia, Richard Leon will decide on Tuesday whether to approve AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, NBC News reported.

AT&T's argument for the merger is focused on the looming threat from tech companies that have used the internet to sidestep the traditional media distribution methods of movie studios and cable systems. Media companies are now trying to stockpile the most sought-after content and develop their own internet-based distribution in hopes of attracting enough subscribers to compete with globally established tech companies.

Jonathan Knee, a senior advisor at investment bank Evercore, said the growing power of tech companies has forced media companies to start teaming up out of fear that they'll be left behind.

If Leon sides with the Justice Department, which has challenged the deal by arguing it will be bad for consumers, media companies will have little choice but to take the decision as a signal that the government will block other major media mergers. Just as AT&T and Time Warner are trying to merge, both Disney and Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal, are pursuing 21st Century Fox. T-Mobile and Sprint are also looking to combine.

Photo Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Pledges Not to Use AI for Weapons or Surveillance]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 23:33:28 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/sundar-pichai-internet-awesome.jpg

Google pledged Thursday that it will not use artificial intelligence in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights. It planted its ethical flag on use of AI just days confirming it would not renew a contract with the U.S. military to use its AI technology to analyze drone footage.

The principles, spelled out by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog post, commit the company to building AI applications that are "socially beneficial," that avoid creating or reinforcing bias and that are accountable to people.

The search giant had been formulating a patchwork of policies around these ethical questions for years but finally put them in writing. Aside from making the principles public, Pichai didn't specify how Google or its parent Alphabet would be accountable for conforming to them. He also said Google would continue working with governments and the military on noncombat applications involving such things as veterans' health care and search and rescue.

"This approach is consistent with the values laid out in our original founders' letter back in 2004," Pichai wrote, citing the document in which Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out their vision for the company to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Pichai said the latest principles help it take a long-term perspective "even if it means making short-term trade-offs."

The document, which also enshrines "relevant explanations" of how AI systems work, lays the groundwork for the rollout of Duplex, a human-sounding digital concierge that was shown off booking appointments with human receptionists at a Google developers conference in May.

Some ethicists were concerned that call recipients could be duped into thinking the robot was human. Google has said Duplex will identify itself so that wouldn't happen.

Other companies leading the race developing AI are also grappling with ethical issues — including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft, which have formed a group with Google called the Partnership on AI.

Making sure the public is involved in the conversations is important, said Terah Lyons, director of the partnership.

At an MIT technology conference on Tuesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith even welcomed government regulation, saying something "as fundamentally impactful" as AI shouldn't be left to developers or the private sector on its own.

Google's Project Maven with the U.S. Defense Department came under fire from company employees concerned about the direction it was taking the company.

A company executive told employees this week the program would not be renewed after it expires at the end of 2019. Google expects to have talks with the Pentagon over how it can fulfil its contract obligations without violating the principles outlined Thursday.

Peter Asaro, vice chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, said this week that Google's backing off from the project was good news because it slows down a potential AI arms race over autonomous weapons systems. What's more, letting the contract expire was fundamental to Google's business model, which relies on gathering mass amounts of user data, he said.

"They're a company that's very much aware of their image in the public conscious," he said. "They want people to trust them and trust them with their data."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu/AP, FIle ]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Bug Made Private Posts of 14 Million Users Public]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 17:13:03 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Facebook-dev-conf.jpg

A software bug changed the privacy settings of about 14 million Facebook users without their knowledge, causing messages intended for friends or smaller groups to be shared widely with the general public, the company said Thursday.

The company said the bug, which was active from May 18 to May 27, has been fixed. Facebook said it will begin to notify affected users Thursday by posting a notification at the top of their news feeds, CNBC reported.

"We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts," chief privacy officer Erin Egan said in a statement. "We'd like to apologize for this mistake."

The issue resulted from Facebook's efforts to allow users to highlight items on their profiles, like photos. The featured items defaulted to public settings, which inadvertently made all posts by the user during the affected time period also default to public.

It's another misstep in Facebook's ongoing data privacy issues, spurred by revelations of a data leak that affecting as many as 87 million users.

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Philly Hip-Hop Legend Wants to Open 'Beanie's Bagels']]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:42:55 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/beanie-sigel-ig.2e16d0ba.fill-735x490.png

From beats to the bakery, Philadelphia hip-hop legend Beanie Sigel is teaming up with a local restaurateur to create a bagel shop.

Sigel, with the help of Angelo’s Pizzeria owner Danny DiGiampietro, is in the early stages of launching "Beanie’s Bagels." He made the announcement via Instagram earlier this week.

"Both of us being South Philly guys, it’s a match made in heaven," Sigel said.

The rap icon insists that this will be no ordinary bagel shop. Roast beef and pulled chicken sandwiches are just two of the unique, South Philly-style food options they will offer to separate Beanie’s Bagels from other breakfast-only bakeries.

DiGiampietro is currently in the process of moving his pizzeria from Haddonfield, New Jersey, to the South Philly location formerly occupied by the beloved Sarcone's Deli.

The "master bread maker," according to Sigel, will serve as the magic behind the taste of Beanie’s Bagels while continuing to run his pizza and sandwich shop on S 9th Street.

“We’ve been going back and forth talking about recipes,” Sigel told NBC10.

The duo is still researching possible locations around the city to get the bagel business up and running. They are aiming to open the first shop by the end of the year, and hope to expand to multiple locations in the future.

In the early 2000's, Sigel, whose real name is Dwight Grant, exploded from a Philly hip-hop artist onto the national stage under Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records. After spending over a half decade as one of the top rappers, his troubles with violence and law enforcement brought an abrupt stop to his music career.

He was shot in Pleasantville, New Jersey, in 2016 after being released from federal prison after serving time for tax evasion. 

This transition to the restaurant business gives the rapper another opportunity to make his mark on the city of Philadelphia.

Photo Credit: Danny DiGiampietro]]>
<![CDATA[Women Break Down Barriers in Law by Starting Own Firms]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 14:40:29 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/202*120/Nicole+Galli.JPG

Philadelphia Business Journal reporter Jeff Blumenthal and Philadelphia-based attorney Nicole Galli sit down to talk about why more than half of all law school graduates are women but that woman still lag behind as equity partners in big law firms.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Seasonal Workers Flood the Jersey Shore]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 13:40:00 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/Seasonal_Workers_Flood_the_NJ_Shore.jpg

Summer at the shore is more than fun at the beach, it's time for summer workers to flood shore towns like Ocean City, New Jersey, and find their seasonal positions.]]>
PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]><![CDATA[University of Maryland University College Makes Philly Push]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 08:12:03 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/UMUC+ad.JPG

Expect to see advertisements from University of Maryland University College pop up throughout Greater Philadelphia as the college — which offers online undergraduate and graduate programs to adult learners — kicked off a major marketing push in the region this week.

Signs and billboards at SEPTA stations and bus stops across the city now tout UMUC’s focus on flexibility, experienced-based credit options and its clout as a respected state university, with TV commercials on the way. The expansion into the Philadelphia area comes as UMUC maxed out advertising options in the Delmarva region and decided to look north to continue growing.

An initial market research study put Greater Philadelphia in the top five options for its expansion, said Erika Orris, UMUC chief enrollment and marketing officer, and the proximity means students could take a hybrid online-in-person course by heading to its campus once or twice a month.

Moving into Philadelphia gives UMUC access to adult students outside its core population of Maryland residents and veterans, Orris said, as those markets have topped out.

"The Philly market is a very strong one of working adults who are pursuing their degrees in either undergraduate or graduate programs," she said.

Find out more about the UMUC push at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Business Journal]]>
<![CDATA[Qatar Airways CEO Sorry for Saying Only a Man Can Do His Job]]>Wed, 06 Jun 2018 15:47:46 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/060618qatarairlines.jpg

The CEO of Qatar Airways apologized Wednesday for suggesting at an aviation meeting a day earlier that men have to lead companies in order for them to be effective.

When reporters asked Akbar Al Baker about airline gender inequality throughout the Middle East, Al Baker remarked that inequality wasn’t prevalent at his airline but that “of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position,” according to The New York Times.

Al Baker initially said the comment was a joke, according to the report, but offered “heartfelt apologies” in a statement after his remarks were criticized on social media. He said in the statement that about 44 percent of the company’s employees are women.

“Qatar Airways firmly believes in gender equality in the workplace and our airline has been a pioneer in our region in this regard, as the first airline to employ female pilots, as one of the first to train and employ female engineers, and with females represented through to Senior Vice President positions within the airline reporting directly to me,” Al Baker said in the statement.

Al Baker was recently named the chaiman of the International Air Transport Association’s board of governors.

This wasn’t the first time Al Baker made headlines over sexist comments. In 2017, he called flight attendants on U.S. airlines “grandmothers,” according to Bloomberg. He later apologized.

Photo Credit: Moses Robinson/Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Facebook to Fund Original News Shows From ABC, CNN, Others]]>Wed, 06 Jun 2018 10:59:04 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18088666533179-Facebook-in-the-Spotlight.jpg

Facebook says it will fund original news shows created by such news organizations as ABC, CNN and Mic.

The move comes as Facebook plans to kill off its "trending" news section to make way for what it considers "trustworthy" and "informative" news. Despite efforts to clamp down, the company continues to grapple with fake news and misinformation, not to mention plain old "click bait" on its users' news feeds.

Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of news partnerships, says the shows will be original and exclusive to Facebook, rather than adapting TV programs from elsewhere for a Facebook audience. The shows will appear in Facebook's Watch video section.

Brown declined to say how much Facebook is paying for the shows. They will be available in the U.S. this summer.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mexico to Impose Steep Retaliatory Tariff on US Pork]]>Tue, 05 Jun 2018 20:56:02 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Pig-farm.jpg

Pork farmers could lose $100 million annually after Mexico said it would slap a massive tariff on pork imports to retaliate against President Donald Trump's aluminum and steel import levies, according to an estimate by the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Mexico, the second-largest market for U.S. pork exports, said Tuesday it would impose a 10 percent tariff on U.S. pork shoulder and legs, with the tariff rising to 20 percent by July 5, a spokesperson for the Mexican Ministry of Economy confirmed to NBC News.

Mexico imported almost 650,000 metric tons of pork legs and shoulder last year, worth about $1 billion, according to government data.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Business Economists Worry About Possible Recession in 2020]]>Mon, 04 Jun 2018 07:05:37 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NABE-AP_18154712428646.jpg

A group of top business economists believes the major tax cuts President Donald Trump pushed through Congress will give a significant boost to economic growth this year and next year. But they worry that by 2020, the country could be entering a new recession.

The National Association for Business Economics says in its latest quarterly outlook that its panel of 45 economists expects the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, to expand 2.8 percent this year. That is down slightly from the panel's March forecast, which put GDP growth this year at 2.9 percent.

The NABE economists are "slightly less optimistic about the U.S. economy in 2018 than they were three months ago," says NABE vice president Kevin Swift, chief economist at the American Chemistry Council.

Part of the drop-off in optimism reflects growing worries about what Trump's get-tough approach on trade might do to U.S. growth prospects.

Three-fourths of the NABE panel believes that current trade policies will have a negative impact on the economy. Trump last week imposed penalty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from major U.S. trading partners — the European Union, Canada and Mexico — and he has threatened tariffs on up to $200 billion in Chinese imports, moves that could trigger a global trade war as the targeted nations pledge to retaliate.

The NABE forecasting panel was upbeat on the near-term impacts of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that Congress passed in December. The median expectation is that the cuts in individual and corporate taxes will boost growth by 0.4 percentage points this year and 0.3 percentage points next year.

The forecasters said the economy should grow 2.7 percent in 2019 after their projected 2.8 percent GDP growth this year. Both projections would be up from 2.3 percent growth in 2017 and the 2.1 percent average annual gains the country has seen since the Great Recession ended in 2009.

However, the Trump administration is projecting a bigger boost, forecasting that the GDP will grow by 3 percent or better over the next decade as the economy gains momentum from the positive impacts of the president's economic program of lower taxes, deregulation and tougher trade policies aimed at reducing U.S. trade deficits.

But many private analysts are more pessimistic, noting that underlying factors such as the retirement of the baby boomers and weak productivity gains will continue to depress long-term growth prospects. The private forecasters believe the positive effects from the Trump tax cuts will quickly fade after the first two years.

Asked when the next recession might begin, two-thirds of the NABE economists saw one starting by the end of 2020, with 18 percent even more pessimistic, expecting the next downturn to begin by the end of 2019.

The current recovery, which began in mid-2009, is currently the second longest expansion in U.S. history and will become the longest if it lasts past June 2019.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mark HumphreyAP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Ticket Service Data Breach Disrupts Music Venues]]>Sun, 03 Jun 2018 23:35:07 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/196*120/AP_20671859820_opt.jpg

Concert ticketing service Ticketfly says it's working to get its system back online after a data breach leaked users' personal information and disrupted services at live music venues.

The San Francisco firm's parent company, Eventbrite, said Sunday that the stolen information included customers' names, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

It hasn't disclosed other details, but a website that tracks data breaches says the hack affected more than 26 million user accounts.

Troy Hunt, who runs the "Have I Been Pwned?" (POHNED) website, says it's not as immediately damaging as other breaches because passwords weren't stolen.

The breach left nightclubs and other venues from Seattle to Providence, Rhode Island, scrambling for alternatives to sell tickets for upcoming shows.

Eventbrite bought rival Ticketfly for $200 million last year from music service Pandora.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Scottish Hospital Is Ready to Treat Cryptocurrency Addicts]]>Sun, 03 Jun 2018 05:39:08 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bitcoin-GettyImages-919078630.jpg

A Scottish hospital is ready to begin treating people with cryptocurrency addictions, NBC News reported.

Castle Craig Hospital, a residential rehab center that treats alcohol, drug, behavioral and gambling addictions will now treating crypto-addiction within its gambling program, the center’s website says. The compulsive need to check the price of cryptocurrency or to make trades can turn into an all-consuming addiction, and has the potential to have a disastrous impact on peoples’ finances, while also affecting their lives, the center said in a news release.

Jeremy Gardner, managing partner at Ausum Ventures, who runs the Crypto Castle, a San Francisco residence serving as a hub for blockchain startups and crypto investors, told NBC he sees how a crypto-rehab program could benefit some. 

"The 24/7, ultra-volatile nature of cryptoasset markets compounded with the highly social nature of the crypteconomy provide a rush unlike few other financial markets, and certainly has the potential to be addicting," he said. "I've met too many people who have sacrificed their mental and physical well-being for this pursuit, and I can see how an attempt at taming their passion might be healthy."

Photo Credit: Chesnot/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Paramount Scraps Airing 'Heathers,' Citing School Violence]]>Sat, 02 Jun 2018 23:19:37 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_288606122063_opt.jpg

After delaying its airing in the aftermath of February's Florida high school shooting, Paramount Network is permanently scrapping "Heathers."

Representatives from parent company Viacom confirmed Saturday that the TV reboot of the 1988 movie black comedy about high-school murder and suicide will not air on Paramount or any other Viacom properties.

Viacom says the subject matter is not suitable in the current environment for channels it is attempting to make youth-oriented, but that it is open to the possibility of selling the anthology series to a more fitting outlet.

The show based on the film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater had been set to premiere in March, but was delayed after the Parkland, Florida shooting that left 17 dead.

The move was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Nick Ut/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Beauty Battle: Dept. Stores Making Over Cosmetics Aisles]]>Fri, 01 Jun 2018 17:36:43 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18150769047357-Cosmetics-Aisles-Department-Stores.jpg

It's the beauty aisles themselves getting makeovers now.

Department stores are being forced to rethink how they sell higher-end makeup and perfume as competition intensifies from discounters like Target, specialty chains like Sephora and Ulta and online brands. So stores like Saks and Macy's are promising workouts for your face, augmented reality and beauty treatment concierges as they try to attract millennial customers and make the cosmetics aisles more of a destination than a stopover.

To expand its beauty area to the size of a typical grocery store, Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship location is even bumping cosmetics from its position near main-floor entrances to the second level, breaking from a century-old tradition in retailing.

"Department stores have to reinvent themselves, and that's not an easy thing to do," said Larissa Jensen, an analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm. "Everyone has an eye on beauty. It's an area that consumers continue to be excited about."

But shoppers are changing the way they buy beauty products, fueled by social media, the explosion of new trends and emerging brands. Customers want to experiment with products beyond the brands to which they're loyal. And with information online, they're more knowledgeable when they approach the cosmetics counter.

Specialty chains like Ulta and Sephora overtook department stores by share of the U.S. beauty and personal care market in 2009, according to research firm Euromonitor International. By last year the specialists had more than 15 percent of the market and department stores fell below 9 percent.

Department stores, already trying to keep customers coming through the doors, are freshening up the face they present to shoppers.

Saks Fifth Avenue has expanded the beauty section at its New York flagship by 40 percent to 32,000 square feet. It has 15 treatment rooms for services like getting your back fat frozen or workouts for your face to combat sagging. It offers complimentary services like mini-facials, with a concierge to greet customers and help book appointments.

Meanwhile, Macy's is allowing shoppers to experiment more with products and letting beauty advisers step away from the counter to help them. It also has areas that focus on specific categories like mascaras or highlighters that include many brands. And it's featuring augmented reality technology in a cluster of stores for shoppers who want to experiment without trying everything out. Stores like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, meanwhile, are creating hubs of the latest trends and beauty products.

J.C. Penney, still scarred by a disastrous makeover a few years ago, has been expanding its highly successful partnership with Sephora and will have those shops in 75 percent of its stores this year.

"We are all thinking of new ways to innovate," said Nata Dvir, Macy's general business manager of beauty.

Sephora and Ulta had already shaken up the longtime pattern of shoppers going to department stores and talking to advisers for higher-end products or finding low-priced offerings at drug stores.

Both chains have expanded rapidly, multiplying the number of places shoppers can test makeup and get tutorials. And Sephora in particular has been ahead in adopting technology like using facial scans to find foundations and concealers to match a person's skin tone. It was the first beauty brand to adopt chatbots, according to research firm CB Insights.

Their success has pushed discounters like Walmart and Target as well as drugstores like CVS to revamp their cosmetics areas with more open spaces, brighter lighting and more attractive fixtures. Discounters have also been working with suppliers to jump on new trends and get items in stores in a few months later instead of in a year.

Target now has sales assistants who specialize in beauty, and launched a concierge service on its site that lets shoppers chat with experts and virtually try on makeup. Customers will soon be able to text a beauty expert, and at 10 stores they can try augmented reality technology.

And online sites, such as Colourpop and Glambot, feature high-end brands at more affordable prices.

Against this competition, Saks Fifth Avenue aims to offers an over-the-top beauty experience, with large shops devoted to brands like Chanel and Gucci, something that hasn't been seen before in the beauty departments. It's a mix of technology and serious pampering. There's even a florist shop with matching fragrances.

Much was made of the move away from the ground floor, but Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick says the new format is designed for someone who wants to spend time.

"We really wanted to create an emotional connection with a customer," said Metrick.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP]]>
<![CDATA[US Unemployment Falls to Nearly 1969 Levels; Hiring Solid]]>Fri, 01 Jun 2018 18:41:19 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AdobeStock_20557003.png

Another month of strong hiring drove the nation's unemployment rate down to 3.8 percent — tantalizingly close to the level last seen in 1969, when Detroit still dominated the auto industry and the Vietnam War was raging.

Employers added 233,000 jobs in May, up from 159,000 in April, the Labor Department reported Friday. And unemployment fell to an 18-year low.

The report shows that the nearly 9-year-old economic expansion — the second-longest on record — remains on track and may even be gaining steam. Employers appear to be shrugging off recent concerns about global trade disputes.

"The May jobs report revealed impressive strength and breadth in U.S. job creation that blew away most economists' expectations," said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West.

With the unemployment rate so low, businesses have complained for months that they are struggling to find enough qualified workers. But Friday's jobs report suggests that they are taking chances with pockets of the unemployed and underemployed whom they had previously ignored.

Roughly an hour before the employment data was released, President Donald Trump appeared to hint on Twitter that a strong jobs report was coming. "Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning," he tweeted.

The president is normally briefed on the monthly jobs report the day before it is released, and he and other administration officials are not supposed to comment on it beforehand.

"If it was anyone but the president, you would have just gotten yourself a nice appointment with the FBI or the SEC," said former Chairman Council Of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Friday before the number was released.

Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, downplayed Trump's tweet.

"He didn't give any numbers," Kudlow said. "No one revealed the numbers to the public."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed to CNBC that Trump was briefed on the jobs number Thursday night but said the tweet was appropriate because "he didn't put the numbers out."

Investors welcomed the report. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 219 points Friday, or 0.9 percent. Other indexes also moved higher.

The healthy jobs data makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates this year — two and possibly three more times, after doing so in March.

Unemployment dropped from 3.9 percent in April. When rounded to one decimal, as the Labor Department typically does, the official jobless rate is now the lowest since April 2000.

But the unrounded figure is 3.75 percent, the lowest since December 1969. Unemployment remained below 4 percent for nearly four straight years in the late 1960s, but it rose to 6.1 percent during a mild recession in 1970. It didn't fall below 4 percent again until the dot-com-fueled boom of the late 1990s.

Businesses desperate to hire are reaching deep into pools of the unemployed to find workers. Unemployment among high school graduates fell sharply to 3.9 percent, a 17-year low. For black Americans, it hit a record low of 5.9 percent. The unemployment rate for women dropped to 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1953.

And the number of part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs is down 6 percent from a year ago. That means businesses are converting some part-timers to full-time work.

Companies are also hiring the long-term unemployed — those who have been out of work for six months or longer. Their ranks have fallen by nearly one-third in the past year.

That's important because economists worry that people who are out of work for long periods can see their skills erode.

Those trends suggest that companies, for all their complaints, are still able to hire without significantly boosting wages. Average hourly pay rose 2.7 percent in May from a year earlier, below the 3.5 percent to 4 percent pace that occurred the last time unemployment was this low.

The number of involuntary part-time workers is still higher than it was before the 2008-09 recession.

Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed, the job-listing site, said some of the fastest-growing search terms on the site this year are "full-time" and "9-to-5 jobs," evidence that many people want more work hours.

"That suggests there is still this pool of workers that employers can tap without raising wages," Gimbel said.

Debbie Thomas, owner of Thomas Hill Organics, a restaurant in Paso Robles, California, said that finding qualified people to hire is her biggest challenge. She has raised pay by about a dollar an hour in the past year for cooks and dishwashers but is reluctant to go much higher.

"You don't want to price yourself out of the market," Thomas said.

The job gains in May were broad-based: Professional and business services, which include higher-paying fields such as accounting and engineering, added 31,000 jobs. Health care, a consistent job engine, gained nearly 32,000.

Manufacturing, which is benefiting from increased business investment in machinery and other equipment, added 18,000 jobs, and construction 25,000.

Some economists remain concerned that the Trump administration's aggressive actions on trade could hamper growth. The administration on Thursday imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from key allies in Europe, Canada and Mexico. Earlier in the week, it threatened to hit China with tariffs on $50 billion of its goods.

Still, consumer spending rose in April at its fastest pace in five months. And companies are also stepping up spending, buying more industrial machinery, computers and software — signs that they're optimistic enough to expand. A measure of business investment rose in the first quarter by the most in 3½ years.

Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, said it now foresees the economy expanding at a robust 4.1 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter, which would be the fastest in nearly four years. The economy expanded just 2.2 percent in the first quarter.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock
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PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]><![CDATA[Kelly Drive Bound for Big Changes as Developments Move Ahead]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 11:31:23 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/196*120/Kelly+Drive+Devlopment.JPG

Kelly Drive in East Falls, with its vistas of the Schuylkill River, close proximity to the paths that wind through Fairmount Park and easy access to major highways, is finally growing up.

It’s about time.

Developers are building residential projects along a small section of Kelly Drive at its intersection with the Falls Bridge and west of Calumet Street, taking a gamble that people will want to live in what is an otherwise prime location. Though areas along Ridge Pike in East Falls have proven successful for residential living, Kelly Drive has been an uncharted territory. For decades, the sliver of land that runs from Calumet west to an on-ramp, has sat fallow with dilapidated buildings.

Now, there’s evidence people indeed want to live there and developers are finding ways to make projects financially work.

Find out more about the developments at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Business Journal]]>
<![CDATA[AC's New Ocean Resort to Have Sports Betting in Place]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 07:30:21 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Ocean_Resort_to_Offer_Sports_Betting.jpg

Another Atlantic City casino is poised to offer sports betting as soon as possible.

The Ocean Resort casino announced Tuesday that it has partnered with sports book operator William Hill to operate a 7,500-square-foot betting facility on its main gambling floor.

The casino, formerly known as Revel, is scheduled to reopen June 28.

William Hill also will operate a sports book at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Freehold.

Last week, Atlantic City's Borgata casino announced that it planned to offer sports betting on the first day it's allowed. Other casinos are expected to follow suit.

This month the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law barring states from offering legal sports betting.

New Jersey lawmakers are expected to pass a law and enact sports betting regulations in June.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Sears to Close 72 More Stores Amid Financial Struggles]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 16:26:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/searsGettyImages-838634740.jpg

Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will close 72 more stores in 2018, CNBC reported.

The announcement comes as its same-store sales continue to decline at a double-digit percentage rate. Sears said it has identified 100 non-profitable stores, and will begin to close sales at 72 of them in the near future. 

Sears and Kmart combined operated about 1,000 locations by the end of 2017, but in January, the embattled department store chain announced that it would close 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores — adding to the hundreds of closures that have happened over the last few years. 

"We're not liquidating just to liquidate. We're liquidating ... to get capital to put into our pension plan," the company’s CEO told CNBC in a recent interview. "As opposed to erring on the side of, 'This store might work.' ... If it's not working, we've invested the time, so we've got to close it because we are now jeopardizing this [store] over here."

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Reversal: Consumer Reports Now Recommends Tesla Model 3]]>Wed, 30 May 2018 16:07:44 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tesla-model-32.jpg

A wireless update of antilock braking software improved the stopping distance of Tesla's electric Model 3, prompting Consumer Reports to reverse course and give the car its "Recommended Buy" rating.

The magazine said Wednesday that the update cut 19 feet off the car's stopping distance from 60 miles per hour. A previous test — the results of which were released a little more than a week ago — found that it took 152 feet for the Model S compact car to stop from 60, the longest braking distance of any modern car the magazine has tested.

The improved braking raised the car's score high enough for it to receive the coveted recommendation. But Consumer Reports still has concerns over wind noise, a stiff ride, and the touch-screen controls that could distract a driver.

After the first round of testing was made public, Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised to fix the problem within days. Consumer Reports says it was told by Tesla that the software helps the brakes adapt to variations in how they are used and how they respond in different environmental conditions.

On Twitter Wednesday, Musk wrote that he appreciates the "high-quality critical feedback" from Consumer Reports and said that noise and ride comfort already had been addressed. Another software update will address the controls, he wrote, without elaborating.

Musk told the magazine last week that Tesla had already made production changes to address wind noise, the harsh ride and an uncomfortable rear seat, Consumer Reports said in a statement. Consumer Reports said it will rent another Model 3 from Tesla to check on the changes and will report back on the results. The magazine bought a Model 3 for the first test and said it doesn't normally rent test vehicles.

The Model 3 is Tesla's first attempt to appeal to mass-market buyers. The car that starts at $35,000 but can run as high as $78,000 has been plagued by production delays.

Tesla's software update was done either via the car's cellular connection or a wireless internet link, depending on how the owner configures the car, according to Tesla.

Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of auto testing, said that in 19 years of work for the magazine he has not seen a car's track performance improve with a wireless update.

Musk pledged in a tweet last week that the braking improvements would make the Model 3 best in its class. But Consumer Reports said the stopping distance was not class leading and the further updates may be necessary.

The magazine also said nearly all of the Model 3's controls are on a center touch screen direction with no gauges on the dashboard and few buttons inside the car. This forces drivers to take several steps to do simple tasks and can cause driver distraction, the magazine said.

Consumer Reports also said it got a record 350 miles of range per charge with a long-range version of the Model 3 when it's set on a high mode to recharge batteries with energy from braking. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Walmart Offers Employees New Perk: Cheap Access to College]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 05:19:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-903923942.jpg

Walmart is offering its employees a new perk: affordable access to a college degree.

America's largest private employer, which in the past has helped its workers get their high school or equivalency degrees, hopes the new benefit will help it recruit and retain higher quality entry-level employees in a tight U.S. labor market.

The company is working with Denver-based startup Guild Education to give employees the chance to obtain a bachelor's degree in business or supply-chain management. It will cost a dollar a day at one of three nonprofit universities with online programs that have had success working with adult learners: the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University. It plans to eventually expand to more types of degrees.

It will also offer college-prep classes for workers who need extra help. Walmart is subsidizing the cost of tuition, books and fees.

Both full-time and part-time workers who have been with the company at least 90 days will be eligible, Walmart said. About 68,000 of Walmart's 1.4 million U.S. employees are expected to enroll in the first five years, based on interest from its workers, said Julie Murphy, executive vice president of people at Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart. Walmart declined to disclose the cost of the program.

The move underscores how retailers and restaurant chains are under increasing pressure to improve the skills of their workers as shoppers move online. Store chains including Walmart have also raised wages as low unemployment gives trained retail workers more options.

Walmart has said the tax overhaul helped it also give workers one-time bonuses and expand parental leave benefits. Critics say Walmart should share even more of its profits with employees. But a shareholder proposal presented Wednesday, calling on the company to invest as much money in the stock plan for employees as it does on share buybacks, was rejected.

Also defeated were proposals that would require Walmart to publish a report on racial and ethnic pay gaps and to create an independent chair.

The partnership with Guild Education goes beyond Walmart's current program covering the cost of workers and eligible family members for earning a high school diploma or GED equivalent. The company also grooms managers at its Walmart Training Academy, and has a career program for entry-level workers.

Guild Education, founded in 2015, works with other national chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Taco Bell and Lowe's, on their employee education programs. But Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education, says its partnership with Walmart is unique in several ways, including its low upfront costs.

Walmart's move puts it more in league with Starbucks, which three years ago began offering four years of tuition for an online college degree from Arizona State University.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Need an Entry-Level Job at a Store? It Can Be Harder Now]]>Wed, 30 May 2018 06:19:08 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18129622083902-Entry-Level-job.jpg

Asia Thomas knew she was at a disadvantage. It had been 16 years since she quit a job at McDonald's to raise her kids. When she left, restaurants didn't have kiosks to take orders, people didn't use smartphones to pay, and job seekers did applications on paper.

"Things have changed," said Thomas, who lives in Baltimore. "And there were a lot of things I forgot."

Getting a job at a store or fast-food restaurant — often a way into the economy for an unskilled worker — used to be as simple as walking up and down the mall and applying. Now, with store chains closing and laying off thousands of workers, that path is more complicated. The stores that remain financially healthy are actually raising wages in a tight labor market. But they're seeking a new type of worker — one who has a lot more skills up front.

Thomas, 44, was able to get a job at wholesale club B.J.'s for $12 an hour — but that was only after signing up for computer lessons and taking a class in retail basics like how to track inventory and handle issues like returns. That led her to another opportunity at a casino.

Across all entry-level retail jobs, the number of skills being demanded rose from 2010 to 2016, according to an analysis done for The Associated Press by Burning Glass Technologies, which scours 25 million job postings.

Burning Glass found a greater emphasis on customer service and communications skills for cashier, stock clerk and sales floor support jobs. And for many other entry-level jobs, employers want even more skills, like the ability to use customer relations software like Salesforce. Even forklift operators are being asked to be proficient in inventory management software.

This has major consequences for workers without college degrees or vocational training trying to get an economic foothold. A decade ago, workers, especially young ones, could start as cashiers and move up to become store managers or even higher. But now, it's harder to even get in the door.

"The bottom may be coming out of the career ladder," said Burning Glass CEO Matt Sigelman.

Experts say those who might otherwise have started out at working at a store may head instead to cleaning, dishwashing or health aide jobs. The number of jobs in those fields is expected to grow far more than in retail. While these jobs may pay about the same as retail, they can be more demanding physically and provide less opportunity to move up.

"This phenomenon is creating more pressure on incomes at the lower end of the middle class and will push people down closer to and even below the poverty line," said Fred Crawford, senior vice chairman of consulting firm AlixPartners. "It will exacerbate the growing gap between the haves and have-nots."

These changes are being driven by companies' use of large amounts of data not available a generation ago. Supermarkets, for instance, use loyalty programs to better track customers' shopping habits. Clothing chains are now quickly reacting to the latest fashion trends, adjusting the merchandise on store shelves within days. That means front-line workers must do more.

Take cashiers. Employers asked for five skills in 2016, up from three in 2010. The job often requires running sophisticated registers that track loyalty cards, digital coupons and real-time inventory.

"We are looking for workers who are not only friendly and passionate but people who are tech-savvy," said Marisa Velez, store director of DSW Designer Warehouse in New York's Union Square.

That's a shift from just five years ago, when the technology a sales clerk at the serve-yourself shoes and accessories chain would use would involve a calculator or calling another store to check if they have an item.

At DSW, Phoebe Li swiftly navigates the aisles stacked with boxes of shoes, seeing if customers need help while she scans an iPad to check on online inventory. The tablets DSW uses will soon be able to ring up a sale as well. "If I see someone bending down looking for a size, I ask them, "How is everything?'" said Li, 24, who has worked at DSW part-time since February.

"Customers are coming in with limited time," Velez said. "They're rushing. They want what they are looking for. We're able to expedite that through the app, through the iPad and making sure we are respecting their time while still capturing the sale."

Online home goods retailer Wayfair is increasingly looking for customer service and warehouse workers with problem-solving skills. Its employees help customers design a room, or they figure out how to pack a truck without damaging fragile items. So it's now recruiting gamers at places like Comic Con for those roles, said Liz Graham, who oversees customer service and sales.

Nearly a third of all first jobs in the U.S. are in retail. But 62 percent of service-sector workers, which includes jobs like cashiers and store sales assistants, have limited literacy skills and 74 percent have limited math abilities, according to the National Skills Coalition, funded by Walmart Inc.'s charitable arm.

Chains like Target and Walmart are increasing training on the job. And the nonprofit arm of the industry's trade and lobbying group, the National Retail Federation, launched a training and credential program for entry-level workers last year, joining with nonprofit groups like Goodwill to teach classes. But that may not be enough to fill the skill gap. There were more than 700,000 current job openings in retail in March, according to government data.

The retail industry "relied on a largely unskilled entry labor force. Now, it's leaning more toward skilled people and competing with other sectors" like technology, said economist Frank Badillo, founder and director of research at MacroSavvy.

The training programs are making difference. Nadine Vixama would have never had a shot without them. Vixama, 42, emigrated from Haiti eight years ago and worked in a money payment business and then at a dry cleaners. But she wanted something that was more about customer service.

She did snag a job at Whole Foods in Cambridge, Massachusetts, first as a bagger and now as a cashier, making a little more than $11 an hour. But that was after taking English classes and the store basics program developed by the NRF.

"I've learned to treat customers in a better way ... how to keep pace with them," Vixama said. At another class offered by a workplace group, she learned about spreadsheet programs like Excel and studied basic accounting.

Vixama just finished the second class, and shadowed a manager at CVS as part of that training. She's considering an entry-level job at a drugstore and mulling her options.

"I don't want to stay like this," she said. "I want to have better growth opportunities."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pret A Manger to Be Acquired by Owner of Panera]]>Tue, 29 May 2018 10:34:31 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/635640986-Pret-A-Manger-London.jpg

The restaurant chain Pret A Manger is being acquired by the European investment firm that bought Panera Bread last year.

JAB Holding Co., based in Luxembourg, did not disclose the financial terms of its deal with the current owner, the private equity firm Bridgepoint. The sale is expected to close this summer.

Pret has 530 locations, known largely for sandwiches and salads. Its biggest presence is the United Kingdom, where it is based, but it also runs restaurants overseas, including in the U.S.

JAB bought Panera last year for more than $7 billion. JAB also has controlling stakes in Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Keurig Green Mountain, Peet's Coffee & Tea, and Caribou Coffee Co.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks Closes Shops, Asks Workers to Talk About Racial Bias]]>Tue, 29 May 2018 20:37:51 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/starbucks-shutdown.jpg

Starbucks, mocked three years ago for suggesting employees discuss racial issues with customers, asked workers Tuesday to talk about race with each other.

It was part of the coffee chain's anti-bias training, created after the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks six weeks ago. The chain apologized but also took the dramatic step of closing its stores early for the sessions. But still to be seen is whether the training, developed with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and other groups, will prevent another embarrassing incident.

"This is not science, this is human behavior," said Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz. He called it the first step of many.

The training was personal, asking workers to break into small groups to talk about their experiences with race. According to training materials provided by the company, they were also asked to pair up with a co-worker and list the ways they "are different from each other." A guidebook reminds people to "listen respectfully" and tells them to stop any conversations that get derailed.

"I found out things about people that I've worked with a lot that I didn't know," said Carla Ruffin, a New York regional director at Starbucks, who took the training earlier Tuesday and was made available by the company to comment on it.

Ruffin, who is black, said everyone in her group said they first experienced bias in middle school. "I just thought that was pretty impactful, that people from such diverse backgrounds, different ages, that it was all in middle school."

She said the training and discussion was needed: "We're never as human beings going to be perfect."

Starbucks declined to specify how much the training cost the company, though Schultz said it was "quite expensive" and called it "an investment in our people and the long-term cultural values of Starbucks."

The chain also lost sales from closing early, but the late-in-the-day training sessions meant no disruption to the busier morning hours.

At the company's Pike Place Market location in Seattle, commonly referred to as the original Starbucks, the store stopped letting people in at 1 p.m.

Trina Mathis, who was visiting from Tampa, Florida, was frustrated that she couldn't get in to take a photo but said the shutdown was necessary because what happened in Philadelphia was wrong.

"If they haven't trained their employees to handle situations like that, they need to shut it down and try to do all they can to make sure their employees don't make that same mistake again," said Mathis, who is black.

Others visiting the store questioned whether the training would make a difference or suggested it was overkill.

Anna Teets, who lives in Washington state, said the problem has been fixed and the company has dealt with the situation. "It's been addressed," she said.

The training was not mandatory, but Starbucks said it expected almost all of the 175,000 employees at 8,000 stores to participate and said they would be paid for the full four hours. Executives took the same training last week in Seattle.

Training in unconscious, or implicit, bias is used by many corporations, police departments and other organizations. It is typically designed to get people to open up about prejudices and stereotypes — for example, the tendency among some white people to see black people as potential criminals.

Starbucks said it would make its training materials available to other companies. Many retailers, including Walmart and Target, said they already offer some racial bias training. Nordstrom has said it plans to enhance its training after three black teenagers in Missouri were falsely accused by employees of shoplifting.

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the restroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting.

Video of the arrests were posted on social media, triggering protests, boycott threats and debate over racial profiling, or what's been dubbed "retail racism." It proved a major embarrassment for Starbucks, which has long cast itself as a company with a social conscience. That included the earlier, widely ridiculed attempt to start a national conversation on race relations by asking its employees to write "Race Together" on coffee cups.

Starbucks said the Philadelphia arrests never should have occurred. Some black coffee shop owners in the city suggested black customers instead make a habit of patronizing their businesses. Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse owner Ariell Johnson said she has called the police just once in the two years she has been open. She said that should happen only when there is a provocation or danger.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

The two men visited the company's Seattle headquarters on Friday, Schultz said, to "see what Starbucks does every day." He added that Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has agreed to mentor them. "I suspect this won't be the last time they come," Schultz said.

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, said diversity training can have mixed effects.

"In some cases it can even backfire and lead people who are kind of already reactive to these issues to become even more polarized," Lai said.

One afternoon wouldn't really be "moving the needle on the biases," he said, especially since Starbucks has so many employees and they may not stay very long.

Starbucks said the instruction will become part of how it trains all new workers. Stores will keep iPads given out for Tuesday's meetings and new videos will be added every month for additional training.

Starbucks said it also plans to hold training at its stores in other countries.


Associated Press reporters Terry Tang in Phoenix, Phuong Le and Elaine Thompson in Seattle, Lynne Sladky in Miami, Mark Gillespie in Cleveland and Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Matt Slocum/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks Training a First Step in Confronting Bias: Experts]]>Mon, 28 May 2018 23:53:13 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18145767691437_opt.jpg

Starbucks, trying to put to rest an outcry over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores, is closing more than 8,000 stores for an afternoon of anti-bias training, a strategy some believe can keep racism at bay.

After the arrests in Philadelphia last month, the coffee chain's leaders apologized and met with the two men, but also reached out to activists and experts in bias training to put together a curriculum for its 175,000 workers.

That has put a spotlight on the little-known world of "unconscious bias training," which is used by many corporations, police departments and other organizations to help address racism in the workplace. The training is typically designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of color, gender or other identities.

The Perception Institute, a consortium of researchers consulting with Starbucks, defines implicit bias as attitudes — positive or negative — or stereotypes someone has toward a person or group without being conscious of it. A common example, according to some of its studies, is a tendency for white people to unknowingly associate black people with criminal behavior.

Many retailers including Walmart and Target said they already offer some racial bias training. Target says it plans to expand that training. Nordstrom has said it plans to enhance its training after issuing an apology to three black teenagers in Missouri who employees falsely accused of shoplifting.

Anti-bias sessions can incorporate personal reflections, explorations of feelings and mental exercises. But one expert says training of this kind can have the opposite effect if people feel judged.

According to a video previewing the Starbucks training, there will be recorded remarks from Starbucks executives and rapper/activist Common. From there, employees will "move into a real and honest exploration of bias" where, in small groups, they can share how the issue comes up in their daily work life.

Starbucks has described it as a "collaborative and engaging experience for store partners to learn together."

Developed with feedback from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Perception Institute and other social advocacy groups, Tuesday's four-hour session will give workers a primer on the history of civil rights from the 1960s to present day. Workers will also view a short documentary film.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Perception's co-founder and executive director, says anti-bias training is about awareness.

"The work that we want to do is not say you're a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes," she said.

Johnson declined to elaborate on the details of the Starbucks training. But she said Perception's workshops typically include mental exercises to show participants how bias creeps into situations. A session can include personal reflections, she said, such as, "'I was socialized to think about a group this way.'"

Johnson said the real work is for employees to apply what they learn in their everyday lives. She likened it to exercising a muscle. Some ways to practice counter-stereotyping, she said, are to look for something unique about a person that is beyond their social identity.

"It could be having a question that elicits something more interesting than, say, the weather or the traffic," Johnson said, stressing the need to "go well beyond the superficial."

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting. The incident was recorded by cellphones and went viral.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free education. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Starbucks has since announced anyone can use its restrooms even if they are not buying anything. According to documents Starbucks sent to store workers, employees should also think carefully when dealing with disruptive customers. A guide advises staff to consider whether the actions they take would apply to any customer in the same situation. They should dial 911 only if the situation seems unsafe.

Starbucks said the arrests never should have occurred and announced the mass closures of its stores for the afternoon of training.

Some experts have questioned how effective a one-day training might be and whether racism — rather than unconscious bias — was the actual root of the problem.

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, said people should not place high expectations on this one day.

"We find that oftentimes diversity training has mixed effects, and in some cases it can even backfire and lead people who are kind of already reactive to these issues to become even more polarized," Lai said.

One afternoon wouldn't really be "moving the needle on the biases," especially when it's a company with as many employees as Starbucks, he said. "A lot of those employees won't be here next year or two years or three years down the line."

Starbucks has said Tuesday's sessions serve as "a step in a long-term journey to make Starbucks even more welcoming and safe for all." It is working with volunteer advisers including Heather McGhee, president of social advocacy organization Demos, and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

"One of the things Starbucks has to wrestle with is how to incorporate this kind of training into the onboarding of every employee," Ifill said.

That takes a sustained effort, McGhee added.

"We have really made it clear that one training is not enough, and this needs to be part of an ongoing review of their policies," McGhee said. "They really need to commit."

AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[China Approves 13 New Ivanka Trump Trademarks in 3 Months]]>Mon, 28 May 2018 22:29:47 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18148194285894_opt.jpg

Ivanka Trump's brand continues to win foreign trademarks in China and the Philippines, adding to questions about conflicts of interest at the White House, The Associated Press has found.

On Sunday, China granted the first daughter's company final approval for its 13th trademark in the last three months, trademark office records show. Over the same period, the Chinese government has granted Ivanka Trump's company provisional approval for another eight trademarks, which can be finalized if no objections are raised during a three-month comment period.

Taken together, the trademarks could allow her brand to market a lifetime's worth of products in China, from baby blankets to coffins, and a host of things in between, including perfume, makeup, bowls, mirrors, furniture, books, coffee, chocolate and honey. Ivanka Trump stepped back from management of her brand and placed its assets in a family-run trust, but she continues to profit from the business.

"Ivanka Trump's refusal to divest from her business is especially troubling as the Ivanka brand continues to expand its business in foreign countries," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in an email Monday. "It raises significant questions about corruption, as it invites the possibility that she could be benefiting financially from her position and her father's presidency or that she could be influenced in her policy work by countries' treatment of her business."

As Ivanka Trump and her father have built their global brands, largely through licensing deals, they have pursued trademarks in dozens of countries. Those global trademarks have drawn the attention of ethics lawyers because they are granted by foreign governments and can confer enormous value. Concerns about political influence have been especially sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese officials have emphasized that all trademark applications are handled in accordance with the law.

"The brand has filed, updated, and rigorously protected its international trademarks over the past several years in the normal course of business, especially in regions where trademark infringement is rampant," Abigail Klem, president of Ivanka Trump's brand, said in an email. "We have recently seen a surge in trademark filings by unrelated third parties trying to capitalize on the name and it is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark."

More approvals are likely to come. Online records from China's trademark office indicate that Ivanka Trump's company last applied for trademarks — 17 of them — on March 28, 2017, the day before she took on a formal role at the White House. Those records on Monday showed at least 25 Ivanka Trump trademarks pending review, 36 active marks and eight with provisional approval.

The World Intellectual Property Organization's brand database also shows that her company, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, won three trademarks in the Philippines after her father took office. Two of them that cover clothing, including lingerie and baby clothes, were filed on Feb. 8, 2017, and registered in June and November. The third, filed on March 1, 2017, covers clothing and footwear and was registered in July.

Companies register for trademarks for a variety of reasons. They can be a sign of corporate ambition, but in many countries, like China, where trademark squatting is rampant, companies also file defensively, to block copycats from grabbing legal rights to a brand's name. Trademarks are classified by category and may include items that a company does not intend to market. Some trademark lawyers also advise clients to register trademarks for merchandise that is manufactured in China, even if it's not sold there.

Ivanka Trump does not have a large retail presence in China, but customs records show that the bulk of her company's U.S. imports are shipped from China.

The brand's secretive Chinese supply chains have been the subject of some controversy. A year ago Monday, three men working for China Labor Watch, a New York-based non-profit group, were arrested while investigating labor abuses at Ivanka Trump suppliers in China. After thirty days in detention, they were released on bail, but continue to live under police surveillance.

Li Qiang, the group's founder, said Monday that he hopes bail will be lifted soon and that the case will not go to trial.

Police in Ganzhou, the southeastern Chinese city where the men were detained, could not be reached for comment. The Chinese law firm that handles Ivanka Trump's intellectual property in China also did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this story from Shanghai. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sephora Offers Free Makeup Classes for Transgender Community]]>Sun, 27 May 2018 08:22:53 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Sephora-GettyImages-536074149.jpg

Sephora announced earlier this week that it will begin offering makeup classes geared toward transgender and gender-nonbinary individuals at its locations across the United States, NBC News reported.

The beauty retailer is calling the complimentary classes, which are set to start in June, "Bold Beauty for the Transgender Community." The classes will be 90-minute sessions featuring personalized skincare advice, application techniques and complexion tips, designed for "clients of all gender expressions," according to a company press release.

The classes will be taught by “trans-sensitive instructors,” some of whom are part of the transgender community themselves, the company said. Aside from the classes, Sephora will upload how-to video tutorials, led by transgender Sephora beauty advisors, to its YouTube channel.

"Being trans has definitely made me look at beauty in a completely new way,"said Jayde Sandoval, a Sephora employee based in San Francisco. "I hope to teach my clients that there are many different options available to them. The beauty world can be extremely overwhelming at times, so I want to show them easy yet effective looks they can rock every day."

Photo Credit: Stephen Ehlers/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Delaware Wawas Betting on Lottery Kiosks]]>Fri, 25 May 2018 10:37:49 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Barrington+Wawa+31+Generic+Wawa+Generic.jpg

Wawa anticipates that its more than 40 stores in Delaware will be outfitted with self-service lottery kiosks by next month.

Delaware Lottery Director Vernon Kirk tells the News Journal the convenience store chain's re-entry into the lottery network is "a tremendous advantage." The chain last tested over-the-counter lottery products in Delaware nearly two decades ago.

Wawa has installed machines, like the ones at Pennsylvania stores, at nearly half of its 43 stores in Delaware, and anticipates finishing the project by June 10.

Kirk says the Wawa machines will likely contribute an additional $6 million in revenue. The state still has 57 new kiosks to distribute to other stores.

Wawa lottery project lead Bob Hornberger says the addition bolsters the chain's status as a one-stop shop. Customers across the company's entire footprint will now have access to lottery services.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Jury Recommends $25M in Baby Powder Lawsuit]]>Fri, 25 May 2018 10:12:31 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18144773476902-Johnson-Baby-Powder.jpg

A California jury delivered a $25.7 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed she developed cancer by using the company's talc-based baby powder.

Jurors in Los Angeles recommended $4 million in punitive damages Thursday after finding the company acted with malice, oppression or fraud.

A day earlier, the panel called for $21.7 million in compensatory damages for plaintiff Joanne Anderson, who suffers from mesothelioma, a lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Johnson & Johnson was assigned 67 percent of the compensation payout, with the rest distributed among other defendants.

New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson said it's disappointed in the decision and will appeal.

"We will continue to defend the safety of our product because it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma," Johnson & Johnson said in statement.

Anderson, 66, claimed Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers that its powder contains asbestos and could cause cancer.

Johnson & Johnson "engaged in a multi-decade campaign wherein they hid testing data" from regulators, altered reports to make them more favorable and lied to consumers, said Chris Panatier, one of Anderson's trial attorneys.

Similar allegations have led to hundreds of lawsuits against the New Jersey-based company. Jury awards have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last year, a judge in Los Angeles tossed out a $417 million jury award to a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer by using Johnson & Johnson baby powder for feminine hygiene.

The judge granted the company's motion for a new trial, saying there wasn't convincing evidence that Johnson & Johnson acted with malice and the award for damages was excessive.

"Over the past 50 years, multiple independent, non-litigation driven scientific evaluations have been conducted by respected academic institutions and government bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and none have found that the talc in Johnson's Baby Powder contains asbestos," the company said Thursday.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Not Ready to Let Go of Plastic Straws]]>Thu, 24 May 2018 12:17:20 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/mc+donalds+restaurante+acoso+.jpg

McDonald's isn't ready to stop offering plastic straws, despite environmental concerns.

A shareholder proposal to pressure the world's biggest hamburger chain on the matter was voted down at the company's annual meeting Thursday. The proposal by activist group SumOfUs asked for a report about the "business risks" of using plastic straws at the chain's 37,000 locations globally.

McDonald's said it was already working on finding alternatives to plastic straws and urged shareholders to reject the proposal.

The push to ban plastic straws has been getting more attention lately. A New York city councilman introduced a bill this week saying restaurants should replace plastic straws with paper or metal alternatives.

Seattle and Miami Beach have passed bans on plastic straws. The city of Malibu, California, is banning plastic cutlery and straws.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Harley-Davidson Plant Closure Stuns Workers After Tax Cuts]]>Thu, 24 May 2018 06:44:33 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/harleyGettyImages-119372798.jpg

Employees at Harley-Davidson's Kansas City, Missouri, plant were shocked in January when the company announced that the plant would close next year, NBC News reported. 

Operations are being moved to the motorcycle manufacturer's facility in York, Pennsylvania. The company is also building a new plant in Thailand. A Harley-Davidson spokesman said the Bangkok plant is "separate and unrelated" to the decision to close the Kansas City plant. 

Harley-Davidson, like other corporations, is benefiting this year from the tax cut law passed in 2017, which slashed the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Soon after announcing the Kansas City plant's closure, the company announced a dividend increase, as well as a stock buyback plan to reward shareholders, repurchasing 15 million of its shares — valued at nearly $700 million. The company says that the dividend increase and stock buyback is not related to the tax savings. 

When he visited a Harley-Davidson plant in Wisconsin in September, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "Tax reform can put American manufacturers and American companies like Harley-Davidson on a much better footing to compete in the global economy and keep jobs in America."

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Comcast Announces Plan to Outbid Disney for Fox Assets]]>Wed, 13 Jun 2018 17:44:38 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Comcast-AP_760634721034.jpg

Comcast announced Wednesday that it is preparing to trump Disney's $52.4-billion stock bid to acquire much of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, NBC News reported.

Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of this station, did not detail the size of its potential offer but said it would be "all-cash," according to a press release from the Philadelphia cable giant.

In its press release, Comcast noted that it hasn't committed to a bid quite yet, saying "no final decision has been made." But it does put Fox shareholders on notice that Comcast is seriously interested in buying up Fox's entertainment assets, including its movie studio and some cable channels.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Comcast was planning to borrow around $60 billion to fund its bid.

Photo Credit: AP Images for Comcast]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Launches Probe Into Auto Imports, Possible Tariffs]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 21:40:01 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Trump-pensive.jpg

The Trump administration on Wednesday launched an investigation into whether tariffs are needed on the imports of automobiles into the United States, moving swiftly as talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement have stalled. President Donald Trump predicted earlier that U.S. automakers and auto workers would be "very happy" with the outcome of the NAFTA talks.

The White House said in a statement that the president had asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider whether the imports of automobiles, including trucks, and automotive parts threaten U.S. national security. The president said in the statement that "core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a Nation."

The U.S. remains far apart on the talks over rewriting the trade pact with Canada and Mexico, with the discussions at an impasse over rules for car production. The initiation of the trade investigation could be seen as an attempt to gain leverage in the talks with the two U.S. neighbors. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that efforts to renegotiate the trade agreement could spill into next year.

Nearly half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. are imported, with many coming from assembly plants in Mexico and Canada. During a meeting with auto executives earlier this month, Trump said he would push for an increase in the production of vehicles built at U.S. plants.

A person familiar with the discussions said the president has suggested seeking new tariffs of 20 to 25 percent on automobile imports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to speak about private deliberations.

Trump brought a little-used weapon to his fight to protect auto workers: Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The provision authorizes the president to restrict imports and impose unlimited tariffs on national security grounds. The investigation was used in the steel industry earlier this year, resulting in the president's decision to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

Trump offered a hint about the move earlier in the day on the South Lawn, telling reporters that "you'll be seeing very soon what I'm talking about." He noted that both Mexico and Canada have been "very difficult to deal with" during the negotiations.

"I am not happy with their requests. But I will tell you in the end we win, we will win and will win big," Trump said before departing for New York. He said America's neighbors have been "very spoiled because nobody's done this but I will tell you that what they ask for is not fair. Our auto workers are going to be extremely happy."

Mexico has so far resisted U.S. attempts to get higher regional content rules in the auto industry and move production to higher-wage U.S. and Canadian factories. The U.S. has also sought to change NAFTA's dispute-resolution system, and include a sunset clause that would allow countries to exit after five years.

The Trump administration has already missed an informal deadline that had been set by House Speaker Paul Ryan to get a revamped deal to Congress in time for lawmakers to vote on it in a midterm election year. Mexico, meanwhile, will hold presidential elections on July 1 and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist candidate who has led in polls, has said the re-negotiation shouldn't be rushed through and should be left to the winner of the election.

If the negotiators fail to agree to a revamped version of NAFTA, the discussions could be extended into 2019. Trump could also carry out his threat to abandon the agreement that he has long railed against, throwing commerce among the three countries into disarray.

Trump has sought to overhaul NAFTA in an effort to return auto production to the United States and reduce America's trade deficit. The U.S. has been demanding that a percentage of a car's content of auto parts originate in a country — the U.S. or Canada — with average auto worker wages of about $15 an hour to qualify for NAFTA's duty-free status.

But companies have built supply chains that straddle NAFTA borders and changing the rules could disrupt their operations, raise costs and potentially put them at a competitive disadvantage with manufacturers in Asia and Europe.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Ends Self-Driving Program in Arizona After Fatal Crash]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 23:58:10 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Self-Driving-Uber.jpg

Uber is pulling its self-driving cars out of Arizona, a reversal triggered by the recent death of woman who was run over by one of the ride-hailing service's robotic vehicles while crossing a darkened street in a Phoenix suburb.

The decision announced Wednesday means Uber won't be bringing back its self-driving cars to the streets to Arizona, eliminating the jobs of about 300 people who served as backup drivers and performed other jobs connected to the vehicles.

Uber had suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto while regulators investigated the cause of a March 18 crash that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. It marked the first death involving a fully autonomous vehicle, raising questions about the safety of computer-controlled cars being built by Uber and dozens of other companies, including Google spin-off Waymo.

Uber still plans to build and test self-driving cars, which the San Francisco company considers to be critical to maintaining its early lead in the ride-hailing market. This as Waymo and other rivals prepare to enter the field with robotic vehicles that may be able to offer cheaper fares.

In a Wednesday statement, Uber said its self-driving cars will return to Pittsburgh this summer. The company said it is focusing its efforts to build self-driving cars in that city as well as in San Francisco, although it didn't make a commitment to bring its robotic vehicles back to the streets of California, where it no longer has a permit to operate them after allowing its license in that state to expire earlier this year.

About 550 Uber employees will remain in Arizona working on its other operations in the state, including its traditional ride-hailing service with cars driven by humans responding to requests made through a mobile app.

Uber brought a fleet of self-driving cars to Arizona at the end of 2016, just days after the vehicles were banned from California for not having the proper permits at that time.

California's action prompted Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to send out a derisive tweet in an effort to persuade Uber to bring its self-driving cars to his state. "This is what OVER-regulation looks like!" Ducey wrote.

Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was run over, a ban that a spokesman said Wednesday remains in effect.

"The governor's focus has always been on what's best for Arizonans and for public safety, not for any one company," said Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato.

The fatal collision involving Uber's self-driving car added to the headaches vexing CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as he tries to repair the damage done by a regime led by his predecessor, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick. The company is trying to recover from a wave of revelations and allegations about rampant sexual harassment in Uber's workforce, a cover-up of a massive data breach, dirty tricks and stolen trade secrets.

Khosrowshahi has promised he won't allow Uber's self-driving cars back on public roads again until he is convinced the vehicles are safe. That won't happen until Uber completes ``a top-to-bottom safety review,'' according to a statement the company issued Wednesday. As part of that process, Uber hired Christopher Hart, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, to review its self-driving car program.

Meanwhile, Waymo is preparing to launch a ride-hailing service in Arizona that will pick up passengers in robotic cars that won't have humans to take control if the vehicle malfunctions. The service is supposed to begin before the end of this year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Award-Winning Chef to Open Oyster Bar in New Comcast Tower]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 13:19:56 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Vernick+Fish+Render.jpg

A modern oyster bar will soon be added to Philadelphia's extensive food scene in Center City's newest skyscraper.

The Four Seasons announced Wednesday that Vernick Fish will open inside the Comcast Technology Center this fall. It's one of four restaurants coming to the new tower and the first concept to be unveiled.

Helmed by the award-winning Chef Greg Vernick, the eatery will serve seafood and have a selection of other proteins and vegetables for guests.

The new Comcast Technology Center is located at the intersection of Arch and North 19th streets, and is the tallest building in Philadelphia standing at 1,121 feet. The building will become the new home of NBC10 and Telemundo62.

Although the Four Seasons Hotel will be located between the 48th and 60th floor, Vernick Fish will remain at street level, offering accommodations for up to 200 guests both day and night, including both indoor and outdoor patio seating, communal and private dining and an energetic bar.

Chef Vernick is excited to bring his his latest eatery to the City of Brotherly Love.

"I’ve had a modern take on an American oyster bar in mind for the last several years, and I’m grateful to be able to open another restaurant in Philadelphia, a city that I will forever call home,” he said.

Comcast is the parent company of NBC10.

PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]><![CDATA[Philly Shipyard Cutting 275 Jobs]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 07:33:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/210*120/Philadelphia+Shipyard+Philly+Shipyard.JPG

Philadelphia Shipyard Inc., of which a majority is owned by Aker Capital of Norway, plans to layoff 275 employees by July 20, according to a notice filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.

The facilities at 2100 Kitty Hawk Ave. in Philadelphia marked some milestones last year including completing a four-ship order for Kinder Morgan, recording strong earnings and celebrating the 20th anniversary of its presence in Philadelphia. The minutes of its annual meeting, held April 5, revealed little to indicate that layoffs were looming.

However, a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month detailed how the company has no orders amid a lack of shipowners buying new boats.

Find out more about the jobs cuts at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

For more business news, check out pbj.com.

Photo Credit: SkyForce10]]>
<![CDATA[New Jersey Drivers Feeling the Pinch at the Pump]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 07:07:31 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NJ_Drivers_Feeling_the_Pinch_at_the_Pump.jpg

The unofficial start of summer means higher gas prices. Brian Thompson reports on the pain at the pump in New Jersey.]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Reportedly Bans People Who Return Too Much. It Shouldn't: Opinion]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 06:35:56 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amazon-car.jpg

Amazon bans some customers who return too many products they buy, according to a new Wall Street Journal report, with some people describing being banned for returning products from clothing to cellphones.

CNBC commenter Todd Haselton argues that the appeal of Amazon is that consumers can use it to buy what they like, see if it fits and return it if it doesn't fit.

"If it is going to ding us, then it should give us proper terms so we know when we're at risk of violating its unspoken policies," he wrote.

An Amazon representative didn't explain to him how it flags accounts but said "there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time" and encouraged people who believe Amazon made an error to contact them directly.

Photo Credit: Mark Lennihan/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Atlantic City's Borgata Ready to Take Sports Bets on Day 1]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 06:52:38 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/borgata-hotel-sign.jpg

Atlantic City's top casino said Tuesday it will take sports bets on the first day state regulators allow it.

The Borgata plans to rename its facility for betting on horse racing as The Race & Sports Book. It also is finalizing plans for a new sports betting facility at the casino.

Borgata President Marcus Glover said his casino's parent company, MGM Resorts International, has decades of experience operating sports betting in Nevada.

"As soon as regulatory approvals are in place, we will begin taking sports wagers," he said. "Borgata is uniquely prepared to begin operations as the only Atlantic City casino with an existing race book."

The Borgata has been talking for months about a new facility to be used to conduct sports betting, anticipating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last week.

The high court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in all but four states, allowing individual states to legalize it if they wish.

New Jersey lawmakers hope to have a law passed and regulations enacted in early June.

Monmouth Park racetrack also plans to offer sports betting as soon as possible.

Most of Atlantic City's casinos have voiced plans to offer sports betting, including the two casinos reopening on June 28: Hard Rock, the former Trump Taj Mahal, and the Ocean Resort Casino, the former Revel.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia]]>
<![CDATA[Congress OKs Bill Rolling Back Key Post-Crisis Bank Rules]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 05:23:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/capitol-ext.jpg

Congress moved to dismantle a chunk of the rules framework for banks, installed to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis that brought millions of lost jobs and foreclosed homes.

The House voted 258-159 on Tuesday to approve legislation rolling back the Dodd-Frank law, notching a legislative win for President Donald Trump, who made gutting the landmark law a campaign promise.

The Republican-led legislation, pushed by Wall Street banks as well as regional banks and smaller institutions, garnered 33 votes from House Democrats. Similarly, the bill splintered Democrats into two camps when the Senate voted 67-31 to approve it in March.

The bill raises the threshold at which banks are deemed so big and plugged into the financial grid that if one were to fail it would cause major havoc. Those banks are subject to stricter capital and planning requirements. Backers of the legislation are intent on loosening the restraints on them, asserting that would boost lending and the economy.

The legislation is aimed at especially helping small and medium-sized banks, including community banks and credit unions. But critics argue that the likelihood of future taxpayer bailouts will be greater once it becomes law. They point to increases in banks' lending and profits since Dodd-Frank's enactment in 2010 as debunking the assertion that excessive regulation of the banking industry is stifling growth.

U.S. banks' net income climbed to $56 billion in the January-March quarter, a 27.5 percent increase from a year earlier, as profits were revved up by the corporate tax cuts enacted late last year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported Tuesday.

"This is not a bill that benefits consumers. It is a big-bank bonanza," Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said in debate on the House floor before the vote.

The bill makes a fivefold increase, to $250 billion, in the level of assets at which banks are deemed to pose a potential threat if they fail. The change would ease regulations and oversight on more than two dozen financial institutions, including BB&T Corp., SunTrust Banks, Fifth Third Bancorp and American Express.

Eventually, the exempted banks will no longer have to undergo an annual stress test conducted by the Federal Reserve. The test assesses whether a bank has a big enough capital buffer to survive an economic shock and keep on lending. The banks also will be excused from submitting plans called "living wills" that spell out how a bank would sell off assets or be liquidated in the event of failure so it wouldn't create chaos in the financial system.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who heads the House Financial Services Committee, said Main Street banks "have been suffering for years under the weight" of the Dodd-Frank regulations. "Help is on the way," Hensarling declared. "Today is an important day in the history of economic opportunity in America."

Republican lawmakers, with Hensarling at the forefront, have been chafing at Dodd-Frank's restrictions in the eight years since its enactment by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress, and finally prevailed with Tuesday's vote.

Trump is probably eager to sign the bill. "We're going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank," he promised just weeks after taking office last year, complaining that the regulations choked lending, cramped the economy and hampered job creation.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private talks, told reporters after the vote that aides were anxious to get the bill on Trump's desk before Memorial Day to speed the signing.

The win on the banking bill adds to Trump's marquee business-friendly legislative achievement, the sweeping tax bill enacted late last year that deeply cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals and offered more modest reductions for most ordinary Americans.

Supporters of the bill say Dodd-Frank was too blunt an instrument in response to the financial crisis, hurting smaller lenders that played no role in the debacle. They provide more than half of small business loans and over 80 percent of agricultural loans.

The legislation also exempts certain banks and credit unions from requirements to report some mortgage loan data. The exempted data includes the age of a loan applicant, credit score, total loan costs and interest rate. Critics say that would make it easier for banks to discriminate against minorities seeking home mortgages and go undetected.

In response to the Equifax breach that exposed personal information for more than 145 million Americans, the bill requires free credit freezes for all consumers affected by data breaches. Currently most states allow the credit reporting companies to charge consumers a fee for freezing their credit.

Backers of the legislation note that the Federal Reserve still will have the authority to apply tougher standards for banks with $100 billion to $250 billion in assets.

A sole Republican, Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against the bill Tuesday.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[NY Stock Exchange to Get 1st Female President ]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 11:28:45 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/912756344-Stacey-Cunningham-NYSE.jpg

The New York Stock Exchange for the first time in its 226-year history will be led by a woman.

Stacey Cunningham, who started her career as a floor clerk on the NYSE trading floor, will become the 67th president of the Big Board.

That means that two of the world's most well-known exchanges will be led by women. Adena Friedman became CEO of Nasdaq in early 2017.

Cunningham, who is the chief operating officer for the NYSE Group, becomes president Friday, according to International Exchange, they NYSE's parent company.

Current NYSE President Thomas Farley, is leaving to head a special purpose acquisition company.

The historically male-dominated financial industry has grappled with issues tied to the #MeToo movement.

Last month it was announced that the "Fearless Girl" statue, which has become a global symbol of female business prowess, will be moved from her spot staring down Wall Street's bronze "Charging Bull" to a new home facing the New York Stock Exchange.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[10 McDonald's Workers File Sex Harassment Claims in 9 Cities]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 07:55:04 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/953183546-McDonald%27s-generic.jpg

Energized by the #MeToo movement, two national advocacy groups are teaming up to lodge sexual harassment complaints against McDonald's on behalf of 10 women who have worked at the fast food restaurant in nine cities.

The workers — one of them a 15-year-old from St. Louis — alleged groping, propositions for sex, indecent exposure and lewd comments by supervisors. According to their complaints, when the women reported the harassment, they were ignored or mocked, and in some cases suffered retaliation.

The legal effort was organized by Fight for $15, which campaigns to raise pay for low-wage workers. The legal costs are being covered by the TIMES UP Legal Defense Fund, which was launched in January by the National Women's Law Center to provide attorneys for women who cannot afford to bring cases on their own.

The complaints, filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are being announced on Tuesday, two days ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Responding to the claims, McDonald's spokeswoman Terri Hickey said there is "no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind" in the workplace.

"McDonald's Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same," Hickey said by email.

Fight for $15 said the restaurants named in the complaints are run by franchisees, not directly by McDonald's. But the complaints name both McDonald's Corp. and the franchisee — part of Fight for $15's effort to hold the company responsible for wage and employment issues at franchised locations. The company claims its franchisees are independent business owners, and that stance has complicated efforts to unionize workers across the entire McDonald's chain.

When similar sexual harassment charges were lodged by Fight for $15 workers two years ago, McDonald's promised a review of those allegations. However, Hickey — in her new response — declined to say whether that review led to any changes of policies and practices aimed at curtailing such harassment.

Among the new complainants is Tanya Harrell, 22, of New Orleans, who alleges that her two managers teased her, but otherwise took no action after she told them of sustained verbal and physical harassment by a co-worker.

Harrell, who makes $8.15 an hour, says going public with her complaint may be emotionally taxing, but she is proud of her decision.

"I feel like I have a voice now," she said in a telephone interview. "It gives me a bit of motivation and a bit of courage."

In addition to New Orleans and St. Louis, charges were filed by workers in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami; Orlando, Florida; Durham, North Carolina, and Kansas City, Missouri.

In 2016, 15 McDonald's workers in Fight for $15 filed a series of sexual harassment complaints against the company. Attorneys for the workers plan to ask the EEOC to consolidate or coordinate the newly filed charges, as well as some of the 2016 charges that remain pending.

What is different this time, organizers say, is that all of the women bringing charges are represented by attorneys due to the defense fund's support. More broadly, the #MeToo movement that exploded last October has emboldened more women to speak out and has prompted some employers to alter their approach to harassment, said National Women's Law Center CEO Fatima Goss Graves.

"Most companies have a policy saying no sexual harassment, but how do you make that work?" she asked. "Right now, because of the huge power disparities, it's easy to just wait out the complaints and nothing really changes."

Eve Cervantez, a lawyer with the San Francisco-based public interest law firm Altshuler Berzon, is working on the new complaints. She says they represent an effort to extend the power of #MeToo to low-wage women whose predicaments have not drawn as much attention as harassment victims in Hollywood, the media and other sectors.

The women filing charges "want McDonald's to take sexual harassment seriously and enforce its already existing zero tolerance policy," Cervantez said. "We think McDonald's can use its power and influence to guarantee a safer workplace for all its employees'"

Fight for $15 is calling on the company to hold mandatory trainings about sexual harassment for managers and employees and to create a safe, effective system for receiving and responding to complaints. As part of the initiative, Fight for $15 said it is establishing a hotline that workers can use to have their complaints reviewed by attorneys.

Activists say sexual harassment is pervasive in the fast food industry. They cite a 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates — conducted for three advocacy groups — which calculated that 40 percent of female fast food workers experience unwanted sexual behavior on the job.

Associated Press writer Candice Choi contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA['Fuel' Your Lunch With Your Face at Philly Eatery]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 07:24:34 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Speeding_up_Lunch_Time_Rush.jpg

Most people hate waiting in line and it's even worse when you're hungry and in a time crunch. Philadelphia lunch favorite, Fuel, is trying to cut down on customers' wait time by implementing facial recognition.]]>
<![CDATA[Sears to Close Delaware Mall Location This Summer]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 06:49:06 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/sears6.jpg

A Sears location in Delaware is slated to close this summer.

Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs told the Delaware State News on Monday that they are making the necessary decision to close the store at the Dover Mall. Riefs says the store will close to the public in early August, but the Sears Auto Center will remain open.

The company tells news outlets affected employees will be eligible to receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores.

Riefs says they have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced. He says having fewer stores, and the right format, will help bring Sears Holdings Corp. to a size and place to meet the realities of the changing retail world.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Consumer Reports Won't Recommend Tesla's Model 3]]>Mon, 21 May 2018 15:10:43 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tesla-model-31.jpg

Long emergency stopping distances, difficult-to-use controls and a harsh ride stopped Tesla's Model 3 electric car from getting a recommended buy rating from Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports says the car has exhilarating acceleration and handling. But testers were troubled by its 152-foot average stopping distance from 60 miles per hour in emergency braking tests. The distance was worse than any modern car Consumer Reports has tested and is about 7 feet longer than a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Tesla says its own tests found 60-to-zero braking distances averaging 133 feet. It also says it continually does software updates to improve factors such as stopping distance.

The Model 3 is Tesla's first attempt to appeal to mass-market buyers. The car that starts at $35,000 has been plagued by production delays.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps Available Wednesday ]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 13:32:43 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Frozen-Treats-stamps.jpg

Letter writers will soon be able to express their sentiments in words and smells.

The U.S. Postal Service will release its first collection of scratch-and-sniff stamps, called "Frozen Treats Forever," on Wednesday at the Thinkery children's museum in Austin.

The stamps feature illustrations of colorful icy pops on a stick.

The agency said the stamps will "add the sweet scent of summer" to letters.

The 20 stamps depict watercolor illustrations by California artist Margaret Berg. Each of the 10 stamp designs includes two different treats.

The words "FOREVER" and "USA" appear along the bottom of each stamp.

The stamps can be pre-ordered here or can be purchased at post offices nationwide after they open Wednesday morning.

For more infomation, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: 2018 USPS]]>
<![CDATA[Why US-China Trade Talks Left Toughest Issues Unresolved]]>Mon, 21 May 2018 17:27:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/xiAP_18100321081634.jpg

Facing the risk of a mutually harmful trade war, the world's two biggest economies have put their differences on hold. Yet it's far from clear that a fragile truce between the United States and China can hold.

In exchange for the United States agreeing to hold off on tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese goods, Beijing agreed over the weekend to "substantially reduce" America's huge trade deficit with China. Beijing made no specific commitment, though.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's declaration that the American tariffs would be suspended cheered global markets Monday on relief that the two countries had stepped back from the brink.

The celebration could prove premature.

"We are not out of the danger zone yet," said Nick Marro, a China analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit. "There is still a high risk of a trade war, even if the timeline to getting there has been extended."

Beijing refused to knuckle under to a U.S. demand to slash the U.S. trade gap by a specific amount: $200 billion, a figure seen by most economists as wildly unrealistic anyway. The U.S. ran a deficit with China in goods and services last year of $337 billion, including a record $376 billion in goods.

A vague statement the two countries released said next to nothing about the issue at the heart of the dispute between Washington and Beijing: The hardball tactics China uses to challenge U.S. technological supremacy. Those tactics include a requirement that American companies hand over some of their technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer issued a sharp statement: "Getting China to open its market to more U.S. exports is significant, but the far more important issues revolve around forced technology transfers, cyber theft and the protection of our innovation."

"The U.S.," Lighthizer continued, "may use all of its legal tools to protect our technology through tariffs, investment restrictions and export regulations. Real structural change is necessary. "

President Donald Trump is dispatching Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to try to settle on the kinds of details that were sidestepped in last week's talks with a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He.

Some analysts say that for now, Trump might have wanted mainly to smooth over relations with China before his planned June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The U.S. needs the help of Beijing, which wields influence in Pyongyang, to help seal North Korea's border and prevent goods from reaching Kim's regime in violation of international sanctions.

The U.S.-China trade truce drew fire from some who had applauded Trump's campaign pledge to overturn decades of U.S. trade policy and crack down on China and other trading partners they accuse of abusive practices.

"More false promises and delaying tactics," tweeted Dan DiMicco, a former steel executive who served as a trade adviser to Trump during the presidential race. "Been there for 20+ years. It needs to be different this time as promised."

Still, the Trump administration trumpeted what had been achieved in two days of talks. The president tweeted: "On China, Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time."

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin predicted a big increase — 35 percent to 45 percent this year alone — in farm sales to China and a doubling in sales of energy products to the Chinese market.

Trade analysts and China watchers were underwhelmed.

"Energy exports to China are already soaring," Derek Scissors of the conservative American Enterprise Institute wrote in a blog post. Mnuchin is "promising to win something already happening... the U.S. is folding again."

Lighthizer last summer began investigating Beijing's tactics to challenge U.S. technological dominance. These include outright cyber theft of U.S. companies' trade secrets and China's demands that American corporations hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese markets.

Last month, the administration proposed tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports to protest the forced technology transfers. Trump later ordered Lighthizer to seek up to an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods to tax. China responded by targeting $50 billion in U.S. products, including soybeans — a direct shot at Trump supporters in America's heartland.

The prospect of a trade war has shaken financial markets and alarmed corporate executives. So some business groups were relieved by the cease-fire. Stocks closed higher on Monday as trade tensions dissipated for the moment, while investor sentiment was also boosted by news of dealmaking activity.

"We're pleased that the two sides apparently made enough progress to dial back on the tariffs and other threats," says John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

But Frisbie said he wanted to see further progress in addressing U.S. businesses' complaints about how they are treated in China. In particular, the statement the two sides issued skirted over the key issue of forced technology transfers from the United States to China.

"They failed to drill down on the biggest frictions facing U.S. businesses and on those where we are most able to move the Chinese," said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who specializes in trade.

She said the U.S. was distracted by an "ill-advised focus" on the trade deficit. Lovely said the Chinese, who increasingly have their own technology to defend, might be open to strengthening intellectual-property protections and to pressuring local governments to stop demanding technology transfers.

Yet Beijing may not be willing to bargain away its drive to become a technological power in such areas as robotics and artificial intelligence, embodied in its "Made in China 2025" initiative. That project calls for China to develop world-class competitors in fields from information technology to electric cars to pharmaceuticals.

"The Chinese would be more than happy to give up their trade surplus," says Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank. "They care about one thing, and that's Made in China 2025."

Atkinson said the Trump administration seems willing to give the Chinese a pass on their aggressive technology policies in exchange for little more than additional soybean exports:

"Do we really want to live in a world where we're a third-world natural resource exporter, while the Chinese are the powerful technological machine?"

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP, Files]]>
<![CDATA[Fact Check: Tesla Safety Claims Aren't Quite Right]]>Fri, 18 May 2018 03:41:16 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Elon-Musk-Tesla.jpg

For years, Tesla has boasted that its cars and SUVs are safer than other vehicles on the roads, and CEO Elon Musk doubled down on the claims in a series of tweets this week.

The electric vehicles are under intense scrutiny from federal investigators, who have been looking into post-crash battery fires and the performance of Tesla's Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system. On Wednesday, they traveled to Utah to open another inquiry into a Tesla crash — their fourth this year — in which a Model S slammed into a firetruck that was stopped at a red light.

A look at the tweets and Tesla's past claims about the safety of its vehicles and Autopilot:

MUSK (from his tweets Monday): "According to (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), there was an automotive fatality every 86M miles in 2017 ((tilde)40,000 deaths). Tesla was every 320M miles. It's not possible to be zero, but probability of fatality is much lower in a Tesla."

THE FACTS: This is based on a Tesla analysis of U.S. fatal crashes per miles traveled in 2017. The company's math is correct on the fatality rate involving all of the nation's 272 million vehicles, about 150,000 of which are Teslas, according to sales estimates from Ward's Automotive. But Tesla won't say how many fatalities occurred in its vehicles or how many miles they were driven.

We don't know of any Tesla fatalities in 2017, but the numbers can vary widely from year to year. There have been at least three already this year and a check of 2016 NHTSA fatal crash data — the most recent year available — shows five deaths in Tesla vehicles.

Statistically, experts say Musk's tweet analysis isn't valid. While Teslas could have a lower death rate, it may speak more about the demographics of Tesla drivers than it does about safety of the vehicles, says Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics for the National Safety Council.

Expensive Teslas tend to be driven by middle-age affluent people who are less likely to get in a crash than younger people, Kolosh said. Also, Tesla drivers tend to live in urban areas and travel on roads with lower speeds, where fatality rates are lower, he said.

Musk also is comparing a fleet of older, less-expensive vehicles to his newer and more costly models, Kolosh said. Most Teslas on the road are six years old or less. The average vehicle in the U.S. is 11.6 years old, according to IHS Markit. Older, less-expensive vehicles often aren't maintained like newer ones and would have more mechanical problems.

MUSK (from his tweets Monday in reference to the Utah crash): "What's actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60 mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death."

THE FACTS: It's true that the driver in the Utah crash sustained minor injuries considering how fast her car was traveling. The same is true for a January freeway crash near Los Angeles in which the driver was not hurt. But not all Tesla crashes end the same way.

In March, the driver of a Tesla Model X was killed in California when his SUV hit a barrier while traveling at "freeway speed." NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case, in which the Autopilot system was engaged. Autopilot was also engaged in the Utah crash, according to a summary of data from the car.

Last week, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped in the vehicle and died in the flames. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus of that investigation.

TESLA (from a March 30 press release): "Over a year ago, our first iteration of Autopilot was found by the U.S. government to reduce crash rates by as much as 40 percent."

THE FACTS: The government says it did not assess how effective Autopilot is at reducing crashes. It did mention a 40 percent reduction in crash rates after "Autosteer" was installed in Tesla vehicles, based on data provided by Tesla. Autosteer is the part of Autopilot that keeps the car centered in a lane and can change lanes automatically. NHTSA said it did a "cursory" comparison of crash rates between vehicles with and without Autosteer, but it didn't consider whether drivers were actually using Autosteer, which has to be manually activated.

TESLA: The company has touted on its website and in press releases that the Model S sedan scored the highest numerical rating of any vehicle in NHTSA's crash tests, and that the Model X was the first SUV to get a five-star rating in every category.

THE FACTS: It's true that the Model S and Model X got five-star crash-test ratings from NHTSA, and the Model S did have the highest numerical score of any vehicle. But in more demanding tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Model S failed to get the industry group's coveted "Top Safety Pick" or "Top Safety Pick Plus" ratings.

THE REASONS: the Model S got an "Acceptable" rating in a front-end small offset crash test that mimics when the front driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with a tree or another vehicle. Its headlights also were rated "Poor." Vehicles have to get the highest rating of "Good" in five crash tests to be top safety picks. Fourteen large cars from other manufacturers received Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus ratings. IIHS has not yet done crash tests on Tesla's Model X or Model 3.

The Model S also had a low rate of medical insurance claims for injuries, tying for seventh in IIHS's most recent rankings. The institute gave it a score of 46, which is 54 percent better than the average score of 100. The Toyota Camry, the top-selling car in America, scored 112. But the Model S had higher collision claim frequencies and was more expensive to fix than gas-powered large luxury cars.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: John Raoux/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Approves Megamall That Would Be Largest in US]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 23:47:26 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/216*120/051718+american+dream+mall+nw+miami+dade.PNG

A gigantic $4 billion retail and entertainment complex won government approval Thursday after years of debate, greenlighting what promises to be the largest mall in North America, just a few miles from the environmentally sensitive Everglades.

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted 9-1 to approve American Dream Miami, which would be built on 175 acres (70 hectares) of now vacant land at the busy confluence of Interstate 75 and Florida's Turnpike, northwest of Miami International Airport.

Plans call for hundreds of retail shops and restaurants, but the developers don't want people to call it a mall. They're pointing to its planned theme-park attractions such as an indoor ski slope, submarine ride, water park and skating rink, along with 2,000 hotel rooms.

"We're not building a mall. We're not in the mall business," said Don Ghermezian, president of Canada-based developer Triple Five. "This is a park that is meant to compete with the best parks in America."

American Dream Miami would be about 1.2 million square feet (111,400 square meters) larger than Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, a similar entertainment and retail center that was also developed by Triple Five and is now the largest on the continent.

Language also was added Thursday to ensure no taxpayer dollars will be spent on the Miami project.

Supporters say developers will follow environmental rules meant to protect the Everglades, and pay for measures to address traffic concerns.

Triple Five estimates it would draw some 30 million visitors a year and as many as 70,000 separate vehicle trips every day. Neighboring Broward County has threatened to sue if developers don't address gridlock — and tens of millions of dollars have been pledged by Triple Five to widen roads, pay for additional buses and so forth.

"We're talking about a tremendous increased volume of traffic," said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who cast the lone no vote.

Developers say the project — which still needs to obtain 32 local, state and federal permits — will create at least 14,000 permanent jobs, as well as thousands more during construction. Supporters pointed to that and many other envisioned economic plusses, and urged yes votes to help Miami compete against Orlando's tourist mecca.

"It is the most significant project that has been done in Miami-Dade County," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, whose district includes the complex. "It's a good day for us."

Environmental groups say it's too close to the Everglades, threatens the region's drinking water, could be swamped by rising seas and will require vast amounts of electricity.

"This place is a treasure house of public lands, nature, wildlife and beauty," said Matt Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. "There is nothing positive about this project whatsoever."

Other opponents wore t-shirts that read "No Megamall, No Traffic" and "Say No to the American Nightmare Mall."

And that's not all: Another developer, The Graham Companies, plans a separate construction project adjacent to the mall that would include office space, retail and 2,000 apartments.

Proponents say the critics should embrace the potentially vast impact the overall project could have on the entire South Florida region, which has never had a large theme park drawing tens of millions of tourists every year.

"This is a game changer. This is a watershed development for our community," said Commissioner Dennis Moss.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AmericanDream.com]]>
<![CDATA[Horse Racing Bets Court Ruling Boosts the Sport]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 16:51:40 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/horse-betting.jpg

Horse racing has been struggling for years to regain a strong footing on the national sports landscape, and owners hope to use betting on other sports to bring fans back to the tracks.

The gamble is not a sure thing since not everyone is on board with the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this week that allows states to offer sports betting.

Track owners believe horse racing has an advantage since race tracks in many states will be among the first to allow sports gambling. Many race tracks already offer slot machines and table games — popularly known as racinos — in addition to betting on horses.

"The economics of it, we will begin to see how it works," said Stronach Group chief operating officer Tim Ritvo, whose company owns race tracks throughout the country.

One of those tracks is Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, site of Saturday's 143rd Preakness. The aging track needs an overhaul and Ritvo is hoping for a boost from sports betting.

He doesn't believe sports betting is "going to be this huge windfall of money, but it's an added amenity for a customer, where he can go to an event like a race track and bet some races and bet some games and watch some games," Ritvo said. "It becomes a social experience."

The nation's highest court ruled 6-3 on Monday to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law that had banned sports betting in every state but Nevada and a few others with limited wagering.

Horse racing must overcome stiff political opposition in two of the Triple Crown states — Kentucky and Maryland — to take advantage of the ruling.

Kentucky is capital of thoroughbred horses but has no casinos.

Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia have several casinos and racinos sitting across the Ohio River. That has sparked criticism about money leaving Kentucky, but casino gambling hasn't advanced in recent years, and Gov. Matt Bevin is opposed.

Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer isn't sure the Supreme Court's decision will change minds in his state.

"We've got some time to try wrap our heads around it and find out if it's something we want to do and if so, how to do it," said the Republican, who expects to hear all sides by the time the legislature convenes in January.

In Maryland, there is a stalemate among legislators largely due to disagreements about who should be allowed to have sports betting — casinos and/or horse racing tracks. There is a chance legalized sports betting won't happen in Maryland until at least 2020.

Horse racing needs more immediate help.

Churchill Downs Inc. wasted little time taking a step on this new frontier. The company announced an agreement Wednesday with Golden Nugget Atlantic City to enter online gambling and sports betting in New Jersey.

The handle, the total of money wagered at tracks nationwide, has fallen from $15.18 billion in 2003 to just under $11 billion the past seven years. Industry website Equibase hasn't tracked attendance since the mid-1990s, but it has been dropping. Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said the sport is "holding its own" financially through all of the betting platforms.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's previous Derby winner, American Pharoah, created a buzz three years ago in becoming the sport's first Triple Crown champion since 1978. It remains to be seen if Baffert's colt Justify — the Kentucky Derby winner and favorite in Saturday's Preakness — can generate similar interest, but that still won't be enough for Baffert.

He believes casino gambling could be the way to bring some new fans to the rail. And as casinos now look to expand with professional sports books, there's also a chance to add live race simulcasts.

"You're now going to see casinos, if they don't already have race and sports books, interested in putting those in," Waldrop said. "The two are perfect compliments and we see them all over Las Vegas. Perhaps we'll see them in commercial casinos, and that would be a boon for horse racing. Anytime we can expand our distribution platform is a good thing."

Casino gambling is available in 40 states, with horse racing in 32 and 14 with racinos.

Many tracks have reduced races but have remained financially solid because slot machines and table games are more profitable.

Bettors interested in Justify or his challengers in the Preakness can bet at racinos or tracks with simulcast wagering, online in states that allow it, at sports books in Nevada or in states with off-track betting options.

But with New Jersey poised to begin sports betting within weeks at Monmouth Park and other states soon to follow, many more options could be available by this fall's Breeders' Cup championships at Churchill Downs.

Baffert just wants to see the sport do well, and he believes the Supreme Court ruling could be a jumping off point.

"I love when they say record-breaking handles, which means people are involved and still into it," Baffert said. "Everybody's betting on their phones now, less people are coming to the races because they've made it so convenient.

"You like to win when there's a crowd. That's why Breeders' Cup, Derby, anybody that wins a race even on the undercard, it means a lot because there's 100,000 people here watching you win a race," he said. "Everyone wants to win when the whole world is watching."

And Baffert believes more people will watch if more could bet.


AP Sports Writers Ben Nuckols and Stephen Whyno in Washington, and David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Racial Slur Written on Starbucks Cup for Hispanic Customer]]>Fri, 18 May 2018 03:41:10 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/206*120/051718+starbucks+racist+cup+3.jpg

Just two weeks before Starbucks is set to close thousands of locations for "racial-bias education," for its employees, the coffee company is once again facing scrutiny after a barista at a store in La Cañada Flintridge, California, targeted a Hispanic customer with a racial slur.

Pedro, who asked not to be identified by his last name, ordered two coffees from the cafe and received his order with the word "beaner" on both cups in place of his name, he told NBC4's sister station, Telemundo 52.

"It's an offensive word used towards Latinos," he said.

Pedro does not believe the slur could have been written by accident because the barista called his name once his order was ready.

He paid for his order with cash, according to an unnamed coworker. Starbucks baristas manually insert a customer's name for their order when given a cash payment, adding to his belief that the slur was no accident.

In an effort to compensate the experience, the location offered Pedro a $50 gift card.

"I didn't accept it because it’s like an insult overall," he said.

In a statement, the coffee chain said it is working to remedy the incident.

"This is not the experience that we want for our clients," the statement said. "We asked for his forgiveness and we are working to correct this. Also, we are investigating the incident to ensure this will not be repeated."

"That's clearly really racist," Starbucks customer Ana Garcia said outside the store when told about what happened. "What can I tell you? It's sad to hear that, to be honest."

Starbucks has been facing nationwide outrage after viral cellphone video showed two Black men at one of its locations in Philadelphia being arrested by police. The two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were waiting for a business meeting they scheduled at the store.

Soon after their arrival, Nelson asked the cafe’s manager if he could use the restroom but was declined because he had not made a purchase. Minutes after the interaction, police arrived after being summoned by the manager.

The barista believed to be responsible for writing the slur at the La Cañada Flintridge location is said to be in her 20s.

Pedro is expecting to meet with one of the location's employees on Thursday and although he is unsure of what will come of the interaction, he hopes the barista will face serious consequences.

Starbucks has said it plans to close all of its stores on May 29 for racial-bias training. 

Photo Credit: Telemundo 52]]>
<![CDATA[Dish Network Could Owe You $1,200 for Telemarketing Calls]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 10:23:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/dish-network.jpg

Telemarketing calls can seem endless and annoying, but what if we told you that receiving one of those calls could make you $1,200 richer?

A lawsuit against Dish Network could mean more money in your wallet.

It all started with a man in North Carolina who claimed that Dish Network made telemarketing calls to him despite that fact that his number was on the Do Not Call List, which violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

He sued the satellite TV company and his case developed into a class-action lawsuit.

After a trial in January 2017, a jury found that Dish was liable for calls placed by the retailer to certain telephone numbers on the do not call registry.

So what does this mean for consumers?

If you received a telemarketing call from Dish in 2010 to 2011 and your number was on the Do Not Call list, you could receive up to $1,200.

If you're one of the thousands who got a call, you may have already received a form to fill out in the mail.

But if you'd rather not wait and want to check to see if your number was included in this lawsuit,click here.

In a statement, Dish told NBC 5: "Dish is being held responsible for telemarketing activities conducted by an independent third-party, which disobeyed Dish's express instructions to complying with telemarketing laws….Dish respectfully disagrees with the court's judgment and is appealing the case."

Photo Credit: Paul Sakuma/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[1M Chainsaws Recalled For Operating After Being Turned Off]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 16:11:37 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/chainsaw2.jpg

Harbor Freight Tools this week issued a recall for about a million electric chainsaws after three people were injured when their chainsaws continued to operate after being turned off. 

There were 15 reports of malfunctioning power switches in all, and one person's laceration injuries were serious enough to require stitches, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said in its recall notice.

Harbor Freight Tools's recall affects two models of 14-inch chainsaws sold under three brand names: Portland, One Stop Gardens and Chicago Electric. The Portland and One Stop Gardens brands are green and black. The Chicago Electric brand chainsaws are red and black.

The chainsaws, which retailed for about $50, were available at Harbor Freight Tools stores nationwide and through the Camarillo, California-based company's website from May 2009 through February 2018. 

Free replacements are available at the company's stores. 

Harbor Freight Tools can be reached at 800-444-3353 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT, or by email at recall@harborfreight.com. 

Click here for more details on the affected model numbers and other information.

Photo Credit: CPSC]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Discloses Cohen Payment, Raising New Legal Questions]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 23:52:11 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/trump-cohen-510.jpg

President Donald Trump revealed in his financial disclosure Wednesday that he reimbursed personal attorney Michael Cohen as much as $250,000 for unspecified "expenses," with no mention of a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about a sexual tryst she said they had.

The head of the nation's ethics office questioned why Trump didn't include this in his previous year's sworn disclosure and passed along his concerns to federal prosecutors.

"I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing," David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Apol wrote that he considers Trump's payment to Cohen to be a repayment on a loan and that it was required to be included in Trump's June 2017 disclosure.

But Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Fox News Channel's Laura Ingraham that he didn't think the repayment "had to be disclosed at all because I think it was an expenditure that he reimbursed."

He also said the president was "fully aware" of his decision to reveal the fact that Trump had reimbursed Cohen in a previous Fox News appearance and "endorsed the strategy."

"We wouldn't do it without him," Giuliani said on "The Ingraham Angle." ''He's the client, after all, and has tremendous judgment about things like this. And I think it — that the OGE, the Office of Government Ethics, basically agreed with us that it had been fully disclosed."

"The fact is that the president disclosed everything that he could disclose. He can't disclose more than he knows. And we're very comfortable with it," he added.

But ethics experts say that if that payment was knowingly and willfully left out, Trump could be in violation of federal ethics laws.

"This is a big deal and unprecedented. No president has been previously subject to any referral by (Office of Government Ethics) to DOJ as a result of having failed to report an item on their public financial disclosure report," said Virginia Canter, a former ethics official in the Clinton and Obama White Houses who is now with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

How Trump dealt with the Daniels hush money in his disclosure has been closely watched, particularly after Giuliani gave interviews earlier this month saying the president had reimbursed Cohen in a series of payments after the campaign was over. Trump and Giuliani have clashed over what the president knew and when he knew it.

In a footnote in tiny type on Page 45 of his 92-page disclosure, Trump said he reimbursed Cohen for "expenses" ranging from $100,001 to $250,000. The report said the president did not have to disclose the payment but was doing so "in the interest of transparency."

While the disclosure didn't specify the purpose of the payment, Cohen has said he paid $130,000 to Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from going public about her allegations that she had sex with the married Trump in 2006.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted, "Mr. Trump's disclosure today conclusively proves that the American people were deceived."

The tweet continued: "This was NOT an accident and it was not isolated. Cover-ups should always matter."

The Trump Organization referred questions about the disclosure report to the president's lawyer Sheri Dillon of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Dillon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Cohen footnote appears in a report giving the first extended look at Trump's revenue from his properties since he became president. In all, Trump's vast array of assets — hotels, resorts, books, licensing deals and other business ventures — generated revenue last year of at least $453 million. The report estimated the holdings are worth at least $1.4 billion.

His Washington, D.C., hotel near the Oval Office, a magnet for diplomats and lobbyists, took in $40 million. His Doral golf course and resort in Miami took in $75 million. His Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, received $25 million, and his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, generated $15 million.

Some of the 12-month figures for his properties are down from his previous report, but that earlier report covered about 16 months and so it is not directly comparable.

The figures are before expenses and so give no indication of how much profit the president made off the properties.

Trump has at least $315 million in debt, about the same as he reported a year ago. One of his biggest lenders is Ladder Capital, which has lent more than $100 million. Trump owes Deutsche Bank as much as $175 million.

The debt figures are given in broad ranges in the report and capped at $50 million, so it's unclear just how much Trump actually owes. The president's tax returns would give a clear picture, but Trump has broken with tradition by refusing to make them public.

When Trump took office, he refused to fully divest from his global business, another break with presidential tradition. Instead, he put his assets in a trust controlled by his two adult sons and a senior executive. Trump can take back control of the trust at any time, and he's allowed to withdraw cash from it as he pleases.

His report shows that Trump received $64,840 from the Screen Actors Guild pension fund. Trump has appeared in several movies, including "Home Alone 2" and "Zoolander."

For operating New York's Wollman Rink in Central Park, the president took in $9.3 million.

Though it was published three decades ago, Trump's "The Art of The Deal" last year generated as much as $1 million.

Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Done Visiting the 20 Contenders for New HQ: Sources]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 13:47:17 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_17290781101684-Amazon-Headquarters.jpg

Amazon is done visiting the 20 cities that are finalists in its search for a second headquarters, sources close to the process told NBC News Wednesday.

Amazon's "HQ2" will bring a $5 billion investment and as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs, the e-commerce giant has said.

While Seattle-based Amazon hasn't revealed many details about the decision-making process, it has said it's been looking to find "a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit."

Some cities in the top 20 have reported a surge in economic development inquiries from other companies since the list was released in January.

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Comics Legend Stan Lee Sues Company He Co-Founded]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 09:07:04 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Stan-Lee-sues.jpg

Comic book legend Stan Lee filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the entertainment company he co-founded, alleging its leaders conspired to steal his "identity, name, image and likeness" by negotiating a "sham" sale of the firm and seeking damages topping $1 billion.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica and obtained by TMZ, alleges that POW! Entertainment CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion failed to fully disclose to Lee details of the firm's 2017 sale to Camsing International. The suit contends that they took advantage of Lee, who was despondent at the time over the death of his wife Joan and was suffering from macular degeneration.

Lee alleges he was duped into signing a fraudulent agreement that gave POW! exclusive rights to his name, identity and likeness. According to the lawsuit, Lee was unable to actually read the document due to macular degeneration, and he doesn't remember anyone reading it to him, suggesting that his signature may have been forged, copied or induced.

"In addition, POW! took control of Lee's personal social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, thereby impersonating Lee before a combined 15 million followers worldwide,'' according to the lawsuit.

There has been no response from POW! Entertainment to the lawsuit. But in April, the company issued a statement expressing concern for Lee's well-being, amid reports that Lee was the victim of elder abuse.

"We at POW! Entertainment take great pride in our continuing work to create exciting new Stan Lee content and characters as well as safeguarding the legacy of the greatest story teller of our time,'' according to the statement.

"We are also fans and share the heartfelt admiration and love of the community who have voiced their sincere concern for Stan's well-being.

"... We, like you, simply want Stan to enjoy life, connect with his fans when he is able, and most importantly spend his time going forward without impediment or stress. One thing we know for certain is when something is off, the fans bond together. We are touched by the outpouring of love for our Chief Creative Officer and friend, and we proudly stand with you for Stan.''

<![CDATA[Amazon Prime Members Getting Extra Discounts at Whole Foods]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 06:46:50 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/877062660-Amazon-Whole-Foods.jpg

It's Prime time at Whole Foods: Amazon is rolling out discounts for Prime members at the organic grocer.

The benefits start Wednesday at stores in Florida and will expand nationwide this summer. Prime members will get an additional 10 percent off sale items and exclusive deals on certain groceries.

This week in Florida, for example, Prime members can get $2 off a pound of organic strawberries or save $10 a pound on wild halibut steaks. Amazon wouldn't say if it plans to add the benefits to Whole Foods stores in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Since it bought Whole Foods last year, Amazon.com Inc. has cut prices on some groceries, begun offering same-day delivery to Prime members in several cities and extended its 5 percent cash back Amazon rewards credit card to Whole Foods purchases. But turning its Prime membership into the Whole Foods loyalty program could drive more people to its stores.

Amazon said last month that it had more than 100 million paid Prime members worldwide. That was before it announced it's raising the price to $119 a year, up from $99. Prime members get fast shipping from Amazon.com and other perks, like access to its video streaming service.

To show that they're Prime members, shoppers can scan the Whole Foods app at the register or give the cashier their phone number.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Who Will Referee Billion-Dollar Sports Betting Industry?]]>Tue, 15 May 2018 22:04:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/sports-book-cash.jpg

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, the race is on to see who will referee the multibillion-dollar business of gambling on pro and college games.

The NFL, NBA and others want Congress to set uniform, nationwide rules on sports gambling for all states, saying the integrity of athletics is at stake. And an influential Republican on Capitol Hill, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, quickly announced plans to push for such legislation.

But states are already moving quickly to enact their own laws, with some legislators wanting fans to be able to place wagers by the time football season starts this fall. And there are serious doubts Congress wants to get involved.

"Sports are played on a national and sometimes international stage, crossing state borders and involving residents of numerous municipalities," said Rummy Pandit, a gambling analyst with New Jersey's Stockton University. "From that standpoint, federal regulation of sports betting makes sense. But the federal government has not historically been involved in the day-to-day regulation and oversight of gaming."

For years the major sports leagues argued that gambling on games would lead to match-fixing and point-shaving. Now that they lost the court battle with Monday's landmark ruling, many suspect that they are now pushing for federal legislation not for high-minded reasons, but because they see it as the easiest way to get a cut of the proceeds.

Negotiating a piece of the action with Congress would be more efficient than trying to work out deals one by one with dozens of states.

If it passed a nationwide bill, Congress could require casinos, tracks or state governments to share some of their revenue with the sports leagues — or pay them what the leagues like to call "integrity fees," designed to cover the costs of policing betting.

The leagues have been making headway in negotiations on integrity fees with individual states, including Kansas, Connecticut, Indiana and New York, said Daniel Wallach, a sports law expert from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The leagues also have come down on their fee demands in several states, lowering them from 1 percent to 0.25 percent, he said.

Wallach said the leagues, in seeking to be paid for sports betting, might also be able to make a compelling court case that they have intellectual property rights in the data that is used in wagering.

On the other side of the negotiating table, the gambling industry might want to work out a grand compromise on giving a cut to the sports leagues, rather than "battle it out, state to state to state, winning some, losing some," Wallach said.

But state opposition remains strong. Within hours after the ruling, New Jersey lawmakers introduced a new bill to regulate sports betting that would drop the integrity fee that was in an earlier version.

In West Virginia, Republican Gov. Jim Justice allowed a sports betting bill to become law without his signature and later announced he had reached a deal for casinos to pay a fee to pro sports leagues. But casino operators denied there was a deal.

On Monday, the high court struck down a federal law that limited sports betting to four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. It came on a court challenge from New Jersey. As a result of the ruling, states are now free to adopt laws regulating sports betting.

Hours after the ruling, the NFL called on Congress to "enact a core regulatory framework" for legalized betting, citing "the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events."

The NFL reasoned, too, that it would be easier to comply with one nationwide set of regulations than with 20 or 30 individual ones.

The NBA likewise called for national regulation of sports betting.

Hatch, one of the authors of the federal law that was thrown out by the Supreme Court, sided with the leagues.

"The rapid rise of the internet means that sports betting across state lines is now just a click away," he said. "We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake here is the very integrity of sports."

It's unclear how eager Hatch's colleagues are to wade into this debate. Lawmakers are spending more time in their home states as election season heats up. The legislative calendar is winding down. And some lawmakers with libertarian views favor letting states deal with the issue.

Also, Congress has been unable in recent years to pass federal laws regulating online poker, fantasy sports or internet gambling.

David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, predicted states will be reluctant to give up control over a potentially lucrative new source of tax revenue.

Sara Slane, a senior vice president at the American Gaming Association, said she believes Congress is going to have a hard time catching up with states that are moving quickly to legalize and regulate sports betting.

She said that many federal lawmakers already view sports betting as a states' rights issue and that it will be difficult for Congress to roll back those efforts once betting operations are up and running.

"I do see this as somewhat dead in the water," she said of federal legislation. "This is going to largely unfold on the state level."

Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was noncommittal Tuesday.

"I am deeply concerned about the social ills that can arise from gambling. At the same time, I have deep respect for the federalism principles that underlie today's Supreme Court decision," he said. He said his committee "will continue to examine the issue with an eye to striking the appropriate balance."


Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this story.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images (File)]]>
<![CDATA[AA Tightens Leash on Emotional Support Animal Policy]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 00:40:01 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1951738.jpg

American Airlines announced Monday new restrictions for emotional support animals on flights, joining other major carriers that are tightening the leash on onboard comfort pets.

According to the new guidelines issued by the world's largest airline, American no longer recognizes goats, ferrets, insects, snakes, hedgehogs, amphibians, reptiles, rodents, spiders and sugar gliders as emotional support animals. The airline said non-household birds such as "farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds and birds of prey” as well as "animals with tusks, horns or hooves" will also be banned from boarding flights as comfort pets.

Citing a 40 percent increase in passengers bringing animals in the cabin from 2016 to 2017, the Fort Worth, Texas—based company adopted new documentation rules for emotional support pets.

To travel with an approved emotional support animal in the cabin, passengers must fill out a form at least 48 hours before their scheduled flight and provide the name and contact information of their mental health professional who can attest to the need of a service animal, American Airlines said. The pre-clearance will now include a documentation validation by American Airlines from the mental health professional.

American said it will have procedures in place for emergency travel booked within 48 hours of a departure.

The form also requires that the passenger assure the airline their animal will not block the seats or the aisles of the cabin, and will not threaten the health and safety of other passengers. On flights over eight hours, passengers must provide documentation assuring the airline that their animal will no defecate onboard the plane “or do so in a way that doesn’t create a health or sanitation issue."

The new policy takes effect with tickets issued on or after July 1.

"Prior to enacting these changes to our animal policy, American met with a number of disability groups to get their input, including American Association of People with Disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Council for the Blind and My Blind Spot," the airline wrote in a blog post. "At American, we want to have policies and procedures in place that protect our team members and our customers who have a real need for a trained service or support animal. We appreciate the dialogue and partnership we have with these organizations."

Federal law allows passengers to bring animals into the cabin that provide emotional support or assistance to fliers with disabilities free of charge, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it is considering rules to “address the appropriate definition of a service animal,” and seeking public input online.

But as airlines grapple with a surge of emotional support animals brought in the cabin and increased reports of animal-related incidents on board, many aren't waiting for federal regulations. 

Earlier this year, United Airlines announced new rules for emotional support animals. The updated policy includes a vaccination form signed by a veterinarian and assurance from the the vet that the animal isn't a health or safety threat to other people.

United's changes mirror those implemented by Delta Airlines. In January, the Atlanta, Georgia-based company unveiled tighter rules for passengers flying with emotional-support animals.

"The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president for corporate safety, security and compliance, said in a news release. "As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Will Legal Betting Change the Way Fans Watch Sports?]]>Tue, 15 May 2018 06:19:09 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/sports-book.jpg

The Supreme Court struck down a 26-year-old federal ban on sports betting on Monday, allowing states to decide whether they want to allow legal wagers on football, basketball, baseball, hockey and other games.

Here's a look at what that means:

Soon, depending on where you live. Officials in three states — Delaware, Mississippi and New Jersey — have pledged to start accepting legal bets within weeks. Three others already had laws on the books authorizing sports betting in the event of a favorable Supreme Court decision, although there likely will be more debate about the specifics. More than a dozen other states either have active legislation to authorize sports gambling or have considered it in the past. Expect those discussions to ramp up, along with more aggressive lobbying in those states by sports book operators and the professional leagues.

It will vary from state to state. Some have authorized commercial casinos to open sports books, while some will offer sports betting products through their state lotteries. Aside from the few states that have worked out those details already, lawmakers and regulators will be deciding whether to allow bets to be placed at casinos, horse racing tracks, off-track betting parlors or even stadiums, and whether to allow online and mobile betting.

The four major U.S. professional leagues and the NCAA spent years fighting New Jersey's challenge to the constitutionality of the federal ban. Nonetheless, the commissioners of the NBA and Major League Baseball have both said they're open to the prospect of legal gambling — on their terms. The NBA and MLB have been lobbying states to give a small percentage of the amount wagered back to the league offices. They say they deserve a cut because gambling is entirely dependent on their business, and they need to spend more money to guard against potentially devastating game-fixing scandals. Casino interests argue that Nevada does just fine regulating gambling and flagging suspicious behavior without sending money directly to the leagues.

The NFL, the nation's most popular spectator sport, will have to reckon with its longstanding opposition to gambling, which many critics say is hypocritical because the league encourages fantasy sports, publishes detailed injury reports that help bookies set odds and schedules several games every season in London, where in-stadium betting is legal. League owners also approved the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, gambling's mecca in the United States. With the fight against expanded gambling lost for now, the NFL could use its powerful lobbying muscle to partner with the NBA and MLB and seek new federal regulations.

Gambling proponents argue that the leagues will benefit through sponsorships and other tie-ins with sports book operators and enhanced fan interest in their games.

"I think everybody who owns top-four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double at least," Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told CNBC on Monday.

Once sports betting becomes more widely legal, fans can expect to have the opportunity to bet on their phones during games, a common practice in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. Television ratings and subscriptions to streaming services could increase because fans are more interested in games that don't involve their hometown teams. And discussion of point spreads, over/unders and prop bets could become more common among broadcasters and journalists as they seek to remain relevant to how fans are thinking about sports.

Probably not, said Kate Lowenhar-Fisher, a Las Vegas-based attorney who chairs the gaming practice at Dickinson Wright. Illegal bookies have longstanding relationships with their customers, some of whom prefer the anonymity of gambling offshore, and they don't have to pay taxes or fees. Plus, with states legalizing sports betting in a piecemeal fashion, illegal operators will continue to be more convenient for many bettors.

Savvy businesspeople are also likely to create new gambling products that aren't specifically addressed by state laws, just as daily fantasy sports companies did while the federal ban was in place.

"Americans will continue to be entrepreneurial, especially finding a way to evade all the compliance costs, tax costs, regulatory costs," Lowenhar-Fisher said. "That's exactly what the fantasy sports operators tried to do — offer sports betting without having to deal with all the things a sports book operator has to deal with."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: John Locher/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Official: Lyft Drivers at Disney World Can Join Union]]>Mon, 14 May 2018 13:48:33 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/disneylyftAP_18134607122328.jpg

The drivers are summoned by a Lyft app. They are expected to entertain with storytelling as they whisk passengers around Walt Disney World in what are known as "Minnie Vans," named after Minnie Mouse. And now these drivers can be represented by a union.

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board last week ruled about 60 drivers who pick up Disney World guests using the Lyft app can be represented by the Teamsters local in Orlando. The Lyft drivers are Disney World employees who earn extra money by driving guests around the resort that is roughly the size of the city of San Francisco.

Disney had argued that the Lyft driver jobs couldn't be covered by a union since the Teamsters waived their right to represent any workers not mentioned in its five-year contract. The Teamsters negotiated the contract in 2014 along with five other unions that form a coalition called the Service Trades Council. The council already represents about half of the 77,000 employees at Disney World.

But regional NLRB director David Cohen wrote in his decision last week that the waiver doesn't apply to the "Minnie Van" drivers since the Lyft job didn't exist when the contract was negotiated. Cohen also said that the job the "Minnie Van" drivers do is hardly any different than bus drivers and other transportation workers already represented by the Teamsters.

Spokespeople for Lyft and Disney World didn't immediately return email inquiries on Monday.

Disney World and Lyft reached an agreement last year to start the new service limited to guests at the theme park resort. For $20 per trip, guests can get the private rides using the Lyft app on their phones instead of having to wait for Disney buses to drive them from resorts to parks to Disney's entertainment complex.

The "Minnie Van" drivers are paid anywhere from $13 to $21 an hour and have a uniform of black denims and a gray shirt. They get two weeks of training in which they are instructed to tell stories to their passengers, advise them about things to do at Walt Disney World and help resolve any problems the Disney guests may encounter.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: John Raoux/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Chili's Customers Possibly Impacted by Data Breach]]>Mon, 14 May 2018 08:05:14 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/chilisGettyImages-956936028.jpg

Brinker International, the parent company of Chili's, announced a data breach at some of it's restaurants that may have impacted customers.

The Dallas-based company believes the data incident was limited between March and April of 2018. The malware was discovered on Friday, May 11.

Brinker said that customer's payment information was compromised at certain Chili's restaurants, but did not offer the locations of those restaurants.

Brinker said in a press release that the company immediately activated its response plan and are now working with third-party forensic experts to investigate the details of what happened. 

Brinker advises anyone who ate at a Chili's restaurant during the time frame mentioned above to monitor their bank accounts, and to call their bank immediately if they notice any suspicious activity.

You can read more from the company by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[At 40, Are Atlantic City Casinos Healing Or Courting Danger?]]>Fri, 11 May 2018 09:58:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18130578060506.jpg

Having lost five of its 12 casinos over the past four years, Atlantic City will mark its 40th anniversary of casino gambling by reopening two of those shuttered properties, despite concern in some quarters that it might be repeating the same mistakes that got it into trouble in the first place.

The reopening this summer of the former Trump Taj Mahal as a Hard Rock casino, and the former Revel as the Ocean Resort Casino, is being hailed in this seaside gambling resort as a welcome recovery from the trauma of 2014, when four casinos shut down. (The Taj Mahal joined them in 2016.) And the owner of the Showboat hotel is considering reopening a casino there, as well.

The party line in Atlantic City is that the reopened casinos — particularly Hard Rock, with its proven worldwide ability to attract guests with its music-themed resorts — will grow the market and not simply siphon off business from weaker competitors. Of course, that's exactly what Revel's managers said — and that casino lasted barely over two years.

"There is a lot of reason to hope that the reintroduction of two or even three casinos to Atlantic City may be a net positive for the resort," said Rummy Pandit, a gambling and tourism expert at New Jersey's Stockton University. "That is not to say that Atlantic City won't experience some growing pains in the process. The pizza analogy is an accurate way of describing the situation facing Atlantic City: No matter how you slice it, if you don't grow the pie, someone will go hungry."

Nevada remains the nation's largest gambling market. Atlantic City, where gambling began on May 26, 1978, was once No. 2 but in recent years fell to third behind Pennsylvania.

Joe Bogdovics, of Roebling, New Jersey, and his wife Debbie were in Atlantic City this week for a billiards tournament usually held at Bally's. But they're open to trying out the two new casinos after staying at a Hard Rock in Cancun, Mexico, and loving the music and bustle.

"It would be great if they brought that here," he said.

Others will be a harder sell. Walt Swanson, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was in Atlantic City on a junket arranged by Harrah's, where he usually stays.

"They just treat you better than other places," he said. "These new places will have a ways to go to get me to switch."

Atlantic City's latest trouble started in 2006, when neighboring Pennsylvania brought competition to its doorstep. Then a worldwide financial crisis and a hurricane kept money tight, and even today, more casinos are being added to the Northeast market.

But many things have changed since 2014. Internet gambling has steadily grown in New Jersey, providing new revenue. The promise of legal sports betting is just a Supreme Court decision away. The threat of in-state competition from northern New Jersey is off the table for now. And there are fewer lone-wolf casinos that are not backed by major chains able to carry them through lean times.

Colorado developer Bruce Deifik bought the former Revel in January for $200 million; it had cost $2.4 billion to build it.

"There's no doubt that Hard Rock and our project will take some business from other houses," Deifik said. "That's just the way the world works. But I believe that over two years, three years, collectively we can raise the level. A rising tide lifts all ships."

Likewise, Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, predicts his project will not just redistribute Atlantic City's money.

"It won't do us any good to take a $40 or $50 customer from a competitor in order to say we're busy," Allen said. "It's no good for Atlantic City to have one or two superstars, and everybody else struggle."

Both properties plan to reopen the same day, June 28.

The five casinos that closed since 2014 took about 11,000 jobs with them. Yet there is no denying that the seven surviving casinos have regained their balance and are doing better in a smaller market with less competition. Their gross operating profits increased by 22.5 percent last year, to $723 million.

Wall Street analysts predict the two new additions will cannibalize some existing casinos' profits. They believe Hard Rock will bring new customers to Atlantic City, while expressing caution about Ocean Resort.

Moody's Investors Service warned last month that the new competitors could lead to renewed casino closures "in an extreme scenario."

"I think Hard Rock will be very additive to the market; perhaps (Ocean Resort) will be as well," said Andrew Zarnett of Deutsche Bank Securities.

Lawrence Klatzkin of Rice, Voelker LLC worries about a renewed arms race in promotional spending.

"If Ocean Resort opens up and has the same difficulty as Revel did last time, do they get desperate and start throwing marketing money at the wall, and make everyone else have to do it, and margins go down, and make it tough for everyone to survive?" he said.

Deifik will open Ocean Resort without the crushing debt that suffocated Revel, and now owns the power plant whose expensive rates for utility service also ate into Revel's cash. He's also addressing what he considers flaws in Revel's business plan, including promises to let patrons smoke, to open a buffet and to reconfigure the meandering casino floor.

And the market is voting with its checkbook. Thomas Reeg, president of Eldorado Resorts, upon buying Tropicana Entertainment last month, said he expects its Atlantic City property to do less business once Hard Rock and Ocean Resort open. And he's OK with that.

"In Atlantic City," he said, "we go in with eyes wide open."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Wayne Parry/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks to Open Restrooms to All After Racial Firestorm]]>Fri, 11 May 2018 19:54:37 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-946601642.jpg

Starbucks has adopted an open-bathroom policy following the arrest last month of two African American men at a coffee shop in Philadelphia.

Chairman Howard Schultz says he doesn't want the company to become a public bathroom, but feels employees can make the "right decision 100 percent of the time," if that choice is removed at the store level.

One of the men arrested on April 12 was denied use of a bathroom. He and his partner sat down to await a business meeting they had scheduled at the store, but were arrested minutes later by police.

The incident was captured by people using cell phones and it went viral.

The arrest of Rashon Nelson, along with his childhood friend and business partner, Donte Robinson, set off a firestorm for the company, which will shut down more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 to instruct 175,000 employees how to better recognize unconscious bias.

Access to store bathrooms, for which Schultz said Starbucks had maintained a "loose policy," came into even sharper focus after another video, taken in January, emerged. The video shows a black man claiming he was denied access to a bathroom at a Starbucks in California while a white man was allowed entry. Neither man had made a purchase, according to the video shot by Brandon Ward, which is posted on his Facebook page.

Schultz, speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Thursday, said previous policy required a purchase, but that the decision was ultimately left with store managers, The Washington, The Seattle Times, and other media outlets reported.

"We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key, because we don't want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are less than. We want you to be more than," Schultz said, according to a transcript posted by the Atlantic Council.

Starbucks' policies are under 90-day review but that over the past couple weeks they have urged employees to make customers feel welcome, the company said Friday. 

"If someone needs to use the restroom, please let them, but if the safety of that customer, other customers or partners is in jeopardy, use your 911 quick reference guide for guidance on any action to be taken," Starbucks said.

The arrests in Philadelphia were a major embarrassment for Starbucks, which has long projected itself as a socially conscious company.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks earlier this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education. Separately, they reached a deal with Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from city officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Girl's Family Sues Wawa Over Hot Tea Spill]]>Fri, 11 May 2018 09:32:14 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Wawa+Girl+Burned+With+Hot+Water+Surveillance+Still.jpg

A New Jersey family is suing Wawa over burns they allege their 3-year-old daughter sustained when a cashier knocked over a cup of hot water at the checkout.

The federal suit, filed Monday, claims the store dispenses water at a "highly dangerous temperature."

David Mazie, an attorney for the family, released a video of the April 25 spill in Neptune, Monmouth County. It shows the clerk bagging the family's purchases, and accidentally knocking over a water bottle, which then hits and topples the cup of hot water.

The child can be seen jumping and writhing in seeming pain.

Mazie says the girl was taken to a hospital with second and third-degree burns.

"We are devastated about this unfortunate accident, and our hearts go out to the child and her family," Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce said. "We can’t comment on the specifics of the lawsuit." 

The lawsuit seeks more than $150,000 in damages.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Provided by Family's Attorney]]>
<![CDATA[Breeding Is a Billion-Dollar Business]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 22:28:11 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/stud-tapit.jpg

It's Triple Crown season, and all eyes are on horse racing's most athletic 3-year-old thoroughbreds as they compete for the sport's most lucrative prizes.

But the serious money doesn't come from winning races — it comes years later, after a champion horse is "retired to stud." A superstar stallion can command lofty fees for getting "intimate" with mares in hopes of producing a top-tier foal.

Today, horse breeding is a huge business — $39 billion and growing, CNBC reports.

Top stud Tapit earned $557,300 over the course of his racing career. But as of 2018, he will have generated about $167.8 million during his breeding career.

Breeding horses can be expensive and risky, but if all goes well, the breeder can be rolling in the dough.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ford Suspends All Production of Its Popular F-Series Pickup]]>Thu, 10 May 2018 07:52:50 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ford-plant.jpg

With key components about to run out, Ford is suspending production of its most profitable and popular model, the F-150, CNBC reported.

The move means approximately 4,000 workers at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant will be temporarily laid off, joining roughly 3,600 workers at Ford's truck plant in Kansas City who were told to stay home earlier this week.

Both assembly plants are unable to continue building the F-150 pickup truck due to a lack of critical components supplied by Meridian Lightweight Technologies. An explosion and fire at Meridian's facility in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, last Wednesday completely knocked out production of components used in the instrument panel of the F-150.

CORRECTION (Thursday, May 10, 2018, 7:52 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this story misspelled Eaton Rapids.

Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Nordstrom Rack Apologizes to Black Teens Accused of Stealing]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 11:25:11 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-99033366.jpg

Nordstrom Rack has apologized to three black shoppers who say they were falsely accused of stealing from a suburban St. Louis store.

Police were called to a Brentwood store Thursday while 19-year-old college student Mekhi Lee and high school seniors Eric Rogers and Dirone Taylor were shopping for prom clothes.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the three left the store and police pulled into the parking lot. Officers told them that police had gotten a call about three black men shoplifting. Lee and the others showed police the items they had bought and a store receipt, and they were allowed to leave.

Nordstrom Rack apologized in a statement, saying it is enhancing its practices and training. The company said its president, Geevy Thomas, met with the three shoppers' families Tuesday to listen to their concerns and express disappointment that the situation occurred.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA['Free Cruise' Settlement Wants More Info Before Paying Out]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 09:02:56 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/200424334-cruise-ship-generic.jpg

If you signed up for a cut of a $12.5 million settlement last year over free cruise offers by phone, you'll have to take one more step before getting any cash. 

The class-action case, Carvat v. Resort Marketing Group, Inc. et al, claimed a marketing group violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when automated calls offering free trips on Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise lines were made from July 2009 to March 2014. 

People who received the calls discussed in the settlement were entitled to claim up to three calls per phone number at $300 each — for a total of $900. 

But more than 2 million people signed up, diluting the payload. That meant the fund was expected to dole out just "several dollars" per class member, a website for the settlement announced in October.

The deluge of claims also raised the possibility of fraud, so the court is now requiring additional documentation from those who filed a claim, namely a phone bill. 

"Such documentation might include (but would not be limited to) a phone bill or a copy of a relevant page of a phone directory," the notice says. "A satisfactory submission could also include any other type of documentation that confirms or explains the connection of the claimant to the number at issue in a manner that can be independently confirmed upon further inquiry by the Parties or the Settlement Administrator." 

The information can be sent by email or uploaded here by May 31. 

For more information call (855) 636-6134 or visit the settlement page.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Walmart Rushes Into India, Paying $16B for Stake in Flipkart]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 08:50:56 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-903923942.jpg

Walmart is breaking into India's massive and growing consumer market, spending $16 billion for a controlling stake in the online retailer Flipkart, whose delivery drivers, with their motorcycles and oversized backpacks, have become ubiquitous across the nation of 1.3 billion people.

Online sales in India have exploded in recent years, totaling $19.6 billion last year, according to a Forrester report. Those sales are expected to grow far larger in 2018. Both Walmart and Amazon have pushed hard to catch up to Flipkart and to be the first major U.S. retailer to establish a substantial foothold in the country.

Flipkart's supply chain arm, eKart, serves more than 800 cities and makes 500,000 deliveries daily. Online sales totaled $19.6 billion in India in 2017, according to a Forrester report, and are expected to grow even larger this year. The International Monetary Fund has also projected that India's economy will grow 7.4 percent this year.

Walmart will own approximately 77 percent of Flipkart. The rest will held by some of its existing shareholders, including co-founder Binny Bansal, a former Amazon employee. Other stakeholders include Tencent Holdings, Tiger Global Management and Microsoft Corp.

"India is one of the most attractive retail markets in the world, given its size and growth rate, and our investment is an opportunity to partner with the company that is leading transformation of eCommerce in the market," said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in a company release.

Walmart's business in India had previously been focused on small businesses. The company's India division owns and operates 20 Best Price stores, a membership-based wholesale operator.

Based in the city of Bangalore, Flipkart was founded in 2007 by two former Amazon employees, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal. The two men are not related.

Walmart has aggressively pushed into online sales in the U.S. to fend off Amazon. In China, where more than 700 million people are online, it has had a tough time competing with local players like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Walmart, which opened its first store in China in 1996 and has just over 400 stores, has also signed a strategic alliance with Alibaba's rival JD.com to help expand delivery services.

The head of Japanese technology company SoftBank Group Corp. said it had reached a deal to sell its Flipkart stake to Walmart. Softbank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son mentioned the agreement while discussing the company's quarterly results early Wednesday, but did not provide details.

The transaction is expected to close later this year.

Shares of Walmart Inc. dropped more than 4 percent before the opening bell.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Rock on! New AC Casino Gets Gambling License]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 14:33:03 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Future_Of_Atlantic_City.jpg

Hard Rock had an easy time with New Jersey gambling regulators on Wednesday, gaining a license to reopen a casino and begin Atlantic City's recovery from a string of gambling hall closures on a property that President Donald Trump once hailed as "the eighth wonder of the world."

The Casino Control Commission granted a license to Hard Rock, the worldwide hotel, gambling and entertainment company owned by Florida's Seminole Indian tribe. It is reopening the former Trump Taj Mahal.

The casino is set to reopen on June 28 — the same day as another shuttered Boardwalk casino, the former Revel property, that will open as the Ocean Resort Casino. Together, the new casinos will restore as many as 6,500 of the 11,000 jobs Atlantic City lost when five of its 12 casinos went out of business since 2014. Casino officials say Hard Rock has received 50,000 applications for 4,000 jobs.

"What we have in store is going to blow people away," said Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International. "It'll be a boost for the reinvention of Atlantic City."

Four casinos — The Atlantic Club, Showboat, Trump Plaza and Revel — went out of business in 2014. The Trump Taj Mahal followed in 2016.

Hard Rock gutted and is completely renovating the casino resort that Trump opened in 1990.

"We could have just re-carpeted and put up some (memorabilia). But we want to grow Atlantic City rather than just moving people from an existing facility," said James Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International.

The casino has budgeted $30 million for entertainment in its first year, Allen said. That will fund over 300 nights of live music, comedy and drama. Carrie Underwood (June 29) and Pitbull (June 30) will be the first acts to perform there.

The casino will have no debt, being self-financed by Hard Rock and its local investment partners, Allen said. The resort plans to offer internet gambling and sports betting, if it is legalized.

The Taj Mahal went bankrupt within a year of Trump's opening, and Trump lost control of it in a subsequent bankruptcy years later when bondholders took over. His friend and fellow billionaire Carl Icahn shuttered the Taj Majal in 2016, after failing to reach a labor agreement with Atlantic City's main casino workers' union.

Hard Rock bought it in March 2017 after repeatedly testing the waters in Atlantic City. It had proposed, then abandoned a plan for a smaller music-themed casino in 2011, and its executives considered buying Revel after that casino had gone dark.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

<![CDATA[Vanguard Offering Special Benefit Packages]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 11:21:57 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Vanguard_Offering_Special_Benefit_Packages.jpgMalvern company Vanguard is offering college loan repayment programs and paid parental leave for all types of new parents. They are also offering a resource team to empower women in their careers.]]><![CDATA[Travel Insurance May Not Cover Hawaii's Volcano Eruption]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 07:50:27 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-955306462_master.jpg

The Kilauea volcano erupted on Hawaii's Big Island last week following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake.

Since that eruption, the volcano has been shooting out fountains of lava, destroying more than 30 homes and forcing more than 1,700 people to evacuate.

Scientists say it's unclear how long the eruption will continue and that's leaving many travelers in a panic.

If you're thinking about canceling your trip to the Big Island, your travel insurance policy may not back you up.

According to Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, the volcano isn't in an area where many tourists frequent and hotels and resorts shouldn't be affected.

But what if there's a travel advisory? 

For example, American Airlines issued a travel advisory for people traveling to Hilo or Kona, Hawaii.  If you're scheduled to travel between May 5 and May 13, American Airlines will waive the change fee.

Squaremouth said this advisory would not qualify for a trip cancellation benefit under a travel insurance policy.

We're told canceling a trip by choice typically isn't covered.

In order for an insurance policy to reimburse the cost of the trip, the traveler must have been prevented from going.

If you're simply afraid to go to the Big Island and the thought of the volcano is putting a damper on your vacation vibes, unfortunately, fear of enjoyment is not covered either.

Unless there's an evacuation notice in the city you're traveling to, you will likely be on the hook if you cancel.

So what does your travel insurance cover?

Family or medical emergencies are standard.

Premium insurance policies are more expensive, but many allow you to cancel for any reason, so you may want to consider that option.

Do your research on the policy. Travel agents may have preferred relationships with only a couple of insurance providers, but there could be better ones out there.

You can visit comparison sites like squaremouth.com. There you will find more than a hundred policies from many companies.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Coffee in California Must Be Served With Cancer Warning, Judge Affirms]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 08:29:29 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/171213-rosebud-coffee.JPG

A court ruling that gave coffee drinkers a jolt earlier this year was finalized Monday when a Los Angeles judge said coffee sold in California must carry cancer warnings.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Starbucks Corp. and other roasters and retailers failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any risks from a carcinogen that is a byproduct of the roasting process. He had tentatively made the same written decision in March.

A nonprofit group sued about 90 coffee companies, including Keurig Green Mountain Inc. and Peet's Operating Co. Inc., under a state law that requires warnings on products and in places where chemicals that can cause cancer are present.

The coffee industry did not deny that the chemical acrylamide was found in coffee. But they argued it was at harmless levels and their product should be exempt from the law because the chemical results naturally from cooking necessary for flavor.

The final ruling clears the way for the Council for Education and Research on Toxics to seek a permanent injunction that would either lead to ominous warning labels or a commitment by the industry to remove the chemical from their product — as the potato chip industry did years ago when sued by the same group.

Attorney Raphael Metzger, who represents the nonprofit, said he hopes mediation will lead to some settlement of the case that has been brewing for eight years. If no agreement is reached, another phase of trial would determine civil penalties as high as $2,500 per person exposed each day since the suit was filed in 2010.

"In all the years I've been practicing, I've never had a case that got to this point," Metzger said. "They've lost all their defenses and we proved our case. The only issues left are the nature and form of the injunction and the amount of penalties to be assessed. It's not a pretty place for them to be."

Berle had ruled about two years ago against the industry's best defense before issuing the tentative decision March 29 that rejected a secondary defense.

At the time, the coffee industry said it was considering all options, including appeals. It said that cancer warnings would be misleading and said numerous studies have shown health benefits of drinking coffee.

The industry and lawyers in the case did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment sent after business hours.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV ]]>
<![CDATA[Calorie Disclosure Rule Goes Into Effect for US Restaurants]]>Mon, 07 May 2018 16:22:42 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds-menu1.jpg

After years of delays, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has introduced a law requiring restaurants and other food outlets with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts.

In anticipation of the law, big firms like McDonald's and Starbucks have already introduced the calorie information on their menus and menu boards.

For example, a Big Mac Meal at McDonald's with regular fries and a full-sugar coke contains 1,120 calories, and that information is now posted clearly in the chain's restaurant locations.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women are likely to need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day, and men from 2,000 to 3,000.

The food labeling rule had an original compliance date of 2015, but that was extended three times to help the industry understand and prepare for the rules.

Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Nestle Taking Over Sales of Starbucks on Grocery Shelves ]]>Mon, 07 May 2018 11:13:24 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/946800396-Starbucks-Coffee-Products.jpg

Nestle is paying more than $7 billion to handle global retail sales of Starbucks's coffee and tea outside of its coffee shops.

The deal comes with a huge price tag for Nestle, but it could pay off big for the Swiss company. Its Nescafe and Nespresso don't carry anywhere near the heft in America that Starbucks brand does, with its $2 billion in annual sales.

The deal gives Nestle the rights to market, sell and distribute Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, Starbucks Reserve, Teavana, Starbucks VIA and Torrefazione Italia packaged coffee and tea. It will also be able to put the Starbucks brand on Nestle single-serve capsules. The agreement excludes bottled drinks like ice coffees and Frappuccinos that are sold in and outside of Starbucks stores.

Nestle had hinted last year that it was looking at focusing on higher-growth areas like pet care, coffee and infant nutrition. In January it announced it was selling its U.S. candy business to Italy's Ferrero for approximately $2.8 billion.

With the strength of the Starbucks brand, Nestle will be able to better compete against JAB Holdings, an investment holding company that has gobbled up businesses and brands associated with Peet's Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Co., Stumptown Coffee and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Nestle announced Monday that Starbucks Corp. will receive $7.15 billion in an up-front cash payment. Approximately 500 Starbucks employees will join Nestle, and operations will continue to be located in Seattle.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of the year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Lobster Prices High, But Dropping as Summer Approaches]]>Sun, 06 May 2018 11:13:48 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18124594435676.jpg

Lobster prices are high in the U.S. right now, but members of the industry expect them to come down soon as the Canadian catch creeps up and America's summer haul gets going.

One-pound lobsters, which Mainers call "chicks," are selling for about $12 per pound to consumers, which is a couple of dollars per pound more than six months ago. The U.S. lobster industry, based heavily in Maine, is in a slow mode as fishermen get ready to pull traps in the summer.

The lack of fishing effort and high prices have caused some in the seafood industry to raise the possibility of a shortage, but industry members say quite the opposite is true. Canada's spring fishing season is just starting to heat up, which means prices already are starting to track back down, industry members said.

U.S. lobstermen who were getting $10 per pound for their catch at the dock in March are now getting closer to $6, said Spencer Fuller, a lobster buyer and the president of the Maine Lobster Dealers' Association. Consumers can expect to start seeing that price shift show up at the seafood counter soon.

"You had weather, nothing around, fairly steady demand, it just drives the price crazy," Fuller said. "Now we're heading toward normalcy."

The wholesale price of 1¼-pound lobsters fell from $10.78 per pound in April to $8.51 per pound this month in the New England market, according to business publisher Urner Barry. It's typical for lobster prices to fall from April to May, but the May price is still about $1.50 above average, according to Urner Barry data.

Maine's lobster catch fell to about 111 million pounds last year after setting a record of 132.5 million pounds the previous year. It was the lowest total since 2011, though still much more than the typical catch in the 1990s and early 2000s. More than 80 percent of the nation's catch typically comes to shore in Maine, although Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island also have significant lobster fisheries.

Fresh, live lobster is historically a summer food in New England, but the growing globalization of the lobster business is starting to change that. That means demand is sometimes higher in the cooler months once considered the lobster "off season."

Exports to China also have increased, which has resulted in some worry about a potential lobster shortage in the U.S., said Michael King, purchasing director of King's Seafood Co., which operates a distribution center in Santa Ana, California. American catch also appeared to suffer due to bad weather during the already-slow winter season this year, he said.

"It's a double whammy of lower supply plus increase in demand," King said.

But there's every reason to believe there will be plenty of lobster to go around this coming summer, said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association.

"Guys are getting gear ready to set," he said. "It's absolutely a typical spring."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File]]>
<![CDATA[VW Board Eyes Damage Claims Against Former CEO]]>Sun, 06 May 2018 05:26:59 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/winterkornAP_18123730347375.jpg

A VW spokesman says the German automaker's supervisory board is checking whether it can demand damage claims from former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn in connection with the company's diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Michael Brendel tells German news agency dpa "the investigation has been going on for quite some while and is conducted independently from the authorities' investigation."

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported Sunday that Winterkorn could lose his property in connection with the company's investigation.

Winterkorn, 70, was indicted Thursday in the United States on charges stemming from the company's diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Volkswagen has admitted to programming its diesel engines to activate pollution controls when being tested in government labs and turning them off when on the road.

Winterkorn has denied any knowledge of the scheme.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File]]>
<![CDATA[Week of Revival in Atlantic City]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 07:09:43 -0400https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Week_of_Revival_in_Atlantic_City.jpg

This week, two Atlantic City casinos are reopening under new names and ownership. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, formerly the Trump Taj Mahal, and The Ocean Resort Casino, formerly Revel Casino, will open to the public.]]>