PeskyMonkey/iStock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Apple is expanding its presence in the U.S. as a part of a billion-dollar investment that the company said would generate at least 5,000 new jobs.
The iPhone maker will build a new $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, and open new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, to broaden its U.S. footprint, according to a statement released early Thursday morning.
"Apple is proud to bring new investment, jobs and opportunity to cities across the United States and to significantly deepen our quarter-century partnership with the city and people of Austin," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a press release. "[W]ith this new expansion, we're redoubling our commitment to cultivating the high-tech sector and workforce nationwide."
Apple expects the 133-acre Austin campus to generate 5,000 jobs initially and potentially 10,000 more later. It also plans to expand in other U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado, over the next three years, "with the potential for additional expansion elsewhere."
New jobs at Apple's planned Austin outpost will include engineering, research and development, operations, finance sales, and customer support positions.
Apple already has about 6,200 employees in Austin, making it the company's largest enclave outside of its Cupertino, California, headquarters.
Texas Governor Greg Abbot and Austin Mayor Steve Adler celebrated the news in a statement.
"Apple has been a vital part of the Austin community for a quarter century, and we are thrilled that they are deepening their investment in our people and the city we love," Adler said.
Abbot praised the tech giant as one of "world's most innovative companies" and a creator of jobs in his state.
"Their decision to expand operations in our state is a testament to the high-quality workforce and unmatched economic environment that Texas offers," he said.
In addition to the new $1 billion campus, Apple also said it added 6,000 U.S. jobs in 2018 and is on track to generate about 20,000 jobs nationwide by 2023.
Apple has a market capitalization of about $803 billion, making it one of the world's most valuable firms, but the company's stock price has been under pressure due to concerns about declining demand for new iPhones. Shares have declined almost 30 percent since October, after the stock hit a year-to-date high of $233 per share.
jetcityimage/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse are launching a campaign to unionize, officials at the retail workers union confirmed on Wednesday.
Employees at the Staten Island facility spoke about what they called problematic workplace conditions at a press conference in front of New York City Hall.
The news of the organizing push was first reported by Bloomberg.
"Ever since they opened, management has forced everyone at the warehouse to work 12-hour shifts for five or six days a week. During our new-hire orientation, management promised us that the company would provide a shuttle service and ride shares to help us get to and from the warehouse, which is located in a remote area of the island. That has not happened," Rashad Long, an order picker in Staten Island, told reporters. He added that he commutes on an "overcrowded MTA select bus service."
The conference took place before a New York City Council hearing on the new Amazon HQ2 or second headquarters deal on Wednesday, officials from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) who are working with some Amazon employees to organize, told ABC News.
News of workplace conditions is under renewed scrutiny on the heels of the Queens HQ2, for which Amazon is receiving more than $1.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives from New York City and the state. The deal has been criticized for granting taxpayer funds to the world's largest retailer. Protesters say that the already crowded mass transit system cannot handle the additional 25,000 workers that Amazon has promised to hire locally to commute to Queens.
"Health and safety at the facility is also [a] huge issue. Product bins are over-stuffed and our breaks are few and far between. The third and fourth floors are so hot that I sweat through my whole shift, even when it’s freezing cold outside. We have asked the company to provide air conditioning for us, but they told us that the robots inside can’t work in cold weather, so there’s nothing they can do about it," Long said.
"On top of that, the sprinkler system and smoke detectors in the building don’t even work! I honestly feel that my life is in jeopardy just by working there," he added.
Last week, 24 Amazon workers in New Jersey were hospitalized after a robot accidentally tore a can of bear repellent spray at a fulfillment center in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey.
Richard Termine/Sesame Workshop(NEW YORK) -- "Sesame Street" is bringing back an old friend to help tackle the issue of homelessness among kids.
Lily, a 7-year-old Muppet, and her family are staying with friends on Sesame Street after losing their home.
She will be featured in new videos, interactive activities for families and storybooks available for free online, according to Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street.
"Sesame Street" watchers may remember Lily from 2011, when she was originally introduced in an episode about her family struggling with hunger. She is being re-introduced with a focus on homelessness to “help mitigate the impact of the trauma and stigma that result from homelessness,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
Sesame Street’s new homelessness initiative is part of the show’s Sesame Street in Communities program. It was designed primarily for families with children ages 2 to 6.
More than 2.5 million children are experiencing homelessness nationwide and nearly half of those children are under the age of 6, according to figures shared by Sesame Workshop.
“By featuring Lily and her friends on Sesame Street, the resources are designed to show the experience from a child’s perspective, with Lily and her friends encouraging optimism, promoting understanding, and modeling simple coping strategies for children,” the organization said.
The materials featuring Lily are both free and bilingual. There are no current plans to air segments with Lily on TV, a spokesperson told "Good Morning America."
Last year, "Sesame Street" introduced Julia, a Muppet with autism.
McLaren Automotive(NEW YORK) -- Lamborghini, Porsche and Maserati have one. Ferrari and Aston Martin are working on theirs.
But don’t expect an SUV from McLaren. The British supercar maker just unveiled its latest model, the sleek, $315,000 720S Spider. “There are three reasons why there will not be a McLaren SUV,” Tony Joseph, president of McLaren Automotive North America, told ABC News, without apology.
“It could dilute the brand,” he said. “An SUV is not a driver’s car. And if we made that financial investment in the technology, will it pay off?”
He added, “It’s not the customers who are asking for an SUV. It’s the media.”
It was once unthinkable for sports car manufacturers to get into the SUV game. Now, SUVs are a guaranteed cash cow.
The market tells the story: Maserati said its Levante SUV accounts for 50 percent of sales worldwide. The Porsche Macan and Cayenne are the best-selling models for the German brand. There’s a 12-month waiting list for the Lamborghini Urus.
SUVs and light trucks are the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., accounting for 70 percent of the U.S. market. Carmakers continue to see increasing demand for SUVs in China, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
“People are gobbling up the Urus like the Cayenne,” Kim Wolfkill, editor-in-chief of Road and Track magazine, told ABC News. “The Urus is a way to get into a Lambo without driving a low-slung exotic.”
Unlike McLaren Automotive, which is privately-owned, Lamborghini is one of several brands under the Volkswagen umbrella, including Porsche, Audi and Bentley. The technological know-how for an SUV was already there.
“Lamborghini didn’t have to engineer a platform for an SUV from the ground up,” Wolfkill noted. McLaren, however, finds itself in a unique position.
McLaren “set out to only produce serious sports cars,” Wolfkill said. “It’s also trying to produce the wildest track car available. Every six months, McLaren announces a better version of its last model.”
Rebecca Lindland, an independent automotive expert, argued that McLaren’s anti-SUV stance may prove to be a smart business strategy. “The premium luxury brands needed to expand and go after the SUV market,” she told ABC News.
“McLaren doesn’t need to do this just because the other brands are,” she said. “It’s important to stay authentic. If the client isn’t looking for one then McLaren doesn’t need to build an SUV.”
Joseph said he hadn’t anticipated how swiftly the industry responded to high-performance SUVs that handle like sports cars.
He was at Porsche when it debuted the Cayenne in 2002, a seminal moment in the auto industry and one that encouraged others to rev up their own plans for an SUV.
McLaren Automotive, part of the McLaren Group, which also owns the Formula One racing team, was spun off in 2010 to create six-figure (and sometimes seven-figure) supercars and hypercars for billionaires.
“When we launched, we had very little brand awareness,” said Joseph, who was hired in June 2009 as the company’s first-ever U.S. employee.
McLaren was always known for its proud racing legacy in Formula One and its founder Bruce McLaren, the famous New Zealand race car driver and inventor who was killed testing one of his own cars at the Goodwood circuit in 1970 at the age of 32.
McLaren’s Formula One team, struggling competitively in recent years, has won eight constructors’ championships, 12 drivers’ titles and 182 grands prix. That racing expertise and rich motorsports heritage formed the backbone for the new company. When McLaren Automotive presented the design for its first car, the MP4-12C, demand was astronomical. Production was sold out for three years.
In May, McLaren announced that it had produced its 15,000th car – a major milestone for the young, niche automaker.
Its new 720S Spider convertible will still generate the same 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque as the 720S coupe though weighing 108 pounds more.
The 720S Spider is the second model under the company’s Track 25 business plan, which aims to launch 18 new models or derivatives by 2025.
The first model, the McLaren Speedtail, a hybrid “Hyper-GT,” was three-times oversubscribed when it was announced in November 2016.
Only 106 units will be produced, at a price of 1.6 million pounds or $2 million. The Speedtail – the fastest-ever McLaren (it can exceed 243 mph, the top speed of McLaren’s legendary F1 road car) – features a three-seat cockpit design and a gasoline electric hybrid powertrain.
McLaren has also publicly declared that 100 percent of its supercar lineup will be hybrid in seven years.
“We consider ourself as a technology company first and we want to be cutting edge,” Joseph said. “Hybrids – that’s the future.”
The company has been exploring the possibility of an all-electric car. It may have a battery under the hood but McLaren’s signature “throaty” exhaust sound would still be there, Joseph promised. “That’s the plan,” he said.
Workers hand-assemble about 20 of the company’s performance-focused cars each day at the McLaren Technological Center, the automaker’s futuristic headquarters in Woking, Surrey, England.
In 2017, the automaker sold 3,340 cars globally, with 1,300 units delivered to customers in North America. This year the company will be on track to produce 4,800 cars, Joseph said, with the goal of 6,000 in 2019. Ferrari, McLaren’s main competitor, shipped 8,398 units in 2017.
McLaren would not divulge revenue figures, only saying that it has already surpassed 2017 sales in the U.S., a banner year for the company. To keep the momentum going the company has started reaching out to a new demographic.
“We’re trying to appeal more to women,” Joseph said. “We’re seeing more women driven McLarens because of the comfort.”
The sports cars coming out of Woking may earn plaudits for their record-breaking speeds and aerodynamic designs. But there’s another reason why McLaren has been so successful so quickly.
“It’s a new company as far as production cars. It does not have a lot of legacy baggage,” said Wolfkill. “It’s building cars that people enjoy driving.”
Peter Shankman(NEW YORK) -- An entrepreneur who travels the world for work has made the holidays brighter for a group of complete strangers by giving them his frequent flyer miles.
Peter Shankman’s donation is allowing five people from across the country to fly home over the holidays.
“It’s pretty neat,” said Shankman, a New York City-based entrepreneur and podcast host who racks up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles each year through his work as a corporate speaker.
Shankman, 46, started donating his miles to strangers five years ago in an initiative he calls Home for the Holidays. He now finds applicants via Imgur, an image sharing social media site.
Applicants explain why they want or need the miles and then other Imgur users vote on who should be selected, according to Shankman.
One of this year's winners is Morgan Bothwell, a musician in Kansas who will be able to spend Christmas with his parents in New Hampshire.
“I haven’t really been able to spend holidays with them since I went to get my Master’s degree in Kansas,” said Bothwell, 26, a trained opera singer. “My mom wasn’t even going to put up a tree this year because she thought, 'Why go to the trouble?'”
Bothwell said his mom, Leslie Bothwell, did not believe him when he told her that he had won a first-class ticket home.
“She said, ‘Things like that don’t happen,’” he recalled. “She and my dad got so excited.”
Another family that will be reunited this Christmas thanks to Shankman is Max Jacobson and his older brother, Alex Jacobson.
Max Jacobson, 31, asked for a ticket for his 34-year-old brother to fly from Los Angeles to see their family in Provo, Utah. The brothers plan to surprise a group of around 30 family members on Dec. 23.
“I really was thinking of my mom and I wanted her to be able to see her son again,” said Max Jacobson, adding that he expects his mom to scream when she sees Alex.
Other recipients this year include a mom who will be able to visit her son’s gravesite for the first time in a decade, and a man who is going to surprise his brother in the military.
Shankman said he has received photos and videos from past winners showing joyful reactions when they make it home to their families thanks to his frequent flyer miles.
"It’s a great feeling to know that I could do this," he said.
Shankman works with Imgur officials to connect directly with the winners. His generosity has inspired other Imgur users to donate their frequent flyer miles as well, the company said.
"We at Imgur are thrilled to see how many people have been impacted by Peter's Home for the Holidays initiative," said Sarah Schaaf, Imgur’s vice president of community. "Our mission has always been to lift the world's spirits for a few moments each day, and we view our platform and community as a place for positivity. We are heartened to have so many Imgurians like Peter using the platform to drive social good initiatives year-round."
Shankman estimates he has helped more than 100 people make it home for the holidays in the five years he's been donating his miles.
"The last thing I want to do is travel when I’m home," he said. "For me it was about being able to do something where I could help people and make a difference for someone."
"I plan on doing it every year that I can, as much as I can," said Shankman.
United Airlines, the airline on which Shankman flies, told Good Morning America exclusively they plan to donate 200,000 miles, the amount of miles Shankman used, to a charity of his choice.
We love welcoming Peter on board and appreciate his loyalty, passion and generosity. Donating miles is a powerful way to make a difference and we encourage all of our customers to visit donate.mileageplus.com to give to the charities that matter most to them," United said in a statement. "To say thank you to Peter for helping bring others home for the holidays, we are proud to share that we will donate 200,000 miles to the United charity partner of his choice."
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Millions of people in the U.S. have been victimized by scams involving “free trial” offers or subscription plans in disguise, both of which are often promoted with deceptive ads, some with fake celebrity endorsements, according to a new Better Business Bureau report.
The report, released exclusively to ABC News' Good Morning America on Wednesday, outlines how these operations have created a global, multi-billion-dollar industry that reaches outside of the U.S. into countries including Canada and Australia. The Federal Trade Commission has resolved at least 14 cases over the last 10 years, with losses to consumers totaling more than $1.3 billion, according to the report.
Between 2015 and 2017 complaints to the FBI about “free trial” offers have more than doubled, the BBB said in an interview with Good Morning America.
“These sorts of scams, frauds often claim that they're endorsed by celebrities or that celebrities are actually investing in them, for example that people have left their TV jobs to instead set up a skincare line,” said Steve Baker, an international investigations specialist for the BBB. “For people that become victims of this, a lot of the time the fact that somebody that's famous… endorsed this… gives them a real strong feeling that this must be a legitimate.”
In fact, Baker told ABC News that celebrities’ names and pictures are being printed without their permission. Representatives for Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez told GMA the celebrities knew nothing about online ads ABC discovered for their purported skin cream products.
“The fact that these things claim a celebrity endorsement does not mean that they're really endorsed by the celebrity,” said Baker.
In November 2017, a federal court ordered three men the FTC alleged were behind ads making false claims that Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg of ABC’s The View were launching their own skincare lines, to pay $179 million -- the amount the FTC claimed consumers had paid for the products over more than five years. The judgment was ultimately suspended after the defendants paid nearly $6.4 million to the FTC.
In another case last month, a federal court temporarily halted an alleged international internet marketing scam operating since 2014. The FTC claims the operation, headed by Apex Capital Group, LLC, and others, deceived consumers through false claims of free trial offers for more than 50 different products. They allegedly told customers they only had to pay $4.95 for shipping and handling for items such as personal care products or dietary supplements, but then charged full product prices -- at an average of $90 -- and enrolled them in various kinds of subscription plans without their consent.
The FTC alleges Apex Capital Group, LLC, and others also engaged in “credit card laundering,” by setting up dozens of shell companies in the U.S. and the U.K. to open merchant accounts needed to accept customers’ credit card payments, and avoid potential fraud detection by card companies and law enforcement. Alex Capital Group did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Although the FTC continues to crack down on what the BBB says is a massive problem, operations can be challenging to identify and locate. Baker says the scam often involves several players working together.
“There are people that put up the ads on the internet or social media. Those are called ‘affiliates’ and those are the ones that get paid commissions if people go to the website where they see the claims,” Baker said.
He also says those websites, run by a third-party hired by the affiliate, are often designed to replicate legitimate websites and feature fake news articles with fabricated user testimonials and celebrity quotes endorsing the product.
When someone purchases an item, “there are separate people that ship the products called fulfillment companies,” Baker said.
There is also a customer service department for “people that talk to unhappy ripped-off people on the phone all day. And there are people at hand at the credit card processing. So this industry is very large, very organized and often very international with lots of players. It makes it difficult to pin down who exactly is responsible for this,” Baker said.
According to Baker, the BBB believes criminal charges brought by a law enforcement agency are necessary.
“Some of these people need to go to prison. The FTC cannot do that. It's going to take the Justice Department bringing criminal charges,” he said.
In addition, the BBB would like to see credit card companies do more.
“Since all these frauds can't exist without credit card processing, if the credit card companies would crack down on them or try to get them out of their system that would make a huge difference as well,” Baker said.
Meanwhile consumer advocates urge shoppers to take precautions to prevent falling for the scam.
“Nothing is really free. There’s always a catch,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit. “So it’s really important to look at the fine print and not believe you’re going to get something for nothing.”
The BBB also suggests tips on what consumers can look for to spot a deceptive online ad:
- a surprising celebrity endorsement
- extravagant claims about the product
- credit card needed for shipping and handling
- website with no contact information
- subscription information hidden in the fine print.
If a consumer believes they have seen a deceptive “free trial” offer ad, they are urged to report it and send a screenshot to the BBB at: www.bbb.org/adtruth. The BBB continues to build a database of crowdsourced information and work with the FTC and state attorneys general offices in an effort to identify those behind the ads and shut down companies.
In addition, the BBB instructs consumers to call their credit card company if they’ve been a victim.
“Call the customer service number on the back of the card and tell them you want your money back. That's a process called a ‘chargeback,’” Baker said.
Consumers should also file complaints with the FTC or their state’s attorney general. Most importantly, Baker said, “People who've been victims should not take it lying down.”
Charity Delmo(NEW YORK) -- A CEO is making news. Not because of a deal she brokered or a company she acquired.
She's making news by telling working parents to go home.
Charity Delmo, the CEO and founder of Ideal Visa Consultancy in the Philippines, has a new rule: "Family over boss."
Delmo's now-viral post has been shared 46,000 times on Facebook. In it, she writes in part:
"So when the time comes that you will have to choose between attending your sons and daughters’ school activities over a client’s needs, if you have to choose between your wife or your husband’s needs over mine as your boss' -- please choose them."
"I have always believed that a person who’s happy at home is also happy at work," she continues.
Delmo told ABC News' Good Morning America she wrote the post on a business trip in Australia.
"My head administrative staff was updating me on our offices and employees. Some were already getting sick because it’s already the end of the year and stress level is already high. A few mothers are asking extra day offs to attend their kids needs," she said.
Simultaneously, she said, she saw a member of her staff tagged in a photo of her son getting a school award.
"I asked her where she was during that time and she said that she was at work. It crushed my heart knowing that. Recognition at school happens almost once or twice a year and she shouldn’t miss that milestone," she said.
Those instances, she told GMA, prompted her to "let them know that I don’t run a business to be rich. I am here to give value, help others grow in their careers without sacrificing the very essence why they are working and to stop the stigma that one has to sacrifice important family needs for my satisfaction as a boss."
One day, Delmo said, she hopes she too will become a mother.
"I will be needing the same grace and understanding from the people around me, especially my employees," Delmo said. "So the rule of thumb at work now is family over boss. This has been so effective because they work more diligently every time it’s busy season because when it’s their own version of 'busy season' at home, they know they can always go home too without the fear of losing their job."
She added, "Life is too short for us to be chasing so much with perfection at work only to miss the joy of the reason why we are working can give to us."
absolutimages/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Have a conversation with a dog lover and you’ll quickly figure out that their pup is an integral part of the family. The bond is a tight one and the thought of being separated is incomprehensible. So what happens when “pet parents” decide to split?
Breakups are never pleasant and often times downright messy, especially when it comes to the division of assets. Who gets the family pet has become such a hot topic that couples are including the issue in prenups.
When Elizabeth and her now ex-husband split, their dog's well-being became an issue. Both parties loved the dog and neither wanted to give him up.
"Throughout the divorce my ex used our dog to hurt me,” Elizabeth, who asked that only her first name be used, said. “He was willing to drag things out as long as possible and would only settle if I gave up the dog.”
It’s not uncommon to hear one party using the dog as more of a bargaining tool to get what they want, according to Mitchell B. Gordon, a Chicago-based attorney with Bradford & Gordon, Inc. He points out that a lot of times it’s not the pet that couples are really fighting over.
“One partner knows the emotions the other has [for] the pet and uses it against them in the divorce,” Gordon explained.
In Elizabeth's case, she said her ex-husband wore her down and she ultimately relinquished her rights. As a result of the experience, she included the dog she shares with her new husband in a prenup. Instructions on care and custody, along with a designated veterinarian to make any medical related decisions should they be unable to agree, were hashed out in the legal document.
Putting these types of provisions in writing not only provides peace of mind, it eliminates an issue to fight over later.
Karin Lundell, a partner at the firm Rower LLC in New York City, believes prenups are on the rise. People marrying for the second time want to protect what they’ve already acquired while younger couples who don’t have substantial assets but anticipate that they will in the future want to be protected as well, she said.
Gordon said his firm has seen an increase in the number of clients seeking prenups and they aren’t necessarily coming from exceedingly wealthy backgrounds.
"The main type of client seeking prenups is couples who are marrying when they're older, who are likely to have worked longer, and have more assets that they wish to protect,” he said.
The firm is also seeing younger couples who either have a good amount of student debt and neither one wants to be saddled with the other's loans, or there is pressure by their families to have a prenup.
How courts see dogs in divorce proceedings
And while dog owners will tell you their pup is a member of the family, the courts tend to think otherwise. The law, although antiquated, dates back hundreds of years and views pets as personal property, just like the contents in your home, even though the way in which people relate to their animals has evolved.
In most cases it comes down to which partner's name is on the paperwork when purchasing or adopting the dog, Regina DeMao, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., and Maryland area, said.
“Title is important,” said DeMao. “With certain joint property you can sell it and split the proceeds. But with a pet you can’t do that."
Some states are looking at pets as more than just property. Starting Jan. 1, California will ensure a pet is taken care of while divorce proceedings are underway.
Similar laws have been enacted in Illinois and Alaska. Judges in these states have the power to take into account the well-being of the animal.
In New York, Lundell said the law as it pertains to divorce has evolved.
“New York law looks at pets in the context of divorce differently in recent cases and instead of treating pets simply as property, courts have applied a standard of ‘what’s best for all’ meaning owners and pets,” she said.
The goal is to try and resolve what’s in your pet’s best interest and ensure they are well taken care of because at the end of the day, their well-being is what’s most important.
Couples can lay out a plan in their prenup if a divorce happens, like who will pay for pet insurance (if applicable), veterinary bills and everyday living expenses along with medical decisions.
Many are also including a “shared” custody schedule for their dog. Although the issue of child custody is not allowed in a prenup, Lundell said there are couples who stipulate the family pet will follow the same parenting schedule as the child. By doing so, the child and pet are able to remain together which creates a sense of stability in an unstable situation.
When Deborah, who asked that only her first name be used, and her husband drew up their prenup, they had clear goals about what they wanted in their relationship, which included children and a dog. For them, it made sense to blend the two together in their agreement.
“The thinking behind this was that the child would probably have an emotional attachment to the dog and having the dog around could help to create stability for the child should we divorce,” she said.
For unmarried couples who are pet parents, a prenup isn’t an option. But doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself in the event of a split, according to Gordon. While there is no specific name for it, non-married couples can still have an attorney draft an agreement that will address the issue of what happens to the dog should they separate.
"I’ve also noticed pet rescue organizations now have questions on their adoption applications that ask what will happen to the pet in the event of a split," he said, "so a contract is definitely something to consider."
VCG/VCG via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American and Chinese leaders are now in an international showdown over the U.S.-orchestrated arrest of a top executive at Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecom giant that has become the world's biggest supplier of network equipment for phone and internet services.
The executive, Meng Wanzhou, was being detained in Canada after a court there delayed a decision Monday on a U.S. request that she be extradited.
But -- even as the standoff comes at a particularly sensitive time for U.S.-China relations with the two countries battling over trade –- the latest row is hardly the first time that U.S. government concerns over Huawei have pitted American officials against their Chinese counterparts.
And it's still unclear whether lingering concerns about Chinese espionage could have played a role in the U.S. government’s decision to file federal charges against the executive for financial-related crimes. A Justice Department spokesman declined to answer a question from ABC News about it, but top national security officials from Justice, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are slated to testify Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee about "China's non-traditional espionage against the United States," as the hearing is titled.
As far back as 2011, the House Intelligence Committee began investigating what it called "the counterintelligence and security threat posed" by Huawei and similar Chinese tech firms. At the time, the committee even sent a team of investigators to China to press Huawei executives about the matter.
“Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei ... cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose[s] a security threat to the United States and to our systems,” the House panel wrote in its final report.
Huawei “was unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party, while credible evidence exists that Huawei fails to comply with U.S. laws,” the report concluded.
In the years since, the FBI has kept close tabs on Huawei, according to law enforcement sources. And just four months ago, U.S. prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York secretly filed fraud charges against 46-year-old Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder.
At the U.S. government’s behest, she was arrested earlier this month while traveling through Canada, where court documents say she and others “repeatedly lied” to international banks about Huawei’s ties to businesses in Iran.
In particular, Huawei used a Hong Kong-based company, Skycom, as a front for Huawei’s “operating” in Iran despite U.S. sanctions, and Meng falsely claimed to “numerous multinational financial institutions” that Skycom was not connected to Huawei so that those institutions would carry out hundreds of millions of dollars in otherwise prohibited transactions, according to court documents released in Canada.
In the United States alone, one major bank ended up improperly approving $100 million in transactions based on the lies, the court documents allege.
But after news of Meng’s arrest became public last week, officials in China warned of “grave consequences” if she is not released, calling her detention “unreasonable, unconscionable, and vile in nature."
The official Xinhua News Agency said a top Chinese diplomat "lodged solemn representations and strong protests" with Canadian and U.S. authorities over the matter, demanding the United States drop the "extremely egregious” charges against Meng.
The Chinese government’s demands over Meng come as President Donald Trump and his administration are trying to hammer out a deal with China that would alleviate growing tensions over trade and possible tariffs. Those tensions have already rattled U.S. markets, contributing to a substantial drop in the stock markets last week.
On Sunday, the U.S. trade representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, insisted the dispute over Meng’s arrest “shouldn’t really have much of an impact” on China’s willingness to negotiate a trade deal with the United States.
“I can understand from the Chinese perspective how they would see it that way,” but Meng’s arrest “is a criminal justice matter” that’s “unrelated” and “totally separate from” ongoing trade talks, Lighthizer told CBS News.
Nevertheless, Lighthizer added that any deal must include assurances from the Chinese government that it will stop trying to steal U.S. technology from American companies and others.
“China has a policy of theft of intellectual property from America,” he said. “It's extremely important that China [stops] that.”
According to U.S. officials, there is one tool in particular that Chinese authorities may be able to exploit to steal intellectual property: Huawei.
In fact, a top Homeland Security official, Jeanette Manfra, recently told a congressional panel the U.S. intelligence community is “concerned about” laws inside China that compel companies like Huawei to take certain actions. And a telecommunication company is “particularly problematic because [it] gives a government the capability to have access to communications that are global,” Michael Brown, the former CEO of global cyber-firm Symantec, said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in July.
“So this represents a particular danger,” he added.
Meanwhile, a top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, recently described Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies as “arms of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Now –- with the U.S. economy and U.S. national security at stake -- the Chinese government is demanding the release of Huawei’s chief financial officer.
The U.S. government, meanwhile, has yet to unseal the charges against Meng, which for four months left U.S. prosecutors waiting for Meng to travel internationally so she could be arrested.
“The only documents released thus far are from the Canadian courts,” and the U.S. government has yet to release any information about the case, a Justice Department spokesman noted to ABC News.
tupungato/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In a testy exchange in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai refuted allegations that the company targeted Latino voters during the 2016 U.S. elections.
During a hearing on Google’s data collection and filtering practices, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan alleged that in 2016, the company engaged in partisan behavior to target Latino voters in key states, citing a leaked email written by Google’s head of multicultural marketing, Eliana Murillo.
According the email, Pichai “gave the effort a shout out and comment in Spanish, which was really special.” The four-page email goes on to note “we pushed to get out the Latino vote with our features in key states,” pointing out “we supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides to the polls in key states.”
Pichai denied the allegations, saying that Google “found no evidence to substantiate those claims.”
In her email, Murillo described the 2016 election as “devastating for our democratic Latino community.”
“We as a company didn’t have any effort to push out votes for any particular demographic, that would be against our principals. We participate in the civic process in a non-partisan way,” Pichai said.
“So she just made it up out of thin air the day after the election, wrote this email to your top executives, and it’s not true?” Jordan asked.
Punting the question, Pichai said that he was “happy to follow up,” noting that “employees do their own activities.”
Jordan retorted that he didn’t want a follow-up. “I want the real answer right here in the committee,” he said.
Boarding1Now/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Delta Airlines will soon enforce new restrictions for customers who are traveling with service and emotional support animals.
Emotional support animals will no longer be allowed on flights that are longer than eight hours, the airline announced Monday.
The new policy will also prevent passengers from traveling with service and support animals that are less than 4 months old, regardless of flight length, the airline said.
Customers who purchased tickets before Dec. 18, and requested to travel with a support animal, will still be allowed to travel as planned, according to the airline. The restrictions will take effect on Feb. 1, regardless of when tickets are purchased.
"We will continue to review and enhance our policies and procedures as health and safety are core values at Delta," John Laughter, senior vice president or corporate safety, security and compliance, said in a statement. "These updates support Delta's commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs - such as veterans with disabilities - to travel with trained service and support animals."
Customers will be contacted by an airline representative to adjust their reservations if the new policy effects their travel plans, according to Delta.
Delta first cracked down on its emotional support animal policy in July, stating that each customer could only travel with one animal. The airline also announced it would no longer accept pit bull breeds as service or support animals.
Delta, however, is not the only major air carrier to adjust its policies for service and support animals. Earlier this year, United, American, JetBlue and Southwest separately announced new restrictions following a string of emotional support animal incidents, including a 70-pound dog that reportedly attacked a Delta passenger. In January, a woman was denied boarding because her emotional support peacock failed to meet United’s guidelines.
All support and service animals are required to be trained to behave in public and must stay near their owners at all times, according to Delta. Any animal that displays disruptive behavior may be denied boarding.
Finding Rover(NEW YORK) -- A new app that uses innovative, facial recognition is now being used to reunite people with their missing pets.
Pet owners can upload a photo of their missing dog or cat and click "lost" on the free app. After typing in some basic information, the app, known as "Finding Rover," will scan a database of more than a million rescued or found animals that could be a match.
Kevin Villicana said he found his dog Sergeant thanks to the app.
"I was excited," Villicana told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I ran into my parents' door and told them, 'I found Sergeant.'"
Finding Rover has an accuracy rate of 98 percent, according to the app's founder, John Polimeno. The app's database scans for fur color and texture, snout length and space between the eyes, among other traits.
"Through the Finding Rover app, we've reunited over 15,000 pets with their owners," said Polimeno.
"If they can identify people using facial recognition, wouldn't it be cool if they can identify dogs and cats?" he added.
GMA entered a dog named Lucy into the app's database and marked her as lost. After a quick scan, Lucy's exact photo popped up in seconds.
Debra Rahl, a director of special projects at Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter in Maryland, said the app has been a saving grace.
"We struggle with the lost and found here until we've started to use this tool," Rahl told GMA.
So far, the service had partnered with nearly 600 shelters in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
"It gives everybody the opportunity to save a lost pet by just taking a photo of it," said Polimeno. "You don't need to own one to save one."
The app is not meant for being a replacement for microchipping your pet. But it's an added layer of protection should they go missing.
bigtunaonline/iStock(NEW YORK) -- This holiday season, Instagram is introducing something special -- its first #InstaGiftGuide, which pairs six popular hashtag trends with gifts produced by more than 30 brands.
You can get the purr-fect gift for your #CATSOFINSTAGRAM loving friends, hilarious #ISEEFACES-worthy gifts, stylish gifts for those friends who love the #FINGERBOARDING hashtag, #TUTTING gifts for the dancers in your life, #ODDLYSATISFYING gifts for everyone in your life and music-related gifts for those people in your life who are nostalgic for the 80’s and 90’s and follow the #VAPORWAVE hashtag.
The #InstaGiftGuide adds to the company’s shopping portfolio as the social media platform revolutionizes the way that we shop. The shopping channel on Explore, saving products to your own personal Shopping Collection and finding out about new brands by following your favorite Instagram influencers, are all ways that the platform has made it easier for consumers to make sure their #ootd is on point.
The company says the gift guide "is both a celebration of interest communities on Instagram and a one-stop shop for all of your holiday shopping needs."
Instagram is also making the gift guide reflective of the holiday spirit of giving by donating all of the items featured to Bottomless Closet, a non-profit that helps disadvantaged women transition from unemployment to the workforce.
neoblues/iStock(PITTSBURGH) -- While other children across the U.S. are busy making their holiday wish lists, one Pennsylvania boy has made it his mission to make sure other kids get toys this season.
Colby Jeffrey, 10, collected over 1,000 toys this past Saturday for Toy for Tots in Washington, Pennsylvania, according to ABC affiliate WTAE-TV. Toys for Tots is organized by the U.S. Marine Corps, and aims to collect and give away toys to children at Christmastime.
“Every year we provide the donation boxes for him. But he does everything else himself with the help of his mom," Michael Pallesco, a coordinator for Toys for Tots, told ABC News. "Everything from the social media to making the signs. It’s very impressive because a lot of kids his age are asking for toys, but instead he is out collecting them and getting involved.”
This is Colby's fifth year collecting toys for the organization, according to WTAE-TV.
“They knew that it was for the other kids, and they knew I cared, and I'm just so happy that they'll do that,” Colby told WTAE-TV.
"I know the feeling of getting toys, and some of those kids might not be able to, and I'm trying to help out with that so that they can have the feeling that I have every year,” Colby told WTAE-TV.