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08/17/2018 12:20 PM
US CEOs earned 312 times more than workers in 2017: Study

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- CEOs at the 350 largest U.S. companies received 312 times as much in compensation as typical employees in 2017, according to a study released Thursday.

The average chief executive received $18.9 million last year, a 17.6 percent increase from 2016, as the wages of a typical worker rose just 0.3 percent, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

The highest CEO-to-worker pay ratio ever recorded is 344-to-1, in 2000.

In 1965, it was 20-to-1.

In 1989, it was 58-to-1.

Last year, it was 270-to-1.

"CEO compensation has grown far faster than stock prices or corporate profits," EPI said in an online summary of the findings. "CEO compensation rose by 979 percent [based on stock options granted] or 1,070 percent [based on stock options realized] between 1978 and 2017."

"CEO pay continues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typical worker pay," the summary continued. "Higher CEO pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance. Exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers."

The median household income in the U.S. in 2016 was about $59,000, according to a U.S. Census report released last year.

EPI, according to its website, is "an independent, nonprofit think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/17/2018 11:55 AM
Why this supermarket is stocked with 31,000 items of inedible food

ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- At first glance, the Sparrow Mart looks like an ordinary California supermarket.

It has red shopping carts near the entrance. There's a giant Coca-Cola refrigerator holding beverages next to rows and rows of packaged foods, including Cheez Whiz, Moon Pies and Welch's Grape Jelly. But upon closer inspection, it's not food at all.

"The items are all made of felt. They're all hand-sewn and stuffed with polyester fiber," British artist Lucy Sparrow told "GMA."

Sparrow said the exhibit took her an entire year to create, with some individual items, like the shrimp, taking a few minutes and other, larger items taking an entire week.

The immersive art installation located at The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles is open through the month of August.

Sparrow has been working with felt for about 25 years, and this is her fifth exhibit of this kind. She said she's drawn to felt for a number of reasons.

"It's a brightly colored, approachable, easy fabric to use that is available in so many colors, and it's synonymous with simplicity, with childlike feelings," Sparrow said.

The art is also for sale, ranging from about $5 to $160 per item.

Sparrow said the art is independent of the food brands, and they either don't know or are fine with it.

"This is a celebration of brands -- its always been about that. It's not a criticism on consumerism or anything like that. Each brand was chosen to be in the supermarket because of how I liked their label, how well it came across and how successful they've been in becoming well-known brands," Sparrow said.

Sparrow said it's not official merchandise, it's art.

Her favorite?

"I really like the Windex bottle ... I think cleaning products work well in felt because they're so unexpected," Sparrow said.

It was cat litter, though, that made the biggest splash at first.

"Weirdly, the first thing to sell out was cat litter, so that went I think on day one," Sparrow said.

Other best-sellers included instant noodle soup, avocados and watermelon.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/17/2018 11:38 AM
Twitter quietly kills suspected firearm-themed bot network

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- One minute, they were cranking out an endless stream of tweets, pushing conservative-leaning news articles or fiery video commentary. The next, they were gone, without a trace or an explanation.

Twitter took down what experts told ABC News was almost certainly a bot network on Friday, one that impersonated military or firearms enthusiasts with account handles like "@TacReviewD," "@MilitaryProudA1," "PatriotsTacA" and "@WhiskeyTangoD."

The demise of the linked, likely preprogrammed profiles is one of the latest casualties in Twitter's six-month siege against inauthentic, and often politically provocative, accounts, opening a window into what one expert called the ever-evolving "cat and mouse" nature of bot-hunting.

"Twitter has definitely upped its game when it comes to dealing with botnets," said Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. "So the bot-herders [who create and program the accounts] have upped their game too."

Before its removal, the suspected bot network was probably not very large -- numbering just over 100 accounts in Nimmo's estimation -- but it was hardworking. Some of the accounts, which had been live for a little more than a year, tweeted nearly 30,000 times.

The timing of similar tweets between accounts appeared staggered, leading Nimmo to believe that as rudimentary as the suspected alleged bot network was, someone at least took some time to try to duck Twitter's bot-detecting tools. And it worked -- for a while.

Amid concerns that inauthentic accounts were increasingly polluting social media platforms and in the wake of revelations that Russia allegedly attempted to spread divisiveness on social media ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, Twitter announced in February it would be cracking down on bots and other automated feeds.

"Keeping Twitter safe and free from spam is a top priority for us," Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, said in an announcement at the time. "One of the most common spam violations we see is the use of multiple accounts and the Twitter developer platform to attempt to artificially amplify or inflate the prominence of certain Tweets."

Twitter dismantled most of the firearms-themed network Friday, but the social media giant declined to provide any additional information about it or how it came to the company's attention. Nicholas Pacilio, a company spokesperson, confirmed to ABC News in an email that some accounts in the network had been suspended, but said that there's not "much more I'm able to say."

Pacilio did not respond to follow-up questions, including about how many bot networks the company has dismantled, beyond pointing to a company blog post from May that said fewer than 1 percent of accounts make up the majority of those reported for abuse.

Bret Schafer, a social media analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, reviewed some of the purported bot accounts for ABC News and said he thought they were "very suspicious." He ran a few handles through an online bot-detecting tool developed by Indiana University’s Network Science Institute, and the tool flagged each as likely non-human.

Nimmo said that from the information available, it's hard to tell who might've been behind the network beyond the suggestion that it was a small operation, potentially run by a single person -- nothing like the scale of the coordinated influence operation Russia allegedly ran online ahead of the election.

But it's clear the fight against bots and botnets has entered a new phase. As Twitter continues its crackdown, coders behind the bots are trying to outsmart Twitter's algorithms by tweaking the volume, timing, content and even style of the robot-written posts.

"Bot herders are trying to second guess what Twitter is looking for and get ahead of it," Nimmo said.

That's not to say that the firearms-themed network was that well-hidden. The account handles were often re-used, only with the letter A, B, D, or E added on the end. The profile photos often showed individuals with firearms, but a quick reverse image search on a few photos showed they had apparently been lifted from firearms websites.

And, in perhaps the clearest sign that these Twitter users perhaps weren’t who they appeared to be, the accounts posted links to a single website -- a bare bones conservative website, where a few articles and videos lived alongside ads hawking commemorative Donald Trump coins or tactical pens and flashlights -- at regular intervals with the kind of consistency and precision uncommon to human users. GoDaddy, the domain registration firm that is listed on the website’s public register, declined to identify the owner, citing its privacy policy.

Last week, for example, the network produced a deluge of tweets with links to a video showing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) calling for an investigation into a senior Justice Department official -- a revamped line of attack by critics of the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"That's classic bot behavior," said Nimmo, who analyzed archived data related to the suspected network at ABC News’ request. "Seeing a single post do that is entirely innocuous, but when you see an account and you're scrolling down it and every time the post is the exact wording of the headline with the source at the end, it looks like someone has automated that process."

Darren Linvill, a Clemson University associate professor who recently made headlines with his colleague Patrick Warren and their analysis of millions of tweets linked to the purported Russian operation, told ABC News he agreed the firearms-themed network was likely a small effort, but added that it was always possible it was just a piece of a larger operation that shifted its focus from time to time based on real-world events.

Linvill said one lesson he learned from analyzing the Russian cache that it’s important to identify and analyze current troll and bot networks in as close to real time as possible, because the technical tactics in that cat-and-mouse game are always changing.

“It’s difficult because what these trolls were doing in 2014 is totally different to what they were doing in 2015 and 2016,” he said. “That’s one of the main takeaways from our dataset, how their efforts change over time.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/16/2018 09:28 PM
Soaring bankruptcy rates signal a 'coming storm of broke elderly,' study finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Older Americans are filing for bankruptcy at more than double the rate of just 25 years ago, a sign of a "coming storm of broke elderly," a new study finds.

The rate of people 65 and over filing for bankruptcy grew nearly 204 percent from 1991 to 2016, a study published by the Social Science Research Network found, and the percentage of seniors among all U.S. bankruptcy filers increased by nearly five times over the same period.

Researchers looking at data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project found that high health care costs, combined with reduced incomes and the widespread decline of pensions, are all contributing to the growing trend of "financially broken retirees."

Deborah Thorne, one of the study's authors from the University of Idaho, said "it's not an individual's fault" when they have to file for bankruptcy, citing issues with retirement systems and Medicare.

Thorne said her research found that many older people struggling financially also feel that society seems unconcerned with their plight.

"We’ve become uncaring about what they’re confronting," she said.

'The bills began piling up'

Medical costs are a frequent tipping point for older bankruptcy filers, the study found.

Although Medicare is a great start for covering seniors' health care costs, many people don't realize that it doesn't cover everything, Thorne said.

Long-term care, hearing aids, most dental treatment, eye exams for glasses and foot care are among the many things Medicare Part A and Part B plans do not cover. Medicare can also involve copays, coinsurance, and deductibles that may be difficult for some seniors on reduced incomes to afford.

"My bankruptcy started with back surgery," one older bankruptcy filer told the study's authors. "I had several medical tests that my insurance did not cover. This caused me to fall behind in my medical payments. The next thing I knew, the bills began piling up. I got to the point I owed more than I was making on Social Security."

Medical problems can also lead people to stop working, worsening their financial struggles.

"My wife developed medical problems and had to leave her job, resulting in a loss of income. About two years later, I developed medical problems and was not able to continue working," another respondent told the study's authors. "We got to a point where we simply could not handle the debt load. The constant calls from bill collectors forced us to contact an attorney for help."

Out-of-pocket health care costs for Americans on Medicare ate up 41 percent of the average Social Security income in 2013, the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation reported. Those costs are expected to rise to 50 percent of average Social Security income by 2030, the organization found.

Retirement finance experts also agree that older Americans must plan for hefty health care costs.

"A 65-year old couple retiring this year will need $280,000 to cover health care and medical expenses throughout retirement, Fidelity reported earlier this year.

While that is just a 2 percent increase from last year, Fidelity's estimate has risen 75 percent since 2002, when the firm first estimated health care costs during retirement would be about $160,000.

Seniors unable to cover such costs may go into debt. Medical debt poses the most significant barrier to economic well-being for older Americans, a survey of aging professionals conducted by the National Council on Aging found.

"Over half indicated that medical debt was the most significant barrier to the economic well-being of seniors, while nearly 20 percent said that missed utility payments were the biggest problem," the council reported.

A long road to bankruptcy

Most Americans who go into bankruptcy first try for years to pay their bills.

Bankruptcy lawyer Charles Juntikka said he has seen a "frightening" increase in older clients during his 34 years in practice in New York and New Jersey.

Many of them have used credit cards to pay medical costs, the dentist or their mortgage, then spent years scraping together minimum payments of $80 or $90 a month for their cards without achieving any significant reduction in the principal balance.

"The problem with my older bankrupt people is they paid for years" but the principal on the credit cards barely budges, Juntikka told ABC News.

Seniors are often reluctant to file for bankruptcy, having been brought up by people who endured the Great Depression, Juntikka said.

Many think that only "crooked" businesses go bankrupt, but decent people pay their bills.

"They blame themselves," he added.

Typically, something triggers people to reach out to a bankruptcy lawyer, and it is often a creditor's threat to sue, Juntikka said.

The "Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy" study similarly found that among older bankruptcy filers, more than four out of 10 -- 42.6 percent -- struggled for two to five years to manage their bills before going bankrupt.

The trend is similar for all bankrupt households, regardless of age, the study said.

"With few exceptions, the road to bankruptcy is long," researchers wrote.

If you or someone you know is struggling with debt, there is help available. One source of information on debt, credit counseling and bankruptcy is this government website, Dealing with Debt.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/16/2018 08:20 PM
New York University offers free tuition to all medical students

NYU School of Medicine(NEW YORK) -- New York University medical students received life-changing news on Thursday -- the School of Medicine will cover full tuition going forward for all current and future students, regardless of need or merit.

The stunning announcement was made Thursday morning at the end of the annual "White Coat Ceremony," where new medical students are given white lab coats to mark the start of their M.D. degree program. At the same time, all current NYU medical students received emails saying the school is offering them full-ride scholarships too.

"Our last thing was to tell the students and their parents that, hey, tuition is going to be on us," Dr. Rafael Rivera, associate dean for admission and financial aid, told ABC News on Thursday. "It was awesome to see the emotions on their faces."

The skyrocketing cost of tuition can lead to hundreds of thousand of dollars in debt, which can be out of line with potential earnings, has been a source of much debate across the nation. Prospective doctors can carry some of the highest debt burdens.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 75 percent of all doctors in the United States graduated with educational debt in 2017. On average, doctors currently graduating from a private school do so with $202,000 in debt. That debt pressure can steer new doctors away from research, community-based work and general practice, which may not be as highly paid as medical specialties.

NYU School of Medicine is the first private U.S. medical school and the only one ranked in the top 10 to offer free tuition to all its students, the university said in a press release. The yearly tuition costs covered by the scholarship are $55,018.

The free-tuition initiative began more than a decade ago when NYU created an endowment for that purpose. So far, the university has raised more than $450 million of the roughly $600 million it estimates it will need to fund full-tuition scholarships for all medical students "in perpetuity."

The move follows NYU's decision in 2013 to offer an accelerated three-year curriculum for its MD degree program, which also helps in cutting tuition costs.

The goal is to allow aspiring physicians "from all walks of life" pursue their passion with less stress, according to Dr. Robert Grossman, dean of NYU School of Medicine and CEO of NYU Langone Health.

"We thought it was a moral imperative because it's very difficult for medical students to incur the debt burden of medical school, as well as the additional time burden of training," he told ABC News on Thursday.

Rivera said the daunting prospect of financial debt has an "adverse effect on patient care" by "scaring away" talented students from a career in medicine and, in effect, causing physician shortages and a lack of diversity.

"We don't want this debt to hang over their heads and persuade them from pursuing careers of passion," Rivera told ABC News.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/16/2018 05:16 PM
Consumer Reports finds 'concerning' levels of heavy metals in some baby foods

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new report published Thursday by Consumer Reports found "concerning levels" of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium and lead in some popular baby food products on the market.

Consumer Reports says that they tested samples of 50 popular packaged baby food products for heavy metals including lead, cadmium and inorganic arsenic. They say they found at least one of these metals in all the samples.

If consumed regularly over time, these heavy metals can pose an increased risk for certain health problems in children, according to Consumer Reports.

"This is of a concern because people should not have heavy elements or heavy metals in their food, particularly for their children," James Dickerson, the Consumer Reports chief science officer told "Good Morning America."

Moreover, their report concluded that 68 percent of the samples it studied had at least one heavy metal at levels it considered "worrisome," and that 30 percent of the products tested raised cause for concern if a child consumed just one serving or less a day regularly.

The report added that among the sample products it tested, those containing rice and sweet potatoes had higher levels of one or more of the heavy metals, particularly inorganic arsenic.

The report also concluded that their analysis of organic food samples tested were just as likely to contain the heavy metals as non-organic products.

However, Dickerson told "GMA" that parents should not be "gravely alarmed" by their findings.

"Our message is balance," he said. "As a parent you should not be gravely alarmed by this, but it should be a bit of information that you use to make balanced choices for your children."

Dickerson added that these heavy metals can actually occur naturally and get absorbed into food from soil or could come from contaminants in the water and equipment used for the processing of raw food.

Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, an ABC News consultant, told "GMA," that, "These metals pose a specific risk to children because their brains are still developing."

In an ideal world, we would be able to "limit and completely eliminate these metals from our food," she added.

Consumer Reports said their results showed that goal is achievable.

“In about a third of the products we tested, the amount of heavy metals were below our level of concern, and for some the products, amount of some metals were not measurable," said James E. Rogers, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports. “That indicates that there are ways for manufacturers to significantly reduce or eliminate these metals from their products.”

Consumer Reports said its findings were a spot-check of the market and should not be used to draw definitive conclusions about specific products or brands. They advise parents to give children a variety of foods and rotate options to maintain balance and limit the risk of any long-term exposure of heavy metals.

Some of the companies mentioned in the Consumer Reports report, including Gerber, Beech Nut, Baby Mum Mum, Parent's Choice, Happy Baby and Plum Organics told "GMA" that they are dedicated to the safety and quality of their food products and follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as what they say are their own stricter internal standards.

Gerber further noted that "trace amounts of many elements occur naturally in our environment -- so it's possible they can get into fruits, vegetables and grains as they grow.

Beech Nut told "GMA" after it received the Consumer Reports test results it "upgraded the requirements for its third-party lab testing to help meet our goal of minimizing heavy metals as much as possible."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/15/2018 09:25 PM
Reservations required: London McDonald's goes luxe for a day

Molly Hunter/ABC News(LONDON) -- Now that's what you call a happy meal.

Imagine walking into a McDonald's fast food restaurant to find white tablecloths, a string quartet playing, a smartly-dressed maître d' to see you to your table, and a Michelin Star chef preparing burgers in the kitchen to be served to you on silver platters.

It's McDonald's like you've never experienced before -- and may never again.

"Luxury, in a bun," the company's website declared on Wednesday.

For one day only, lucky London guests were welcomed to what was billed as "the most luxurious tasting event in history" -- in celebration of the worldwide roll-out of McDonald's Signature Collection.

Just steps from the royal palace, the McDonald's location in London's upscale Kensington neighborhood closed to the general public Wednesday and was transformed into a fine dining restaurant, complete with red carpets, burgundy velvet curtains and candelabras.

The Signature Collection was designed for McDonald’s by the Chefs Council, which is made up of chefs who have worked in Michelin Star restaurants, and have cooked for royalty and international food specialists.

The maître d described the new Spicy Signature Burger as "100% British and Irish Beef, Jalapeño slices, Pepper Jack cheese, Batavia lettuce, mayo and a spicy relish, all in a Brioche style bun."

An ABC News producer failed to wrangle a reservation for the special day, but did sneak a taste of the new Spicy Signature Burger.

It was juicier, thicker and more tender than the normal patty. The jalapeños brought the heat, the spicy relish was indeed, spicy, the Pepper Jack cheese could have been melted more but the traditional sesame seed bun wasn't missed.

It was all washed down with a diet Pepsi while sitting on a gilded, white leather Louis XVI chair under a candelabra, twinkling with fake candles.

In a word: luxurious.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/15/2018 09:16 PM
Trump's tariffs make lumber more expensive as California recovers from wildfires

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As hundreds of families begin rebuilding after their homes were destroyed or damaged by the wildfires in California the Trump administration's trade policies could increase the price tag for building new homes.

More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed in the wildfires in California this year and hundreds more homes and buildings have been damaged.

The Trump administration has enacted tariffs on materials used for construction, including lumber, steel, and aluminum. Prices of appliances like washing machines and solar panels are also expected to go up as a result of tariffs, which could add to costs of rebuilding or repairing homes damaged by fires.

The National Association of Home Builders says the supply of lumber in the U.S. is not enough to meet demand and that prices have been going up since January 2017, and even more so since the president levied tariffs on lumber from Canada.

The group estimates that lumber prices have increased the price of an average single-family home by $4,000 based on current lumber prices.

Overall homes are getting more expensive and more are outside the budget for families earning the median income in the U.S. NAHB says housing affordability is at a 10-year low in the second quarter of 2018.

“Tight inventory conditions and rising construction costs are factors that are holding back housing and putting upward pressure on home prices,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel, in a statement earlier this month. “Meanwhile, tariffs on Canadian lumber imports into the U.S. are further eroding housing affordability. Builders are struggling to manage these costs to ensure pricing does not outpace expected gains in wage growth.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that tariffs are leading to "great new trade deals." He has previously announced that the U.S. will work with the European Union to relieve tariffs on steel and aluminum but has not said that he will remove the tariffs on Canadian lumber or reach a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But tariffs aren't the only thing driving up the price of buying a new home.

Several cities in California already have some of the least affordable housing markets in the country, according to NAHB and the National Association of Realtors. Higher mortgage rates, the availability of labor, and a more competitive market in larger markets could also drive up the costs for homeowners or developers looking to buy or build new homes.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said economic growth, low unemployment, and a large population of young people should be driving home sales but that the lack of new homes are driving prices higher.

"The unaffordable conditions in many of the largest metro areas – especially in the West – continues to be a growing concern for many middle-class households aspiring to buy a home,” Yun said of the most recent home sales numbers. “Homebuilders, facing higher costs and labor shortages, are simply not producing enough affordable homes to satisfy demand."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/15/2018 02:14 PM
Learn the best tips to negotiate more vacation days at work

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's August, and if you feel like you’re stuck at the office while everyone else is on vacation, you’re actually not alone.

American employees forfeited 212 million paid vacation days in 2017, the equivalent of more than $62 billion dollars lost in benefits, according to Project: Time Off, a coalition of organizations working to change Americans’ thinking and behavior around vacation time.

"Americans are unique in that they don't use all their vacation days [they earn]," said Katie Denis, the coalition’s chief of research and strategy. "They fear that they'll look replaceable or that they might not look as dedicated."

"I think we should be concerned about what our lives look like when we don't take it," she said.

The health benefits of using vacation days granted by an employer include decreased stress, improved quality of sleep and a lower risk of heart disease, studies show.

"When you have vacation time, you've earned it. You do have a right to use it. That's part of your compensation package," Denis said. "You earn it and you deserve it and you should take it."

Using vacation days to not only take a break from work but to travel can also have benefits, according to Project: Time Off's data.

Americans who take all or most of their vacation days to travel report being 20 percent happier with their personal relationships and 56 percent happier with their health and well-being than those who travel with little or none of their vacation time, the coalition found in its State of American Vacation 2018 report.

Employees who use their vacation days to travel also report being happier with their jobs and more likely to report receiving a promotion.

Vacation days not only help employees, but employers too.

Mark Douglas, CEO of SteelHouse, a digital marketing firm, saw the benefits firsthand when he started giving his employees unlimited vacation, a $2,000 per year travel allowance that can only be used for vacations and a three-day weekend every month.

"The initial reaction when we announced it was people erupted clapping and cheering," Douglas recalled. "It gave everyone a sense that the company really cared about their wellness, about their well-being, about them [and] this has really contributed to the morale."

Alexa Tierney, a SteelHouse employee, said it would be a challenge to move to a job with less benefits and flexibility after four years at SteelHouse. She has also found she's a better employee.

"As long as you are doing good work and getting everything done, you can enjoy your time off," she said. "My productivity is better because I had that freedom to take vacation."

If you're not in a job with unlimited vacation days, you can maximize the days you have, and even ask for more, according to Denis.

To maximize the vacation days you have earned, Denis recommends requesting time off as far in advance as possible. Also think about your time off as a day here and there, instead of having to take it in larger spaces of time, like a week.

"Schedule a day [off]," Denis said. "It doesn't always have to be a big bucket list trip, but just do it for yourself. Do it for your family. You will be glad you did."

If you want to ask for more vacation days in your benefits package, here are five tips from Denis, in her own words.

1. Start the conversation

a conversation can be a powerful way to boost your vacation culture, which can go a long way for the company as a whole.

There's nothing wrong with starting a conversation saying, "Hey, I've worked really hard lately. I've accomplished these things, and I want to make sure that I am happy here, thriving here and staying here a long time. Vacation really matters to me. What can we do to up the number of days that I'm earning?"

2. Ask for a slight increase

If the policy says you get 15 days, don't ask for 50 [days]. That's going to be too much, but you could ask for a modest increase over that.

If you don't get the OK on getting more vacation days when you start, set a check-in after six months or a year and say, "Can we look at this again? Can we revisit it?" That's really the time to establish that, the same way you would any salary negotiation.

3. Bring the evidence

The strongest information you can have isn't about benchmarks or national data or any of that.

The strongest thing you can do is present what you've done in your career that makes you warrant more vacation days. It's a very individual thing. Vacation is very personal to people, and there's no reason the ask for more vacation shouldn't be just as personal.

4. Request a number that works for you

There's no right amount of vacation. It's all a matter of feel. But I would say, if you earn those days, you deserve them, you should use them and put them to good use.

5. Ask early in your job negotiation

There's no wrong time to negotiate for more vacation days, but it gets harder if you've been there for a while. When you're going into a new job, that's the time when you've really got a little bit more power to negotiate.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/15/2018 12:31 PM
Facebook facelift: How to clean up your social profile to help you get a job

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When a boom in business put Troy Roberson in need of many more employees for his fishing guide service in North Carolina, he turned to Facebook to cast his net wide for potential recruits. In only a few weeks, Roberson hired 15 new brand ambassadors from after receiving 27 applications.

And Roberson's not the only employer turning to social media to reel in qualified candidates. In a not-so-surprising new trend, more hiring managers than ever are recruiting on Facebook which means that if you're in the market for a dream job, you can "like it" and land it without ever leaving Facebook. But that's only if your profile is in top shape.

We spoke to Christina Fan, head of Jobs Partnerships at Facebook, for all the tips and tricks you should know if you want to find the right job for you and impress potential employers. These were her responses.

What is Facebook doing to help folks find jobs?

Local businesses create more than 60 percent of new jobs and we know that one in four people in the U.S. have searched for those jobs with Facebook. So, to help more people find jobs with local businesses, we made it easier for them to find opportunities and connect with local employers. You can apply to jobs directly from a business's Page, in the “Jobs” section of your “Explore” menu, or at

What does the ideal potential employee’s Facebook profile look like for a hiring manager?

It depends on the kind of job you're looking for. It's important to be your authentic self, and you can tailor your “Public” profile easily to roles you're applying for by sharing industry news articles or thoughtful posts. Remember to highlight your strengths and experience in your job application.

What tips do you have for folks who are cleaning up their profile before they begin applying to jobs?

1. Tell your story:
Make your profile photo public, fill out the “About” section, add your skills to the “Professional Skills” section, and link to your website, blog, or portfolio.

2. Keep the private stuff private: Control who can see what by selecting “Public,” “Friends Only,” or “Only Me” for individual posts and pieces from your profile.

3. Make your profile relevant: Like your resume, you should tailor your profile to the position you're applying for by publicly sharing industry news articles or thoughtful posts timed to your job search.

4. Check out how others see you: Use the “View As” function to ensure that your profile looks the way you want it to from the perspective of a potential employer.

What are the big no-no’s for people applying for a job in terms of Facebook profiles?

Don't apply without researching. Learn everything you can about the company, the role, and the industry, so you're showing the potential employer that you're knowledgeable and excited about the opportunity. And even more importantly, find roles that are the right fit for you.

What resources are available to people job-hunting on Facebook?

Here is how our job application tool works:

Facebook makes it simple for people to find new opportunities, submit applications, and track their candidacy. People can now apply to jobs posted by Pages they like, and explore jobs with the new bookmark or in their News Feeds.

In the “Jobs” dashboard, people can quickly and easily click the “Apply Now” button to submit an application. The application will populate the job history and other existing information available in the candidate's Facebook profile, which can be edited prior to submission, making it easy to apply to multiple jobs without starting from scratch on each application

When an application is submitted, a Messenger thread will open between the business and applicant, so people can have direct contact with the potential employer, and easily confirm when their information has been received.

Businesses will only be able to see the information an applicant provides them directly, and in their public Facebook profile.

This feature is currently available to Page admins and job seekers in over 40 countries on iOS, Android, and web. For local business owners looking to hire, check out for more.

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08/15/2018 04:20 AM
New York research company discusses different means to gathering data

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nonfiction Research is a young research-based company from New York looking to approach research for businesses differently.

"We're basically an independent research company that helps other companies understand their customers better," the company's co-founder, Gunny Scarfo, tells ABC News. He worked as the head of Digital Strategy at VICE Media before founding Nonfiction Research with Ben Zeidler.

What makes them unique, Scarfo says, is the "unusual things we do to get to the truth" of how people are feeling. He recently spoke with ABC News about their approach:

"Traditional market research is really powerful at answering an easy question that people have no problems giving you information about. But a lot of modern challenges businesses are facing in understanding their customers need to go further than that. Nonfiction's approach is to try to get underneath the surface to get people to say things they might not say to market researchers."

Some of the strategies Scarfo and Zeidler employ to collect data include surveying rap lyrics to understand personal finance, bake with mothers to understand why they bake, and interview people in a prison unchaperoned.

Discussing their strategy, Scarfo adds, "Part of it is being willing to go where other researchers aren't willing to go and take angles that they aren't willing to take. And the other is to make a safe space."

The new study, The Secret Financial Lives of Americans, documents the financial stress many citizens experience, and how they veil their struggles on social media and in public. They found 52 percent of Americans have broken down into tears over money, 37 percent have gone to sleep hungry because of money, and 12 percent have stolen something they could not afford.

Scarfo likens the experience of many Americans to "superheroes, in reverse." He says many people project themselves as invincible in public, but lead a secret life of daily stress triggered by their finances.

Their research also examines how institutions struggles to meet the financial needs of Americans, such as helping them budget month-to-month and plan affordable vacations.

The company’s study is 100-pages and is based on four years of research. It can be found on the Nonfiction Research website.

As for Nonfiction Research's future plans, Scarfo hopes to explore "something where there's a gap between what people are really experiencing and feeling, and what businesses are delivering to them."

He plans to delve into topics such as medical care and privacy.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

New York research company discusses different means to gathering data


(NEW YORK) -- Nonfiction Research is a young research-based company from New York looking to approach research for businesses differently.


"We're basically an independent research company that helps other companies understand their customers better," the company's co-founder, Gunny Scarfo, tells ABC News. He worked as the head of Digital Strategy at VICE Media before founding Nonfiction Research with Ben Zeidler.

What makes them unique, Scarfo says, is the "unusual things we do to get to the truth" of how people are feeling. He recently spoke with ABC News about their approach:


"Traditional market research is really powerful at answering an easy question that people have no problems giving you information about. But a lot of modern challenges businesses are facing in understanding their customers need to go further than that. Nonfiction's approach is to try to get underneath the surface to get people to say things they might not say to market researchers."


Scarfo and Zeidler were collecting data for the company’s new study to better understand the personal financial situations of Americans. Some of the strategies they employed included surveying rap lyrics to understand personal finance, baking with mothers and asking questions about their financial situations, and interviewing people in a prison unchaperoned.


Discussing their strategy, Scarfo adds, "Part of it is being willing to go where other researchers aren't willing to go and take angles that they aren't willing to take. And the other is to make a safe space."


The new study, The Secret Financial Lives of Americans, documents the financial stress many citizens experience, and how they veil their struggles on social media and in public. They found 52 percent of Americans have broken down into tears over money, 37 percent have gone to sleep hungry because of money, and 12 percent have stolen something they could not afford.

Scarfo likens the experience of many Americans to "superheroes, in reverse." He says many people project themselves as invincible in public, but lead a secret life of daily stress triggered by their finances.


Their research also examines how institutions struggles to meet the financial needs of Americans, such as helping them budget month-to-month and plan affordable vacations.


The company’s study is 100-pages and is based on four years of research. It can be found on the Nonfiction Research website.


As for Nonfiction Research's future plans, Scarfo hopes to explore, "something where there's a gap between what people are really experiencing and feeling, and what businesses are delivering to them."

He plans to delve into topics such as medical care and privacy.


Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

08/15/2018 12:36 AM
US government buying $50 million of milk from dairy farmers

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it's buying 11 to 13 million gallons of milk from dairy farmers for $50 million and planning to send it to local food banks.

It's the first time the USDA program that buys surplus products has purchased liquid milk.

The acquisition is not related to the emergency assistance for farmers linked to President Donald Trump's tariff proposals, although dairy farmers have been hurt by trade issues related to NAFTA and declining demand for milk from cows.

The USDA is buying the milk under a program that allows the government to buy surplus food or agricultural products and redirect them to food banks or school-nutrition programs.

Hundreds of dairy farms have closed, citing economic pressure and government regulations, over the last 15 to 20 years. The Los Angeles Times reported that Califonia Republican Congressman David Valado lost his family farm this year and that 36 percent of dairy farms in the state closed between 2001 and 2017.

Industry and advocacy groups have called on the government to help.

"This purchase addresses one of our country's significant challenges -- hunger -- and, at the same time, will have a positive impact on the dairy industry at a time of significant market uncertainty," said Michael Dykes, the International Dairy Foods Association president and CEO. "The nation's milk processors welcome the opportunity."

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08/14/2018 11:49 PM
Southwest Airlines announces new rules for emotional support animals

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Southwest Airlines announced Tuesday that it will soon enforce new restrictions on customers traveling with emotional support animals.

Beginning September 17, only one dog or cat, either in a carrier or on a leash, will be allowed per customer on Southwest flights.

"Our updates are based on a careful review of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent enforcement guidance and feedback we received from our Customers, Employees, and several advocacy groups and animal-related organizations," the Dallas-based airline said on its community discussion forum,

Southwest’s policy says emotional support animals provide "support for an individual with a mental health-related disability and is not trained to perform a specific task(s) or work." They are distinct from trained service animals, which Southwest defines as animals "individually trained to perform a task(s) or work for a person with a physical and/or mental disability."

Customers who wish to travel with their emotional support animals on Southwest, once the changes are in effect, must present the airline with a "current letter" from their doctor or medical health professional on the day of their departure, the announcement said.

All emotional support and service animals are still required to be trained to behave in public, according to Southwest. Any animal that displays disruptive behavior can be denied boarding.

The change will make Southwest the only airline that limits emotional support animals to just dogs and cats, but it is not the first major carrier to adjust its emotional support animal rules.

Delta, United, American and JetBlue separately announced new restrictions earlier this year following a string of emotional support animal incidents, including a dog reportedly attacking a Delta passenger last year, and a woman who was denied boarding in January because her emotional support peacock failed to meet United’s guidelines.

Airlines are now not the only companies tightening their emotional support animal rules. Royal Caribbean also announced Tuesday that emotional support animals "may not sail onboard Royal Caribbean International ships," effective immediately.

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08/14/2018 07:28 PM
Vienna named world’s most livable city

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Move over, Melbourne -- the world has a new most livable city.

Vienna now tops the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual ranking, which is based on 30 factors including access to health care, education, infrastructure, culture, the environment and political and social stability.

This year, the Austrian capital, home to 1.76 million people, beat out Melbourne, which had held the top slot for the past seven years. Canadian, Australian and Japanese cities scored the other top spots, with Melbourne, Osaka, Calgary, Sydney, Vancouver, Toronto, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Adelaide rounding out the top 10. Many U.S. cities, in contrast, saw their rankings fall this year, including Atlanta and Chicago, thanks in part to security issues, according to the Economist.

Located on the Danube river, Vienna boasts a rich artistic and architectural legacy. It is home to landmark buildings such as the Schoenbrunn Palace and the colorful social housing project designed by famous artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The city was also the birthplace of the Art Nouveau movement, spearheaded by artists such as Gustav Klimt.

Aside from these historic attractions that draw tourists to the city, locals say Vienna has much to offer residents.

"People think about Vienna as very a classical city, one for older people, but it does have its wild side and nightlife -- there’s always something going on," said Alexander Pearl, a project manager from Israel who has been living in Vienna for the past four years.

Pearl said he also loves the city’s abundance of parks and green spaces.

"It is a big city but it feels very relaxed and calm in a way -- there’s and space and it’s not very crowded," he added.

Public transportation is extensive and less expensive in Vienna than other European capitals such as Berlin or London. For example, a yearly public transportation ticket costs just one Euro per day, or approximately U.S. $415 annually.

The city is also famous for fostering thinkers and creators such as Sigmund Freud and painter Egon Schiele.

"Ultimately, Vienna is a city that is indulgent to individuals. The culture, state, and society all make it very easy to live here in peace and solitude without particular hassle or disruption," said Teddy Allen, a consultant who hails from England and said he plans to call the city home for the long run. "Perhaps for this reason, people have come here throughout the decades to gently go mad and wallow in introspection."

The Economist list includes 140 cities in total. The bottom 10 cities, by contrast, were ones that have recently experienced political instability and security issues.

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08/10/2018 08:10 PM
Fifty thousand passengers across Europe expected to be affected by employee strike against Ryanair

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) -- Around 50,000 passengers across Europe are expected to be affected this weekend as Ryanair is forced to cancel almost 400 flights due to a 24-hour walkout by staff in five European countries over a dispute about pay and working conditions.

Ryanair employees are on strike in Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, forcing the firm to cancel 394 flights.

The Irish airline, which last year carried its one billionth passenger, is Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier.

It said in a statement that the action was “unjustified” and “regrettable”, but said that 85 percent of its flights would still be operated, and said that it had done all that it could to prevent the dispute escalating into industrial action, adding that the “majority of customers affected have already been re-accommodated on another Ryanair flight.”

But some people took to Twitter to complain at how Ryanair handled the debacle after their flights were canceled.

Unions representing Ryanair staff said they want work rules to be governed by the laws of countries where employees are based, not the laws in Ireland where Ryanair is headquartered.

The action is the latest in a series of disagreements between Ryanair management and staff after the firm recognized its employee unions in late 2017 and entered into negotiations.

In July, around 300 flights were cancelled in similar strikes in Portugal, Spain and Belgium.

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