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Facebook Has Second Outage in Two Months


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Facebook is back after an outage that knocked the social network for an hour on Friday.

It was the second time the social network was down in as many months.

Users who tried accessing their accounts on Friday were greeted with the message: "Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can."

Facebook last experienced a half hour outage last month in the middle of the night.

A message posted on Facebook's developer's portal around 12 p.m. ET said the social network "is currently experiencing an issue that is affecting all API and web surfaces. Our engineers detected the issue quickly and are working to resolve it ASAP. We'll update shortly."

A spokesperson told ABC News last month that the company "ran into an issue while updating the configuration of one of our software systems."

"This doesn't happen often, but when it does we make sure we learn from the experience so we can make Facebook that much more reliable," the spokesperson said.

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NY Receptionist Crowned World Microsoft Word Champion


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You might be familiar with Microsoft Office's suite of programs, including Microsoft Word, but did you know there is a world championship for Microsoft Word?

This week, Dominique Howard, 21, a receptionist at JPMorgan Chase in New York City, became the first woman to win the title in the competition's 13-year history.

When asked on a YouTube video about her victory at the national and global level, Howard said, "I didn't think I was going to win again -- and I did, yet again, which is even more amazing than the first time. It's an amazing feeling. I'm thrilled."

Howard did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for further comment.

The games started with a pool of 400,000 participants around the world who took Microsoft Office Specialist certification. After competing in the national-level, Howard made it to the global stage with 123 finalists in Anaheim, California.

Howard and the other finalists took a timed exam in which they had to recreate a Word document by following instructions. They were scored on accuracy and speed, said a spokeswoman for the competition organizer, Certiport.

Howard, who learned about the competition through STRIVE New York, an East Harlem workforce development center, took home a $5,000 scholarship as her winnings.

While anyone can claim they know Microsoft Word, not everyone can complete tasks under the pressure of a clock.

In one timed challenge, contestants were presented with an image of a Word document with an image of Saturn and other elements such as text boxes and tables.

They were asked the recreate the document with the same specifications, such as the same margins and horizontal and vertical height of each object.

Contestants were tested in Microsoft Office Word 2007 and 2010. Starting next year, the competition will test Word 2010 and 2013. The competition presented challenges in six subjects:

  • 1. Creating and Customizing Documents (including making documents and contents easier to find)
  • 2. Formatting Content (such as controlling pagination)
  • 3. Working with Visual Content (including formatting text graphically)
  • 4. Organizing Content (like modifying tables)
  • 5. Reviewing Documents (including comparing and merging document versions)
  • 6. Sharing and Securing Content (such as preparing documents for sharing)

The second-place award went to Olubunmi Agusto of Nigeria, followed by Hannah Wilson of the United Kingdom, in third place.

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Stocks Fall for Second Day in a Row


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks fell again on Friday after a steep plunge on Thursday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 68.97 points, ending the day at 16,493.31. The Nasdaq fell 17.13 points to 4,352.64, while the S&P 500 fell 5.45 points, closing at 1,925.22.

Unusually generous incentives and big discounts helped United States auto sales shine in July, as Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and Chrysler all reported double-digit sale gains last month compared to a year ago. Analysts say this could have been the best July for car sales since 2006.

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Why the Crosswalk Buttons in Your City May Not Work


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Why did the pedestrians cross the road? Before they got to the other side, they likely pressed crosswalk buttons. But in Dallas and New York City, walkers who pushed the metal buttons likely pushed placebos that did nothing to influence traffic patterns.

Only about 9 percent of crosswalk buttons in New York actually work, a New York City Department of Transportation spokeswoman told ABC News.

"The majority of traffic signals in New York are programmed with a fixed-time operation so the 'walk' message is displayed automatically during each phase of the signal cycle," the spokeswoman said. "Citywide, there are about 100 active push-to-cross pedestrian buttons."

Those 100 active buttons are referred to as "actuated" pedestrian signals, she said.

"At intersections where buttons are no longer functional, the 'walk' message still gets displayed since the signal operates on a regular interval," she said.

New York City's Department of Transportation estimated there were about 1,000 intersections with "decommissioned buttons."

"These are removed when capital projects are scheduled for locations that include them or these intersections undergo other modifications," the spokeswoman said.

In Dallas, nearly all of the 200 traffic signals operate on a pre-timed basis, so hitting crosswalk buttons do nothing, the Dallas Morning News reported on Wednesday.

The ineffective or decommissioned buttons weren't a surprise to an engineer for a crosswalk button manufacturer.

Zane Sapp, senior engineer from Campbell Company in Idaho, which sells the buttons to the cities through a distributor, said it's up to cities to connect the buttons to the traffic signals.

Campbell Company manufactures all sorts of crosswalk buttons in the U.S. Some are marketed as audible buttons to inform the blind of the waiting time to cross the street.

“I would guess the majority of Americans don’t know how traffic signals work," he told ABC News.

He suggested cities educate residents and visitors to improve the efficiency of transportation and movement.

In those intersections where crosswalk buttons do influence traffic, he said pushing multiple buttons to cross a street in different directions can slow drivers and pedestrians alike.

Cities can provide technology enhancements for impatient walkers, he said, including new buttons that provide an audio or visual confirmation such as a light that the press was registered.

He said, "People like to press buttons 20 times."

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Uber, Lyft Drivers and Customers Kiss and Tell


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Uber and Lyft customers might be getting a bit more than a ride home from some of their drivers.

Users of the secret-sharing app Whisper are sharing purported tales of trysts with their civilian chauffeurs -- some saying they went so far as to have consensual sex with the driver they hired.

Others -- both drivers and customers -- just say they've been tempted to hook up with someone they met through the popular ride-sharing apps.

The stories are tantalizing but anonymous. Whisper officials told ABC News that they've vetted accounts of several people who said they have had sex with an Uber or Lyft driver, and of drivers who said they had sex with customers. And based on things such as geo-location of the posts and direct inquiries, they said they have no reason to believe the posts are bogus.

"These are legit whispers," said Slade Sohmer, head of news for Whisper.

Jennifer Mullin, a spokeswoman for Uber, said it is definitely against the company's policy for a driver to have sexual relations with a customer.

"Safety is our number one priority," Uber said in a statement. "We always follow up with allegations or complaints of misconduct and take them very seriously. We expect and require driver partners to act professionally while on the road, and hope that riders and drivers are prioritizing safety in their personal lives as well."

Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assaulting riders and even kidnapping a woman in one case in the past, and the company suspends drivers immediately after such allegations.

Lyft did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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What Does Judy McGrath's Appointment Mean to Amazon?


Amazon(NEW YORK) -- What does Amazon's newest addition to its board of directors signal? A desire for the Seattle-based tech company to get a seat next to Hollywood's power players? A stronger commitment to women in the boardroom?

Amazon gets all of the above with Judith "Judy" McGrath, the former chief executive officer and chair of Viacom's MTV Networks Company.

"Her experience as a CEO and her entrepreneurial leadership will make her an outstanding addition to our board," an Amazon spokesperson told ABC News.

In addition to her skills as a chief executive of a large company, McGrath, 62, will likely fit in with Amazon's entrepreneurial ventures. As Amazon points out in the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filing about McGrath's appointment, she has been the president of Astronauts Wanted: No Experience Necessary, a multimedia joint venture between McGrath and Sony Music Entertainment, since June 2013.

Amazon Prime's streaming video business is fiercely competing with Netflix's award-winning content making machine that includes Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards.

McGrath's Astronauts Wanted produces off-beat online video content with a focus on millenials.

But the addition of McGrath doesn't necessarily signal a potential acquisition of a studio or production company, said RJ Hottovy, an analyst with Morningstar.

"I think it does reinforce Amazon's commitment to content," he said.

Hottovy added that the announcement comes on the heels of the conference call during which Amazon's Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak mentioned that original content will represent $100 million in costs during the third quarter.

Amazon already has a selection of lesser-known original shows, including Alpha House, a comedy starring John Goodman.

McGrath will bring her expertise of entertainment to a board that is heavy with tech and finance backgrounds. She is now the third woman on Amazon's board of 10 directors. Seven of the Fortune 500 companies have boards that have a female presence of 40 percent.

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Marie Curie to Pioneer New Doll Line


Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Move over, Barbie, and make room for Marie Curie.

Miss Possible, an Illinois-based start-up, hopes to inspire girls with a new line of dolls. The goal of these dolls is to encourage girls to explore science, engineering and leadership.

The idea for the company grew out of a perceived need. University of Illinois alumna Supriya Hobbs and University of Illinois student Janna Eaves noticed very few women in their engineering classes. It is a trend that extends beyond the classroom -- the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workforce is 24 percent women, according to a Department of Commerce report.

Utilizing what Hobbs describes as a "shared passion of sharing engineering with kids," the two founded Miss Possible in January. They recruited seven other University of Illinois students, and together the budding company has drawn up plans for their first doll: Marie Curie.

Curie's accomplishments as one of the world's most renowned chemists and the only person to have won two Nobel Prizes in two different science categories made her a clear choice for the first doll.

"She definitely is an excellent role model," said Hobbs in an interview with ABC News. "We thought her story of overcoming obstacles was especially enchanting."

The founders have obstacles of their own. In order to actually create the product, Miss Possible has launched a crowd-funded Indiegogo campaign. The company hopes to raise $75,000 by Aug. 16 to fund manufacturing costs.

The campaign has already raised over $58,000 from more than 800 backers and received the support of groups like the Society of Women Engineers and Goldieblox. Hobbs is optimistic about reaching their goal.

"We have a mission that seems to align with a lot of people right now," she said.

Each doll will come with an interactive application that teaches about that historic individual. It will contain interactive activities inspired by the person's achievements. For example, the Marie Curie app will show girls how to make a compass.

"The app takes it one step forward to help these girls not just be inspired by this woman and her story but also build the skills that will help them succeed in these fields," Hobbs said.

Once it successfully launches with Marie Curie, Miss Possible has plans to expand the line of dolls. Bessie Coleman, the first female African-American pilot, and Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, are on the roster.

"We think there are a lot opportunities to expand on this and show more and more role models and start reaching into different avenues,” Hobbs said. “We would love to have these dolls in the hands of girls around the world."

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Unemployment Rate Edges Up to 6.2% as 209K Jobs Added in July


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. economy created 209,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The latest unemployment figures came in just below economists expectations last month.  July marked the sixth straight month where more than 200,000 jobs were added.
 
The unemployment rate inched up to 6.2 percent, a suggestion that more people may now be looking for work, which could be a good sign. Job gains occurred mainly in professional and business services, manufacturing, retail trade, and construction.
 
May and June employment numbers were revised to show that 15,000 more jobs were added in those months than initially reported.
 
The labor force participation rate and the number of long-term unemployed were little changed in July, at 62.9 percent and 3.2 million, respectively.
 
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Domestic Auto Sales Surge in July


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. auto sales increased in July with the major auto manufacturers reporting heavy sales growth over the last year. 

Consumers were attracted to enticing summer sales incentives like rebates and big discounts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

July sales were up for General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Nissan, which all reported gains compared to the same period last year.  GM and Ford sales were up 9.4 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, over last year.  Chrysler sales climbed 20 percent and Nissan sales were up 11.4 percent.

New car sales have steadily improved since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, when the major U.S. automakers took a huge hit in sales.  Now the economy, which added more than 200,000 jobs in July, is showing growth and has helped to push demand for new vehicles higher.

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Harley-Davidson Recalls 3,300 Bikes over Ignition Switch Issues


Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Issues with ignition switches have led General Motors to recall millions of vehicles. And now, the problem is affecting some motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson is recalling approximately 3,361 bikes because certain calibrations could lead to engine vibrations that move the ignition switch from "on" to "accessory only."

"If the vibration causes the ignition switch to move to the accessory only position, the motorcycle would stall while riding, increasing the risk of a crash," according to documents posted on the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's site Friday.

The affected motorcycles include FXDL Dyna Low Riders from the model year 2014.5 that were manufactured between Jan. 6 and June 19 of this year. So far, no injuries or crashes have been reported.

Owners of the affected bikes will be notified by Harley-Davidson and can get a free replacement of the engine mount bracket assembly and ignition switch knob.

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Stock Market Plunges on Thursday


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --The stock market plunged Thursday, wiping out all of the gains this month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 317.06 points to 16,563.30. The Nasdaq fell 93.13 points to 4,369.77, and the S&P 500 dropped 39.40 points to 1,930.67.

This follows weak earnings at companies like Exxon Mobil, Yum Brands, and Whole Foods. Investors may also be worried about tension with Russia, fighting in Gaza, or debt in Argentina.

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Home Prices Skyrocketing in San Francisco


iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Affording a home in the San Francisco area is becoming more difficult.

As the tech economy booms in the Bay Area, numbers released on Thursday show that home prices there are skyrocketing.

The median home price in San Francisco is now over $1 million, according to the firm DataQuick.

The firm DataQuick says more than 5,700 homes sold for at least $1 million in the Bay Area during the second quarter, the most since the firm started tracking the market in 1988. More than 1,100 of the homes went for at least $2 million -- also a record.

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Tesla 'Gigafactory' May Expand Electric Car Market


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Electric-car maker Tesla Motors and Panasonic, the Japanese-owned electronics firm, have signed an agreement to build a giant battery manufacturing facility in the U.S.

The "Gigafactory," as it is known, would help Tesla become a mass manufacturer of electric cars.

Per the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the facility while Panasonic manufactures and supplies cylindrical lithium-ion cells.

"[T]he Gigafactory represents a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized," JB Straubel, chief technical officer and co-founder of Tesla, said in a joint statement Thursday.

Panasonic's executive vice president, Yoshihiko Yamada, added: "Panasonic's lithium-ion battery cells combine the required features for electric vehicles such as high capacity, durability and cost performance. And I believe that once we are able to manufacture lithium-ion battery cells at the Gigafactory, we will be able to accelerate the expansion of the electric vehicle market."

Tesla projects the plant will employ approximately 6,500 people by 2020.

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Target Hires Pepsi Executive as New CEO


Target(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Target announced on Thursday it has hired Brian Cornell as its new chairman and CEO.

Cornell, 55, most recently served as the CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods. Prior to that, he held the title of president and CEO of Sam’s Club, CEO of Michaels Stores, Inc., and was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Safeway.

Cornell replaces John Mulligan, who became Target's interim CEO when Gregg Steinhafel resigned from the top post in May following a giant data breach that exposed tens of millions of customers' credit and debit cards.

"I am honored and humbled to join Target as the first CEO hired from outside the company," Cornell said in a statement Thursday. "I am committed to empowering this talented team to realize its full potential, lead change and strengthen the love guests have for this brand."

Cornell's new title will be effective starting Aug. 12.


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