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Apple CEO Tim Cook 'Proud to Be Gay'


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Tim Cook is “proud to be gay.” The Apple CEO makes this declaration in an essay titled “Tim Cook Speaks Up” for Bloomberg Businessweek.

While Cook has never been secretive about his sexuality, he admits in the written piece, “this wasn’t an easy choice,” and that he has not publicly acknowledged the subject either -- until now.

“So let me be clear,” he writes, “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Cook says privacy remains important to him and does not consider himself to be an activist, but “I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others.”

“So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade off with my own privacy,” he continues.

Earlier this week, Cook encouraged lawmakers in his home state of Alabama to move toward equality for all people, insisting the state had moved too slow on LGBT and racial issues.

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Microsoft Unveils New Wearable Fitness Device


Microsoft(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft introduced a new wearable health and fitness device that is on sale Thursday.

The Microsoft Band is $199 and works with Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

The device joins the competitive health wearables market with the likes of Fitbit, providing calorie counts and sleep quality measurements.

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Hasbro Makes Move to Help Pay for 'Operation' Creator's Surgery


M.L. Gray/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Toy giant Hasbro has stepped forward to help the creator of one of it’s most popular board games, Operation, pay for an operation of his own.

John Spinello, who created what would become Operation, the classic board game that allows players to test their fine motor skills using a tweezer, is in need of a reported $25,000 in oral surgery.

When Spinello -- who sold his game for $500 in the 1960s to a toy company that would then license it to game giant Milton Bradley -- was unable to pay his medical costs, his friends, toy designers Tim Walsh and Peggy Brown, started a fund on CrowdRise.com to raise the money.

After the fundraising drive went viral, Hasbro stepped forward Wednesday to announce they will purchase the original Operation game prototype that Spinello had planned to put up for auction.

Hasbro took ownership of Operation in the 1980s when it purchased Milton Bradley.

“Today we informed Mr. Spinello that Hasbro plans to purchase the prototype with the hope that the funds will help to defray his medical costs,” the company said in a statement to ABC News. "We plan to proudly display it at Hasbro’s global headquarters in Pawtucket, RI to honor his contribution to Hasbro’s gaming history.”

In Operation, players carefully guide a tweezer through the body of a “patient” to remove his illnesses. If their tweezer motions aren’t precise and they go out of bounds they could set off the dreaded buzzer.

Spinello and his wife, Madeline, said in a statement to ABC News that they feel “really good” that Hasbro has purchased the prototype.

“It will have a happy home in their museum. That’s where it belongs,” the pair wrote. “As for medical costs -- everything that is contributing to the success of the campaign is going to make life easier for John [Spinello] and what he needs medically. We feel positive about Hasbro purchasing the prototype -- we’re very happy about it.”

The CrowdRise page created by Brown and Walsh has now received over $26,000 in donations, exceeding its $25,000 goal.

“What can we say? We woke up this morning to $25,200!,” Walsh posted on the website Thursday morning. "We can’t thank you all enough.”

“We’re working on a special video thank you coming soon,” he wrote.

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Windowless Planes to Hit Skies in Next Decade


Centre for Process Innovation(NEW YORK) -- Imagine flying on an airplane and being able to see the clouds all around you. That’s what one company plans on achieving in the next 10 years -- an airplane without windows.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a U.K.-based cutting edge technology association, envisioned the next generation aircraft in an effort to conserve fuel, while drastically transforming the customer experience.

“Removing the windows will significantly reduce the weight of the aircraft, saving fuel and therefore reducing operational costs,” says Matthew Herbert, marketing manager for CPI. “The windows will be replaced by high quality flexible OLED displays that are connected to digital cameras integrated into the exterior of the plane.”

Lower operational costs, the company claims, will in turn result in reduced airfares.

In addition to the windowless element, passengers can surf the web, enjoy in-flight entertainment, or change the views from different angles of the plane.

A few months ago, Spike Aerospace, Inc. introduced the concept behind the "world's first supersonic jet," called the Spike S-512, which also has a windowless feature.

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Jobless Claims Jump to 287K


iStock/Thinkstoc(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims were higher last week, increasing by 3,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Oct. 25, the number of people filing for benefits jumped to 287,000. The previous week claims stood at 284,000, revised up from 283,000.

The Labor Department said there were no "special factors" impacting that week's figures.

The four-week moving average decreased, however, falling by just 250 to 281,000.

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IRS Announces Tax Guidance Related to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa


MariuszBlach/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Internal Revenue Service issued tax guidelines regarding charitable and other relief related to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The IRS press release notes two tax designations designed to promote donations and aid for West Africa. Employees, the agency says, "may donate their vacation, sick or personal leave in exchange for employer cash payments made to qualified tax-exempt organizations providing relief" to Ebola victims in West Africa. In doing so, an employee would forego leave in exchange for employer cash payments made before Jan. 1, 2016. That donated leave will not be included in income or wages of the employee, and employers can deduct the amount of the cash payment.

The second guideline allows American employees in West Africa to receive reimbursement from an employer-sponsored charitable organization for medical expenses incurred as a result of the outbreak, without the reimbursement being included in the individual's income for federal tax purposes.

The announcement follows similar steps taken following other international disasters, including the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the Haiti earthquake.

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Federal Reserve Ends Bond-Buying Program, Will Keep Interest Rates Low


Cameron Whitman/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it would end its recession-era bond purchasing program, noting improvement in the labor market and the financial landscape.

According to a press release, the Federal Open Market Committee found at their September meeting that with the economy growing at a moderate pace and improved labor market conditions, the bond-buying program can be ended this month. "Moreover, the [Fed] continues to see sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing progress toward maximum employment in a context of price stability," the release read.

The Fed did, however, reaffirm its belief that interest rates should remain where they are for the time being.

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Wall Street Dips on Wednesday, Fed to End Bond-Buying Program


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets fell on Wednesday, following a strong start to the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 31.44 to 16,974.31, falling back below 17,000 just one day after it jumped back over the milestone.

The Nasdaq slumped 15.06, closing at 4,549.23, while the S&P 500 slid 2.75 to a finish of 1,982.30.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced that it would end its bond-buying program later this month. That decision was made after the Federal Open Market Committee determined that "there has been a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market" since the program was implemented.

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UPS Driver Caught Mishandling $12K Package on Video


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- UPS reps were “horrified” recently when they watched a store’s surveillance video showing one of their drivers treating a package with little care, a store associate said.

“[The UPS driver] just basically threw the thing out the door,” Ray Martel of East Hills Instruments in Westbury, New York, told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.

On Monday, Martel said the UPS driver -- who was not the store’s “regular” guy -- delivered a box to East Hills Instruments.

When the driver was told that the box needed to be returned to the sender because East Hills did not accept cash-on-delivery items, he became disgruntled, Martel said Wednesday.

“He wasn’t happy to have to bring it back,” he said.

As the driver left the store with the box, containing a sensitive $12,000 pressure gauge, Martel said he went to take a phone call. Later, though, he said the store’s receptionist suggested that he watch the tape.

In the video, the worker flips the box out of the store, not using a cart or a dolly. Martel said the driver didn’t ask for one even though the store has a hand truck.

“It was disappointing to see that happen,” Martel said. “[It was] not the right thing to do. ...If he needed help, he could’ve just asked.”

On Tuesday, a UPS representative came to the store to view the tape.

In a statement, the company said: “UPS drivers are trained to handle every package with care. … UPS does not condone this specific driver’s behavior.”

The company apologized to the customer, saying that the problem would be investigated and that corrective action would be taken against the driver.

Martel said tracking late Wednesday showed that the box was still en route to Pittsburgh.

He said he was concerned about the box and that he and UPS were waiting to hear back from the client on the gauge’s condition.

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Apple Pay Competitor CurrentC Falls Victim to Hackers


CurrentC(NEW YORK) -- CurrentC, the mobile payments solution being tested by Walmart and other retailers, confirmed on Wednesday it has been hacked.

"Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of our CurrentC pilot program participants and individuals who had expressed interest in the app," Linda Walsh, a spokeswoman for Merchant Customer Exchange, told ABC News in a statement.

"Many of these email addresses are dummy accounts used for testing purposes only. The CurrentC app itself was not affected," Walsh said.

She added that the breach was communicated to the app's test users and to the group's merchant partners -- among them Walmart, Target and 7-Eleven.

The mobile payments solution was quietly announced in September, but was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week when it was reported that some retailers involved in the development of CurrentC had taken measures to disable or alter their NFC readers so Apple Pay, a competitor, cannot be used.

A consortium of retailers, including Best Buy, 7-Eleven and Target, are members of the Merchant Customer Exchange, which announced last month that it is working on the mobile wallet, which is expected to be a direct competitor to Apple Pay.

Before the hack was confirmed, Dekkers Davidson, CEO of the Merchant Customer Exchange, posted a blog Wednesday offering new details on CurrentC, user security and why the mobile wallet and Apple Pay will never compete in the same store.

Blocking Apple Pay

Davidson's message is clear: Retailers are either in or they're out.

"When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively and we’re proud of the long list of merchants who have partnered with us," Davidson wrote. "Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines."

Privacy

While Apple Pay promises to keep your data private, CurrentC is all about letting merchants have more information about what their customers are doing.

Davidson said customers and merchants will be able "to make informed decisions regarding how information can be shared" via a privacy dashboard. MCX may see "limited information" on prescription purchases, such as location and transaction amount, but will "adhere to strict rules regarding the privacy of consumers’ information."

Data Security

CurrentC will store financial information in a cloud vault, according to a release detailing the service. A "token placeholder" will be used to make transaction, ensuring a user's sensitive financial data isn't exposed.

MCX said the mobile wallet will offer "merchant loyalty programs and instant coupon savings, all stored on the phone and available right at the point-of-sale."

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Chrysler Recalls 380,000 Trucks over Fuel-Heater Housing Issue


Chrysler(AUBURN HILLS, Mich.) -- Chrysler is recalling 381,876 trucks worldwide over an issue with fuel-heater housings that could lead to a fire.

The affected vehicles are mostly in the U.S. and include 2010-2014 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups along with 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs equipped with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engines.

In a statement Wednesday, the automaker says a terminal connector near the fuel heater in these vehicles "may be subject to friction-induced corrosion. This condition may lead to overheating and potential fuel leakage."

So far, Chrysler is aware of two cases regarding this issue. In both cases, the fuel-heater housings showed signs of overheating but no fires were reported. There have also been no injuries or accidents connected to this recall.

Owners of affected vehicles will be notified and will have faulty parts replaced free of charge.

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Hewlett Packard Unveils New Sprout Computer


Hewlett Packard(NEW YORK) -- Hewlett Packard unveiled a new computer Wednesday that is so intuitive you probably already know how to use it.

Called "Sprout," the dual-screen computer is being billed as a game changer in the desktop market by seamlessly marrying the physical and digital worlds.

The desktop unit looks like a computer, but where the magic happens is in the "Sprout Illuminator" system, which includes a scanner, depth sensor, high resolution camera and a projector.

The result is dimensional images that are integrated into the digital work space and can easily be shared. Users can create collages, designs and collaborate with friends around the world -- all while using a personal, hands-on approach.

"Sprout is a long-term play at a long-term bet," Brad Short, distinguished technologist at Hewlett Packard and the inventor of Sprout, told ABC News. "It has that 'pour water on the plant and it will grow' spirituality inside the company. It means a lot to us."

Featuring a 23-inch diagonal full HD touch screen and a 20-point touch mat, Sprout is the first product available under Hewlett Packard's "Blended Reality" ecosystem.

Short said the idea for Sprout was born a few years ago when his daughter kept bringing home artwork. They wanted to scan it and share it with family, however a flatbed scanner crushed the projects.

"I was looking for ways to revolutionize the scanning process," Short said. He got to work and created the first prototype of the device, marrying a computer and a small projector.

Five years later, Sprout is making its public debut -- and Short said the possibilities for creation and collaboration are infinite. Potential users include everyone from fashion designers and home decorators to the everyday user wanting a way to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues around the world.

Users can even digitally scrawl on the touch pad making it easy to share notes or even a real-time game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

"It evolved into a way to communicate remotely," Short said. "The idea of using a product and placing things on the desk [touch pad]...that became another really big inventive part of the experience we were trying to achieve."

Sprout is available for pre-orders in the United States beginning Wednesday and will be in select retail stores on Nov. 9 for a starting price of $1,899. Hewlett Packard is expected to announce an international roll out plan at a later date.

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Elon Musk Called Orbital Sciences' Rocket Design a 'Joke' in 2012


NASA/Joel Kowsky(NEW YORK) -- Almost exactly two years before Orbital Sciences' rocket exploded Tuesday during a launch in Virginia, SpaceX founder Elon Musk mocked his competitor, calling its rocket design a "joke."

Orbital Sciences Corp., headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, made the Antares rocket for NASA to supply the International Space Station. Investigators are now trying to determine what went wrong with the launch before a safety officer sent a self-destruct command Tuesday evening.

While discussing a possible SpaceX mission to Mars, Musk discussed the failings of large aerospace firms with Wired Magazine. These included an aversion to risk as well as the overuse of "legacy components."

"The results are pretty crazy," Musk said in the 2012 interview. "One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the '60s. I don’t mean their design is from the '60s -- I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the '60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere."

Musk, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

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Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' Campaign Draws Social Media Outrage


Victoria's Secret(NEW YORK) — A recently-launched Victoria's Secret campaign is coming under a social media firestorm for what some consider body shaming.

The company, long known for featuring beautiful models with enviable figures, may have taken things one step too far with its "The Perfect 'Body'" advertisements. On its web site, the campaign features a row of 10 underwear-clad women, at least three of whom have visible ribs. The only model who might be considered a size more typical of a woman who is not an underwear model is also the only one who has her back to the camera.

The perfect body campaign is part of the Body by Victoria line of lingerie.

"The Perfect 'Body'" has ignited a Twitter firestorm and a Change.org petition. The petition calls for an apology and for the company to "take responsibility for the unhealthy and damaging message that their wording ‘The Perfect ‘Body’ sends out to society about women’s bodies and how they should be judged."

 

I don't see why Victoria Secret wants people to think the perfect body is when your ribs are showing and you are just skin and bones.

— Megan Picha (@PICHA_chuu12) October 28, 2014

 

The petition has more than 2,800 signatures as of mid-morning Wednesday. It also calls for people who find the ad objectionable to take to social media with the hashtag #iamperfect.

 

it's the 21st century and we still have to tell big corporate companies to stop body image shaming young girls #iamperfect #victoriasecret

— ThatGirlCalledRuth (@GirlCalledRuth) October 29, 2014

 

Victoria Secret did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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Holiday Shoppers Putting Recession Woes Behind Them


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Are holiday shoppers ready to spend like they did before the Great Recession?

A new Gallup poll says that seems to be the case but things could change by Thanksgiving.

When asked how much they expect to spend, the average was $781, still off somewhat from the anticipated budget of $866 in 2007 but a lot better than the $616 estimate a year later.

The figure has been rising steadily since the recession and in one other piece of good news, Gallup says that the number of people who say they won’t spend as much as the previous year is at the lowest level since 2007.

Those who project they’ll spend more than in 2013 is 13 percent -- about the same as it is every year.

All things being equal, Gallup says that if consumers keep to their anticipated budget during November, overall spending could be 3.8 percent or higher than last year.

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