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Free Bread at Restaurants Hitting Endangered Status


Olive Garden(NEW YORK) -- It’s a familiar ritual: sit down at a restaurant, get bread, order and continue with your typical dining out experience. Except lately, restaurants are removing one part of that scenario: the free bread.

It has been a slow rise, starting with the occasional restaurant only offering bread upon request, leading up to this week when one of Olive Garden’s investors tried to nix the national Italian chain’s unlimited breadsticks.

“Endless salad and breadsticks are another contributor to food waste,” Starboard said in a report on how Olive Garden can improve.

The Italian mainstay fired back that is has no intention of heeding such advice, writing, “Olive Garden’s salad and breadsticks have been an icon of brand equity since 1982. It conveys Italian generosity...”

The restaurant “will continue to serve breadsticks with each meal,” Olive Garden spokesman Justin Sikora also confirmed to ABC News.

So rest easy, your unlimited breadsticks are safe. But are your other bread baskets?

“It makes sense as more and more people are avoiding carbohydrates, because they’re on the Paleo diet or going gluten-free,” Bret Thorn, senior food editor at Nation’s Restaurant News, told ABC News. “So why should a restaurant spend money to give you something you’re not going to eat?”

Restaurants like Roberta’s in New York City, Barnyard in Los Angeles and Roost in Houston go one step further than not serving free bread; they charge for it.

“Some restaurants are really going out of their way to make really excellent bread or source really excellent bread,” Thorn said. “So you can get a really great basket of delicious bread, often not just with butter, but with lardo [pork] or some other awesome topping.”

Other restaurants, such as Fire & Oak in Montvale, New Jersey, only offer free bread to customers who request it.

“The menu that we designed has burgers and sandwiches on the dinner menu and the trend when we opened was in general a lot of people having burgers for dinner, so at the same time with wasting food and people going more green and all those things coming together, we decided to only make it available on request, and it’s stated on the menu,” owner Joshua Dorras told ABC News. “We didn’t know what the reaction would be when we first opened, but it’s always been fine.”

Dorras has owned several restaurants over the years, and estimates thousands of dollars wasted on untouched bread.

“It was always a shame even when we used to do it automatically. You just keep throwing bread away, and it always seemed sad to throw that food away,” he said. “I’m sure if you added it up over the year and counted every piece of bead that you threw away, it would be thousands of dollars. It’s kind of like garnishing a plate with something you’re going to throw away every time. What’s the point?”

The trend has gotten so large that New York Times food critic Pete Wells penned an entire opinion editorial on the topic.

“When restaurants withhold bread, they can make us feel like children who can’t be trusted or guests who have overstayed their welcome,” he wrote. “It’s one of those times when we can see the sharp teeth of profit hiding behind the smile of hospitality. Never mind that a slice or two of bread can smooth out the restless, angry edge of hunger; the restaurant industry has decided that giving us bread when we first sit down means a lower check total. We know that’s what they’re thinking, too, just as we know that when they charge for bread they’ve stopped seeing this simple civility as a way to make us happy and started seeing it as a line item.”

It’s a fine line that Thorn acknowledges can be tricky to toe.

“I think restaurants have to be careful when they’re doing it, because if customers feel they are being nickel and dimed, they’ll really resent that. They’ll take it out on the server when they decide how much to tip and they also aren’t going to come back to their restaurant,” he cautioned. “You need to do the math to see if the amount of money you make is worth alienating customers. And customers have to decide if they really want to eat the bread.”

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So Long Overage Fees? New Suitcase Weighs Itself as It's Packed


TUL Thustrelie/Kickstarter(NEW YORK) -- A Kickstarter campaign for a suitcase with a built-in scale is hoping to raise 95,000 Australian dollars over the next two weeks to make this luggage dream a reality.

No more overage fees at the airport. No more frantic unpacking and repacking as the people behind you on the check-in line glare and the clocks ticks closer to take off.

That's the goal of the TUL, a suitcase prototype that's raised almost $14,000 so far. The built-in scale means no need to lift the bag onto the bathroom scale.

"Simply close the lid of the designated suitcase, and without having to entirely enclose the zips, the press of a single button will let you know the weight of your luggage," the Kickstarter page reads.

"By simply pressing an 'ON' button, the weight of your luggage will be displayed on the LCD screen. The scale will be automatically turned off after 1 minute to preserve battery life," according to the Kickstarter campaign.

TUL also comes with an external suitcase protection jacket and a luggage lock that satisfies Transportation Security Administration requirements.

One design flaw that may deter U.S. travelers: in this prototype, kilograms can not be switched to pounds, though that feature may be added at a later date.

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Jobless Claims Plunge Lower to 280K


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Jobless claims took a dive last week, decreasing by 36,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Sept. 13, the number of people filing for benefits fell to 280,000. The previous week claims stood at 316,000.

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

The four-week moving average slumped as well, falling by 4,750 to 299,500.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Pens Open Letter Reassuring Users of Commitment to Privacy


Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Apple CEO Tim Cook reaffirmed the company's respect for customers' privacy in an open letter on Wednesday, stating that the company does not sell customers' data or provide a backdoor for government agencies to invade users' privacy.

"Our business model is very straightforward," Cook writes. "We sell great products. We don't build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't 'monetize' the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you," the letter reads.

Simply put, Cook says, "our software and services are designed to make our devices better."

Cook acknowledged that the only part of the Apple brand that serves advertisers is iAd, a network that functions with the iTunes Radio service to help support advertisers. However, Cook notes, iAd "doesn't get data from health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service like Contacts or Mail." In fact, users can completely opt out of iAd if they choose.

"Finally," Cook wrote, "I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will."

Apple, Cook says, is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers. This commitment is borne our of a "deep respect" for users.

"We know your trust doesn't come easy," Cook admitted, "that's why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it."

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Replace Your Device Battery with Chewing Power?


File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(MONTREAL) -- A pair of mechanical engineers in Canada says they are developing a wearable device that could one day take the place of batteries in Bluetooth headsets, earpieces and hearing aids.  All a person has to do to make it work is chew.

According to a report by the BBC, Dr. Aidin Delnavaz and Dr. Jeremie Voix at the École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal have built a chin strap that harnesses energy from chewing and turns it into electricity.

The strap is made from a "smart" material that becomes electrically charged when stretched through the simple act of chewing.

When Dr. Delnavaz chewed gum for 60 seconds, they measured up to 18 microwatts of generated power. That's not a lot of juice, but the duo believes that adding layers of the material will make it efficient enough to generate useful amounts of power.  Twenty layers of the material would have a total thickness of just six mm.

The pair acknowledges the device would never be able to recharge a smartphone, but they do envision it being used in situations where people are already wearing a strap, such as individuals who work with heavy machinery and wear helmets and earpieces, and soldiers who wear head protection and communicate using earpieces.

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High-Tech Device Being Developed to Catch Motorists Who Text and Drive


iStock/Thinkstock(HARRISONBURG, Va.) -- Just when you were getting used to the idea of being caught speeding by a remote video camera comes news that a device similar to a radar gun is being developed to catch motorists who text while driving.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, ComSonics of Harrisonburg, Virginia, is working on a device that detects radio frequencies in a vehicle when someone is using a cellphone.

Company rep Malcolm McIntyre says the device is similar to what cable repairmen use to find a frequency leak in a damaged cable line.

McIntyre acknowledged there are privacy concerns, but said the device would not be able to decrypt the information being texted.

McIntyre says the device is “close to production” but it still must be approved by local and state authorities and adopted by law enforcement.

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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Join Uber


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will join a fellow former member of the Obama administration in the coming months as he takes on a voluntary role at Uber.

According to a post to the Uber website, Gates will join the ride-sharing company as chairman of Uber Military, a new program aimed at hiring service members, veterans and family of military members. "Transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging, but at Uber we understand that veterans are some of our nation's most talented and skilled leaders," the post says.

"Over the next 18 months," the post reads, "we will on-board 50,000 members of the military community to the Uber platform."

The post quotes Gates as saying he is, "proud to be a part of this unprecedented effort by a single company to ensure that tens of thousands of our nation's military members, veterans and spouses have access to a unique entrepreneurial opportunity."

Earlier this summer, former Obama Adviser David Plouffe announced that he would join Uber as senior vice president of policy and strategy.

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Federal Reserve: Interest Rates to Remain at Record Lows


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates near zero again -- at least until the economy gathers more steam.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday the continued sluggish job market is the reason the nation’s central bank won't raise interest rates this month.

"Still too many people who want jobs, but cannot find them. Too many who are working part-time, but would prefer full-time work," she said.

[ CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE ]

The Fed has kept lending rates to banks near zero since the Great Recession began.

It also plans to continue shrinking the number of assets it buys to prop up the economy, hoping the low rates alone help put more people back to work.

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Wall Street Gains on Positive Economic Reports


JaysonPhotography/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A pair of positive economic reports boosted Wall Street to another day of gains on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 24.95 to a 17156.92 finish.

The Nasdaq jumped 9.43 to 4562.19, while the S&P 500 closed back above 2000, gaining 2.59 to a close of 2001.57.

The Federal Reserve announced in a statement on Wednesday that its stimulus program will end next month, as planned, and short term interest rates will increase sometime next year.

In a separate report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that consumer prices dropped by 0.2 percent in August, the first drop in 16 months.

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Yelp, TinyCo Settle with FTC over Child Privacy Violation Accusations


evergreenpics/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A pair of companies settled charges filed by the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday after being accused of collecting personal data on children under the age of 13.

Online review company Yelp and mobile app developer TinyCo each settled separate charges that they collected children's information in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. "As people -- especially children -- move more of their lives onto mobile devices, it's important that they have the same consumer protections when they're using an app that they have when they're on a website," Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said. 

"Companies should take steps as they build and test their apps to make sure that children's information won't be collected without a parent's consent," Rich added.

Between 2009 and 2013, Yelp allegedly collected personal information including names, e-mail addresses and locations of its users, including those who registered with a date of birth that showed they were under 13 years old. Yelp, the FTC says, failed to utilize a functional age screen in its apps. The company settled on Wednesday, agreeing to a $450,000 civil penalty and a promise that they will delete all information collected from users who were under the age of 13 when they registered with Yelp.

TinyCo similarly collected e-mail addresses from users, including those under the age of 13, in some cases in exchange for in-game currency. TinyCo will pay a $300,000 civil penalty, delete all information from users under the age of 13, and submit a compliance report detailing its adherence to COPPA in one year.

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Storage Problems Plague Users on First Day of Apple iOS 8 Release


Apple(NEW YORK) -- Apple's new iOS 8 was released Wednesday, but users are already hitting a snag when it comes to freeing up storage space.

While the operating system refresh takes up around 1 GB of space, it requires at least a whopping 5 GB be free on your device in order to complete the download over the air -- something many users simply don't have.

The operating system makeover is being hailed as Apple's biggest ever because it comes with a slew of new updates to popular apps, including messages, photos and the keyboard.

If you don't want to delete your apps or get rid of your photos, there is another way to get the iOS update.

Connect your device to your computer and make sure you're running the latest version of iTunes. (You can check this by going to the iTunes help menu and clicking "check for updates.")

Once you're connected, it's time to update. If you're not prompted on your device, go to settings, general and software update to begin the download.

As the new iOS downloads, go watch a movie or sit down for a lavish meal as it may take a while.

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Nike Boots Adrian Peterson as Vikings Admit 'Mistake'


Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nike suspended its endorsement contract with Minnesota Viking's star running back Adrian Peterson Wednesday as the Vikings' leadership admitted they made a "mistake" when they said that Peterson could return to the team this week.

The team put Peterson on an exemption waiver Wednesday, making him ineligible to play, until child abuse charges against him for using a switch on his 4-year-old son are resolved. Peterson has said he is sorry for the "hurt" he inflicted on his son, but has insisted he is not a child abuser.

Nike’s decision to drop the 29-year-old star running back came a week after the popular sports brand said they were concerned and monitoring Peterson's legal situation closely. The company officially suspended their working relationship Wednesday.

“Nike in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns with the NFL,” Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said in a statement.

Vikings team owner Mark Wilf said Wednesday that Peterson will be on an exemption list until his legal proceedings have come to a close, though they will continue to pay his $11.75 million salary during that time.

Wilf would not go into why team executives benched Peterson for one game, then decided to let him play this coming Sunday, and then changed their minds and won approval to put Peterson on an exemption list.

"We made a mistake," Wilf said at a news conference Wednesday when asked why Peterson was green lighted to play and then put on the exemption list. "The main thing is getting it right. That’s how we came to this decision."

He said, however, that it was “absolutely not” done out of fear of fleeing sponsors. Several major sponsors have expressed their unhappiness with the flurry of domestic abuse accusations against NFL players including Peterson, Ray Rice and Greg Hardy.

“I spent time with Adrian yesterday…we came up with what we thought was the best resolution for everybody,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said at the conference. “He felt it was best for him to be able to step away to take care of his personal and legal matters.”

Rice, a Baltimore Ravens star running back, is under investigation for allegedly punching his wife unconscious in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino. He has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Hardy, a defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, was seen walking out of the team's stadium Wednesday as the team's coach confirmed that he will not be practicing Wednesday. Coach Ron Rivera did not give any details about what decision was made, but it comes as Hardy is under investigation for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend in June.

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Consumer Prices Drop 0.2% in August


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Consumer prices dipped 0.2 percent last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday, marking the first drop since April 2013.

Gas, airline tickets and clothing were cheaper in August, and most other core prices remained unchanged. But the same can't be said for some foods.

"We saw more than a 4 percent drop during the month of August in the prices at the pump. We needed those declines, because we did have increases at the grocery store," Mesirow Financial chief economist Diane Swonk said.

Prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs were up, she said, but "if you are a vegan you did ok, because fruit prices and non-alcoholic beverages fell."

Over the last 12 months, the government says consumer prices have increased 1.7 percent. That inflation rate is slightly lower than what the Federal Reserve would like to see for a healthy economy.

"This is something that is more disturbing to the Fed. The Federal Reserve would like to see a little hotter economy with more job gains rather than an economy that's cool to the touch," Swonk said.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak later Wednesday as the Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day meeting.

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Apple Guide Advises Android Users on How to Make the Switch to an iPhone


Apple(NEW YORK) -- When the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are released on Friday, Apple is betting that some Android users will be enticed to make the switch.

Apple has released a thorough guide advising Android users on how to move everything from photos, music and documents, off of their Android devices and onto an iPhone.

In order to make the process seamless, the guide advises users on various data copying apps to use, such as Copy My Data and PhotoSync, to make sure everything from their Android device is easily moved to their new iPhone.

Apple's App Store also includes many apps that may already be familiar to Android users. The guide advises users to search for app they're already using, install them and simply sign in with their existing user name and password.

Check out the guide here.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called the devices the "biggest advancement in the history of iPhones" and the "best iPhones" Apple has ever produced, and many technology reviewers have given the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus high marks.

One reason why this particular release is so hot is the larger screen size.

The iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches, while the iPhone 6 Plus measures 5.5 inches diagonally, giving Samsung, which has dominated the giant phone market and runs on Android, some competition.

While it's unclear just how many Android users plan to make the switch, Apple reported that a record 4 million pre-orders were placed for the new phones on the first day. Many carriers are reporting demand so high that the devices are on back-order until October.

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Amazon Faces Alibaba and Retail Threat


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Amazon is facing a growing challenge on several fronts.

E-commerce giant Alibaba, often called the Amazon of China, is not only going public but may expand into the U.S. and Europe using the cash raised by its IPO.

“We hope to become a truly global company,” says Alibaba CEO Jack Ma.

His company could raise more than $20 billion from its offering later this week, which would be the largest-ever IPO.

Last year, Alibaba reported almost $250 billion in sales -- that's more than what both Amazon and eBay made during the same time period.

The Chinese firm’s executives have been meeting this week with American, Asian and European investors. It will trade on the New York Stock Exchange as BABA.

Amazon is also facing a fast delivery challenge from several big retailers. Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Foot Locker have announced plans to test same-day delivery for online orders. And more announcements could be coming soon.

“The inventory that they have is already sitting in stores which lie about 5 miles from 90 percent of the population,” says Daphne Carmeli, CEO of Deliv, which picks up orders from local stores and delivers them within hours.

Retailers are using their stores to fight back against their biggest online competitor.

“Amazon clearly is a leader in e-commerce,” says Carmeli. “They’ve really set the bar for customer experience and in everything they do, that bar gets higher and higher.”

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