Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Some lawmakers are trying to find out who's paying so-called "dark money" for ads attacking the watchdog group Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Protect America's Consumers, a political lobbying group, has spent nearly $58,000 on cable TV and online ads disparaging the nearly 5-year-old government agency, according to a report by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that advocates for open government. One of the ads includes quotes from Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who say they were taken out of context to try to undermine the consumer agency they actually support.
The three Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, urging an investigation of the ads.
In a statement provided to ABC News, Rep. Waters said, "The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been so successful protecting consumers and providing relief to millions of Americans that its opponents have had to resort to secretive and dishonest tactics to try and undermine its critical work. I am deeply concerned with the way Protect America’s Consumers is taking our words out of context in TV ads and online in an effort to attack the Bureau. We are working with the FTC to identify those who are responsible and to take whatever steps necessary.”
The representatives complained that their quotes appear like endorsements for the political group's attempts "to ultimately dismantle the bureau." For example, one ad quotes Rep. Ellison with the words, "The CFPB does need to clean up its act." Ellison's full quote from a House financial services committee hearing in 2014 is, “It so happens that the CFPB does need to clean up its act as every other federal agency does, proving that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day.”
The ads argue that the bureau's rule-making over the financial services industry isn't "accountable" to Congress or President Obama. Protect America's Consumers states on its website that it has tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status, which means it must spend less than half of its money on politics, such as political advertising, and it doesn't have to reveal its donors. Donations to 501(c)(4) groups are unlimited, but the use of those donations is limited when it comes to politics. Records show it was incorporated in Warrenton, Virginia, in November 2015 with the same address as that of law firm Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky. The law firm did not respond to a request for comment. In 2012, the firm was tied to groups that spent millions on that year's election, including Karl Rove's American Crossroads, Bloomberg reported. Attempts to obtain a record of Protect America's Consumers' tax-exempt status and to reach a spokesman of Protect America's Consumers were not successful.
One of the ads accuses the agency of being "plagued with scandal and corruption," while pointing to its "luxurious new office," though one report from Bloomberg said the estimated building renovation costs were exaggerated.
The CFPB was created in 2010 to "protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and take action against companies that break the law," according to its website. The bureau's authority to supervise non-bank financial services, which includes auto lending and leasing, has been the target of some Republican lawmakers and the financial services industry who argue the agency may be too aggressive with its enforcement actions against banks. Ohio's former attorney general Richard Cordray became the agency's first director over the objections of a number of Republicans who hoped instead to place a five-member commission over the bureau.
Libby Watson, staff writer with the Sunlight Foundation, underscored the difficulty in determining who is behind the ads.
"I do this full time and I found it really hard to find out who these people are," Watson said. "The public –- people with actual jobs -- would have no hope finding out who these people are. They’re attacking the CFPB for not being accountable. The problem is these people aren’t accountable to anybody, because we don’t even know who they are."
A spokeswoman for the CFPB declined to comment about the ads.
Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and other female tech leaders have shared some do's and don'ts for companies to improve inclusion and diversity in their industry, including specific recommendations.
Project Include was launched Tuesday by the eight women, including engineers from Pinterest and Slack Technologies. The group shares seven recommendations, detailing how tech companies, big and small, can make improvements in training and resolving conflicts.
When Pao was the CEO of Reddit, she eliminated salary negotiations, which she said can be detrimental to women. Last year, Pao lost her lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, with accusations of gender discrimination.
Project Include's recommendations also touch on harassment. The group recommends making one of the first 25 hires within a company a human resources person and have a clear anti-harassment policy.
Among the group's recommendations is to measure diversity and inclusion for the sake of accountability.
Here are some other do's and don'ts that Project Include shares when it comes to these metrics: Don't inflate numbers:
Some companies include non-engineers in their definitions of engineering teams, Project Include notes. Therefore, they are "artificially inflating their diversity numbers with groups that are usually more diverse," according to the group's website. Don't have bad surveys:
"Poorly designed surveys can not only produce incorrect results but, even worse, be offensive or damaging," Project Include states. "Employee distrust of company-administered surveys, particularly around sensitive questions, can skew results due to misrepresentation or lack of response. Running surveys too often can create survey fatigue, lowering participation rates and similarly skewing the data."
Do consider using existing metrics:
"There’s a lot to recommend when it comes to using existing metrics definitions and surveys, particularly on third-party survey platforms that can aggregate results across organizations," Project Include states on the website. "Doing so automatically accommodates many of the best practices recommended below. It also means that data is immediately comparable across companies." Do share your results:
Not all metrics need to have the same level of transparency, Project Include says. The group recommends companies with 50 or more employees to publish diversity reports at least yearly, and for "high-growth companies that are hiring rapidly," at least twice yearly.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Wednesday announced a major expansion of the Takata airbag recall, more than doubling the number of airbags already deemed potentially unsafe.
An additional 35 to 40 million driver- and passenger-side airbags are being added to a list of 28.8 million airbags currently under recall, Administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters today.
The bags -- manufactured by Japan-based Takata Corp. and installed in more than a dozen auto brands, including Honda, Nissan, GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen -- are prone to rupture, spewing metal shrapnel from the inflator into the cab.
According to one NHTSA official, Wednesday's expansion includes cars from three automakers not previously covered by Takata recalls: Tesla, Jaguar Land Rover, and Fisker.
"This issue is urgent," Rosekind said today. "The science now clearly shows that these inflators can become unsafe over time."
NHTSA confirmed last month the 10th U.S. fatality from a ruptured Takata airbag: 17-year-old Human Hanif, who was found with a metal fragment lodged in her neck after her airbag exploded during a minor rear-ender. Hanif's airbag was under recall, Honda confirmed, but in a news conference, her brother asserted the family had never received a recall notice.
"Takata is deeply sorry for all fatalities and injuries that have occurred in any case where a Takata airbag inflator has failed to deploy as intended," the company said in a statement following the incident. "Takata continues to support all actions that advance vehicle safety and is in constant and close coordination with NHTSA to enhance consumer awareness."
According to NHTSA, three factors -- time, moisture, and temperature -- affect an airbag's likelihood of rupturing, and because manufacturers are struggling to compile enough replacement parts to meet demand, NHTSA is prioritizing remedies by geographic region. Those in areas with high absolute humidity, like Florida and Texas, are at the greatest risk.
Because the defect develops over time, cars less than six years old likely aren't at risk, even in those high-humidity regions, an NHTSA official said Wednesday. In low-humidity regions, cars much older may also be low-risk.
Nevertheless, "vehicle owners who receive notice that there are parts available for their repair should take action immediately," Rosekind urged.
"Our actions, including the expansion of product recalls to cover all non-desiccated frontal inflator models, demonstrate our total commitment to safety and our intention to be part of the solution and to restore the confidence of the driving public," Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada said in a statement today. "Takata is committed to supporting all actions that advance vehicle safety.”
The Takata recall is the largest in U.S. history, and only 8.1 million of the 28.8 million previously-recalled airbags have been repaired. To check if your car is under recall, go to safercar.gov. VIN numbers of the newly recalled vehicles will be added in the next few weeks.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Teen apparel chain Aeropostale has filed for bankruptcy protection and will be closing 20 percent of their North American stores.
Over 100 stores in the U.S. and all 41 Canadian stores will close their doors.
The company plans to use the protection to "optimize its store footprint, access additional tools to shed or renegotiate burdensome contracts, resolve its ongoing disputes with Sycamore Partners and achieve long-term financial stability," it announced in a press release.
"While initiatives such as the implementation of our two-chain Factory and Mall strategy and our merchandise repositioning have started to gain traction, the ripple effects of an ongoing dispute with our second-largest supplier put substantial strain on our liquidity while also preventing us from realizing the full benefits of our turnaround plans. As a result, we have chosen to take more decisive and aggressive action to create a leaner, more efficient business that is well-positioned to compete and succeed in today's retail environment," said Julian Geiger, Chief Executive Officer.
"We appreciate the loyalty and support of our customers, employees and business partners as we complete this process," he added.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents flying with small children have two main fears: One, that their child will misbehave during the flight, and two, that the other passengers will hate them for it.
Just in time for Mother's Day, JetBlue has released a video that may make those flying without kids a little more patient with those who are.
On one special flight from JFK in New York City to Long Beach, California, the airline rewarded passengers with discounts of 25 percent on future flights each time a baby cried. Four cries = free flight.
So, instead of the nasty looks parents often get on board, the passengers smiled at the crying babies and their moms.
It's a reminder to be kind to each other, and be patient with families in flight.
As the video says: "Next time, smile at a baby ... for crying out loud."
iStock/Thinkstock(PASCO, Wash.) — CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, has expanded a voluntary recall for some of its products, which included organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables because of the risk of Listeria, according to the company's statement.
The voluntary recall is being made in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"CDC has informed CRF Frozen Foods that the government has identified seven people from three states who became ill and were hospitalized due to Listeria, " the company statement said. "Some of these illnesses have been linked to consuming CRF-manufactured or processed products."
Products being recalled may have been purchased in all fifty U.S. states and the following Canadian Provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the company said.
Scientifically named Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria was found during a routine testing of the food by Ohio health officials. It can cause serious and sometimes fatal harm to infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, according to the statement.
The recall includes all of the frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods' Pasco facility since May 1, 2014. The Pasco factory was the only one found with the bacteria risks.
The FDA said consumers who purchased the products in question can return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund, or discard them.
CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — “Everyone runs faster when there's something to beat." That's the idea behind athletic company Puma's new Beat Bot -- a tiny, shoebox-sized rolling robot that's designed to do for runners what that little electric rabbit does for racing dogs.
The 'bot has a simple job -- it makes runners chase it -- but it's packed with technology that not only enables it to perfectly follow a track's lines, but also lets an athlete use a smartphone to customize it.
As a promotional video claims, you can race your own best time, your rivals' best time, or even Usain Bolt's record-shattering, gold medal-winning best.
The Beat Bot can also be programmed to jog alongside you for long-distance runs, like a jogging buddy -- minus the chit-chat.
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Takata's airbag recall could more than double in size.
A source familiar with the planned expansion confirms to ABC News that on Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will announce an expansion of the Takata airbag recall, adding 35 to 40 million passengers and driver side inflators to the recall.
The expanded recall for the Japanese automotive parts company would more than double the current recall of 28.8 million, which is already the largest auto recall in history.
The source told ABC News the recall would not happen immediately, but would be phased in through 2019.
News of the expanded recall comes as NHTSA will announce they are confirming a root cause for the airbag problem-- the combination of time, temperature, and humidity causing the ammonium nitrate propellant to explode with shrapnel.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street lost its gains from the day before as oil prices tumbled and investors worried about China's slow growth.
The Dow dropped 140.25 (0.78 percent) to close at 17,750.91.
The Nasdaq fell 54.37 (1.13 percent) to finish at 4,763.22, while the S&P gave up 18.06 (0.87 percent) to close at 2,063.37.
Crude oil tumbled over 2 percent with prices hitting about $43 a barrel.
China: A private gauge of China's manufacturing industry fell in April, despite a government stimulus, reviving fears that the world's second-largest economy is not rebounding. According to Caixin Media Co., factory activity levels in China fell to 49.4 for the month from 49.7 in March. Anything above 50 would indicate growth and anything below the 50 level means contraction. According to the China National Bureau of Statistics, China's official purchasing manager’s index (PMI) reading released Sunday said the PMI in April fell to 50.1 compared to 50.2 in March.
Google: Google and Fiat Chrysler have signed a deal to make 100 self-driving minivans. According to a statement, Google hopes the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans will be on the road by the end of the year.
"This collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is the first time we’ve worked directly with an automaker to create our vehicles," Google said. "FCA will design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle."
The statement said the self-driving car could "take you from A to B with the touch of a button."
Martin Shkreli: "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli could face additional fraud charges, prosecutors said Tuesday in a New York court. Shkreli first came under fire as "The Most Hated Man in America" when he significantly raised the price of a drug called Daraprim. The drug treats a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis, which most often occurs in those with compromised immune systems due to cancer treatments or HIV infection. The former pharmaceutical CEO was arrested in December on multiple charges of securities and wire fraud related to a different company he founded.
Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Google Chrome has become the top browser in the world, beating out rival Internet Explorer, according to new data.
Net Market Share, an analytics firm, said Google's browser had 41.71 percent of the market share in April compared to Microsoft Internet Explorer's 41.33 percent. In third place was Firefox at 10.06 percent, followed by Apple's Safari at 4.47 percent.
Chrome was already crowned the winner back in 2012 according to another measure by the tracking group StatCounter. At the time, Firefox came in second and Internet Explorer was third.
The reason for the different results is that the two companies measure web traffic differently. Net Market Share counts unique visitors, instead of page views, per day. Another huge difference is that Net Market Share analyzes more than 40,000 websites, according to a description of its methodology. StatCounter says that it tracks more than 3 million sites around the world.
While the war of the browsers has been competitive over the years, it hasn't been cutthroat.
Internet Explorer and Mozilla teams have sent cakes to one another to celebrate various achievements.
"We started this tradition when we sent them a cake for Firefox 2. It was probably the best damn cake I've eaten," Internet Explorer engineer Jacob Rossi said of one marble chocolate vanilla confection, according to a Reddit AMA forum in 2014.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Some lotto players are scrambling to get tickets ahead of Wednesday's Powerball drawing now that the jackpot has swelled to an estimated $348 million.
It's the biggest Powerball jackpot since the record $1.586 billion jackpot in January was split three ways. Never mind that the chances of winning the grand prize are 1 in 292,201,338, according to the New York Lottery.
If there's no winner for Wednesday's pot, the prize will grow for the next drawing this Saturday. Powerball drawings take place on Wednesday and Saturday nights at 10:59 p.m. ET.
The last winning numbers on April 30 were: 3, 12, 16, 32, 34 plus the Powerball of 14. The cash value of Wednesday's prize is $226.1 million.
The jackpot has grown over the last 17 drawings since the last Powerball winner claimed the prize on March 2.
January's winners included a couple in Florida and a couple in Tennessee. There was a winner in California, but that ticket holder has not yet been identified. Each winning ticket was allotted roughly $528 million.
If you buy a ticket, there are a few things you should remember to do, including making sure you keep it in a safe place and sign the back.
WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- A pizza chain in Texas is turning lemons into lemonade after it was forced to change its name.
Black Jack Pizza in South Dallas and Pleasant Grove has been serving pies and burgers for more than 30 years. But the family that owns the small business said they received a cease-and-desist letter from an unrelated chain in Colorado that trademarked the name. That larger business demanded that the Texas restaurant change its name and logo.
“They say we cannot have anything saying 'Black Jack Pizza,'” the Texas business owner Terry Jones told ABC's Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV.
Jones told WFAA that he has known about the other business’ name for years. “It just came to a head," he said.
Though Jones said he might lose a few customers over the name change, they don't plan to fight the issue in court. Instead, they are sponsoring a contest that invites customers to submit suggestions for a new name. The winner will receive a free large pizza and a sweet tea every month for a year, from this coming August to July of next year. The contest ends on May 23.
"It's a bump in the road,” Jones told WFAA. “You've got to go over the road. You've got to go over that bump and keep on rolling."
Contest forms are at Black Jack locations around the Dallas area.
Blackjack Pizza in Colorado did not respond to a request for comment.
iStock/Thinkstock(STOCKHOLM) -- When it comes to mobile gaming, the Candy Crush games have proven to be sweetly addictive for hundreds of millions of active users around the world.
Sebastian Knutsson, co-founder and chief creative officer of King, the company behind Candy Crush, took ABC News on a tour of the company's Stockholm office Tuesday and offered an inside look at what life is like at one of the world's most popular gaming companies.
King became an independent unit of Activision Blizzard in February after a $5.9 billion acquisition. However, it seemed to be business as usual at the company's Stockholm office.
Before starting the tour of the office, Knutsson met ABC News in the pavilion area of the King office in Stockholm, a cartoonish open meeting area that evokes the same whimsy as King's portfolio of 200 games.
One item on Tuesday's agenda: Closing in on creating the 2,000th level of Candy Crush.
"We are getting close to producing level 2,000 on the original Candy Crush and the other games are still producing levels as well," Knutsson said. "There are some [players] at the end waiting for more content."
Surprisingly, Knutsson said about half of those power players who have made it to the end never made a single in-app purchase.
Many Candy Crush players know the feeling of getting hooked -- and then frustrated after being stuck on a certain level for too long. It's something Knutsson said the King team listens to feedback about and evaluates whether they need to make some tweaks at a certain level.
"It really comes down to making a game people can enjoy and not turning them off," Knutsson said. "Keep trying. That's the secret. I think in some cases you find that really hard level and if sometimes players complain about a level too much, we will sometimes tweak it and make sure it's still fun to play."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York-based grocery chain Fairway announced on Monday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The company said it reached an agreement with its senior lenders on a reorganization plan that will eliminate roughly $140 million in debt and help restructure its balance sheet.
"We believe that implementing this Prepackaged Plan is the best opportunity for Fairway to restructure its balance sheet on an expedited basis, strengthen its operations, retain jobs and create long-term value, while continuing to provide customers with the best food experience in the greater New York area," Fairway CEO Jack Murphy said in a statement.
Fairway says it does not expect customer service to be interrupted during its reorganization process.
"Consumers can continue to purchase Fairway's products at one of their 15 stores, 4 Wine and Spirits stores or Manhattan residents can shop online," the company said.