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Department of Justice Files Motion Against Bayer Corporation

Department of Justice Files Motion Against Bayer Corporation

Image author: Bayer HealthCare AG(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a motion to hold Bayer Corporation in civil contempt for making false claims about its product, Phillips’ Colon Health.

Bayer is accused of claiming that its product can “defend against” occasional constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating in print and television advertisements, as well as on the product’s packaging — claims that the Department of Justice say imply that it cures or treats those conditions. The company, however, “lacks competent and reliable scientific evidence for those claims,” according to the Justice Department’s complaint.

A court order involving the DOJ and Bayer in 2007 prohibited the company from making fraudulent claims about any dietary supplement that it produces. The DOJ claims that Bayer has violated the court order and should be held in civil contempt.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate companies that seek to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors by promoting to consumers unsubstantiated claim about the health benefits of their products,” Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery said in a statement.

The original court order was entered after Bayer allegedly claimed that its One-A-Day WeightSmart multivitamin and dietary supplement helped prevent weight gain associated with slowed metabolism in adults over 30. Following a Department of Justice complaint in that case, Bayer agreed to pay $3.2 million and avoid making unsubstantiated claims about its products.

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Lower Fuel Costs Push Import Prices Down

Lower Fuel Costs Push Import Prices Down

hxdbzxy/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — U.S. import prices dropped for the second consecutive month in August, largely on the back of lower fuel prices.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, import prices were 0.9 percent lower in August than in July, while export prices dipped by 0.5 percent. The lower import prices represented the largest single-month decline since November 2013.

The cost of fuel imports dropped by 4.6 percent since July. Over the last year, fuel import prices have dipped by 4.5 percent, that following a 4.1 percent increase in the preceding 12 months.

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Can New Bill Plug ‘Dangerous’ Homeland Security Gap?

Can New Bill Plug ‘Dangerous’ Homeland Security Gap?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation this week to stiffen rules for schools seeking to attract foreign applicants with the promise of assistance to obtain a student visa — an effort he says will prevent want-to-be terrorists from exploiting vulnerabilities in the American student entry program.

“It’s time to close the loopholes and clamp down on schools that have a poor track record with regard to foreign students,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

Grassley pointed to findings of a recent ABC News investigation that found U.S. Homeland Security officials had lost track of some 6,000 foreign nationals who had overstayed the terms of their student visas in the past year and a half — exploiting a security gap that was supposed to be fixed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Despite repeated concerns raised by Congress, federal immigration officials have also continued to grant schools certification to accept overseas applicants even if the schools lack accreditation, state licensure, or any obvious measure of academic rigor.

There are now more than 9,000 schools on the government-approved list. The list includes such top flight American colleges as Harvard and Yale, but it also includes 86 beauty schools, 36 massage schools and nine schools that teach horseshoeing. Foreign students can enter the U.S. on a visa to study acupuncture, hair braiding, or join academies that focus on tennis and golf.

In one case, a tiny, state licensed career college in New York City continued to have four campuses on the Department of Homeland Security-certified schools list, even though five of the school’s top officials — including its president — were indicted on charges of visa fraud in May.

According to the indictment, 80 percent of the foreign students enrolled at MicroPower Career Institute had delinquent attendance, putting them out of compliance with their visas. But the school did not report them, the indictment says.

The school declined comment and all five school officials have pleaded not guilty in the case. DHS officials said they had no ability to de-list the school, even after the fraud indictments, because the school was entitled to administrative due process.

Grassley said his legislation would require schools to be accredited by an appropriate accrediting body in order to accept foreign students. He said it would also give Homeland Security officials the ability to immediately suspend school participation if they were failing to comply reporting requirements or fell under suspicion of fraud.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said the agency does not comment on pending legislation. But she added that the department would “fully support improving and enhancing programs that protect our country’s national security.”

She noted that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is already hard at work trying to improve what officials there have acknowledged are shortcomings of the student visa monitoring program. ICE officials told ABC News, for instance, that it has undertaken a new program to deploy field representatives around the country to personally inspect schools that had been approved to accept foreign students. So far, 15 field representatives have been hired, with a plan to ultimately employ 60 around the country, according to spokesperson Carissa Cutrell.

The agency has also launched a program — so far installed at one airport, but planned for others — that will immediately alert a customs inspector if a student is attempting to re-enter the country after their status has been flagged by a school official.

“The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has made significant improvements to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, increased school and student oversight, and unveiled new policy guidance to close vulnerabilities and better protect our nation from individuals who try to exploit the U.S. visa system,” Cutrell said.

An advocacy group for international students and educators, called NAFSA, has expressed concern that security questions surrounding student visas have created unwarranted fears about the risks those students pose. Rebecca Morgan, a NAFSA spokeswoman, noted that only 3 percent of the 61 million people who entered the United States on nonimmigrant visas in 2013 held student visas.

“It is important to understand that the other 97 percent are entirely unmonitored,” she said. “Students are the only ones that are monitored.

Morgan also said that efforts to attract foreign students should be encouraged, not impeded.

“Generations of American foreign-policy leaders have pointed to educational exchanges as one of our most successful foreign policy tools, the most proven and effective way for the United States to build a foundation for dialogue and partnership with the rest of the world,” she said.

Jill Welch, who oversees NAFSA public policy, said in a statement that the group would oppose the measure, calling it “unfortunate that Senator Grassley’s recent statements imply a false connection between foreign students and terrorism.”

She said the legislation is “redundant because DHS already has the authority to shut down fraudulent programs after an investigation and due process.”

The Grassley legislation is similar to a proposal introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in 2012 that failed to pass. Grassley said that as the number of foreign students being issued visas has grown, the amount of risk posed by the program is expanding. He cited a recently released Brookings Institution report showing the number of visas in U.S. colleges and universities grew from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012.

“Despite this overwhelming increase, the technology and oversight of the student visa program has insufficiently improved,” he said. “Now, 13 years after 9/11, we have sham schools setting up in strip malls without real classrooms. We have foreign nationals entering the U.S. with the intent to study, but then disappear and never attend a real class.”

Thomas Kean 9/11 Commission Co-Chair told ABC News that he is stunned the federal government continues to lose track of so many foreign nationals who had entered the country with student visas. He noted that both the hijacker who flew the airplane into the Pentagon and the man who drove the van containing explosives into the World Trade Center garage in 1993 were student visa holders who were no-shows at school.

“It’s been pointed out over and over and over again and the fact that nothing has been done about it yet…it’s a very dangerous thing for all of us,” Kean said. “The fact that there’s been no action on this is very bothersome.”

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See the First Photo of the New “The View” Panel

See the First Photo of the New “The View” Panel

Lou Rocco/ABC(NEW YORK) – The View returns to ABC on Monday and the new panel is set.

Rosie Perez, Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg and Nicolle Wallace will host the show, which has changed dramatically since Barbara Walters stepped behind the scenes, and Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd left for other ventures.

The show tweeted a back shot of the new cast on Thursday, hinting at the humor that the ladies will bring to the 18th season.

The View’s back! Here’s your first official look at the new cast. #TheView,” the post read.


The View’s back! Here’s your first official look at the new cast. #TheView

— The View (@theviewtv) September 11, 2014


On Friday, a picture of the ladies from the front was released.

Perez, 49, and Wallace, 42, were announced as co-hosts on Sept. 3, and O’Donnell comes back to the show after her stint from 2006 to 2007.

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Two Navy Fighter Jets Crash in Western Pacific, One Pilot Missing

Two Navy Fighter Jets Crash in Western Pacific, One Pilot Missing

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Oscar Albert Moreno Jr./Released(SAN DIEGO) — Two Navy F/A-18 fighters from the carrier USS Carl Vinson have crashed in the Western Pacific. One of the pilots has been rescued, but Navy ships and helicopters continue the search for the second.

The two carriers from the carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) crashed at 5:40 p.m. local time, according to the Navy’s Seventh Fleet. The carrier is operating in an area off Guam.

“The pilot of one of two F/A-18 Hornets that crashed…while operating from USS Carl Vinson is in fair condition and receiving medical treatment aboard the ship,” it said in a statement. “Search efforts continue for the second pilot.”

The F/A-18 fighter has a single-seater version, as well as a double-seater variant. The aircraft involved in this incident were single-seater F/A-18Cs.

Initial indications are that the two aircraft are assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 (VFA-94) and Strike Fighter Squadron 113 (VFA-113).

The search for the second pilot includes guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101) and helicopters assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 (HSC 15) and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73 (HSM 73).

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

The carrier left its home port of San Diego on Aug. 22 to operate initially in the Pacific before moving on to a long-term deployment to the Persian Gulf where it would replace the carrier USS George HW Bush.

The F/A-18s aboard the Bush have been flying missions over Iraq for the past two months and were among the first U.S. aircraft to conduct airstrikes against ISIS targets in early August.

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Hillary Clinton’s Tribute to Writer Maya Angelou

Hillary Clinton’s Tribute to Writer Maya Angelou

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — “She urged, demanded, inspired millions of Americans to live kinder, braver, more honorable lives.”

That’s how Hillary Clinton paid tribute to poetic luminary Maya Angelou Friday at a memorial ceremony in New York’s Riverside Church.

Angelou, 86, died this past May.

“When I ran for president, which I did a few years ago, her encouragement meant so much to me,” the former secretary of state said to a ripple of laughter.

“She didn’t hesitate to tell you when she thought you were wrong, or being thoughtless or arrogant, and she did not suffer fools. So when she said that she believed in you, you actually believed her and began believing in yourself,” she added.

Clinton, who is mulling another stab at the presidency in 2016, recalled a few lines of the poem Angelou penned in support of Clinton during her 2008 campaign:

“There is a world of difference between being a woman and a being an old female. If you’re born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But to become a woman is a serious matter.”

In Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, a coming-of-age story recounting her struggles with early-life trauma and prejudice, Clinton said she saw traces of her own mother’s difficult past.

Angelou “was often slotted into subcategories as writers wrote about her: an African American writer, a civil rights activist, a woman’s leader…But in truth, she transcended all labels. There is, however, one label that does stick,” Clinton said. “She could have been born anywhere in the world, but I believe only in America could she have become who she did.”

“Our country’s struggles and triumphs and progress over the past century are written all over her life,” she added. “Indeed, she helped to write them.”

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Oscar Pistorius’ Disability Could Be Factor in Sentence, Experts Say

Oscar Pistorius’ Disability Could Be Factor in Sentence, Experts Say

Jemal Countess/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) — When the judge presiding over Oscar Pistorius’ case begins sentencing hearings next month, experts said that the paralympian’s disability could be a factor in whether he gets the maximum 15 years in prison or a much lighter sentence, even no prison at all.

Pistorius was cleared of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but convicted Friday of culpable homicide — roughly equivalent to manslaughter — and discharging a gun in a public area.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will decide on Pistorius’ sentence, set Oct. 13 for the hearings to begin. The maximum sentence for culpable homicide is 15 years.

“There is no prescribed sentence for culpable homicide in South African law. The sentence can be decided at the discretion of the judge based on the weight of evidence and circumstances surrounding the incident,” veteran defense lawyer Gordon Scheepers told ABC News.

“The circumstances in this case include the fact that Pistorius is a double amputee, who, according to all indications, has a fragile mental state,” Scheepers said.

A psychiatrist who has examined Pistorius said the paralympian known as the Blade Runner was being treated for depression and that he was in danger of becoming suicidal if he couldn’t continue his treatment.

If Masipa decides to send Pistorius to prison, he will not be the only disabled person to be incarcerated. Convicted rightwing killer Phil Kloppers, who is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, was released earlier this year from the Leeuwkop Prison in Johannesburg, South Africa after spending 20 years behind bars.

Criminology professor Anni Hesselink, who regularly visits detainees in jail, told ABC News that there are several disabled prisoners in Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru II prison.

“One male inmate has an amputated leg and, as far as I have been able to establish, he has never complained about the treatment he has received in prison,” Hesselink said.

South Africa’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded and violent places, but the nature of Pistorius’ disability, and his vulnerable mental state, could afford him some extra protection.

“Pistorius’s prosthetic legs could be deemed potentially dangerous weapons. His celebrity status could also could make him the target of attacks, threats or extortion,” said Hesselink, adding that “this could mean that Pistorius will likely be kept largely separate from other prisoners.”

Scheepers said authorities would be careful not to be seen to be giving Pistorius special privileges, but his high-profile reputation would inevitably play a part.

“I think high-profile cases are more susceptible to special treatment because both the system itself gives them more attention and there’s more scrutiny to how they’re treated from outside,” he said.

Potentially difficult for an elite athlete who followed a meticulously balanced diet, Pistorius could be forced to live off prison meals made up often of little more than ground corn, stews and low-quality meat, although his disability may also mean he can request a special diet.

The Department of Correctional Services said in a statement this week that prisoners with disabilities could be entitled to separate rooms depending on the vulnerability caused by the disability.

“Inmates are accommodated in line with their type of disability. However, each case is based on its own merits,” said the department. The risk of the disabled inmate and his or her needs must be assessed within six hours of admission to prison.

Disabled prisoners are also given a chance of being granted medical parole.

Pistorius was born with fibular hemimelia, or the congenital absence of the fibula in both legs. When he was 11-months old, doctors amputated both legs below the knee.

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Oscar Pistorius’ Ex-Girlfriend Thought ‘It Could’ve Been Me’

Oscar Pistorius’ Ex-Girlfriend Thought ‘It Could’ve Been Me’

ABC News(PRETORIA, South Africa) — The ex-girlfriend of paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted Friday in the shooting death his current girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, says she believes she could have been Pistorius’ victim instead.

“I definitely thought it could’ve been me,” Samantha Taylor told ABC News’ Matt Gutman in an interview for 20/20 before the verdict was delivered.

After a seven-month murder trial, South African Judge Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius guilty Friday of culpable homicide, similar to manslaughter. He was also found guilty of discharging a gun in a public area, but acquitted of other charges, including murder. His bail was later extended ahead of sentencing on Oct. 13.

After the verdict was announced, Taylor told ABC News in a statement, “No one besides Oscar knows what happened on the morning of Reeva’s death, but having said that we all need to move forward with our lives.”

Steenkamp was shot and killed on Valentine’s Day 2013. Prosecutors alleged Pistorius intentionally shot his model girlfriend. The double-amputee sprinter maintained he thought there was an intruder in his home and fired his gun in self-defense, accidentally shooting and killing Steenkamp through the door while she was in the bathroom.

When news of Steenkamp’s death broke, Taylor, 20, of Johannesburg, said she received many “rest in peace” messages, “because people thought it was me…It was a real shock.”

Taylor said she dated Pistorius before he began dating Steenkamp. At his murder trial, Taylor served as a valuable witness for the prosecution. She said parts of Pistorius’ story about what happened the night Steenkamp died did not ring true.

“There were things that didn’t match up to my experience staying at his house,” she said.

For example, while Pistorius claimed during his testimony the bedroom was pitch black so he didn’t see Steenkamp go to the bathroom, Taylor said Pistorius did not typically keep his room that dark.

“He usually slept with the curtains fairly open. He always had some light coming in,” said Taylor.

And although Pistorius did startle easily, Taylor said he would always ask her about any sudden noises and found it odd that he said he didn’t make physical contact with Steenkamp the night she was killed.

Taylor said she was just 17 years old when she first met the then 24-year-old Pistorius at a rugby match in 2010.

“When I met him, I actually didn’t know who he was,” Taylor said. “He was very charming. He is a really good guy, you know. He was very respectful, very kind.”

But over time, Taylor said Pistorius would get angry at her for little things, such as not taking her plate to the kitchen, and that he could be jealous and possessive.

“He used to often look through my phone, ask me who my friends were. I think he had that control over who’s in my life and who’s not,” she said. “I was his.”

Life with Pistorious was living on the edge, she said. Taylor recalled when he would drive his car 200 miles per hour on the highway.

And, she said, Pistorius also always carried around a gun.

“He definitely had a passion for guns,” she said. “It was natural that the gun was…there. It was a part of him.”

Taylor claimed one time she was in the back seat of a car with Pistorius and a friend when Pistorius fired his gun out of the sunroof.

“It was really loud. I got such a fright,” she said.

A Pistorius spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

There were also times, Taylor said, when Pistorius was an emotional wreck. She said she heard him cry about 300 times.

“It was really strange to me. I haven’t really heard men cry so much,” she said.

Taylor’s mother, Trish Taylor, says she became close to Pistorius over the course of his relationship with her daughter, even taking on an unexpected maternal role. In the book An Accident Waiting to Happen, co-written with Melinda Ferguson, Trish Taylor described Pistorius’ “dark side.”

In July 2012, Pistorius wrote in an email to Samantha and Trish Taylor, saying, “There are often very dark areas that haunt you…most of my adult life I have had moments that I sabotage the good that I have.”

Trish Taylor says that he would sometimes explode with fits of anger.

“I heard him screaming at Samantha once on the phone,” she told Gutman.

During his Olympic training, Trish Taylor said she even suggested he seek counseling and sent him links to meditation websites.

“I thought, ‘What if he commits suicide?’ I was getting really, really worried about him,” she said. “He had made all these promises on how he’s going to see a psychologist, how he was going to change his life, and everything was going to change.”

But nothing did change, Samantha Taylor said. Worst of all, she says she discovered Pistorius was cheating on her.

“I think our whole relationship there were lies,” she said. “From what I know, or from what I found out, there were definitely a lot of other women in his life at the same time as me.”

Taylor claimed she had not officially broken up when Pistorius showed up on television at an awards ceremony with Steenkamp. Pistorius testified that he and Samantha Taylor were no longer a couple when he was with Steenkamp, and denied cheating on Taylor, but all agreed that their relationship was over after that outing.

“I think we were so in love. And I mean, besides our downs, we had a lot of ups,” she said.

Taylor said she’s making peace with how Pistorius treated her.

“Our relationship, it wasn’t easy,” she said. “I’m getting there. I think it’s a journey.”

In the end, Taylor said she wants Pistorius to come to terms with what he’s done.

“He needs to, you know, face his consequences and not necessarily behind bars. But, you know, if he needs to go for help then I think that’ll be great for him,” she said.

Watch the full interview on ABC News’ 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET

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Malala Yousafzai’s Plotters Captured After Two-Year Hunt

Malala Yousafzai’s Plotters Captured After Two-Year Hunt

Ida Mae Astute/ABC(ISLAMABAD) — The terrorist gang that plotted the attempted assassination of teenager Malala Yousafzai on a school bus have been arrested after a nearly two-year search.

The 10 terrorists confessed to Pakistani authorities that they were in the process of planning the murders of 22 other people at the time of their capture, Pakistani authorities said. The arrests were announced Friday but it remains unclear when exactly they were taken into custody.

An army spokesman said that the group was a known offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban.

The teen’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, put out a statement calling the arrests “good news for our family and most importantly for the people of Pakistan and the civilized world.”

“This first step of apprehending Malala’s attackers signifies the beginning of real hope for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been affected by terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Swat and the whole country,” the father’s statement read. “This is the beginning of the real restoration of the writ of the government, where the rule of law and justice prevails for everybody.”

Malala Yousafzai was 15 when two armed men, Israr ur Rehman and Izhar Ullah, stopped her school van while dropping children off on Oct. 9, 2012. After identifying Yousafzai, who had become an activist for educating girls, one of the men fired at her head with a 9mm pistol. They shot two other girls, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, during the attack but neither were injured as gravely as Yousafzai.

The Taliban is opposed to educating girls and has destroyed schools and killed teachers who educate girls.

Rehman was the first of the criminals to be apprehended by the joint task force comprised of local and state authorities. He confessed to his involvement and gave the names of the other members of the terrorist group, called Shura, that were involved with the planning of the attack, authorities said Friday.

He revealed that the group was run by Zafar Iqbal, a furniture shop owner who allegedly passed hit lists of names to an associate named Mullah Fazlullah.

During interrogation, the terrorists revealed that the plan was conceived by Fazlullah, and the Shura group was given the responsibility to execute it. The group also confessed its involvement in murder of Abdul Rasheed, watchman of Swat College of Science and Technology, in November 2012.

Fazlullah was also said to be the one who came up with the new list of 22 targets that the men were planning to kill at the time of their arrest. The names of these targets have not been released.

Fazlullah, who has since been chosen to head the Pakistani Taliban, is not in custody.

Yousafzai survived the assassination attempt after being treated in the United Kingdom. She has become an international activist and was widely considered a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

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How this Mom Travels the World with Her Family for Almost Nothing

How this Mom Travels the World with Her Family for Almost Nothing

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Summer Hull just got back from a weekend with her family in Denver where she stayed at a five-star hotel for free. Before that, she planned a trip to Ireland that also cost next to nothing.

Hull is not an extreme coupon clipper or a super saver, but she and her family are full-time frequent flyers always on the lookout for the best deals.

Hull’s secret is raking up those travel points by using different credit cards for various purchases. She spends most of her time taking care of her 4-year-old daughter and managing her own company from home. She documents her travel tricks and successes on her blog, Mommy Points, which has opened doors to VIP experiences and even earned her extra income because she uses it to advertise travel-related services and deals.

“I write every day, a lot of it is about what we do to earn these points and just kind of a chronicle of what we do and everywhere we’ve gone and then also sharing other deals that come up,” she said.

This year, Hull and her family have trotted the globe on over 16 vacations spanning 100,000 miles. Most of the time, they are traveling for nearly nothing.

Personal finance expert and author of When She Makes More Farnoosh Torabi cautioned, “certainly, there are people out there trying to gain in the system and certainly, there are benefits to having multiple ‘reward’ credit cards, and while there are short-term benefits sometimes to opening up all these ‘reward’ cards, you have to think long-term. Is it smart for me to have all these credit cards at my fingertips? Depending on your personality, depending your tendency, this could be a disaster.”

Hull said she also tries to save money whenever she can, such as buying snacks at the grocery store instead of the airport before getting on a flight, and having her parents watch the family dog when they go away.

But for the most part, Hull said that over time she and her family just got smart about managing their credit cards and purchases.

Below are some of Hull’s travel tricks, and tune into Nightline Friday night at 12:35 a.m. ET to watch her story and get more of her tips, including how she earns travel points at the grocery store:

1. Maximize Rewards by Choosing the Best Credit Card for Each Purchase

Hull said she has a dozen active credit cards that she swaps out for different purchases, such as airline cards for flights.

“A big part of our strategy is credit card sign-up bonuses,” Hull said. “These banks want you to have their cards and I’m happy to get their card and take their miles and points and use them and travel the world.”

2. Use the ‘Stacking’ Strategy

“Stacking is when you’re adding a deal on top of a deal on top of a deal,” Hull explained. “So with the fuel points, I’m getting credit card points for shopping at a grocery store, and then I’m also getting money off my gas I’ll be getting anyways by buying gift cards that earn extra fuel points.”

3. Shop Online Through Airline ‘Shopping Portals’

For example, Hull said, United Airlines has an online shopping portal called United Mileage Plus shopping, which rewards users with a certain amount of miles when they purchase items through them.

“If you need to buy a $100 worth of make-up you do it when Sephora has ten times online, you can earn a 1,000 United miles for your $100 Sephora purchase,” Hull explained.

4. Sign Up for Dining Rewards

“You can register your card with different dining reward networks and earn miles when you eat out without even trying,” Hull said. “It’s something that has no membership card, no paperwork, register your card, eat out and sometimes miles will magically show up in your account.”

5. Aim for Elite Status

Hull is constantly looking for opportunities to earn elite status with hotel stays. Although it’s not ideal, she will ask her husband, who travels a lot for work, to stay in three different hotels for a three-night business trip.

“You can earn like hotel elite status based on nights or stays,” she said. “So it’ll earn you three nights but for example with Hyatt, you need 50 nights in a year to reach top tier diamond or 25 stays. So if you can change hotels every night, you can get there in 25 nights instead of 50.”

6. Plan One Vacation at a Time

Hull says it helps to have one trip goal in mind.

“I have usually no more than one big trip at a time we’re planning on,” Hull said. “Sometimes little stuff pops up but it helps me to have a big goal in mind that I know I’m earning toward and that way I don’t waste my miles on other things, I make sure we have enough for what we really want.”

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Nicole Kidman’s Father, Antony Kidman, Dies

Nicole Kidman’s Father, Antony Kidman, Dies

ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) — Nicole Kidman’s father, Dr. Antony Kidman, has died, ABC News Radio confirmed. He was 76.

According to the British newspaper The Independent, Dr. Kidman, who was a clinical psychologist, was visiting his daughter, Antonia Kidman, in Singapore when he accidentally fell. No other details about the fatal incident were released, including when the accident occurred.

A statement from Kidman’s rep reads, “Nicole and her family are in shock by the sudden death of her father.  She appreciates the outpouring of support and kindly requests privacy during this very difficult time.  Thank you.”

Dr. Kidman’s death was also confirmed by the University of Technology Sydney, where he served as director of health psychology.

“It is with great sadness that we learn of Dr. Tony Kidman’s sudden passing. During his 43 years at the University of Technology, Sydney, Tony has contributed greatly — as a colleague, as a researcher, and as a health practitioner,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said in a statement. “Tony will be missed by all at UTS. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Although Nicole Kidman hasn’t addressed her father’s passing, her husband Keith Urban canceled a gig Thursday night to be with his wife, a rep for Urban confirmed. The American Idol judge was supposed to perform at a charity event in Thousand Oaks, Calif., but as he was headed there, learned of his father-in-law’s passing and immediately got on a private jet to fly to Nashville to be with his wife.

Kidman’s father and her mother, Janelle, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year.

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Hillary Clinton Returns to Iowa for Steak Fry Sunday

Hillary Clinton Returns to Iowa for Steak Fry Sunday

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — When Hillary Clinton touches down in Iowa this weekend, it will be the first time she has stepped foot on the state’s soil since she lost the Iowa caucuses during her presidential primary campaign on Jan. 3, 2008.

Clinton has notably stayed clear of Iowa since her defeat to then-Sen. Barack Obama that night, a moment she describes as “excruciating” in her new memoir, Hard Choices.

But, now, nearly 2,500 days later, Clinton is making her grand return to the Hawkeye state to headline, along with husband Bill Clinton, Sen. Tom Harkin’s 37th annual and final Steak Fry.

Inevitably, the timing of Hillary Clinton’s visit to the key presidential primary state will stroke speculation about her potential and, increasingly apparent, 2016 presidential bid. But if you were to ask her about the Iowa trip, she’d likely say it’s purely about the Steak Fry.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Iowa Steak Fry:

What is a “steak fry”?

A Steak Fry is essentially a barbeque party that features steak on the menu.

What’s the deal with Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry?

The retiring Sen. Harkin’s annual Steak Fry is a longstanding Iowa tradition that started in 1972 on a local family farm to raise money for his first congressional campaign. Over the years, the Steak Fry, which originally cost $2 a ticket and had just 40 attendees, has grown and evolved into a signature political event that attracts thousands of Iowans, politicos and Democratic hopefuls seeking state and nationwide exposure. In recent years, headliners have included President Obama, Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. After 37 years, however, this upcoming Steak Fry will be the last. Harkin is stepping down after serving 30 years in the Senate.

Where is it?

The Steak Fry has been held at various locations in Iowa through the years, but one of the most common, and the chosen spot for its final year, is the National Balloon Classic Balloon Field in Indianola, Iowa, about 20 miles outside Des Moines.

When is it?

This Sunday, Sept. 14, from 1 to 4 p.m. CT.

Who’s going to be there?

In addition to Harkin, his wife, Ruth Harkin, and headline speakers, Bill and Hillary Clinton, a number of local Democratic Iowa politicians and midterm candidates will be speaking at the Steak Fry this year, including agriculture secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for Harkin’s open Senate seat, Jack Hatch, the Democratic nominee for Governor, and four congressional candidates. As for the viewers, the organizers say for this final sendoff of the Steak Fry, they are expecting a larger-than-normal crowd, roughly 5,000 people. This would make it the biggest Steak Fry since 2007, when all presidential primary candidates, including Obama and Hillary Clinton, were in attendance. (More than 10,000 people showed up that year, for perspective.)

Why is Hillary Clinton going?

Despite speculation of her 2016 ambitions and the possibility she’s beginning to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton will tell you her appearance at the Steak Fry is just about the friendship. The Clintons are longtime friends of Harkin and his wife, dating to 1992 when both Bill Clinton and Tom Harkin were running for president. Earlier this summer, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said she is merely attending the Steak Fry to “see her old friend and colleague” and to “help raise money for important races in Iowa.”

Have the Clintons been before?

Yes. Bill Clinton has headlined three times (in 1992, 1996 and 2003), and Hillary Clinton once (in 2007 during her presidential primary campaign).

What’s the deal with the fried steak?

The steaks at the Steak Fry are not actually fried. Despite the event’s name, we’re told the steaks are always grilled. This year, the local grocery store chain, Hy-Vee, is catering the event, and also plans to offer grilled chicken and veggie burgers.

Are we going to see Hillary Clinton grill a steak?

Yes, you will get to see both Bill and Hillary Clinton hover over a grill and cook up a large, hunky piece of Iowa meat. (That said, the now waist-watching former president could choose the veggie burger option instead, but who knows?)

Will Ready for Hillary be there?

The pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC urging her to run for president has major plans for Clinton’s big return to the Iowa stage Sunday. They’re stationing the Ready for Hillary bus there to hand out free T-shirts, signs and rally supporters. They’re organizing buses to transport students from colleges around the state to the Steak Fry. And they’re hoping to post huge billboards near the event so everyone (“including Hillary,” they say) can see she already has huge support.

How do Iowans feel about Hillary Clinton?

Ever since Clinton, 66, came in third in the Iowa caucuses, where she was largely expected to win, her relationship with the state has been rocky. A Des Moines Register poll earlier this year, however, would suggest Iowans are receptive to her 2016 run (the poll showed that 88 percent of Iowa Democrats think Clinton should run again.) And even Harkin is confident she has Iowa support.

“I think you will find at the Steak Fry that Iowans love Hillary — and Bill,” he told the Washington Post.

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Strong Solar Storm Expected to Hit Earth

Strong Solar Storm Expected to Hit Earth

NASA(NEW YORK) — The energy from two back-to-back coronal mass ejections hit Earth Friday as expected, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coronal mass ejections are bursts of radiation that explode from the sun — and these particular flares have been whizzing toward earth as fast as 2.5 million miles per hour. According to NOAA, the current storm level is just above the moderate threshold.

While solar storms may sound alarming, harmful radiation from the flares cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere. However, a perfect storm of intense radiation can impact satellite and radio transmissions and cause flights to be re-routed due to changes in Earth’s magnetic field.

The solar storm is expected to strengthen as it continues through Saturday — however no major problems have been reported so far.

There is a glimmer of good news in this all: As an added bonus, the solar storm will make the northern lights expand toward the south — providing a beautiful backdrop for star gazers.

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How Auto Mechanics Can Rip You Off

How Auto Mechanics Can Rip You Off

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Have you ever gone to an auto repair shop for an oil change, only to have the mechanic say your car needs a new transmission? Has the “check engine” light come on, and suddenly the mechanic says you need expensive new engine parts?

One seasoned auto mechanic is warning consumers to be well-versed in how a car works to avoid being ripped off at the auto repair shop.

“Joe,” who has been a mechanic for 40 years, agreed to reveal the secrets of his trade to ABC News’ 20/20 on the condition that his identity would remain concealed.

He said some mechanics may try to squeeze more money out of customers by doing unnecessary repairs. What drives mechanics to cheat or push unnecessary repairs, Joe said, is the tiny profit margin at many repair shops. Most mechanics are honest, he said, but many are pressured by their bosses to perform unnecessary work.

“The shop has to stay in business,” Joe said. “There are pressures to do things that maybe you wouldn’t do normally.”

Joe admitted that he has used shady tactics, himself, in the past.

“I’m ashamed a bit to admit it, but when your boss tells you…’Either you do it here or the door’s right there,’ what are you going to do?” he asked.

The Automotive Service Association says the majority of the service repair industry is ethical and only charges the consumer for necessary work.

20/20 went undercover at several auto repair shops in New York and New Jersey to see if mechanics would add unnecessary repairs and fees to service a 20/20 producer’s car, which had been given a clean bill of health by two licensed mechanics beforehand.

One of those licensed expert mechanics was Giuseppe Mendola, owner of AutoTech Diagnostic in College Point, New York.

“If they found a problem with this car, it would probably be a problem they invented or that didn’t exist at all,” Mendola said.

Watch the full story on ABC’s 20/20 Friday, Sept. 12, at 10 p.m. ET.

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World Health Organization Needs More Ebola Health Workers

World Health Organization Needs More Ebola Health Workers

iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization (WHO) is asking for assistance from additional health workers as the Ebola death toll rises to 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases.

During a news conference in Geneva Friday, WHO director general Margaret Chan called for an unprecedented emergency response.

Libera, Sierra Leone and Guinea have the most desperate Ebola health situations.

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Ellen Pompeo Ready to Move On from Acting After “Grey’s Anatomy”

Ellen Pompeo Ready to Move On from Acting After “Grey’s Anatomy”

ABC/JORDIN ALTHAUS(NEW YORK) — Ellen Pompeo’s days in front of the camera may be numbered. She’s suggested that she will give up acting once her TV series, Grey’s Anatomy, wraps up.

Pompeo addressed the direction of her career at BuzzFeed Brews with Facebook Live, where she was joined by fellow ABC stars Kerry Washington and Viola Davis. She commented, “I definitely don’t have a strong desire to act after Grey’s.”

Pompeo, who’s entering her 11th season as Meredith Grey on the medical drama, added, “I feel myself transitioning. I don’t find acting terribly empowering.”

Pompeo, 44, said she wants to take on new challenges. That includes working behind the camera as she’s started a production company. However, she stopped short of saying she’s retiring from acting.

Pompeo is under contract with Grey’s Anatomy through its 12th season. Season 11 begins Sept. 25 on ABC.

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Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Contributes $9 Million to Fight Ebola

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Contributes $9 Million to Fight Ebola

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen followed in the footsteps of his former partner and fellow billionaire Bill Gates on Thursday, donating millions of dollars to help battle the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday pledged $50 million to help fight the disease, and one day later Allen announced that his foundation would contribute $9 million to the CDC Foundation. The money will be used to “establish emergency operations centers in the most-impacted countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

“The tragedy of Ebola,” Allen said in a post to the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s website, “is that we know how to tackle the disease, but the governments in West Africa are in dire need of more resources and solutions to treat and contain the virus.”

Allen wrote that his contribution is, “just the beginning of an ongoing commitment to help the people of West Africa,” though he acknowledged that, “money is only part of the answer.” The situation, Allen noted, requires, “creative and practical solutions for the logistical, healthcare worker safety and in-country education challenges aid organizations are facing.”

“A winnable battle should never be lost,” Allen said, urging others to “be a part of the solution” by giving to the CDC Foundation as well.

At least 2,296 people have been killed by the disease, and 1,997 more have fallen ill, the World Health Organization said.

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ISIS Makes Cameos in Campaign Ads Across the Country

ISIS Makes Cameos in Campaign Ads Across the Country

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In a montage that includes militant jihadists wielding automatic weapons, exploding buildings, and even an apparent firing squad, the most arresting image lasts only a moment, but it is unmistakable: a masked terrorist brandishing a knife.

New Mexico Senate candidate Allen Weh made headlines last month when his campaign included the image — a still from the ISIS video of James Foley’s beheading — in a 60-second campaign spot.

Including an image from one of the year’s most high-profile murders in a campaign ad is a risky move politically — especially when that image comes from a particularly gory piece of extremist propaganda. But addressing the threat of ISIS is becoming almost unavoidable as national security issues continue to dominate the news cycle.

“That video is rough, but that’s the unvarnished truth,” Weh told ABC News. “The whole message was very simple: failed leadership in Washington.”

ISIS is “absolutely going to be on the front of people’s minds” this election cycle, he added.

And slowly but surely, other candidates have been following Weh’s lead.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s fighting to hold on to his seat against Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes, also invoked the ISIS threat. In an ad released last week, the McConnell campaign ties Grimes to Obama’s no-strategy-yet gaffe.

“These are serious times,” a narrator intones, as footage of an ISIS militant wielding an automatic weapon flashes on the screen. Later, a three-second clip shows Obama saying, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

“When so many in Washington can’t do the job, shouldn’t Kentucky have a senator who can? Obama needs Alison Grimes. Kentucky needs Mitch McConnell,” the ad says.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also unveiled an ISIS-themed ad portraying incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., as soft on terror.

“America is under a new threat of terrorism, yet Nolan voted to cut funds from the fight against al Qaeda,” the narrator says, as the screen shows men in Middle Eastern garb.

“Rick Nolan. Dangerously Liberal. Wrong for Minnesota,” the ad concludes.

In Michigan, an ad released by the U.S. Senate campaign of Democratic Rep. Gary Peters doesn’t specifically reference terrorism but it does mention an upcoming “vote” — presumably a vote to authorize military action against extremists in the Middle East.

“When it comes time to cast a vote, the decision to put men and women in harm’s way is one of the toughest ones you can make, and I will always think of the people I served with, their sacrifices,” Peters, a former Navy Reservist lieutenant colonel, says in the ad.

And in perhaps the most hard-hitting spot of all, one candidate seeks to tie his opponent not to ineffective policy — but to the terrorists themselves.

David Perdue, a Republican battling Democrat Michelle Nunn for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, recently dusted off an old ad linking Nunn to militants.

“In her campaign plan, Michelle Nunn admits she’s too liberal, and her foundation gave money to organizations linked to terrorists,” the ad says.

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When Boots on the Ground Aren’t ‘Boots on the Ground’ in Iraq

When Boots on the Ground Aren’t ‘Boots on the Ground’ in Iraq

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama’s strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS comes with an additional 475 American troops gearing up to go to Iraq, bringing the total number of U.S. service members there to over 1,600 — but don’t call those “boots on the ground.”

Like the hundreds of American soldiers already in Iraq, the new crop has not been assigned to any combat duties, the military says, and on Thursday, that’s how the White House told ABC News it defines “boots on the ground” in this context: “U.S. military service members serving in combat roles.”

Last year after a Syrian chemical attack, Obama proposed action but promised no American “boots on the ground” there, a policy White House spokesperson Josh Earnest reiterated for Iraq last month.

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, Obama didn’t use the phrase, but emphasized the new American forces “will not have a combat mission.” On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News the U.S. is not at war with ISIS.

While the hundreds of Americans in the Middle Eastern nation serve in support and advisory roles to Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces, already American airmen and soldiers have directly engaged and killed ISIS fighters, both in Iraq and Syria. But the men and women who pulled the trigger in those cases don’t fit the bill for “boots on the ground,” according to White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.

In Iraq, the U.S. has launched more than 150 airstrikes against ISIS targets and released footage of successful strikes. Some bombs are dropped by American fighter pilots in F/A-18s operating off the USS George HW Bush in the Persian Gulf. But as Hayden pointed out, since they’re flying over their Iraqi targets, the fighter pilots are “in the air,” not on the ground.

Military officials said Thursday it plans to begin using “manned and armed” aircraft taking off from Erbil in northern Iraq, but hasn’t decided on which aircraft to use.

In Syria, the U.S. executed a complex rescue operation in July involving several dozen commandoes to save American hostages held by ISIS near its stronghold in Raqqah, senior U.S. officials told ABC News last month. The American commandoes flew in by helicopter, disembarked and managed to sneak to the location they believed to hostages to be, but found none there. A firefight ensued in which officials said the American forces killed several ISIS fighters, while only suffering a single minor injury in return.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel later said that other than there being no hostages around, from a military standpoint, the mission was “flawless.” It was also, according to the White House, exempt from the broader policy of not using boots on the ground.

“Again, we are not contemplating U.S. boots on the ground in Syria as part of a broader U.S. strategy against ISIL [ISIS],” Hayden said in an email. “That operation was a limited circumstance that was not related to our strategy against ISIL. It was about personnel recovery and we never rule out using our military in those circumstances anywhere in the world.”

Hayden declined to say whether such a special operation would be launched to kill or capture ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a potential echo of the Navy SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011. A Pentagon spokesperson also declined to comment on the “hypothetical.”

Late Thursday, The Washington Post reported Obama had given the U.S. military permission to specifically target al-Baghdadi and other high level ISIS figures.

Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism advisor to the White House and now ABC News consultant, said that when administration officials say “boots on the ground,” they probably mean larger organized combat units like infantry battalions, and said Obama’s phrasing Wednesday night was a “better formulation.”

Or, as the president put it on June 19: “I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past: American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.”

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Plane Passenger Detained over Ominous Hot Spot Names

Plane Passenger Detained over Ominous Hot Spot Names

Scott Olson/Getty Images(SEATTLE) — A passenger was detained on a Southwest plane at Seattle-Tacoma Airport Thursday after using ominous names for his Wi-Fi hot spot, sources said.

Passenger Alayna Keagle said people became concerned after noticing strange and disturbing hot spot names emerge, such as “Southwest – Bomb on Board.”

Passenger Ken Saldi also noticed the odd hot spot names.

“He changed it to ‘the bomb is on this seat,’ and then he changed it to something about the stewardess being hot,” Saldi said. “And so that’s why once we found all that stuff out we realized he was probably just goofing off.”

Authorities didn’t take the threat lightly. The plane’s pilot pulled the 737 off to a side tarmac. Police cars surrounded the plane, and officers boarded the jetliner, detaining the man.

“With it being 9/11, we were all concerned there could be a real bomb on the plane,” Saldi said.

Passengers were pulled off the aircraft and all the bags were re-screened, with some being checked by dogs. Passengers were finally able to re-board the jet for the flight to Denver.

“They zeroed in on the guy really quickly,” said passenger Joshua Mutart.

“I just hope he gets prosecuted to the fullest extent. That’s kind of what I was thinking, just disrupting all the people on the flight,” Mutart said.

Southwest said the captain made the call about the potential security threat, and that Southwest’s “highest priority is the safety and security” of passengers and employees.

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