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Apple Halts Online Sales in Russia Due to ‘Extreme Fluctuations’ in Value of Ruble

Apple Halts Online Sales in Russia Due to ‘Extreme Fluctuations’ in Value of Ruble

ABC News(MOSCOW) -- Apple has temporarily closed its online store in Russia, citing "extreme fluctuations in the value of the [ruble]" for the decision.The Russian currency fell abruptly Tuesday, part of a year-long decline, despite action taken by the Russian central bank to attempt to stem the tide. On Dec. 16, 2013, 32.90 rubles was worth about one dollar, according to S&P Capital IQ. On Tuesday, that figure was closer to 72 rubles per dollar.Apple released a statement Tuesday, saying that "due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the [ruble], our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing." Apple did apologize for the inconvenience.

Russia's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to try to slow the ruble's slide, but to no avail.Analysts attribute the ruble's freefall to a number of factors, including a decline in oil prices, which is one of Russia's top commodities. Briefly, anyone trying to access Apple's online store for Russia received an error message, which said that the company was "updating the Apple Store for you and will be back soon." Later on Tuesday, the website was restored, while the purchase page brought up the same error message.

 

Apple's Russian website is "updating" ... price hike coming after ruble's fall? pic.twitter.com/h2hNJw3fgR

— Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia) December 16, 2014

 

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More Losses on Wall Street, Russian Ruble Continues to Lose Value

More Losses on Wall Street, Russian Ruble Continues to Lose Value

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street experienced yet another day of losses in a month that has been full of them on Tuesday, with all three major indices finishing the day below their opening positions.The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 111.97, closing at 17,068.87.The Nasdaq ended the session at 4,547.83, down 57.33, while the S&P 500 closed down 16.88, at 1,972.75.The value of the Russian ruble continued to fall Tuesday, with Secretary of State John Kerry denying a link to sanctions levied against Russia. Russia's central bank raised interest rates Tuesday morning in an effort to stop the freefall, but the move has done little to stem the tide.

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Instagram Update Includes Five New Filters

Instagram Update Includes Five New Filters

Instagram(NEW YORK) -- Instagram delivered the ultimate holiday gift Tuesday to its users: five new filters.Meet Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden and Perpetua. They sound like characters from The Hunger Games, but are actually the names of Instagram's new filters.The company rarely rolls out new filters -- the last rollout was in 2012 -- so it makes Tuesday extra special for the photo sharing app's 300 million monthly users.Instagram iOS 6.4.0 can be found in the App Store and version 6.12.0 in the Google Play Store. The new filters are in addition to the existing selection.Instagram is also giving users control of their filters, allowing them to re-arrange the order or hide the ones they never use.After downloading the update, this feature can be activated by swiping right to the end of the filters and then clicking "manage."

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Seven Items Now Cheaper than Falling Price of Gasoline

Seven Items Now Cheaper than Falling Price of Gasoline

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gasoline has fallen below $2 a gallon at some stations in the country, as the price of oil plummets globally. Now, a Starbucks Frappuccino drink is more expensive than a gallon of gas."This is getting downright wild," GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan told ABC News. "We keep sliding, and there’s no end in sight."The average cost for a gallon of regular is $2.55, down about 69 cents from a year ago and 13 cents from a week ago, according to the Energy Department's weekly price report released on Monday. Gas peaked at over $4 a gallon just a few years ago in 2008.In 36 states, gas is at least $1 a gallon lower than six months ago on June 16, according to GasBuddy.Here are seven items that may be pricier than the average cost of a gallon of regular gas in the U.S., from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' average price data in its consumer price index for October (CPI data for November will be released Wednesday morning) and online menu price estimates for fast food chains:

Starbucks Tall Coffee Frappuccino: about $2.95 Burger King Whopper: about $3.49 Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich: about $2.99 Orange juice, frozen concentrate 12 oz. can: $2.61 100 percent ground roast coffee per pound: $5.03 100 percent ground chuck beef per pound: $4.29 Whole milk, fresh and fortified, per gallon: $3.77

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Apple Wins iPod Class-Action Antitrust Lawsuit

Apple Wins iPod Class-Action Antitrust Lawsuit

Apple, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- Apple has been found not liable in a decade-old class-action lawsuit alleging the company engaged in anti-competitive behavior by blocking songs sold by competing music stores from playing on its iPod music player.The legal drama that played out over the course of a decade went to trial earlier this month. It was decided in a matter of hours by a California jury.The plaintiffs claimed that Apple would only allow music bought from its iTunes store to play on iPods, requiring customers to keep buying iPods in order to keep their music.The jury found that iTunes 7.0 was a genuine product improvement, according to the Wall Street Journal, meaning that Apple did not violate any anti-trust laws.Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor at the University of Iowa and an expert in anti-trust law, told ABC News previous case law supports companies that make "an actual improvement" from antitrust violations, even if it makes some other products incompatible."The burden is on the plaintiff. They have to really prove it is not a legitimate innovation," he said. "The decks are kind of stacked against the plaintiff if there is evidence customers liked the change and demand went up."

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Rihanna Named Creative Director of Puma

Rihanna Named Creative Director of Puma

Eric McCandless/CBS(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to fashion, Rihanna is known for her daring red carpet looks, but she's just accepted a position with a company best known for more casual clothing.Women's Wear Daily reports Rihanna has been named creative director of Puma, and will be overseeing the women's line for the sporting goods company, including shoes and apparel.

The Grammy-winning star was in Germany Monday for her first creative session with the Puma design team, where she chose colors and styles and discussed the line's overall direction.As WWD reports, Puma says Rihanna's deal is a multi-year partnership, and that the singer's role will involve working with Puma to "design and customize classic Puma styles as well as create new styles to add to the Puma product portfolio."Rihanna will also be the company's global brand ambassador, and star in its ad campaign for fall 2015. 

In a statement, Puma's CEO said of the singer, "Her global profile, her charisma and individuality, her ambition -- all these things make her a perfect ambassador for our brand...Rihanna was a natural choice for us. We’re delighted to have her as a partner, and we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”Rihanna posted a photo of herself signing with the company. "On the dotted line. #PUMA" reads the caption.Rihanna, the winner of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Fashion Icon Award, has also created a clothing line for the British label River Island, and a cosmetics collection for MAC.

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McDonald’s to Ration French Fries in Japan over Potato Shortage

McDonald’s to Ration French Fries in Japan over Potato Shortage

McDonald's(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's restaurants in Japan will begin rationing their French fries beginning Wednesday, eliminating the menu option for large fries, due to a potato shortage, a spokeswoman for the fast food chain confirmed to ABC News.A labor dispute is apparently delaying American potato shipments at American West Coast ports, thereby limiting supplies in Japan. Labor disputes have resulted in protests in ports in California and the Pacific Northwest over the past couple years.Becca Hary, McDonald's Corporation's director of global media relations, told ABC News in a statement, "Due to prolonged U.S. West Coast port labor negotiations which have resulted in challenges securing a stable supply of potatoes to McDonald’s Japan beginning Wednesday, December 17, 2014, only small size fries will be available in our restaurants in Japan. This will also apply to our set meals, and will include price reductions accordingly."The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said Monday that it is waiting for the Pacific Maritime Association to respond to its comments on the latest offer from West Coast port employers.

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The Reasons Behind Russian Ruble’s Rampant Decline

The Reasons Behind Russian Ruble’s Rampant Decline

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Russian ruble's abrupt fall on Tuesday is part of a year-long drop by more than half the value of the currency.Back in Dec. 16, 2013, one ruble was worth about 3 cents, according to S&P Capital IQ. In reverse, a dollar was worth about 32.90 rubles back then. Fast forward to Tuesday, when it fell as much as 20 percent before recovering to 72 for every dollar.The rampant decline of the ruble is the result of many different variables, according to Lindsey Piegza, Sterne Agee's chief economist, including a fall in oil prices, one of the country's major commodities.The flood of rubles out of the country, as Russian businesses and consumers try to buy foreign imports that are getting more expensive by the day, has led to a fall in the currency, especially compared to the dollar and euro. With Russian confidence in their economy faltering, the ability to buy things with the ruble becomes more tenuous.Overnight, the country's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to try to slow the ruble's slide, hoping Russians would keep their rubles in bank deposits for example, with a higher return on their money.But the plan only worked momentarily.Declining oil prices and several rounds of sanctions that harm investors and businesses are among the drivers of the ruble's fall, Piegza says.Domestic policy hasn't helped either. The Russian government threatening the seizure of foreign-owned assets is cause for concern and has caused a lack of confidence in the country's ability to rebound, resulting in billions in loans coming due rather than being renewed, Piegza says."Clearly foreign investors are concerned, in some cases pulling funds out of the troubled nation," she said.

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Russian Ruble: This Is Its Free-Fall in One Chart

Russian Ruble: This Is Its Free-Fall in One Chart The drop of the ruble, or rouble, shown through the Morgan Stanley Trade Weighted Index over the last year, is the steepest in 16 years. (Bloomberg)(NEW YORK) — The Russian ruble has dropped to its lowest point in 16 years -- and has been in fre...

Traveling Is Yet One More Holiday Tradition

Traveling Is Yet One More Holiday Tradition

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Will you be home for Christmas? How about Hanukkah?The Jewish festival of lights kicks off Wednesday and with Christmas a week from Thursday, a lot of folks are preparing to head out to be with family or friends or maybe just escape to a vacation destination.Although most plan to stick around, TripAdvisor says that one in three Americans will do some form of traveling over the next couple of weeks.Of those on the roads or in the air, 72 percent have Christmas plans while another 42 percent will travel for New Year's Eve celebrations.The Hanukkah travelers account for about four percent of Americans spending their holiday elsewhere.TripAdvisor say that 27 percent of all travelers plan to see family with three-quarters offered accommodations by their relatives. The rest plan to stay in a hotel.

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Gas Prices Continue to Drop, Down 12 Cents from Last Week

Gas Prices Continue to Drop, Down 12 Cents from Last Week

FeelPic/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gas prices are down again around the country, with the average gallon costing about 12 cents less than last week.The U.s. Energy Information Administration reported Monday that the national average price of a gallon is just $2.55. The average price in each of the nine states the EIA measures was under $3 this week.Gas remains the most expensive on the West Coast, where the average gallon costs $2.83, while gas on the Gulf Coast costs just $2.33, on average.Nationally, the price of gas is down 69 cents from last year at this time.

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Wall Street Down Again as Oil Prices Continue to Drop

Wall Street Down Again as Oil Prices Continue to Drop

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A difficult December for Wall Street continued on Monday with all three major indices finishing the session in the red.The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 17,180.84, down 99.99.The Nasdaq dropped 48.44 to 4,605.16, while the S&P 500 slipped 12.7 to 1,989.63.The price of oil continued to drop on Monday, having fallen more than 40 percent since June. Energy analyst Phil Flynn said the drop in prices is beginning to weigh "not only on the stock market, but [on] the growth of the U.S. economy."

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How Yogurt May Save Cereal Giant General Mills

How Yogurt May Save Cereal Giant General Mills

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Can yogurt save legacy cereal maker General Mills? The packaged foods maker is set to announce its second quarter earnings on Wednesday and its yogurt brands may bring some relief to its bottom line."Yogurt is an incredibly competitive space in the grocery store," Erin Lash, Morningstar senior equity analyst, told ABC News."It will take a few more quarters to judge if the growth is sustainable," Lash said.Yoplait was introduced in the U.S. in the early 1970s. In 1977, Yoplait had 14 flavors. Today, there are more than 270 types of products, or SKUs, not just flavors, including Yoplait original, light, Greek, whip and children's yogurt.In September, General Mills announced that Yoplait sales rose 1 percent, while its market share in the yogurt industry increased a half point to 24.4 percent. Today, the headline "Yogurt Is Pick-Me-Up for General Mills" described the Wall Street Journal's take on what is still a growing business. General Mills is introducing this week a new Yoplait product, "Greek 100 Whips," taking strained Greek yogurt and whipping it into a yogurt "mousse.""We are really excited to bring Greek 100 Whips! to market for the many consumers who want the benefits of Greek yogurt, like protein, but don’t necessarily love the texture or the taste," Joanna Hargus, new products marketing manager for Yoplait, told ABC News.The eight flavors of the new line have been in development for about a year, but the company decided to fast-track it earlier this spring when General Mills tested the product and "knew this would be a big hit," Hargus said.Meanwhile, cereal consumption remains in decline, given the vast number of options consumers have for breakfast, Lash notes.As Lash noted in her research note last month, "the onus is on General Mills and its category peers to tout the benefits of cereal not just at breakfast but throughout the day."In touting the benefits of Greek 100 Whips, Hargus said, "Some consumers have referred to Greek 100 Whips! as 'bringing the trifecta' of protein, 100 calories and whipped texture that they love."

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Microsoft Launches Preview of Skype Translator Project

Microsoft Launches Preview of Skype Translator Project

Microsoft(NEW YORK) -- Speaking just one language will no longer be a barrier to global communication if Microsoft has its way.The computing giant launched a preview of is Skype Translator project on Monday, with the first iteration supporting English and Spanish."Our long-term goal for speech translation is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible and deliver the best Skype Translator experience on each individual platform for our more than 300 million connected users," the company said in a blog post.The program relies on machine learning, which means the more people use it, the smarter and more precise it will get.A video demonstration showed two students -- one in the United States, one in Mexico -- using the software to have a conversation in their native languages.When the American girl said something in English, a computer generated translation would ask the girl in Mexico in Spanish, and vice versa.The translations happen in near-real time, making it easy to carry on a conversation, despite differences in language and geography.The preview program is available here to users of Windows 8.1 and the Windows 10 technical preview.Steve Clayton, the chief storyteller at Microsoft, told ABC News earlier this month that Skype Translator is one of his "dream" projects."My mother-in-law is Chinese. In the 25 years I have known her, we've exchanged about six words," he said."My dream feature is to get to speak to my mother-in-law, which some people wouldn't say is a dream feature," he quipped. "But for me, it turns out it is a dream feature."

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“GMA” Investigates Four Hotels Scams this Holiday Season

“GMA” Investigates Four Hotels Scams this Holiday Season

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Before you check in to your hotel this holiday season, there are four serious hotel scams you need to know about.The first: the pizza flier scam. Authorities say thieves create fake pizza fliers and slide them under the door of people’s hotel room. If people call the number on that flier and give out their credit card number, the number is stolen.People are advised to make sure the restaurant advertising on the flier is legitimate.“The big trick there, don’t pay in advance,” Consumer Reports’ Anthony Giorgianni told GMA Investigates.The second scam is the front desk phone call, where a hotel guest will receive a call purporting to be someone at the hotel’s front desk. The caller will say the hotel’s system broke down and they lost the guest’s credit card information, and then the fake hotel worker will ask the guest for his or her credit card number.Stephanie Capretto says she received one of those calls while she was traveling for work.“It was a man on the line saying that he was a hotel employee and due to the…electrical storm the night before, they had lost all of my information because the system went down because of the power outage,” she said.Capretto started to give out her personal information, but then she stopped.“I heard the phone ring in the next room so I figured at that point that there was something fishy going on,” she told ABC News.If someone receives such a phone call, a good way to avoid a potential scam is to go to the front desk in person to resolve any issue.“Absolutely, go down talk to them. Make sure that’s who it is,” Giorgianni said.For the next two schemes, Dave Porcello, the founder of Boston-based cybersecurity firm Pwnie Express, showed ABC News how hackers look to attack.In one example, Porcello set up a fake Wi-Fi spot and named it “hotel guest Wi-Fi.”When ABC News correspondent Paula Faris connected to Porcello’s network, he could see everything she did, including every site she visited. Porcello could have seen her email passwords, credit card information, Social Security number and any other sensitive information she typed in.To avoid the fake Wi-Fi trap, Porcello said, travelers should ask the front desk which Wi-Fi spot belongs to their hotel.

Finally, for people who may use their hotel’s business centers, Porcello had a warning about an innocuous-looking device called a key logger.The small device, which typically looks like a standard-size USB, can be plugged into a computer to record every button that’s pushed by a user.“So obviously that would include credit card numbers, passwords, usernames,” Porcello said.In a statement, the American Hotel and Lodging Association said: “The hospitality industry is vigilant in attempting to identify and prevent dishonest activities,” and it urged travelers to “remain vigilant…and always err on the side of caution.”

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FedEx Crash in NJ Sends Packages Flying 10 Days Before Christmas

FedEx Crash in NJ Sends Packages Flying 10 Days Before Christmas

WABC(MAHWAH, N.J.) -- A FedEx trailer flipped and ended up overturned on an Interstate 287 exit ramp in Mahwah, New Jersey, Monday, with parcels spilling onto the roadway in a giant pile, according to ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.The accident comes just 10 days before Christmas.A second truck was quickly on the scene to prevent delivery delays, FedEx said.No injuries were reported, according to WABC.

Exit 66 was closed and traffic diverted into New York State.

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Postal Service Braces for Its Busiest Day of Year

Postal Service Braces for Its Busiest Day of Year

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An over-supply of packages is Monday’s biggest concern for the U.S. Postal Service, which is bracing for the annual Christmas gift rush. The agency expects Dec. 15 to be its busiest day of the year as it processes more than 640 million cards, letters and packages."We are ready for the rush and ready to deliver," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement Friday. "This isn’t just our busiest time of year -- it’s our season. Customers can count on the Postal Service to deliver their holiday gifts in time for Christmas as we have for the past 239 years."The USPS says it will be delivering pieces of mail seven days a week in major cities and high volume areas, including on Christmas Day. To ensure your greeting cards, packages and letters are received in time for Christmas, the Postal Service has set a Dec. 20 deadline. For packages sent via Priority Mail Express, the deadline is Dec. 23.

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Sony Pictures Plans Town Hall as Hackers Promise ‘Christmas Gift to Come’

Sony Pictures Plans Town Hall as Hackers Promise ‘Christmas Gift to Come’

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton is holding a town hall meeting with employees Monday over the company’s leaked emails.The California meeting comes after a recent attack by hackers calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” with the group releasing additional email correspondence and data, and promising a "Christmas gift to come." The FBI is now reportedly advising employees on how to manage the leak of their personal information.Co-editor in chief Andrew Wallenstein of Variety said the release of stolen files puts Sony Pictures in a compromised state.“It’s hard to believe they could be bracing for much worse, but I’ll bet you, they are,” Wallenstein said.In the latest round of embarrassing leaks, an early version of the top-secret script to the newest James Bond movie, Spectre, was stolen as filming was set to begin, which Wallenstein says could prove expensive.“It could cost up to $100 million just to clean up the mess that these leaks are causing,” Wallenstein said.The flood of stolen data covers everything from Social Security numbers to salaries. New reports claim emails show two Sony executives mocking Will Smith’s children, Jaden and Willow. Another exchange bashes Leonardo DiCaprio, calling him “despicable” for pulling out of the Steve Jobs biopic, while another leaked exchange features a Sony executive supporting a sensitive George Clooney, upset by bad reviews of The Monuments Men.Sony launched a counterattack to the cyberwar, sending a letter to news organizations, including ABC News, asking them to delete and avoid publishing what it calls “stolen information.”In its letter, Sony says the hackers are “explicitly seeking to prevent” the studio from releasing the upcoming movie The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogan. The satirical movie, which features a fictitious assassination plot against North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, is set for release Christmas Day.

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Aussie Uber Riders Blast Service for Exorbitant Rates During Hostage Crisis

Aussie Uber Riders Blast Service for Exorbitant Rates During Hostage Crisis

David Ramos/Getty Images(SYDNEY) — The app-based ride service Uber was blasted online early Monday morning after reports from Sydney, Australia, indicated that the company’s drivers were charging a minimum of $100 to escape the armed hostage crisis in the city’s business district.One business executive sent Mashable screenshots of the Uber app that showed the company was charging up to four times the normal rate because "demand is off the charts."After a firestorm erupted on social media, Uber released a statement saying, “We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney. Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely.”The company said it will reimburse passengers who had been charged extra during the time when the surge pricing was in place, but added that the higher rates were still in place "to encourage more drivers to come online and pick passengers up from the area.”

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The Mall Matters to Millennials

The Mall Matters to Millennials

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Being online is second nature for today’s millennials, but online shopping for the 16- to 26-year-old female segment apparently takes a backseat to the mall when it comes to finding holiday gifts.According to a new survey by Teen Vogue, 65 percent of 16- to 26-year-old females have done or will do the majority of their holiday shopping in brick-and-mortar stores compared to 35 percent who will shop online.The number-one reason for going to the mall rather than shopping online is the respondents like to see the products that they’re thinking about buying in person.  The second-biggest reason for choosing the mall over online is the girls want to hang out with their friends.The top three reasons millennials look forward to spending time at the mall during the holidays are:

Store decorations and window displays - 75 percent The music - 53 percent Collecting festive shopping bags - 46 percent

Respondents expect to spend an average of $287 during the holiday season on the five friends and family they'll buy for, and on themselves.

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