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Federal Judge Cites BP’s Reckless Conduct in 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Federal Judge Cites BP’s Reckless Conduct in 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

BP p.l.c.(NEW ORLEANS) — A federal judge Thursday cited negligence in BP’s role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.

Due to gross negligence and willful misconduct, the company faces penalties from the Clean Water Act totalling up to $4,000 a barrel. The government estimates that about 5 million barrels were involved in the incident, which would cost BP billions.

Prior to Thursday’s ruling, BP set aside $42.7 billion to deal with the impact of the spill. Now, they could face billions more in fines.

Judge Carl Barbier assigned 67 percent of the blame to BP, and lesser amounts to two other companies.

The 2010 oil rig explosion claimed the lives of 11 men and spilled oil for 87 days.

In a statement, the company said they strongly disagree with the decision and will immediately appeal.

“BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial,” the statement reads.

Fisherman in Louisiana felt differently. 

“There’s no question with this ruling, and I think we all knew, that there were a lot of short-cuts taken to save money. That is not, that is unconscionable,” said David Robin, a recreational fisherman.  “That, and they should pay for that. They should pay dearly for that.”

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Hotel Offers ‘Divorce Package’ for Quick Proceedings

Hotel Offers ‘Divorce Package’ for Quick Proceedings

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A New York hotel promises lovely weekends away this fall — complete with quickie divorce packages for those looking for a life change along with the season.

The Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs will, in conjunction with a Netherlands-based company, debut as a “Divorce Hotel” this month. In addition to the “picnic in the park at sunset” and “walks before breakfast” the hotel touts during its hold music over the phone, it will also serve as the venue for the fast divorce proceedings promised by the Divorce Hotel company that launched in 2011.

Until now, the Gideon Putnam Resort had primarily been known for hosting weddings. In fact, the hotel lists “breathtaking weddings” on its web site homepage as one of the top 10 reasons to book a stay.

The hotel will also be the backdrop of a TV series that will document the divorce proceedings of the couples who check in.

Divorce Hotel founder Jim Halfens told ABC News two episodes have been shot so far, but there’s no network commitment as of yet. The show did air in the Netherlands last spring and was a “huge success,” according to Halfens.

In fact, the Gideon Putnam Resort will act as a “the divorce hotel,” which is actually a company that has temporarily located itself in various hotels across Europe. The first was in Amsterdam in 2012.

On its web site, the Divorce Hotel company promises to “help you in a professional, fast and affordable way to support you in the process of getting a divorce over a weekend in a hotel, in all quiet and peace, equipped with all comforts you may need.” And while it can’t guarantee a successful divorce, it does promise “our mediators can guarantee you is that they will be a 100 percent committed to ensuring your separation is professional, fast, affordable and hopefully positive.”

Michele Martin has been named the divorce mediator at Gideon Putnam Resort and said the program will launch in late September. Martin was instrumental in convincing the company to choose Saratoga Springs as its latest location, citing its famous racetrack and proximity to New York City, just three hours away.

She said a divorce can “absolutely” be done in three days, telling ABC News that she has on many occasions facilitated successful divorces in her office over three sessions.

“This way,” she said, “the guests can go to the spa or take a walk around the beautiful grounds in between sessions.”

Martin said the cost of the package will be “around $5,000” depending on season and particulars of the divorce. For example, a couple with a contentious dispute over custody may require another expert that adds to the cost.

The couple selected to kick off the program hasn’t been finalized, Martin said. And whether or not a TV show documenting the proceedings will follow remains to be seen. But there are big plans to expand beyond one weekend couple at a time, including offering mid-week packages or even mediating for multiple couples at the hotel simultaneously.

Martin said she can even envision a scenario where the couples “bond and have group dinners, more of an experience.”

And perhaps the chance to find love again. If that happens, they already have the perfect hotel for the wedding.

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Starbucks to Test Express Stores, Opens Public Roaster

Starbucks to Test Express Stores, Opens Public Roaster

Starbucks(SEATTLE) — Coffee giant Starbucks is expanding its business with the opening of a public roaster in Seattle, along with the testing of new express stores in New York that could allow customers to order drinks on their phones.

Starbucks will launch its Reserve Roastery and Tasting room this winter to highlight small batch, “rare coffees.”

“Everything we have created and learned about coffee has led us to this moment. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting room is a multi-sensory experience that will transform the future of specialty coffee,” said Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks.  “We plan to take this super premium experience to cities around the world, elevating the Starbucks experience not only through these stores but across our entire business.”

The company also looks to address the need of commuting customers with Drive-Thru locations and by  integrating mobile ordering to speed up service.

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Items Frozen in Time at Old Stagecoach Stop Go Up for Auction

Items Frozen in Time at Old Stagecoach Stop Go Up for Auction

Courtesy of Brian Witherell(POPE VALLEY, Calif.) — Imagine walking into a time capsule.  It’s a building, once home to a stagecoach stop, frozen in time.  It was a general store, saloon, and hotel.  The items inside have not been touched in over 40 years.  Antique collectors will flock to rural Pope Valley, California — In Napa County — this weekend for a rare opportunity.  They will be able to get their hands on a treasure-trove of artifacts.

The site is owned by 72-year-old Brad Kirkpatrick.  Kirkpatrick, a lifetime tow truck company owner and volunteer fire chief in Pope Valley has decided to sell the items inside a location his family has owned for close to 140 years.

In 1875, the family of Kirkpatrick’s wife opened the business.

“It was a stagecoach stop,” Kirkpatrick tells ABC News, “We had stagecoaches coming from Sacramento Valley to Lake County.  Every 20 miles to 30 miles they had to stop.”

Over the years the stagecoach stop became a small town.  It included the store, saloon, and hotel plus a restaurant, U.S. Post Office, housing for horses, and later a gas station.  Some in Napa County say it was the place where everybody gathered to socialize.

In 1971, when Kirkpatrick’s father-in-law died in a car crash, he and his wife inherited the site.  With the constraints of running their own business, he could not take on stress of running the complex and decided to lock it up.

“I just couldn’t handle it all at the time,” he says. 

When Kirkpatrick closed the business, he locked the doors with everything still inside.  Everything.

Now 43 years after it was shut down, he has decided to unlock the doors and auction off the contents inside. 

“I’ve kept it in good condition for all those years,” Kirkpatrick explains.  “I put a new roof on it.  The county calls it a roadhouse.  I call it a stage stop.”

On Saturday, the contents of the buildings will go to the highest bidders.  Inside they will find an antique cash register, shotguns, old auto parts, the original hotel furnishings, metal signs, original canned food in the store, and even a working Model T Ford which is expected to catch a few thousand dollars. 

The Motel T is dusty, but Kirkpatrick says it will drive.  Alcohol is still behind the bar.  An old switchboard a telephone operator used is among the items that will be up for auction.  They all remain in the place they sat decades ago.

Auctioneer Brian Witherell, who is a regular appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow is organizing the sale of the items.

“This site has just been stored awaiting its time in history to come full circle and now it has,” says Witherell.  

Witherall admits the years of seclusion has taken its toll on the inside of the building.  He tells ABC News it smells like rat urine inside and some of the items will need some tender care because they are in original condition but antique pickers will, no doubt, see it as a goldmine.

Any bidder who enters for a two hour preview on Saturday will have to sign a waiver acknowledging the hazards inside the old building.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before.  In this raw of a state,” says Witherall.  “It’s unheard of.  It’s the reason we took on the project.”

A slot machine, believed to be from 1910, was found in the saloon with Indian Head pennies inside.  Witherall says the slot machine will be sold at a separate auction.

Once the contents of the buildings are gone, the property itself will be sold.  The 12-acres in Napa County wine country are currently listed for just under $2-million.

Kirkpatrick has only traveled outside of California once, to Nevada years ago for a firefighter event.  He plans to use the money from the sale of the items and property to travel across the United States to see the rest of the country.

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Three Quick Steps to Secure Your Facebook Profile

Three Quick Steps to Secure Your Facebook Profile

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Facebook’s 1.3 billion users are getting a privacy tune-up.

In the coming days, users will be given the option for a quick and painless three-step check-up to make sure their privacy settings are exactly where they want them to be.

The entire process should just take a minute or two, according to Paddy Underwood, a Facebook product manager.

Facebook

A friendly blue dinosaur will guide people through three steps. The first will review who can see their posts, the second will address which apps they use and the third step will deal with who has access to information on their profile, such as photos, birthdays and phone numbers.

Facebook

The changes are expected to help users better understand who can see their information and prevent “over-sharing” to a public audience.

Facebook

“We know you come to Facebook to connect with friends, not with us. But we also know how important it is to be in control of what you share and who you share with,” Underwood wrote in a blog post.

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US Job Growth Fell to 142,000 in August

US Job Growth Fell to 142,000 in August

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Job growth in the United States was below expectations in August, according to the new employment report by the Labor Department.

The U.S. economy added 142,000 jobs in August, which is well below most projections and the year-to-date average.

The report ends a six-month streak when jobs growth registered above 200,000.

According to the report, the unemployment rate ticked lower by a tenth of a percent to 6.1%.

Th jobs that were created in August were mainly in professional and business services, health care, and construction.

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Apple Tightening iCloud Security After Celebrity Hacks

Apple Tightening iCloud Security After Celebrity Hacks

Apple press(NEW YORK) — Apple is going to tighten iCloud security after hackers breached the accounts of some celebrities and posted private pictures online.

Apple CEO Tim Cook denies a lax attitude about security allowed hackers to post nude pictures of celebrities online. Still, he told the Wall Street Journal that Apple will now start sending out email alerts and push notifications when someone changes an iCloud password or logs in from an unknown device.

The company is pushing to reassure customers about security ahead of the expected announcement of a new iPhone next week.

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Google Will Refund Consumers $19 Million in App Charges Settlement

Google Will Refund Consumers $19 Million in App Charges Settlement

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Google is set to pay consumers at least $19 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after complaints that the company unfairly billed millions of dollars in authorized charges made by children.

Parents claimed their children downloaded apps from the Google Play store without permission. Since 2011, many consumers reported hundreds of dollars in such charges.

Officials say Google presented a pop-up box asking for the account holder’s password before billing. However, it did not provide information on any charges, nor did it tell customers that entering the information would open a 30-minute window to allow children to accrue unlimited charges. 

In addition to the payment, the case also forced the company to modify its billing practices, officials announced Thursday.

“For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said. “As more Americans embrace mobile technology, it’s vital to remind companies that time-tested consumer protections still apply, including that consumers should not be charged for purchases they did not authorize.”

Thursday’s settlement marks the Commission’s third such case involving unauthorized in-app charges by children. The FTC settled with Apple in January and filed a federal court complaint against Amazon in July.

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Airbnb Partners with Nest to Provide Free Thermostats to Hosts

Airbnb Partners with Nest to Provide Free Thermostats to Hosts

Airbnb(NEW YORK) — Home rental service Airbnb is partnering with “learning” thermostat company Nest to provide free devices to select hosts in the U.S.

The collaboration with Nest, which, “reinvents unloved products in the home,” is part of Airbnb’s effort to go green.

The thermostat program will automatically turn down heat when a host or guest is away, and allows users to control various settings from mobile devices.

Properties outfitted with the smart thermostats will be featured on a specific list on the Airbnb site, alongside other “eco-friendly home collections,” including titles such as “Urban Farms” and “Shipping Containers.”

“Airbnb wants to help hosts on their quest to be green. We want to enrich the lives of our hosts, their properties, and the communities they live in,” said Lex Bayer, Head of Business Development at Airbnb. “This partnership with Nest gives our hosts access to state of the art technology that is both beautiful in design and at the same time is good for the planet.”

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Photo-Sharing Service Twitpic Shuts Down

Photo-Sharing Service Twitpic Shuts Down

bombuscreative/iStock Editorial(NEW YORK) — Online photo-sharing service Twitpic will shut down Sept. 25, officials said in an “unexpected and hard announcement” Thursday.

The organization pinned most of the blame on Twitter, which reportedly contacted the company’s legal team “demanding” they abandon the application or risk losing access to the social media platform’s API.

“Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours,” Twitpic said in a statement. “Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic.”

Application users will still be able to export photos and videos in the coming days.

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Meet the People Already Lining Up Outside Apple’s Flagship Store

Meet the People Already Lining Up Outside Apple’s Flagship Store

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The four people lined up outside of Apple’s flagship store in New York City are so confident they’re waiting for a new iPhone that they’re willing to spend weeks camped out on a sidewalk.

“We will stay until the release date: Who cares how long. We’ve committed ourselves to do this,” Moon Ray, at the front of the line along with her husband, Jason Ray, told ABC News.

The Rays said they traveled from Jackson, Mississippi, to New York City for the first time to wait in line. They said they hoped to use their prominent spot in the queue to raise awareness for a health care start-up.

The speculation around a Sept. 9 Apple announcement has centered on the possible release of an iPhone 6. However, Apple has declined to say what it has up its sleeve.

If history is any indication and the new phone is announced, it likely won’t come out until 10 days later, meaning the Rays and their fellow line sitters are going to have to bundle up for many more nights spent sleeping on a New York City sidewalk.

Joseph Cruz and Brian Ceballo, cousins from New York City, who were initially first and second in line, said the Rays purchased their spots from them for $1,250 each — which they were more than happy to accept.

Cruz and Ceballo are veterans when it comes to camping outside Apple stores. The cousins, who were being sponsored by BuyBackWorld, said it’s something they have been doing since the iPhone 3G.

Last year, they spent 15 days camped out and learned from the experience. This year, they expect to wait 20 days.

“We try to stay as minimal as possible,” Ceballo said. “Last time, we would bring our whole house with us here.”

Jonah Wong, who flew in from Hong Kong, said it was his first time camping out for an iPhone — an experience he said has been “a little bit crazy” since he joined the queue Wednesday night.

“It’s not something normal people will do,” he said. “It’s something we can check off our bucket list.”

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Stocks Slide as Markets Mull Employment Numbers

Stocks Slide as Markets Mull Employment Numbers

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) –Stocks on Wall Street fell Thursday when two employment reports offered a mixed picture of the job economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 9 points to end the day at 17069.52, the Nasdaq Composite slipped 10 points, finishing at 4562.29, and the S&P 500 dropped 3 points, closing at 1997.66.

The Labor Department reported an uptick in jobless claims last week, with an increase of 4,000 people filing for new benefits. But a private survey from payroll processing firm ADP found that employers added 204,000 new jobs in August. While the figure is less than anticipated, experts say it’s in line with a slowly improving market.

BP stock fell more than 5 percent after a federal judge ruled the multinational oil and gas company was negligent in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Restaurant chain El Pollo Loco released its first report since going public, though the company’s second quarter numbers fell short of expectations.

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Jobless Claims Climb Higher to 302K

Jobless Claims Climb Higher to 302K

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims were higher last week, increasing by 4,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Aug. 30, the number of people filing for benefits declined to 302,000. The previous week, claims stood at 298,000.

The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting that week’s figures.

The four-week moving average jumped higher, increasing by 3,000 to 302,750.

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Lego Becomes World’s Largest Toy Maker

Lego Becomes World’s Largest Toy Maker

Used by permission,® 2014 The LEGO Group(NEW YORK) — Lego has become the world’s largest toy maker thanks to the success of The Lego Movie – one the year’s top box office hits — and the products associated with it.

The privately held Danish firm says sales in the first six months of this year rose 11%. In China, lego sales have reportedly jumped more than 50%.

The Financial Times reports that, “Lego has come back from near extinction a decade ago to become the most powerful global toy brand, with its construction bricks played with from China to Brazil.”

The number one toy maker spot was previously held by Mattel, but its revenues are declining with falling sales for Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels, and the Fisher-Price brand.

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In Contentious Divorce Case, Multibillionaire’s Wife Asks Judge to Void Prenup

In Contentious Divorce Case, Multibillionaire’s Wife Asks Judge to Void Prenup

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — The wife of multibillionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin is asking a judge to throw out the prenuptial agreement that she says was signed under duress. If her request is granted, it could lead to one of the biggest divorce settlements in America.

Griffin, 45, filed for divorce this summer from his wife of 11 years, claiming irreconcilable differences.

Anne Griffin, 43, told a judge Tuesday that she was forced to sign their prenuptial agreement and asked that it be scrapped.

The Griffins were married in 2003 in a lavish ceremony held at the Palace of Versailles in France. They live in Chicago and have three children.

In court papers filed in Cook County, Ill., Anne Griffin says the couple “argued intensely” in the days before the wedding about their prenuptial agreement. She alleges that her then soon-to-be-husband became violent and asked her to go a psychologist, whom she says convinced her to sign the prenup. Anne Griffin said she signed the agreement three hours before the couple’s rehearsal dinner.

She also alleges that her husband failed to disclose that he’d had a prior professional relationship with the psychologist who counseled her then.

In legal filings, Anne, once a successful money manager herself, says the prenup would leave her with 1% of her husband’s estimated $5 billion-plus fortune, or around $50 million.

“This could be one of the biggest divorces we’ve seen in this country,” Vikki Ziegler, a celebrity divorce attorney not involved with this case, told ABC News. “[Anne] Griffin could get up to half of Kenneth Griffin’s net worth, and that could be over two and a half billion dollars.”

Anne Griffin is asking the judge to set aside the prenup based on a number of things, Ziegler said.

“Number one: She was saying she was forced and coerced into signing the prenup agreement twenty-four hours before wedding. Number two: she is saying the document is unconscionable and should not be upheld. And the third…is that Anne didn’t have enough time to consider all the assets,” Ziegler said.

Ken Griffin’s lawyers deny his wife’s allegations, characterizing them as salacious and untrue.

Ken Griffin’s attorney said in a statement that it was “sad that Anne continues to make inflammatory statements purely for her own gain, and in an effort to attract publicity to what should be a private matter.”

Ken Griffin is the founder of the Chicago-based Citadel LLC.

Nathan Vardi, associated editor at Forbes magazine, said Griffin is a notably prominent player in the business.

“He’s as big as they come,” Vardi told ABC News. “He’s the guy people in the financial industry want to be, and also the guy that they fear.”

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Tesla to Build ‘Gigafactory’ Plant in Nevada

Tesla to Build ‘Gigafactory’ Plant in Nevada

Tesla Motors(NEW YORK) — Tesla Motors is planning to build a $5 billion factory outside of Reno, Nevada to produce hundreds of thousands of batteries for its next generation of mass-produced electric cars.

The company says the 10 million-square-foot plant will employ about 6,500 people.

Tesla’s choice of Nevada over California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico takes it a big step closer to mass producing an electric car that costs around $35,000 and can go 200 miles on a single charge. This range is critical because it lets people take most daily trips without recharging, a major barrier to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

The “gigafactory,” as Tesla calls the project, would bring the cost of batteries down by producing them on a huge scale.

Tesla plans to open the factory by 2017.

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Fast Food Workers Plan Walkout for Better Wages

Fast Food Workers Plan Walkout for Better Wages

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Labor groups representing fast food workers are planning a nationwide walkout on Thursday, striking up picket lines in 150 cities.

The workers are fighting for a minimum wage of $15 dollars per hour.

Industry groups say a wage hike would increase prices and wipe out profits.

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Costco To Pay $335,000 in Clean Air Act Settlement

Costco To Pay $335,000 in Clean Air Act Settlement

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Wholesaler Costco is set to pay $335,000 in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, officials announced Wednesday.

In the agreement, the retailer says it will cut emissions of ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas chemicals from its refrigeration equipment at more than half of its nationwide stores.

The costs come as part of penalties for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. In addition to the payment, Costco will improve refrigerant management at more than 200 stores at an estimated cost of $2 million over the next three years.

Between 2004 and 2007, officials allege that the company did not repair leaks of R-22, a refrigerant and “powerful ozone-depleting substance.” Costco also failed to keep records of services for related equipment.

“Cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions is a national priority for EPA, and this settlement will lead to significant reductions of an ozone-depleting gas that is 1,700 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“Fixing leaks of refrigerants, improving compliance and reducing emissions will make a real difference in protecting us from the dangers of ozone depletion, while reducing the impact on climate change,” the agency claimed.

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Isis Mobile Wallet Rebrands to Distance Company from Militant Group

Isis Mobile Wallet Rebrands to Distance Company from Militant Group

Isis Wallet/Softcard(NEW YORK) — In an effort to distance itself from the infamous militant group, mobile wallet company Isis will officially change its name to Softcard, officials announced Wednesday.

“In July, we announced that we would rebrand the Isis Wallet to avoid confusion and association with a violent Islamic militant group in the Middle East whose name, when translated into English, is known by the acronym, ISIS,” CEO Michael Abbott said in a statement. “However coincidental, we have no desire to share a name with this group and our hearts go out to those affected by this violence.”

The application allows customers to pay for purchases by adding credit cards to the online “wallet” on their phone, which they can scan over checkout devices while shopping. Users can also store coupons and membership or rewards cards.

“Together with a simple and flexible visual system, the inherent simplicity of Softcard gives it the potential to become a category defining name,” Abbott added. “That’s a bold aspiration, but one that matches the breadth of our vision.”

Though the program itself will not undergo any changes, the company will launch an updated Softcard app in upcoming weeks.

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Toyota Reports Uptick in US Sales

Toyota Reports Uptick in US Sales

Toyota(TORRANCE, Calif.) — Japanese automaker Toyota reported a boost in U.S. sales Wednesday, announcing a 6.3 percent increase over August 2013.

Toyota, Scion, and Lexus detailed a total of 246,100 units this month, with a 10.2 percent jump compared to the same time period last year.

“The industry had its best August in over a decade with sales topping 1.5 million vehicles,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “Boosted by standout SUV sales and a record-shattering month for RAV4, Toyota was the number 1 retail manufacturer in August.”

The company also noted a 23 percent uptick in all-new Corolla sales, what execs dubbed the “best month ever” for the model. This came along with a 28 percent jump in Toyota SUV sales.

Lexus reported monthly sales of 32,809 units, a 10.1 percent increase on a raw-volume basis.

“It was a great market from top to bottom in August,” said Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “Lexus had its second straight record-setting month as both passenger cars and luxury utility vehicles posted solid gains.”

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