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California Enacts Statewide Ban on Plastic Shopping Bags

California Enacts Statewide Ban on Plastic Shopping Bags

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California has become the first state in the country to make it illegal for grocery stores to give out plastic grocery bags.While many cities had already banned the bags, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday banning them up and down California.“This bill is a step in the right direction -- it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”Under the legislation, grocery stores and pharmacies are banned from distributing the bags after July 2015. Convenience and liquor stores will be subject to the change the following year.The bill will also provide up to $2 million in competitive loans for businesses to transition to reusable bags.Lawmakers are touting it as a win for the environment, but critics say it won't help. Bag makers are already trying for a voter referendum to repeal the new law.

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Will Chocolate Be Next Casualty of Ebola Outbreak?

Will Chocolate Be Next Casualty of Ebola Outbreak?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fears that the Ebola virus may spread to more countries in West Africa could also affect one of the region's major exports, cocoa, which has been steadily increasing in price over the last year.About 70 percent of the world's cocoa supply comes from West African nations, with Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana accounting for over 55 percent of global cocoa supply, according to IBISWorld chocolate analyst Amal Ahmad. But the recent surge in cocoa prices is not the result of the Ebola outbreak, Ahmad told ABC News.The price per ton of cocoa has increased steadily since May 2013, according to the International Cocoa Organization. The price of coca was $3,330 per ton Tuesday morning, compared to $3,252 on Aug. 29. Last month, cocoa prices reached highs not seen since January 2011.Ahmad said rising cocoa prices have so far had more to do with basic economic trends -- strong global demand outstripping limited global supply -- than with Ebola. The epidemic will raise cocoa prices significantly only if it affects workers in cocoa fields, limiting global supply further, Ahmad said.

The current outbreak is the worst since the Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, with more than 6,000 reported cases, about half of them fatal, according to the World Health Organization.The big players will be affected more than smaller artisan producers, who do not lean as heavily on West African beans and instead favor cocoa from Central and South America or the East Indies, said Michael Laiskonis, creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education.ADM, one of the world's largest food manufacturers, has cocoa bean facilities in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, plus cocoa processing operations in the latter two countries. None of those countries have reported cases of Ebola, according to the WHO.

Jackie Anderson, a spokeswoman for ADM, which bills itself as the world's premier cocoa and chocolate manufacturer, said that cocoa operations have not been impacted in West Africa. However, the company is monitoring the situation closely, Anderson said.As the primary October harvest approaches, all eyes are on the ongoing spread of the virus, the restricted mobility of the migrant workforce, and the transport of the commodity itself throughout and out of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, Laiskonis said."Though the Ebola outbreaks presents an unprecedented crisis, the general political and social conditions in many cocoa-growing regions has occasionally been cause for caution amid the global trade," Laiskonis said.

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Under New Leadership, PayPal to Split from eBay

Under New Leadership, PayPal to Split from eBay

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- PayPal and eBay are separating to become two independent, publicly-traded companies. An eBay announcement Tuesday said the breakup, to be completed in the second half of 2015, is the "best path for growth and shareholder value creation for each business."Dan Schulman, a former executive at American Express, will take over the new, independent PayPal as CEO, effective immediately."Dan’s impressive track record of growing consumer brands and his experience in payments and mobile technology make him a natural fit for PayPal today,” eBay President and CEO John Donahoe said Tuesday in a statement. “He brings both dynamic leadership and vision as the company accelerates into the future.”EBay shares jumped more than 10 percent in pre-market trading Tuesday as news of the split became public.

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Ford Cuts Profits Outlook for 2014

Ford Cuts Profits Outlook for 2014

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Will Ford’s profit warning be the first of many? The share price of the second-largest U.S. auto company plunged more than 7 percent as the firm cut its full-year profits outlook.At a conference call for investors Monday, Ford CEO Mark Fields said he expects a pretax profit of around $6 billion this year, down from the $7 billion to $8 billion the firm previously forecast.The decline is mainly attributed to weak sales in Russia, which has been slapped with economic sanctions that have impacted the country's growth.Ford’s European operations are likely to declare a loss of well over $1 billion this year. The region’s economic troubles and slower growth in South America are a worry for many large multi-national corporations.

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Say ‘Ello’ to the Guy Who Invented an Alternative to Facebook

Say ‘Ello’ to the Guy Who Invented an Alternative to Facebook

Ello(NEW YORK) -- Say "Ello" to Paul Budnitz.Budnitz, 47, owns a luxury bicycle shop in Burlington, Vermont, that bears his last name. He's also an author, photographer, filmmaker and the owner of Kidrobot, a company that creates toys, apparel and accessories.He can now add social network co-founder and CEO of Ello to his already eclectic resume."My grandfather was a small-town doctor and he used to say that I was missing a gene that told me that some giant risk I am about to take with my life is both stupid and dangerous," Budnitz says on his website. "I'm grateful for this. Everything beautiful that we create in life requires a leap of faith."His latest leap is Ello, a social network that has generated buzz by positioning itself as the anti-Facebook. The site is advertising free and Ello says it will never sell data about its users to third parties.Budnitz thinks it's Ello's promise that is wooing tens of thousands of people to the site every hour to request an invitation."A social network is a place to be in contact with each other and talk to friends. If it becomes full of ads, it becomes clunky and cluttered and a little violating," Butnitz told Bloomberg Businessweek. "That’s what people are responding to and why they are coming over to Ello."Budnitz, who splits his time between Burlington, where Ello is based, and New York City, knows the social network will have to find a way to monetize itself when it's out of beta mode.His solution is another departure from the norm: Budnitz plans to introduce an app-store model to Ello, where users can add on new features to their profile. If they like a feature, users can add it and chip in "a very small amount of money."

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Facebook Names the Top Honeymoon Destinations in US, World

Facebook Names the Top Honeymoon Destinations in US, World

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The fact that Hawaii is a top honeymoon destination isn't exactly a shocker. Gorgeous beaches, history, luxury hotels -- all without a passport. It's pretty much a no-brainer.According to Facebook check ins, Hawaii's islands account for five of the top 10 honeymoon destinations. But it's not number one.Las Vegas, according to Facebook, is actually the most popular place in the U.S. to take that all-important post-wedding getaway. And if that doesn't surprise you, the number eight destination -- the one that didn't top Hawaii but did beat out both New York City and Lake Buena Vista (home to theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios) most surely will -- because its Gatlinburg, Tennessee.Facebook measured the top destinations based on couples on Facebook who both posted a marriage event in 2014 and checked into a location within two weeks of their marriage date. Check-ins within 20 miles of their home location were excluded.Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg markets itself as a romantic getaway. And this small city of fewer than 4,000, according to the 2010 census, is poised to give the great state of Hawaii a run for its honeymoon money. Golfing? Check. Hiking? 600 miles of trails. Add in ziplining, snowboarding and tubing, biking, and horseback riding and you've got the making of action-packed vacation.There's a few hotels classified as "luxury" in Gatlinburg, according to TripAdvisor, but none of the luxury chains (think Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and the like) that dot the Hawaii coast.Call Gatlinburg a lovers' hideaway, at least for the time being.Top honeymoon destinations in the U.S. for all (international + U.S.) couples:

Las Vegas, Nevada Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii Lihue, Kaua'i, Hawaii Key West, Florida Poipu, Kaua'i, Hawaii Kihei, Maui, Hawaii Gatlinburg, Tennessee New York City Lake Buena Vista, Florida

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Do a Little Studying Before Applying for Seasonal Work

Do a Little Studying Before Applying for Seasonal Work

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Looking for temporary work as retailers start hiring for the holiday season?Although most stores and other businesses are predicted to boost their seasonal employees from last year, getting a job may not be as easy as answering a few simple questions, such as, "Can you work weekends?"According to a survey of big retailers by the consulting firm Hay Group, 18 percent said they want temporary workers who align with their brand culture.That basically means some retailers want hires, even if they're only seasonal, who are familiar with the store, its products and the kinds of customers it attracts.Last year, just four percent in the Hay Group survey looked for the same things from its seasonal workers.Without mentioning names, Craig Rowley, the global leader of Hay Group’s retail practice, said that some stores have prepared a custom test that prospective employees will have to take before they even get to the interview process.Such is the new paradigm in the increasingly competitive world of retail sales, particularly during the busiest shopping time of the year.

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Microsoft to Open Flagship Store in New York City

Microsoft to Open Flagship Store in New York City

LornaWu/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft announced on Monday that it would open its first flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.According to a blog post written by David Porter, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Retail Stores for Microsoft, the New York City store will "serve as the centerpiece of our Microsoft Stores experience." It will contain retail space in addition to experiential space to allow for further engagement with customers and partners. While the flagship store is under construction, the company also plans to open up other stores. The blog post notes that 10 new locations -- not including the Fifth Avenue store -- will open in time for the holiday season. The flagship store, which Porter says is "five years in the making," will be "worth the wait."Furthermore, Porter says, "we could not be more excited to join one of the most visited streets in America." Microsoft currently has 104 retail stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and online stores in 189 countries.

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ATM, Overdraft Fees Hit Record Highs, Survey Shows

ATM, Overdraft Fees Hit Record Highs, Survey Shows

Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you're in a bind to get cash from an ATM, make sure the machine is in your banking network. Otherwise, you might have to fork over a fee of $4.35, which is the average cost of going outside your ATM network, according to Bankrate.com.That average transaction fee is a new high in Bankrate.com's eighth consecutive annual analysis of banking fees.The average fee for using an out-of-network ATM increased 5 percent over the last year; it increased 23 percent over the past five years, according to Bankrate.com's report released Monday about checking account and ATM fees.Bankrate surveyed the 10 largest banks in 25 of the nation's biggest markets from July 10 to Aug. 6.The average overdraft fee -- if you take out more money than you have in your checking account -- set a new record high for the 16th consecutive year: $32.74.Bankrate.com said the percentage of non-interest checking accounts that are completely free has decreased to 38 percent. Five years ago, that percentage was 76 percent.But there's good news for bank customers, said Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst."Regardless how high the fees go, they are completely avoidable," McBride told ABC News.

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Markets Post Losses Despite Rally, Positive Consumer Spending Reports

Markets Post Losses Despite Rally, Positive Consumer Spending Reports

tarabird/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An afternoon rally on Monday, buoyed in part by positive consumer spending figures, made sure that a down day on Wall Street wasn't even worse.The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 41.93 to a Monday close of 17,071.22.The Nasdaq finished at 4,505.85, slipping 6.34 from its opening value, while the S&P 500 dipped 5.05 to end the day at 1,977.80.The U.S. Commerce Department reported on Monday that consumer spending rose by 0.5 percent in August, significantly more than the disappointing increase of under 0.1 percent in July.

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The Rich Get Even Richer on “Forbes” 400 List

The Rich Get Even Richer on “Forbes” 400 List

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bill Gates is the wealthiest person in America for the 21st straight year, says Forbes magazine. He is worth $81 billion, up $9 billion from 2013.Coming in behind Gates in this year's Forbes 400 list is Warren Buffett with $67 billion, up $8.5 billion from 2013. Larry Ellison rounds up the top three with a net worth $50 billion, an increase of $9 billion.According to the magazine's latest rankings, the average net worth of each member on the list is $5.7 billion, the highest amount to date. Last year, the average was $5 billion.When combined, the wealth of the Forbes 400 is $2.29 trillion, up from $2.02 trillion in 2013 and the highest figure to date. The record amount is partly due to the strength of the U.S. stock market.To find out who else made the list this year, click here.

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Deaths Linked to GM’s Faulty Ignition Switches Rises to 23

Deaths Linked to GM’s Faulty Ignition Switches Rises to 23

General Motors(NEW YORK) -- More deaths have been linked to General Motors' faulty ignition switches.Ken Feinberg's latest report shows 23 deaths are now eligible for a claim. Last week, Feinberg, the independent administrator of GM's compensation program, reported 21 deaths.GM intially estimated that at least 13 deaths resulted from its defective ignition switches.The automaker hired Feinberg to pour through death claims from families whose loved ones died in accidents they believe were caused by the problem. Compensation for each confirmed death claim will be at least a million dollars.The overall compensation program, which launched on Aug. 5, is open for submission until Dec. 31 through GMIgnitionCompensation.com.

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Consumer Spending Jumps 0.5% in August

Consumer Spending Jumps 0.5% in August

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Consumer spending rose by 0.5 percent last month after falling flat in July, the Commerce Department reported Monday. The increase was greatly driven by car sales.August's boost marked the best figure since June when spending also rose 0.5 percent."The trends are pretty good. Consumers aren't spending with great gusto, they're not borrowing aggressively, but they are spending their income and adding to economic growth," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics.He said the bump in August is a good sign for the third quarter."The economy in the current quarter is doing pretty well. Growth is going to be over 3 percent, which is not too bad. And it's laying a pretty good foundation for growth going into the end of the year and as we approach the key Christmas buying season," Zandi said.

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Inside Ello, the Invitation-Only Social Network That Says It’s Anti-Facebook

Inside Ello, the Invitation-Only Social Network That Says It’s Anti-Facebook

Ello(NEW YORK) -- It may seem like the last thing the world needs is another social network, but one upstart has become a breakout hit. Less than two months after its launch, Ello has managed to rise above social media malaise because of what it doesn't offer its users.The social network is invitation only. The only way to join is to request an invitation or know someone who is already on Ello.The site has surged so much since its Aug. 7 launch that there are reports it receives tens of thousands of requests for invitations every hour. Once users have scored a coveted invite to Ello, they're welcomed by a look that is decidedly different that other social networks.Ello's interface is clean with plenty of white space.Absent are the newsfeed and right rail advertisements we've grown accustomed to on Facebook or the promoted tweets on Twitter. Ello, which doesn't charge users, promises to never sell advertising.It's something the Burlington, Vermont-based social network feels so strongly about that they've even created their own manifesto that is proudly displayed on their website."Your social network is owned by advertisers," it reads. "Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that's bought and sold."Users who click "I Disagree" are re-directed to Facebook.Free is nice and lovely but at some point, creator Paul Budnitz and its team realize they'll have to find a way to monetize the site while keeping Ello an advertising-free zone.The solution: The team plans to create special features users can add to their accounts, and if they like them, chip in "a very small amount of money."A sneak peek of what's to come: Private messaging, iOS and Android apps and a notification center.

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Claim Your Free Cup for National Coffee Day

Claim Your Free Cup for National Coffee Day

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Coffee chains across the nation are celebrating National Coffee Day on Monday by giving away as much java as possible.Read on for where you can grab your free cup:

Dunkin’ Donuts: Get one free medium Hot Dark Roast Coffee. Kangaroo Express: Pay just one penny for a 12-ounce Bean Street Coffee. Krispy Kreme: Snag a 12-ounce free cup of Krispy Kreme House, Decaf or Dark Roast coffee, or get a discount on a 12-ounce Mocha, Latte or iced coffee for $1. LaMar’s Donuts: Stop by to pick up a free 12-ounce cup of freshly-brewed coffee. McDonald’s: Score a free small McCafé coffee during breakfast hours at participating McDonald’s restaurants across the country. Peet’s Coffee & Tea: Buy one coffee or espresso beverage and get one free. Tim Hortons: Like Tim Hortons on Facebook to get a free coffee with the purchase of another coffee coupon valid Monday.

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Harley-Davidson to Recall Over 100,000 Motorcycles with Clutch Issue

Harley-Davidson to Recall Over 100,000 Motorcycles with Clutch Issue

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Harley-Davidson will recall over 100,000 motorcycles which have a problem with the clutch that could cause the vehicles to crash.Harley-Davidson has been looking into the issue since May, and has received 632 warranty claims and 266 reports of issues from customers. In total, the company says it has identified 19 crashes with three minor injuries linked to the clutch issue. Approximately 105,746 motorcycles could be affected by the recall. Customers will be notified and the repairs necessary to mitigate the clutch problem will be provided without cost to the vehicle owner.

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Consumers Mostly Pleased with Their Electronic Devices

Consumers Mostly Pleased with Their Electronic Devices

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Electronics have become such a big part of our lives that the thought of being without them, even for a short time, terrifies some people.For the most part, Americans seem pretty happy with their devices, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, although maybe not as pleased as last year, depending on the gadget.Using a scale of zero to one hundred, customers gave personal computers a 78 rating, which is down slightly from 2013. Meanwhile, laptops got a score of 76, compared to 80 last year, while tablets fell from 81 to 80.However, desktops seem to be making a comeback of sorts, the ACSI found, rising from a score of 78 to 81 in 2014.As far as computer brands are concerned, Apple ranked first in customer satisfaction, followed by Dell and Acer.Meanwhile, TVs, which seem low-tech compared to everything else these days, rated the highest among everything in the ACSI with score of 86, a slight improvement from last year.

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Guys, You’ll Really Pay for That First Date

Guys, You’ll Really Pay for That First Date

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- First dates can turn into magical moments. Or they can be duds.Either way, if it means going out to a restaurant or anything else that involves money, men had better be ready to open their wallets when the check comes around.That's according to a new NerdWallet.com survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S.A whopping 77 percent of the respondents, all of whom were currently in heterosexual relationships and living together six months or more, said that guys should pay on a first date.Breaking it down by gender, 82 percent of men feel that way compared to 72 percent of women.Talking about their own situations, 56 percent of male respondents and 59 percent of females say that men should continue to pay on date nights.However, this being something of the age of equality, 41 percent of those surveyed admit they split the check.

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Bar at Center of Missing UVA Student Case May Face Legal Trouble

Bar at Center of Missing UVA Student Case May Face Legal Trouble

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia) -- The restaurant where missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and Jesse Matthew allegedly went shortly before she disappeared could face legal trouble if it is confirmed that she drank there.Surveillance footage from neighboring restaurants and witness testimony places 18-year-old Graham and 32-year-old Matthew in Tempo Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, shortly after 1 a.m. on Sept. 13, according to police. But the owner said that none of the staff saw her inside.The allegations could be very detrimental to the restaurant. Virginia's Department of Alcohol Beverage Control classifies serving someone underage a Class 1 misdemeanor that can be punishable by up to a year in prison and a possible $2,500 fine.Brice Cunningham, the owner of Tempo Restaurant, said the restaurant is cooperating with the police investigation."I notice Mr. Matthews, as I told police. They ask me for his description, I came forward and gave them the information I had," Cunningham told ABC News. "We didn't see her, we didn't notice her. And she hasn't been here -- as far as we know and the staff knows, nobody saw her." Even though he says none of his staffers saw Graham inside, Cunningham does know of one woman who was near the door who claims to have seen Matthew and Graham "leaving together." Cunningham said that woman saw Matthew "holding her with an arm around her. And she did look drunk."The sales ticket indicates Matthews had beers, Cunningham said.Charlottesville police have confirmed that they have witness testimony that contradicts Cunningham's version of events. Police Chief Timothy Longo said Thursday "we have at least one witness that will put her inside of that restaurant."Though that could lead to potential legal action, the police focus remains on finding Graham and he deferred from going into too much detail about Tempo Restaurant's role.

"Well, clearly there's a conflict, and I'm not going to question the position of ... the owner of the restaurant," Longo said Thursday. "I'm not in a position to challenge his perspective and I'm not going to."The Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control would not release any records relating to Tempo Restaurant's liquor license to ABC News, saying the information was unavailable at this time "in light of the investigation being conducted by the Charlottesville Police Department."Cunningham said that the restaurant's alleged involvement in the timeline leading up to Graham's disappearance is already having a negative effect on sales and his staff."We have a heart too. We are really affected, I am, by the desperation of Hannah -- I am. It's really saddening me," Cunningham told ABC News."The mood that there is at this place is jovial ... and we don't want the sadness of Hannah's desperation to carry along to us. I mean, it's difficult enough to bear to be part of it," he said.

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Ex-Dairy Queen Employee Sends Boss a Heartwarming Note

Ex-Dairy Queen Employee Sends Boss a Heartwarming Note

iStock/Thinkstock(ONTARIO, Canada) -- You never know what will come in the mail, as Yvonne Lavasidis learned last Monday when she received a letter that brought her to tears."Dear Yvonne, Well, I’m a doctor now! It's taken me a long time, I know, to come back around to Dairy Queen but I have thought of you and your kindness often," the note reads. "You are an incredible boss and an even better human being. Thank you for supporting and encouraging me, for BBQing halal chicken for me, and allowing me to study for my MCAT's in the back when no customers were around. Much love, Nabiha""Obviously I was so very touched,” Lavasidis, 42, told ABC News. “I was in tears when I read the note for the first time, and every time I read it, it still brings tears to my eyes."Lavasidis owns a Dairy Queen in Markham, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and brother, and managed Nabiha Islam three or four years ago for about two years."She was a wonderful employee and so bright and one of those kids that you know will be exceptional and find success," she said. "I have so many young successful kids. I have one who's a nurse at the local hospital, but she'll take the occasional shift just for the fun of it, if you can believe that. It's just a nice atmosphere for working."

Lavasidis said she makes a point to create a fun, supportive working environment, throwing parties for staff throughout the year and barbecuing often in the back."I work in the store with the staff and have the opportunity to really get to know each person, so it's a nice thing to see that young people who have found success take the time to take a pen and write a note. It's so thoughtful," she said. "Sometimes you don't realize how perhaps you might be influencing someone."Since her husband posted a picture of the letter online, the story has gone viral."It's so lovely for me because really it was just a note between two people," she said. "Everyone's response and reaction to it is very nice to see."

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