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Chrysler Has Best September Sales in Nine Years

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(AUBURN HILLS, Mich.) -- Chrysler continues its recent run of gains, reporting Wednesday that it sold 169,890 units in the U.S. last month, marking the best September sales since 2005.

Chrysler credits strong demand for the Ram pickup truck and Jeep models for the extra sales boost, with Ram sales climbing 30 percent and Jeep brand sales up 47 percent. Fiat and Chrysler 200 sales were also up -- 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Six Chrysler vehicles recorded their best-ever September sales, including the Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, Chrysler 200 and Ram pickup truck.

"Continued consumer demand for our new Chrysler-200 mid-size sedan, our Jeep models, and the Ram pickup truck helped Chrysler Group achieve a 19 percent sales increase in September and our 54th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth," U.S. sales head, Reid Bigland said in a statement. "Chrysler Group sales continue to demonstrate strength as we recorded our seventh month of double-digit growth this year."

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Most in US Vastly Unaware of CEO-to-Worker Pay Ratio

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- So far this fall, income inequality has not become a major political issue during the midterm election season, most likely to the chagrin of Democrats who were hoping to campaign on it.

One of the reasons income inequality hasn’t resonated with the public is because of an apparent disconnect Americans have about the difference in pay between CEOs and the average worker.

According to Harvard University and Chulalongkorn University researchers, the median response in the U.S. was that the ratio of CEO salary to worker salary is 30-to-one, which is way, way off the mark.

The real story is that the disparity is closer to 354-to-one, a whopping ten times more than what Americans guess. Since most voters don’t realize this, it apparently makes them less inclined to take action about it.

Meanwhile, when asked what would be a more equitable wage gap between CEOs and workers, the median response was seven-to-one.

If that was the case, according to another Harvard study, and if CEO income stayed constant, Americans would need to earn an annual salary of $1.8 million.

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Despite Qualms About Economy, Americans Spending More than Last Year

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In spite of polls that show most Americans are still feeling gloomy about the economy, people in the U.S. have spent more in 2014 than they have in the last couple of years and plan to do so right up through the end of the holiday shopping season.

At least that’s what a survey by American Express Spending & Saving Tracker found. For instance, 11 percent said their spending on jewelry items is up from both 2013 and 2012.

In terms of shopping for personal extras that include fashion accessories and leisure activities, 73 percent spent as much or more than they expected to in 2014, compared to 66 percent who answered that way in 2013.

During the first nine months of this year, 42 percent of Americans have bought big-ticket items as opposed to 39 percent in 2013. However, 62 percent say they’re still going to make a large purchase before the year’s out. In last year's poll, 51 percent at this time had plans to make a large buy.

Perhaps most telling of all is that 81 percent of respondents say their job is more stable or just as stable as it was a year earlier, an increase from 69 percent last year.

And yet, a majority of Americans, in other surveys, say the country is still in the midst of a recession.

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Bill Gates Praises Boost in Philanthropy, Pledges $50M in Ebola Aid

Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the world lauded Bill Gates’ foundation for its largest humanitarian pledge ever — $50 million to help in the fight against the spread of Ebola in West Africa — the wealthiest man in America expressed excitement over the rise of philanthropy among the young, rich and successful.

“I see more and more [philanthropists] every year.…You know, our view is that you shouldn’t wait until you’re just on your deathbed,” he told ABC News, “you should use your talent to help.…To be smart about philanthropy.”

Gates, ranked by Forbes recently as the wealthiest man in the U.S. for the 21st straight year with a net worth of $81 billion, called the $50 million donation the foundation’s “biggest emergency grant ever.”

“It is a very tough situation we’re in right now — an infectious disease gets into an urban area,” he said. “You have the horrific fact that people are dying of Ebola but also the whole health system is shut down.…So it’s going to take a while there, first getting on top of Ebola, and then restoring a good health system.”

Gates said he hoped the move, coupled with the U.S. response and aid, would help the medical community finally get hold of the epidemic.

At least 2,909 in West Africa have died from the Ebola virus and at least 3,000 more have been infected, according to the World Health Organization.

The U.S. government has committed at least $175 million and the U.S. military plans to give $500 million in “humanitarian assistance” that would be redirected from its budget.

In addition, almost 3,000 American troops have been mobilized to offer support to field hospitals and training facilities for health employees.

With the $50 million pledge, monies are expected to be released in “flexible funds” to U.N. agencies and global organizations that can purchase medical supplies and support facilities treating the outbreak.

“Everybody’s stepping up — the U.K., France — but the U.S. most of all,” Gates said. “A lot of countries. A lot of people. A lot of heroes [are] stepping up to help out.”

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Drug Shares Jump After News of First American Ebola Case

Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Shares of pharmaceutical companies that produce experimental Ebola drugs spiked in after-market trading on Tuesday following news of the first diagnosis of the deadly disease in the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday evening that they had confirmed the first U.S. case of an individual being diagnosed with the deadly virus, at a hospital in Texas.

Shares of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, one of the three known producers of an Ebola drug, jumped as much as 25 percent to more than $26 per share in after-hours trading on the NASDAQ.

Sarepta Therapeutics, which is also reportedly working on a drug, rose by more then 7 percent to over $22 per share on the NASDAQ.

The case announced by the CDC involved an individual who was recently in Liberia but did not have symptoms when traveling back to the United States on Sept. 19.

Although American Ebola patients have been treated in the United States prior to this diagnosis, they all contracted Ebola in West Africa. Ebola has killed 2,917 people and infected 3,346 others in Africa since the outbreak began in March.

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Consumer Confidence Declines, More Losses on Wall Street

JaysonPhotography/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tuesday marked another day of losses for Wall Street, as all three major indices closed lower for the second day in a row.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 28.32 to 17,042.90.

The Nasdaq slipped 12.46 to 4,493.39, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,972.29, down 5.51.

The Conference Board said on Tuesday that consumer confidence, which increased in August, slipped back downwards in September. August's mark had been the highest level in about seven years. The Conference Board noted that "a less positive assessment of the current job market" played a role in the decline.

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What to Expect from Microsoft Windows 10

Microsoft(NEW YORK) -- It's not coming out until 2015, but Microsoft offered a peek at what users can expect from the latest generation of the company's operating system called Windows 10.

Many keen Microsoft observers will note that the company skipped over the number nine in naming the latest iteration of the software. It's something a company spokesman said signals how the operating system has evolved.

"Windows 10 carries Windows forward into a new way of doing things. It is not an incremental change, but a new Windows that will empower the next billion users," the spokesperson said.

Here's a look at some upgrades Microsoft has made to Windows 10:

Working Is a Snap

There's nothing more annoying than having to toggle between two windows you're trying to work out of at the same time. No more!

Users will be able to snap four apps to the same screen, meaning work just got that much easier.

Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

When apps from the Windows store are opened, they'll run the same way as desktop apps -- in a Window. They can easily be minimized, maximized, moved around and closed with just one click.

Multiple Desktops

Working on a slew of different projects? Create a desktop for each one.

Not only do we see this feature making it easier to focus on getting work done, but the best part: your working doesn't have to be staring you down all the time. Let it live in its own desktop.

Task View

When you want to pull up that big project, it's easy to do so.

A new button called "Task View" allows users to quickly switch between open files and new desktops they have created, making working in the operating system incredibly efficient.

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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?

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

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

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

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

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:

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
  3. Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii
  4. Lihue, Kaua'i, Hawaii
  5. Key West, Florida
  6. Poipu, Kaua'i, Hawaii
  7. Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
  8. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
  9. New York City
  10. Lake Buena Vista, Florida

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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

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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