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Tuesday 7-22

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Walmart Names New President and CEO of US Division


Walmart(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Walmart named Greg Foran the next President and CEO of Walmart U.S. on Friday, succeeding outgoing leader Bill Simon.

Foran, 53, will report directly to Walmart's President and CEO Doug McMillon, the release says. Simon will spend the next six months consulting with the company "to ensure a seamless transition."

The new head of the company's U.S. division had been in charge of all of Walmart's Asia business since June, having just received a promotion from heading Walmart China.

Foran is expected to take his new responsibilities on Aug. 9.

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Stocks Dive with Disappointing Retail Reports


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street stocks took a hit Friday, ending the week with losses following disappointing news from retailers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 123 points, finishing at 16960.57, the Nasdaq Composite lost 23 points at 4449.56, and the S&P 500 dipped 10 points, ending the day at 1978.34.

Amazon's stock fell 10 percent after the online retailer posted a loss greater than anticipated. Shares closed at $324, down $34.60. Visa also slipped 8 percent to $214.77.

Following a May decline, orders for long-lasting manufactured goods bounced back in June.

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Beware of Buying Fake Event Tickets


Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you're trying to see a concert -- or a game -- that's sold out, be careful. Scammers are getting better and better at making fake tickets.

Capt. Shaun Mathers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office says new technology is a scammer's dream.

"It's fairly easy for someone to generate something that looks very close to the original," he says.

So make sure you buy tickets from a trusted source -- one that offers a guarantee. If you don't, and you show up at a sold-out show with a bogus ticket, it's not the venue's fault and there's not much they can do.

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Going Public: Why Amazon's Net Income Is Less than Facebook's


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a tale of two companies, the earnings reports of Amazon and Facebook this week show how the tech sector is playing out in vastly different ways, depending on what kind of services they offer.

Amazon, which has been a publicly-traded company since 1997, reported a much larger loss than Wall Street had expected on Thursday, leading to a slumping stock price on Friday.

With roots in Seattle, the company says it is investing heavily in new products, such as the Fire smartphone, which starts selling on Friday.

Amazon's net income since the company went public is less than Facebook's net income in the two years since the Menlo Park, California-based company's IPO.

In contrast to Amazon, Facebook does not produce any consumer hardware, nor is it burdened with expanding its physical infrastructure to deliver goods.

Facebook's profit totals about $5 billion since its second quarter of 2012, the first quarter following its IPO, according to its earnings reports. Amazon's total profit since 1997 is $3.1 billion, though the company's accounting methods vary in some of its quarters, according to financial data firm FactSet.

And while the precise accounting may differ, the varying bottom lines of the two tech giants show the different challenges each face -- with Amazon investing heavily in infrastructure.

The social media company reported soaring earnings and sales on Wednesday, spurred by a growth in users and mobile advertising revenue.

"Amazon's last three or four years have been more characteristic of a heavy investment cycle," said RJ Hottovy, analyst with Morningstar.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has repeatedly said he doesn't intend to make money off devices like the Kindle Fire, instead opting to make money off the content people buy on them.

Hottovy said Amazon's long-term potential overshadows things like the company's most recent earnings announcement. The company is still reporting an acceleration of Amazon Prime users and a growth in vendors who sell on Amazon.com.

Amazon and Facebook did not respond to requests for comments by ABC News.

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Pop Culture Drinks Surge in Popularity


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Like a particularly enjoyable form of Inception, you can now drink your Game of Thrones beer while you watch...Game of Thrones. Or, sip on 50 Shades of Grey wine while you read the book (or watch the movie trailer, for that matter), or Downton Abbey wine while you binge on the British series. The list goes on.

In recent months, instances of branded drinks have skyrocketed, and people are drinking them up.

Ommegang Brewery was approached by HBO -- the network behind Game of Thrones -- to produce a branded beer.

“The show exploded as you know. The first beer came out in March 2013, and I just had a meeting with HBO two days ago and our contact had a bottle up on his shelf and he was like, ‘Man, that was so hard to find; you remember that?’ because it just flew off the shelves,” Ommegang marketing director Bill Wetmore told ABC News. “It did so well and it exceeded our expectations so well that we quickly brewed as much as we could and rushed a second batch out there before that season ended.”

Besides the obvious increase in sales, the advantages for Ommegang were immediate. HBO broadcasts the partnership to its over 10 million Facebook fans, there have been over 200 million traditional media impressions on the project and they’ve increased sales of their other beers as a result.

“It’s just obviously exponential exposure for us. We work with a retail partner and say, ‘Okay I know you want 10 cases of Game of Thrones to feature and display in your account. You have an audience here that’s demonstrating an appreciation for good beer, an appreciation for our beer, so can we get you to feature five cases of our witte or our rare vos alongside?’” Wetmore said. “And so we get very good visibility and displays of our core products. We bring new drinkers in that way, and our core beers go up 25 to 45 percent when our Game of Thrones beers are out there. It’s really having an impact on growing our core business as well.”

But unlike what Wetmore calls “vanity” projects -- other drinks just slapping a branded label on a drink that has nothing to do with the brand itself -- Ommegang works closely with HBO to create flavors that make sense, something Wines That Rock does as well with their 50 Shades of Grey and Downton Abbey vintages.

“In almost every Downton Abbey, whether it’s Carson downstairs picking out the wine or they’re dining and celebrating upstairs, wine is all over the show. The one thing we believed and reason NBC Universal [who owns Downton Abbey] got excited about working with us is we wanted to be very transparent and authentic to the show and that period of England,” Wines That Rock partner and co-founder Ron Roy told ABC News. “They drank Bordeaux, and while our vineyard was in California, we ended up partnering with a winery in the Bordeaux region of France so these were authentic to the show. Even down to the packaging we were able to use the Downton Abbey brand and the castle and stay very pure to the experience.”

Author E.L. James herself was involved in the making of the 50 Shades of Grey wines, traveling to California and working with the winemakers to create the perfect blends.

It’s a gamble that has paid off for both companies, demonstrated through sales. The first run of 50 Shades of Grey wine sold out in four weeks and has consistently rated in the top 25 wines for sales on Amazon.com, while the Downton Abbey wine sold three times more than Wines That Rock anticipated and was among the top 10 selling wines on Wine.com after the winter holidays.

As for Game of Thrones, Ommegang plans to make four times as much product for the release of their next GoT branded beer, Valar Morghulis, in October than they did with the first beer only 18 months ago in March 2013.

“It just feels like a sweet spot of connectivity,” Wetmore said of the partnership. “It really seemed to strike a chord with the fans of the show and the fans of our beer.”

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Pittsburgh Restaurant Serves Food of Countries in Conflict with US


iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- There are things you don't talk about at the dinner table, and politics is one of them. But political conversation is encouraged at one restaurant in Pennsylvania. Indeed, it inspires the cuisine.

Welcome to Conflict Kitchen, a takeout spot in Pittsburgh that only serves food from countries in conflict with the United States.

Created by Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, Conflict Kitchen features a rotating menu of food native to countries like Cuba, North Korea (Manduguk, or vegetable dumpling soup) and Iran (Khoresht-e Kadoo, or Persian lamb stew with zucchini and tomatoes on steamed rice).

The idea began as an interactive art project that has since become a full-fledged business.

"It was an experiment that was based on what many people thought was an incredibly bad business model to sell food to people in the city, from countries that have no cuisine on our local landscape,” Rubin, an associate professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, said. “There's never been an Afghan restaurant or an Iranian restaurant or a Cuban restaurant in [Pittsburgh].”

Rubin, 51, and Weleski have experience in the restaurant industry, but their emphasis with Conflict Kitchen was less about turning tables over and more about food being a medium for political dialogue and cultural exploration.

"In some ways, [it] was a response to what I felt wasn't in this city, which was a lot of cultural and ethnic diversity, and also a sense of being part of an international, global conversation," he added.

Run as a nonprofit, the restaurant project is hosted by a research center at Carnegie Mellon and receives some grant funding, Rubin said.

Menus are researched and tested in advance, and they change every few months, along with the restaurant's entire decor. Conflict Kitchen is now serving Venezuelan fare such as Pabellon criollo (shredded beef) and Chivo al coco con mofongo (slow-cooked coconut goat), and plans to introduce Palestinian food this fall.

The takeout fare is packaged in custom-designed wrappers printed with interviews of locals from various countries and those who have immigrated to the United States.

The restaurant encourages customers' questions and conversations, but its popularity has made it somewhat challenging for lengthy discussions. "Since we've become so popular, people aren't able to take the time to stand at the takeout window and talk with our staff, who have been trained to have these discussions, to basically be good listeners and conversationalists about the politics and culture," Weleski said.

To that end, the restaurant hosts regular roundtable discussions and events. In one example, customers were able to have lunch in real-time with a local in Iran, while an employee wearing a headset served as a live avatar, sitting at the table and relaying the Iranian's responses to customer's questions.

As for whether the answer to world peace lies in breaking bread with strangers, "Conflict Kitchen isn't about solving these problems or creating peace,” Weleski said, “but it's about creating a public space where people feel comfortable enough to have that discussion.”

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How 'the Cloud' Works, Why So Many People Are Perplexed by It


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You’re probably using "the cloud" already and just don’t know it.

While most people have heard of the mysterious "cloud," only 29 percent say they use it, according to a report from nScreenMedia.

However, the report finds that 90 percent of broadband users in the U.S. are aware of cloud services.

The disparity between the number of people who use cloud storage and the number of people who say they have heard of it suggests that more people are likely using it without fully realizing it.

It doesn't end there -- even Hollywood screenwriters seem to misunderstand “the cloud.”

The new movie Sex Tape, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, follows the tech trials of a couple who accidentally upload their personal video to the cloud -- along with old iPads they gave to friends and family that are still synced to the devices.

The scenario wouldn't happen in real life, however, because videos are only backed up to the cloud. You can’t connect to another iPad to access media -- meaning the couple’s dirty video was safe all along.

If you're still confused, read on:

What Is the Cloud?

Remember when your data used to be stored on floppy discs, CDs and memory sticks? We no longer need those physical storage devices.

The cloud refers to an application that is hosted on or run on Internet servers. All the companies that have these services -- Google, Facebook and Apple, to name a few -- have servers or server farms. That's where the media is actually stored.

If you're looking at a photo on Facebook or watching a movie on Netflix, congratulations, you just experienced the cloud.

Why Is the Cloud So Great?

It's convenient. You can pull up important documents on demand and check email from any computer.

Ever experience the pain of having your hard drive crash and losing everything?

The cloud safeguards your documents, photos and songs, allowing you to have a backup of your files instantaneously by simply logging on to another computer.

What Are Some Examples of Cloud Storage Services?

Apple's iCloud, Google's Drive and Dropbox are some of the most commonly used cloud storage services.

Surely There's a Downside?


It's perfectly safe and acceptable to have your life stored in the cloud in 2014, but as always, make sure you use a strong password to safeguard what's in your cloud.

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These Companies Reward You for Being Yourself


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Your mother may have encouraged you to be yourself, but the advice has never meant quite as much as it does day. A growing number of apps now promise users real-life rewards on the basis of their virtual profiles.

Launched earlier this year, Hotelied is a booking site that prompts users to build profiles that add up to a "travel persona" -- social followings, professional credentials and hotel-loyalty programs are all accounted for. By leveraging that data to participating hotels, the platform is able to offer travelers special rates and enviable perks.

"Our tagline says, 'It Pays to Be You,'" explained Hotelied co-founder Zeev Sharon.

While such traditional sites as Expedia and Booking.com deliver a long list of options, "their pricing is completely static," said Sharon. "It doesn't matter who you are. You're going to get the exact same offer as anyone else. The reality is that not every traveler is the same."

Sharon cited the "one-size-fits-all" status quo as the inspiration for Hotelied. He said his model as a matchmaking program that "introduces" luxury properties to the kind of influential guests they'd like to see in their rooms.

Hotels are not given direct access to any of the information that users supply, but they can, for example, make certain benefits -- think room upgrades or nightly discounts -- available to "Hotelies" who work in influential industries or command a significant online presence.

Co-founder Nick Colletti put a populist point on it: "We feel very strongly about creating a product that allows users to capitalize on the information that they already have out there."

As it stands, big companies monetize social data in ways that a single person cannot.

Like Hotelied, Haggle aims to change that.

Co-founder Rajiv Salimath said he developed Haggle to empower individuals to translate their online personas into benefits. The scrappy start-up was designed to help users slash prices at their favorite restaurants.

Those who download Haggle are asked to provide information on their social followings, which allows the app to compute a kind of score for each user. The composite number synthesizes such metrics as the frequency with which a diner eats out, the loyalty he demonstrates to preferred restaurants, the influence he wields on social media, and a factor that Salimath has euphemistically termed "bankroll."

If a restaurant deems a patron's score worthy, the management can propose a discount. Enterprising users can either accept that rate or haggle for a better one.

The app has partnered with 60 restaurants already and plans to add 120 additional spots by the end of August. Salimath told ABC News that he hopes to extend the technology into other categories like the retail space that behemoth Shopkick currently dominates.

Founded in 2009, Shopkick is considered a veteran of the industry. The app rewards customers for their everyday behavior, focused on delivering benefits, called "kicks," for such quotidian activities as walking into stores and browsing clothing racks. The start-up has partnered with Macy's, Target, and Best Buy, among other major retailers.

For CEO Cyriac Roeding, the conviction that inspired Shopkick is simple: Stores depend on foot traffic, but do not reward it. Roeding maintains that shoppers should be compensated "just for showing up."

The sentiment is one that Salimath shares: "Our goal is once you know how valuable you are to any business, you should be able to leverage that."

Still, Salimath insisted that the process is only as public as users would like it to be. Neither Haggle nor Hotelied requires that users advertise their savings.

Sharon and Colletti confirmed that those who book their accommodations through Hotelied are not obliged to tweet or post about their stays.

Ultimately, Colletti characterized the app as "a marketplace where individuals can receive something for who they are." No strings attached.

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Twitter Has Growing Influence on Movie-Going Habits


iStock Editorial/ Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twitter is putting more butts in movie seats.

Although attendance at the movies is not as robust as in recent summers, a new Nielsen survey suggests that if Hollywood wants to boost sales, it should latch on to the growing social media site.

According to the survey, some 87 percent of Twitter users claim that their decision to go to a current movie was influenced by reading others' tweets.

Meanwhile, 88 percent of Twitter users say that tweets about movies have an impact on other activities, including watching a movie trailer, sending their own tweets or retweeting about a movie, and searching for showtimes and tickets.

About two-thirds added that they will follow a film-related Twitter account that lists specific titles, theaters and actors.

Nielsen says that movies studios should use these findings to mold their marketing practices toward what Twitter users want, such as delivering information one month or even several months ahead of a film's opening.

What Twitter users want for studios, in order, are more trailers, tweets from the cast and behind-the-scenes videos and photos.

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Don't Bet Your Bottom Dollar When Making a Purchase


iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Everyone’s heard of “buyer’s remorse.” However, researchers from three colleges may have come up with a different way of explaining why we sometimes kick ourselves after making a purchase.

The researchers from University of Arkansas, University of Texas at Austin and University of South Carolina say it may be derived from something they call the “bottom dollar effect” -- that is, our purchases are less pleasurable when we’re down to our last dollar as opposed to when there’s plenty of money in our wallets.

To demonstrate this, they conducted six studies, and in each case, people felt much better about what they bought if, say, there was a sudden windfall to pay for their purchase. Those who were stressed about having enough funds to make payments were not as happy with what they bought.

Although people often can't control when the money comes in, the researchers say that businesses can help them out by running sales during times when they might be flush with cash, such as the first and the 15th of the month.

As for the buyer, the studies’ authors recommend that people hold off a day or two after receiving their paycheck so they won’t be worried about “making a really important purchase.”

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Guess Which Men Do Better in Business Negotiations


iStock/Thinkstock(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) -- Men, do you really want to be the owner of a wide face?

Before you answer, researchers at the University of California, Riverside's School of Business Administration say guys with wider faces have an advantage when it comes to negotiating for more money or closing a business deal.

In one of a series of simulated exercises, wider-faced men got signing bonuses that were $2,200 more than their narrow-faced counterparts.

When attempting to sell a chemical plant to a prospective buyer -- hypothetically, of course -- the men with wider faces also got a higher sale price.

But for some reason, the same magic didn’t work when wider-faced men were paired off. In that case, they were less successful in closing a real estate transaction.

Although the researchers couldn’t readily explain why having a wide face is “both a blessing and a curse,” it’s speculated that men with these features appear to be more focused about their own self-interest than skinnier-faced gents.

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American Airlines Reports Record Quarterly Profit


Joe Raedle/Getty Images(FORTH WORTH, Texas) -- American Airlines reported record quarterly earnings Thursday, detailing a net profit of $1.5 billion -- a record for any quarter in company history, according to airline representatives.

The American Airlines Group announced a record GAAP net profit of $864  million, compared to $220 million in the second quarter of 2013, which was prior to its merger with US Airways.

 "We are very pleased to report the highest quarterly profit in the history of American Airlines," said Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. "Our merger is off to a great start and our 100,000 team members are doing a wonderful job working together to take care of our customers."

The company also publicized a capital deployment program aimed at reducing its debt and providing additional pension contributions, as well as returning capital to shareholders.

"The fact that we are able to implement this program while still funding our significant product improvements, fleet renewal program and integration costs is further evidence of the success of our merger," Parker added. "We have much hard work ahead, but we are extremely encouraged by the great work being done by our team members."

Other airlines also shared in the wealth, as United Airlines announced a nearly $800 million profit for its second quarter. Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest also reported strong gains.

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Stocks Mixed Following Jobless Claims, Home Sale Figures


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stock prices ended the day mixed on Wall Street Thursday, following good news on jobless claims and mixed quarterly earnings results from several companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost three points, finishing at 17083.80, the Nasdaq Composite fell two points at 4472.11, and the S&P 500 gained one to end at 1987.98.

Investors received positive news regarding jobs, with the Labor Department reporting that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest level in eight years. Details on home sales, however, weren't as promising, with home builder stocks dropping after news that sales of newly built homes fell eight percent last month.

Facebook shares jumped six percent to $75.41 after the company reported a profit that beat analysts expectations, while Caterpillar slid after reporting revenue figures that fell short of predictions. One day after news of yet another recall, automaker General Motors posted an 80 percent drop in second-quarter earnings compared to the same period last year, and reported net earnings of $278 million.

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Walmart US Names Greg Foran Next President, CEO


Walmart(NEW YORK) -- Retail giant Walmart announced a new president and chief executive officer for U.S. operations Thursday, naming Greg Foran as the successor to Bill Simon.

Simon, who has held the role since June 2010, is expected to "transition" out of the company and assume consulting responsibilities for the next six months, according to a statement from Walmart.

Foran, 53, takes over on Aug. 9 and will report to Walmart President and CEO, Doug McMillon.

“Greg is one of the most talented retailers I’ve ever met. His depth of knowledge and global experience will bring a fresh perspective to our business,” McMillon said. “His passion for fresh food, experience in general merchandise and commitment to e-commerce will help us serve our customers even more effectively for years to come.”

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New Home Sales Plummet 8.1% in June


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Americans purchasing new homes took a big plunge last month.

The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that sales of newly built homes dropped by more than 8 percent in June to 406,000.

"The numbers are definitely a little disappointing. I think it's important to keep it in perspective. Part of the drop is from an abnormally high May figure," said Robert Denk, a senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

In another bit of bad news, May's figure was also revised downward by about 12 percent.

"The decline in June is not necessarily unexpected. It's not a disaster. The June number sort of puts us back on trend and we expect these numbers to definitely firm up in the second half of the year," Denk said.

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