Apple donates $5 million to hurricane relief, makes it easier for customers to donate

Apple is pledging another $5 million for hurricane relief.

The company said Friday that it’s giving the donation to the “Hand in Hand” drive, an ongoing fundraiser that will divvy up funds between several organizations. The goal is to help victims of Hurricane Harvey — which clobbered the Gulf Coat two weeks ago — and Hurricane Irma, an even more powerful storm that is barreling towards Florida.

Apple also said Friday that it will allow its customers to donate directly to the cause.

“Starting this weekend, anyone with an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC running iTunes can donate directly through the App Store and iTunes,” the company said in a statement.

Apple says it donated another $3 million to the Red Cross after Harvey. Apple employees and customers have given another $2 million to that organization, a spokesperson said Friday.

“Hand in Hand” has been collecting donations since Harvey flooded Houston, and organizers are planning to host a star-studded telethon on September 12.

The fund’s initial primary backers were Verizon and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Michael Dell, a Houston native, has given $5 million to the fund. Verizon will be running a call center for the drive, and it has given $2.5 million to “Hand in Hand,” according to a press release.

The telethon will air live coast-to-coast on several networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and HBO. (HBO, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.)

Among the big-name stars expected to appear on the broadcast will include Beyoncé, Oprah, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Drake and George Clooney. The event will also feature a performance from country music star George Strait, along with “special guests.”

Social Security Administration warns about fradulent callers trying to steal your checks

The Social Security Administration is warning that schemers are impersonating government agents and stealing people’s benefits.

In a blog post Wednesday, the agency’s Office of the Inspector General said people have been receiving calls from a number with a 323 area code.

“The caller claims to be an [agency] employee, and in some instances, tells the victim that they are due a 1.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of their Social Security benefits,” the post reads. The fraudsters attempt to “acquire personally identifiable information from victims to then edit the victims’ direct deposit, address, and telephone information with [the agency].”

If the caller obtains the information, he or she can then use it to change the victim’s account information — so the fraudster can rewire Social Security payments to his or her bank account, according to the agency.

“Social Security employees occasionally contact citizens by telephone for customer-service purposes, but they will not request sensitive personal information from a citizen over the phone,” according to the blog post.

The administration asks that anyone who receives a suspicious call to report it to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online.

Social Security recipients are common targets of foul play, and the agency recently cautioned the public about another other widespread scheme.

In March, Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, warned of a separate nationwide telephone scheme in which a recording impersonates a message from Inspector General investigators and asserts that the listener’s Social Security benefits have been suspended.

One such recording prompts the listener to call a number, and a person on the other line tells the caller that there’s a warrant out for his or her arrest and demands payment.

McDonald’s to nix artificial preservatives from McNuggets

— McDonald’s believes it can make happier meals for its customers by removing certain ingredients from its McNuggets and hamburger buns.

The company said as of Monday it’s chicken nuggets and several breakfast menu items no longer have artificial preservatives. And McDonald’s plans to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from all its hamburger buns by the end of August.

Both changes are coming to all 14,000 of its U.S. stores, McDonald’s said.

Artificial ingredients have been targeted by consumer advocacy and regulatory groups raising flags about health risks.

The additives have been linked to health risks including cancer, hormone imbalances and infertility.

There are still artificial ingredients in other McDonald’s menu items, but a spokesperson said that figuring out a way to remove it from the food chain’s mega-popular chicken nuggets was a priority. The company has been developing the new preservative-free recipe since earlier this year at a lab in Seattle.

Removing high fructose corn syrup from its buns is another bid to make its meals healthier. The ingredient has long been used as a cheap sweetener in sodas, candy and other foods has been linked to obesity.

McDonald’s USA president Mike Andres said there are more changes on the way, and the company recognizes that “more than ever, people care about their food — where it comes form, what goes into it and how it’s prepared.”

This is the latest bid by a food company aimed at easing consumers’ concerns about food safety and quality. Companies ranging from Subway and Pizza Hut, to General Mills and Tyson have promised changes like nixing meat from animals raised on antibiotics, cutting out potentially harmful ingredients and using eggs from cage-free chickens.

McDonald’s promised in March 2015 to stop using meat from chickens that have been exposed to most antibiotics, and the company said Monday that initiative is now complete — a year ahead of schedule.

It’s also promised to use only cage-free eggs by 2025, and McDonald’s is testing other measures like using fresh beef instead of frozen patties

After excluding black neighborhood, Amazon rolls out Prime Now in Roxbury

— Amazon backtracked on its decision not to offer its same-day delivery service to an historically black neighborhood in Boston.

Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood is one of the city’s poorest. More than 60% of the population lives below the poverty level. More than 80% of the population is black or Latino.

And when Amazon rolled out Prime Now in Boston, it excluded the neighborhood from the service, despite offering delivery to areas on all sides of Roxbury’s borders.

But after Bloomberg posted a report revealing the discrepancy last week, local and state officials called on Amazon to expand into Roxbury.

Amazon announced Tuesday it would expand the Prime Now service area.

“[A]mazon informed me today that they will now be offering same day service to every neighborhood in Boston. I thank them for this decision,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted on Tuesday.

Amazon Prime Now is offered to Amazon Prime subscribers. Prime Now is available in 27 metro areas across the United States, and it allows users to purchase items that can be shuttled to their door the same day they’re purchased.


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Where is that $10 bill with a woman on it?

— What ever happened to putting a woman on the $10 bill?

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made the momentous announcement last June: He’ll put a female face on U.S. currency for the first time in more than a century.

But he didn’t say whose face it will be. Lew promised to spend some time collecting public opinion and to announce a decision by the end of 2015.

It turns out Americans had plenty to say about the matter, and which woman should share the bill with Alexander Hamilton was hardly the only point of contention.

So in December Treasury punted, saying it would delay the announcement to take more time considering “a range of options.”

As a refresher, here are a few of the issues at the core of the $10 bill debate:

Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony are among the contenders to grace the new bill. Some argue that Alexander Hamilton — the nation’s first treasury secretary — shouldn’t have to share top billing with anyone else. Others say a woman shouldn’t have to share space on a bill with Hamilton — she should have her own bill. Some advocate for putting a woman on the $20 instead. They point to Andrew Jackson’s questionable legacy, which includes supporting the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Celebrities, political leaders and thousands of social media users have weighed in with opinions.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called the decision to oust Hamilton “appalling,” and said Lew should “replace Andrew Jackson, a man of many unattractive qualities and a poor president.”

The smash-hit Broadway show “Hamilton,” which won a Grammy Award Monday night, has also made the current $10 bill figurehead somewhat of a reborn celebrity.

The movement to replace Jackson with a woman on the $20 actually started before Lew revealed his plans for the $10 redesign, and it still has widespread support.

The founder of the Women on 20s campaign, Barbara Ortiz Howard, told CNNMoney that the group has had several meetings with Treasury officials to advocate for putting a woman on the $20, emphasizing that a woman shouldn’t have to share space with Hamilton.

Treasury’s latest statement noted that it’s considering a “range of options.”

But if Treasury has to start the process over from scratch with the $20, it will probably be even longer before we see a bill with a woman on it.

Lew has said repeatedly that he picked the $10 bill because it was already slated for a “security update” back in 2013, and Lew said a mockup wouldn’t be ready before 2020.

Starbucks’ plain red holiday cups stir up controversy

— This year’s holiday season red cups at Starbucks have stirred up critics who accuse the company of waging a war on Christmas.

Starbucks said it removed “symbols of the season” used in the past, which have included reindeer and ornaments, in favor of a simple, two-toned red cup.

When the cups rolled out in late October, Starbucks vice president Jeffrey Fields said the company “wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor who calls himself a “social media personality,” took exception.

He posted a video to Facebook on November 5 that went viral. Feuerstein criticizes Starbucks for removing “Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus.”

Feuerstein encouraged customers to say “Merry Christmas” instead of their names in order to “trick” baristas into writing the phrase on the cup. He said to use “#MerryChristmasStarbucks” to post photos online.

In an email with CNNMoney on Sunday, Feuerstein noted that his video has had more than 10 million views.

“I think Starbucks has gotten the message that the Christian majority in this country has awakened and are demanding that our voice be heard,” he wrote.

In response to Feuerstein’s video, Starbucks said in a statement Sunday that it tries “to create a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity.”

The cup is meant to be a “blank canvas” that encourages “customers to tell their Christmas stories in their own way,” Starbucks said.

Pictures of cups with “Merry Christmas” written instead of customers’ names sprang up on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Others defended Starbucks or criticized Feuerstein’s reaction.

Some of the video’s most-popular comments point out that the company sells gift cards with “Merry Christmas” written on them and sells a “Christmas Blend” coffee.


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Walmart, Amazon halt sales of toy guns that look real in New York

— Five major retailers have agreed to stop selling realistic-looking toy guns in New York state, the attorney general said Monday.

Walmart, Amazon, K-Mart and its parent Sears, as well as a small online retailer called ACTA announced a deal with New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman to halt the illegal sales.

He says the toys at issue can be mistaken by law enforcement for the real thing because they don’t have the broad orange stripe down the side that’s required for fake guns by New York state law. (Federal law requires toy guns to have an orange tip).

The companies will stop shipping the illegal toys to New York and will collectively pay fines totaling more than $309,000.

Since 1994 there have been 63 shootings linked to toy guns in the state, resulting in at least eight deaths, according to Schneiderman. He said at a press conference that it was the 1998 death of Brooklyn teenager Michael Jones, whose water gun was mistaken by police for a real weapon, that spurred lawmakers to ban realistic toy weapons.

But “year after year, we found retailers chose profit over safety,” Schneiderman added.

The settlement requires these toymakers to adhere to much stricter requirements that New York City has in place.

Toy weapons sold there must be brightly colored and include a visible logo to make them immediately distinguishable from a real weapon. Now the companies in the Schneiderman deal must adhere to these guidelines throughout New York state.

The companies involved in the settlement sold more than 6,400 illegal toy guns in New York between 2012 and 2014, according to an investigation by Schneiderman’s office.

Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Walmart had previously paid a fine of $200,000 for violating New York state laws regulating toy guns in 2003. Monday’s settlement calls for it to pay another $225,000 — the bulk of the fine.

“ has revised its policy so only items which comply with the New York City code are shipped into New York,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an statement.

A Sears spokesman said that the company is “pleased that we were able to resolve the Attorney General’s concerns regarding toy gun sales in a mutually satisfactory way.”

An ATCA spokesperson said the company has stopped shipping to New York addresses. One of the sites it operates,, now includes a scrolling red banner warning that all orders to New York state will be canceled.

In addition to the settlement, Schneiderman also announced that cease and desist letters were sent to 65 third-party toy gun retailers that sell products on and two more that sell through Sears.

He hopes the results of New York’s investigation will encourage other states that have similar toy gun laws to watch the toy industry more closely.


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