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Ride-Sharing Company Sidecar Says It Raised $15 Million, Richard Branson Is New Investor


Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ride-sharing company Sidecar plans to continue towards its goal of nationwide expansion -- with Virgin founder Richard Branson joining as a new investor.

According to a post on the Sidecar blog, the company has raised $15 million towards this proposed growth. In the post, Branson says that the transportation industry, "has been ripe for disruption for decades," and that Sidecar, "can take on the big guys with innovation and ideas, not just big bank accounts."

Sidecar connects drivers with people in need of rides nearby. Earlier this year, the company introduced "Shared Rides," in which drivers are matched with nearby riders going in the same direction.

The company currently operates in 10 markets across the U.S.

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Gas Prices Drop Significantly


FeelPic/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gas prices dropped by almost five cents in the last week, an impressively large dip, bringing the average price of a dollar of unleaded gas to $3.41.

That figure, released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is nearly 14 cents lower than this date one year ago. California was once again the state with the highest average price for gas, with one gallon costing $3.79 on average.

The most notable drop occurred in the Midwest region, where the average gas price dropped by slightly more than eight cents per gallon from last week.

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Deaths from GM Ignition Switch Defect Exceed Initial Estimate


General Motors(NEW YORK) -- The number of people who’ve died in connection to GM's failed ignition switch and are eligible for compensation is higher than the automaker's initial estimate and will likely increase further, according to independent administrators handling the claims process.

GM had previously estimated that at least 13 deaths resulted from its defective ignition switches, but Ken Feinberg, who’s the independent administrator of GM's compensation program, and his deputy administrator, Camille Biros, on Monday said 19 deaths are eligible for a claim.

"That’s only our first report," Biros told ABC News. "This is an ongoing process."

Biros explained that the families of the 19 who died and are eligible for a claim have not yet been contacted.

The overall compensation program, which launched on Aug. 5, is open for submission until Dec. 31 through GMIgnitionCompensation.com. Biros declined to comment on whether the 13 deaths that GM counted were included in Monday's total of 19, citing the program's confidentiality.

"We will expect to get a significant number of claims from now until end of submission process," she said, adding that some families have received letters requesting more information because their submissions were deficient.

Biros says the claim program had received 445 applications for compensation from GM, as of Sept. 12, including 125 claims that a death resulted from GM's ignition switch defect.

Feinberg was hired to design the submission and settlement process of the related death and physical injury claims. He previously administered the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, the One Fund Boston 2013 Victim Relief Fund and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

In addition to the 19 deaths, the program announced that there were four claims eligible that resulted in a "category one" injury: quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns. There were an additional eight claims categorized as "category two," which required hospitalization.

In a statement from a GM spokesman, the company said, "We have previously said that Ken Feinberg and his team will independently determine the final number of eligible individuals, so we accept their determinations for the compensation program. What is most important is that we are doing the right thing for those who lost loved ones and for those who suffered physical injury."

While there is no payment range for death and category-one claims, the amount paid to category-two victims will be based on length of hospital stay, among other factors.

"The deceased and category-one claims are all individualized," Biros said.

The final payment offer for the death claims will depend on earnings and the noneconomic impact on the deceased's family members, an arduous process that is just beginning, she said.

"This is just a snapshot in time in terms of where we are in eligibility," Biros said, describing Monday's announcement.

She said she hopes to release a weekly update on the program's statistics each Monday.

The submission process can be an emotional process that can include working with claimants lawyers, if they have any, to make sure they submitted all documentation about the car crash and individual.

"We have a whole lot of work to do in reviewing the other documentation for submitted claims," Biros said.

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Mixed Day on Wall Street, US Manufacturing Output Down


stu99/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After the first week of losses in nearly a month, Wall Street was mixed on Monday, with two of the major indices posting losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 43.63, finishing back above 17000 at 17031.14.

The Nasdaq dropped 48.7 to a close of 4518.90, while the S&P 500 slipped 1.41 to 1984.13. Last month, the S&P 500 had reached 2000 for the first time.

For the first time since January, manufacturing output in the U.S. dropped in August, and the gains for July were revised lower. Still, overall industrial production was 4.1 percent higher than at the same time last year.

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Urban Outfitters Apologizes for Insensitive Kent State Sweatshirt Sale


Urban Outfitters(NEW YORK) -- Retail clothing store Urban Outfitters is apologizing Monday after selling a sweatshirt on its website that some see as trivializing a campus shooting from the Vietnam War era.

The red faded Kent State University sweatshirt, billed by the company as a vintage find, retailed for $129 and is now listed on the site as sold out after someone purchased the company’s single available sweatshirt.

“Get it or regret it!” the company urged in its description for the article of clothing.

People on social media immediately identified the offensive connotations of the sweatshirt, pointing out that it looked blood-stained and seemed to refer to the 1970 Kent State deaths when the Ohio National Guard killed four unarmed students and wounded nine others during a protest against President Richard Nixon’s campaign to expand the Vietnam war into Cambodia.

Urban Outfitters prompted some Twitter outrage.

"Just bought a bunch of stuff from Urban Outfitters yesterday. Contemplating returning it all after this disgusting sweatshirt situation," tweeted Jenna Wright.

Rob Peterson added, "Hey @UrbanOutfitters, thanks for proving that History classes are actually important. Ignorance is not bliss."

Kent State University has responded to the situation through a statement that reads in part, “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”

The company responded through Twitter, writing Monday morning, “Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.”

The sweatshirt is now being resold on eBay for $550 by user kentstatesweater who claims to have ordered the piece of clothing and is waiting on its arrival. The description says the owner plans to donate 50 percent of the profit to The Southern Poverty Law Center.

KSU spokesperson Emily Vincent told ABC News in an email that Urban Outfitters reached out to the university with the same statement they released on Twitter.

Urban Outfitters and eBay user kentstatesweater did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

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Microsoft Buys Minecraft Creator in $2.5 Billion Deal


Miles Willis/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse(REDMOND, Wash.) -- Microsoft will pay $2.5 billion to acquire the maker of one of today's most popular online games. Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer announced deal to buy Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, Monday on the company's website.

"This is a game that has found its audience on touch devices, on phones, on iPads, on consoles and obviously, its true home on PC. Whether you're playing on an Xbox, whether you're playing on a Play Station, an Android, IOS device, our goal is to continue to evolve and innovate with Minecraft across all those platforms," Spencer said about the game's appeal among its diverse community of players.

Minecraft, a game that lets players contruct their own 3D virtual world, is the most popular online game on Microsoft Xbox, and the top paid app for both Apple and Google. The game has been downloaded more than 100 million times on PCs alone since its launch in 2009.

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Why iPhone 6 Could Be Apple's Biggest Success Ever


Apple(NEW YORK) -- The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are bigger than their predecessors in more ways than one.

The devices, which boast larger screens, are so popular since their unveiling last week that they have broken all iPhone pre-order sales records.

More than four million pre-orders for the phones were placed when they went on sale Friday, according to Apple.

Demand has been so high that Apple said it has exceeded the pre-order supply, meaning that some customers won't receive their new phones until October.

If you haven't pre-ordered a new iPhone but are clamoring to have one by the end of the week, there's still a glimmer of hope if you're willing to wait hours or days in line. Apple said a limited supply of phones will be available in its stores for walk-in customers beginning Sept. 19 at 8 a.m. local time.

The iPhone 6 Plus was also in high demand from mobile carriers, who projected delivery dates stretching into October.

What makes the iPhone so hot, aside from having the latest Apple product, is the larger screen sizes.

The iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches, while the iPhone 6 Plus measures 5.5 inches diagonally, giving Samsung, which has dominated the giant phone market, some competition.

The iPhones are also packed with new features, including "reachability." With a double touch, the display can slide down so users can reach "anything" at the top of the phone, an ideal feature for multitasking.

Apple Pay, the company's digital wallet that is aiming to be a credit card killer, will also be supported on the new iPhones.

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New Film Features E-Cigarettes Product Placement


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- E-cigarettes are coming to the movies.

For the past 16 years, tobacco companies have been forbidden from product placement in the industry. But those restrictions don't apply to e-cigs.

“I don’t see a problem with glamorizing something that saves lives,” SmokeStik’s CEO Bill Marangos tells The Wall Street Journal.

Marangos' company paid for product placement in a new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

In the movie, actress Milla Jovovich is shown puffing on a SmokeStik. And, as the newspaper notes, signs for the brand can be seen hanging in a convenience store during one scene.

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KFC-Owner Yum Brands Tries Saigon Street Food


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Is America ready for Saigon street food?

Yum Brands -- the owners of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC -- is betting that many people will like the taste of banh mi sandwiches, Asian salads and wok-fried food.

On Friday, Yum opened its first “fast casual” Banh Shop in Dallas.

“With Southeast Asian cuisine growing in popularity in the U.S., we saw an opportunity to design a unique fast-casual concept that emulates delicious Saigon street food, with a focus on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich,” Yum Brands executive Christophe Poirier told Nation’s Restaurant News.

Vietnam is famous for its Chinese and French-influenced cuisine, and for years many business travelers and tourists have been raving about the quality of its fresh and spicy street food.

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Nike Drops Contract with Oscar Pistorius After Guilty Ruling


Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Multinational corporation Nike terminated its endorsement contract with South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius following a guilty verdict in the murder trial of the athlete's girlfriend.

The company originally suspended Pistorius' contract in February 2013 when he was charged in the case, but subsequently terminated the deal after he was found guilty of culpable homicide on Sept. 12, a Nike spokesman confirmed to ESPN.com.

The decision comes days after Nike ended its contract with former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was cut from the football team and suspended by the NFL after video surfaced of him assaulting his then-fiancée, now wife, inside an elevator.

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Pop-Tarts Celebrates 50th Birthday: Five Decades of Flavor Hits and Misses


Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Just like Brad Pitt, Pop-Tarts are 50 and they're still fabulous after all these years.

The breakfast treat from Kellogg's is celebrating 50 years Sunday -- and over that time it has created a series of bestselling, tried-and-true fruit-fillings snacks as well as several flavor mishaps that now belong to a bygone era.

Among those flavors Pop-Tarts should try to forget: "Chocolate Peppermint," "Wild Water Mellon," "Cherry Chip" and "Raspberry Apple." But fans still forgive Pop-Tarts. They have been able to charm millions of hungry kids and adults, especially with their vintage 1973 "Milton the toaster" ad.

Despite a company-wide drop in profits, Pop-Tarts are the tasty silver lining in Kellogg's repertoire of food products. In fact, the food's sales have increased consecutively for the past 32 years.

In August, Kellogg’s reported earnings dropped 16 percent in the second quarter, while sales in North America fell 3.7 percent. Many consumers are turning away from old-school packaged goods with preservatives to opt for healthier, protein-laden alternatives, like yogurt.

Sure, Pop-Tarts are about 30 percent sugar and made with filling that is 10 percent fruit. And yes, the Children's Advertising Review Unit didn't like that Pop-Tarts used to have the marketing phrase "made with real fruit." (Now the company says they are "baked with real fruit.")

Somehow, in spite of apple slices in Happy Meals and kale chip snacks that fill lunch boxes these days, Pop-Tarts remain the sweet shield that protects America's taste for sugary nostalgia.

The most popular Pop-Tarts flavor are Frosted Strawberry, followed by Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon, according to a spokesman for Kellogg's.

And the company continues to experiment with new flavors despite past mistakes: "Gone Nutty! Peanut Butter" and "Gone Nutty! Chocolate Peanut Butter" are the most successful new varieties, the company says.

To celebrate the big 5-0, Kellogg's recently introduced a sprinkled "Birthday Edition" Chocolate Vanilla Crème Pop-Tart with frosting.

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Atlanta Hawks CEO Apologizes to Fans and City for Controversial Remarks


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Atlanta Hawks Chief Executive Officer Steve Koonin issued an apology Saturday to the NBA team's fans and home city in light of the recent scandal surrounding a controversial email from co-owner Bruce Levenson.

Levenson announced he would be selling controlling interest of the basketball team last week after admitting to writing an "inappropriate and offensive" message with racial comments.

"We know enough today, based on investigations conducted by the league, by external legal counsel on behalf of the team, and information that has appeared in the media, that our shortcomings are beyond a single email, a single person, or a single event," Koonin said in a statement.

"To the contrary, over a period of years, we have found that there have been inflammatory words, phrases, inferences, and innuendos about race," he added. "We as an organization did not correct these failures. We did not do the right thing."

On Friday, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence, also coming under fire for racial comments about Miami Heat forward Luol Deng.

"To be clear, I am angry that this has happened," Koonin said of the recent incidents. "I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city, which has always been a diverse community with a history of coming together as one. We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain."

The CEO also addressed steps being taken to facilitate change, including work with a diversity consultant, the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer, and a new owner.

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Ex-Ford CEO May Be Mulling Presidential Bid


Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The former president and CEO of Ford Motors may be eyeing an even more impressive title: President of the United States.

Asked by ABC News’ Dan Harris if he would ever make a bid for the White House, Alan Mulally pointedly did not rule it out.

“I really think it’s important that we all pull together … around a compelling vision for our country and a comprehensive strategy to do it and work together,” Mulally said with a laugh at a radio industry conference in Indianapolis on Thursday.

“With all of you as my witness, he did not say no,” Harris told the audience.

An audience member also posed the question to Mulally of whether he would run for office and again his reply was not a refusal to the idea.

“This is our country,” Mulally said. “And we all got to get really, really engaged with what we think is really important to get our wonderful country going again.”

The ABC News anchor also asked Mulally what he plans on doing now that he has retired and his five children have all grown up. The 68-year-old, who rebuilt Ford Motors and now serves on Google’s board of directors, did not have an answer.

“I can’t give you a definitive answer for that now,” he said. “I have my health and my energy and I love, I absolutely love serving.”

He has not publicly discussed his party affiliation, and he has donated to both the Republican and Democratic parties. According to campaignmoney.com, Mulally contributed at least $6,500 in 2010 to two Democratic congressional campaigns: Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and John Dingell. And in 2012, Mulally contributed to campaigns for House candidates Fred Upton, a Republican, and Dingell.

In interviews, Mulally has praised government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, even while using corporate language normally associated with conservative views. But he has called himself a capitalist and a market-driven person.

Mulally served as Ford Motor’s president and CEO from September 2006 to July 2014. He holds B.A. and M.S. degrees from the University of Kansas, and a master’s in management from MIT.

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Ford Recalls over 70,000 SUVs for Coolant Pump Issue


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ford is recalling more than 70,000 of its hybrid electric vehicles over an issue with coolant pumps.

The recall affects model year 2005-2008 Ford Escapes made between Oct. 13, 2003 and June 20, 2008, and 2006-2008 Mercury Mariners made between June 10, 2005 and June 20, 2008.

According to documents posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website, the coolant pump in the SUVs may fail, which can cause the hybrid electronics system to overheat.

"If the hybrid electronics system overheats, it may shut down the powertrain, resulting in a stall-like condition, increasing the risk of a crash," the NHTSA says.

The agency says the recall is expected to begin next month, at which time Ford dealerships will replace the coolant pump for free.

So far, no accidents or injuries have been reported stemming from the issue.

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Markets Record Weekly Loss for First Time Since August Despite Positive Reports


tarabird/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets dropped on Friday, closing a week of losses for the first time since the beginning of August.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 61.49, to a Friday close of 16987.51.

The Nasdaq dipped 24.21 to 4567.60, while the S&P 500 slipped 11.91 to finish the day at 1985.54.

The poor day on Wall Street came despite positive figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a report released Friday, the Census Bureau said that retail sales met expectations, while a separate report from the BLS indicated that import prices were down in August on the back of lower fuel costs.

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