What to know about McDonald’s new changes to classic menu items

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(NEW YORK) — McDonald’s burgers have been an American classic since 1955, but the iconic fast food chain has some changes planned to improve its buns, cheese and even how to cook its quintessential burgers.

McDonald’s first announced in April that its signature Big Mac, McDouble, cheeseburger and hamburger would be made with softer buns, caramelized patties cooked with white onions on the grill, cheese slices that melt more and even an extra special sauce.

Chris Young, senior director of global menu strategy, told The Wall Street Journal in late November that McDonald’s current menu is “quick, fast and safe, but it doesn’t necessarily taste great. So, we want to incorporate quality into where we’re at.”

As The Wall Street Journal first reported, there will be more than 50 tweaks to improve the new burgers that have been tested at the company’s Chicago headquarters.

Chef Chad Schafer revealed that the new burger is cooked with onions on top of the beef patty, before a layer of room-temperature cheese is added for faster melting, and all held together with a softer, glossy brioche-style sesame seed bun.

In addition to the new buns with a thicker base to help preserve heat, McDonald’s will use dehydrated onions that rehydrate as they cook on the burgers. Lettuce and pickles will be stored in smaller containers so that restaurant crews will be required to replenish the supply more often from the cooler.

According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s also discovered that cooking six burgers at once, instead of eight as they do now, “improved consistency and delivered fresher patties.”

For fans of the special sauce on a Big Mac, McDonald’s said it plans to increase the condiment usage to half an ounce, so that it can drip out onto the wrapper.

McDonald’s claims the improvements are so good even the Hamburgler is coming out of retirement to steal a bite.

The updated menu items have already been rolling out in restaurants along the West Coast, according to McDonald’s, and a few lucky ABC staffers and their families stopped by the Golden Arches in Los Angeles for a taste test.

Staffers agreed the food was indeed “very saucy” and “very cheesy” and one staffer’s young daughter added, “Yeah, very good!”

The McDonald’s changes are coming at a time when the burger business is heating up and McDonald’s continues to hang on to its market shares amid competition from other popular chains like Shake Shack, In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys.

Business experts like strategist Kathleen Griffith said these tweaks may help McDonald’s keep up with its rivals.

“Being that burger that people know, pulling out the original mascots, that sort of strategy is never going to get you into trouble when you work on driving a consistent customer experience. It’s a good recipe,” Griffith said.

The rolling launch is anticipated to be completed by 2024 and while McDonald’s is not planning to increase prices for these burgers, prices can vary by individual franchises.

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Spotify to cut 17% of workforce, CEO says

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(NEW YORK) — Spotify plans to cut about 17% of its staff, CEO Daniel Ek said Monday.

“To be blunt, many smart, talented and hard-working people will be departing us,” Ek said in a note to staff posted on the company’s website.

The layoffs at the Stockholm-based music streaming service, which employs about 9,200 people, follow two rounds of cuts announced earlier this year.

The company said in June that 2% would be cut, following a 6% cut announced in January, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Economic growth has slowed dramatically and capital has become more expensive,” Ek said on Monday. “Spotify is not an exception to these realities.”

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Alaska Airlines to acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion

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(NEW YORK) — Alaska Airlines will acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion, their CEOs announced.

Although the two companies will be merged, they will continue to operate under their current names indefinitely.

As a combined airline, Alaska Airlines will serve 138 destinations, expanding “access throughout the Pacific region, Continental United States and globally,” the companies said.

Honolulu, Hawaii, will become a key hub city for Alaska Airlines, the companies said, “enabling greater international connectivity for West Coast travelers throughout the Asia-Pacific region with one-stop service through Hawai‘i.”

Hawaiian frequent fliers will now join the oneworld Alliance network of airlines, which includes Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and British Airways.

“This combination is an exciting next step in our collective journey to provide a better travel experience for our guests and expand options for West Coast and Hawai‘i travelers,” Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines CEO, said.

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO, also spoke about the billion-dollar merger. “Since 1929, Hawaiian Airlines has been an integral part of life in Hawai‘i, and together with Alaska Airlines we will be able to deliver more for our guests, employees and the communities that we serve,” he said.

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Google begins process of deleting inactive Gmail accounts

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(NEW YORK) — If you have a Gmail account you haven’t used in a while – it could be deleted as soon as today.

Starting Dec. 1, Google will begin purging accounts that have not been used or signed into for at least two years. That means emails, Google Drive, Google Docs, calendar entries and photos will all be erased from these dormant accounts.

The company announced the move in May as part of an effort to protect users from security threats. Google says forgotten accounts often rely on old or reused passwords that could have been compromised. These accounts are 10 times less likely to have 2-step verification set up, increasing the likelihood of identity theft and spam.

If Gmail users have an old account that they want to preserve – all they need to do is sign in once every two years. Google says any of the following actions will also prevent an account from getting deleted once you’re signed in: read/send an email, use Google Drive, watch a YouTube video, download an app on the Google Play store or use Google Search.

Google says the policy only applies to personal accounts, not to organizations like schools or businesses. Accounts with YouTube videos are also exempt.

The first accounts to be deleted will be those that were created and never used again. Users who are affected should have received multiple notifications to the account email and recovery email address.

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Elon Musk apologizes for antisemitic tweet but crudely attacks advertisers

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(NEW YORK) — Elon Musk apologized for a recent antisemitic post on X while speaking at a conference on Wednesday night, but added a crude denunciation of advertisers that have since withdrawn from the platform.

The advertising exodus this month amounts to “blackmail,” Musk said, warning that the loss of ad revenue would ultimately result in the closure of X, formerly known as Twitter.

Musk used an expletive while addressing companies that removed advertisements from the social media platform.

“I don’t want them to advertise,” Musk said at The New York Times DealBook Summit in New York. “If someone is going to blackmail me with advertising money, go f— yourself.”

“What the advertising boycott is going to do is it’s going to kill the company,” Musk added. “The whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company and we will document it in great detail. Let’s see how Earth responds.”

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The recent wave of advertising exits from X included Comcast, IBM, Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

“Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience, that’s how I feel,” Musk said, addressing Disney CEO Bob Iger, who spoke at the conference earlier in the day.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino, who most recently served as the ad sales chief at NBCUniversal, sat in the audience during Musk’s remarks.

Prior to his criticism of advertisers, Musk expressed remorse for a post on X earlier this month that was widely condemned as antisemitic.

“I’m sorry for that post,” Musk said. “It was foolish of me. Of the 30,000 it might be literally the worst and dumbest post I’ve ever done. And I’ve tried my best to clarify six ways from Sunday, but you know at least I think it’ll be obvious that in fact I’m far from being antisemitic.”

Since Musk acquired the company last year, advertising revenue has fallen about 50%, Musk said in a post on X in July.

Before the acquisition, advertising sales made up the vast majority of the company’s income, earnings reports showed.


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Autoworkers at Tesla, BMW and more move to join UAW, union says

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(NEW YORK) — Thousands of employees at 13 non-union automakers — including Tesla, Toyota, BMW and Nissan — have moved to join the United Auto Workers, according to the union.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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What to know about the Tesla Cybertruck ahead of its delivery event

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(NEW YORK) — Since Tesla unveiled a prototype of its Cybertruck four years ago, the electric pickup truck has remained in the realm of preorders and earnings-call updates — until this week.

On Thursday, the company will make its first deliveries of the Cybertruck at a high-profile event sure to be closely watched by consumers and Wall Street investors alike.

Encased in stainless steel, the Cybertruck boasts a payload and tow capacity that rival some other pickup trucks on the market.

But the ramp-up to full production will likely stretch into 2025, well-behind an initial rollout goal, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on an earnings call last month.

Here’s what to know about the Tesla Cybertruck, the delivery event on Thursday and when the car will be made widely available for purchase:

What do we know so far about the Cybertruck?

The Cybertruck made headlines for a miscue at a prototype-reveal event in 2019, when Musk touted its “armored” glass but a window unexpectedly shattered seconds later during a demo.

The signature feature of the Cybertruck, meanwhile, may be its stainless steel frame. The steel resists dents, allows customers to forego a paint job and is “literally bulletproof,” according to Musk.

The Cybertruck has a 3,500-pound payload capacity and 100 cubic feet of storage space, Musk said. The vehicle has room to seat six adults, the company says.

A 17-inch touchscreen rests atop the center of the dashboard, alongside an otherwise spare interior. Drivers can raise or lower the suspension 4 inches, Tesla says.

Tesla will offer three versions of the vehicle, ranging in price from $39,000 to $69,000, according to the release event in 2019. The lowest-cost option will offer a 250-mile range while the most expensive option will provide a 500-mile range, Musk said.

Those prices no longer appear on the Tesla website, however, leaving open the possibility of changes before the Cybertruck is made widely available.

More than one million people have pre-ordered the Cybertruck, Musk said last month.

What will happen at the Cybertruck delivery event?

On Thursday, Tesla will announce the delivery of an initial batch of Cybertrucks at an event in Austin, Texas, the company says.

The event, hosted at a manufacturing plant, will take place at 3 p.m. ET, the company said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Tesla says it plans to live-stream the event but the company has not announced where the video can be viewed.

The company plans to ​​to deliver just 10 Cybertrucks at the event, according to remarks made by Tesla global director of product design Javier Verdura earlier this month, Mexican outlet Milenio reported.

When will the Cybertruck be widely available for purchase?

Tesla faces “enormous challenges” scaling up production of the Cybertruck, Musk told investors on an earnings call last month. On a previous earnings call, Musk said the company “dug our own grave” with the decision to develop the Cybertruck.

Last month, Musk cited innovative features of the Cybertruck as a key reason for the delay.

“Prototypes are easy,” Musk said. “Production is hard.”

“You will have problems proportionate to how many new things you’re trying to solve at scale,” Musk added.

Ultimately, Tesla will produce 250,000 Cybertrucks per year, Musk said, noting that the company likely won’t reach that output rate until 2025.

“You have to invent not just the car but the way to make the car,” he added. “So, the more uncharted the territory, the less predictable the outcome.”

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Travel Tuesday boasts savings on flights, hotels, cruises and more: how to score the best deal

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(NEW YORK) — Travel Tuesday is taking off, and that next great vacation could be just a click away.

“We’re expecting to see more deals available today than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined,” Hayley Berg, lead economist for the travel app Hopper, told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

“There will be great deals on flights, hotels, rental cars and vacation homes today,” Berg said. “If you’re planning a trip for 2024, today is one of the best days of the year to book and score deals on future trips.”

Whether you’re looking to take a trip with the family or enjoy a weekend getaway with friends, there are plenty of ways to plan and save so you don’t have to break the bank.

Hotels are slashing prices on rooms, including some holiday stays. Marriott is offering up to 20% off through Tuesday only for stays through Jan. 15. Also, travelers who are enrolled in the free One Key rewards program from Expedia and Hotels.com can get at least 30% off travel through 2024.

If you have your sights set on Europe, Hopper is offering great deals on hotels there.

“We’re going to be offering up to 50% off hotels exclusively on the hopper app in destinations like Rome and Paris,” Berg shared of the 80 dream destinations and over 10,000 hotel properties offering discounts without blackout dates or restrictions.

The Points Guy CEO and founder Brian Kelly told GMA that flight deals are even better now than during previous Travel Tuesdays.

“Because the airline industry is slowing down, air fares are starting to come down. And something we would have never thought a year ago [is] airlines struggling to fill seats,” he said.

Southwest is offering 30% off some fares, while Frontier extended its all-you-can-fly annual pass at its lowest price of $499 through today.

Over 100 of Hopper’s airline partners will be offering deals on Tuesday, including $50 round-trip fares from New York LaGuardia to Orlando, Chicago to San Juan for $160 round trip, and Los Angeles to Rome for as low as $480 round trip.

If an oceanfront vacation is more your style, Virgin Voyages — one of many cruise lines discounting trips — is offering up to 30% off fares.

“MSC cruises are an up and comer, they’re offering really robust deals,” Points Guy’s Kelly said, adding that “Holland America is also offering 30% off select cruises.”

Travel Tuesday Tips

As Berg mentioned, Hopper app users can check out the sale page, where Hopper has highlighted the best deals available.

You can also set price alerts on Hopper for the destinations or hotels you’re eyeing, which Berg recommended for keeping track of the best deals in real-time. Simply click “Watch” on the app for destinations or hotels of interest, and Hopper will notify you when a good deal is detected.

You can also take advantage of Hopper’s flexible booking options, which include “Cancel and Change for Any Reason” and “Flight Disruption Guarantee,” adding the flexibility to book now and then change or cancel plans later, if necessary.

Berg also said Hopper has over 500 travel partners confirmed to be participating in Travel Deal Tuesday this year. So if there is a particular airline you prefer or hotel you’ve been eyeing, Berg said Tuesday is the ideal time to check for a deal.

“Airlines such as Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, PLAY Airlines, and many more will have special offers today,” Berg said. “Hotels such as Caesars Entertainment, Encore Boston Harbor Resort & Casino, Fontainebleau Hotel Vegas, MGM Resorts, Nemacolin Woodland Resort, The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa, Vermont, Wyndham Destinations and many more properties around the world will have discounts up to 50% off available to book on Hopper today.”

If you’re not ready to book on Travel Tuesday but don’t want to miss great deals, Hopper also has a “Price Freeze” feature that will extend the Travel Deal Tuesday offers. When you see a good deal, simply freeze the price and book it later once you’re ready.

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What parents should know about iPhone’s ‘NameDrop’ feature

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(NEW YORK) — In some recent social media posts about a new Apple iOS feature, several police departments have expressed concern about the new “NameDrop” feature potentially putting children at risk if it were to be misused.

But some tech experts say the technology is safe when used as intended and that the warnings in some cases are exaggerated.

According to Apple, the NameDrop option lets iPhone and Apple Watch users who are next to each other share contact information such as a name, photo, phone number or email address quickly and easily with just a few taps.

The feature, announced in June, is currently available on Apple’s iOS 17.1 and watchOS 10.1 software, and is part of the software’s existing AirDrop feature.

Concerns first arose after the Watertown Police Department in Connecticut shared a Facebook post Sunday that claimed Apple’s NameDrop feature is “enabled by default” after a user updates their iPhone to the latest operating system. The post inaccurately claimed that with the feature enabled, “anyone” could place their phone near another person’s phone and “automatically receive their contact information” and picture “with a tap of your unlocked screen.”

In Pennsylvania, the Jefferson Hills Police Department on Sunday also shared a Facebook post with a similar note, specifically addressing parents, encouraging them to “change these settings after the update on your children’s phones.”

Despite those warnings, Liz Keping, the owner and founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, told ABC News’ Good Morning America that parents do not have to be overly alarmed about kids’ safety surrounding the use of NameDrop.

“I wouldn’t say they should be hyper concerned about NameDrop more so than any other feature that their kids are exposed to when they use the devices,” Keping said. “The way the police postings read was that if you put two phones close together, you can have your personal information taken from your device, but there’s actually a screen that pops up that asks for approval to transfer that information.”

Keping suggested the NameDrop feature might serve as a reminder for parents to talk to their children about digital safety and safeguarding private information, especially from a young age.

“Show them where it’s at, tell them that you want to turn it off [if you decide that], but then what it does is it gives a parent another platform to talk about why it’s important to protect that information,” Keping said. “If you say like, ‘Hey, here’s a feature in the app or the device. Let’s talk about it.’ You’re not coming at kids like, ‘Hey, are you sharing your personal information?’ [which can make] kids really defensive.”

Watertown Deputy Police Chief Renee Dominguez, meanwhile, told GMA this week that her department’s decision to share the post, which also included instructions on how to disable the iPhone feature and change settings, was more about taking a proactive approach to try to educate and raise awareness of a newer phone feature, as they have done previously when sharing information about phone scams or incidents that arise from the use of new technology.

“We just want people to be aware and choose to set up your child’s phone, your own phone, the way that you feel that suits your needs and as much privacy as you want to keep on your phone and restriction of access,” Dominguez said. “We will go to some of these workshops that we do for parents, and parents really have no idea that their kids have all these abilities on their phone.”

However, Dominguez added, “There has been no negative activity with [NameDrop] that [has] been reported to the police department, or even in our surrounding area that we’ve been made aware of.”

Apple declined to comment to GMA about the NameDrop feature. The company explains on its website, however, that if users wish, they can select who they want to share any contact information with and when — and it can only be done when devices are within centimeters of each other, when devices are unlocked, and when a user follows the prompts to complete a NameDrop process.

The NameDrop function can be disabled by going to an iPhone’s Settings app, selecting the General tab, then the AirDrop tab, and then toggling the “Bringing Devices Together” option off.

If a NameDrop process is started, it will also automatically cancel if one of the iPhones or Apple Watches is moved away from the second device, or if an iPhone is locked before the NameDrop process is completed.

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Black Friday shopping takeaways and what they mean for the economy

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(NEW YORK) — Black Friday sales did gangbusters as the nation enters a holiday shopping season expected to test shoppers, who account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. economic activity.

Consumers spent a record $9.8 billion online on Black Friday, which marks a 7.5% increase over the year prior, according to Adobe Analytics.

Shopper visits, a metric used to assess in-person sales, rose 4.6% compared to a year ago — a rate nearly double the average overall increase in foot traffic so far this year, retail data firm Sensormatic Solutions said.

Even more, consumers are expected to spend between $12 billion and $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday, which would make it the biggest online shopping day ever recorded, Adobe Analytics said.

A significant reduction of inflation over the past year has delivered some relief for consumers. At the same time, they’ve been squeezed by a decline in savings built up during the pandemic and a spike in borrowing costs for loans like credit cards and mortgages.

“The Christmas buying season got off to a good start, as Black Friday sales appear to be strong,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told ABC News. “Consumers are hanging tough.”

A host of key indicators bode well for consumers as the holiday season takes hold. The unemployment rate stands near a 50-year low, wage growth outpaces inflation and savings have been resilient for upper- and middle-income households, Zandi said.

The U.S. economy grew at an annualized pace of 4.9% over three months ending in September, more than doubling growth in the previous quarter and rebuking worries about a possible recession, a government report last month showed.

Black Friday sales data suggests that the good times for consumers may continue for the remainder of the year, Zandi said.

“While Black Friday isn’t always a good guide to overall Christmas sales, this is a good sign,” he noted.

Still, potential pitfalls remain for consumers and, by extension, the U.S. economy, Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at BMO Financial Group, told ABC News.

Credit card debt climbed to a record high in the third quarter of 2023, surging nearly 5% from the previous quarter and leaving a growing share of borrowers late on payments, a Federal Reserve report earlier this month showed.

The growing debt has emerged alongside a spike in borrowing costs for loans from credit cards to mortgages that stems from interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

Since last year, the Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate at the fastest pace in more than two decades, seeking to slash price hikes by slowing the economy and reducing consumer demand.

In theory, the economy should eventually falter as it becomes more expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow. The job market, for instance, remains robust but has slowed in recent months.

Broad economic trends offer ample “reason to be concerned,” Siegel said. He noted, however, that Black Friday sales appeared to dispel fears of a worst-case scenario for consumers.

“The question was, ‘Is it going to be such an overhang that it closes the cash registers and keeps people from going online and in stores?'” Siegel said. “The retailers’ response would suggest that it was not.”

Rosy inferences from the data deserve a note of caution, Siegel said. Consumers often spend during the holidays, even if it means shopping beyond their means, Siegel added, making Black Friday sales an imperfect shorthand for consumer health.

“The holidays have gotten off to a good start,” Siegel said. “What you and I can see from revenues is what people spent. But what we can’t see is what they have in their bank accounts.”


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