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    Shoppers are hitting the stores on Thanksgiving as retailers under pressure look for ways to poach shoppers from their rivals.As the holiday shopping season officially kicked off, retailers are counting on a lift from a better economy. But they're also looking beyond economic data and mapping out ways to pick up sales from other retailers as Amazon expands its reach.That can mean opening earlier than rivals on the holidays or even jumping into new product categories. So shoppers may find some surprises: toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.'s.At Macy's Herald Square in Manhattan, it was the deals like cosmetic and perfume sets from $10 to $20 as well as 40 percent off on boots and shoes that drew attention. Its Apple shop was packed too, with deals on gadgets like the Apple Watch.Tiffany Lloyd, in town from Columbia, Maryland, was visiting tourist sites when she realized stores were open.'This is not a traditional Thanksgiving. We ate pizza,' said Lloyd, who was buying a pair of Naturalizer shoes at 40 percent off and said she planned to buy three more pairs. She said she also picked up sweaters on sale at Old Navy.Despite the early crowds at stores, analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season's sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.'The retailers are in survival mode. It's about stealing each other's market share,' said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. 'Amazon is the Grinch. They're stealing the growth.'Abi and Sush Gyawali — both 27-year-old biology graduate students at the University of Missouri — were among hundreds of people who lined up outside J.C. Penney in Columbia, Missouri, before the store opened at 2 p.m. Thursday. Abi Gyawali normally shops online on Amazon or Best Buy for Cyber Monday, where he said he finds some of the best deals.But he said the couple wanted to check out the scene at the mall before friends came over to share a meal. He and his wife planned to just collect coupons that were being handed out, but ended up getting a discounted air fryer.With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group expects sales for that period to at least match last year's rise of 3.6 percent and estimates online spending and other non-store sales will rise 11 to 15 percent.Amazon is expected to be a big beneficiary as it cements loyalty among its Prime members and moves into new services and private-label merchandise. That leaves stores looking at rivals to see where they can pick up sales. There are extra dollars up for grabs this year, after thousands of store locations have closed and several retailers filed for bankruptcy protection.Target CEO Brian Cornell recently noted that up to $60 billion in consumer spending will be up for the taking in the next few years, and said the chain has been picking up market share in such areas as clothing.Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart's U.S. division, said that the retail giant's holiday shopping season appeared to be off to a good start. It got things going in the first minutes of Thursday with an online sales event that featured a range of deals from toys to TVs to slow cookers and Google Home mini gadgets.'We have a bit of momentum and we had a good kickoff online,' Foran told The Associated Press, 'and with a bit of luck we are going to have a good 24 hours and be ship-shape for the weekend, and go from here to the 25th of December.'The Thanksgiving weekend, when stores go all-out to attract shoppers, can be an indication of how well they'll do through the season. About 69 percent of Americans, or 164 million people, intend to shop at some point during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation. It expects Black Friday to remain the busiest day, with about 115 million people planning to shop then.Judy St. Antoine, 60, of St. Petersburg, Florida, said she arrived at the J.C. Penney in her city about 10 minutes before the store's 2 p.m. opening. There were already two lines of a couple hundred people each waiting. St. Antoine said she came 'for the sale,' and that she'll finish up her Thanksgiving afterward.Mary Bergeron, 62, of Tampa, bought an oil-less fryer, a waffle maker and a steamer at JC Penney, and was headed back for more.'It's a tradition. We come here every year,' she said, adding that she'd eaten turkey at noon. 'It's crazy, there are so many people and it gets tense. It's fun.'Some retailers are using the weekend to test new product areas: Penney has TVs and consumer electronics like game consoles as doorbusters for Thanksgiving and Black Friday only, one example of what Penney's Senior Vice President James Starke called 'market share plays.'Chris Baldwin, CEO of BJ's Wholesale Club, says it is offering more toys and clothes, including key national brands in areas like casual athletic wear.'There's no question that consumer spending has started to tick up and confidence is a little bit better, which is terrific, but we are also seeing some benefit from other retailers,' he said.____Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Summer Ballentine in Columbia, Missouri, contributed to this report.___Follow Anne D'Innocenzio at http://www.Twitter.com/adinnocenzio
  • Facebook is adding 500 more contractors in Germany to review content posted to the social media site, after a new law came into force targeting online hate speech.The company says the staff will work for a service provider called CCC at a new office in the western city of Essen that was formally opened Thursday.German lawmakers approved a bill in June that could see social networking sites fined up to 50 million euros ($59 million) if they persistently fail to remove illegal content within a week.Critics say the law could force Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to decide what is legal or not.Together with an existing office in Berlin, Facebook will have more than 1,200 people reviewing posts in Germany by the end of the year.
  • Uber has managed to hold the title of world's largest ride-hailing service despite its seemingly endless string of scandals.Its latest misbehavior involving a data breach cover-up revealed this week could be the impetus for people to ride elsewhere — or keep looking the other way.Hackers were able to steal data for 57 million riders and drivers, and Uber concealed it for a year after paying $100,000 in ransom for the stolen information to be destroyed.Riders and business experts say that while Uber's problems such as workplace sexual harassment, drivers with criminal records and other past infractions are serious, stolen data hits people directly and could make them mad enough to delete the app. Then again, riders have fled from the service before, but enough have stayed because of the Uber's convenience so the latest scandal-of-the-week may not make much of a difference. The brand is so well-known for quickly responding to ride requests that it's often used as a verb for such trips, no matter which service is summoned.Michael Pachter, a technology analyst based in Los Angeles, said he uses Uber five to 10 times a month.'I don't blame the drivers for the company transgressions, and view Uber as the glue that facilitates drivers willing to drive me around,' he said.But for Vermont resident Jay Furr, the breach was the 'final straw.' He had stuck with Uber despite recent problems because of the service. But now he'll use Lyft, Uber's main competitor, when he goes to the airport for frequent business trips.'Why reward crooked behavior?' he asked. 'The only way they will learn is if they lose business.'For much of the past year, Uber has been mired in well-publicized problems. A female former engineer blogged that her boss had propositioned her for sex, exposing widespread sexual harassment. A federal judge urged prosecutors to investigate allegations that Uber stole technology from Waymo, Google's autonomous vehicle unit. The Justice Department is investigating whether Uber used a bogus app to deceive inspectors in several cities, and in London, authorities decided not to renew Uber's operating license in part for failing to report crimes.Earlier this week the state of Colorado fined Uber $8.9 million for allowing employees with serious criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company. Then came the stolen data, which has touched off more government inquiries.The scandals have damaged Uber's brand reputation over time, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York-based customer research firm. The company's polling has found that in 2015 Lyft passed Uber as the most trusted of ride-hailing brands, and trust in Uber has been eroding ever since. Consumers will give technology companies the benefit of the doubt for a long time. But with Uber, 'That well of forgiveness isn't bottomless,' Passikoff said.Passikoff doesn't measure the impact on ridership and Uber won't discuss it. But Lyft says its share of the U.S. market has risen 3 percentage points since August to 33 percent. It's up from 12 percent two years ago as Lyft has expanded with more drivers in major U.S. cities.In the data breach, Uber has said that for riders, hackers got only names, email addresses and telephone numbers. They did not get personal information such as trip details or credit card and Social Security numbers. For about 600,000 drivers in the U.S., hackers got driver's license numbers, and the company has offered them free credit monitoring services.While Uber drivers lost personal data and face uncertainty over identity theft, it appears they'll stick with Uber. Many drive for Lyft as well.Nate Tepp, who drives Uber in Seattle, said he doesn't plan to leave, nor does he think other drivers will.'All they are doing is cutting out 60 to 65 percent of their income,' Tepp said of drivers who might consider leaving. That estimate is based on his own split between Uber and Lyft fares.Tepp also thinks the last three to four months at Uber have been different and things have 'started to go in drivers' favor.' This includes adding an option for riders to tip.He is also somewhat forgiving about the hacking — and the subsequent cover-up. After all, companies are hacked often, he said.'Does it make me happy? No. Does it (make me angry) to the point that I am going to stop making money through that company? No,' he said.New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi could do little but admit the problem and promise ethical behavior in the future. 'We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers,' he wrote in a blog post.Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown University's business school who studies brand values, said Uber is testing the boundaries of how many scandals people will endure. While data breaches are personal to people, she still thinks Uber will get through this scandal as well.'We have a short memory as consumers,' she said. 'We tend to be if not forgiving, forgetful.'____Ortutay reported from New York.
  • Facebook says it will show users if they followed or 'liked' Russia propaganda accounts on its service or on Instagram.The company said Wednesday it will launch a portal to let people see which accounts of the Internet Research Agency they followed between January 2015 and August 2017. The tool will be available by the end of the year. But it won't show users if they merely saw — or even 'liked' — posts from those pages.Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before Congress this month, acknowledging that agents tied to the Russian government used their platforms to try to meddle with the U.S. elections. Facebook has said that as many as 150 million Facebook and Instagram users may have seen ads from the Internet Research Agency.Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, called the move a 'very positive step' in a statement. But emphasized that he's still looking for more, including a joint report by the companies 'on how Russia used these platforms to sow discord and influence the election.'The companies were initially dismissive of Russia's threat, but they all pledged to make improvements amid pressure from lawmakers. Still, Facebook so far hasn't said it will show people if they were targeted by Russia-paid political advertisements, or even if this is something it is able to do.
  • Internet gambling is legal in only three states, but it soon could get a big boost from the U.S. Supreme Court.Some gambling industry officials, regulators and analysts think that a favorable ruling by the high court in New Jersey's case next month seeking to legalize sports betting could also lead to an expansion of internet gambling.David Rebuck, New Jersey's chief gambling regulator, predicts states that adopt sports betting will also quickly adopt internet gambling if the court legalizes sports betting.Online gambling currently is legal only in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. It was recently approved in Pennsylvania.But a big question is whether President Donald Trump, a former casino owner, will seek to outlaw online gambling. He's yet to take a position on it.
  • Austrian police say cyber thieves transferred bitcoins worth more than 100,000 euros ($117,000) from a man's account while he was logged in on a restaurant's public wireless network.A police statement Wednesday says the bitcoins were moved to an 'unknown, non-traceable account' after the unidentified 36-year old logged in southeast of the city of Innsbruck on Tuesday to check the value of his digital currency.It says it remains unclear whether the victim's account was already hacked before he logged on to the unsecured network.
  • Uber is coming clean about its cover-up of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million of the beleaguered ride-hailing service's customers and drivers.So far, there's no evidence that the data taken has been misused, according to a Tuesday blog post by Uber's recently hired CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Part of the reason nothing malicious has happened is because Uber acknowledges paying the hackers $100,000 to destroy the stolen information.The revelation marks the latest stain on Uber's reputation.The San Francisco company ousted Travis Kalanick as CEO in June after an internal investigation concluded he had built a culture that allowed female workers to be sexually harassed and encouraged employees to push legal limits.It's also the latest major breach involving a prominent company that didn't notify the people that could be potentially harmed for months or even years after the break-in occurred.Yahoo didn't make its first disclosure about hacks that hit 3 billion user accounts during 2013 and 2014 until September 2016. Credit reporting service Equifax waited several months before revealing this past September that hackers had carted off the Social Security numbers of 145 million Americans.Khosrowshahi criticized Uber's handling of its data theft in his blog post.'While I can't erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,' Khosrowshahi wrote. 'We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.'That pledge shouldn't excuse Uber's previous regime for its egregious behavior, said Sam Curry, chief security officer for the computer security firm Cybereason.'The truly scary thing here is that Uber paid a bribe, essentially a ransom to make this breach go away, and they acted as if they were above the law,' Curry said. 'Those people responsible for the integrity and confidentiality of the data in-fact covered it up.'The heist took the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of 57 million riders around the world. The thieves also nabbed the driver's license numbers of 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S.Uber waited until Tuesday to begin notifying the drivers with compromised driver's licenses, which can be particularly useful for perpetrating identify theft. For that reason, Uber will now pay for free credit-report monitoring and identity theft protection services for the affected drivers.Kalanick, who still sits on Uber's board of directors, declined to comment on the data breach that took place in October 2016. Uber says the response to the hack was handled by its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor whom Kalanick lured away from Facebook in 2015.As part of his effort to set things right, Khosrowshahi extracted Sullivan's resignation from Uber and also jettisoned Craig Clark, a lawyer who reported to Sullivan.Clark didn't immediately respond to a request for comment sent through his LinkedIn profile. Efforts to reach Sullivan were unsuccessful.Uber's silence about its breach came while it was negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission about its handling of its riders' information.Earlier in 2016, the company reached a settlement with the New York attorney general requiring it to take steps to be more vigilant about protecting the information that its app stores about its riders. As part of that settlement, Uber also paid a $20,000 fine for waiting to notify five months about another data breach that it discovered in September 2014.
  • Meg Whitman, who oversaw the breakup of one of Silicon Valley's pioneering companies, is stepping down as CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.HPE said Tuesday that Whitman will hand over the reins of the company to its president, Antonio Neri, on Feb. 1.Whitman, 61, took over in 2011 at the former Hewlett-Packard Co., a company founded in 1939 and for years a tech bellwether. But it had struggled to keep up with industry trends toward mobile and cloud computing, shedding thousands of jobs in the process.In 2015, Hewlett Packard was split in two: one company, HP Inc., sells PCs and printers. The other led by Whitman, HPE, is focused on selling data-center hardware and other commercial tech gear to other big organizations.Since the breakup, Palo Alto, California-based HPE has furthered its transformation, spinning off a big chunk of its business software line-up last year in an $8.8 billion deal with Micro Focus International PLC.Both Whitman and Neri, 50, will serve on HPE's board.Whitman said Tuesday she plans on taking 'a little bit of downtime' after a 35-year career. And she ruled out working for a competitor.'I've become quite loyal to Hewlett-Packard and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise,' she said. 'I love this company and I wouldn't ever go to a competitor.'She was in the running to replace Travis Kalanick as the CEO of ride-hailing app Uber but that job went to Dara Khosrowshahi in August.Before HP, Whitman served as chief executive of eBay Inc., a company she steered from a fledgling startup with just 30 employees into a household name beginning in 1998 until 2008. She also ran an unsuccessful California gubernatorial campaign, which cost her $144 million.Forbes recently listed her net worth as $3.2 billion. That makes her No. 6 on the magazine's list of U.S. women who made their fortunes.HPE's stock dropped 6.5 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday following the announcement.
  • The CEOs of Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles SpA and Italian energy giant ENI have agreed to jointly develop technologies to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles.The companies signed the agreement Tuesday in Rome with Premier Paolo Gentiloni that broadly focus on technologies related to compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas - alternative fuels in which Italy has long been a market leader.The deal also includes the use of a new alternative fuel - 15 percent methanol and 5 percent bioethanol - that will be tested by five Fiat 500 vehicles in ENI's car sharing service. The companies said the fuel can reduce carbon emissions by 4 percent.FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said the cooperation aims to achieve 'an incisive and permanent reduction in emissions.
  • Advocacy groups have sued Hulu in an effort to force the subscription streaming service to provide an audio track that helps people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy TV shows and movies.The federal lawsuit filed in Boston on Monday asks the court to declare that Hulu's failure to provide services for the blind violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The groups say Hulu has refused to do so despite repeated requests from advocates and blind customers.'They want to enjoy Hulu like everyone else in the country,' said Meredith Weaver, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind and a blind Massachusetts couple.A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based Hulu didn't immediately respond to an email Tuesday.The groups want Hulu to provide audio tracks that describe a scene, facial expressions or actions during a pause in dialogue. The audio track 'describes what a sighted person might take for granted and blind or visually impaired person can otherwise only experience through whispers from a sighted companion,' the lawsuit says.The lawsuit also seeks to ensure people who use screen readers can use Hulu's website and applications. Screen readers convey what's seen on a website or apps using audio or braille.'Movies and television are pillars of American culture,' said Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind. 'As delivery of such media transitions to video streaming services, it is critical that these platforms be accessible in order to ensure the inclusion of blind and visually impaired individuals in contemporary society.'Most major movie companies already provide audio description tracks, and audio exists for many TV shows and movies that are available on Hulu, the lawsuit says.Netflix in 2015 started offering an audio track for the show 'Daredevil' that features a blind superhero after fans complained. In a settlement reached last year with the American Council of the Blind and others, Netflix agreed to expand its audio description offering and make its website and mobile apps accessible for people who rely on screen reading software.The Hulu competitor says it now provides audio description for most its original titles and some other TV shows and movies.___This story has been corrected to show that the president of the American Council of the Blind is named Kim Charlson, not Kim Charleson.____Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at @aedurkinricher . Read more of her work here .