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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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Man Who Killed Neighbor over Tree-Trimming Feud Has No Regrets


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ENCINITAS, Calif.) -- From inside the California jail where he is awaiting sentencing, Michael Vilkin said that given the chance, he would not change anything about the day he killed his neighbor John Upton.

“I’m not a kind of person who, if you spit in my face, I will not…just turn around and leave,” Vilkin, 62, told ABC News’ 20/20. “And Upton was, figuratively speaking, spitting in my face the whole year.”

A jury found him guilty of murder in the first-degree and assault with a deadly weapon last month. He faces 25 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge.

Vilkin and Upton, 56, had been arguing for over a year about Vilkin’s landscaping efforts on his property in Encinitas, California. The focus of their dispute was a narrow strip of land on Vilkin’s property in front of Upton’s rental home, where Vilkin was attempting to clear Brazilian pepper-trees.

“I wanted to clear the land from the wood and to build a house there,” Vilkin said.

On March 28, 2013, the neighbors’ dispute took a fatal turn. Vilkin shot Upton while he was outside on Vilkin's driveway, first in his midsection and then in his head.

Upton, a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist, was profiled on ABC News’ 20/20 in 1993 for his mission to rescue hundreds of deformed Romanian orphans. But while friends and family saw him as a hero, Vilkin said he was afraid of Upton.

“No, he did not [raise a hand at me]. But I was afraid of him, really afraid because he was roaring at me, he was yelling at me,” Vilkin said. “He acted like a gangster, like a tough guy, like a Mafioso. I believe that he was a Mafioso.”

Vilkin told police he believed Upton was carrying a gun and shot him in self-defense, but police found no evidence of a second gun at the scene.

“I was shooting. I did not aim. It was very close,” Vilkin said. “I expected to act in self-defense.”

Having already spent 18 months in jail, Vilkin said he will appeal the jury’s decision, saying his lawyer was incompetent.

“I’m always hopeful,” Vilkin said, “unless I see a pistol in your hand. Then I will shoot you in one second.”

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"Hercules," "Lucy," "And So It Goes" Open Friday


Paramount(NEW YORK) -- Here's a look at the new movies opening nationwide Friday:

Hercules -- Dwayne Johnson is the second actor this year to take on the role of the Greek hero, after Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules. Johnson's Hercules goes to battle in a civil war to return the rightful king to his throne. Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes and Irina Shayk also star in the Brett Ratner-directed film. Rated PG-13.

Lucy -- Scarlett Johansson is a woman who gains great power, thanks to her ability to utilize more of her brain's capacity than the average human. Morgan Freeman also stars. Rated R.

And So It Goes -- Michael Douglas plays Oren, a man who suddenly has to care for the nine-year-old granddaughter he didn't know existed. Diane Keaton co-stars in the Rob Reiner-directed film as Oren's neighbor. Rated PG-13.

And opening in limited release:

Magic in the Moonlight -- In Woody Allen's 50th film as a director, Colin Firth plays a magician who tries to expose a psychic -- Emma Stone's character -- as a fake in 1920s France. Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney and Jacki Weaver also star in the romantic comedy. Rated PG-13.

The Fluffy Movie --
Stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias performs during his Unity Through Laughter tour. Rated PG-13.

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No Survivors in Air Algerie Crash, French President Says


Purestock/Thinkstock(OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso) -- French troops are headed to a remote area in Mali to secure the site of Thursday's Air Algerie jet crash, the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

French President Francois Hollande announced Friday that there were no survivors in the crash of the MD-83 aircraft, which disappeared from radar less than an hour after it took off early Thursday from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, for Algiers. The plane had requested permission to change course due to bad weather.

The jetliner -- owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria's flagship carrier -- had 110 passengers and six crew members on board.

President Hollande, who spoke after a crisis meeting, also announced that one of the aircraft's two black boxes have been located in the wreckage, in the Gossi region near the Burkina Faso border. It is being transported to the northern Mali city of Gao.

French forces, stationed in Mali to help combat al Qaeda and tribal separatists, are tasked with securing the crash site and gathering information. Much of the region is desert, rugged and remote, with few roads and an average high temperature of 101 degrees Farenheit this time of the year.

The airline said that among the passengers were 51 French nationals along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian. The six crew members were Spanish.

News of the plane's disappearance came when Swiftair released a statement saying the plane had not arrived at its destination.

The crash of the Air Algerie plane is the latest in a series of aviation disasters. In March, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared over the southern Indian Ocean with 239 people on board. No wreckage from the plane has been found.

And last week, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner was shot down over a war-torn section of Ukraine, with U.S. officials blaming it on separatists firing a surface-to-air missile.

On Wednesday, a Taiwanese plane crashed during a storm, killing 48 people.

While fliers are jittery about the tragedies, air travel remains relatively safe. There have been two deaths for every 100 million passengers on commercial flights in the last decade, excluding acts of terrorism. Travelers are much more likely to die driving to the airport than stepping on a plane.

There are more than 30,000 motor-vehicle deaths in the U.S. each year, a mortality rate eight times greater than that in planes.


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Mavericks Sign Jameer Nelson


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- The Dallas Mavericks signed Jameer Nelson Thursday.

ESPN's Marc Stein reports it's a two-year deal with a player option to return to free agency next summer.

The 32-year-old Nelson was selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, but his draft rights were traded to the Orlando Magic, where he spent his entire 10 year career.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Nelson was waived by Orlando on June 30. The Magic will still pay Nelson $2 million this season, money due to Nelson from the final year of his contract with Orlando.

For his career, Nelson has averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game.

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Obamacare “Creepy Care-nival" Opens on the National Mall


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Some people have a fear of clowns, particularly creepy ones. Polls show millions of people still feel the same way about Obamacare. A cheeky “Creepy Care-nival” held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this week was intended to combine the two to show some of the aspects of the health care law that its critics find frightening.

The Creepy Care-nival featured knife-throwing jugglers, a house call from Dr. Grim Reaper, and a virtual death panel.

The ghoulish displays were created by Generation Opportunity, the Koch brothers-affiliated group that also produced the controversial “Creepy Uncle Sam” ads.

Tightrope walkers, acrobats, and clowns mingled with elected officials like Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

Activities and refreshments had an Obamacare spin, and were “rigged against young people,” said Generation Opportunity president Evan Feinberg. The youngish crowd of tourists, Washington types, and curious joggers enjoyed ominous palm readings, an impossible coin toss, and basketball with a ball too big for the hoop. There were even Obamacare palm readings.

The event’s main attraction, a “creepy hospital,” took participants through a hospital run by “Dr. Grim Reaper.”

The tour ended in a room filled with signs listing infamous episodes in American public health history, including the forced lobotomization of World War II veterans recently detailed in the Wall Street Journal, and a mass sterilization program whose victims were awarded compensation in 2012.

Generation Opportunity spokesperson Corie Whalen Stephens denied that the exhibit implied a connection between Obamacare and the episodes.

Like Generation Opportunity’s campus tailgate tour last fall, the carnival will head across the country. It’s expected to stop in states like Colorado and Louisiana, where Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare are up for re-election.

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Agency Releases First Data from National ALS Registry


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An estimated four in 100,000 people in the United States live with Amyotriphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, health officials announced Thursday.

Researchers released the first data summary from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, providing the only known data identifying all ALS cases among patients in the nation.

The disease, which has no cure, causes nerve cells throughout the body to stop working, which leads to paralysis and at times, death within two to five years of diagnosis.

Based on findings from October 2010 through December 2011, a total of 12,187 people were found to have ALS, and the disease was discovered to be more common among whites, men, non-Hispanics, and people between the ages of 60 and 69.

White men and women were twice as likely to have ALS compared to black men and women, and males in general had a higher rate of the disease than females across all racial groups.

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