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Whataburger sells out to a Chicago bank, and Texans are already worried about the recipes

Whataburger sells out to a Chicago bank, and Texans are already worried about the recipes
[Photo: courtesy of Whataburger]

Whataburger is no longer a family-owned business.

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In a cross-country leap toward expanding the company’s brand, the Texas burger chain announced Friday that is has sold a majority interest to Chicago-based BDT Capital Partners.

BDT is a merchant bank that invests in family-owned businesses. It’s adding Whataburger to a sizable portfolio of food retailers in which it owns majority shares, including Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Panera Bread, and the recently rebranded Dunkin’.

In a press release, Whataburger president and CEO Preston Atkinson said, “We’re excited about the partnership with BDT because they respect and admire the brand we’ve built. They want to preserve it while they help us continue growing a sustainable, competitive business over a long period of time. They don’t plan to change our recipe for success.”

Texans may be more concerned with preserving the chain’s actual recipes. Whataburger legend has it that in 1950, customers lined up around the block for the 100% beef burgers during the restaurant’s first week. Now, 820 locations across 10 states bring in sales of more than $2 billion every year.

In response to the sale, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt tweeted to his 5.46 million followers that everyone should “chip in” to buy the chain back from BDT as a way of saving the menu:

The sale to the Chicago firm is expected to close later this summer, but Whataburger’s headquarters will remain in San Antonio as it attempts to reach new markets and satisfy more appetites.

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Here’s why people are turning their social media profiles blue for Sudan

Here’s why people are turning their social media profiles blue for Sudan
[Photo: rawpixel; Kaufdex/Pixabay]

Sudan’s military may be trying to prevent word of its massacre of civilian protesters from getting out, but despite an internet shutdown, the word is spreading. To help draw attention to the cause, people on social media are turning their profile avatars blue and posting blue-themed artwork with the hashtag #BlueforSudan.

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The color was chosen by friends of 26-year-old Mohamed Mattar, who was killed during an attack by security forces in Sudan at the beginning of June. Blue was his favorite color. The campaign gained traction thanks to Shahd Khidir, a Sudanese Instagram influencer and beauty blogger based in New York. In an Instagram post with a blue profile image, Khidir told her tens of thousands of followers about her friend’s murder and the campaign, telling the Cut that she wanted protesters’ voices to be heard in the face of the internet blackout in Sudan.

View this post on Instagram

It’s really hard being an influencer and sharing information that is “off brand” and not worthy of the “feed” but I cannot hold this in anymore. I am at my office crying because I have so many emotions in me and I feel horrible. There’s a massacre happening in my country Sudan’s and a media blackout and internet censorship for four consecutive days. There is no objective media sharing what’s going on expect for @aljazeeraenglish which had their offices shot down. My friend @mattar77 was MURDERED by the Rapid Support Forces. My best friend was in hiding on June 2 and that’s the last time I spoke to him. He was missing for 4 days and when I got in touch with him he said: “I was caught, beaten and abused and humiliated and arrested and had my phone confiscated from me. I am injured currently.” And all I could do this post this. I am sorry to all companies I am running campaigns with but my editorial calendar is currently on pause. I am willing to refund all and everything right away. Please, just send me an email. To my followers/supporters who this is too much for I am also sorry but my regularly scheduled content/reviews is also on pause. If this offends you, I am sorry. But I need to speak out and share this in a time like this. If you want to support me please share this information as widely as possible and don’t be silent. Be an ally because we need your help. And tune into my stories for more information. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS BEEN SILENT. #sudanuprising #sudanese_protest #مجزرة_القيادة_العامة #عيد_شهيد #اعتصام_رويال_كير #اعتصام_القيادة_العامه #السودان @wawa_waffles @sudanuprising.updates #sudanrevolts #sudanuprising #iamsudan #iamsudanrevolution #sudanese #freesudan

A post shared by Shahd ???????? شهد (@hadyouatsalaam) on

The Guardian reports that the #BlueforSudan hashtag first started appearing in English on Twitter on June 11, and has quickly spread across Instagram and Twitter. Sudanese activists have been using social media as a rallying cry and to commemorate Mattar and others killed by the military or their paramilitary cronies—the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a group of Janjaweed militants best known for committing crimes against humanity in Darfur in 2003.

According to a report by Amnesty International, on the June 3 attack in Khartoum, the RSF “attacked sleeping protesters, firing live bullets and tear gas, setting tents on fire, and brutally beating protesters.” They are also accused of carrying out more than 70 rapes during an attack on a protest camp in the capital last week.

While the Sudanese military admits it ordered the June 3 crackdown that led to many deaths among nonviolent protesters—and promised that it will investigate—it shows no signs of relinquishing its hold on the government.

Spreading awareness is an important part of letting the military know that the world is watching, but there are other ways to help after you turn your social media profile blue. Start here.

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Kango, a ride-hailing service for kids, is expanding thanks to new investment

Kango, a ride-hailing service for kids, is expanding thanks to new investment
[Photo: courtesy of FCA US]

Parents everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief, because Kango, the kids’ ride-hail app that doubles as a childcare service, may be coming to help soon.

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Today the service announced a $3.6 million Series A funding round, led by National Express, the transportation group best known for providing rides to the airport and transporting 1.2 million students to school on a daily basis. It’s probably a good investment, as Kango has reached what finance wonks call “positive unit economics,” meaning they make money on every ride.

Like its competitors in the space, HopSkipDrive and Zūm, Kango is not only a godsend for harried parents trying to be at soccer and gymnastics at exactly the same time, but it is also working with school districts to provide rides to students.

“At Kango, we’re proud that our track record of responsibility and reliability has fueled our family-first mission. We are excited that this funding, along with our strategic partnership with National Express, will help us expand that to help even more people: more parents and children, but also organizations such as schools and school districts,” said Sara Schaer, cofounder and CEO of Kango in a statement to Fast Company. “Helping schools is helping families, so we’re looking forward to growing those partnerships in addition to widening our area of service.”

Kango is unique in the Uber-for-kids space in that it offers on-demand same-day rides with no cutoff time for booking, and is the only kids’ ride-hailing provider to also offer childcare without a time limit. It can also help if you’re a parent who doesn’t need a ride to Mommy and Me yoga, but does need someone to watch your kid while you, say, work. Kango also lets parents book childcare through the app. Since all drivers and sitters are thoroughly vetted, background-checked, and Trustline caregiver-certified in California, parents can use the service to find a trustworthy sitter in a pinch.

Because Kango works with kids, it doesn’t believe in applying Silicon Valley’s unofficial “move fast break things” motto and instead opts to grow carefully, methodically, and safely. With the new funding, Kango hopes to continue to grow, expanding beyond its current service areas around San Francisco and Greater Los Angeles to meet the growing demand for safe rides from families and organizations across the country.

Many parents across the country probably hope they would move just a little faster.

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Dominican Republic hotel deaths underscore limits of TripAdvisor’s warning system

Dominican Republic hotel deaths underscore limits of TripAdvisor’s warning system
[Photo: Justin Aikin/Unsplash]

Seven Americans have died and one was brutally assaulted while staying at resorts in the Dominican Republic in recent months, and that is making some American travelers nervous. While there are similarities in the sudden deaths, federal officials currently do not believe they are connected, and the causes are unknown. (Poison? Pesticide? Bootleg liquor? A series of very unfortunate events?) As the FBI moves in to help local authorities investigate and provide toxicological analyses in the hope of finding answers, tourists who had planned to travel to the country may be looking to change their vacation plans. Some may also be looking to find out if hotels they’d booked were the site of any of the unsettling events.

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The deaths were reported at three properties: the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana; the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in San Pedro de Macoris; and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. The assault took place at the Majestic Elegance Punta Cana Hotel, allegedly by a person wearing the uniform of the resort.

Inevitably, nervous travelers looking for more information may find themselves on TripAdvisor, and those who do will come face-to-face with vague words of caution: The popular hotel review site currently has a warning badge on the pages of all three hotels, alerting travelers to “media reports or events concerning this property which may not be reflected in reviews found on this listing.”

The warning doesn’t cite specific media reports or even say if they’re positive or negative. It simply suggests visitors conduct additional research. Basically, TripAdvisor would like travelers to google the hotel and see what comes up, while also proclaiming: “Book now! This hotel is likely to sell out soon.”

As for the Majestic Elegance hotel where the assault allegedly took place, TripAdvisor is taking a page out of Yelp’s playbook. Reviews of that resort are currently suspended as people have flooded the page with negative reviews that are not from firsthand experiences, which violate TripAdvisor’s terms. In other words, TripAdvisor won’t cite specific media reports and won’t let other people do it either, unless they’ve actually been there. (TripAdvisor points out that their forums are a useful resource and that the page for Majestic Elegance includes a “travel safety review” from the victim who wrote about her attack, including photos. However, you have to scroll far down the page and click a box to find it.)

A Google search, meanwhile, may point readers to a New York Times story revealing that “four of the dead were staying at Bahia Príncipe resorts.” Two other couples came forward to tell the Times that they also fell sick during their stays at Bahia Príncipe resorts.

While all the headlines may be making travelers nervous, airlines are not waiving change or cancellation fees so far, although when reached for comment, a United representative said the airline is monitoring the events in the Dominican Republic and it has “not issued a travel waiver at this time, but will work with customers on a case by case basis.” We also reached out to JetBlue for comment, but have not heard back yet.

In April, the State Department issued a Level 2 advisory for travelers to the DR, urging “increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime,” including violent crime. The rising crime rate in the DR was in the headlines recently when former Boston Red Sox baseball player David Ortiz was shot in a bar in Santo Domingo.

“The safety and security of U.S. citizens that live in, work in, and visit the Dominican Republic remains our highest priority,” said Robin Bernstein, the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, of the recent events. “These incidents are tragic and we offer our deepest condolences to those personally impacted.”

As for resorts and hotels, cancellation policies vary by property. If you’re feeling anxious ahead of your relaxing vacation, contact them directly and hope they are sympathetic to your concerns. But don’t rely on TripAdvisor for hotel news. Its warning system is limited at best, so use your common sense and google it.

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Amazon gets sued for recording children’s voices via the Echo Dot

Amazon gets sued for recording children’s voices via the Echo Dot
[Photo: Jan Antonin Kolar/Unsplash]

Amazon has been hit with two class action lawsuits that allege the company’s Alexa voice assistant is recording and storing the voices of children without their or their parents’ consent, reports the New York Post.

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Both suits were brought forward by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. In one case, the firm is representing an 8-year-old boy and in another a 10-year-old girl. In documents filed for each case, it is alleged that Amazon used its voice assistant Alexa and Echo Dot smart speaker to amass “a vast level of detail about the child’s life, ranging from private questions they have asked Alexa to the products they have used in their home.”

The suit goes on to say that when children wake the Echo Dot with their voices “the device records and transmits the children’s communications in the same manner that it handles adults’ communications. Neither the children nor their parents have consented to the children’s interactions being permanently recorded.”

The suits accuses Amazon of building “a massive database of billions of voice recordings containing the private details of millions of Americans” and using it “for its own commercial benefit.”

As smart speakers continue to become ubiquitous in people’s homes, they have come under increased scrutiny from privacy advocates. Last month it was revealed that transcripts of conversations with Alexa and Echo devices continue to be retained by Amazon even after a user deletes their voice recordings from the device.

After news of the class action lawsuits broke, an Amazon spokesperson told the NY Post that the company offers “strict measures and protocols in place to protect [family] security and privacy” and that it “offer[s] FreeTime on Alexa—a free service that provides parental controls and ways for families to learn and have fun together.”

Besides monetary compensations for the plaintiffs, both suits seek to force Amazon to obtain prior consent before recording minors and to delete existing recordings of them.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders is out as White House press secretary

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is out as White House press secretary
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

Nothing gold can stay.

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President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the administration at the end of the month.

The departure appears amicable from the language of the tweet, in which Trump describes Sanders as “wonderful,” and a “special person with wonderful talents, who has done an incredible job.”

Sanders, who had the unenviable role of explaining the unexplainable, did so with gusto ever since she replaced the irreplaceable Sean Spicer in July 2017. (In another blast from the past, it was Anthony Scaramucci who announced the hire during his record-breaking six-day stint as communications director.)

Sanders has racked up quite a compilation of alternative facts during her tenure of digging the administration out of self-excavated holes. Here’s a selection of Sanders’s quotes that PolitiFact rates as completely “false.”

The president added that he hoped Sanders would go on to run for governor of Arkansas. If she did so, she’d be following in the footsteps of her father and staunch Trump fan, Mike “I majored in miracles” Huckabee.

Sanders responded to Trump’s tweet shortly afterward to indicate that she will be spending more time with her family.

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The VC-backed media myth is combusting

The VC-backed media myth is combusting
[Photo: John Vachon/Library of Congress]

Business Insider is a large media operation and filled with many smart and talented business reporters, and so I imagine a recent headline sent shivers down some of their spines. CNN reported that Axel Springer, BI‘s parent company, is trying to go private, with private-equity firm KKR offering to purchase minority stakeholder shares.

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True, media companies are prone to sales, yet this move could prove to be a worrying one. Private equity isn’t invested in the long game: It wants to consolidate to maximize cash flow wherever possible. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme for already rich people. And so this news likely gave some people pause.

For examples of PE’s destruction, we need only look at numerous industries. Aging retail stores like Toys “R”Us and Payless have been bought private by PE firms, only to face growing debts and ultimately death. Newspapers like the Denver Post saw a similar fate after being sold to a hedge fund.

In theory, private equity is designed to give mature companies growth capital when they sit in between being a venture-stage company and a public one. In practice, though, the private-equity playbook all too often operates to extract cash from struggling companies rather than find clever new ways to revivify them. Investors use it as a financial apparatus. Firms invest with an eye toward a company’s cash flow, or an overfunded pension, let’s say, and then saddle it with debt if the company needs more funds. From there, they make even more money from fees and other expenses. And then, when the load become too much, the companies either go public again or file for bankruptcy—which will, once again, give investors another fresh lump of cash.

To be clear: I’m not saying this is what’s going to happen to Axel Springer or what happens in every instance of private-equity investment. Just that it has happened enough, in enough high-profile examples, that it is reason to be cautious rather than optimistic.

Indeed, changes are already afoot at Axel Springer. Reuters reports that BI is joining forces with eMarketer, another Axel-owned publication. BI founder Henry Blodget will be leading the combined entity, and AdAge adds that the proposed merger will result in the consolidation of both companies’ intelligence units. According to the report, neither plans any layoffs.

I emailed Blodget asking for more info about the merger’s plans, and he wrote back:

The combined research company’s mission will be to create the world’s leading research firm focused on digital transformation. We will invest heavily in our products, services, technology, and coverage over the next few years, and we plan to at least double the size of our team. We will work through the branding and product-integration details this summer and communicate them to clients and our team in the fall. We will need everyone on our respective teams (and more), so we’re not planning any layoffs.

I reached out to KKR for comment, too, and will update if I hear back.

In AdAge, the merger was explained as a natural move given the overlapping research programs of both companies. It also described going private as a way for Axel Springer to invest more deeply in its programs, because it would no longer be beholden to public scrutiny.

But that’s not really how these business strategies generally play out. If a company is taken private with the aid of PE, it usually means a pivot is on the horizon—one that focuses less on investing and more on creating value from a pittance. The media business is many things, but efficient is not one of them. It requires myriad intelligent humans to create content, and even more to figure out how to monetize it. A private-equity perspective on the media business model wouldn’t create opportunities for investment, but rather rationalizations for budget cuts.

This falls in line with recent Axel Springer news, too. The company disclosed in its most recent earnings report that it expects both revenue and profits to fall in the coming year. While Business Insider did announce that it’s profitable, the rest of its parent company is likely fearful for its future. Blodget’s media company is only a small percentage of Axel’s overall European media domain, which includes such newspapers as Bild and Die Welt.

It’s unclear how all of this will play out until KKR has had time to follow through on its plans for Axel Springer.

But the one thing this development brings to light is that VC-backed media has never turned out the way company founders expect. Years ago, before Google and Facebook hoovered up most of the digital advertising share, the popular story went thus: Media companies could raise millions of dollars from venture capitalists, and then grow and scale at the same clip as other technology companies.

But nearly every company that followed this track has either failed completely or significantly scaled back: Mic, Vice, Mashable, BuzzFeed, Funny or Die, the list goes on.

Many critics looked to Business Insider as the proof that the VC-backed model could work. The company produced a lot of content, grew at a fast rate, and then saw one of the most successful media exits to date when it was purchased by Axel Springer for $450 million in 2015. But now, in the epilogue, we see the company being taken private by PE—which is certainly not an end nearly any media founder wants.

The business model underlying it all is flawed and unsustainable. We in the media were fed the idea that if you raise enough money and grow fast enough, a profitable business will follow. Even when that reality started to waver, a few exceptions to the rule were still somehow doing well enough to allow some to cling to the notion. But these examples have a reality to face, and Axel Springer’s new move may prove to be a foreboding sign for media bulls, if there are even any left.


Disclosure: I worked at Business Insider between 2014-2015.

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Government office calls for Kellyanne Conway’s removal in an unprecedented move

Government office calls for Kellyanne Conway’s removal in an unprecedented move
Kellyanne Conway [Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

A federal government oversight office has called for the removal of Kellyanne Conway as President Donald Trump’s advisor and key mouthpiece.

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The recommendation comes from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and is not related to related to Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election. The office sent a letter to Trump’s office Thursday saying Conway violated the Hatch Act numerous times by criticizing 2020 Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during TV interviews and on social media, Politico reported Thursday.

“Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” the letter reads. “Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law.”

The Hatch Act (originally known as An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities), which became law in 1939, says that staffers below the policy-making level in the executive branch must not take “any active part” in political campaigning.

The call for Conway’s removal represents the first time the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel has ever made such a recommendation about a White House official.

The White House’s response was what you might expect. Spokesman Steve Groves accused the Office of the Special Counsel of chilling free speech and “weaponizing” the Hatch Act against the White House.

Asked by reporters May 29 about her then-alleged Hatch Act violations, Conway responded: “Blah, blah, blah . . .”

The spokeswoman, who often communicates using “alternative facts,” is no stranger to controversy. After she publicly endorsed the products of Ivanka Trump’s company in 2017, both Democratic and Republican members of Congress called for an investigation into the possible ethics violation.

Conway’s official title is “counselor to the president.” She is a long-time Republican political strategist, pollster, and pundit. She was hired by the Trump campaign in August 2016 after originally working for the Ted Cruz campaign during the primaries.

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Job seekers, these are the best 25 cities for you in 2019

Job seekers, these are the best 25 cities for you in 2019
[Photo: mplstodd/Wikimedia Commons]

If you’re a recent grad or just up for a change in career, here are two words of advice: Go West. Job site Indeed has just released its annual list of the best cities for job seekers, and Silicon Valley sits firmly at the top.

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Tech hub San Jose, and its equally tech-savvy neighbor, San Francisco, rank as number one and two on the list. San Jose has the best job market favorability across the country, meaning there is the least competition for jobs, which is why the city has the second-lowest unemployment rate. And people there seem to love their jobs, as San Jose has the second-highest company reviews.

That said, Silicon Valley is expensive and while they are hiring, a lot of people can’t afford to live there and pay astronomical rents. That’s why San Jose falls to number 37 when ranked by adjusted salary.

It’s a similar story for San Francisco. Job competition is low (ranking second in job market favorability), as is the unemployment rate (number 3), and people love working there (number five). However, in the immortal words of Jimmy McMillan, the rent is too damn high. The sky-high cost of living in the Bay Area leads to a lower ranking for adjusted salary (number 39).

Because of those high housing costs, both cities face talent shortages for both tech and lower-wage jobs. Tech workers are moving to Seattle, home to Amazon and Microsoft, and then state capitals Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City instead.

Luckily, there are other options. In the West, Salt Lake City ranks at number 10. While the East Coast represents with Boston (number 3) and Washington, D.C. (number 9). The Midwest has options too with Minneapolis-St. Paul (number 6) and Milwaukee (number 7). As for the South, there are reportedly plenty of jobs in Nashville (number 5) and Oklahoma City (number 8), and if you’re not boycotting Alabama for its abortion ban, Birmingham comes in at number 4.

Check out the full list below and the full details here, and good luck on your job hunt.

  1. San Jose, California
  2. San Francisco
  3. Boston
  4. Birmingham, Alabama
  5. Nashville
  6. Minneapolis-St. Paul
  7. Milwaukee
  8. Oklahoma City
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Salt Lake City
  11. Indianapolis
  12. San Antonio, Texas
  13. San Diego
  14. Austin, Texas
  15. St. Louis, Missouri
  16. Sacramento, California
  17. Louisville, Kentucky
  18. Memphis, Tennessee
  19. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  20. Columbus, Ohio
  21. Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas
  22. Cincinnati, Ohio
  23. Richmond, Virginia
  24. Miami, Florida
  25. Providence, Rhode Island
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A wave of ‘robot surveillance’ could threaten our civil liberties, warns ACLU

A wave of ‘robot surveillance’ could threaten our civil liberties, warns ACLU
[Photo: Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash]

While surveillance cameras have long been common in the United States, a new breed of AI-enabled devices could endanger civil liberties and even reshape how people behave in public, the American Civil Liberties Union warns in a new report.

“Cameras that collect and store video just in case it is needed are being transformed into robot guards that actively and constantly watch people,” said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU, in a statement. “It is as if a great surveillance machine has been growing up around us, but largely dumb and inert—and is now, in a meaningful sense, waking up. The end result, if left unchecked, will be a society where everyone’s public movements and behavior are subject to constant and comprehensive evaluation and judgment by what are essentially AI security guards.”

Thanks to recent advances in AI, camera systems are rapidly gaining the ability to recognize people by their faces and walking patterns, spot “anomalous” behavior, and monitor people’s eye movements and apparent emotions, according to the report. While proponents say that could help businesses understand who’s visiting their stores and help police officers track suspects, the ACLU warns that it could exacerbate problems with racist policing—such as if cameras flag people in neighborhoods where they’re not the typical race as anomalous—and lead people to restrict their behavior in public so they don’t raise digital flags.

“Think about what it feels like when we’re driving down the highway and we see a police cruiser driving behind us,” the group says. “Do we want to feel that way at all times?”

To curb potential harms, the group called for mandatory legislative approval of smart surveillance systems and transparency rules so the public can understand how they’re used. The ACLU, which has also recently called for a moratorium on federal use of face recognition technology until Congress can determine how it should be used, also said the technology shouldn’t be used for “general public suspicion generation or the mass collection of personally identifiable data.”

The civil liberties group may find allies in Congress: In recent House hearings on facial recognition, members from both major parties expressed alarm about government use of the technology.

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These female-founded fashion brands are helping more women run for office

These female-founded fashion brands are helping more women run for office
[Photo: courtesy of She Should Run]

Can the fashion industry be a force for good in politics?

In the past, brands and designers have shown their support for particular candidates and causes by creating outfits that send a message. For instance, 17 designers, including Prabal Gurung, Tory Burch, and Diane von Furstenberg, created T-shirts for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. But what if these brands could actually help women run for political office and address the gender imbalance in government?

A wave of fashion and beauty brands is doing exactly this. She Should Run, an organization that helps women run for office, is teaming up with female-founded fashion companies including MZ Wallace, Birchbox, and Lingua Franca to create more opportunities for women to acquire the skills they need to enter politics. These brands have signed on to offer professional training for their employees that will encourage them–and other women–to develop the skills they might need to one day become political candidates. She Should Run is asking more companies to be part of this fight.

She Should Run has found that women still have a long way to go to be equally represented in government. The organization’s data shows that only 13% of women have moved from considering a run to actually filing the necessary paperwork. In other words, for every eight women who explore entering politics, only one actually runs. And yet, many of the women who have run–and won–in recent elections, had little background in politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, famously went from being a bartender to a congresswoman in a short amount of time.

To bring more women into politics, She Should Run believes that women need a lot more support and education. Many companies already have professional development opportunities for women, and She Should Run believes that if they geared some of these efforts toward helping women translate their leadership skills outside the corporate workplace and into politics, this could help change the landscape of American politics. For instance, She Should Run has helped develop workshops that tackle two of the most important issues women face when exploring a road to run: combatting imposter syndrome, and helping understand what running for office will really mean for them.

Ultimately, She Should Run is making the case that these skills are valuable to the companies themselves, by tapping into employees’ own leadership capabilities. And when more women are in political office, this will help women in business as well, by tackling the entrenched gender pay gap, for instance.

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Target takes aim at Amazon and Walmart with same-day delivery

Target takes aim at Amazon and Walmart with same-day delivery
[Photo: Jeangagnon/Wikimedia Commons]

If you’re an e-commerce giant that doesn’t offer some form of a free same-day delivery option, what are you even doing? Fast delivery is all the rage, thanks to Amazon always upping the ante. Now Target is trying to keep with the retail Joneses.

The big box store, known to many a suburban parent as “tar-zhay,” announced that it will offer same-day delivery for over 65,000 items—as long as customers pay $9.99. This is thanks to Target’s $550 million acquisition of the startup Shipt in 2017. Members of Shipt get the same-day delivery free. (Before this acquisition, Target’s delivery and pickup options were shoddy at best—as we noted in a 2017 feature on the future of retail.)

This latest move follows a spate of delivery announcements. At its last earnings report, Amazon announced that it was investing heavily (read: $800 million) to roll out free one-day delivery. Then came Walmart, which announced shortly thereafter plans to implement free one-day shipping for 220,000 items. And now we have Target, which makes the retail trifecta complete.

Target has, in the past, offered same-day shipping, but it required a membership of either $99 a year or $14 a month. With this update, the retailer is doing its best to compete with the other big guys to make the service more widely available. We’ll see which company is the first to try its hand at free same-hour shipping.

A previous version of this article misstated how the same-day shipping deal would work. We regret the error. 

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LinkedIn is the new frontier for spies, apparently

LinkedIn is the new frontier for spies, apparently
[Photo: freestocks.org/Unsplash]

You may use LinkedIn to congratulate a friend on their work anniversary, but spies use it to find new potential sources, and they may be using AI-generated profiles to help them do it.

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A new report from the Associated Press shows possible evidence of a fake profile being used to lure in potential contacts on LinkedIn. Katie Jones’s profile pic is pretty standard stuff for LinkedIn. The photo shows a nice-looking, clean-cut white lady with blue-ish eyes and light brown hair and an inscrutable expression on her face, like a LinkedIn Mona Lisa. The image is pretty generic, which is the point, as it seamlessly blends in with all the other nice-looking, clean-cut LinkedIn profiles eager to connect.

However, “Katie Jones” may be special, because according to the AP there’s a good deal of evidence that it was created by AI.

Several AI experts told the AP that the image of “Katie Jones” was definitely created using machine-learning techniques. A few of the subtle-yet-telltale signs that Katie Jones was created on a computer somewhere include a slightly asymmetrical face, an earring that appears to have melted off, an indistinct background, blurry boundaries between hair and ear, and streaks on her cheek that are either blur marks or a sign that she has been crying in the bathroom at work.

Why would anyone bother using machine-learning techniques to create a profile pic of an average white lady? Because it works. According to the AP, “Katie Jones” used LinkedIn to connect with policy experts and government figures in Washington, including a senator’s aide, a deputy assistant secretary of state, and Paul Winfree, an economist currently being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve. Jones requested a connection, and they all accepted, because what the heck, it’s LinkedIn. As Winfree told the AP: “I literally accept every friend request that I get.”

Why LinkedIn? Because as William Evanina, director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told the AP: “Instead of dispatching spies to some parking garage in the U.S. to recruit a target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in Shanghai and send out friend requests to 30,000 targets.”

In short, it’s an easy form of spycraft, because the potential source just accepts a connection from a pretty blonde and probably never thinks about it again until it’s time to congratulate the AI-generated person on their work anniversary.

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How Hong Kong protesters are evading China’s digital crackdown

How Hong Kong protesters are evading China’s digital crackdown
Protesters occupy a road as they attend a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. [Photo: Dale De La Rey/AFP/Getty Images]

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Hong Kong in recent days to protest a proposed law that would make it easier to extradite people to the Chinese mainland.

The Hong Kong legislature has postponed further consideration of the measure, which critics say could compromise the former U.K. colony’s tenuous autonomy, but protesters continue to clash with police. As with most modern political movements, the protest is being coordinated in part through online messaging apps, leading to a digital cat-and-mouse game between authorities and activists.

  • Protesters have been communicating with the encrypted text app Telegram, and its creator Pavel Durov reported an apparent Chinese denial of service attack on the service, while reassuring users that their data remains safe.
  • Authorities also arrested the leader of a Telegram group linked to the protests, reported the South China Morning Post.
  • Protesters are also disabling face and fingerprint login on their phones, opting instead for old-fashioned passcodes, Bloomberg reports. That’s because Hong Kong’s legal provisions against self-incrimination, similar to the U.S. Fifth Amendment, mean police can’t demand people’s login credentials, but they might be able to grab people’s hands or point phones at their faces to unlock the devices biometrically.
  • Protesters are also buying one-off transit tickets with cash instead of using their existing passes, Quartz reports. It’s another measure to make it harder for police to know they were at the protests.
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AT&T just cancelled Samsung’s Galaxy Fold preorders: report

AT&T just cancelled Samsung’s Galaxy Fold preorders: report
[Video: courtesy of Samsung]

It seems that Samsung hasn’t yet figured out a solution to its Galaxy Fold problem. The much-anticipated smartphone that folds in the middle has been hampered with issues. Last April, Samsung sent the device to multiple reviewers to try out the new $1,980 phone. Some testers reported issues with the screen—including one tech journalist who found half the screen entirely unusable. This caused Samsung to delay the phone’s release until it figured out a way to fix the problems the reviewers experienced.

Well, it seems the Galaxy Fold isn’t being released anytime soon—Tom’s Guide reports that AT&T has cancelled all its preorders. “Samsung delayed the release of the phone, which means we can’t ship your phone,” the carrier is reportedly telling customers who wanted to purchase the device.

Reached for comment, a Samsung spokesperson provided me with the following statement:

We are working closely with all of our distribution partners, including AT&T, to deliver the Galaxy Fold to customers as quickly as possible. A new release date for the Galaxy Fold will be announced in the coming weeks. Samsung values the trust our customers place in us and we want to thank them for their patience and understanding.

For now, our superfluous future of a folding smartphone will have to wait. You can read Tom’s Guide‘s report here.

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Google’s Pixel 4: Ready or not, huge camera bulges are coming

Google’s Pixel 4: Ready or not, huge camera bulges are coming

In response to unofficial Pixel 4 leaks, Google has decided to release an official teaser image of its next flagship phone. While the image only shows the Pixel 4 from its backside, it suggests that the phone will have at least a couple of lenses, necessitating a larger camera bulge. There’s no sign of a rear fingerprint reader either, so perhaps Google’s getting ready to implement something like Apple’s FaceID face recognition system.

The Pixel 4 might not be this year’s only flagship phone with a more bulbous camera system, though. Sources have told Bloomberg that the next iPhone will have a triple-lens camera system, and a larger camera bulge has popped up in unofficial renders. (Incidentally, Steve Hemmerstoffer, also known as “Onleaks,” was involved in releasing the iPhone and Pixel 4 images.) While these bulky multi-lens systems aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, they do have a way of flaunting what’s always been smartphones’ most important feature.

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How to help Sudan: 7 things you can do right now for a country in crisis

How to help Sudan: 7 things you can do right now for a country in crisis
Sudanese protesters burn tires and set up barricades on roads to army headquarters after the intervention of Sudanese army, during a demonstration in Khartoum, Sudan on June 3, 2019. [Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

On April 11, change came to Sudan. After months of protest reportedly triggered by cash and bread shortages, Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for the last 30 years despite indictments for war crimes and genocide in Darfur, was overthrown by the citizens of Sudan who were tired of living in a dictatorship.

Military leaders moved in, but initially claimed they agreed to civilian rule, developing a reported plan to rotate power between the civilians and military leaders. However, the talks dissolved. The pro-democracy movement, led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, wants civilian rule and a long period of transition before new elections are held to prepare for voting, while the military leaders reportedly want voting to take place in nine months.

As the military tightened its hold on the supposedly transitional government it had formed, the civilians staged a strike. On June 3, that non-violent protest proved too much for the military, which staged a violent response, killing at least 52 peaceful protesters and injuring over 700 more, according to the World Health Organization. Other civilian reports have put the death count at over 100 and have said dozens of bodies were dumped into the Nile River. To prevent reporting their victims from reporting the crimes or asking for help from the global community, the military has shut down the internet nationwide. Following the killings, the SPA called for “complete civil disobedience and open political strike.”

As people flee the violence, a new refugee crisis is shaping up. George Clooney, who has been working in South Sudan for years, wrote an essay in Politico explaining why Congress should act and how they can help the people of Sudan. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t count on Congress to act quickly. Here’s how we can all help the people of Sudan today:

  • Call your member of Congress. Call 202-224-3121. State your zip code. When connected, tell them you support helping the people of Sudan or send them George Clooney’s essay.
  • Use ResistBot to text your members of Congress. Text RESIST to 50409 and it will help you contact your elected officials and tell them to help the people of Sudan.
  • Give to UNICEF, which is working to help the children displaced by the conflict. Donate here
  • Donate to Save the Children, which has been working in Sudan since 1984. Donate here. If you prefer the International Rescue Committee, it has been in Sudan since 1989 fighting malnutrition and helping displaced families. Donate here
  • This Facebook campaign aims to raise funds for food and medicine for those in Sudan. Donate here
  • Sign this Change.org petition demanding that “The UN must investigate the 3rd of June human rights violations in Sudan by the Military.” Sign here
  • This GoFundMe campaign out of the U.K. claims to be working with a Sudanese group to bring emergency medical aid to Sudan. Donate here. This GoFundMe campaign is dedicated to providing medical support for the group of non-violent protesters waging a sit-in. Donate here
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Ford safety recalls: What you need to know about affected SUVs, vans, and pickups

Ford safety recalls: What you need to know about affected SUVs, vans, and pickups
[Photo: nose/Wikimedia Commons]

Ford Motor Company announced Wednesday three separate vehicle safety recalls across North America, and another in Canada. Here’s what you need to know:

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SUVs

The model: The car manufacturer has issued a recall on select 2011-2017 Explorers, specifically those built in the Chicago Assembly Plant between May 17, 2010 and January 25, 2017.

The problem: The troublesome part is the toe link, which helps keep tires planted on the ground and pointing in the correct direction. Possible fractured toe links in these select models mean the SUVs could lose steering control and be at risk of crashing.

The plan: Dealers plan to remove and replace rear suspension toe links in 1.2 million cars in the U.S., plus 28,000 in Canada and Mexico.

Pickups

The model: The second batch in question is 2013 Ford F-150 vehicles with six-speed automatic transmission, specifically those built at the Dearborn Assembly Plant, May 7, 2012, to October 27, 2013, and at the Kansas City Assembly Plant, April 18, 2012, to November 18, 2013.

The problem: These select pickup trucks could accidentally and suddenly downshift into first gear due to an incomplete calibration. If traveling at a high speed, this downshift could be dangerous and lead to a loss of control.

The plan: Ford wants to reprogram the 123,000 pickups with the proper calibration software.

Vans

The model: Next up are 2009-2016 Ford Econolines with 5.4-liter engines. These vans are often used as school buses and ambulances.

The problem: The culprit here is a substandard weld that could fatigue and fail, especially when drivers are accelerating from a stop. The result could be a loss of mobility, which Ford admits is especially problematic for transporters of schoolchildren and hospital patients.

The plan: The manufacturer aims to recall 4,300 vans, which were built at the Ohio Assembly Plant between May 11, 2009 and December 10, 2015.

Separately, Ford is planning to recall 12,000 vehicles in Canada only, for a similar toe link issue as the Explorers. Various models are affected, including the 2010-2017 Ford Taurus and the 2009-2015 Lincoln MKS.

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Pinterest lands smack in the middle of the deplatforming wars

Pinterest lands smack in the middle of the deplatforming wars
[Photo: Fabian Irsara/Unsplash]

Pinterest, the social media network best known for weed-themed wedding ideas, keto kebab recipes, and low-carb cupcake ideas, is wading into the political fray.

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The site has permanently banned Live Action, the controversial anti-abortion group that published misleading videos about Planned Parenthood’s practices, for spreading misinformation and conspiracies.  The group is also one of the largest anti-choice groups sharing links on Facebook, according to an analysis by Media Matters.

The ban was reportedly put in place months ago, but it’s in the news now because right-wing activist group Project Veritas just reported that Pinterest had labeled its content as “porn.” On Tuesday morning, Live Action tweeted out the news that its website was on a list of “blocked pornography sites” on Pinterest, preventing users from pinning links to their boards.

Motherboard points out that sites frequently tag banned sites as porn to make it easier for AI-fueled internal content-management tools to remove or block sites en masse, not because they are considered “porn” per se. The categorization appears to be particularly galling to Live Action’s followers, with Live Action’s director of external affairs tweeting that Pinterest had “doubled down” on the ban and kept Live Action on its “pornography blocked list,” adding that, “It appears Live Action is the only pro-life group on this list, at this time.”

A Pinterest spokesperson explained in an email to Fast Company that the site “took action on LiveAction.org several months ago for violating [its] misinformation policy related to conspiracies and health, and not for any other reason.” The spokesperson also noted that the site’s misinformation policy has been in place since 2017, and made it clear that “content from all viewpoints is permitted on the site.”

This isn’t the first time that Pinterest has taken a hard stance on misinformation and deplatformed a group. The company, whose stock debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in April, previously banned Alex Jones’s Infowars. It has also blocked anti-vaccine propaganda boards and made it nearly impossible to search for anti-vaxx boards on the site, deeming such content to be misinformation on the grounds of, you know, science.

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The Trump administration is holding migrant kids in a former internment camp for Japanese Americans

The Trump administration is holding migrant kids in a former internment camp for Japanese Americans
[Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP/Shutterstock]

The Trump administration has decided that an Army base in Oklahoma is the perfect place to hold the growing number of immigrant children it is keeping in custody, despite some incredible symbolism that would have others thinking twice. The Army base, Fort Sill, was once used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

Now Fort Sill will be used “as a temporary emergency influx shelter” for about 1,400 children. They will be detained there until they can be given to an adult relative, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said, as Time reported. The Trump administration recently cut funding for English lessons, soccer games, legal aid, and other forms of entertainment and education for the children being held against their will in these camps, meaning the children will have very little to keep them occupied.

In addition to Fort Sill, minors are being held at about 168 facilities and programs in 23 states all operated by DHS. As Time writes, DHS has taken about 40,900 children into custody through April 30. The agency reportedly assessed two other military bases before selecting Fort Sill. Before adding this latest chapter to Fort Sill’s ignominious history, it served as an internment camp for Japanese Americans removed from their homes under federal order 9066. That order required an estimated 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry to be incarcerated between 1942 and 1946. (Check out the podcast Order 9066 for details of this dark corner of American history.)

Want to help incarcerated children? Head here for ideas, here for other ideas, or follow Congressman Tony Cárdenas’s suggestions here. They include working as a pro bono immigration lawyer, fostering a child through Catholic Charities (or donating to their cause), and  donating to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.

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