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Former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson joins Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi

Former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson joins Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi
[Photo: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images]

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s short-form video startup Quibi has added to its all-star executive lineup with the hire of Diane Nelson, the former president of DC Entertainment at Warner Bros.

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Nelson joins Katzenberg; Meg Whitman, the former HP CEO who is now chief executive of Quibi; and Janice Min, the former co-president and chief creative officer of The Hollywood Reporter who now is Quibi’s head of news content. The news was first reported by THR.

Nelson’s hire reinforces Quibi’s interest in premium content, and suggests that the company will also be targeting fanboys, given Nelson’s background overseeing the DC universe at Warner Bros. This included movies like Justice League and Wonder Woman, along with the DC publishing and TV units. The latter produced shows like Arrow and Supergirl.

Nelson also has a close relationship with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and played an important role in the relationship between the British author and the studio. 

Quibi has been in stealth mode for the past year, but has been making more headlines as it ramps up to debut at the end of 2019. Last week, Katzenberg announced that the company had signed deals with Catherine Hardwicke and Stephen Curry to create shows that will stream on Quibi in 10-minute increments. 

The company, which will focus exclusively on short bites of video, is richly backed—it has a $1 billion war chest, thanks to investments by the major studios and Alibaba—and is pouring money into content. Earlier this week, Digiday reported that the company plans to spend nearly $500 million on programming prior to its launch. After launch, that figure will go up based on subscriber growth, in one scenario hitting $2.6 billion in year five. 

With Nelson onboard, expect more announcements about deals with talent like Guillermo del Toro and Sam Raimi, both of whom are creating, respectively, zombie and horror series for the platform. 

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Federal minimum wage vote delayed over witness’s 2002 “gay sex tax” blog

Federal minimum wage vote delayed over witness’s 2002 “gay sex tax” blog
[Photo: Andrew Van Huss/Wikimedia Commons]

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce delayed a hearing on the minimum wage after a Republican witness, Professor Joseph Sabia of San Diego State University, was reported to have penned a 2002 satirical blog post about junk food taxes that included a rant about the supposed dangers of gay sex.

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Sabia, who opposed a tax on junk food, argued that it made equal sense to target gay sex and nightclubs for taxation and regulation, citing the danger from HIV.

“Homosexual activity has been responsible for devastating health outcomes–deadly HIV, hepatitis B, and various other sexually transmitted diseases,” he wrote. “When two random men get together and choose to have sex, there is not an insignificant risk of infection and death. And if these infected men then go on to have sex with women, then you have women–and possibly children–who will be stricken with AIDS.”

Sabia made it clear in the blog post, apparently written while he was a grad student at Cornell University and captured by the Internet Archive, that he actually opposed taxes on both junk food and gay activities. But critics, including Democrats on the committee, quickly denounced the post as homophobic.

Sabia didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Fast Company, but in a series of statements to CNN he said he does “regret the hurtful and disrespectful language I used as a satirical college opinion writer 20 years ago” and that he is gay himself.

“As an out gay man in a long-term committed relationship, charges of ‘homophobia’ because of my satirical college writings are deeply hurtful to my family,” Sabia told CNN. “And my record of academic scholarship on discrimination against LGBQT individuals reflects my commitment to social justice.”

Another Sabia post from the same era repeatedly compared college women to prostitutes.

“Today’s college girl looks to Ally McBeal, the trollops of Sex in the City, and the floozies on Friends to set their moral compasses,” he wrote. “The sad truth is that college girls are so desperate to find love that they are willing to degrade themselves to get it. But true love can only be understood in the context of the Word of God. Any other notion of ‘love’ is secular and, by definition, limited and finite.”

The economics professor was scheduled to speak about the potential consequences to workers and small businesses of raising the federal minimum wage. Republicans generally oppose Democratic proposals to boost the wage to $15 per hour. Sabia has cowritten papers on the minimum wage, including a recent study finding that “raising the tipped minimum cash wage is a poorly targeted policy to deliver income to poor restaurant workers”; one suggesting a New York wage boost “reduced employment”; and a paper finding minimum wages don’t appear to increase alcohol-related teen driver fatalities.

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Amazon draws boos at NYC council meeting over ICE-Rekognition deal

Amazon draws boos at NYC council meeting over ICE-Rekognition deal

In a contentious New York City Council hearing into Amazon’s plans to build part of its so-called HQ2 in Long Island City, Queens, Amazon VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman drew boos over the company’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We think the government should have the best available technology,” Huseman said, referring to the company’s Rekognition software, which is used to recognize images of faces and other objects.

Amazon has faced criticism for its work with ICE as deportations have risen in recent years. It has also faced concerns from civil libertarians and members of Congress for marketing the software to police agencies.

Amazon told The Daily Beast in October it had discussed with ICE the possibility of the agency using Rekognition, although ICE said at the time it didn’t have a contract with Amazon. Amazon declined to comment further on its current relationship with ICE.

The company secured incentives from New York state and city governments for plans to open the new offices in Long Island City, Queens, but it has since seen some pushback from city politicians and residents concerned about gentrification, transit congestion, and the fact that the process largely took place behind closed doors. Amazon has said it will bring about 25,000 jobs to the city.

Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York City’s Staten Island have also recently reportedly announced plans to form a union, citing issues with hours, pay and working conditions. The company has said it respects “employees’ right to choose to join or not join a labor union,” but prefers an existing “open-door policy” where workers can bring concerns to management.

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The painful side of tech algorithms in one heartbreaking tweet

The painful side of tech algorithms in one heartbreaking tweet
[Photo: Rodion Kutsaev/Unsplash]

A devastating story is making its way around Twitter, telling the tale of an indifferent algorithm that got everything right except the sad finale.

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Washington Post video editor Gillian Brockell sent out a plea to Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and Experian, begging them to improve their algorithms. In the tweet, she explains that when she was pregnant, she shared her joy on social media. She used Instagram hashtags like #babybump, wrote baby shower thank-you notes on Facebook, and Googled “babysafe crib paint” and maternity clothes. She was served up ads that matched her new interests.

But then she started Googling other things like “baby not moving” and posting on Facebook about being heartbroken that her child was stillborn. Her friends weighed in with teardrop emojis. The algorithms that populate the internet were clever enough to figure out she was pregnant, but not clever enough to figure out when she was not. They kept serving her ads that compounded her heartache, Brockell writes. When she clicked, “I don’t want to see this ad” to give herself some respite, she says the algorithm decided she had given birth—and so it gave her new, more painful ads. That led her to Twitter to plead with the companies to do better.

Brockell writes: “If you’re smart enough to realize that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth, then surely you’re smart enough to realize that my baby died and can advertise accordingly, or maybe just maybe, not at all.”

Reached for comment, Facebook pointed to a tweet from its VP of ads, Rob Goldman, who apologized to Brockell and said Facebook has settings that allow users to block ads about painful topics, although he conceded the feature “needs improvement.”

Google and Twitter have not yet responded to a request for comment.

Facebook has attempted to filter out some of the more painful memories from its “On This Day” feature—which resurfaces images and posts from your Facebook past. But how its algorithm decides what to show is a complete mystery. In the past, it has chosen to highlight dead pets, a burning apartment, a father’s ashes, and other jarringly sad images. (Web developer Eric Meyer’s post, Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty, sums it up well.) While Facebook users can filter out specific dates, people, and memorialized accounts from their memories, users are still very much at the mercy of algorithms, especially when it comes to ads—no matter how heartless and indifferent they may be.

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Here’s a look at H&M’s new gender neutral fashion collection

H&M is getting in on the gender neutral trend with a new collection slated for early next year. On Wednesday, the fast fashion retailer announced it partnered with Swedish label Eytys for a line targeting younger consumers.

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Starting January 24, buyers can access the collection both in stores and online. It will include genderless shoes, clothing, and accessories for adults and kids alike in line with the Stockholm-based brand’s aesthetic. In a press statement, H&M says Eytys is known for their “no-fuss” and “streamlined yet chunky-soled shoes, unisex approach, and perfectly designed wardrobe staples.”

More specifically, that translates to sneakers, shoes, and boots in leather, suede, and cotton canvas along with a range of clothing in cotton twill, faux patent leather, nylon, and raw denim. The clothing garments will feature boxy silhouettes that can suit male and female bodies.

As for color, don’t expect anything too pink or brightly colored. H&M says the palette will consist of bottle green, school bus yellow, beige khaki, dark indigo, black, and white. The color scheme is meant to be “effortlessly” mixed and matched.

Blurred gender lines have emerged beyond the independent designer space in the last two years. H&M is one of many big brands that have embraced the growing trend. Zara released its own ungendered collections in 2016, while Moda Operandi debuted its first unisex streetwear collection. Asos’s past neutral collection did so well that it’s now expanding the offering.  (More recently, singer Celine Dion declared her kids clothing gender-neutral).

That many of these collections are geared toward younger audiences makes sense: A survey by trend forecasting agency J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that more than a third of Gen Z strongly agreed that gender did not define a person as much as it used to.

“With this collaboration, we hope to introduce the H&M customer to our design philosophy of robust and fuss-free design where function triumphs embellishment and style spans genders,” Max Schiller, creative director at Eytys, said in the statement. “The collection is all about proportions–creating a distinct unisex silhouette by playing around with loose silhouettes and chunky architectural footwear. It’s the Eytys idea of a ‘generic’ look, one that is meant to elevate integrity, attitude, and confidence. “

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Stadium Goods gets acquired by Farfetch as the sneaker resale market heats up

Stadium Goods gets acquired by Farfetch as the sneaker resale market heats up
[Photo: courtesy of Stadium Goods]

There was a time when buying secondhand goods was a slightly shady affair, one that would take you into a dark, ugly consignment shop or deep into the underbelly of eBay. But not anymore. That was made clear today when the luxury retailer Farfetch acquired the sneaker resale brand Stadium Goods for an undisclosed amount that will be paid in the form of cash and Farfetch shares.

Three-year-old Stadium Goods, which is now valued at $250 million, got the attention of sneakerheads with the sleek brand experience it offers customers on the website and in its New York store. The brand uses photography and video to tell stories about products. “Our goal was always to cut out some of the noise in the secondary market,” says Stadium Goods co-founder John McPheters. “It was to give customers a luxury experience.”


Related: The future of fashion is made-to-order, according to Farfetch CEO José Neves


Stadium holds all of its inventory, paying the seller only when the item is purchased. Now all of these products will be available on the Farfetch platform. That said, the brand will continue to operate independently. It plans to invest in growth both here in the United States as well as in other markets, like China, where both streetwear and luxury resale are gathering steam. “We want to take advantage of the relationship we have built with customers over the last three years,” McPheters says.

Farfetch has acquired several luxury goods companies over the last few years, from the London store Browns to a Chinese digital marketing agency called Curiosity China. It went public in September 2018, and is on track to generate $1 billion in revenue this year. Jose Neves, Farfetch’s founder and CEO, says the company is not investing in one specific segment of the luxury market, but wants to keep its finger on the many ways the luxury industry is evolving. “We saw how quickly Stadium Goods was growing, and we couldn’t ignore it,” Neves says.

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Michael Cohen gets 3-year jail sentence for “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct”

Michael Cohen gets 3-year jail sentence for “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct”
[Photo: Corey Sipkin/AFP/Getty Images]

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, was sentenced to three years in prison today after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and lying to Congress.

In federal court in Manhattan, U.S. Judge William Pauley said Cohen essentially admitted to a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,” according to CNBC.

Federal prosecutors last week argued for substantial jail time for Cohen, who is accused of paying hush money to two women who say they’d had affairs with the president. Court documents allege that Cohen acted at the direction of Trump, who was a candidate for president at the time.

In the courtroom today, Cohen himself implied as much–citing “blind loyalty” to Trump for his actions, and claiming to have been led down a “path of darkness instead of light.”

Cohen is due to begin his sentence on March 6. Twitter insults from the president are likely to come much sooner.

Read more about Cohen’s sentencing here and here.

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Our brains hurt trying to figure out Delta’s new eight-group boarding system

Our brains hurt trying to figure out Delta’s new eight-group boarding system
[Photo: Chris Rank/Rank Studios 2018/Delta News Hub/Flickr]

Delta Air Lines has a brand new “simple” way for passengers to board its planes and it will finally give travelers a chance to use the algebra they learned in middle school. Starting January 23, 2019, passengers on Delta will be divided into eight distinct boarding groups, requiring passengers to remember their aisle, seat, priority, cabin, and color scheme, the airline announced today.

[Photo: courtesy of Delta]
Groups one through three are for people who can pony up for premium classes, including first class, business, and premium economy (Delta Comfort +, the choice for thousandaires everywhere!). Group four will collect any remaining priority passengers, including silver medallion, credit card holders, and other Sky Priority types, while lowly passengers in the main cabin are spread out through groups five through seven. Basic Economy schlubs will be stuck in boarding group eight.

Believe it or not, this is all less complex than American Airlines, which has nine boarding zones, and United Airlines, which only boards with five zones but, after an update to its boarding areas, now loads those five zones through two lanes (ugh, math).

According to Australia’s ABC, passenger boarding delays cost U.S. airlines almost $40 billion each year, so it makes sense that they would want to speed it up while still making the high-paying customers feel special. (Delta’s chief marketing officer made a statement explaining that the new system is partially to give the people what they pay for. )

Despite the new-fangled boarding hokey-pokey, studies have shown that so-called block boarding (the method currently used) is actually the slowest way to board a plane. The fastest method, according to an astrophysicist named Jason Steffen, is a complex system of boarding based on alternating rows by seat type (window, aisle, middle). Steffen used an optimization algorithm and a computer simulation to devise the method and found that his scheme cut passenger boarding time by three quarters, despite its complexity. In Steffen’s experiments, it took less than half the time of block boarding.

In effect, it’s hard to see how Delta’s new system will counter the boarding chaos.

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10 worst password offenders of 2018: Do better, Kanye West and Nutella

10 worst password offenders of 2018: Do better, Kanye West and Nutella
[Photos: NeONBRAND/Unsplash; Matthew Brodeur/Unsplash]

Normally, Kanye West swinging by the Oval Office to pay a visit to Donald Trump would be headline news (and sure it was), but their meeting was completely upstaged by Kanye’s remarkably poor choice in passwords. That’s why he made the list of password manager Dashlane’s third annual “Worst Password Offenders.” 

It’s easy to understand why people try to make passwords easy to remember–Dashlane found that the average internet user has more than 200 digital accounts that require passwords, and the company projects this figure to double to 400 in the next five years. Get yourself a password manager, stop using these terrible passwords, and try to avoid mistakes that will earn you a spot on this list:
  • 10. University of Cambridge: Someone left a plaintext password on GitHub of all places, allowing anyone to access the data of millions of people being studied by the university’s researchers via a Facebook quiz app. (NB: Don’t take Facebook quizzes; it rarely ends well.)
  • 9. United Nations: U.N. staff forgot to password protect their Trello, Jira, and Google Docs documents, leaving their internal data and international development plans open to anyone with the link.
  • 8. Google: An engineering student gained access to a Google TV broadcast satellite, but you can’t even call what the did as “hacking” per se because he simply logged in to the Google admin page with a blank username and password.
  • 7. White House staff: Some White House staffer wrote his email login and password on official White House stationery and then left it at a Washington, D.C., bus stop.
  • 6. Texas: The Lone Star State left over 14 million voter records exposed on a server that wasn’t password protected, leaving 77% of the state’s registered voters, including addresses and voter history unprotected.
  • 5. U.K. law firms: Researchers in the United Kingdom found over one million corporate email and password combinations from 500 of the country’s top law firms available on the dark web, some stored in plaintext.
  • 4. Nutella: Nutella decided it would be fun to convince its Twitter followers to use “Nutella” as their password as a way to celebrate World Password Day.
  • 3. Cryptocurrency owners: Poor cryptocurrency owners couldn’t access their potential newfound wealth because none of them could remember the passwords to their digital wallets. Did they try “Nutella”?
  • 2. The Pentagon: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that they were able to guess Pentagon passwords in just nine seconds. That wasn’t even the most alarming part–they also discovered that multiple weapons systems were protected by default passwords that any member of the public could have found through a basic Google search.
  • 1. Kanye West: If you’re going to have your iPhone passcode set to “000000” don’t show it off in front of a room full of TV cameras broadcasting around the globe.
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Amazon NYC warehouse workers push for union as stories of poor working conditions spread

Amazon NYC warehouse workers push for union as stories of poor working conditions spread
[Photo: Flickr user Tony Webster]

A while ago it may have seemed like a small whisper, but now it has coalesced into a multi-diaphragm-projected yell: Amazon workers want a union. In Europe, workers have been pushing for unionization for over year, and the tension has resulted in numerous protests and strikes. And in the United States, there have been isolated instances, including a recent unionization effort by Whole Foods workers. But now a new Amazon warehouse has announced plans to form a union, and it’s in an especially contentious location for Amazon.

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According to Bloomberg, a group of workers from a Staten Island warehouse have launched a unionization effort. This comes right after Amazon announced its plans to build one half of its new headquarters in New York City. While the company is trying to convince New Yorkers that its presence in Long Island City, Queens, will be a good thing, the warehouse employees in the other borough say they their working conditions are bad.

The issues the workers are hoping to improve, writes Bloomberg, are “safety concerns, inadequate pay, and 12-hour shifts with insufficient breaks and unreasonable hourly quotas, after which they lose more of their day waiting unpaid in long lines for security checks.”

Reached for comment, Amazon sent me a statement that pushed back against unionization, saying it prefers its “open-door policy,” despite years of news coverage about poor conditions at warehouses:

“Amazon associates are the heart and soul of our operations, and we respect employees’ right to choose to join or not join a labor union. Amazon maintains an open-door policy that encourages employees to bring their comments, questions, and concerns directly to their management team for discussion and resolution. We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce.”

The company has also been known to crack down on unionization drives. Last September, Gizmodo discovered a video the company showed its managers. The video trained them to look out for certain behaviors that may indicate possible organizing efforts. However, it seems these methods didn’t help Staten Island managers quell this current drive.

Amazon’s ability to extract as much value from its workers as possible is why it has become the powerhouse it is today. And the company plans to continue in this vein as much as possible. We see this with the deals it struck with both New York and Virginia, in which Amazon saves billions of dollars in tax credits all in the name of building new offices. This growing unionization drive is one way workers are trying to demand not to be treated as mere cogs in Amazon’s ever-expanding system of domination.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for any updates in this movement.

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Half of Google’s workforce is reportedly treated like second-class citizens

Half of Google’s workforce is reportedly treated like second-class citizens
[Photo: Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash]

Working at Google comes with a lot of perks. But it turns out those are only available to some of the company’s workforce. A new Guardian article describes the tens of thousands of workers considered temps, vendors, and contractors (TVCs), and the unequal treatment they receive from the company. According to an anonymous employee who spoke with the news outlet, 49.95% of Google’s 170,000 workers around the globe are considered TVCs. And there’s a whole handbook the company gives to managers explaining how to deal with this second class of laborers.

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Per this manual, managers are not allowed to give TVCs any swag, bonuses, or gifts. This is because they are technically hired by other businesses and it may interfere with company policy. What’s more, many company practices and meetings are relegated only to those considered full time. For example, reports the Guardian, Google recently announced it would end forced arbitration during cases of sexual harassment. This change, however, is reportedly only for full-time employees. Not only that but some contractors allegedly aren’t allowed to attend team meetings–even if they are considered a part of the team at hand.

In some cases, it makes the company look like it’s fostering tiered worker classes. During all-hands meetings, security guards reportedly stand guard to make sure only people with red badges are allowed inside. During the shooting at the YouTube offices, some TVCs said they didn’t receive the same security updates as full-time employees. (Google disputed this claim to the Guardian.)

A spokesperson provided the Guardian with the following statement:

We hire Google employees to work on jobs that are core to our business, and look to temps, vendors and contractors when we either don’t have the expertise or infrastructure ourselves, or when we need temporary help due to employee leaves or short-term projects . . . Temps, vendors and contractors are an important part of our extended workforce, but they are employed by other companies, not Google.

I reached out to Google for additional comment and a spokesperson provide me with the same statement, adding “our Supplier Code of Conduct holds companies accountable for providing their employees with a safe and inclusive work environment.”

While it’s true that in some cases some TVCs have different purviews than regular Google employees, the guide sure makes it seem like the company is building a separate work environment for people under the same roof.

In a world where more and more people are being forced into temporary or contract labor–while companies like Google are heralded for the pay and perks they provide for employees–this provides helpful context about what actually might be going on.

You can read the full report here.

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Jack Dorsey tries to clear up his obliviousness about Myanmar atrocities

Jack Dorsey tries to clear up his obliviousness about Myanmar atrocities
[Photo: Thom Holmes/Unsplash]

On Sunday the Twitter CEO posted a few tweets about what a fantastic time he had while on a meditation retreat in Myanmar. It was a country, he tweeted, that was “absolutely beautiful” and whose “people are full of joy.” Oh, also “the food is amazing.”

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Dorsey followed up these tweets with explanations about his time spent meditating at a silent retreat for 10 days–during which he used tech like the Apple Watch to quantify his progress. As many have pointed out, Dorsey’s attempts to track and analyze his meditation experiences miss the Buddha’s teachings on meditation entirely.

But his inability to let go of tech at a silent meditation retreat aside, the biggest problem critics had with Dorsey’s recap of his experience was he seemed to be completely unaware that Myanmar is currently suffering from human rights atrocities and what UN investigators have called the “genocidal intent” of Myanmar’s army against the country’s Rohingya Muslim population.

More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2017 when the army began its campaign of terror against them. It was a campaign that was allowed to spread via social media platforms like Facebook–and yep, Dorsey’s Twitter. Since then, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in attacks and another 2,700 others died from disease and malnutrition, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In other words, Myanmar is a country far from having people “full of joy,” as Dorsey claimed. Rather, it’s a country in the middle of a full-scale persecution against an ethnic minority–and a persecution that has been enabled by the hate spreading on Twitter.

After the online backlash grew over the oblivious tech billionaire’s comments, Dorsey took to Twitter again last night to apologize about his seeming ignorance, saying he was “aware of the human rights atrocities and suffering in Myanmar” and “didn’t intend to diminish [the Rohingya’s plight] by not raising the issue.”

If you (or you, Jack) want to help the Rohingya, here’s how to do it.

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China was reportedly behind the Marriott hack, as well as other hacks, too

China was reportedly behind the Marriott hack, as well as other hacks, too
[Photo: ActionVance/Unsplash]

The Marriott breach, which involved the personal data of around 500 million customers being hacked, was reportedly part of a larger effort led by China, according to the New York Times. If half a billion personal records breached didn’t sound big enough, the hackers also allegedly got access to health insurers data and security clearance files.

This development makes the whole mess even messier. The Times, citing two unnamed people with knowledge of the investigation, says that the Chinese government has been working for years on building a database of “executives and American government officials with security clearances.” This Marriott news is likely a part of that same effort. China, it appears, has been ramping up its spying efforts once again–after President Obama reached an agreement with the country in 2015 to stop cyber-espionage.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been going head to head with China over trade for quite a while now. This latest development–along with the U.S. arresting Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over fraud allegations–will only heighten tensions between the two countries.

It’s unclear what action the U.S. is going to take if it’s further proven that China was the brains behind the Marriott fiasco. But things are likely not going to be pretty.

You can read the full New York Times report here.

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Google’s Year In Search 2018 zeitgeist video focuses on the good–watch it here

Google’s Year In Search 2018 zeitgeist video focuses on the good–watch it here

The search giant has released its annual Year In Search charts highlighting what topics people searched for the world over this year. 2018 was a rough year all around on the global level, so naturally in its accompanying Year In Search 2018 video, Google decided to mostly focus on the good and the heartwarming.

However, what’s probably most noticeable in this video is the person who is not in it: President Trump. Many of Google’s previous Year In Search videos highlighted a sitting president–but not this year. Matter of fact, the only political images in the video are a quick shot of Senator John McCain and a shot of a voter who took part in the 2018 Midterm elections.

Besides the video, Google also released its top search trends for 2018. Keep in mind these “top trends” weren’t necessarily the most-searched-for topics of 2018. Rather, Google defines top trending searches as the topics that saw the biggest increase in interest from the previous year to the current year.

Globally the top five trending searches of 2018 were:

  1. World Cup
  2. Avicii
  3. Mac Miller
  4. Stan Lee
  5. Black Panther

In the U.S. the top five trending searches of 2018 were:

  1. World Cup
  2. Hurricane Florence
  3. Mac Miller
  4. Kate Spade
  5. Anthony Bourdain
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Google just gave DuckDuckGo a huge boost–giving it duck.com

Google just gave DuckDuckGo a huge boost–giving it duck.com
[Photo: Vincent van Zalinge/Unsplash]

While not Google’s biggest search competitor by far, many who are leery about Google scooping up so much information about our web activity have transitioned to using the privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo. But until this week, DuckDuckGo users could only access the search engine by via the URL duckduckgo.com. That’s because previous to this week, the simpler domain duck.com was owned by Google and routed to Google’s home page.

The duck.com domain had long been a source of frustration for DuckDuckGo–but not anymore. Google has now transferred ownership of duck.com to DuckDuckGo, reports NamePros. Now if a user wants to access DuckDuckGo’s home page, they simply need to type in the duck.com URL in their browser. In a statement, DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg said:

We’re pleased Google has chosen to transfer ownership of Duck.com to DuckDuckGo. Having Duck.com will make it easier for people to use DuckDuckGo.

Google had owned the duck.com domain name since 2010 when it acquired On2, a video codec company previously known as The Duck Corporation.

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Verizon says its media brand Oath is almost worthless

Verizon says its media brand Oath is almost worthless
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Tuesday, Verizon Communications said its media brand, Oath, is worth almost nothing. Oath is the name that Verizon gave to various media properties it acquired, including Yahoo in 2017 for $4.5 billion and AOL in 2015 for $4.4 billion. AOL itself owned a number of media brands, including the Huffington Post, now HuffPost.

Verizon will take a $4.6 billion write-down on Oath, which puts the goodwill valuation of the media brand at about $200 million. (“Goodwill” encompasses a company’s brand value and reputation.) The write-down was the result of a re-accounting of the value of Oath, which occurred after Verizon replaced its old CEO, Lowell McAdam, with new CEO Hans Vestberg last summer. Before the re-accounting Verizon said the Oath brand’s goodwill valuation was $4.8 billion.

Oath, Verizon said in the filing, “has experienced increased competitive and market pressures throughout 2018 that have resulted in lower-than-expected revenues and earnings. These pressures are expected to continue and have resulted in a loss of market positioning to our competitors in the digital advertising business.”

Verizon said it didn’t see the synergies it had expected from the combination of Yahoo and AOL. The Oath brand was also diminished by the news that Yahoo suffered a massive data breach in 2014 that affected 500 million users.

Verizon said Monday that it had offered voluntary buyout deals to 44,000 management employees, and that 10,400 of the managers had accepted the offer. The buyouts are part of a plan to cut costs and shift emphasis back to the wireless part of Verizon’s business.

The media and advertising business is a tough space to jump into for a telecom company, especially as the far more experienced Google and Facebook (and perhaps, soon, Amazon) dominate the sector.

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When rents go up, homelessness goes up, too

When rents go up, homelessness goes up, too
[Photo: EJ Yao/Unsplash]

While homelessness in the United States is on the decline overall, new research shows that places where people spend more than a third of their income on housing are more likely to see big increases in homelessness. “The areas that are most vulnerable to rising rents, unaffordability, and poverty hold 15 percent of the U.S. population – and 47 percent of people experiencing homelessness,” says a report from property marketplace Zillow.

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More and more people are gravitating toward metropolitan areas, putting pressure on housing resources and rent prices. There are two thresholds that lead to more homelessness, according to the report. The first is when people are putting 22% or more of their income toward rent or a mortgage. “Any uptick in a community’s rent affordability beyond 22 percent translates into more people experiencing homelessness,” the research says. The second is when people are paying more than 32% for housing. In such a circumstance, homelessness begins to tip into crisis territory.

Though the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 553,742 people live without shelter or in emergency or transitional housing, Zillow’s research suggests that figure is actually much higher. The number that Zillow research fellow Christopher Glynn of the University of New Hampshire, Thomas Byrne of Boston University, and Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania came up with is 660,996.

Furthermore, the data indicates that of the 386 markets reviewed by this analysis, 100 of them are rent burdened. In Monroe County, Florida, home of the popular tourist and retirement destination Key West, the median market rate rent is 62.9% of the area’s median household income.

What happens in these high rental markets? You probably already know: “Some high-income renters who typically rent more expensive apartments turn to lower-priced rentals, pushing middle-income renters into even less expensive housing. The lowest earners are forced to work multiple jobs, find multiple roommates and otherwise struggle to make ends meet,” the report says. When a city’s more reasonably priced housing is all taken, higher earners turn to more affordable cities, in turn pushing out middle- and low-income earners in those regions.

Of course, rental prices are not the only factor causing homelessness. For instance, a study from the National Alliance to End Homelessness shows that between 2007 and 2016, North Dakota saw a decrease in the number of  “poor, renter households experiencing a severe housing cost burden” and yet in the year between 2015 and 2016, homelessness increased 18%–the most of any state that year.

While homelessness and its solutions remain complex, it is hard to ignore the role that rising rents play in the phenomenon. It’s harder still to overlook this issue as more big tech companies look beyond Silicon Valley for top talent. Amazon’s second and third headquarters, which are slated to open in New York City’s Long Island City and Virginia’s Crystal City, will no doubt put pressure on the already squeezed resources in those areas. The question is, will city officials do anything about the coming housing crunch?

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Travel warning for 2019: The Real ID deadline is looming, so get your paperwork ready

Travel warning for 2019: The Real ID deadline is looming, so get your paperwork ready
[Photo: Negative Space/Pexels]

The Real ID Act is about to be a real pain for air travelers. The law was passed by Congress in 2005 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in hopes of establishing minimum standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards. The idea is that it would prevent identity theft and increase national safety. For travelers, it means that starting on October 1, 2020, anyone who resides in the United States, even if they’re flying domestically or to U.S. territories, will need Real ID identification to pass through TSA security checkpoints at airports.

As of October 2018, 37 states, territories, and the District of Columbia are Real ID compliant, per DHS. The other 19 jurisdictions (states and territories) are noncompliant, but have been granted a temporary extension from enforcement. Some of those noncompliant states include California, Illinois, and New Jersey, home to some of the largest airports in the U.S.

If you want to see where your state stands on the Real ID rollout, the DHS’s website has a clickable map. (U.S. passports are already compliant.)

As for when the Real ID rollouts will begin in the noncompliant states, it’s complicated. As the Patriot-Ledger points out, Massachusetts is now compliant, but people aren’t exactly flocking to the DMV to get their new Real IDs, even though the deadline is looming. Perhaps that’s because residents must physically go to a DMV office with their identification documents—such as a birth certificate and passport—and who has time for that? Additionally, just today NJ.com published an op-ed by that state’s former public advocate calling for New Jersey to ensure that “the privacy violations and bureaucratic nightmares of the federal Real ID Act” not be passed along to New Jersey residents, noting that the ACLU had to halt the rollout of New Jersey’s previous attempt to comply with the Real ID Act.

Still, unless the government grants another extension, travelers will want to be prepared. Skift spoke with several travel advisors and they all seem to say the same thing: Get your paperwork in now, because 2020 is coming sooner than you think and no one wants to buy a ticket, pack, and then drive to the airport just to be turned away at the gate.

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RIP Fusion Tables: Google is killing off the beloved data visualization tool

RIP Fusion Tables: Google is killing off the beloved data visualization tool
[Photo: Charles Deluvio/Unsplash]

Users of Google’s Fusion Tables, a kind of hybrid spreadsheet/database/data visualization tool that was never fully integrated into the Google Drive productivity suite, got an email Tuesday saying the service will be shutting down on December 3, 2019.

“Google Fusion Tables was launched almost nine years ago as a research project in Google Labs, later evolving into an experimental product,” according to the email. “For a long time, it was one of the few free tools for easily visualizing large datasets, especially on a map. Since then, Google has developed several alternatives, providing deeper experiences in more specialized domains.”

Fusion Tables was often used by journalists, scientists, and others interested in quickly plotting data on a Google Map without having to do any coding. Google encouraged users to switch to other products, like its BigQuery cloud data warehouse system, its Google Data Studio business intelligence tool, or simply Google Sheets. The company says it’s also working to make other mapping tools, currently used internally, available.

Users can export their existing data from Fusion Tables. They’ll also need to migrate any visualizations they have embedded on other websites to other tools or they will stop working when the product shuts down. That’s long been a frequent use case for Fusion Tables, so it’s likely interactive maps across the internet, created by people who have since moved on to other projects and organizations, will stop working next December.

The planned shutdown–or “turndown,” as Google referred to it in the email subject line–received some sad mentions from data visualization experts on Twitter.

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Watch Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer in a heated exchange over a government shutdown

Watch Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer in a heated exchange over a government shutdown

With the latest budget deadline coming up on December 21, the prospect of a government shutdown is once again looming large over Capitol Hill and the country. And while politicians are usually hesitant to accept responsibility for grinding the U.S. government to a halt, President Donald Trump is bucking that trend this time around.

In an Oval Office meeting gone awry, the president, after blaming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for the previous government shutdown, said this time he would be proud to take the blame. “If we don’t get what we want one way or the other, I will shut down the government,” Trump snapped in a heated exchange. “And I am proud.”

Trump has been demanding that Democrats fund his wall at the southern border. Nancy Pelosi, the likely speaker of the House, was also at the Oval Office meeting, and let’s just say things didn’t go well.

CNN posted a video of the exchange on Twitter. You can watch the fireworks below.

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