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  • 9:00 am

Mozilla and Creative Commons want to reimagine the internet without ads, and they have $100M to do it

Mozilla and Creative Commons want to reimagine the internet without ads, and they have $100M to do it
[Photo: Free-Photos/Pixabay]

Funding online content with small consumer payments rather than intrusive and privacy-compromising ads has for years been a goal for many internet theorists and publishers.

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“We’re at a point where it’s clear there’s kinds of negative side effects for people and even for democracy of the data-driven ad economy that funds the internet,” says Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.

[Image: courtesy of Grant for the Web]
Now, Mozilla, Creative Commons, and a new micropayment startup have announced a $100 million grant program to finally bring that dream to fruition. The program, called Grant for the Web, will give roughly $20 million per year for five years to content sites, open source infrastructure developers, and others building around Web Monetization, a proposed browser standard for micropayments.

“When we started Coil, Coil was essentially the first Web Monetization provider,” says founder and CEO Stefan Thomas. Coil users pay a fixed monthly fee that’s distributed among sites they visit that have Web Monetization enabled, such as the web development site CSS-Tricks, based on how long they visit the sites. The underlying technology supports other providers routing user funding as well.

The organizations behind Grant for the Web are setting up an advisory council to determine exactly how the grant money should be paid out. Surman says he’s hopeful the project can help create a web economy with more room for smaller players and publishers.

“That’s one of the big dreams that we have with the other partners around the Grant for the Web,[that] we can get back to a place where the small guy really has a chance to make it on the web,” he says.

Funding for the grants comes chiefly from a grant Coil itself received from Ripple, the cryptocurrency and money transfer company, says Thomas, who was previously Ripple’s CTO.

“This is actually where we got very, very fortunate,” he says. “Most of the time when you’re promoting an open standard, you don’t get to reward people or you don’t get to fund it in that way.”

They aim to give at least 50% of the funds to organizations using open licenses like Creative Commons licenses, Thomas says.

“The business models of the web are broken and toxic, and we need to identify new ways to support creators and to reward creativity,” says Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, in a statement. “Creative Commons is unlikely to invent these solutions on its own, but we can partner with good community actors who want to build things that are in line with our values. Creators have told us through our own user research that gratitude is a core element of why they choose to share their work, and micropayments may be an excellent way to display that gratitude.”

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  • 7:58 am

The personal data of almost everyone in Ecuador has been leaked

The personal data of almost everyone in Ecuador has been leaked
[Photo: Skratos1983/Pixabay]

In one of the most serious data breaches in history, the personal data of 20 million people, including 17 million Ecuadorians—6.7 million children among them—have been leaked online, reports ZDNet. Equador’s 2019 population is estimated to be 17.37 million people.

As with so many other data breaches, the cache of data of virtually everyone in Ecuador was found on an unsecured Amazon cloud server that almost anyone could access. It was discovered by security company vpnMentor. The server is located in Miami and appears to be owned by Ecuadorian company Novaestrat, a consulting firm that provides data analytics, strategic marketing, and software development.

In total the server contained 18 GB of data with the following personal information:

  • full name (first, middle, last)
  • gender
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • home address
  • email address
  • home, work, and cell-phone numbers
  • marital status
  • date of marriage (if applicable)
  • date of death (if applicable)
  • level of education

It appears the data originated from government sources in the country, and it even contained information about the country’s president, and even Julian Assange, who received a national ID number called a cedula (similar to a U.S. social security number) when he was granted political asylum.

After discovering the data cache, vpnMentor contacted Novaestrat,and the breach was secured on September 11, 2019. This is the second major data breach involving a South American country this summer. In August a server was found that exposed the voter records of 14.3 million Chileans—80% of the country’s entire population.

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  • 7:36 am

5 things to know about the United Auto Workers union strike

5 things to know about the United Auto Workers union strike
[Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images]

The United Auto Workers union officially went on strike against General Motors Sunday night. It’s the first work stoppage by autoworkers in the U.S. in 12 years. Here are five things to know:

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1. When and where is the strike?

It’s happening in nine states: Michigan, Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Indiana, and Kansas. In total there are 31 GM factories and 21 other facilities in those states where workers will be striking. The strike officially began at 11:59 p.m. Sunday night.

2. Why are they striking?

The United Auto Workers 46,000 members are striking because they say that GM has failed to recognize the “contributions and sacrifices that the company’s UAW members have made to create a healthy, profitable, industry” after the financial crash over a decade ago. The workers want fair wages, affordable healthcare, a share of GM’s profits, and job security—something they say GM has not given them.

As UAW vice president Terry Dittes said, “We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members, their families, and the communities where we work and live.”

3. What has GM offered?

Before talks collapsed, GM offered UAW workers “improved” wages and healthcare benefits as well as $7 billion in U.S. investments and the addition of 5,400 jobs. However, the UAW said these concessions fell short.

4. Many of the Democratic contenders for president have publicly voiced support for the autoworkers

5. How long will the strike last?

No one knows, but both sides are keen to keep negotiating. CNN reports that the United Auto Workers union and General Motors are returning to the bargaining table at 10 a.m. today. The last major strike 12 years ago lasted for only three days, but other strikes have gone on for as long as four months.

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  • 7:10 am

Facebook is launching a streaming device that watches you while you watch TV

Facebook is launching a streaming device that watches you while you watch TV
[Photo: JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash]

Facebook will launch an all-new Portal device in time for the holidays, which will be the company’s first foray into the hot video streaming device market, reports Variety. That video streaming device market is currently dominated by the likes of Roku, Amazon, and Apple, but Facebook is hoping living rooms across the U.S. will be willing to switch out their Fire TV and Apple TV devices for one from the social media giant.

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Facebook’s current line of Portal devices are essentially video conferencing screens with Amazon’s Alexa built in. But the new video streaming Portal device is the company’s attempt to control the TV. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Facebook is launching a video streaming Portal device. It was previously rumored as far back as October last year.

However, Facebook may have a very tough time convincing people to put their new Portal video streaming devices in their living rooms—at least people who care about their privacy. That’s because the new Portal video streaming device is said to have a camera and integrated far-field microphones, so it’s capable of watching and listening to people as they watch TV in their living rooms.

Of course, Facebook isn’t getting that bold as to directly wiretap your living room. The video camera and microphones will be on the device in order to make it capable of video conferencing features like current Portal devices. There are also rumors the device will allow Facebook friends to have remote viewing parties, so two people can watch a show together from two different houses.

But as Fast Company’s Jared Newman pointed out previously, that sounds like a very cool feature—if it wasn’t Facebook that was doing it:

The problem, of course, is Facebook, which just suffered a major security breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 30 million users, and admitted earlier this year that up to 87 million users had their data harvested without permission by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Those blunders, along with other recent breaches of trust (such as misusing two-factor authentication numbers for targeted ads), could turn users off the idea of a Facebook-powered TV camera.

And besides, do consumers really want any camera constantly watching them in their own living room? It’s generally the most popular room in the house and where people have personal discussions and do plenty of other activities besides watch TV.

Right now Facebook’s video streaming device is only known by its codename, “Ripley,” but it’s likely to be branded “Portal” something when it hits store shelves. We’ll know soon enough. Variety says Facebook’s new device will hit the market before the holidays.

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  • 6:16 am

OxyContin drugmaker Purdue files for bankruptcy

OxyContin drugmaker Purdue files for bankruptcy
[Photo: John9474/Wikimedia Commons]

Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company accused of being responsible for triggering the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, has filed for bankruptcy, reports the Washington Post. The company filed for Chapter 11 on Sunday just days after a tentative settlement was reached last week between Purdue and state and local governments to settle 2,000 opioid-related lawsuits.

Purdue, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut, has been accused by virtually every U.S. state of exaggerating the pain killer OxyContin’s benefits while downplaying how addictive the medicine is. Critics say Purdue’s OxyContin is responsible for helping fuel an opioid epidemic that kills up to 130 people a day and has claimed 218,000 lives in America between 1999 and 2017.

Announcing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the chairman of Purdue’s board of directors, Steve Miller, said, “This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation . . . instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis.”

OxyContin was released in 1996, and at the time was marketed as a safer form of narcotic painkiller due to its time-released properties. It quickly became one of the most popular opioids, though Purdue says the drug currently only has less than a 2% share of the painkiller market.

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How to watch Ken Burns’s ‘Country Music’ documentary on PBS without cable

How to watch Ken Burns’s ‘Country Music’ documentary on PBS without cable
[Photo: courtesy of Les Leverett Collection]

Ken Burns, the ace documentarian known for his extensive deep dives into topics ranging from the Civil War to baseball, is tackling yet another piece of American history with Country Music, a 16-hour docuseries that traces the genre from its origins as a musical tradition rooted in ballads, hymns, and blues through its continued evolution as a pop culture phenomenon in the 21st century. The series will be delivered in eight two-hour installments beginning tonight (Sunday, September 15) 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on PBS.

If you’re a cord-cutter who wants to watch Country Music on your computer, phone, or smart TV, you may be wondering if you can even stream PBS content. The answer is typically yes, depending on where you live, though you will likely have to confirm your location and local PBS station. Once you do that, you can watch PBS content for free on PBS.org, via PBS mobile apps, or through streaming devices like Apple TV, Android TV, and Amazon fire TV.

PBS has a full list of supported devices on its website. Cord-cutters can stream Country Music online during the following windows:

  • Stream episodes 1-4: Sunday, September 15, through Wednesday, September 18
  • Stream episodes 5-8: Sunday, September 22, through Wednesday, September 25

If you’re a member of PBS Passport (the network’s special subscription service for eligible donors), you can view all episodes of Country Music beginning on Sunday, September 15, and ending Friday, February 28, 2020.

Finally, a friendly reminder: PBS is a broadcast network and available for free with an over-the-air antenna. Find out why more people are watching TV that way here.

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Felicity Huffman gets 14 days in prison in the college admissions scandal

Felicity Huffman gets 14 days in prison in the college admissions scandal
[Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images]

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced today to 14 days in prison for her involvement in the college admissions scandal that rocked the country earlier this year.

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She pled guilty in May for paying $15,000 to help her daughter, Sofia Grace Macy, cheat on the SAT.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani also ordered Huffman to pay a $30,000 fine and complete 250 hours of community service and a year’s probation.

“I am deeply ashamed of what I have done. I have inflicted more damage than I could ever imagine,” the Desperate Housewives star said before the sentencing, according to the Associated Press.

She also explained that she’d “betrayed” her daughter and her husband, actor William H. Macy.

Federal prosecutors had been gunning for a month in jail.

The college admissions scandal, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, made international headlines back in March and sparked national conversations about abuses of privilege and stature. Thirty-four parents are among those accused of using a variety of illegal means to get their children into top schools.

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Trump administration may strip California of its power to regulate car emissions

Trump administration may strip California of its power to regulate car emissions
[Photo: Austin Poon/Unsplash]

Since taking office, the Trump administration has seemed determined to reverse every environmental regulation that President Obama put in place, from clean air to clean water and everything in between.

So when California teamed up with four major car manufacturers to set emissions standards that meet or exceed the clean-air guidelines set by the Obama administration, Trump was left *ahem* fuming. Now, not only is the Justice Department reportedly mulling over whether the decision to adopt state emissions standards violated antitrust law, but according to Reuters, it is looking into revoking California’s authority to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards entirely.

Trump reportedly met with senior officials on Thursday to discuss a plan to revoke California’s power to set its own emission standards, which have been stricter than federal regulations since 2013, when it was granted a waiver under the Obama administration’s Clean Air Act. When Trump proposed rolling back the rule, California vowed to keep its emissions standards strict, and it got Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, and Honda to agree to meet its emission targets.

Now, Reuters’ sources said the Trump administration will move ahead in coming weeks with its plan to remove the powers from California before issuing new federal standards. Since Republicans traditionally claim to be big proponents of states’ rights, this is a bold move in many ways.

Increasingly, Trump’s determination to erase all of the environmental targets put in place by Obama has put him on the opposite side of business leaders, including the four auto manufacturers who agreed to California’s rules (at least publicly), but also the oil and gas industry fighting to keep methane out of the air.

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Andrew Yang and Donald Trump get more support than Joe Biden from Big Tech workers

Andrew Yang and Donald Trump get more support than Joe Biden from Big Tech workers
[Photos: Andrea Hanks/The White House/Flickr; Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Poor Joe Biden. He just can’t catch a break—the near-constant inability to utter a sentence without a gaffe, being the human piñata at every debate, the bleeding eye, the teeth falling out, the protesters interrupting his truly heartbreaking story of losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident. Even the sympathy he earned from the outrage over Julian Castro’s callous remark about his forgetfulness last night only served to accentuate the age question.

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At this point, the only thing going for him is his stature at the top of the polls and his commanding 11.5-point lead over President Trump in a head-to-head matchup. Yet concerns are rising about the enthusiasm he can generate after last night’s debate. “There is no longer a front-runner,” declared Politico. And though Biden runs strong among African-Americans and Latinos, he’s surprisingly weak in one reliably liberal sector of the country: Silicon Valley.

In fact, more donors who work at Big Tech companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft) contributed to Trump’s campaign (65 donors) and to upstart tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang (56 donors) than to Biden (50 donors), according to FEC filings for the first two quarters of this year. Biden still outraised those two candidates, hauling in $66,189 from those donors compared to just $12,251 for Trump and $33,098 for Yang. But the number of donors is in some ways a more important metric—after all, those are actual voters. And even if they donate more or less, they can only vote once.

Other surprising insights in our analysis of the fundraising numbers:

Pete Buttigieg is the fundraising king in tech. Though he lags at fifth in the polls of Democratic candidates with barely 5%, he outraised them all in Big Tech, hauling in $166,530, besting rivals Elizabeth Warren ($159,755), Kamala Harris ($131,580), and Bernie Sanders ($121,669).

Two of Big Tech’s biggest critics got plenty of love from the very companies they’ve most visibly attacked. Bernie Sanders has been on the warpath against Amazon, blasting the company’s treatment of workers and even echoing Trump’s much-derided claim that the Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, skews negative when it covers his candidacy. But Sanders was the candidate favored the most by Amazon employees, collecting checks from 65 of them, compared to only 42 for Warren and 39 for Buttigieg.

And Warren, who has made breaking up Big Tech a major plank in her platform, is extremely popular in Silicon Valley, raising $86,095 from Google employees, which is almost a quarter of all the money they’ve donated to candidates this cycle.

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Beto O’Rourke’s violent troll shows how easy it is to keep breaking Twitter’s rules

Beto O’Rourke’s violent troll shows how easy it is to keep breaking Twitter’s rules
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke took a strong stance against guns—and the Twitter trolls came for him.

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During Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Houston, O’Rourke stated that he would push for a ban on the possession of AR-15s, the military-style assault rifle that is the weapon of choice for mass shootings, including the one in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, Texas, which left 22 people dead. When asked about the extent of his stance on gun control, O’Rourke said, “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s, we are not going to allow them to be used against fellow Americans any more.” The crowd cheered.

In response to O’Rourke’s statement, Texas Republican lawmaker Briscoe Cain decided it was a good idea to tweet, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,” using the former El Paso congressman’s legal name to sound particularly serious. The tweet sure sounds like a threat, and O’Rourke replied on Twitter it was a “death threat,” adding that “clearly, you shouldn’t own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else.”

Since Twitter’s rules prohibit users from threatening “violence against an individual or a group of people,” albeit only if the tweets are reported, and the moderators agree it’s a threat, Cain’s tweet was deleted. The tweet was also reportedly sent to the FBI as it threatens a presidential candidate.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. In what seems like a flouting of Twitter’s rules, Cain took a screenshot of O’Rourke’s response to his tweet, which included the since-deleted threat, reposted it, and continued name-calling. If this all sounds very middle school, well, *gestures broadly* have you seen the state of politics these days?

We’ve reached out to Twitter to see if this tweet violates their rules or if trolls can now just screenshot their threats and continue to use the social media site.

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Micro moon! Harvest moon! Friday the 13th! Our endless lunar obsession, explained

Micro moon! Harvest moon! Friday the 13th! Our endless lunar obsession, explained
[Photo: ISS/NASA]

There’s a certain corner of the internet that is very excited for night to fall. This time the excitement extends beyond sky-gazing Twitter and astronomy subreddits, because there is a lot going on with the moon this evening, so keep your black cats indoors.

We’ll try to break it down as simply as possible.

  • First: It’s a full moon, which is always good for covens and werepeople. Then, because this full moon is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox (September 23), it’s known as a “Harvest Moon,” and farmers need a little boost in the midst of the Trump trade war.
  • That’s not all, though: It’s a full moon that happens to fall on Friday the 13th, so it’s extra spooky, especially if you happen to have triskaidekaphobia. A full moon hasn’t been visible on Friday the 13th in the U.S. since October 13, 2000, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. The next one isn’t expected to happen again for another 30 years, on August 13, 2049, so start planning your coven meeting today.
  • But wait, there’s more: The full moon that will rise this evening is split among time zones. That means that people who live in the Eastern time zone will be robbed of having a Friday the 13th full moon, because the moment the moon turns full will actually take place after midnight. Specifically, at 12:33 a.m. on Saturday, September 14, according to NASA. For those in the Central, Mountain, or Pacific time zones, the moment the moon becomes full will be before midnight on Friday 13th.
  • Yes, there’s still more: If you haven’t already absconded to Twitter to share your moon-watching plans, be aware that tonight’s moon is also a micro moon. It will seem just a bit dimmer than usual, because it is at its farthest distance from Earth, known as apogee. Check out this NASA side-by-side comparison of the moon at perigee and apogee to see how the moon might look.
  • One last thing: The other bit of news that has “moon Twitter” excited is a proposal of a Spaceline moon elevator to connect Earth to the moon.

In short, if you’re a fan of the moon, there is a lot to tweet about.

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Female founders question whether Americans will elect a woman president in 2020

Female founders question whether Americans will elect a woman president in 2020
[Photo: May/Unsplash]

Female founders are more encouraged by different potential presidential candidates than male founders are.

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That’s according to the Fast Company-Inc 2019 State of Women and Entrepreneurship Survey.

The women were asked, “Which three potential presidential candidates are you most encouraged by at this moment in time?” The options came from a list of 30 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who’d declared their intention to run by June 2019.

Forty-seven percent cited Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; 43%, Senator Kamala Harris of California; and 34%, former Vice President Joe Biden. President Donald Trump got 6% and “none of them” was the answer for 11%.

Compare that to the answers male founders gave—37% Trump, 28% Biden, 23% “none of them,” and 15%, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

However, the female founders also gave numerous explanations for why a candidate who’s a woman might not make it far; the primary reason was that sexism is still prevalent among the electorate. Others cited a concern that there was no viable female candidate who can appeal to a broad enough cross-section of voters.

“I’d like to believe that people don’t object to the concept of a female president,” said Grace Chen, cofounder and chief product officer of Common Networks, a wireless 5G home internet provider. “But even when people can make that statement in earnest, our collective subconscious holds women to a different bar. I see it at work and I see it in politics.”

Some of the poll participants said they’d consider running for political office themselves, now or in the future—28%, which is more than the 22% last year.

And that’s good news, given that many respondents expressed their belief that the world needs strong women leaders right now. “My hope is we’ll have a woman on the ticket,” said Amanda Hite, cofounder and CEO of marketing agency Be The Change Revolutions. “I’m not sure if the country will elect a female president this round but we would be better off if we had last time.”

The Fast Company-Inc 2019 State of Women and Entrepreneurship Survey was conducted in June and included 487 U.S.-based women.

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The unbearable maleness of Victoria’s Secret could be its undoing

The unbearable maleness of Victoria’s Secret could be its undoing
[Photo: Flickr user torbakhopper]

Victoria’s Secret is in desperate need of a makeover. The brand’s sales have been in decline for the last three years, and while there are many reasons for this downward spiral, the most obvious is that its core message—that lingerie is a way for women to titillate men—no longer resonates in a post-#MeToo era.

At an investor meeting earlier this week, the brand’s chief executive officer, John Mehas, said it was ready to evolve. He wants Victoria’s Secret to be a brand perceived to be “by her, for her.” But here’s the problem: Victoria’s Secret’s leadership is predominantly male, and almost all of the people who spoke in the investor meeting were men.

Mehas’s instinct is correct. Over the last few years, many lingerie startups have popped up with a strong feminist point of view. This includes Third Love, Evelyn & Bobbie, and Lively (which recently got acquired by Wacoal). All of these brands were founded by women, and it shows. They’ve each focused on innovating products, to ensure they are as comfortable, functional, and size-inclusive as possible. And their advertising has an undercurrent of female empowerment.

Victoria’s Secret now wants to steal from the playbooks of its smaller, newer, more tuned-in competitors. But for these startups, the perspective of strong women is built into their DNA. It’s going to be hard, to say the least, for Victoria’s Secret to run away from its own DNA, which was and is profoundly sexist. For a primer, here are some key parts of the brand’s history:

  • It was founded in 1977 by a couple, Roy and Gayle Raymond, because Roy found it embarrassing to buy lingerie for his wife at department stores. The original concept of the Victoria’s Secret store was to make men more comfortable.
  • In 1995, the brand launched its annual fashion show, which featured supermodels walking a catwalk in extremely revealing underwear, turning a titillating show into prime-time entertainment. Models wore wings and were described as Angels, partly in an effort to make the spectacle seem less seedy. Over the last few years, ratings of the show have been in decline, and the brand has announced it is calling off the show.
  • Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and accused pedophile who recently committed suicide, was deeply entwined with Victoria’s Secret. Epstein was close to Ed Razek, the brand’s longtime CMO, who recently stepped down, as well as Les Wexner, the CEO of L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret. Epstein was spotted at the front row of the fashion show and sometimes lured aspiring models into his home by promising to get them modeling gigs with Victoria’s Secret.

This is what Mehas is up against right now in his efforts to resuscitate his declining brand. Victoria’s Secret seems to want to paper over this history by presenting itself as a women-centric brand, rather than actually doing the work of remaking itself from inside out for today’s consumer. After all, it hasn’t even done the bare minimum of bringing more women into its leadership. A Victoria’s Secret spokesperson declined to comment.

None of this bodes well for its future. If the brand doesn’t evolve past its caveman-like mentality, it is likely to continue losing consumers.

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Plastic-addicted Nestlé plans for a new world of sustainable packaging

Plastic-addicted Nestlé plans for a new world of sustainable packaging
[Photo: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash]

Nestlé used 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging last year, according to Greenpeace, making it one of the worst plastic polluters around the world in 2018—and that’s really saying something.  The company, under pressure from Greenpeace, consumers, and governments, has decided to do something about the packaging it uses to ship water around the world—you know, eventually.

The company was reportedly dissatisfied with the packaging solutions its suppliers were providing and decided to take matters into its own hands. Yesterday Nestlé opened the doors to the Institute of Packaging Sciences, its very own research institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, to develop more environmentally friendly packaging for its products in a bid to reduce the plastic waste it produces. The move comes as Nestlé works to achieve its stated goal of making 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, which is what the new institute will focus on, Reuters reports.

“Our vision is a world in which none of our packaging ends up in landfill or as litter,” Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider said at the opening event. “To achieve this we introduce reusable packaging solutions and pioneer environmentally friendly packaging materials. Furthermore, we support the development of local recycling infrastructure and deposit schemes to help shape a waste-free world.”

The institute will work to create packaging that is easier to recycle as well as made from compostable and biodegradable materials. That includes water bottles made entirely from recycled materials and paper that will keep your Kit Kats even fresher. So prepare for Nestlé to come up with its own take on a Just Water bottle, at least to get Greenpeace off its back.

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People are boycotting ABC after it ran a Republican ad that showed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on fire

People are boycotting ABC after it ran a Republican ad that showed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on fire
[Photo: Walt Disney Television/Heidi Gutman]

If you’re on social media this morning and see the hashtag #bocyottABC everywhere, here’s why: During Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, broadcaster ABC ran a political ad for a Republican-supporting PAC, New Faces GOP. In the ad, a photograph of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is shown before being set alight and being consumed in flames.

New Faces GOP is run by a former Republican House candidate, Elizabeth Heng, and her supporters. The PAC is based in California, where Heng has been billed as a rising Republican star and the right’s answer to the massive popularity of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the left.

In the ad, Heng declares: “Mine is the face of freedom. My skin is not white. I’m not outrageous, or racist, or a socialist. I’m a Republican.”

Of course, it’s easy to take offense to this ad and be outraged by it—that’s exactly what people who run outrageous ads want you to do. They want you to take to social media condemning them because it raises their profile among their base.

Should ABC have run the ad? Absolutely not. (A spokesperson for the network declined to comment when asked why it was allowed.) Its images may easily spur or incite violence directed not just toward Ocasio-Cortez herself but people of color in general, or women, or all supporters of socialist policies. Yet giving the tasteless ad attention only serves to further the goals of the person it features. Maybe it’s time we start giving politicians attention for their policies, not for the outrage they can generate.

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Whole Foods will take away healthcare from some of its employees starting January 1

Whole Foods will take away healthcare from some of its employees starting January 1
[Photo: Flickr user Tyler Cipriani]

Beginning January 1, 2020, Amazon-owned Whole Foods will end healthcare benefits for some of its employees, Business Insider reports. The company will cut medical and health benefits for up to 1,900 of its workers.

Currently, Whole Foods employees who work at least 20 hours per week are eligible for healthcare benefits, but the company is bumping the hourly threshold for medical benefits to a minimum of 30 hours per week in the new year.

Amazon confirmed the news on Thursday, but argues less than 2% of Whole Food’s workforce will be affected by the changes. A Whole Foods spokesperson said there was a silver lining to taking away some of its employees’ healthcare: Those employees would still get a 20% discount for things they buy at Whole Foods:

In order to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model, we are moving to a single-tier part-time structure. We are providing Team Members with resources to find alternative healthcare coverage options, or to explore full-time, healthcare-eligible positions starting at 30 hours per week. All Whole Foods Market Team Members continue to receive employment benefits including a 20% in-store discount.

The thing is, for Whole Foods employees who now will need to go out and purchase their own healthcare since their company is dropping their coverage, they probably won’t have the funds left to buy groceries—even at 20% off.

Update, Friday, 12:30 p.m. ET:

A Whole Foods spokesperson has now sent an updated statement, clarifying who would be affected:

“In order to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model, we are moving to a single-tier part-time structure. The small percentage of part-time Team Members in the second tier who previously opted into medical benefits through Whole Foods Market’s healthcare plan – less than 2% of our total workforce – will no longer be eligible to buy into medical coverage through the company. We are providing Team Members with resources to find alternative healthcare coverage options, or to explore full-time, healthcare-eligible positions starting at 30 hours per week. All Whole Foods Market Team Members continue to receive employment benefits including a 20% in-store discount.”

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Protesters chanting inaudibly at Biden during the Democratic debate was a poignant end to it all

Protesters chanting inaudibly at Biden during the Democratic debate was a poignant end to it all
[Photo: Walt Disney Television/Heidi Gutman]

Civil disobedience is a hallmark of American society, but what happens when your message is inaudible?

That was a question many viewers had during tonight’s Democratic debate in Houston, after a group of protesters—in the final minutes of the event—broke out in chants over former Vice President Joe Biden, who was trying to make his closing statements. Biden, who did not have a great night overall, seemed to stumble as he tried to answer a softball question about what professional setback most affected his life. But he went into full-on silent mode when the chants broke out. The disruption lasted for at least 20 or 30 seconds.

But that wasn’t the biggest problem. You see, basically, no one could understand what message the protesters were trying to communicate. And that was a problem. Was it something about climate change? Medicare for All, maybe? Did they miss Andrew Yang’s sweepstakes? Who could tell? It all sounded like a bunch of arrhythmic gibberish. As a flood of Twitter comments poured in after the protests, the online chatter was no help at all:

Inaudible or not, such disruptions are becoming a familiar refrain during the 2020 primaries. At the CNN debate in late July, rowdy demonstrators shouted over candidates including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Biden. But in that case, at least we knew what they were protesting—President Obama’s immigration policies and the killing of Eric Garner in New York City.

This time around, we got nothing. After all, tonight’s debate went on for almost three hours, with no genuine standout moments. And it’s late, you guys! If you really want to stay up and debate the merits of civil disobedience, you can watch the segment below and decide for yourself if this was a protest worth having:

Otherwise, I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow!

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‘Are you forgetting what you just said?’ Julián Castro attacks Joe Biden’s memory

‘Are you forgetting what you just said?’ Julián Castro attacks Joe Biden’s memory
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Julián Castro is not pulling any punches.

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At tonight’s Democratic debate in Houston, the former United States secretary of housing and urban development went for the jugular during a fiery exchange with former Vice President Joe Biden as the two were sparring over their healthcare plans.

“You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in,” Castro said to Biden, regarding Biden’s plan to expand on Obamacare rather than create a Medicare for All system. “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

You can watch the exchange below:

Castro also accused the former vice president of riding Obama’s coattails. “Every time something good about Barack Obama comes up he says, ‘Oh, I was there, I was there, I was there, that’s me too,'” he said. “And every time someone questions part of the administration that we were both a part of, he says, ‘Well, that was the president.’ He wants to take credit for Obama’s work, but not have to answer any questions.”

Attacking Biden’s memory was deemed ageist by a number of people on social media, and surely it could be read that way. (The 76-year-old Biden’s numerous gaffes throughout the 2020 campaign have sparked rumblings about his mental alertness.)

But Castro followed up with an attack on the youngest person on the stage. When Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, suggested that Castro and Biden’s ugly exchange was exactly what Americans hate about the political process, Castro had an answer for that, too.

“It’s called an election,” Castro said, echoing recent debates about the role of so-called civility in American politics in 2019.

Castro, who is polling at about 7.9% according to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, clearly knows this debate is do-or-die time for his campaign. The question of whether voters will go along for the ride remains to be seen.

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Here’s how to enter Andrew Yang’s universal basic income raffle giveaway

Here’s how to enter Andrew Yang’s universal basic income raffle giveaway
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has an interesting trick up his sleeve to prove his signature policy position—universal basic income—will actually lift up lives. The tech entrepreneur announced at tonight’s Democratic primary debate in Houston that he will give away a total of $120,000 to 10 randomly selected families. Politico first reported the plan. Yesterday, Yang teased that he would announce an “unprecedented” surprise at the debate. This certainly qualifies.

In fact, Yang’s campaign is already running Google ads with a link to a web page where people can plug in their name and zip code and try their luck. You can find it here. Whether or not you choose to give Yang your info is completely up to you.

Is it a gimmick? Sure, but it’s also possibly the best email-collection scheme ever devised by a politician.

Yang has made a UBI policy of $1,000 a month for every American the centerpiece of his platform.

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SmileDirectClub’s dismal first-day stock drop shows people hate online dentists too

SmileDirectClub’s dismal first-day stock drop shows people hate online dentists too
[Photo: Jon Tyson/Unsplash]

Guessing there weren’t too many smiles around the SmileDirectClub offices today.

The teledentistry tooth-straightening startup kickstarted its IPO and its first day on the Nasdaq by opening down about 14%, Yahoo Finance reports, and then continuing its first day as a publicly traded company by falling even more in early afternoon trading.

SmileDirectClub is on track to be one of the 15 worst debuts this year and by far the worst billion-dollar unicorn to go public this year, CNBC notes. It’s a bit surprising that its IPO made such a belly flop in that giant pool of money, because unlike many of its fellow unicorns, SmileDirectClub is what CNBC describes as on “the cusp of profitability,” thanks to shipping its products to four countries, expanding its product line to include teeth whitening and lip balm, and launching deals with CVS Health and Walgreen Boots Alliance. The stock market was not impressed with that near profitability, though.

SmileDirectClub CFO Kyle Wailes thinks those frowns are going to turn upside down soon. He told Yahoo Finance that the company isn’t dwelling on the bad news but is focusing on the positive, which it believes is the long-term potential, because people’s teeth aren’t going to straighten themselves.

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