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DirecTV blackout: 3 ways to watch CBS during the AT&T carriage dispute

DirecTV blackout: 3 ways to watch CBS during the AT&T carriage dispute
Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Some 6.5 million AT&T customers woke up this morning to discover they could no longer watch CBS, the country’s most popular broadcast network, thanks to yet another pay-TV carriage dispute. The current contract between the two companies expired early this morning and the blackout affects customers who use DirecTV and AT&T U-verse systems. Judging by the flurry of angry comments on Twitter, viewers are not happy.

As is usually the case, both companies are blaming each other for the disruption, with CBS telling viewers it was dropped by DirecTV, and AT&T saying CBS removed its content. “This is completely CBS’s decision,” the company said on its dedicated webpage for the blackout.

One point of contention appears to be the re-transmission consent fees CBS charges for its content. Although CBS is a broadcast network, pay-TV companies still have to pay to carry its content, and those fees in general have been rising significantly as networks seek out pricier content in an environment where advertising revenue is harder to come by.

Either way, this is one of those things that makes everyone hate the pay-TV industry: Giant companies bicker over who did or didn’t do what and innocent 60 Minutes fans get caught in the middle.

The good news is, if you’re an AT&T customer who wants to watch CBS while this nasty dispute is playing out, you have a few options. I’ve rounded them up below:

  • Locast: This newish service lets you live-stream broadcast networks over the internet for free. Typically, this type of service would be sued out of existence (ask Aereo), but the hook here is that Locast is a nonprofit. The downside? Locast is only available in select cities. Find it here.
  • Streaming services: A number of standalone streaming services offer CBS as part of a bundle. If you’re angry at CBS and don’t want to sign up for its All Access service, you could also try Hulu With Live TV, YouTube TV, or FuboTV. A lot of those services are offering a free week, meaning you might be able to cancel and pay nothing if the dispute lasts less than a week.
  • Over-the-air antenna: Let we forget, CBS’s broadcasting signal is already free to access over the air. This dispute with AT&T is probably one of the reasons more and more viewers are choosing over-the-air antennas and ditching pay-TV altogether.
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Apollo 11 anniversary: Where to watch all the best Moon-landing TV specials

Apollo 11 anniversary: Where to watch all the best Moon-landing TV specials
[Photo: NASA]

Just in case you haven’t been keeping up with Fast Company’s “50 Days to the Moon” series (and shame on you, if you haven’t), I’m here to remind you that America is in the midst of moon-landing fever, which culminates today with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s touchdown on the lunar surface. That’s right: On July 20, 1969, human beings walked on the Moon for the first time, and humanity has been in awe ever since.

By some stroke of amazing luck for the TV industry (or maybe it was planned this way—how’s that for a conspiracy theory?), the Moon landing’s 50th anniversary falls on a Saturday, meaning couch potatoes can spend the entire day gorging on Apollo-related Event TV. I’ve rounded up a list of some of the best offerings, along with links to appropriate companion pieces from our series to help you get caught up. Honestly, I can think of no better way to beat the heat wave this weekend. Enjoy!

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These 5 American mountain towns want tourists to be more responsible when they visit

These 5 American mountain towns want tourists to be more responsible when they visit
[Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash]

Tourism pledges are all the rage these days, with countries like PalauIceland, and New Zealand, and destinations like Big Sur and Hawaii, all asking tourists to stop and think about the place they are visiting and the impact they may have there. It’s all an effort to slow over-tourism and lessen the environmental impact of a steady stream of visitors to beautiful, delicate natural places. Now a consortium of western U.S. cities have teamed up for their own version, a conservation program called “Pledge for the Wild,” which launched this week.

The mountain towns of Bend, Oregon; Bozeman, Montana; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Flagstaff, Arizona; and South Lake Tahoe, which extends between California and Nevada, are asking visitors to help protect the outdoor places they love. Each city hopes to ensure the future of the wild spaces in their communities, whether Smith Rock in Bend or the Rocky Mountains in Steamboat Springs or Bozeman’s Big Sky. They are asking visitors to be more aware of their impact—and perhaps donate a few bucks to local environmental charities while they’re at it.

While Palau’s pledge is stamped in visitors’ passports and Iceland’s is an online form, Pledge for the Wild has a text-to-donate service where people can, for example, text “WILD4BOZEMAN” to 44321 and donate whatever amount they think the natural world is worth. According to the ads promoting the campaign, the suggested donation is just $1 per hour spent in a wild area. Kevney Dugan, CEO of Visit Bend, told Skift that the campaign was inspired in part by the One Percent for the Planet initiative, which was cofounded by Patagonia CEO Yvon Chouinard. After seeing the effectiveness of that campaign, they decided to keep the suggested donation amount low to encourage more people to participate.

Whatever amount people donate, the money is then directed to a local environmental nonprofit, like Bozeman’s Gallatin Valley Land TrustDeschutes Trails Coalition, or TahoeFund.org. To promote the campaign and encourage nature lovers on their own Cheryl Strayed-inspired nature hikes or Free Solo rock climbs to donate, Pledge for the Wild is promoting the campaign on social media, on the radio, and, naturally, on coasters in local brewpubs, which is where most nature lovers hang out.

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We’re super stoked to announce that we’ve teamed up with four other mountain towns around the west including @visit_bozeman, @discoverflagstaff, @steamboatcolorado, and @tahoesouth to launch Pledge for the Wild, a new initiative to protect our wild places. How can you get involved? Next time you come visit us, consider making a small donation to give back to the organizations keeping the wild places in Bend special by texting WILD4BEND to 44321. Click the link in our profile to learn more! ⁣ ⁣.⁣ ⁣.⁣ ⁣.⁣ ⁣#pledgewild #keepitwild #staywild #playoutside #optoutside #getoutside #outsideisntfree #wildernessculture #lifeofadventure #getoutstayout #takemoreadventures #getoutgiveback #visitbend⁣ ⁣

A post shared by Visit Bend Oregon (@visitbend) on

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This weekend’s heat wave is serious: Here’s how the CDC says to deal with it

This weekend’s heat wave is serious: Here’s how the CDC says to deal with it
[Photo: Hans Reniers/Unsplash]

An estimated 195 million people are under a heat advisory this weekend as a massive heat wave bears down on the East Coast and Midwest. They aren’t alone. According to CNN, “more than 85% of the lower 48’s population will see temperatures above 90 degrees,” and “more than half will see temperatures higher than 95 degrees.” While we’re not meteorologists, that’s a lot of degrees.

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Residents of major cities including Detroit, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington were under excessive heat warnings or advisories on Friday. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a break from the presidential campaign to declare “a local emergency due to the extreme heat” and ordered buildings 100 feet or taller to raise thermostats to 78 degrees in an effort to conserve energy.

This sort of heat wave will become more common as the planet heats up due to the climate emergency. Last month was the hottest June on record for the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and July is on track to be the same. According to last year’s National Climate Assessment, the number of hot days in the United States is increasing. If things don’t drastically change, by 2050, according to the assessment, the Northeast can expect around 650 more deaths each year due to extreme heat.

To keep people safe from the excessive heat, officials are urging residents to drink plenty of water, stay indoors, and check on family and neighbors. To prevent heatstroke, the CDC recommends:

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Protect against sunburn.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Never leave anyone in parked cars.
  • Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Avoid hot, heavy meals.
  • Be cautious if you’re at increased risk due to medical conditions.

If you do need to go outside—or if you don’t have a place to cool down or the power goes out and A/C is not an option—keep an eye out for the symptoms of heat exhaustion and its nasty cousin heat stroke, which can be deadly.

Here’s what the CDC says to look for:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher).
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin.
  • Fast, strong pulse.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Confusion.
  • Losing consciousness (passing out).

Finally, here’s what to do if you think you or someone else is suffering from heatstroke:

  • Call 911 right away—heatstroke is a medical emergency.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.
  • Do not give the person anything to drink.
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McDonald’s might make Happy Meals a little happier, and not because of ‘The Lion King’

McDonald’s might make Happy Meals a little happier, and not because of ‘The Lion King’
[Photo: Joiarib Morales Uc/Unsplash]

McDonald’s wants people who order Happy Meals to be happy. It’s right there in the name, after all. So when the fast food chain got wind of a petition by two potential Happy Meal customers asking it to stop putting plastic toys in the kids’ meal, McDonald’s decided to listen.

The petition was started by sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan, who, at ages 9 and 7, fall squarely in the Happy Meal demographic. They had reached out to the Big Mac peddlers in the hopes of making their case directly, but when that failed, the little eco-warriors did not give up. Instead, they turned to change.org to issue their call to arms. In their petition, they explained that they were spurred to act when they learned in school about the harm that plastic does to wildlife and the environment.

“We like to go to eat at Burger King and McDonald’s, but children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea,” the two wrote. “We want anything they give to us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.” As of Friday, the petition had over 399,000 signatures, with a goal of 500,000.

In a statement—or rather a tweet—McDonald’s explained that it is working on the issue. “In the UK over the next six months our Happy Meal promotions will include a mixture of board games, books and soft toys—which will see an almost 60% reduction in the number of hard plastic toys given away in comparison to the first half of the year.”

While that’s too late for any tie-in to The Lion King movie release, perhaps there will be a plastic-free Mulan Happy Meal in some kid’s future. It would be a step toward McDonald’s pledge to turn their Happy Meals green by 2025.

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Your antiaging regimen might be toxic. This brand found a safe alternative

Your antiaging regimen might be toxic. This brand found a safe alternative

How much are you willing to sacrifice for younger-looking skin?

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Beautycounter, a six-year-old company focused on developing nontoxic cosmetics, has spent three years finding an alternative to retinol, a key antiaging ingredient that is known to cause harm. In the brand’s in-house R&D lab, scientists tried to find a safe but equally effective alternative to retinol. After testing out more than 100 different formulations, the company believes it has cracked the code. Countertime, its new line of six products (ranging between $49 and $89), hinges on a proprietary ingredient called Retinatural Complex, which is currently being trademarked.

For years, the beauty industry has relied on retinoids, a class of chemicals derived from vitamin A, for antiaging and skin-brightening products. On the surface, it seems to have magical properties: It causes the skin to turn over, clears out pores, and increases collagen production, which allows the skin to look plump and young.

Unfortunately, retinoic acid, a type of retinoid, has been credibly tied to health risks. The most obvious negative effect is skin irritation. But some risks are more morbid. The National Institutes of Health found in 2012 that when combined with sunlight, it may increase cancer risks. California’s EPA Prop 65 also lists it as a developmental toxicant, meaning it could harm unborn babies in the womb. Of course, in both cases, it took a high dosage of the ingredient for the negative effects to be seen.

Beautycounter’s approach is that it is never worth taking a risk when it comes to toxins, partly because we know so little about many of the ingredients used by cosmetic brands. The FDA does not actually regulate personal-care products, so it’s a little like the Wild West in the skincare industry. Beautycounter is part of a consortium of brands lobbying the government to increase its oversight over the industry.

In the meanwhile, Beautycounter offers an antiaging line that is retinol-free. Its key ingredients are bakuchiol, a plant that repairs the skin much like retinol does without any known carcinogenic or irritating effects, and Swiss alpine rose, which protects the skin from environmental stressors and boosts its antioxidant defense. In an early study, participants said their skin texture was smoother while fine lines and wrinkles appeared diminished.

And the line was highly anticipated: A spokesperson said that when the product launched last week, the company had the biggest sales day in its history.

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Instagram’s new warning to hateful trolls: ‘Your account may be deleted’

Instagram’s new warning to hateful trolls: ‘Your account may be deleted’
[Photo: Jessica Ruscello/Unsplash]

Instagram is making another change as it strives for a kinder, gentler version of itself. Yesterday, it rolled out a new policy that could mean a lot more problematic accounts will be disabled.

Under Instagram’s existing policy, accounts are disabled after a certain percentage of posted content violates its terms. The new policy will do that and more. Now, Instagram will also remove accounts with a certain number of violations within a certain time frame—like if someone goes on a racist, homophobic, or violent Instagram rant—which is more in line with Facebook’s policy.

If that idea makes you worried that your edgy content will get flagged, you’re in luck: Instagram is also rolling out a new notification policy, in which it will warn users if their account is at risk of being disabled. This notification will also offer the opportunity to appeal the deletion of content, which is good news for anyone who had their, say, breastfeeding photo deleted or artwork tagged as pornographic.

According to Instagram, appeals will be initially available for content that was deleted on the grounds of “nudity and pornography, bullying and harassment, hate speech, drug sales, and counter-terrorism,” but it will be expanding in the coming months.

[Courtesy of Instagram]
The news comes a few days after Instagram was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons when photos of a young woman’s brutally murdered body were posted on the site. The gruesome images were still available long after they were reported, as bad actors reuploaded them. Users resorted to trying to populate the hashtag and the victim’s handle with photos of pink clouds to drown out the gory images.

That horrifying situation underscores the challenges that Instagram appears to face when it comes to pulling wildly offensive content even when the company is actively trying to do so. While Instagram isn’t saying if the policy changes are a response to that incident, it’s a good time for the social media site to appear to be taking this issue seriously. This change could be a good first step.

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Criminals are using deepfakes to impersonate CEOs

Criminals are using deepfakes to impersonate CEOs
[Photo: Elijah O’Donnell/Unsplash]

“Deepfakes” refers to media that has been altered by artificial intelligence to make it appear that a person is doing or saying something that, in fact, that person has never done or said. The technology first began appearing a few years ago, with crude deepfake tools allowing users to make it look like celebrities were recorded engaging in sexual activities they actually didn’t take part in.

But deepfakes are now moving past the porn realm and into the criminal world where bad actors are using the tech to impersonate CEOs, Axios reports. However, for now, it appears criminals are using deepfake audio instead of video to pull off scams:

  • Symantec, a major cybersecurity company, says it has seen three successful audio attacks on private companies. In each, a company’s “CEO” called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.

  • Scammers were mimicking the CEOs’ voices with an AI program that had been trained on hours of their speech—culled from earnings calls, YouTube videos, TED talks, and the like.

  • Millions of dollars were stolen from each company, whose names were not revealed. The attacks were first reported in the BBC.

The threat deepfake audio poses to businesses cannot be understated. While someone using deepfake audio to pretend they’re the CEO of a company and getting that company’s accounting department to wire them $1 million because of an “emergency” is one thing, the tech could also be used for sabotage. What if one rival–or even a nation-state–wanted to sink Apple’s stock price? A well-timed deepfake audio clip that purports to show Tim Cook having a private conversation with someone about iPhone sales tanking could do just that–wiping billions off the stock market in seconds.

And unfortunately, right now there just aren’t reliable tools to easily and automatically identify deepfake media on the web. By the time a deepfake video or audio recording has been debunked, the damage could already be done.

If you want to see a deepfake in action, check out the one of President Obama, voiced by Jordan Peel, below.

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22 ways that climate change may ruin your summer

22 ways that climate change may ruin your summer
[Photo: Pawel Janiak/Unsplash]

If the swiftly melting, swiftly heating planet isn’t enough to get you doing everything you can to fight the world’s climate emergency, perhaps this will inspire you to act: Climate change could, like, totally ruin your summer.

As the planet and its oceans heat up, big changes could be coming to the way we spend our holidays if we don’t quickly curb our greenhouse gas emissions. Here are a few ways that the changing climate could dramatically impact your summer plans:

  1. More heat waves
  2. More humidity
  3. Worse sunburns
  4. Higher air-conditioning costs
  5. More heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke
  6. More and worse air pollution
  7. Disappearing beaches
  8. Water shortages
  9. More summer allergies
  10. More ticks
  11. More mosquitoes
  12. More sharks at northern beaches
  13. More algal blooms taking over lakes
  14. Bigger storms
  15. More expensive barbecues
  16. Higher ice cream prices
  17. No more Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup
  18. Railroad disruptions
  19. Increasing travel costs
  20. Fewer landmarks to visit in the U.S. and abroad
  21. Less disposable income to spend on summer fun
  22. Your favorite rosé may disappear

If, however, countries meet carbon-cutting goals, proactively adapt to a warming world, and work together to make sure that global temperatures rise less than 2 degrees Celsius, as set out in the Paris Agreement, this scenario will be much less likely, and we could all go back to enjoying our summers.

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A Florida city is playing ‘Baby Shark’ on a loop to keep homeless people away

A Florida city is playing ‘Baby Shark’ on a loop to keep homeless people away
[Photo: Oleg Laptev/Unsplash]

Using music to torture people has been common practice for the CIA and government for decades. Van Halen’s “Panama” helped the U.S. capture Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and it has been part of the military’s “enhanced interrogation program” since the early 2000s. Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” and the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever soundtrack were both reportedly used to torment possible terrorists, and David Koresh was hit with a “Mitch Miller chorus singing Christmas carols” as the FBI tried to oust him from his compound in Waco, Texas. Blasting obnoxious music is designed to create fear and disorient prisoners or dictators holed up in embassies or, in the case of a Florida city, the homeless.

Officials in West Palm Beach, Florida, have put songs including “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos” on a continuous loop overnight in the hopes of keeping homeless people from camping out at on the patio of the waterfront Lake Pavilion, a popular—and profitable—banquet facility owned by the city, according to the Palm Beach Post.

While the city is aware that this looks bad (because it is bad), officials claim it’s a temporary fix to avoid having brides or caterers “trip over bodies” when they use the banquet facilities, while it works on more long-term solutions. That includes job training, mental health services, buying them one-way tickets back home, and, you know, finding them actual homes.

Try listening to this for eight hours in a row:

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Microsoft’s cloud powers another surprisingly strong quarter

Microsoft’s cloud powers another surprisingly strong quarter
[Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Microsoft reported a strong June-ending quarter, beating analysts’ revenue expectations by a comfortable margin.

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The company said it took $33.7 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 12% improvement on the same quarter last year. FactSet analysts expected only $32.8 billion. Microsoft reported earnings of $1.71 per share (GAAP), up 50% from last year. Net income was $13.2 billion (GAAP), up from $8.9 billion last year.

Almost all aspects of Microsoft’s business grew in the June quarter. Its Office 365 commercial business was up 31%. Its Dynamics 365 CRM software revenue grew 45%. LinkedIn revenue grew 21%. Surface hardware sales grew 14%.

The biggest factor in the Microsoft’s performance was its commercial cloud services business, which grew 39% in the quarter. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the business brought in $38 billion over the past year, at a 63% profit margin.

“Microsoft is firing on all cylinders now, growing big in growing markets, and even managing growth in mature markets like PCs,” said Moor Insights & Strategy principle analyst Patrick Moorhead. “In the cloud, Microsoft is cementing its spot as the #2 provider in IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services.”

The only real soft spot in the earnings report was a 49% drop in Xbox hardware sales revenue in the June quarter.

Fiscal-year results

For the full fiscal year Microsoft’s revenue increased 14% to $125.8 billion. Net income was $39.2 billion (GAAP) and $36.8 billion non-GAAP, and increased 137% and 22%, respectively.

Nadella said this about the company’s full-year performance: “It was a record fiscal year for Microsoft, a result of our deep partnerships with leading companies in every industry.” Nadella says Microsoft is seeing larger, multi-year commercial cloud agreements and “growing momentum across every layer of our technology stack.”

Case in point is the long-term agreement with AT&T Microsoft announced earlier this week. In new deployments Microsoft will provide the cloud services while AT&T will provide the 5G communications network.

As of now Microsoft is the biggest tech company in the world if you go by its $1.04 trillion valuation. The momentum its getting from the cloud business shows no sign of stopping.

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Breastfeeding mothers on KLM airlines may be asked to cover up if some rando gets offended

Breastfeeding mothers on KLM airlines may be asked to cover up if some rando gets offended
[Photo: Oskar Kadaksoo/Unsplash]

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is under fire on Twitter after posting details about its breastfeeding policy. While breastfeeding is permitted on its flights, the airline tweeted that it may “request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.” The reason, KLM said, is to ensure that “passengers of all backgrounds” feel comfortable on board.

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The post is not going over well. Although a handful of folks cheered on the airline for protecting their precious eyes from an extremely natural act, many more people around the world have weighed in to express their frustration over a policy that allows some random offended person to dictate how and when a mother can feed her hungry child. In other words, KLM is getting ratioed.

If you’re wondering why so many people feel so strongly about this, it’s because:

  1. Breastfeeding mothers are just trying to feed their child with the tools nature gave them.
  2. Women shouldn’t have to think twice about feeding a hungry or upset child.
  3. Mothers are exhausted and don’t need one more thing to feel exhausted about.
  4. Women are tired of men policing their bodies.
  5. If you’re offended by breastfeeding, it’s really easy to just watch the seat back in front of you and leave the mother to her work of ensuring the continuation of the species.

This thread offers many reasons why women may not want to or be able to cover up, first and foremost being that many, many babies—like many, many humans—don’t want to eat with a blanket over their heads. It also seems likely that the people who would complain about a woman breastfeeding would be the very same people who would complain about a crying baby. Talk about snakes on a plane.

As the Twitter pile-on continued, at some point, KLM’s social media team seemed to realize they had waded into a quagmire and started replying to commenters with a slightly different tune. In response to one tweet, they replied, “By no means is the mother obliged to cover up herself or her child. And we absolutely don’t want to make the mums of our youngest passengers feel judged about.”

For their part, some of KLM’s competitors have jumped into the fray. EasyJet seized the opportunity to ensure moms that they can feed their children on its planes whenever they want.

It’s not just KLM, of course. In 2015, United Airlines was in a similar position after a flight attendant allegedly tossed a blanket for a breastfeeding mother in an attempt to get her to cover up; last year, American apologized to a breastfeeding mother after a flight attendant stopped her from boarding with a milk cooler and a carry-on bag; and this year, Delta was accused of not accommodating a breastfeeding mother who wanted to pump in first class after plugs in her cabin didn’t work. Southwest and Delta both say they welcome breastfeeding mothers on board.

We reached out to KLM for comment and will update if we hear back.

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Pampers smart diapers let you track your baby’s pee with technology

Pampers smart diapers let you track your baby’s pee with technology
[Photo: Pampers]

As a parent, I assure you, it’s relatively easy to tell if your baby has peed or pooped. For one thing, you have a nose and can therefore smell these things. And even though your baby is a helpless little thing, it also can often tell when it has wet its diapers and will cry until you sort it out. But if you have never had a baby, you may not realize this. So the idea of Pampers’s new smart diaper system may be appealing to you.

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The brand has announced it will release a new product, Lumi by Pampers, that comes with a video monitor and activity sensors that you can attach to special diapers, which have Velcro-like patches in the front. The system is designed to track your baby’s wet diapers (but not its poops) and sleep patterns, automatically sending that information to the Lumi app on your phone. If you want to chart feeding times and other milestones like doctor’s visits, you will have to do this manually.

If you are a millennial who has just had your first baby, you are probably already familiar with the art of tracking every one of your infant’s excretions. There are dozens of apps out there that allow you to register every bowel movement your child has made, as if the whole thing were some sort of elaborate science experiment. And yeah, I get it, you’re an overachiever: you want to get an A in parenting.

However, this new system is probably just a marginal improvement over the status quo. If it works perfectly, and your baby does not somehow dislodge the sensor while it is wriggling about, you won’t have to manually track each pee. But there are downsides, too: You need to buy special Lumi by Pampers diapers, and the sensors themselves will have to be replaced every three months. The diapers also only go up to size 4, which would have taken my child to about 9 months. It’s a lot of work for a small decrease in effort.

This kit is being marketed as a way to help you understand your infant’s development and establish his or her routine. And let’s be honest: this would have been catnip to me as a new parent. I would have bought almost anything that promised to make me a better parent. But now that I’ve been through the process, I’m not convinced this will significantly improve your life or parenting skills.

Lumi by Pampers will be available for purchase in the fall. The price has still not been announced.

Correction: The original version of this story stated that this device would track a baby’s poops. A publicist from Pampers wrote to inform me that it only tracks a baby’s pee.

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Toys ‘R’ Us is coming back with a high-tech twist

Toys ‘R’ Us is coming back with a high-tech twist

Get your Geoffrey the Giraffe costume out of storage, because Toys “R” Us is coming back. The toy retailer that declared bankruptcy last year, shuttering 800 stores around the country, will open two permanent stores in November just in time to cash in on holiday toy shopping at Galleria Mall in Houston and the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey.

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In its mission to claw its way back from bankruptcy and reestablish itself in the hypercompetitive toy market, the brand has a new high-tech angle. Toys “R” Us, or rather Tru Kids (the company that is helping to manage the brand names left in the wake of the liquidation last year), has teamed up with b8ta, a software company that specializes in immersive retail experiences, and will each own 50% of the new endeavor. According to CNBC, the company hopes to open 10 stores around the U.S. in 2020 and may even bring back its New York City flagship.

While Toys “R” Us built its brand around the idea of being “the biggest toy store there is,” its new stores will be more in line with its new reality—smaller and taking up less real estate, reportedly spanning between 6,500 and 10,000 square feet, compared with the sprawling 40,000-square-foot footprint of their former incarnation.

As for what toys and brands will be sold in these smaller spaces, that’s still TBD. Declaring bankruptcy is typically not good for the relationship between a store and the brands it carries. Toys “R” Us is reportedly hustling hard to get companies to agree to let it sell their products.

This is where b8ta comes in. Its tech and stores work on a consignment model, which it calls “retail as a service.” It will allow brands to pay to create mini-stores of their own within the Toys “R” Us space and then get all the sales when customers buy in-store or online. Ideally, the new Toys “R” Us will give kids (and trusted adults) the chance to interact with new toys and allow brands to show off their wares to an appreciative audience, which will translate into real-world sales.

“The new Toys ‘R’ Us stores will be the most progressive and advanced stores in its category in the world, and we hope to surprise and delight kids for generations to come,” b8ta founder and CEO Vibhu Norby said in a statement. The move comes after Macy’s acquired a minority stake in b8ta, using the company’s innovative ideas to spruce up its spaces as Macy’s faced down the retail apocalypse.

The tech angle could give Toys “R” Us the edge it needs to compete against Amazon, Walmart, and Target in the toy market.

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Slack is finally resetting passwords 4 years after a big data breach

Slack is finally resetting passwords 4 years after a big data breach
[Photo: Matthew Brodeur/Unsplash]

I just got a Slack message from my editor that the 2015 Slack password breach is back in the news. The real question is: Was that really my editor or just someone who breached his password in 2015 and is masquerading as him? There was a winky emoji, so it was most likely him.

Some four years after Slack suffered a data breach, the company has decided to reset the passwords of users it believes were affected. This issue only applies to people who created Slack accounts before March 2015 and then never changed their passwords and don’t have to access Slack through their office’s single-sign-on (SSO) provider. Basically, according to Slack, this doesn’t impact “the approximately 99% who joined Slack after March 2015.” We have stumbled on the one time it pays not to be in the 1%.

The breach happened back in 2015, when hackers gained access to the messaging app’s user profile database, including passwords. A bug bounty hunter reportedly contacted Slack recently about a list of allegedly compromised Slack account passwords, which are believed to stem from the 2015 hack. So to make sure that the 1% of Slack users who have had the same password since 2015 aren’t compromised, Slack is changing their passwords for them.

The company said it has no reason to believe accounts were compromised, but in the words of my eighth-grade geometry teacher, they didn’t show their work. This is a good reminder, though: Change your passwords frequently. Here’s a list of what not to choose.

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March of Dimes confronts the darker corners of parenting and pregnancy in a necessary new podcast

March of Dimes confronts the darker corners of parenting and pregnancy in a necessary new podcast
[Image: courtesy of March of Dimes]

If you’re looking for a new podcast for your summer playlist, consider listening to one that helps a good cause.

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March of Dimes, the nonprofit that fights for the health of all moms and babies, just launched a new podcast, Unspoken Stories: A March of Dimes Podcast. The show, hosted by Tatyana Ali, shares true, honest stories about pregnancy and parenthood. While there are plenty of parenting and pregnancy podcasts around (Motherhood Sessions, Longest Shortest Time, and Mommifaceted for starters), few tackle the happy times as well as the reality of loss. And unfortunately, since the United States is in the midst of a maternal- and child-health crisis, with more than 380,000 babies born prematurely each year, as well as more than 50,000 women experiencing life-threatening complications as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, loss is far too real and far too common.

“There is no perfect pregnancy, birth, or parent—and yet we rarely hear the REAL stories,” said March of Dimes president and CEO Stacey D. Stewart in a statement. “This is why March of Dimes started the podcast, showing that there are stories to share and people more than willing to share them.”

As March of Dimes does its important work to help reduce the rising rates of premature birth, as well as maternal mortality and morbidity, the new podcast helps it spread the word and bring together a community of support for what can feel like an isolating loss.

“Just knowing what other people go through, it just makes you feel exponentially better. And you don’t feel so isolated,” said actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who was interviewed for the podcast. “You don’t feel so cursed. Other people that are good people have to go through it too.”

Each episode of the podcast features a parent’s honest story about the realities of starting a family, the joys of parenting, and the complex machinations of the U.S. healthcare system. Ali speaks with celebrity guests like Sigler as well as noncelebrity parents like Petina Dixon-Jenkins, who has experienced multiple premature births and loss, and Jay Richardson, a dad who faced the realities of parenting a premature baby.

The podcast is part of the #UnspokenStories initiative launched by March of Dimes in April to shine a light on what can feel like the darker corners of parenting and pregnancy. Get Unspoken Stories: A March of Dimes Podcast wherever you choose to get your podcasts or at UnspokenStories.org.

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Here’s how to get FaceApp to delete your photos

Here’s how to get FaceApp to delete your photos
[Photo: Kobu Agency/Unsplash]

FaceApp had barely shot to the top of the charts before serious questions regarding the app’s privacy policies and any connections to the Russian government began to arise. As we reported yesterday, the app, which uses artificial intelligence to digitally age the person in a selfie that is uploaded via the app, began attracting privacy concerns due to its vague privacy policy and a terms of service that appears to suggest any photo you upload via the app becomes the property of FaceApp and the company can do whatever they want with your photo or your own likeness.

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While many photomorphing apps like FaceApp appear to be a free service offered for fun, such apps are usually a way for artificial intelligence companies to gather huge, free datasets from the app’s users to better train their AI. It is that AI and its datasets which holds the actual value for the company, not the app itself.

This fact, along with the fact that FaceApp is a Russian-based company and that in late 2018 it moved to the Skolkovo Innovation Center, which is run by the Russian government, led to those initial privacy concerns growing into national security concerns yesterday.

Yesterday Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI and FTC to investigate any potential national security and privacy risks the app opens up. From Schumer’s letter calling for a probe:

Furthermore, it is unclear how long FaceApp retains a user’s data or how a user may ensure their data is deleted after usage. These forms of “dark patterns,” which manifest in opaque disclosures and broader user authorizations, can be misleading to consumers and may even constitute a deceptive trade practices. Thus, I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it.

In particular, FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments.

In response to the increasing alarm over its privacy policies and associations, FaceApp told TechCrunch that no user data is “transferred to Russia” even though its R&D team is based there. The company says it uses AWS and Google Cloud to process and host uploaded photos.

The company also says that “Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,” without specifying how many images they retain after the 48-hour mark. They also say they do have a process in place for users to ask that all their data is deleted from FaceApp’s servers, though that process is in dire need of streamlining. You can see FaceApp’s full statement below:

We are receiving a lot of inquiries regarding our privacy policy and therefore, would like to provide a few points that explain the basics:

1. FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.

2. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.

3. We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that.

4. All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.

5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.

6. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.
Additionally, we’d like to comment on one of the most common concerns: all pictures from the gallery are uploaded to our servers after a user grants access to the photos (for example, https://twitter.com/joshuanozzi/status/1150961777548701696).  We don’t do that. We upload only a photo selected for editing. You can quickly check this with any of network sniffing tools available on the internet.

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Disney releases a fierce rebuke of Abigail Disney’s theme-park investigation

Disney releases a fierce rebuke of Abigail Disney’s theme-park investigation
[Photo: Flickr user fdecomite]

It’s Disney versus Disney.

Two days after Abigail Disney publicly criticized working conditions at Disney’s famed theme parks, the entertainment giant is hitting back with a sharply worded criticism of its own, calling her investigation and subsequent findings “a gross and unfair characterization of the facts” and an “insult” to Disney employees.

Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney cofounder Roy Disney, recently told Yahoo’s Through Her Eyes that she spoke with highly distressed theme-park workers who said they could not pay their bills and even had to “forage for food in other people’s garbage.”

The comments were widely covered in the press, prompting Disney to craft a lengthy defense, which was sent to Fast Company by a spokesperson. Here it is in full:

“We generally avoid commenting on such baseless reports like this, but this one is particularly egregious and we won’t let this stand.

We strongly disagree with this characterization of our employees and their experience at Disney. This widely reported stunt is a gross and unfair exaggeration of the facts that is not only a misrepresentation, but also an insult to the thousands of employees who are part of the Disney community. We continually strive to enhance the employment experience of our more than 200,000 employees through a variety of benefits and programs that provide them opportunity, mobility and well-being.

At our parks in Orlando and Anaheim, The Walt Disney Company currently pays its hourly workers an average of $19.50 an hour, significantly above the federal minimum wage. But we understand the challenges workers and families face in 2019 are complex and go beyond the paycheck. That’s why we provide a wide range of benefits and initiatives to improve our employees’ lives at and outside of work: from subsidized childcare to generous leave policies, from convenient access to pharmacies and clinics to free college degrees and vocational training programs for hourly employees.

We recognize the economic challenges facing all working families. And we continually meet with our employees in the process of developing even stronger programs. Still, we’re proud of the work we’ve done to improve the lives of our employees, and of the more than 45,000 jobs we’ve added in the United States since 2005. The men and women who make Disney parks such a special experience for millions of people are dedicated, hardworking and proud, and we will continue to listen to, empower and reward them. That’s what this company has done throughout its history and will continue to do in the future.”

We reached out to Abigail Disney for additional comment and will update if we hear back. This isn’t the first time that the fair-pay activist has criticized the company that shares her name. At the inaugural meeting of the Fast Company Impact Council in April, Disney took aim at CEO Bob Iger for his “insane” executive compensation, a reported $65.6 million in 2018.

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Netflix stock tumbles after earnings show decline in paid U.S. subscribers

Netflix stock tumbles after earnings show decline in paid U.S. subscribers
[Photo: JESHOOTS/Unsplash]

Have we reached peak TV or just peak Netflix?

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The video-streaming giant reported its second-quarter earnings this afternoon, and the results are less than stellar. Net global subscribers grew by only 2.7 million, far below its guidance of 5 million. Even more shocking, Netflix saw a decline of 126,000 paid domestic subscribers during the last three months. That’s compared to an expected increase of 352,000 subscribers, according to an estimate cited by CNBC.

Shares of Netflix were down 10.47% in after-hours trading.

Here are the key numbers:

  • Revenue: $4.92 billion (compared to $3.91 billion last year)
  • EPS: 60 cents (compared to 85 cents last year)
  • Y/Y growth: 26% (compared to 40.3% last year)
  • Global streaming paid subscribers: 151.56 million

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings conceded that subscribers were not exactly flocking to see what it had to offer in the last quarter. “We think Q2’s content slate drove less growth in paid net adds than we anticipated,” he wrote.

He also said price hikes were likely a factor for the lower-than-expected numbers, which were slightly worse in regions where prices rose. “We don’t believe competition was a factor since there wasn’t a material change in the competitive landscape during Q2,” Hastings wrote.

Subscribers are the most closely watched metric for Netflix and seen as a barometer of the rapidly growing company’s health. Netflix said it expects to grow by 7 million paid memberships in the third quarter, more than the 6.1 million during the same period a year ago. For its next report, the company’s numbers will likely be aided by the third season of Stranger Things, which was released just after the end of Q2.

Some analysts believed Netflix would see solid growth from users joining the service in anticipation of the show’s premiere, but that turned out not to be the case.

We’ll have more on Netflix earnings after the call this afternoon. Stay tuned . . .

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Twitter data reveals the agony and the ecstasy of Amazon Prime Day

Twitter data reveals the agony and the ecstasy of Amazon Prime Day
[Photo: Getty]

Amazon’s latest Prime Day event is now behind us, and the e-commerce giant would like you to know that it delivered all the appropriate superlatives.

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According to the company, Prime members purchased more than 175 million items during the online sales extravaganza, making this “once again the largest shopping event in Amazon history.” I counted no fewer than five instances of the word “biggest” in Amazon’s Prime Day press release, along with liberal sprinklings of “largest,” “best,” and “best-selling.” In a nutshell, everyone is a winner on Prime Day.

But those cheery feelings aren’t universal across social media. According to a sentiment analysis by Sprout Social, an analytics platform for businesses, Amazon’s Prime Day did indeed generate lots of chatter—184,610 tweets between July 15 and July 16 to be exact—but less than half of it was categorically positive. Specifically, Sprout Social found that social sentiment around the event broke down this way:

  • Positive: 46%
  • Unrated: 38%
  • Negative: 16%

Sprout Social determined sentiment by analyzing a number of key words, hashtags, and handles, including #PrimeDay, #PrimeDays, @Amazon, #AmazonPrimeDay, and/or “Prime Day.”

So what are all those negative users tweeting about? While it’s probably impossible to unpack the entire range of gripes people may have with a company the size of Amazon (“One-day shipping is one day too slow!”), Sprout Social was able to uncover certain themes when it dug into the data. Specifically, workplace-related issues appear to be among the more salient topics, likely driven by the strikes that were reported earlier in the week at certain warehouses.

Here’s a list of some of the more frequently used words and hashtags by volume:

  • Workers” was used in 34,145 of the tweets
  • Pay” was used in 22,753 of the tweets
  • Strike” was used in 18,735 of the tweets
  • #amazonstrike was used in 15,659 of the tweets
  • #primedaystrike was used in 7,059 of the tweets

Of course, it’s hard to say how much of an impact social media chatter really has on consumer sentiment in general. Amazon is a walled garden where people often start and stop their shopping activities in a bubble, and according to Amazon’s press release, the walls of its garden are getting even higher: The company says it saw more new Prime sign ups on Monday than any single day in its history.

This post has been updated with fresher data from Sprout Social.

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