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  • 4:25 pm

Do you live in a distressed U.S. neighborhood? This map will tell you

How prosperous is your neighborhood? The Economic Innovation Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, has released a new report and an interactive tool that tells you how your zip code stacks up to the rest of the country—and illustrates just how geographical economic inequality is growing across the U.S.

The organization’s annual Distressed Communities Index finds that more than half of the Americans residing in distressed communities live in the South. More Americans, however, live in prosperous communities (84.8 million) than distressed ones (52.3 million).

U.S. map of state populations in distressed zip codes. [Via the Economic Innovation Group]
Most pressing, according to the report, is that “distressed communities are quite literally being left behind by the rest of the country.” Most of the economic growth over the last five years has been concentrated on the more prosperous parts of the country, with depressed communities seeing much less growth.

Total increase in employment from 2011 to 2015. [Graph via the Economic Innovation Group]
Compiled from U.S. Census Bureau data, the report looks at the following criteria: percentage of adults without high school diplomas, poverty rate, percentage of prime-age adults not working, housing vacancy rate, median income ratio, percentage change in employment, and percentage change in establishment. Distressed communities are areas where each of those categories are above the U.S. average.

The EIG’s interactive tools show how other locations compare to your neighborhood. You’ll get a sense of the magnitude of the country’s yawning economic gulf, and perhaps share your frustration with policymakers, whom, the EIG concludes, are the ones who can best help reconnect distressed areas and assist with revitalization. And check out the entire report here.CGW

  • 2:40 pm

Is CRISPR the favorite to win this year’s Nobel Prize? Maybe

CRISPR (that’s short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is the coolest gene-editing technique around, and it is revolutionizing the field of biochemistry by making it faster, easier, cheaper, and more precise to delete, repair, or replace genes. Radiolab has a great explainer on the tech, which you can listen to here, and we wrote about some of the ethical dilemmas posed by the technology. While usually the creators of such groundbreaking tech would be practicing their Scrooge McDuck backstrokes in anticipation of collecting the eight million Swedish kronor that comes with the Nobel Prize, CRISPR may not be the favorite to win this year.

After all, CRISPR already lost out on the Nobel Prize in chemistry twice. First in 2015, when it lost to scientists looking at how DNA repairs itself, and then again in 2016, when it lost to the team that used molecular physics to create the world’s smallest machines (which hopefully played the world’s smallest violin for CRISPR).

There’s no doubt that CRISPR technology is revolutionary and incredibly scientifically important in fields as diverse as agriculture and human biology. It could lead to a world filled with drought-resistant crops, or one where diseases like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s could be simply snipped out of a gene. But the tech is embroiled in a patent war between MIT’s Feng Zhang and Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is now at the Max Plank Institute. While MIT filed first, Doudna and Charpentier proved CRISPR tech was viable in 2012, using Cas9 technology. However, many other teams have built on the tech, making it more utilitarian, more efficient, and more precise, and some people think those advances were the real groundbreakers.

Since the Nobel committee only lets three people claim the award for their work—and they probably want to avoid getting involved in patent kerfuffles— they may want the court to weigh in before they decide which team should get the laurels (and the cold hard cash). Plus, perhaps this is the year that the lithium–ion battery will finally get the attention it deserves from the Noble committee.

The chemistry Nobel Prize will be revealed on October 4.ML

  • 1:29 pm

Trump teaming up with Facebook and Google to boost STEM education in public schools

Trump teaming up with Facebook and Google to boost STEM education in public schools
[Photo: Flickr user Brookhaven National Laboratory]

President Trump will sign a presidential memorandum this afternoon that commits the administration to expanding access to STEM and computer science education, senior White House officials tell Fast Company. As part of that initiative, the administration will devote at least $200 million per year in grant funding to this priority, as well as other actions to increase the focus on computer science in K-12 and post-secondary programs. To emphasize the need for such an initiative, the White House cited statistics showing that less than half of high schools currently offer computer programming and that nearly 40% of high schools did not offer physics in 2015.

And Ivanka Trump is heading to Detroit on Tuesday to join tech executives in announcing some private-sector participation from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Quicken Loans, and GM in the initiative. The effort represents a rare victory for the tech sector with this administration–prioritizing coding in public school curricula has long been a focus for Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft president Brad Smith, among others–amid Silicon Valley’s public criticism of the Trump’s administration’s recent move to end the DACA program, the travel ban, and the president’s statements on the Charlottesville violence.

In a statement released today, Smith said:

“Our country is facing a challenge that it hasn’t had to address in two generations: reworking the education system to keep pace with advancing technology. In the 1950s, the race to space drove schools to start teaching physics. Today, it’s all about computer science. Microsoft looks forward to partnering with other companies, non-profit groups, and the federal and state governments to help bring computer science into America’s mainstream education curriculum. It’s good for our country, our businesses, and most importantly, our nation’s young people.”

MB

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  • 1:09 pm

Australia is finally getting its very own space agency

The space race just got a new contender Down Under.

While most major developed countries have a space agency, Australia never quite got around to setting one up until now. The country, which has traditionally relied primarily on U.S. satellite data, just announced plans to enter the space race and hopefully cash in on the booming business of reaching for the stars.

According to the BBC, Australia already employs around 11,500 people in the space industry, but creating its own agency will give the country a chance to cash in on $420 billion a year global space industry.

“A national space agency will ensure we have a strategic long-term plan that supports the development and application of space technologies and grows our domestic space industry,” acting industry minister Michaelia Cash told Australia’s ABC News.

The government is expected to announce further details at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide this week, with the political parties hashing out their long-term plans.

The agency, by the way, is already Twitter official:

ML

CBS says “Star Trek: Discovery” broke some unspecified record for All Access signups

CBS says “Star Trek: Discovery” broke some unspecified record for All Access signups
James Frain as Ambassador Sarek in Star Trek: Discovery, 2017. [Photo: Jan Thijs/CBS]

CBS is touting the success of yesterday’s debut of Star Trek: Discovery, and it’s boldly going where many networks have gone before—claiming to have broken new records but offering no specific numbers to back it up.

In a press release, the network said its CBS All Access streaming service saw its most single-day sign-ups ever thanks to the latest entry in the famed sci-fi franchise. The old record, CBS says, was set during the 2017 Grammys. The problem is we have no idea what this record is, nor do we know how many subscribers All Access has. I reached out for more specific figures but was told by a CBS spokesman that they wouldn’t be sharing any new data. In August, CBS chief Les Moonves said the company’s streaming operations were on track to pass the 4 million-subscriber mark, but that’s only if you lump in Showtime.

All Access’s subscriber count matters because CBS has a lot riding on the service. The first episode of Discovery aired for free on the CBS broadcast network, but future episodes will only be available to paying All Access subscribers. And judging from some of the reactions on social media yesterday, many viewers see that strategy as a bait-and-switch tactic. Will hardcore Trek fans shell out another $6 a month when they’re already paying for Netflix, cable, Hulu, and god knows what else? For CBS it’s a risky bet—one that can just as quickly spiral into a Kobayashi Maru.CZ

  • 11:00 am

Anthony Weiner gets 21-month jail sentence in teen sexting scandal

Anthony Weiner gets 21-month jail sentence in teen sexting scandal
[Photo: Flickr user >a href=https://www.flickr.com/photos/americanprogressaction/5558805071>Center for American Progress Action Fund]

Disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for sending lewd texts to a 15-year-old, reports the New York Daily News. Weiner’s lawyers advocated for probation, but the judge exacted a harsher penalty. Weiner pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this year–on that same day his wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, filed for divorce. Weiner’s argument for probation, according to the Daily News, was that he is mentally sick and needed professional help for rehabilitation.CGW

  • 10:54 am

Steve Bannon wanted to infiltrate Facebook before the election

According to leaked emails obtained by BuzzFeed News, Steven Bannon has long been interested in using Facebook’s power to further the Republican agenda. A few days before he joined Donald Trump’s campaign last year, Bannon exchanged emails with a Washington staffer named Chris Gacek about flooding Facebook’s job application pool with people allegiant to Breitbart. Gacek reportedly shared job openings with Bannon. The idea was that the applicants could report back to Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos “about the job application process over at FB.”

It’s unclear what happened beyond these messages. One of the people included in the email thread said that it seemed difficult for Breitbart to do it “quietly without [Facebook] becoming aware of efforts.” The news comes amid growing awareness of how Facebook’s ad platform is being used as a tool for foreign meddling. Barack Obama, for instance, reportedly took Mark Zuckerberg aside last year to warn him about how Facebook was being used to spread misinformation. Zuckerberg reportedly played down Obama’s warnings.

Whether or not Bannon and Breitbart decided to infiltrate the company, this latest Bannon tidbit does illustrate how important he thought Facebook to be. You can read the full BuzzFeed News write-up here.CGW

  • 10:27 am

Sarah Jessica Parker just got a side hustle as an Airbnb tour guide

Because Sarah Jessica Parker is a savvy businesswoman who knows what people want, she is teaming up with Airbnb, channeling her Sex and the City character, and promising to take visitors on “an unforgettable shoe-shopping experience” at Bloomingdales, the Associated Press reports. While Carrie Bradshaw was more Bergdorf’s than Bloomingdales, Parker just so happens to be selling a collection of shoes at Bloomingdales, and will help shoppers pick out a pair from the SJP Collection before heading off for some fro-yo on the way to the ballet—where she just so happens to be on the board. See? Savvy.

Parker’s Sex and the City-ish experience will be on sale Tuesday morning via Airbnb. Act quickly, though, because there are only four spaces at $400 each, first come, first served and guests must be available to go shopping on Oct. 6. The money raised will go to the New York City Ballet, of course.

Parker isn’t the only star looking for a side hustle-for-a-cause: NFL player-turned-TV-host Michael Strahan is taking guests golfing to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and actor Ansel Elgort (* swoon*) will take visitors to the exotic locale of Brooklyn to benefit Americares hurricane relief efforts.ML

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  • 9:10 am

Dwayne Johnson just launched his own creative ad agency

Dwayne Johnson just launched his own creative ad agency
[Photo: Flickr user Eva Rinaldi]

Anyone who’s followed The Rock’s career knows never to underestimate the man known as Dwayne Johnson, or put his 6-foot-5, 258 lb frame in any specific career box. Otherwise you’d never have guessed the same guy who asked WWE fans if they could smell what he was cookin’ would one day sing in a hit Disney film.

Now he can add advertising agency founder to his resume: While Johnson is no stranger to brand work (witness Project Rock, the co-branded Under Armour lifestyle line he developed with Droga5 and WME, and his recent Siri campaign for Apple), he’s now getting directly involved by launching his own creative ad agency called Seven Bucks Creative.

According to AdAge, the new creative company, cofounded by Johnson’s manager Dany Garcia, will be led by chief marketing officer Chet Gulland, a former head of strategy at Droga5.

Can you smell what The Rock is sellin’?JB

  • 8:02 am

HP reports agencies made significant progress hiring with women in workforce

The company has released its annual agency diversity report for 2016/2017, noting that agencies have made strides in bringing more women into its workforce. The company says that today 61% of agency account teams are made up of women and 51% of their senior leadership roles have gone to women. HP says that’s a +5 percent and +4 percent, respectively, premium over agency targets.MG

These are the four essential skills CEOs of the future have to have

These are the four essential skills CEOs of the future have to have
[Photo: courtesy of Unsplash]

Changing technology, finding the most skilled workers, and maintaining a good work-life balance are going to be the fundamental challenges for CEOs in the coming years.

According to Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global, Bill George, longtime CEO of Medtronic and currently a leadership professor at Harvard
Business School, and Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, there are four skills that top their list of leadership essentials (the group published these recommendations in a post on LinkedIn Learning today).

  1. Purpose
  2. Ability to empower employees
  3. Willingness to learn new things
  4. Active engagement on social media

Of the number-one skill on the list, Huffington says: “Many people think of purpose as something that’s fixed, but purpose is actually a skill, one that can be built and nurtured throughout an organization so that everyone within the company has internalized what the company stands for beyond profits and growth.”

Purpose also helps attract and retain talent, particularly among gen X and millennial workers who rank company culture, CEO transparency, and authenticity as important in places they want to work.

All four skills aren’t the only ones needed to drive businesses forward, but as these CEOs note, “Business leaders who are good to themselves, good to their employees, and good to the world aren’t just good people; they’ll actually be what’s best for their business over the next five years.”LD

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  • 7:35 am

Uber’s new CEO has apologized to London in an open letter

Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, apologized in the letter, posted to Twitter, for the company’s “mistakes.” In the letter, Khosrowshahi said:

“While Uber has revolutionized the way people move in cities around the world, it’s equally true that we’ve got things wrong along the way. On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologize for the mistakes we’ve made.”

The letter goes on to admit Uber isn’t perfect, but under his new leadership Uber will “work with London to make things right.” The letter’s contrite tone seems to strike the right notes from a company that has previously seemed to be above the rules. However, only time will tell if it will help Uber to remain active in London.

 MG

  • 6:14 am

“Lock him up”? Jared Kushner used private email for White House business

Trump’s son-in-law and senior presidential adviser has used a private email for carrying out official White House business, Politico reports. Aids who exchanged emails with Kushner at his private email address since Trump took office in January include former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, and spokesman Josh Raffel. Topics reportedly discussed in the emails included media coverage and event planning. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump continually called for the imprisonment of rival Hillary Clinton for using a personal email account while she was secretary of state. A frequent rally cry at Trump events was and remains “Lock her up!” over her use of private emails.MG

  • 5:55 am

Russian “botnet” could have helped German far-right party win historic gains in yesterday’s election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term yesterday in the country’s elections, but the country’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany, or AfD, did better than expected with 13% of the vote, enabling it to enter the German parliament–a first for a far-right party in Germany in 60 years. But now there is evidence that, as with the U.S. elections last year and the French elections earlier this year, Russian operatives were trying to sway the German elections. As Politico reports, an analysis by the think tank Atlantic Council revealed that in the 48 hours leading up to the election a host of social media accounts linked to Russia was trying to promote hashtags on Twitter connected to the AfD.MG

  • 5:45 am

Trump is indefinitely barring citizens from seven countries in new travel ban

On Sunday Trump issued a new travel ban that will bar almost all citizens from seven countries from entering the United States, reports the New York Times. The countries this time around are Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea. Also, citizens of Venezuela who try to enter the U.S. will be subject to restrictions and heightened scrutiny. Unlike his last travel ban, which included only Muslim-majority countries, the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela means that Trump’s order this time will be harder to fight in the courts on the basis of religious discrimination. The new travel ban goes into effect next month.MG

  • 5:36 am

President Obama personally warned Mark Zuckerberg about fake news on Facebook

President Obama personally warned Mark Zuckerberg about fake news on Facebook
[Photo: courtesy of The Obama Presidential Library]

On November 19, 2016, just weeks after the presidential election, President Obama was so concerned about the Russians using fake news to influence U.S. elections that he personally talked to Zuckerberg about it, reveals the Washington Post:

Now huddled in a private room on the sidelines of a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, two months before Trump’s inauguration, Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously. Unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, Obama warned, it would only get worse in the next presidential race.

Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem posed by fake news. But he told Obama that those messages weren’t widespread on Facebook and that there was no easy remedy, according to people briefed on the exchange, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of a private conversation.

What’s more, the Washington Post’s article also reveals that Facebook first detected signs the Russian were using the service to manipulate the election back in June 2016 and notified the FBI about it. If the Post’s sources are accurate, that means Facebook knew about the Russian hacking before the DNC.MG

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Take a Knee Sunday: NFL games are scheduled all day so expect lots of protests

In a series of early-morning tweets on Sunday, President Trump doubled down on his divisive condemnation of NFL players who kneel during the American national anthem. Trump first made the comments at a rally in Alabama last week, saying such behavior should be a firable offense.

If Trump were hoping his rhetoric would scare players into thinking twice about joining a “take a knee” protest during the NFL’s full slate of games today, he’s going to be disappointed. The first game—between the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars—kicked off in London at 9:30 a.m. ET, and several players from both teams knelt during the national anthem. Even the Jaguars’ owner, Shahid Khan—a Trump supporter—took part in the protest. Some said it was the largest “take a knee” protest yet.

Expect more protests as the day continues. More than a dozen NFL games are scheduled to take place across the country today, beginning at 1 p.m. when the Cleveland Browns face off against the Indianapolis Colts on CBS. Eight other games are slated for that time slot.

Another round of games starts at 4:05 p.m. ET with the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans on Fox, and the day culminates with an Oakland-Washington face-off 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Check out the full NFL schedule here.CZ

The troubling numbers behind the Trump cabinet’s pricey trips

The troubling numbers behind the Trump cabinet’s pricey trips
[Photo: Flickr user Mark Taylor]

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price may have violated a federal policy that requires officials to use the cheapest travel options available by repeatedly taking chartered flights, the Washington Post reports. HHS’s inspector general is investigating the matter.

It’s just the latest criticism leveled against executive branch officials over costly travel, under an administration in which, as Newsweek reported, President Trump is likely to outpace Barack Obama’s eight-year travel spend in just his first year in office.

Two other high-ranking Trump administration officials are also under investigation for their taxpayer-funded travel: Agency inspectors general are also scrutinizing Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s frequent trips to his home state of Oklahoma and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s trip to Kentucky. 

Here are some of the numbers that have surfaced around Price’s trips:

  • 24 flights since May:  How many times Price has flown private, at least. A Price spokesperson has said the charter jets are necessary for him to efficiently travel, manage a “$1.2 trillion agency,” and connect with constituents without dealing with airport delays and other hassles of commercial flight. (A critic of big government spending, Price tweeted in 2009, “Congress doesn’t need to have private jets.”)
  • $300,000: The minimum total cost of his flights, according to the Post report.
  • $25,000: The cost of one flight for Price and about 10 other people from Washington, D.C.’S Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia, Politico reports. By comparison, commercial flights likely would have cost between $447 to $725 per person—less with government discounts and early booking—and the group likely could have saved even more by driving or taking the train.
  • Five: number of Democratic ranking members of congressional committees who signed a letter on Thursday requesting a review of Price’s trips.

Other administration officials and family members are facing scrutiny for high-altitude taxpayer-funded figures like these:

  • $1,980:  The cost of one of EPA head Scott Pruitt’s tickets on a commercial flight to Oklahoma, far in excess of what an economy ticket typically costs on that route. From March to May, Pruitt was in Oklahoma 43 days, according to records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project watchdog group.
  • $25,000: The cost per hour to operate the U.S. Air Force jet that took Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin from New York to Washington, D.C. on Aug. 15, when he and other cabinet members were in New York for a now-infamous press conference at Trump Tower following the violence in Charlottesville. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also flew on the C-37 jet, which is the government’s version of a Gulfstream V.
  • $25,000: The cost per hour to operate the government jet that was proposed by Mnuchin’s office to take him and his wife, actress Louise Linton, on their European honeymoon in early August. (The request was subsequently withdrawn.) In August the couple flew to Kentucky on a government jet, in a widely discussed visit to Fort Knox. While the trip coincided with the totality of the solar eclipse that day, Mnuchin insists it was a coincidence.
  • Four: The number of luxury brands that Linton tagged in an Instagram glamour shot that showed her deplaning in Kentucky. Linton then took to the comments to call a critic who was upset by her lavish publicly funded travel “adorably out of touch,” and made her account private. The trip is now the focus of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by a government watchdog group.
  • $66,000: The estimated costs incurred during a high-end ski resort visit by Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and their children in April, to cover the hotels, ski passes, and “recreational equipment” for the Secret Service, NBC News reported.
  • $19,289: The cost of two hotel bills related to Tiffany Trump’s trip to Berlin with her boyfriend in early June, according to USASpending.gov, which catalogs all federal government spending.
  • $97,830: The cost to taxpayers from Eric Trump’s January business trip to Urugray, according to the Post. Donald Trump Jr., who also travels the world to oversee the family business empire while under Secret Service protection, has also run up big tabs for taxpayers. Frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago, New York, and other Trump resorts have reportedly cost the government millions and, according to USA Today, led more than 1,000 agents to already hit the salary and overtime allowance meant to last the entire year. (Trump, Jr. and White House advisor Kellyanne Conway recently elected to decline further Secret Service protection.)

The Trump administration has had at least one big win for budget-conscious executive travel: As the President demanded, as part of his efforts to drain the swamp, the U.S. Air Force in August secured a bargain price on two 4-year-old Boeing 747-8s for the Air Force One fleet. (The optics there could be a little better, though: It turns out the pair of planes have a Russia connection.)SM

Report: Graham-Cassidy would cause 21 million people to lose health coverage every year

Senate Republicans are pushing hard for the Graham-Cassidy bill–the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. Those pushing it are gunning to get the 50 votes it needs to pass, although John McCain just announced he would not be supporting it, which will very likely hurt its chances of passing.

All the same, since they’re trying to pass the bill so quickly, its potential effects are generally unknown. The Congressional Budget Office–which offers scores of the bills–has said that it does not have the time to provide a full analysis of Graham-Cassidy before it will be voted on.

Brookings, however, has taken the reins and performed its own analysis of the bill, and it doesn’t look pretty. The research organization tried to deduce how states would respond to the individual mandate being repealed. “We estimate that the Graham-Cassidy legislation would reduce the number of people with insurance coverage by around 21 million each year during the 2020 through 2026 period,” the institution reported.

In short, tens of millions of Americans would lose their insurance coverage over the next few years if this bill passed.

You can read the full Brookings analysis here.CGW

iPhone launch day isn’t what it used to be . . .

iPhone launch day isn’t what it used to be . . .
[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

There is a line at San Francisco’s flagship Apple Store to buy the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but that may be the exception to the rule. Reports from around the world are saying the lines to buy the new iPhones aren’t nearly as long as on launch days past, if there are lines at all.

A person at the Apple store in San Francisco’s Union Square just told me that about 100 people are waiting in line as of 10:10 a.m. Pacific Time. Meanwhile, the launch in Asia was “muted,” according to Reuters earlier today.

The new cellular Apple Watch and the Apple TV 4K also went on sale today.

There are two reasons for the “muted” launch:

  1. Many of the same Apple enthusiasts who would normally show up for launch day are likely holding out for the top-of-the line iPhone X, which will go on sale in November. NPD research suggest an equal number of people are holding out for the X as are buying iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.
  2. Buyers now have the option to make personal pick-up appointments at the store or just pre-order online and have it shipped.

These shots grabbed from Twitter tell the tale of the launches in New York City, San Antonio, Pasadena, and Brisbane, Australia:

The simple fact that Apple is starting to release more phone models to fit different tastes and needs–instead of launching one hero device–is bound to drain some of the hype out of launch days.

Still, investors don’t seem to like the new normal. Apple stock is off 1.3% in mid-afternoon trading in New York, and is down more than 5% this week.MS

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