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  • 2:37 pm

Reports: WeWork CEO Adam Neumann may not be CEO for much longer

Reports: WeWork CEO Adam Neumann may not be CEO for much longer
Adam Neumann, cofounder and CEO of WeWork. [Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch]

Adam Neumann cofounded WeWork in 2010 and built it into a global chain of coworking spaces with 528 locations in 111 cities across 29 countries and more than 500,000 members, according to its recent IPO prospectus. But concerns about the company’s path to profitability, its corporate governance, and Neumann’s personal and professional behavior since the company stated its intent to go public in August have led to reports Sunday that some members of the board of directors want to replace Neumann.

The move, first reported by The Wall Street Journal and then augmented by CNBC, would be at the behest of some of Neumann and the We Company’s largest investors, including SoftBank, the Japanese telecom giant which has invested more than $10 billion into We via equity, debt, and its subsidiaries and over $100 billion in the global digital economy. The proposal is for Neumann to step into a nonexecutive chairman role in favor of someone who could take the company public without the concerns surrounding Neumann’s prior judgment, such as his decision to change the company’s name from WeWork to The We Company and then charge the company $5.9 million for the We trademark, which he owned via a separate entity (a move he and the company unwound in the wake of its disclosure last month).

Neumann faced a setback late last year when SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, his largest supporter, was prepared to buy out all of WeWork’s other existing investors and give the company up to $20 billion to fund its growth until market conditions and resistance within SoftBank’s Vision Fund and its backers prompted a reduced $2 billion investment, which valued the then rechristened We Company at a $47 billion valuation. Son “called me,” Neumann told Fast Company last January. “He said, ‘We’re partners. What should we do?’ ” Son told him that the deal SoftBank and WeWork had spent months negotiating was no longer viable.

Now The We Company going public with Neumann as its leader may no longer be an option.

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  • 12:05 pm

How to watch the 2019 Emmy Awards and red carpet live on Fox without cable

How to watch the 2019 Emmy Awards and red carpet live on Fox without cable
[Image: courtesy of the Television Academy]

Television’s big night is here, and with it comes the start of the 2019 awards season. If you love the idea of Hollywood power players handing out statuettes and singing each other’s praises, you’ll certainly get your fill of that with the 71st Emmy Awards, which take place tonight (Sunday, September 22) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Like the Oscars before it, the Emmys will go without a host this year, meaning the ceremony should theoretically move along at a faster clip. HBO’s Barry, Amazon Prime Video’s Fleabag, and Netflix’s Russian Doll are among the shows duking it out for outstanding comedy series, while BBC America’s Killing Eve and FX’s Pose are among the nominees in the drama category. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of competition. You can see a full list of nominees on the Emmys website, which will be updated live as the winners are announced.

Red carpet coverage of the 2019 Emmys is set to begin at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT. You can live-stream Entertainment Weekly‘s red carpet pre-show for free at EW.com or via Twitter.

The Emmy Awards telecast itself will air live on the Fox broadcast network beginning at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT. If you’re a cord cutter who wants to stream the ceremony live on your computer, phone, or smart TV, you can do that through a standalone streaming service or with a pay-TV login on Fox’s digital channels. I’ve rounded up some choices below:

  • Streaming services: Many streamers offer Fox, including Hulu With Live TVYouTube TVPlayStation Vue, and FuboTV. Most of these services are offering free trials, and they’re easy to cancel.
  • Fox Now mobile apps: You can access Fox Now on its mobile apps on iOS or Android. You’ll need login credentials from a pay-TV provider to watch this way.
  • Fox online: You can watch Fox live on the Fox website, but again, you’ll need a cable or satellite TV login.

Evergreen PSA: Fox is a broadcast network and available for free with an over-the-air antenna. If you have time to go out and get one before the Emmys, it’s worth considering!

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21 signs from the NYC climate strike that say it all

21 signs from the NYC climate strike that say it all
[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

The world is watching and there’s nothing less than a world at stake.

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That was the message sent by an estimated 60,000 demonstrators who flooded lower Manhattan Friday for a day of action to raise awareness about the global climate crisis and the ongoing inaction of world governments tasked with responding to it. Anxious and fed up with platitudes and empty promises, the mostly young climate strikers took to the streets of New York City—joined by equally angry counterparts around the world—waving makeshift signs and demanding action before it’s too late.

Our photo editor Celine Grouard was on the scene to capture some of the most arresting signs of the demonstration. Below are 21 that we think capture the mood of the march—and underscore the dire need of a planet in peril.

1. Your $$$ at Work?

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
2. One Planet, Many Choices

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
3. Don’t Sugar Coat Global Warming

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
4. Listen to Your Mother

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
5. Look for Action

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
6. Solve the Climate Crisis for Your Children

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
7. Unless Someone Like You Cares … 

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
8. Ask Me About Energy Storage

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
9. The Dinosaurs Thought They Had Time Too

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
10. Save Our Home

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
11. Strike With Me

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
12. Think

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
13. You Want Kids to Clean Our Messes?

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
14. Don’t Make the Earth as Ugly as This Poster

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
15. I Can’t Sit Up But I’m Taking a Stand

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
16. When I’m 22 . . . 

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
17. Fuck Clean Gradualism

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
18. No Pipelines 

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
19. Denial Is Not a Policy

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
20. Our Planet [Hearts] You

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
21. Deny and Fry

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
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YouTube is sorry after finding yet another way to rile up its seething vloggers

YouTube is sorry after finding yet another way to rile up its seething vloggers
[Photo: Szabo Viktor/Unsplash; Ebrahim /Wikimedia Commons]

The YouTubers are mad and YouTube is sorry.

Google’s video service says it “missed the mark” yesterday when it announced sweeping changes to its verification program. Those changes would have stripped the verification badges from some of YouTube’s most prominent users, which might have affected how they appear in search results, but now the service is apparently rethinking its approach.

In an apologetic statement sent out from the Twitter account of CEO Susan Wojcicki, the executive apologized “for the frustration & hurt that we caused with our new approach to verification.” YouTube is “working to address your concerns & we’ll have more updates soon,” Wojcicki said.

YouTube previously verified channels with 100,000 or more subscribers, but the company said that its new rules would instead “[prioritize] verifying prominent channels that have a clear need for proof of authenticity.”

If yesterday’s blowback felt familiar to you, that’s because this happens all the time with YouTube—whether it’s because of changes to advertising rules, copyright enforcement, or cracking down on channels that shill for paid cheating services.

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Walmart will stop selling vapes, but only after it’s done selling through all its vapes

Walmart will stop selling vapes, but only after it’s done selling through all its vapes
[Photo: Ruslan Alekso/Unsplash]

Walmart is about ready to quit vapes.

The retailer said today that it will stop selling “electronic nicotine delivery products” in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in the U.S. as health officials wrestle with a surge of mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping.

Walmart cited “growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty” as its reason for bailing on e-cigarettes and related products. But first, the retailer plans to unload its existing supply: “We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory,” the company said in a statement published by CNN.

So far 530 people have fallen sick and eight have died due to illnesses connected to vaping in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Trump administration recently proposed banning flavored e-cigarettes in the U.S.—months after Walmart announced plans to pull some flavors (“fruit- and dessert-flavored” products) from its shelves.

Also earlier this month, Walmart announced plans to cut back on sales of guns and ammunition, following two deadly shootings in its stores. The retailer will still sell “long barrel deer rifles and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel,” according to a statement published by CNBC.

Thankfully, Walmart already addressed the true (??) origin (??) of gun violence in America when it swiftly pulled “violent” and “aggressive” video game displays from its stores in August.

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iOS 13 has a nasty location privacy bug

iOS 13 has a nasty location privacy bug
[Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images]

There’s a lot to love about Apple’s new iOS 13 operating system, which launched yesterday and ships on the new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. However, we’ve spotted a nasty location privacy bug users should be aware of. It appears iOS 13 is not respecting the “Location” privacy setting users select for certain apps.

In the video below, you can see we try to tell iOS 13 to never allow Facebook to access our location, but iOS 13 doesn’t honor this setting, instead changing it back to “Ask Next Time” no matter how many times we attempt to select “Never.”

To be clear, this does not seem to be a Facebook app bug–it does appear to be a bug with iOS 13 itself. We’ve discovered other apps where this same problem occurs. However, there are just as many apps where iOS 13’s location privacy settings work as they should.

An iOS app developer has told us this bug has been reported to Apple and it should be fixed in iOS 13.1, which is scheduled to launch on Tuesday. Until then, be aware not all of your location privacy settings may be being respected by iOS 13.

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FAIR Act: House votes to end forced arbitration and allow you to actually sue companies

FAIR Act: House votes to end forced arbitration and allow you to actually sue companies
[Photo: Flickr user Kevin Burkett]

Having a dispute with a large corporation? Chances are you can’t sue them, but that could change.

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The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which outlaws the practice of contractually demanding that employees and consumers use private dispute resolution. That means workers and the public could bring them to court.

The vote was 225-186.

Forced arbitration clauses have “seeped into just about every nook and cranny of our lives, including cell phone contracts, medical bills, employee handbooks, credit cards, nursing home contracts – you name it,” Congressman Hank Johnson, the Democrat from Georgia who is the chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “The deck has been stacked against American consumers in favor of big business for far too long. This is just another tool for powerful corporate interests to avoid accountability.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal is the sponsor.

“Corporations use forced arbitration clauses in contracts as a get-out-of-jail free card,” said Public Citizen, a not-for-profit consumer advocacy group. “Corporate apologists for arbitration often say it is an alternative venue to obtain justice. But in practice, it just means cheated or abused consumers, employees and others are out of luck.”

The organization cited as example scenarios banks overcharging customers, sexual-harassment and -assault victims unable to tell their stories, and staffers denied overtime who can’t band together to sue.

The White House opposes the FAIR Act. In a statement on Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget said the bill would “increase litigation, costs, and inefficiency, including by exposing the vast majority of businesses to even more unnecessary litigation.”

It also said that if the FAIR Act were presented in its current form to President Trump to sign, his advisers would recommend a veto.

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We’re canceling Halloween over this sexy Mr. Rogers costume

We’re canceling Halloween over this sexy Mr. Rogers costume
[Screenshot: Yandy]

Okay, everybody. I would just like to announce that Halloween is now canceled. Don’t go out on October 31. Keep your kids off the street. It’s for their own good: I am sorry to say a company called Yandy has invented a “sexy” Mr. Rogers costume. There is a chance that someone will drop $59.95 to buy it, permanently traumatizing you and your family forever.

Calling it a costume is a bit of an overstatement: The thing barely covers a woman’s body. There is an ultra-low-cut red crop top apparently designed to mimic Mr. Rogers’s famous sweater, plus a black tie that sits awkwardly on a lapel that is weirdly not attached to a shirt. Instead of trousers, there are some booty shorts and a black belt.

Look, it’s not that we’re prudish. The problem is that this is an insult to a beloved American figure whose career was devoted to understanding children and helping them navigate the difficulties of childhood. This costume, for instance, is something he would have had to help kids work through. Like, why the hell would a brand want to sexualize a dead man who spent his life around children? And how did it not occur to them that this would disrespect his memory?

[Screenshot: Instagram]
In case you think that we might be overreacting, please consider the fact that this is not the only completely bonkers costume that has just been released for Halloween. Yandy has also released a $36.95 sexy Beyond Burger costume. And if it weren’t clear enough that the brand is treating the woman wearing it as a piece of meat (okay, meat alternative, but still), there is a stamp located on the butt that reads Not Grade A. There’s also a good chance that customers might pull out the $64.95 sexy Handmaid’s Tale costume that the brand made last year, which only seemed to highlight that we might actually be living in the misogynist dystopia that Margaret Atwood paints in that novel.

We’ve officially had enough. Yandy has ruined Halloween for all of us, so we’ve decided to bow out of the holiday until further notice. See you guys at Thanksgiving.

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Who actually boycotts brands? More liberals and college grads, it turns out

Who actually boycotts brands? More liberals and college grads, it turns out
[Photo: lucia/Unsplash]

Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!

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You hear that a lot on social media these days, but do consumers actually make purchasing decisions based on the political stance of a particular brand? Many do, it turns out, but boycotts are not an even phenomenon across the political spectrum, according to new research from Morning Consult and Advertising Week.

The firm found that liberal and well-educated Americans are far more likely to say they have stopped buying a product or service based on a company’s political stance compared to conservatives or consumers with less formal education. Based on Morning Consult’s nationally representative survey of 4,200 adults, about 50% of consumers with postgraduate degrees indicate they have boycotted a brand. That number falls to 40% for consumers with bachelor’s degrees and about 22% for consumers without a college degree.

Political affiliation also plays a role, with about 43% of liberal consumers saying they’ve boycotted a brand compared to about 32% of conservatives. Moderates were the least likely to boycott, with only about 22% saying they’ve done so. Differences based on age and race were not as pronounced.

[Courtesy of Morning Consult]
At a time when boycott hashtags seem to trend every other day on Twitter (CVS, Olive Garden, and ABC are just a few recent casualties), opinions differ about whether boycotts are effective.

But Morning Consult’s research could explain why some brands seem more susceptible than others to the whims of consumers who vow to vote with their dollars. As our Ruth Reader reported this week, SoulCycle took a significant hit in August after Stephen Ross, the chairman of its parent company, held a fundraiser for President Trump. Purchases were down 12.8% that month compared to the month before, data revealed. The brand’s urban, largely progressive members seemed to feel betrayed by the ostensive support of Trump, despite SoulCycle distancing itself from Ross.

Morning Consult and Advertising Week released the research as part of a “2020 Survival Guide for Brands” and will present it next week in New York as part of this year’s Advertising Week event.

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For a change, a Trump tweet hits the perfect note

For a change, a Trump tweet hits the perfect note
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Bill de Blasio, who is reportedly the mayor of New York City, has given up his dream of being the Democratic nominee for president. “I feel like I’ve contributed all I can to this primary election, and it’s clearly not my time, so I’m going to end my presidential campaign,” de Blasio said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday.

De Blasio has been the mayor of New York City since 2014, despite the fact that New Yorkers universally seem to dislike him. While no one in New York seemed to think it was a good idea to run for the presidency and everyone would happily and enthusiastically tell him not to do it, de Blasio ran anyway. Turns out voters around the country equally lacked enthusiasm for the mayor. His national polling average was around 0.2%, and in New York, somehow, it was even lower.

While New Yorkers may be typically loath to admit it, Donald Trump is also a born New Yorker, and wouldn’t you know it—he actually managed to sum up the feelings of New Yorkers with his tweet about de Blasio’s decision to leave the campaign trail. “Oh no,” he tweeted. Oh no, indeed.

Don’t worry—there are still 19 Democrats in the running to face off against Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

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How to catch up on ‘Downton Abbey’: 6 easy recaps before seeing the movie

How to catch up on ‘Downton Abbey’: 6 easy recaps before seeing the movie
Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady Grantham and Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey [Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features]

Julian Fellowes created a cultural phenomenon when he came up with the idea for Downton Abbey, the beloved upstairs/downstairs drama that ran from 2010-2015 on ITV in the U.K. and PBS in the United States. The series follows the aristocratic Crawley family and the devoted staff of their elegant castle in Yorkshire (which you can stay at thanks to Airbnb) as they live through changing times.

Fellowes is hoping to recapture the magic when Downton Abbey comes to theaters in a feature-length film that rejoins the Downton Abbey residents as they await a visit from the king and queen. The movie opens today (Friday, September 20).

Of course, the series ended years ago. While you may remember some of the details—like Dowager Countess’s greatest quips, or the names of each of Lady Mary’s dead lovers, or the name of Daisy’s dead husband—even the most ardent Downton Abbey fan may have forgotten a detail or two.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s nearly impossible to track each plotline that unraveled upstairs and downstairs over the course of the show’s six seasons. After all, the show spanned 14 years from the sinking of the Titanic to ringing in New Year’s Eve 1926, and it boasts dozens of characters, each with their own plotlines. Thankfully, the movie does a good job reminding viewers of the most salient points. However, there’s still a lot to remember.

Here are a few easy ways to brush up on all things Crawley before seeing the movie:

  • PBS has its own recap here, if you want the inside scoop.
  • If you can’t quite remember how Downton Abbey ended, Refinery29 answers that very question here, and Town & Country gives it their own spin here.
  • British outlet Digital Spy got a Downton Abbey star to tell fans what they need to know before they see the film.
  • If you remember the ending, but can’t quite remember what each of the approximately 47 characters was doing and why they were doing it, Vulture runs it down.
  • If you don’t even know what you need to know, Screenrant has a useful referesher.
  • Vanity Fair has a six-season refresher that will give even casual fans the information they need to watch and maybe even enjoy the movie.

If you prefer to watch the series and have nothing else to do between now and the film’s premiere (or don’t mind waiting a few days to grab tickets), catch up online. Here’s where it’s streaming:

  • If you’re a PBS member and bless you for that, every single season of Downton Abbey is currently available to stream on PBS Passport.
  • Amazon Prime members can watch all six seasons of Downton Abbey on Prime Video. (Thanks, Jeff Bezos!)
  • For the Amazon agnostic, the series is also available for purchase via iTunes and Google Play.
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You can try to live-stream the Area 51 ‘raid’ or just watch a bunch of YouTubers messing around

You can try to live-stream the Area 51 ‘raid’ or just watch a bunch of YouTubers messing around
[Photo: Miriam Espacio/Unsplash]

Back in July, a bunch of geniuses got together and decided to launch a Facebook event seeking volunteers to storm the mysterious Area 51 site, which has long been a mecca for UFO and conspiracy theorists. Astoundingly, the Facebook event, originally called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” received 2.1 million pledges from people saying they would show up—along with another 1.5 million people who said they were “interested.”

Needless to say, the U.S. Air Force, which is responsible for the site, told people trying to overrun a government installation would be the opposite of a good idea. Still, the event was scheduled for today, September 20, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time.

Unfortunately for those hoping to see the raid go through (which its event creators later said was only a joke), the raid has not happened. Instead, the Facebook page has been changed to promote an “Official Alienstock Tour“–like Woodstock for alien lovers, which the event’s creators hope to hold in 2020.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some enterprising YouTubers from running fake live streams of the Area 51 raid that is supposedly happening right now. And some of these supposed live streams have already racked up hundreds of thousands of views.

Alas, the live streams are indeed fake. Unless that’s what the government just wants you to believe . . .

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Amazon plans to have 100,000 electric delivery vans on the road by 2030

Amazon plans to have 100,000 electric delivery vans on the road by 2030

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has revealed that his company has placed an order for 100,000 electric delivery vans from Michigan-based electric vehicle company Rivian. Amazon says its order of 100,000 vehicles is the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles. It is just one of the ways Amazon pledged on Thursday to help combat climate change.

Amazon says that the goal with the vans is to have all 100,000 of them on the road by 2030. Yes, that’s a decade away, but the company will begin the Rivian van rollout much earlier—in 2021. By 2022, Amazon says it hopes to have 10,000 of the vehicles on the road. And once all 100,000 hit the roads by 2030, Amazon says it will save 4 million metric tons of carbon per year.

The announcement was made as part of Amazon’s Climate Pledge, which sets the goal of meeting the historic Paris Agreement 10 years early—by the year 2040. Bezos says that by 2030 it wants Amazon running on 100% renewable energy, and by 2040 it wants the company to be a net-zero carbon producer. The Paris Agreement’s goal is for companies and countries to hit these metrics by 2050.

Announcing its new set of climate action plans, Bezos said:

We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference. If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon—which delivers more than 10 billion items a year—can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can. I’ve been talking with other CEOs of global companies, and I’m finding a lot of interest in joining the pledge. Large companies signing The Climate Pledge will send an important signal to the market that it’s time to invest in the products and services the signatories will need to meet their commitments.

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Trump met with Mark Zuckerberg at the White House and posted about it . . . on Twitter

Trump met with Mark Zuckerberg at the White House and posted about it . . . on Twitter

The Facebook CEO met with the president at the White House on Thursday, reports CNBC. During the meeting, the president posed for a photo with Zuckerberg and then bragged about the “nice” meeting the two had . . . in a Twitter post. To be fair, Trump also included a link in the tweet to the same image on Facebook—still, everyone knows his platform of choice is not Zuckerberg’s.

The meeting is significant because Trump is a longtime critic of Facebook, and the social media giant has increasingly been coming under the scrutiny of lawmakers. It’s for that reason that Zuckerberg was actually in Washington yesterday. Besides meeting with Trump, the Facebook CEO also met with a number of other lawmakers including Senator Josh Hawley and Senator Mark Warner.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed Zuckerberg’s trip to the capital saying, “Mark is in Washington, D.C., meeting with policymakers to hear their concerns and talk about future internet regulation. He also had a good, constructive meeting with President Trump at the White House today.”

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Twitter will now let you hide the replies of other users

Twitter will now let you hide the replies of other users
[Photo: Jacob Townsend/Unsplash]

Twitter has announced that it is rolling out its anticipated “Hide Replies” feature in the U.S. and Japan today. The feature was originally announced back in February and rolled out in a testing phase for Canadian users earlier this year. Twitter says the U.S. and Japanese rollout is an extension of that test—but they are essentially making it a feature as it’s available to all users in both countries.

A user can hide any other user’s reply to their tweet by tapping or clicking the drop-down arrow on the tweet and then selecting “Hide Reply.” It is important to note that this does not delete the other person’s tweet, instead their tweet is hidden from view from anyone who views your tweet that the user replied to.

[Animation: courtesy of Twitter]
However, other Twitter users can choose to see replies you’ve hidden by selecting a new “hidden replies” button on your original tweet. This button will appear on your original tweet once you’ve hidden at least one reply. When a user selects this option, they’ll be shown a separate replies list with all the replies you’ve hidden.

[Animation: courtesy of Twitter]
By adding the “Hide Reply” feature, Twitter is trying to make the platform a less toxic place. In its early tests of the feature, Twitter said, “People mostly hide replies that they think are irrelevant, abusive, or unintelligible” and that “27% of people who had their tweets hidden said they would reconsider how they interact with others in the future.”

There are of course concerns that the feature could be used to silence users who are, for example, replying to a tweet to correct misinformation in the original tweet, but as the new feature lets users choose to see hidden tweets, that concern is somewhat mitigated.

In its early tests of the feature, Twitter concluded: “The feature helped people have better conversations, and was a useful tool against replies that deterred from the person’s original intent.”

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A football field-size asteroid snuck up on NASA and almost hit the Earth

A football field-size asteroid snuck up on NASA and almost hit the Earth
[Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Scientists think the Earth is overdue for a reboot of Armageddon, or rather they think the planet is just about due for another massive asteroid strike like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. Those scientists who may or may not also be Bruce Willis enthusiasts almost got their wish when an asteroid about the size of a football field hurtled just 40,400 miles over Earth in late July. It was the largest space rock to come so close in a century.

But perhaps more alarming than the flyby itself is how much it caught NASA by surprise. “This one did sneak up on us,” one NASA expert wrote in an internal email, according to internal agency documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The asteroid, given the name 2019 OK, as if to reassure the astronomers, was a near-miss space-wise, whizzing past at a distance that is roughly five times closer to Earth than the moon—and thank the stars it did miss. “If 2019 OK had entered and disrupted in Earth’s atmosphere over land, the blast wave could have created localized devastation to an area roughly 50 miles across,” according to a news release that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent out when they finally noticed the giant rock hurtling at our planet.

“This object slipped through a whole series of our capture nets,” Paul Chodas of JPL wrote in an email obtained by BuzzFeed two days after the asteroid zipped past, noting that it was a “sneaky” little space rock.

While NASA had some excuses for why it missed it, this is not a great start for the much ballyhooed Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), whose purpose was to “find and characterize asteroids and comets that pass near Earth’s orbit around the sun” and then send Bruce Willis up to blast it (or so we think).

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Here’s why YouTube is stripping some users of verification badges

Here’s why YouTube is stripping some users of verification badges
[Photo: Szabo Viktor/Unsplash]

YouTube is changing its verification program, including updating the look and the eligibility requirements, the company announced today.

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The way it works now is verified channels have checkmarks beside their names, and Official Artist Channels have music notes.

“Through our research, we found that viewers often associated the checkmark with an endorsement of content, not identity,” the company writes in its blog. “To reduce confusion about what being verified means, we’re introducing a new look that helps distinguish the official channel of the creator, celebrity or brand it represents.”

Until now, channels that boasted 100,000-plus subscribers could be verified “regardless of need for proof of authenticity,” YouTube explains. However, as YouTube grew, changes had to be made, the company says. Under the new rules, the secret sauce for verification includes several criteria, such as whether a channel really belongs to the person or company it claims to represent and how prominent the channel is. For instance, is it well known beyond the YouTube-verse, does it have a strong online presence, and does it have a name very similar to that of other channels?

Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, could not be reached for comment about whether an appeals process will be put in place for the de-badged and, if so, what it will entail.

Though today’s announcement said the changes were coming late next month, YouTube seems to have already started notifying users of its unverification spree.

YouTube star Jaack Maate tweeted that he was informed he was losing his verified badge, though “I have over a million subscribers and have been creating content for 11 years mate.”

Also on the to-be-stripped list is Mathew Ingram, who writes about digital media for the Columbia Journalism Review. He tweeted that he “almost never” uses his YouTube channel, but “[k]ind of offended TBH.”

YouTube maintains that the stricter rules are to help viewers.

“[A]s YouTube has grown and the ecosystem has become more complex, we needed a new way to verify the identity of channels and help users find the official channel they’re looking for,” the company writes. “Our new criteria prioritizes verifying prominent channels that have a clear need for proof of authenticity.”

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Bacardi just found the best use for plastic straws ever—turn them into vinyl records

Bacardi just found the best use for plastic straws ever—turn them into vinyl records
[Photo: Kobu Agency/Unsplash; titidianita/Pixabay]

Normally, if your record sucks, that’s a bad thing. (Just ask Jet!) But now, thanks to a collaboration between Bacardi and Lonely Whale, if your record sucks, it’s a good thing—at least for the planet.

The spirits company has teamed up with the anti-plastic warriors for the Straw Vinyl program, which takes old straws and spins them into limited-edition vinyl records, like if Rumpelstiltskin started reading Pitchfork. The first two artists to sign on to the project are Major Lazer and Anitta, who are eager for their music to stop sucking and have signed on to the cause with their summer anthem “Make It Hot.” One hundred percent of the proceeds from the “Make It Hot” vinyl will go to Lonely Whale, to help ensure a future that doesn’t suck. The limited-edition vinyl records will be available for purchase on Giving Tuesday, December 3, on LonelyWhale.com.

Folks attending the Life Is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas this weekend (September 20-22) will get a glimpse of the new upcycled records at Bacardi’s takeover of the Art Motel, which will dedicate one room to Lonely Whale and #TheFutureDoesntSuck campaign where they can sign the pledge to eliminate single-use plastic straws. Starting in November, straw collection bins will be available at 55 partner bars where eco-minded drinkers can chuck their straws to create more fodder for their record collections—and raise awareness about the problems with single-use plastics.

This is just the latest front in Bacardi’s multiyear partnership with Lonely Whale in their bid to rid the world of one billion single-use plastic straws by the year 2020.

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USDA lets pig farms self-regulate: What could possibly go wrong?

USDA lets pig farms self-regulate: What could possibly go wrong?
[Photo: Matthias Zomer/Pexels]

There have been a lot of food recalls in the last year, ranging from turkey to Hy-vee meat products to ground beef to all kinds of Tyson chicken products, so you might think any changes in raw meat processing would be to make sure that consumers are safe, right?

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Instead, the USDA’s new rules are focused on making the euphemistically named “hog processing” industry faster than ever. According to Reuters, the new rules mean companies can slaughter pigs as quickly as they want, “based on their ability to prevent fecal contamination and minimize bacteria.” (Um, gross on so many levels.)

As Modern Farmer points out, the new rules mean workers can “process more hogs per hour than ever before” and gives pork processing plants the power to regulate themselves to a certain extent, including “removing sick hogs from the processing lines.” Under old rules, as a pig was “disassembled,” government inspectors were required to be present to monitor the process, rejecting live animals that seemed sick or parts of a carcass that looked sketchy. That is no longer the case under the new rule, where pork companies can hire their own people to inspect the pork, a rule change that watchdog group Food and Water Watch says will increase the risk of both foodborne pathogens and worker injuries.

In September, the Trump administration approved faster processing for poultry and is reportedly considering reforming the regulations for beef, too.

The supposed pork farm modernization rules have been in the works for years, and a program piloting the new rules has proven very problematic. Back in 2012, the Office of the Inspector General found that the USDA was not sufficiently monitoring the program, and according to the Washington Post, eventually launched a still-ongoing probe into whether the agency was actively concealing data from the pilot facilities. There may be good reason for hiding results: it may not work very well. As Modern Farmer notes, the rules change is even stranger because “the pilot program facilities did not achieve speeds notably higher than the non-pilot facilities.”

Plus, there’s evidence that letting pork processors monitor themselves means they don’t really monitor anything. A former USDA hog inspector told the Washington Post that when “all the power gets handed over to the plant,” inspections fall to the wayside.

If that’s not enough to turn your stomach, this might be: The facilities in the pilot program have also been filmed horribly mistreating hogs. The news is causing lots of social media commentators to consider going vegetarian, and with all the plant-based meats—and you know, plants—out there, you may not miss it.

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Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is prepping for ‘The Big One’

Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is prepping for ‘The Big One’
Patrick Byrne [Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images]

Former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has sold all of his stock in the company in order to avoid the reach of the so-called Deep State and to prepare for a potential crippling recession, he said in an open letter to employees of the company.

Byrne, who resigned after revealing he’d had an affair with convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, said he was concerned that the Deep State would try to punish him for unspecified potential future revelations by going after Overstock. Byrne sold the stock for about $90 million, MarketWatch reports.

“You think me controversial now, but you ain’t seen nothing yet,” Byrne wrote. “I know enough to fry the Deep State to ashes. The Deep State and the oligarchy are entwined, and they won’t die quietly.”

Additionally, Byrne wrote, he wanted to shift his funds to assets like cryptocurrency and precious metals that would do well in an economic crisis. In the event of a major recession, he wrote, he’d be in a position to funnel that money back into Overstock. He’s also taking care to keep the funds out of the Deep State’s reach.

“The gold and silver are stored outside of the United States, in Switzerland, and within two weeks, will be scattered in other locations that are even more outside of the reach of the Deep State, but are places that are safe for me,” he wrote. “The crypto is stored in the place where all crypto is stored: in mathematical mist, behind long keys held only in the memory of someone who is quite good at storing such things in memory (with paper backups in the hands of a priest I met 35 years ago who never sits foot in the West).”

Byrne has long been a big promoter of blockchain tech. Overstock is planning for a special dividend that would give existing shareholders special securities that can be traded on a blockchain-based trading platform affiliated with Overstock.

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