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  • 6:10 pm

Watch AOC leave Mark Zuckerberg speechless on the topic of Facebook’s political ad rules

Watch AOC leave Mark Zuckerberg speechless on the topic of Facebook’s political ad rules
[Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images]

Facebook’s controversial (yet only mildly interesting) Libra cryptocurrency plans brought Mark Zuckerberg before the House Financial Services Committee today, but the chief executive’s testimony took a startlingly android-y turn during an exchange with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Fielding questions on Facebook’s advertising policies, Zuckerberg stated that while the company does not allow “voter suppression” ads, such as an ad that promotes a false election date, Facebook does allow politicians to pay to promote lies—at least in some scenarios. When pressed by Ocasio-Cortez on whether she could falsely advertise that, say, Republicans supported Green New Deal legislation under Facebook’s current rules, a fitful Zuckerberg responded that he did not know.

You can watch the full, five-and-a-half minute exchange via the video embedded below.

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  • 6:07 pm

Tesla stock skyrockets on stellar earnings and Gigafactory Shanghai news

Tesla stock skyrockets on stellar earnings and Gigafactory Shanghai news
[Photo: Tesla]

The market is responding well to Tesla‘s third-quarter earnings report, released this afternoon after the bell.

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The revved-up stock was $298.30, up $43.62 or 17.13%, in after-hours trading.

Tesla reported total revenues of $6.3 billion in its third quarter, which ended September 30, compared to $6.8 billion this time last year.

The Palo Alto, California-based company’s adjusted net income was $342 million with adjusted earnings per share of $1.91. For the third quarter of 2018, it was $516 million and $3.02, respectively.

FactSet analysts had forecast a 46 cent loss per share and $6.43 billion in revenues.

“Last year, our story was about ramping the Model 3. While total volumes are expected to grow by approximately 50% in 2019, this year our focus has been cost control and preparing for our next phase of growth,” Tesla said in a statement. “Despite reductions in the average selling price of Model 3 as global mix stabilizes, our gross margins have strengthened. Additionally, operating expenses are at the lowest level since Model 3 production started.”

The company also pointed out that its Gigafactory Shanghai is ahead of schedule as is trial production of the Model Y, with production expected to start by next summer.

Tesla saw record vehicle production—96,000—and deliveries of 97,000 vehicles.

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  • 5:07 pm

Wacky robot hotel admits its bedside cameras could have exposed guests to peeping hackers

Wacky robot hotel admits its bedside cameras could have exposed guests to peeping hackers
[Photo: Flickr user dalai_alana]

Japan’s famous Henn na Hotel—the one known for quirky antics like dinosaur receptionists and robot staff “layoffs”—says there was “very little risk” that its guests could’ve been spied on via one of its bedside robots. No biggie.

The hotel chain admitted on its website last week that it recently pulled, updated, and reinstalled the 100 egg-shaped Tapia robots included in rooms at its location near the Tokyo Disney Resort (Google translation here). According to the hotel, as well as a story by the Tokyo Reporter, the chain was contacted in July by security engineer Lance R. Vick about an NFC-related vulnerability. The hotel didn’t respond, and so Vick tweeted it out after 90 days, warning that the bedside robots “can be converted to offer anyone remote camera/mic access to all future guests.” Lovely.

The hotel chain released an apology, stating that “as a result of [its] investigation, it was confirmed that no unauthorized applications were installed,” and that “all of the countermeasures against the unauthorized access method […] have been completed” (Translations: Google).

However teeny the risk may have been for guests, this vulnerability—together with the chain’s apparent inaction and indifference—seems good enough reason for travelers to skip the Henn na Hotel entirely. Besides that, according to some reviews for the hotel on TripAdvisor, the robots seem to be entirely useless in practice.

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  • 4:49 pm

How to watch the 2019 World Series live on Fox or YouTube TV without cable

How to watch the 2019 World Series live on Fox or YouTube TV without cable
[Photo: Elsa/Getty Images]

Look, ever since 90 Day Fiancé came on the air, it’s hard to make the case that baseball is still America’s national pastime. But there is at least one week every year when Americans pay attention to the century-old sport, and that’s this week. The 2019 World Series is in full swing as the Washington Nationals face off against the Houston Astros, hoping to bring the D.C. franchise its first-ever World Series victory.

For anyone keeping score, the Astros are already down one game, having lost to Washington last night. The series has at least three more games to go, beginning tonight with Game 2 and possibly continuing all the way through next Wednesday. Here’s the remaining schedule:

  • Wednesday, October 23: Game 2 at Houston, 8 p.m. ET
  • Friday, October 25: Game 3 at Washington, 8 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, October 26: Game 4 at Washington, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 27:  Game 5  (if necessary) at Washington, 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 29: Game 6  (if necessary) at Houston, 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 30: Game 7  (if necessary) at Houston, 8 p.m.

All the games will air on the Fox broadcast network. For cord cutters who want to stream all the action on their phones, devices, or TVs, you’ll need access to Fox or YouTube TV, which is the presenting sponsor of the World Series this year. I’ve rounded up some choices below. Play ball!

  • Streaming services: Standalone services that include the Fox broadcast network as part of a bundle include Hulu With Live TVYouTube TVPlayStation Vue, and FuboTV. These services are easy to cancel and usually offer a week free. YouTube TV is a presentation partner for the World Series this year. More on that here.
  • Fox Now apps: Mobile apps on iOS or Android let you watch Fox live, but you’ll need login credentials from a pay-TV provider to watch this way.
  • Fox’s website: You can stream Fox directly on its website, but this also requires a login with a pay-TV provider.
  • Locast: This nonprofit service lets you stream over-the-air networks for free in select cities. Find it here.
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  • 2:54 pm

GOP storming House impeachment hearings wasn’t just a dumb stunt. It was a security breach

GOP storming House impeachment hearings wasn’t just a dumb stunt. It was a security breach
[Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]

A band of Republicans with a theatrical bent have stormed the room where the House Intelligence Committee is holding its impeachment hearings. Questioning of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was halted and remains halted as Republicans, led by Florida representative Matt Gaetz, remain in the room eating pizza, according to CNN.

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The real reason the hearings have been halted may have more to do with security than with political showmanship, protocol break, and general rudeness. The Democrat-led committee meets in a secure room called a SCIF, or security compartmented information facility. As one former SCIF employee notes on Twitter, all who enter to hear testimony must leave their phone in a locker outside the room.

That’s because cellphones are considered “high value” targets for foreign intelligence agents. “Foreign adversaries are constantly trying to figure out what goes on inside those rooms to figure out what the US knows about them, to out US high-level sources in their governments, to know what the US government knows and use it against us,” tweets Mieke Eoyang, who once worked in the same secure hearing room for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Eoyang explains that, after a security breach happens, a set of countermeasures must be completed to make sure the room hasn’t been compromised. That costs time and taxpayer money.

“. . . in “storming the SCIF” without observing the security protocols, Rep. Gaetz et al, endangered our national security and demonstrated they care more about a political stunt than protecting intelligence information,” Eoyang tweets. “I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is.”

The military also uses SCIFs for sensitive hearings. If someone enters a military SCIF with a potential listening device, it’s considered treason.

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FAO Schwarz is opening two stores in Europe. Yes, you can dance on the pianos

FAO Schwarz is expanding across the pond.

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The legendary toy store opened a location at Selfridges in London yesterday, and it will open another at Arnotts in Dublin next Tuesday.

The news comes 11 months after the brand reestablished itself in Manhattan with a Rockefeller Center store; its famous flagship store on Fifth Avenue was shuttered in July 2015. And in May, FAO Schwarz set up shop in Beijing.

Both of the new European stores will include features that fans of the brand know well, like baby-doll adoptions, a dance-on piano, a clock tower, and the “FAO Schweetz” candy shop.

“The opening of these flagships and expansion in Europe further exemplifies FAO Schwarz as a global kids lifestyle brand,” Jan-Eric Kloth, COO of ThreeSixty Group, owners of FAO Schwarz, said in a statement. “FAO Schwarz has proven time and again that our in-store experiences are key to creating a memorable visit filled with wonderment and excitement for kids of all ages. We are so excited to bring this larger than life experience that FAO Schwarz has to offer for over 150 years, to Europe.”

The brand has experienced tremendous ups and downs in the years since Frederick August Otto Schwarz, who’d immigrated from Germany to the U.S., launched his toy business in 1862.

ThreeSixty bought FAO Schwarz in 2016 from Toys “R” Us, which had owned it since 2009. D.E. Shaw acquired parts of the then-parent company, FAO Inc., in 2004. FAO Inc. had filed for bankruptcy the previous year.

FAO Schwarz was once one of the most recognized toy sellers in the U.S., but by the start of the 21st century, its old-world charm—a lure for both youngsters and the young at heart—couldn’t seem to keep up with competitors, which sold toys for lower prices and online. While the storied Manhattan location remained a major tourist draw—and relied on what today is called experiential retail years before it became an industry buzzword—the overall demand for its high-end toys shrunk.

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  • 1:10 pm

Watch Mark Zuckerberg defend letting politicians lie on Facebook to Maxine Waters

Watch Mark Zuckerberg defend letting politicians lie on Facebook to Maxine Waters
[Photos: Anthony Quintano/Wikimedia Commons; Mika/Unsplash]

Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee today is not going as smoothly as a video of a puppy cuddling with a baby on Facebook.

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Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters, a Democratic Congresswoman from California, drilled down about the social media platform’s stance on political ads—and their truthfulness. That line of tough questioning led the Facebook CEO to defend letting politicians lie on Facebook.

“Are you telling me . . . you plan on doing no fact-checking on political ads?” Waters asked.

“Our policy is that we do not fact-check politicians’ speech . . . We believe that in a democracy, it is important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying,” he replied.

Waters also brought up the question of whether Facebook should be broken up. The main focus of the hearing is Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency Libra. It began at 10 a.m. ET with Zuckerberg as the sole witness.

On Monday, Facebook announced plans to curb election interference, including fighting foreign interference and reducing misinformation.

You can watch the key part of the exchange in the embedded video below:

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  • 9:56 am

These are the 5 best and 5 worst states for online privacy

These are the 5 best and 5 worst states for online privacy
[Photos: Kaitlyn Baker/Unsplash; Scott Webb/Unsplash]

Online privacy is probably the hottest topic in tech right now–and that’s not going to change any time soon. Tech giants including Facebook and Google are increasingly under scrutiny from regulators and privacy campaigners over how they use our private data. While large political blocs, like the European Union, have passed comprehensive privacy laws, in the United States, such laws can vary greatly based on which state you live in.

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That’s why Comparitech, a reviews and comparison site, has released the results of its latest study into how online privacy laws in the 50 U.S. states compare. They ranked each state based on twenty metrics including everything from laws protecting the information of young people to laws regarding e-reader privacy.

The state that fared the best–that is, offers the highest degrees of online privacy protections enshrined in law–is California, coming in with a score of 75%. That 75% rating is leagues higher than the second-best state, Delaware, at 55%. As for why California ranked so highly, Comparitech said:

California has enacted many laws for specific privacy issues that other states ignore. What’s more, the state has also created what the ACLU called the most comprehensive digital privacy law in the nation. California is the only state to mention an inalienable right to privacy in its state constitution. It’s also the only state to enact a law that specifically protects data gathered from the internet-of-things.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act prevents any law enforcement or investigative entity from forcing a company to give up electronic data or communications without a warrant. This includes cloud data, metadata, emails, text messages, location data and device searches. Although other states have similar laws protecting some of these forms of data, California has so far been the only state to protect it all.

The state that ranked the worst was Wyoming, which only garnered a 5% rating. As for why, Comparitech says “While not all states have shield laws to protect journalists from exposing their sources, Wyoming is the only state that doesn’t even have a court precedent for doing so. Companies are not required to dispose of users’ personal data after a set period of time, and employers are not barred from forcing employees to hand over passwords to social media accounts.”

Overall, the top 5 states that have the best online privacy protections (state/rank) are:

  1. California – 75%
  2. Delaware – 55%
  3. Utah – 45%
  4. Illinois – 40%
  5. Arkansas – 35%

And the top 5 sates that have the worst online privacy protections (state/rank):

  1. Wyoming – 5%
  2. Mississippi – 10%
  3. Idaho – 10%
  4. Pennsylvania – 10%
  5. Iowa – 10%

You can check out how every state ranks on Comparitech’s charts in their blog post.

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  • 7:21 am

Google says it’s achieved ‘quantum supremacy,’ but IBM says nope

Google says it’s achieved ‘quantum supremacy,’ but IBM says nope
[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Quantum computing is the next frontier of computing that promises to upend what we think a computer is capable of. The term comes from the fact that a quantum computer relies on properties of quantum physics to perform calculations using what are called qubits, or quantum bits. This contrasts with the classical computers we use today, including everything from our current supercomputers to the smartphones in our pocket. Classical computers rely on properties of classical physics and perform calculations using the bits we all know and love.

Quantum computers, in theory, will be able to perform calculations in seconds that would take a normal classical computer—even classical supercomputers—tens of thousands of years to perform. Because of this, quantum computers will revolutionize everything from medicine to encryption—so it’s no wonder nation-states across the world are in an arms race to build the first practical quantum computers.

Major companies involved in the quantum computing race include Google and IBM. And as of today, Google has announced that it’s in the lead above all others. The company published a paper in the journal Nature where it claims it has achieved “quantum supremacy”—that is, it has created a computer that can perform something no classical computer ever could. As the Verge reports, the search giant says its 54-qubit processor, known as Sycamore, performed a task (which was generating random numbers) in just 200 seconds. This same task, Google says, would have taken the most powerful supercomputer in the world today 10,000 years to complete.

But quantum computing competitor IBM quickly published a blog post disputing Google’s quantum supremacy claim:

Recent advances in quantum computing have resulted in two 53-qubit processors: one from our group in IBM and a device described in the leaked preprint from Google. In the preprint, it is argued that their device reached “quantum supremacy” and that “a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task.” We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity. This is in fact a conservative, worst-case estimate, and we expect that with additional refinements the classical cost of the simulation can be further reduced.

IBM goes on to say that since a classical computer could do in two and a half days what Google’s quantum computer did in 200 seconds, Google has not achieved quantum supremacy.

So who’s correct? We’ll have to leave that up to the computer scientists of the world to decide. Now that Google’s paper has been published in Nature, experts will have a chance to scrutinize Google’s claims and methods. The only sure thing is that the quantum computer wars are only starting to heat up.

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  • 1:34 am

Disney’s Iger: Marvel movies aren’t ‘less’ than Scorsese, Coppola classics

Disney’s Iger: Marvel movies aren’t ‘less’ than Scorsese, Coppola classics
[Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images WSJ. Magazine]

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger fired back at filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola for their recent criticisms of Disney’s Marvel movies.

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It started when Scorsese told Empire magazine in early October that the Marvel movies, like Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, are more like theme parks than films. The Marvel superhero films are “not cinema,” he said.

A Twitter furor ensued, and then flared up again on Sunday when Francis Ford Coppola told journalists in Lyon, France that Scorsese was putting it lightly. “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema,” Coppola said. “He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Iger was asked to weigh in at the Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California Tuesday night, and he did, with gusto.

“Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese are people I hold in the highest regard in terms of the films they’ve made, the films I’ve liked, the films we’ve all watched,” he began.

“But when Francis uses the words ‘those films are despicable,’ I’d reserve the word ‘despicable’ for someone who had committed mass murder,” Iger said, clearly chagrined.

He continued: “I don’t get what they’re criticizing us for when we’re making films that people are obviously enjoying going to and they’re doing so by the millions.”

The Disney CEO pointed out that the Marvel films, which are blockbusters, make lots of money throughout the film distribution system, which allows distributors and theaters to show smaller films that don’t have as big an audience.

Disney has been distributing the Marvel Studios movies since 2012. Marvel Studios was integrated into Walt Disney Studios in 2015. Disney has invested heavily in a series of Marvel shows for its new Disney+ streaming service, which will launch November 12.

Then Iger really got going.

“I’m puzzled by it,” Iger said of Scorsese’s and Coppola’s comments. “If they want to bitch about movies it’s certainly their right. It seems so disrespectful to all the people who work on those films who are working just as hard as the people who are working on their films and are putting their creative souls on the line just like they are.”

And probably went too far . . .

“Are you telling me that Ryan Coogler making Black Panther is doing something that somehow or another is less than anything Marty Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola have ever done on any one of their movies? Come on,” Iger said.

That could be taken to mean that the Marvel movies are as good as classics like The Godfather and Taxi Driver, or, at the very least, that Coogler’s direction of Black Panther is as good as Scorsese’s and Coppola’s in any of their movies.

Iger had some spicy comments on other subjects, too:

    • Asked to comment on the current feuds between American multinationals like the NBA and Apple with China, Iger said: “The biggest thing I’ve learned from that situation is that caution is imperative . . . I’m not going to be baited into taking a position at all.”
    • He revealed that “Mickey Mouse Through The Years” will be a category in the new Disney+ streaming service.
    • He’s not big on algorithms. “I spent two hours today, alone, playing with the Disney+ app and it seemed a little too algorithmically dependent,” Iger said. He explained that algorithms should be used to personalize video suggestions based on the user’s past selections, but not to calculate what people might like without their input. 
    • Iger has said he intends to retire in 2021. Asked for clues on who his successor might be he would say only that “choosing somebody who can recognize and adapt to change is going to be an important quality,” adding: “We are discussing it on a regular basis.”

Iger then left the stage, and walked out through the opulent seaside Mirage hotel surrounded by bodyguards.

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Amazon’s Fire TV users will be able to stream their news for free

Amazon’s Fire TV users will be able to stream their news for free
[Photo: Amazon]

Amazon is joining the free streaming news wars with a new app for its Fire TV devices. The free app, simply called News, will let users pick their favorite sources from a list that includes CBS News, Reuters, Bloomberg, Sports Illustrated, People, and more. After choosing some sources, the app will automatically run a custom playlist of stories, which users can skip through with the Fire TV remote or Alexa voice commands. The app will also have sections for live news, trending topics, and categories.

A lot of these sources are already streaming on other platforms. On Roku, for instance, the free Roku Channel app includes live feeds from Yahoo News, Cheddar, and Newsy, among others, while Viacom’s Pluto TV app includes CBS, Bloomberg, and Cheddar among its news channels. The main difference with Amazon’s app is personalization, and while we’ve seen some attempts at personalized news on apps such as Haystack TV and Plex, Amazon’s app will have the advantage of being front and center on millions of Fire TV streaming devices.

Amazon says the News app will roll out gradually for U.S. users over the next few weeks, and it will appear in the “Your Apps and Channels” row on the home screen.

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Despite Abigail Disney’s criticism, Bob Iger still seems fine with his giant pay package

Despite Abigail Disney’s criticism, Bob Iger still seems fine with his giant pay package
[Photo: hyku/Wikimedia Commons]

Disney boss and fat paycheck-haver Bob Iger believes “the whole subject of income inequality is very, very real.” Iger acknowledged the haves and have-nots at a Vanity Fair event today in Beverly Hills, where the executive defended the $66 million compensation package he received last year in exchange for sticking around the Frozen factory a tad longer.

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The CEO was asked by Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones about his 2018 payout, his stance on whether “excessive wealth” is “corrosive to democracy,” as well as whether he’d back the sort of taxation proposals coming from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. First, Iger joked about passing the question to filmmaker Jon Favreau—then, he proceeded to talk around it.

Iger described his compensation as “a one-time grant” connected to the “responsibilities” he took on in the merger of Disney and Fox. He said, “It’s not something that repeats itself year after year,” and “I was given that because I was leaving Disney this year, and I was given that as part of an agreement for me to stay three years.”

The award ballooned his pay to 1,424 times the income of the median Disney worker, according to a report by Equilar. The payout even won a public critique from Abigail Disney, the filmmaker and granddaughter of Roy Disney, who called the compensation “insane” at Fast Company‘s first Impact Council event in April.

“When he got his bonus last year, I did the math, and I figured out that he could have given personally, out of pocket, a 15% raise to everyone who worked at Disneyland, and still walked away with $10 million,” said Disney (Iger, of course, did not). “So there’s a point at which there’s just too much going around the top of the system into this class of people who—I’m sorry this is radical—have too much money. There is such a thing.”

On one hand, we have the pot calling the kettle black. On the other, if an heir to an entertainment fortune is publicly put off by your pay package, perhaps it’s time to just come out and own your role in perpetuating systemic inequality. (Iger, of course, did not.)

“I happen to believe that the whole subject of income inequality is very, very real,” said Iger. The Disney CEO went on to promote the company’s free education initiatives and added that “companies like Disney have a responsibility to step up and do their part.” Iger said he supports “look[ing] at taxation in general as a country” and said he wants the U.S. to “figure out if there’s a tax plan that makes sense that transfers more wealth from a small set of individuals to a larger set of individuals.”

On second thought, the words “if” and “makes sense” make Iger’s position on the matter pretty clear.

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Chipotle’s stock jumps after sales and earnings deliciously beat expectations

Chipotle’s stock jumps after sales and earnings deliciously beat expectations
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

Investors are feasting on Chipotle Mexican Grill this afternoon after the restaurant chain reported its third-quarter earnings, beating estimates on earnings per share and same-store sales and falling about in line with revenue forecasts. Here are the key numbers from the release:

  • Revenue: up 14.6% to $1.4 billion
  • Comparable restaurant sales: up 11%
  • Digital sales: up 87.9%, accounting for 18.3% of sales
  • Diluted EPS: $3.47
  • Openings: 25 new restaurants

Analysts had expected earnings per share of $3.16 on revenue of $1.38 billion, according to a consensus estimate cited by Investor’s Business Daily. Same-store sales were expected to rise 9.3%.

Chipotle’s stock jumped 2.3% in after-hours trading to $845. Some analysts predicted that shares could top the $1,000 mark after today’s earnings, as CNBC reported. Alas, that won’t be the case for now.

Still, Chipotle has generally been on an upswing over the last few years thanks to upgrades in its digital ordering technology, new menu items, and a brand refresh aimed at leaving its much-publicized food-safety crisis in the rearview mirror. Shares were already trading at around $826 earlier today, more than double what they were in the rock-bottom days of early 2018.

You can check out the full earnings release here. Or, if you’re hungry (for some reason), skip it and grab yourself a burrito.

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Report: Facebook usage drops a stunning 26% since 2017

Report: Facebook usage drops a stunning 26% since 2017
[Photo: Sherise Van Dyk/Unsplash]

A new research report from Activate Inc. says we’re spending much less time on Facebook than we used to.

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In 2017, Americans spent 14 hours per month on average on the social media site, and that number had dropped 26% to 9 hours per month in 2019, Activate CEO and cofounder Michael Wolf said today at the Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California.

[Image: courtesy of Activate]
Facebook is still way ahead of all its competitors in terms of membership numbers. It has more than 2 billion users worldwide. But the idea that those people are spending less time on the site could mean a lot to big brands that spend hundreds of millions to advertise on Facebook.

Several researchers, including eMarketer, have also tracked the movement of younger users (12-34) away from Facebook and toward services like Instagram (which Facebook owns), Snapchat, and TikTok.

Facebook also has a serious consumer trust issue after misusing private user data and, for years, being less than forthcoming about how it uses personal data in its advertising operation. The government is now looking closely at Facebook and its various businesses and considering reining in the massive company via new regulations. Politicians like Elizabeth Warren have called for the government to break up Facebook.

Wolf said that Facebook won’t be disrupted and defeated by a single, similar company. Rather, a number of smaller and more focused communities will systematically skim off more and more of the time people spend on the general-purpose Facebook social network.

[Image: courtesy of Activate]
Activate says people in the U.S. now belong to an average of 5.8 social networks, and projects that number will rise to more than 10 social networks by 2023.

For instance, Wolf cited smaller social networks such as High There (cannabis smoking), Wattpad (fiction reading and writing), and Product Hunt (technology).

Facebook may realize this. The trend toward niche social networks may be one reason the company has been promoting private Facebook groups as a big part of its future.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Spotify users: Here’s how to claim your free Google Home Mini

Spotify users: Here’s how to claim your free Google Home Mini
[Photo: Kevin Bhagat/Unsplash]

For a while last year, Spotify was giving away free Google Home Mini speakers to its Spotify Premium for Family subscribers. Now, it’s bringing back the offer and extending it to individual plans, even if you’re already a subscriber.

The Google Home Mini, which can play music, control smart home devices, and provide information in response to voice commands, lists for $50, though it’s often on sale for less. The Spotify tie-in effectively brings the price down to $10 if you’re not paying for the streaming music service already.

To claim the smart speaker, do the following:

  • Head to Spotify’s Premium or Family landing page.
  • Then, either sign up or click the “Get your Google Home Mini” link if you’re already a subscriber.
  • You should receive a code to redeem in Google’s online store.
  • The deal’s available until November 15 or while supplies last.

Keep in mind that this is not the Nest Mini with better bass that Google announced last week, and if you already claimed a free speaker last year, you won’t be able to get another one. Same goes with users who have a student discount or who are paying through a third-party billing system, such as iTunes or a cable provider.

Also worth noting: Amazon is offering its own Echo Dot speaker for $1 with a month of its Amazon Music Unlimited service, but only for new subscribers. Why Google isn’t doing the same with its own YouTube Music or Google Play Music services is anybody’s guess.

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This alarming map of ransomware attacks shows a growing problem for U.S. government agencies

This alarming map of ransomware attacks shows a growing problem for U.S. government agencies
[Photo: Andras Vas/Unsplash]

Ransomware attacks that crippled government computers in cities like Atlanta and Baltimore have drawn national attention, but a new map from StateScoop shows hundreds of state and local government agencies have faced ransomware problems in recent years.

Ransomware attacks generally encrypt data and lock down computers until a ransom demand is met. Depending on the exact technology used, it may or may not be possible to remove the malware and restore data without paying the ransom.

StateScoop, which covers state and local government technology issues, plans to continue to update the interactive map with new attacks as they happen. Almost 100 ransomware attacks have affected state and local governments, including school districts and higher education institutions, so far this year, compared to 51 reported in 2018, StateScoop reports.

IT experts say cities and other entities should keep systems patched and instruct users on how to avoid accidentally downloading malware from phishing emails and other sources. They should also keep carefully isolated backups of data in case it’s necessary to restore from ransomware or other disasters.

You can check out the map here.

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Lyft stock skyrockets after company says it will actually be profitable in 2021

Lyft stock skyrockets after company says it will actually be profitable in 2021
[Photo: Austin Distel/Unsplash]

Ride-hailing company Lyft will be profitable in the last quarter of 2021, cofounders Logan Green and John Zimmer said Tuesday at the WSJ Tech Live event in Laguna Beach, California.

That’s two long years away, but it’s still one year before analysts expected. And it’s on an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) basis, which means discounting noncash items like stock compensation.

The pair said their company has now passed the stage of quick growth and reaching scale, and it’s now moved to a phase of “profitable growth.”

Zimmer said that because Lyft is focused only on transportation (cars, bikes, and scooters), it will “out-execute” Uber, which is focused on transportation but also food and other services.

“We haven’t integrated with bikes and scooters yet, but that is our ultimate goal,” Green said. “We call this transportation as a service.”

Lyft’s stock has suffered since its public debut earlier this year. After the news today, shares were up more than 8% in early-afternoon trading.

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5 things to know about Aducanumab, Biogen’s resurrected Alzheimer’s drug

5 things to know about Aducanumab, Biogen’s resurrected Alzheimer’s drug
[Photo: Weksart/Pixabay]

It’s been touted as a “game changer” and ultimately deemed a “failure,” but now it’s getting a second chance.

Aducanumab, a much-hyped treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that was seemingly abandoned earlier this year after a review committee doubted its effectiveness, will be submitted to the FDA after all. That’s according to Biogen, the drug’s creator, which has announced plans to seek regulatory approval of Aducanumab sometime early next year.

The sudden change of plans has left health-industry commentators stunned, with STAT News calling it a “shocking reversal.” It’s also been major shot in the arm for Biogen’s bottom line, with its stock skyrocketing as high as 40% in early trading, as CNBC reported.

So what happened? According to a 17-page update to investors released by Biogen earlier today, the company says it is now confident in the drug’s effectiveness based on a new analysis of an even larger data set. Here are the key points from the update’s summary:

  • “Following discussions with the FDA, Biogen plans to submit a regulatory filing in early 2020.”
  • “The futility analysis in March 2019 was based on a smaller, earlier dataset with less exposure to high dose aducanumab. The result of the futility analysis was incorrect.”
  • “New analysis of larger dataset showed that aducanumab reduced clinical decline in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease as measured by the pre-specified primary and secondary endpoints.”
  • “The positive results of this new analysis were driven primarily by greater exposure to high dose aducanumab in the larger dataset.”
  • “If approved, aducanumab would become the first therapy to reduce clinical decline in Alzheimer’s disease.”

The change of course is also sparking its share of skepticism, with Bloomberg health columnist Max Nisen calling it a “risky gambit” and saying investors should be cautious. For now, you can read Biogen’s full update (complete with flowcharts and extensive data analyses) here.

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Here’s how much WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is getting to leave the company

Here’s how much WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is getting to leave the company
[Photo: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for the WeWork Creator Awards; Pepi Stojanovski/Unplash]

In September it was announced that WeWork’s founder and CEO Adam Neumann would be leaving the company. Shortly after, the company pulled plans for its hotly anticipated IPO. The cancelation came after concerns rapidly grew in August and September about the company’s financials and sustainability. During that timeframe, the company’s valuation plummeted from an estimated $47 billion to around $10 billion.

Now CNBC is reporting that while Neumann will stay on as chairman, he’s getting a package worth almost $1.7 billion to step aside as CEO. That’s almost 20% of the company’s current estimated valuation. SoftBank, one of the We Company’s main investors, will reportedly give Neumann the following to step down:

  • $1 billion in exchange for his shares in the company
  • A one-off $185 million consulting fee
  • An additional $500 million in credit to help Neumann repay loans he owes to JPMorgan

Earlier this year Neumann had already cashed out an additional $700 million in shares and loans. The nearly $1.7 billion package would be in addition to his previous share sale. The running of the We Company is now in the hands of its new co-CEOs, Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham.

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Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank is stepping down

Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank is stepping down
[Photo: Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations]

Under Armour has announced that Kevin Plank, its founder and CEO, is stepping down from his role as chief executive officer in three months’ time. Plank has run the company since founding it in his grandmother’s basement in 1996 when he was still in college, reports CNBC. In the 23 years since, Plank has taken the company from nothing to a $9 billion operation.

Under Armour’s current chief operating officer, Patrik Frisk, will replace Plank on January 1, 2020. On that date, Plank will become the executive chairman and brand chief for the company. Frisk only joined Under Armour a little more than two years ago, but he’s been a driving force in the company’s three-year transformation plan, according to CNBC, which includes defining the company’s target customer and improvements to logistics and the supply chain.

In a statement announcing his retirement as CEO, Plank said:

Patrik is the right person to serve as Under Armour’s next CEO. As my partner during the most transformative chapter in our history, he has been exceptional in his ability to translate our brand’s vision into world-class execution by focusing on our long-term strategy and re-engineering our ecosystem through a strategic operational and cultural transformation.

Under Armour has been a public company since 2005. In 2019 its stock is up 14% year-to-date as of Monday. As of Monday’s closing price, the company’s market value was $9.1 billion.

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