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The days of threatening your cable company with cord cutting to get a cheaper rate are over

The days of threatening your cable company with cord cutting to get a cheaper rate are over
[Photo: aj_aaaab/Unsplash]

Remember that time you called up Comcast or Charter or AT&T? You used a few savvy phrases like “skinny bundle” and “over the top,” and you scared them into shaving 10% off your monthly bill?

Yeah, well, that probably won’t be happening anymore. Cable companies are no longer under any illusions that they can keep fickle customers from cutting the cord. Unless you’re a rabid sports fan who subsists on a steady diet of live local baseball or basketball games, don’t expect cable companies to bend over backwards to keep you.

That’s one of the key takeaways in a new report from analyst firm MoffettNathanson, which recently hosted a cord-cutting-themed summit in which it discussed the future of the pay-TV industry with major stakeholders. In their analysis, published earlier this week, Michael Nathanson and Craig Moffett said the market is rife with disruption and may have reached a “cord cutting tipping point” whereby pay-TV operators are in survival mode—doubling down on their more profitable customers and letting price-conscious ones cancel their cable subscriptions and sign up for streaming services instead.

“We heard loud and clear directly from the cable companies of their focus on growing the profitable subscriber base and moving away from offering discounts and promotions for subscribers who do not generate profits,” the analysts wrote. “Today, there is a bifurcated marketplace where many subscribers are still happy with the existing pay TV bundle, while there is also a growing cohort of customers who are more price oriented.”

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon. The industry has known for a while now that cord cutting is a rapidly accelerating trend (even just a few years back, some providers were probably still in denial), and so offering special rates to subscribers who are just going to cut the cord after the rate expires doesn’t really make any sense. In August, we wrote about how companies such as Comcast were now focused more on selling high-margin internet services. MoffettNathanson’s new report seems to suggest there is broad consensus in the industry that discounted cable rates are a losing proposition in a world where cord cutting will simply continue apace.

And it will continue. The firm estimates that a staggering 40% of the current pay-TV subscriber base is “at risk” for cutting the cord within the next five years. For many viewers, live sports remains the single sticking point. “[W]e believe that sports viewers are the most entrenched Pay TV subscribers,” the firm writes, “as such, we see the 60% of subscribers who regularly watch sports as the potential floor for the pay TV ecosystem, as long as the major sports leagues’ rights remain exclusive to the pay TV bundle.”

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Uber’s damning sexual assault report puts pressure on Lyft to show its hand

Uber’s damning sexual assault report puts pressure on Lyft to show its hand
[Photo: Vladimir Proskurovskiy/Unsplash]

After years of promising to be more transparent about safety issues on its platform, ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies released its first-ever safety report yesterday, showing almost 6,000 reports of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018, including 464 reports of rape.

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Even for a company as controversial as Uber has often been in its decade of existence, the numbers are staggering. And yet, Uber braced for the inevitable backlash and released them anyway, in an extensive 71-page document that includes details on fatal crashes, incidents against drivers, and various other safety issues.

Now that the information is out there, the pressure is on Uber’s biggest rival to do the same.

Lyft has yet to release safety data that reaches anywhere near the same level of detail, and it’s unclear if it ever will. Reached for comment, a Lyft spokesperson told Fast Company that a safety report is in the works but did not respond to questions about when the report would be released or what type of information it would include.

“Safety is fundamental to Lyft,” the company said in a statement. “We remain committed to releasing our own safety transparency report and working within the industry to share information about drivers who don’t pass our initial or continuous background checks or are deactivated from our platform. It is Lyft’s goal to make the US ridesharing industry the safest form of transportation for everyone.”

The company says it has released more than 15 new safety features in just the last few months, including in-app emergency services, mandatory feedback for lower-rated rides, and “daily continuous criminal background monitoring of all of our drivers.” It’s also partnered with RAINN, a group that fights sexual violence, on safety education for drivers.

Still, Lyft has found itself the focus of increasing criticism in the wake of recent lawsuits from riders claiming to have been sexually assaulted by drivers. Just this week, 19 women sued the company, as the New York Times reported, in addition to 14 others who filed a suit in September.

Chief among the complaints are troubling allegations that Lyft is effectively silencing victims by not being forthcoming with data that could assist law enforcement with investigations. Lyft does issue its own transparency report, which includes a state-by-state breakdown of how many law-enforcement requests it receives, but the report does not specify the types of crimes being alleged.

It’s understandable why Lyft wouldn’t be eager to make headlines for the wrong reasons by disclosing its number of sexual assault reports. Although the number will likely be smaller than what Uber reported yesterday, as Lyft is a smaller company, it may not do much to help Lyft’s image as a kinder, gentler version of Uber—an image it was all too happy to capitalize on at the height of Uber’s controversies.

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Stop using plastic cups because BPA exposure may be much worse than we thought

Stop using plastic cups because BPA exposure may be much worse than we thought
[Photo: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash]

Uh-oh. Turns out that BPA, which has long been known as an endocrine disrupter associated with everything from gestational abnormalities to cancer to diabetes and obesity, is in our bodies in much higher levels than thought.

The trouble is regulatory: The FDA has repeatedly determined that human exposure to BPA is low, and therefore safe. (A recent FDA report stated that “BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods.”) Patricia Hunt, a researcher at Washington State University, says these regulations may be “based on inaccurate measurements.”

Hunt and colleagues developed a more accurate way of measuring BPA in the body by directly measuring BPA metabolites in urine. They found levels of BPA up to 44 times those used as the basis for FDA regulations, based on indirect measurements.

The researchers found this alarming, and say that regulations for parabens, benzophenone, triclosan, and phthalates may also be based on similarly inaccurate measurements. “Our hypothesis now is that if this is true for BPA, it could be true for all the other chemicals that are measured indirectly,” said coauthor Roy Gerona, assistant professor at University of California, in a statement.

The team is looking at those chemicals, as well as compounds commonly used to replace BPA in products labeled “BPA-free,” which are often molecularly similar to BPA and and mostly unregulated. Research continues.

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Taking voice notes on Google just got a lot better

Taking voice notes on Google just got a lot better
[Photo: courtesy of Google]

One of the more useful things you can do with Google Assistant is take notes by voice, but until now, the feature has only worked with the Assistant’s built-in notes and lists.

Now, you can hook up Google Assistant with external notes and to-do lists, including Any.do, AnyList, Bring!, and Google Keep. Just open your settings in Google Assistant, head to the “Services” tab, then look for the new “Notes and Lists” section, where you can choose a provider.

Google’s also adding some other new capabilities to Assistant in time for the holidays: On an Android phone, you can search for photos by voice and ask to share them with friends or family members. And if you’re having trouble picking a podcast, you can ask Google Assistant for suggestions on a particular topic.

Google says the new features are rolling out today, so they might not be available immediately.

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Watch YouTube’s ‘Rewind 2019’ year-in-review video, which people really seem to hate

Watch YouTube’s ‘Rewind 2019’ year-in-review video, which people really seem to hate

The latest platform to release a year-in-review look-back over 2019 is Google-owned YouTube. YouTube says the “Rewind 2019” video celebrates “the creators, music, and moments that mattered most to you in 2019.” The problem is, as Business Insider notes, many people on social media have taken to their feeds to say how much they hate the video.

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The video currently has over 18 million views with 1.2 million likes, but double that—2.4 million—dislikes. So why all the hate? Many called it “uninspired” and lamented its “low quality” look. Others just thought it was boring or were angry certain topics weren’t covered.

The good news is last year’s “Rewind 2018” video earned the distinction of being the most disliked video in YouTube history with 17 million dislikes. With that in mind, the Rewind 2019 video is wildly more successful than its predecessor—for now at least. You can check out Rewind 2019 below.

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Airbnb announces new guest standards and offers mayors’ hotline to company reps

Airbnb announces new guest standards and offers mayors’ hotline to company reps
[Photo: Tom Rumble/Unsplash]

Airbnb has announced a number of new policies that aim to promote respect for the host’s property as well as improve its reputation in local communities. In a blog post, Airbnb said it is implementing a new series of Guest Standards that will take effect in “early 2020.” These new guest standards cover five scenarios Airbnb guests will not be allowed to break:

  1. Excessive noise, whether it’s from parties, loud music, or other sources
  2. Having unauthorized guests at the property they are renting
  3. Unauthorized parking at the property they are renting
  4. Unauthorized smoking at the property they are renting
  5. Trashing the property so much that it necessitates excessive cleaning

As for any Airbnb guest who breaks these new guest standards, Airbnb says:

These new Guest Standards create a clear and actionable enforcement framework for these scenarios and if it is determined that a guest has violated the new standards, the first violation will result in a warning and required education on Airbnb rules. Further violations may result in account suspension or removal.

Airbnb also announced an “open invite” house party ban as well as a dedicated hotline for mayors and other city officials, which will allow them to get in touch with Airbnb representatives to talk about the company’s policies. That hotline will roll out in 2020.

The new policies come after a shooting at an Airbnb house party on Halloween that left five people dead. The new policies also happen to come before Airbnb’s planned IPO next year. That IPO is one of the most anticipated in the tech sector, and you can bet Airbnb and investors want it going off without a hitch.

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People are tricking bots into stealing Disney and Nintendo IP to raise awareness about design theft

People are tricking bots into stealing Disney and Nintendo IP to raise awareness about design theft
[Photo: Apic/Getty Images]

Online artists say unscrupulous T-shirt vendors are using bots to search social media for comments such as “I want that on a shirt.” When the bots find them, they quickly take images from the original posts and upload them to T-shirt marketplace sites without regard for copyright or artist credit.

To fight back, some artists and others have started posting such phrases around images containing the intellectual property of big, sometimes litigious companies such as Disney and Nintendo, presumably hoping to draw attention to the situation from their high-powered IP lawyers.

Nintendo and Disney didn’t immediately respond to inquiries from Fast Company about tweets and shirts using such characters as Mario, Pikachu, Mickey Mouse, and meme-favorite Baby Yoda.

According to the website Waxy.org, some of those fighting back against the problem have even successfully managed to generate T-shirts that condemn the sites where they were posted for using “stolen art,” sometimes along with vulgar images.

Artists who sell or show their work online have long complained that fighting IP theft can be like playing a game of Whac-a-mole, with many marketplace sites seemingly reluctant to take steps to systematically weed out copycats that can steal customers from their small businesses. Ironically, harnessing big-name characters such as Mickey and Mario may very well help bring more attention to the issue.

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Apple is about to get toppled by oil giant Saudi Aramco as the most valuable listed company

Apple is about to get toppled by oil giant Saudi Aramco as the most valuable listed company
[Photo: Saudi Aramco]

In what is expected to be the largest initial public offering in history, a state-owned oil and gas behemoth in Saudi Arabia is about to become the most valuable publicly traded company in the world.

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., aka Saudi Aramco, has just priced its shares at $8.53, which the Wall Street Journal reports is on the higher end of its target range. That figure would give Saudi Aramco a staggering valuation of $1.7 trillion, overtaking Apple’s current market value of $1.15 trillion.

Having raised $25.6 billion, the IPO’s dollar value also easily eclipsed the current record-holder, China’s Alibaba, which raised $25 billion back in 2014.

Toppling American and Chinese tech giants in the record books is clearly a symbolic coup for Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, but as Reuters points out, the valuation will still fall significantly short of his sought-after goal of $2 trillion. (Of course, it’s not too late to start a $300 billion GoFundMe.)

Saudi Aramco is expected to begin trading on the Saudi stock exchange Tadawul on December 11.

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Senators want ethics probe of 20-year mass surveillance program OK’d by Attorney General Barr

Senators want ethics probe of 20-year mass surveillance program OK’d by Attorney General Barr
[Photo: Gisbert Paech/ullstein bild via Getty Images]

Two high-profile Democratic senators–Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Ron Wyden of Oregon–are asking the Department of Justice’s ethics body to look into a legally questionable mass surveillance program approved by Attorney General William Barr during his first stint as AG in the 1990s.

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The surveillance program, which was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration starting in 1992, vacuumed up billions of phone records of U.S. citizens and was backed up by no warrants and only subpoenas that were never reviewed by a judge. That’s according to an Inspector General report on the matter released last spring. The program was discontinued only with the revelations of mass surveillance programs at the National Security Council from Edward Snowden in June of 2013.

“Mr. Barr’s authorization of this sweeping surveillance program without requiring, at minimum, an appropriate legal analysis, was not consistent with his oath to support and defend the Constitution and it likely amounted to professional misconduct,” Wyden and Leahy wrote. “Attorney General Barr knew, or should have known, that neither statutory law nor federal case law permitted the DEA to sweep up, in bulk, billions of records of Americans’ telephone communications.”

Leahy and Wyden now want the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility to commit to an investigation.

120519 Leahy Wyden Letter t… by Mark Sullivan on Scribd

Asked why the senators are making their formal request for an investigation six months after the release of the Inspector General report, a Wyden spokesperson said the two senators’ offices needed time to review the legal aspects of the surveillance program and to coordinate efforts.

Such retrospective examinations of Barr’s record may be of greater interest now that the AG has revealed himself to be something less than a non-partisan player. Barr, of course, is a central character in the current impeachment investigations of the actions of President Trump and his proxies in Ukraine.

Leahy and Wyden also are asking AG Barr to explain whether current DEA surveillance programs adequately protect against unlawful spying on Americans, and about any changes the agency may have made in response to the IG report.

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SNAP benefit cuts: Here’s what you need to know about the Trump administration’s changes

SNAP benefit cuts: Here’s what you need to know about the Trump administration’s changes
[Photo: Shealah Craighead/The White House/Flickr; Alexandr Podvalny/Unsplash]

Hundreds of thousands of food stamp recipients have a new reason to panic: The Trump administration is stopping benefits to an estimated 688,000 people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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Rather than directly cutting food benefits, the USDA today released a press release entitled “USDA Restores Original Intent of SNAP: A Second Chance, Not a Way of Life,” with a half-dozen subdocuments, one of which explains that a longstanding rule allowing states to extend SNAP benefits will be restricted—effectively disqualifying 688,000 on April 1, 2020.

Currently, SNAP (previously known as the U.S. Food Stamp Program) provides roughly $160 in food purchases for three months to able-bodied workers without dependents, which can be continued by working or training at least 20 hours a week. However, many states, particularly in high-unemployment regions, extend the benefits long beyond three months. Now states will only be able to issue waivers if the unemployment rate is over 6%, and waiver applications will require complex data and specificity.

This threatens many low-wage workers, particularly those in towns with high unemployment, and those in retail and food service, who often work unpredictable shifts and are not given as many work hours as they request. (On Tuesday Senator Elizabeth Warren released her Fair Work Week for America’s Part-Time Workers plan to address these workplace issues.)

Grocery stores and box stores such as Walmart and Target are also alarmed, concerned that they’ll lose some of their $66 billion income from SNAP.

“The final rule would cause serious harm to individuals, communities, and the nation while doing nothing to improve the health and employment of those impacted by the rule,” said James D. Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center in a statement.

The Trump administration has launched multiple efforts to shrink SNAP, which currently feeds 36 million people. SNAP recipients who are over 50, disabled, pregnant, or have dependents will not be affected by the new policy.

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‘Evil Corp’ Russian hackers were just charged with stealing $100M from bank accounts

‘Evil Corp’ Russian hackers were just charged with stealing $100M from bank accounts
[Photo: Jason Pofahl/Unsplash]

The Justice Department unveiled charges today against the leaders of a Russian hacking group called Evil Corp (yes, the name of the company from Mr. Robot) that’s alleged to have used malware to steal more than $100 million from bank accounts around the world.

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The State Department is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of 32-year-old Maksim V. Yakubets, said to be the leader of Evil Corp. It’s said to be the largest reward ever offered for a cybercriminal. The Moscow resident is also alleged to have provided assistance to Russian state hacking efforts, including working with the Russian spy agency called the FSB, Treasury Department officials said in announcing sanctions against Evil Corp affiliates.

View image larger here. [Images: courtesy of The US Department of Justice]
The Evil Corp malware—with versions known as Bugat, Cridex, and Dridex—allegedly stole people’s online banking credentials, letting Evil Corp use them to siphon off funds. They allegedly wired the stolen money to so-called “money mules” who transferred the funds online to the criminals or even withdrew them as cash. Victims included two banks, a school district, and manufacturing companies, prosecutors said.

“Maksim Yakubets allegedly has been engaged in cybercrime on an almost unimaginable scale for over a decade,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski in a statement announcing the charges.

Yakubets also faces separate charges in Nebraska federal court for his links to a second malware variant called Zeus, allegedly used to steal another $70 million.

“Because many of the victims of both Bugat and Zeus are small- and mid-size businesses, their accounts typically do not have the same legal protections afforded to consumer accounts, so some of the losses involved were particularly devastating,” Benczkowski said. “Yakubets and his co-conspirators did not discriminate in their choice of targets. For example, the Nebraska complaint alleges that Yakubets was directly involved in the theft of tens of thousands of dollars from a religious order of Franciscan sisters.”

Prosecutors also announced charges against Igor Turashev, 38, from Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, for allegedly doing technical work related to the Bugat malware. Like Yakubets, Turashev is still at large.

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Americans have a psychologically twisted relationship with paid time off

Americans have a psychologically twisted relationship with paid time off
[Photo: Crew/Unsplash]

It’s official: Capitalism has overtaken our souls. Two out of five workers feel guilty for taking paid time off, according to a new survey by Zenefits.

This is alarming, given that “time off” is code for your real life. The survey indicates that Americans are a psychological hot mess on the topic: Half of employees don’t take paid time off due to high workloads or worries about job security, and 49% don’t take their allotted vacation days, yet nearly three-quarters agree that paid time off makes them feel more productive and healthier at work, and a quarter of employees would be willing to take a pay cut to get more of it.

In other words: desire to do it more, guilt for doing it, guilt for not doing it, repeat. Hmm.

Zenefits points the finger at employers, writing that “company policies are definitely misaligned with employees’ need for rest.” Only one in five employees say that their company’s paid time off policy allows them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Last year, American workers left a whopping 768 million vacation days unused, which was up 9% from the prior year. Compare this to, say, the hooky-loving French, who enjoy a dozen holidays and five weeks off each year, and this week are skipping work for their biggest strike in decades.

The Zenefits survey questioned 1,000 workers at companies under 500 employees, who said that paid time off was their second-most prized benefit, after health insurance.

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Streetwear design fans get a new podcast series with the Bleacher Report’s ‘Friends and Family’

Streetwear design fans get a new podcast series with the Bleacher Report’s ‘Friends and Family’

If you’re a fan of streetwear design and the culture behind it, you may need to make time for “Friends and Family” this holiday season.

That’s the name of a new branded podcast and video series from Bleacher Report’s B/R Kicks brand and Chinatown Market, the streetwear line launched by DIY designer Mike Cherman in 2016. It’s being coproduced and packaged by At Will Media, a company founded by restauranteur Will Malnati that specializes in branded podcasts. According to Bleacher Report, the series “will explore the stories and artistry of streetwear, the influencers it resonates with, and the designers who create it.”

The first installment of the short series—it’s only three episodes—dropped this week and features Cherman along with rapper Lil Yachty collaborating to design a new product. The product will be sold at B/R Kicks’ second annual The Drop Up event, a mix of panel discussions and brand activations that takes place next Friday in Manhattan. As Digiday reported last year, the event began as a way for Turner-owned Bleacher Report to build B/R Kicks (which now boasts 1.5 million Instagram followers) into a bona fide business in its own right.

In a statement, Bleacher Report CMO Ed Romaine said the new partnership with Chinatown Market will help both brands connect with new consumers. “By leaning into each of our strengths, we will create an authentic content and a live event experience that will lift both of our brands and help define the trends that will propel the industry ahead,” he said.

You can check out the first installment of the series on Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

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Deadly Takata airbag recall: What to do if you drive a BMW, Honda, Mitsubishi, or Toyota

Deadly Takata airbag recall: What to do if you drive a BMW, Honda, Mitsubishi, or Toyota
[Photo: Julian Hochgesang/Unsplash]

It seems like the Takata airbag saga never ends. That saga so far affects over 41.6 million vehicles with defective airbags made by Takata. Previously the defective airbags have been found in Fords, Lexus, Mercedes, Teslas, and more. Now cars from additional manufacturers are being added to the list including Audi, BMW, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, reports Consumer Reports.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes another 1.4 million cars from the above manufacturers may have faulty airbags made by Takata. That includes 116,000 BMW vehicles with model years 1999 to 2001. BMW says right now certain 1999-2001 323i, 325i, 328i, and 330i models are known to be affected as well as certain 2000-2001 323Ci, 325Ci, 328Ci, 330Ci, 323iT, and 325iT models. Audi, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota have yet to announce which additional models of their vehicles are affected.

As for what the defect is in the faulty Takata airbags, Consumer Reports says it relates to their improperly sealed inflators:

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these airbags may have improperly sealed inflators. As a result, they may allow too much moisture in, which could cause the airbags to deploy without enough force to protect occupants in a crash, or they could dry out, which could cause the airbags to rupture and spray sharp metal fragments directly at the people sitting in front of them. Both conditions could cause serious injuries or death.

To check to see if your car is currently listed as one of those being recalled, head on over to the NHTSA’s website and enter your vehicle’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into the field provided. It will then tell you if your car is affected by the Takata airbag issue—or any other recall issues. However, keep in mind that just because your VIN doesn’t return a recall match right now, doesn’t mean your airbag is safe. Car manufacturers are still identifying vehicles with the faulty airbags, so it’s possible your VIN could be added to the recall list after you’ve checked it.

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Millennials are warming up to some baby boomer lifestyle choices—and vice versa

Millennials are warming up to some baby boomer lifestyle choices—and vice versa
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

“Know thy enemy.” 

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If you believe the recent string of headlines about a supposed generational conflict between millennials and baby boomers, then that ancient sentiment from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War might just be the perfect framing device for Morning Consult’s new list of the “fastest-growing brands of 2019.”

The list, released this morning, shows that younger consumers are increasingly warming up to some legacy brands popularized by their older counterparts, who, in turn, are developing a taste for more and more brands that were once the exclusive domain of the young. 

That’s right: Millennials and baby boomers are discovering each other’s favorite lifestyle choices—because sometimes we become the thing we hate.

Consider the top 10 list of fastest-growing brands among millennials. While it contains a few stereotypically millennial companies like White Claw Hard Seltzer and Postmates (No. 2 and 3, respectively), it’s dominated by creaky old mainstays like Häagen-Dazs ice cream (No. 4), Jif peanut butter (No. 5), Dole Foods, and Bayer (both tied for No. 8). 

Gen Z, the younger cohort that precedes millennials, is also discovering some legacy brands, including Walgreens and National Geographic—the latter of which recently got a boost by its inclusion on Disney Plus, as Morning Consult points out.

Meanwhile, older consumers appear to be following an inverse trend. The top 10 list of fastest-growing brands among baby boomers is chock-full of brands typically associated with younger consumers, including fake-meat maker Impossible Foods (No. 2), smart-doorbell maker Ring (No. 3), direct-to-consumer mattress company Purple (No. 6), and, yes, even White Claw (No. 7).

Morning Consult says it defines fastest-growing brands by looking at the share of consumers who say they would consider making a purchase from a particular brand and comparing the number to an earlier survey. The 2019 rankings are based on an average of more than 11,000 surveys per brand.

What do we make of all this cross-generational brand preference? Perhaps it’s just a sign that some legacy brands are getting better at social-first marketing tactics while younger brands are busy soaking up old-fashion media attention. White Claw, for instance, scored lots of free press in September after fears arose of a nationwide shortage, and it’s easy to conclude that some older consumers unfamiliar with the hip hard seltzer were intrigued by the demand.

Whatever the cause, it’s nice to see that our multifarious generational cohorts are not totally divided on everything. If we can agree on White Claw, why not Medicare for All and student loan forgiveness?

To that end, perhaps DoorDash can share its secret: The food delivery service was the No. 1 fastest-growing brand for Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers. Hey, we all gotta eat.

You can check out the full list of fastest-growing brands here.

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Elizabeth Warren congratulates Google’s outgoing Larry Page with fun reminder that he can’t hide from Congress

Elizabeth Warren congratulates Google’s outgoing Larry Page with fun reminder that he can’t hide from Congress
[Photos: George Pagan III/Unsplash; Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Larry Page may be halfway out the door with Oakleys on now that he’s no longer CEO of Alphabet, but make no mistake: Page and his cofounder, Sergey Brin, still call the shots when it comes to the pair’s voting control over Google.

That’s why Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts went for an easy win on Twitter today, reminding the billionaire that, despite his new loungewear set, he could still be compelled by Congress to jet to Washington, D.C., for a chat. Or, at the very least, he might politely be asked to show face. What a drag!

“Quick reminder,” the senator wrote on Twitter. “We do still expect you to testify before Congress. And changing your title while staying on the board and retaining effective control of it will not exempt you from accountability.”

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Here’s why Instagram suddenly wants to know your age

Here’s why Instagram suddenly wants to know your age
[Photo: Tim Gouw/Unsplash]

Facebook’s younger, cooler social network would like to know your date of birth, please.

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Starting today, you won’t be allowed to sign up for Instagram unless you share your age. The new rule is part of a handful of changes coming to Instagram “to build a safer experience for the youngest members of our community.” The change might also help Facebook squeeze more profits out of Instagram, but that’s just a convenient by-product, according to Facebook. “[This] isn’t why we’re making the changes,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fast Company.

If you already have an Instagram account, there’s a good chance Instagram already knows how old you are, because many people have linked their Instagram and Facebook accounts together. As “for the remaining users,” the Facebook spokesperson said (emphasis ours), “we are thinking through how best we capture their age without creating an intrusive experience.” The company declined to share more.

If advertising isn’t the point, then what is? Facebook says it has plans to use this birthdate info “to create more tailored experiences” that are “age-appropriate and safer,” but it’s not saying much else aside from these two examples: offering “education around account controls and recommended privacy settings for young people.”

Facebook apparently has more in the works. “[Using] age information in future product experiences is an active line of work for the company and we’ll be sharing more updates in time,” a Facebook spokesperson added.

Facebook claims that asking new users how old they are will also help it enforce its existing policy of keeping out users under the age of 13. Anyone can still lie about their age, and Facebook seems to expect that. (For example, it has a form for reporting active users suspected to be under 13.)

Facebook isn’t making changes to how it shares your age with others. The company promises it won’t start revealing ages on Instagram profiles, but its efforts to “capture” birthdates will probably help it capture more revenue. Facebook’s business model hinges on how well it knows its users, and a spokesperson told Fast Company that “we expect targeting to be more accurate following this update, which is helpful for advertisers and the community alike.”

The company has long argued that users prefer to see targeted ads, and it already enables advertisers to target children as young as 13 (with restrictions on certain categories, such as ads for “weapons accessories“). Facebook has also faced criticism for its efforts to gather more data on its younger users. Those efforts include a research program that paid teens $20 a month to hand over revealing information about what they do on their smartphones.

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Honey Baked Ham created matching pajamas with pigtails, and there’s no turning back

Honey Baked Ham created matching pajamas with pigtails, and there’s no turning back
[Photo: courtesy of The Honey Baked Ham Co]

This holiday you can eat like a pig and look like one, too. Today the Honey Baked Ham Company released onesies inspired by ham, complete with “festive lights and decorative pig tails” so that you can “cuddle up to your big ham or celebrate with your little piggies.” And the onesies are glorious.

The company was inspired by “acknowledging the holiday season has become a time for many families to wear matching pajamas, [and so] the brand created the ultimate holiday pajamas for he entire family to love and wear.”

JoAnn Herold, Honey Baked Ham’s chief marketing office, suggests “capturing festive photos or enjoying a meal with family and friends in comfort and style by wearing our hamjamas.” Youth hamjamas are $20, and adult hamjamas $25.

Note to Honey Baked Ham: Two editors and a writer would appreciate media samples. Size large. Thank you.

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A harrowing study of 46,000 women shows hair dyes are heavily associated with cancer

A harrowing study of 46,000 women shows hair dyes are heavily associated with cancer
[Photo: Ashton Bingham/Unsplash]

You know how you don’t see very old people with dyed hair? There may be a reason for that: Hair dye is heavily associated with cancer.

A study published yesterday in the Journal of Cancer tracked 46,709 women ages 35-74 over eight years. The results are particularly harrowing for black women: those who used permanent dyes at least every 5-8 weeks had a 60% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who did not; white women were 8% more likely to develop breast cancer.

Chemical straighteners also proved problematic: Women who used straighteners every 5-8 weeks were 30% more likely to develop breast cancer. Straighteners are much more commonly used among black women. (In the study, 74% of black women had, versus 3% of white women.)

This, of course, creates an immediate grooming crisis for those feeling career pressure to look eternally young. You can see helpful photos of 14 people with their hair both dyed and gray (hint: the gray-heads look fine!), and here’s how to go gray.

Hair dyes have long been known to “contain endocrine-disrupting compounds and carcinogens,” say the researchers, who hypothesize that the formulations used on black hair may include more hormonally active compounds, and that thicker, coarser hair may absorb more dyes.

“While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer,” says coauthor Dale Sandler, chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch.

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Greta Thunberg’s ‘How Dare You’ climate rebuke literally just melted in Miami

Greta Thunberg’s ‘How Dare You’ climate rebuke literally just melted in Miami
Shore Club and Rubem Robierb unveil Climate Meltdown Ice Sculpture during Art Basel Miami 2019. [Photo: courtesy of World Red Eye]

“How dare you!”

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Never before have three words so furiously and effectively pierced through the fog of failed climate policy. Spoken by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Summit in September, the phrase quickly ricocheted around the world, echoing the moral indignation of a generation that will face the worst consequences of an intractably warming planet.

Now the words themselves have literally melted away in one of the U.S. cities most affected by the climate crisis—Miami.

It was all part of an art installation at Shore Club South Beach, which is currently hosting a series of installations for the 2019 Miami Art Week. The event began on Monday with a two-ton ice sculpture called “Climate Meltdown,” by Brazilian artist Rubem Robierb, who carved out the words “How Dare You” in a 36-foot display that floated on the Shore Club’s pool.

Robierb told the local WPLG station that the sculpture represents the “ice from the poles that right now, as we speak, is melting.”

According a Shore Club spokesperson, the sculpture lasted about eight hours before completely melting away into the pool.

The planet, fortunately, has a little bit longer, but time is running out. The UN’s IPCC said in an alarming report last year that we humans basically have to cut our global emissions in half within the next 10 years if we want to avoid worst-case warming scenarios.

Miami, incidentally, could face especially dire consequences. Just a few hours ago, local climate researchers released updated projections showing that South Florida could face a sea-level rise of up to 31 inches by 2060, the Miami Herald reported.

Shore Club says its art installations will be on display for free through December 9.

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