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How to help buy school supplies: 9 easy things you can do for kids and teachers in need

How to help buy school supplies: 9 easy things you can do for kids and teachers in need
[Photo: Pixabay/Pexels]

As summer draws to a close, many Americans may be looking to do some back-to-school shopping, even if they don’t have kids.

Thanks to the pathetic priorities of our state and federal governments, school teachers frequently have to spend their own small salaries on classroom supplies or basic amenities, like these Baltimore teachers hoping for fans to cool their spaces. It’s not just teachers struggling to make ends meet. Families across the country are trying to pay the bills while loading up on new three-ring binders, new No. 2 pencils, new college-ruled paper, and new protractors, to say nothing of graphing calculators.

There are a lot of big, unwieldy, anxiety-inducing problems facing the world right now, but sending a kid to school with a new backpack and sharp pencils to start the year off right is a lot easier to manage than solving global warming on your lunch break. Local schools and churches will frequently run back-to-school programs, but if you’re looking for something even easier, here are nine other ways to help this back-to-school season:

  • Donors Choose: This website lets teachers make lists of all the supplies they need. Either search locally, pick a project you love (like books for libraries, fidget toys, or STEM tools), or just choose a worthy classroom to be the recipient of your largesse—like this one in Massachusetts, this one in Chicago, or this one in Georgia.
  • Operation Backpack: The program connects children in need with new backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies and supports after-school and mentoring programs for kids throughout the United States.
  • Kids in Need Foundation works to help kids and classrooms get all the supplies they need. If you can’t donate cash through its School Ready Supplies program that delivers school supplies directly to students, consider donating services like marketing skills, printing, or shipping services.
  • United Way: Across the country, this organization’s outposts work to send kids to school with backpacks full of all the necessary supplies. Each branch operates independently, so the easiest way to donate locally is to google United Way and your community or just choose an area in need—like this one in Dallas, this one in Mississippi, and this one in North Carolina.
  • Pencils of Promise: It’s not just U.S. kids who need school supplies. This organization helps kids around the world through its programs, and 100% of donations go directly to its good work.
  • Operation Homefront: Help the child of a member of the military head back to school with all the supplies they need. Or visit one of the more than 60 Back-to-School Brigade events across the U.S.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America: This organization runs an annual Back2School program that raises money specifically to benefit students by offering supplies, funding after-school programs, and more. To help, visit one of their partners, which this year range from the Gap to Chuck E. Cheese to Toyota to Comcast to Coca-Cola, all of which are either donating supplies, having their staff volunteer, or engaging the public to participate.
  • Coalition For the Homeless: According to this group’s website, nearly 115,000 New York City school kids experienced homelessness at some point last year. The organization takes donations of money or supplies to help kids in unstable housing have the supplies they need for school.
  • #ClearTheLists: A new viral campaign is helping donors connect with teachers in need through the hashtag #ClearTheLists on Facebook and Twitter. The campaign was started by Courtney Jones, who wanted to give the public the opportunity to donate money and supplies to teachers across the country by buying everything on their Amazon wish lists, posting a video to YouTube about the project. The idea went viral and was boosted by country artist Casey Donahew, who created a GoFundMe page to help pay for more supplies. To get involved, search the #clearthelists hashtag on social media.
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Disturbing report documents sexual harassment at Levi’s and Lee factory

Disturbing report documents sexual harassment at Levi’s and Lee factory
[Photo: KariHoglund/iStock]

A new report from the Washington-based worker-rights group Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) says that women working in an African factory that makes jeans for Levi’s, Lee, and The Children’s Place experience sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Some were coerced into having sex with supervisors to keep their jobs, the report says. The factory in question was in Lesotho, a poor country adjacent to South Africa. It was owned by a Taiwan-based company called Nien Hsing Textile, which has factories in Mexico, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The Worker Rights Consortium report describes many forms of sexual abuse that came to light from dozens of interviews. Managers—both foreign and local—allegedly forced female workers into sexual relationships in exchange for job security or promotions. There was also a pervasive culture of sexual harassment, including inappropriate touching and crude comments. Sometimes, the abuse even came from male colleagues, not just supervisors.

None of these brands have severed their relationship with the factory. This was, in part, based on the WCR’s own guidance. In its report, it says, “It is important to emphasize that the WRC, upon documenting these violations, did not ask Nien Hsing’s brand customers to stop doing business with the company. We asked the brands to maintain the business relationship and use their leverage to convince Nien Hsing to change its practices—consistent with the best interests of the workers…While it is necessary, ultimately, for brands to condition orders for their suppliers on respect for human rights, termination of the business relationship should be a last resort, given the economic consequences for workers.”

When we reached out to Levi’s, the VP of sustainability Michael Kobori wrote, “When we find violations of our Terms of Engagement, it is our policy to first call for suppliers to address the issue promptly and effectively, because a rapid withdrawal of sourcing does not ultimately remedy the problem and may further negatively impact workers and their livelihoods. Should remediation efforts ultimately prove unsuccessful, we move to sever the relationship.”

The brands mentioned in the report say they will now bring outside oversight and enforcement to the more than 10,000 people working across five Lesotho factories. The American apparel companies are funding a two-year program, in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development, that establishes an independent investigative group where workers can raise concern. According to the Associated Press, Levi’s, The Children’s Place, and Kontoor Brands, maker of Wrangler and Lee jeans, said in a joint statement they want all workers, especially women, to feel “safe, valued and empowered.” A spokesperson for The Children’s Place said it informed the Taiwanese company that their ongoing relationship “depends on effectuating significant and sustained changes.”

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Drop that Tyson’s chicken patty! It might be contaminated with a ‘mechanical gasket’

Drop that Tyson’s chicken patty! It might be contaminated with a ‘mechanical gasket’
[Photo: suriya silsaksom/iStock]

Tyson Foods is issuing yet another recall. In a press release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that 39,078 pounds of frozen chicken patty products may be contaminated with a “foreign material.” When we reached out to Tyson for clarification, a spokesperson said the objects found in the patties were pieces from a “mechanical seal or gasket.”

The USDA issued the recall after consumers complained about patties sold under a brand called “Weaver.” The patties in question come in 26-ounce resealable bags. The contaminated bags were produced on January 31, 2019 (which means that many consumers may have eaten the products without realizing they were contaminated). The USDA says bags targeted in the recall include the plant number P-13456 printed on the back of the bag and have a “use by” date of January 31, 2020.

If you happened to buy patties affected by the recall, you should toss them out or return them to the retailer where they were purchased, the USDA says. And if you feel like you might be getting sick from a patty, you should contact a healthcare provider immediately.

This is the second Tyson recall this summer. In June, it recalled more than 190,000 pounds of chicken fritters after consumers found hard plastic in their food.

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Nike got called out for discriminating against pregnant athletes. Now it’s changing its policy

Nike got called out for discriminating against pregnant athletes. Now it’s changing its policy
[Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

For Nike-sponsored athletes, getting pregnant can come at a cost. The sportswear giant has faced criticism for failing to guarantee female athletes a salary in the months surrounding childbirth.

Now that several athletes have spoken out against the practices, Nike is changing its rules. According to Sports Illustrated, Nike has agreed to no longer apply performance-related reductions in contracts for 18 consecutive months, from the very start of the pregnancy, and Nike cannot terminate an athlete’s contract even if she has decided not to compete due to pregnancy.

In May, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño wrote an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that it was hypocritical for Nike to use empowering language in its advertising, like “Just Do It” and “Dream Crazy,” while simultaneously punishing elite athletes for choosing to start families. Athletes like her are not paid by a salary by a league, so their compensation often comes from sponsorship agreements. Until recently, it was common for Nike to cancel or reduce contracts for female athletes who were pregnant, effectively removing their main source of income.

Nike has been reckoning with broader accusations of misogyny throughout the company for more than a year. Last year, the New York Times published a story, featuring interviews with many former and current female employees who complained about sexual harassment and pay inequities. This led to the departure of several prominent male executives credibly accused of sexual impropriety. Nike also created new policies designed to close the gender pay gap in its salary scales. Nike had not proactively applied these policies to the female athletes it sponsored.

In a statement sent to Fast Company and other media outlets, Nike said: “Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike’s official pregnancy policy for elite athletes. In addition to our 2018 policy standardizing our approach across all sports to ensure no female athlete is adversely impacted financially for pregnancy, the policy has now been expanded to cover 18 months.”

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How to watch CNN’s special ‘The Age of Amazon’ online without cable

How to watch CNN’s special ‘The Age of Amazon’ online without cable
Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. [Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Amazon’s unchecked power is making people feel increasingly nervous. We know this because a recent poll showed that more American consumers are worrying about Amazon’s size. Also, cable news is now talking about it—so it must be a thing.

While not your typical Friday night viewing, a CNN special report about Amazon comes at a critical time for the company, as tech giants in general are facing more scrutiny from the U.S. government, including a broad antitrust investigation at the Department of Justice. The special, called “The Age of Amazon,” looks into the trillion-dollar company’s expansion into areas such as entertainment, shipping, logistics, and web services.

If nothing else, the hourlong special—led by CNN’s Poppy Harlow—could raise awareness about Amazon’s power among a more general audience. It’s safe to say, for example, that many people are not even aware that Amazon increasingly controls the infrastructure that underpins the internet.

CNN’s “The Age of Amazon” airs tonight (Friday, August 16) at 9 p.m. ET. If you’re a cord cutter who wants to stream the special on your computer, phone, or smart TV, you have a few different options. I’ve rounded them up below.

  • Streaming TV services: Many standalone streaming services offer CNN as part of a bundle. They include Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV, and PlayStation Vue. You can usually get a free week, and they’re easy to cancel if you’re not happy with the service.
  • CNNgo: You can stream CNN through its app on your desktop, smartphone, or iPad, or via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android TV. You’ll need a pay-TV login for these options. Find it here.
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Twitter is testing a way to make unwanted DMs less obnoxious

Twitter is testing a way to make unwanted DMs less obnoxious
[Images: kreatikar/Pixabay; Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

If people keep sliding into your DMs with unique yet uninvited offers of sexual acts that are not physically possible, relentless photos of Ed Sheeran, and opportunities to fund new ventures from Nigerian princes, Twitter has some good news. The social media site is testing a small tweak to make unsolicited, uninvited DMs harder to see.

“Unwanted messages aren’t fun,” read a tweet announcing the test. “So we’re testing a filter in your DM requests to keep those out of sight, out of mind.”

Of course, you can turn off open DMs altogether, but people have legitimate reasons for wanting them open without fielding endless messages from trolls, ardently opinionated strangers, and eager publicists. Essentially, this test feature adds a new destination for those. Now, in addition to the standard “Messages” folder and the “Message Requests” folder, there will also be a brand-new “show” option within message requests that will reveal whatever messages the attention-seeking, desperate weirdos are trying to send you. The best part is that you never, ever need to click on that subfolder, and they will never, ever know.

It’s a small, mostly pointless step, but heck, we’ll take it.

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Supreme Court set to hear first 2nd Amendment case in a decade: Here’s what’s at stake

Supreme Court set to hear first 2nd Amendment case in a decade: Here’s what’s at stake
[Photo: Flickr user Jeffrey Zeldman]

A gun rights case is on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for this fall, and it’ll be the first in almost a decade on the topic of the Second Amendment. More specifically, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. The City of New York will address the transportation of firearms in New York City, a case that could ultimately have implications for the rest of the country.

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The 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller was perhaps the most significant gun rights case in modern American history, but it left some major gaps. In that landmark case, the court ruled that the core of the Second Amendment was the individual’s right to keep guns at home for self-defense. A 2010 case addressed one of the holes of the vague ruling, and nine years later, the New York case will address another: the transportation of arms.

What’s the case about?

New York State, and specifically New York City, has some of the strictest gun restrictions in the country. Those possessing mandatory gun licenses may only keep their guns at home or inside one of the city’s few shooting ranges. When they’re transported from one to the other, guns must be unloaded and locked in a container.

An NYPD regulation stated that residents are not permitted to transport their guns out of city boundaries—to shooting ranges outside of the city limits, or to second homes, for example. Taking issue with the constitutionality of the restriction, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association filed a lawsuit, which has now escalated to the highest court in the land.

What’s different this time?

The last time the Supreme Court heard a Second Amendment case was in 2010, which predates a barrage of mass shootings, including in Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Orlando; Las Vegas; Parkland, Florida; Pittsburgh; and most recently, El Paso and Dayton. It was before the founding of various gun safety advocacy groups, including Everytown and March For Our Lives, the student-led group created by Parkland survivors.

March For Our Lives this week filed an amicus brief for the New York case. (Amicus briefs, common at the Supreme Court level, are briefs filed by parties not involved in the lawsuit, but who may have interest in the issue.) MFOL’s brief, filed pro bono by law firm Hogan Lovells, argues that the past Heller ruling does not eliminate the rights of Americans “to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values.” It details nine cases of real-world gun violence, from Parkland to South Central Los Angeles.

“The point of our brief is that it’s bringing home the real-world impact of gun violence on the young people whose stories we’re telling,” said Ira Feinberg, a partner at the firm, “and that’s a perspective that we wanted to make sure the court has.”

Will the case actually be heard?

Although it’s on the docket, there’s a chance the case may not be heard. After the case escalated, New York City pulled the transportation restriction, and the legislature in Albany passed a law saying the city is not permitted to regulate transportation. The city then motioned the Supreme Court for the case to be dismissed.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the case is not truly moot, and that the only reason the city passed the law was to pull the case. The court will decide in October whether it’ll still be heard. If it is, the moot case could ironically have a significant national impact.

What’s the likely ruling?

Proponents of gun safety worry that the justices may have taken this case because they felt the New York City regulation was too restrictive and should be reversed on constitutional grounds. The bias of the court, conservative as it was during the Heller case, certainly suggests the verdict may lean in that direction.

Certainly, the law is on the side of gun rights proponents because of the notion of “strict scrutiny,” meaning a judge should strike down a law unless the government can show in court that it’s narrow enough not to violate citizens’ rights or equal protection.

What could the ruling mean?

The court’s ruling could affect whether a federal law could be passed regarding the transportation of firearms. It should be noted that transportation is not technically the same as “carry,” which various states’ open- and concealed-carry laws address. But there’s enough vagueness that the ruling, if articulated in a certain way, could also impact carry laws.

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A Bluetooth encryption flaw could let hackers spy on your connections

A Bluetooth encryption flaw could let hackers spy on your connections
[Photos: Yura Fresh/Unsplash; 3271136/Pixabay]

A group of security researchers has discovered a security flaw in Bluetooth that could let hackers spy on your communications.

Essentially, when two Bluetooth-enabled devices connect to each other and set up encryption keys to securely communicate, hackers could interfere with their connection, confusing them into setting up an extremely short encryption key, sometimes as small as one character. Then, hackers could simply try each encryption key of that length until they find one that lets them extract all the data the devices send back and forth.

The researchers, who presented their findings at the USENIX Security Symposium, say Bluetooth chips from Intel, Broadcom, Apple, and Qualcomm all proved vulnerable to the attack, which they dubbed KNOB, for Key Negotiation Of Bluetooth. Bluetooth Low Energy is not affected.

Since then, the industry group behind Bluetooth standards has updated the specification to ban overly short encryption keys, and companies including Microsoft and Apple have rolled out operating system patches to fix the flaw in their recent regular rounds of updates.

There’s no evidence the attack has actually been used, and hackers looking to use it to steal data would have to have been in close range of the devices they were trying to eavesdrop on.

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It took a public outcry for the EPA to realize that animal-killing cyanide bombs are a bad idea

It took a public outcry for the EPA to realize that animal-killing cyanide bombs are a bad idea
[Photo: Flickr user Jared Tarbell]

The Environmental Protection Agency has realized that the use of so-called cyanide bombs may not fall within its supposed mission to protect the environment—but only after the public pointed it out.

The agency had temporarily authorized the use of cyanide bombs, which are officially called M-44s, to protect livestock from predators. The bombs are spring-loaded devices that kill their targets with a discharge of sodium cyanide, according to the Guardian. They are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and its state-based counterparts in Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming to ward off foxes and coyotes, the New York Times reports, and have been since the mid-1970s.

Critics point out that releasing cyanide into the environment is pretty much objectively bad, as it causes long-term pollution and can harm more than its intended target, even killing pets and injuring humans. For instance, a boy in Idaho was injured by a cyanide bomb last year, an explosion that killed his beloved yellow lab.

After the public caught wind of the EPA’s approval, an outcry ensued. In response, EPA administrator Andrew R. Wheeler said he was withdrawing an interim reauthorization for the use of the deadly devices and would reevaluate the highly criticized practice.

“This issue warrants further analysis and additional discussions by E.P.A. with the registrants of this predacide,” Wheeler said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure U.S. livestock remain well protected from dangerous predators while simultaneously minimizing off-target impacts on both humans and nonpredatory animals.”

Seems like “minimizing off-target impacts” is both reasonable and well within the agency’s mission.

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Streaming service BroadwayHD gets Janis Joplin fever for Woodstock’s 50th

Streaming service BroadwayHD gets Janis Joplin fever for Woodstock’s 50th

Okay, so Woodstock 50 didn’t work out as planned, but that doesn’t mean Janis Joplin fans will be left hanging this weekend when the famous concert celebrates its big anniversary.

Streaming service BroadwayHD is going full-on Joplin with a special tribute to the rock singer’s legendary Woodstock performance. Earlier this year, the theater-centric service debuted A Night With Janis Joplin, a bio-musical starring Tony-nominated actress Mary Bridget Davies. Today, in honor of Woodstock’s 50th, BroadwayHD will launch a special playlist featuring Davies (in character) performing Joplin’s original set list from the 1969 concert. The service will also a host a Facebook Live event at 3 p.m. ET today (Friday, August 16), during which Davies will answer questions from fans.

The full set list will be available to BroadwayHD subscribers, but the company says nonsubscribers can sample three of the songs, including Joplin’s perennial classic  “A Piece of My Heart.”

It’s a smart move for BroadwayHD, which positions itself as a kind of Netflix for theater geeks but could probably convince more people to pay the $9/month subscription fee if it figured out ways to broaden its appeal without betraying that concept. Woodstock seems as good a tie-in as any. It’s no Sweeney Todd, but there’s plenty of hair.

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Facebook thinks a free latte will trick you into believing it cares about your privacy

Facebook thinks a free latte will trick you into believing it cares about your privacy
[Photo: Bonnie Kittle/Unsplash]

Facebook, the company that has one of the worst privacy track records in the history of tech, is opening multiple pop-up “Facebook Cafes” in which people can stop in for a Facebook privacy checkup.

Unfortunately that privacy checkup doesn’t allow you to see just how much data the company has on you. Rather the aim of the cafes is to help Facebook users become familiar with their Facebook privacy settings. Users who stop into the Facebook Cafes will get “free drinks from its select menu” if they take part in a privacy checkup while there, reports the Evening Standard. Right now it seems like the Facebook Cafe privacy PR stunt is only happening in the U.K. The Standard reports that Facebook will be opening five such pop-up cafes in the country between August 28 and September 5.

While it’s nice that Facebook wants to hand out a free cup of joe and spread the word about the social network’s privacy settings, the whole “friendly, hip, pop-up cafe” thing seems a bit trite considering the massive privacy violations Facebook has directly propagated, or allowed to propagate, on their users.

Cambridge Analytica aside, the company still continues to be plagued by scandal after scandal. Just this week it was revealed that Facebook allows human contractors to listen to Facebook Messenger users’ audio recordings—and that fact was not disclosed to users beforehand. That’s not to mention, as the Guardian has pointed out, Facebook is essentially an anti-privacy company that wants people to have less control over their data, not more.

But hey, free lattes, everyone. And the cafes are sure to be set up to make you want to Instagram some selfies and brag about just how awesome Facebook is for caring about your privacy so much. But there is good news: Instead of sitting in their cafe, you can simply read Fast Company’s Facebook privacy tips and WhatsApp privacy tips articles, which describe all the privacy settings you need to know in Facebook’s apps (but sorry, we don’t offer coffee).

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Apple will almost certainly unveil the iPhone 11 on September 10

Apple will almost certainly unveil the iPhone 11 on September 10
[Photo: Xavier Wendling/Unsplash]

If you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for the unveiling of the next iPhone, good news: You don’t have long to go. Apple will almost certainly unveil its next flagship smartphone on Tuesday, September 10.

The September time frame was always a given, as was the fact that the iPhone 11 unveiling would happen in the first half of the month—that’s just how things have played out with iPhone launches for the last several years. But thanks to the latest iOS 13 beta build, we now know the expected unveiling date is set for the 10th. Why? Mac site iHelpBR found a screenshot in the latest beta of iOS 13 that was named “HoldForRelease.” That screenshot shows the iPhone’s home screen, and on it the Calendar app icon reads “Tuesday 10″–as in Tuesday, September 10, 2019.

While this isn’t explicit confirmation of the iPhone 11’s unveiling—well, who are we kidding? It’s confirmation of the iPhone 11’s unveiling date. Within the next two weeks (probably during the week of August 26-30), Apple will confirm this date when it sends out press invites. Apple always likes to get its iPhone event press invites out before Labor Day, which is September 2 this year. Doing so allows publications enough time to arrange travel plans for their journalists.

So on September 10, expect to see the iPhone 11 (which will replace the iPhone XR), as well as the iPhone 11 Pro (the iPhone XS replacement) and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (the iPhone XR Max replacement). Oh, and since we know pretty much for sure that September 10 is the date of the next iPhone unveiling, that gives us an idea of other key Apple dates in September:

  • Tuesday, September 10: likely unveiling of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • Friday, September 13: likely date pre-orders will begin for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • Tuesday, September 17, or Wednesday, September 18: likely dates Apple will release the final versions of iOS 13, tvOS 13, and watchOS 6 to the public
  • Friday, September 20: likely date the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max will go on sale
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CVS faces boycott threats after dispute with birth-control delivery startup Pill Club

CVS faces boycott threats after dispute with birth-control delivery startup Pill Club
[Photo: Tdorante10/Wikimedia Commons]

On Thursday, prescription delivery startup Pill Club posted a missive concerning CVS that has the Twitterverse in a frenzy.

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“CVS Caremark’s proposed payment changes threaten Pill Club’s ability to serve members,” the company said on its website. “Pill Club members with pharmacy coverage through CVS Caremark are at risk of their birth control access being disrupted.”

The disagreement concerns how much CVS pays Pill Club for its prescription delivery service. CVS has allegedly decided to cut its reimbursement rates to the service, and in response, Pill Club says it will have to stop working with the pharmacy chain. “If we cannot convince CVS to change course in the next few weeks, we will have no choice but to stop serving people with CVS Caremark pharmacy benefits,” the company says. “The reality is that we would be out of business if every pharmacy manager did what CVS is doing. And thousands of women would be without the birth control they need.”

Women’s health advocates are now threatening to boycott CVS.

In response, CVS has released a statement calling Pill Club’s accusations “extremely misleading” and saying Pill Club still participates in its pharmacy network. The company clarifies that, earlier this year, it made changes to the way it reimburses companies like Pill Club, which operate on a different business model than retail drug stores.

The story is interesting because pharmacy benefit managers are constantly negotiating pricing with their vendors. However, these disagreements rarely go public, let alone viral. But as NARAL president Ilyse Hogue’s tweet illustrates, it’s a particularly sensitive time to mess around with women’s healthcare.

CVS’s full statement as provided to Business Insider appears below:

“Our coverage of contraceptives is widespread throughout our network of 68,000 pharmacies, ensuring accessible and affordable access to our members. The accusations being made by Pill Club against CVS Caremark are extremely misleading. Pill Club continues to be a participating pharmacy in our network and there is no impact on its customers’ access to contraceptives. We are committed to providing access to women’s health care and it is irresponsible for Pill Club to suggest otherwise in an effort to maximize their profits at the expense of our PBM clients.

Earlier this year, we notified certain non-traditional pharmacies, including Pill Club, which had been receiving reimbursement at the same rate as the retail drugstores in our PBM pharmacy network, that it would be subject to additional terms and reimbursement applicable to its business model. Other pharmacies in our network with similar business models as Pill Club have agreed to the same terms and reimbursement.

We remain committed to providing plan design options for our clients that includes coverage for contraceptive products, including birth control pills. Ensuring that the pharmacies in our network are reimbursed appropriately based on their business models helps our clients provide cost-effective coverage for their members’ pharmacy care needs.”

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GE hits back after scathing report calls it a ‘bigger fraud than Enron’

GE hits back after scathing report calls it a ‘bigger fraud than Enron’
Harry Markopolos [Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images]

General Electric is fighting back after Harry Markopolos, who made a name for himself by blowing the whistle on Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, claimed the company was “a bigger fraud than Enron.” Clearly those are fighting words that could make things pretty awkward at whatever Hamptons fundraiser they all run into each other at over Labor Day.

Markopolos, who was paid to research and publish his findings by a hedge fund that he refuses to name, targeted the giant company in a new 175-page report, accusing it of issuing fraudulent financial statements to hide the extent of its problems. As part of his report’s marketing plan, he set up the website www.GEfraud.com to spread the gospel of GE’s “Enronesque business approach that has left GE on the verge of insolvency.”

Shares of GE fell more than 13% on Thursday after Markopolos went on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street to share the results of his seven-month-long investigation, accuse the company of a $38 billion fraud and claim that GE is on the verge of insolvency and has a “long history” of accounting fraud.

GE disagrees. “GE will always take any allegation of financial misconduct seriously. But this is market manipulation–pure and simple,” H. Lawrence Culp, Jr., chairman and CEO of GE, said in a statement sent to Fast Company. “Mr. Markopolos’s report contains false statements of fact, and these claims could have been corrected if he had checked them with GE before publishing the report.”

Culp also claimed that Markopolos never talked to company officials before publishing the report, which “goes to show that he is not interested in accurate financial analysis but solely in generating downward volatility in GE stock, so that he and his undisclosed hedge fund partner can personally profit.”

In short, just assume everyone here wants to make a buck, and keep all your money under your Casper mattress.

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Langogo is an AI-powered, pocket-size translator that travels with you

Langogo is an AI-powered, pocket-size translator that travels with you
[Photo: courtesy of Langogo]

In The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote of what was “probably the oddest thing in the Universe,” the Babel fish: a small, yellow, leech-like fish that sits in an ear and helps you “instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.” Since most of us don’t have access to small translating fish to stick in our ears while we travel, we have to come up with other devices. The latest addition to the panoply of translation devices is the pocket-size, AI-powered Langogo.

[Photo: courtesy of Langogo]
The handy little device translates 70 languages from Arabic to Vietnamese with Bulgarian, Malay, and 20 Spanish dialects in between. Langogo is connected to what it claims is the largest language database around and integrates 24 translation engines to ensure its translations sound as natural and accurate as possible. Simply hold the device up to the person talking and it should pick up what they are saying and translate it in about one second, cutting down the amount of time spent in awkward moments at the cash register trying to explain to the clerk that you don’t need a plastic bag, but you do need your change. Langogo works in over 72 countries without a SIM card, thanks to eSIM technology, which doesn’t require a physical card. You can just switch it on and it will automatically connect you to a local network, and then you can start asking how to say “I’m vegan” in Polish.

Because this was funded through IndieGoGo, it needed a lot of extra features to lure in potential funders and hit its fundraising goal. To that end, in your ultimate Billy Mays voice: But wait there’s more! Langogo also works as an international hot spot in 72 countries, letting six devices connect to the internet at once, a godsend for digital nomads or traveling families desperate not to go over their international data packages. Langogo also threw in a portable voice AI trip adviser named Euri that you can ask for restaurant recommendations or tourist tips or Wi-Fi hookups while on the road.

Langogo is currently available on Amazon starting at $299. That said, Google Translate is still free although not nearly as seamless and with fewer add-ons.

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Pumpkin Spice Spam: Fake news becomes unfortunate reality

Pumpkin Spice Spam: Fake news becomes unfortunate reality
[Photo: Hormel Foods Corporation]

Pumpkin Spice is big business. According to data from Neilsen, pumpkin and pumpkin spice-flavored items accounted for $414 million in sales in 2017, up 45% from $286 million in 2013, the New York Times reported at the time. While Starbucks has firmly planted the Pumpkin Spice flag with its PSL, the “autumnal” drink hitting the market on August 27 this year, the world has also been gifted with things like Pumpkin Spice Pringles, Pumpkin Spice Coffee-Mate, Pumpkin Spice English Muffins, Pumpkin Spice Beer, and Pumpkin Spice Werther’s Originals.

And now this: Pumpkin Spice Spam. Honestly, there aren’t enough barf-face emojis in the world to properly express our thoughts on this product.

While rumors of Pumpkin Spice Spam circulated two years ago thanks to a hoax Facebook post, this time it’s all too real. A publicist for Hormel Foods Corp. confirmed to NBC News that the company will begin selling a limited-edition run of Pumpkin Spice Spam online at walmart.com and spam.com on September 23.

To crib a line from Jurassic Park, it’s like they were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. And now Pumpkin Spice Spam is going to destroy the world or at least the taste buds of those who try it when PR people inevitably send samples to the office.

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Charter and Disney are going to crack down on cable password sharing

Charter and Disney are going to crack down on cable password sharing
[Photo: rawpixel]

Charter appears to be making progress in its crusade against people who share their cable TV logins with others. As part of a new carriage agreement between Charter (which operates the Spectrum brand) and Disney, the two companies say they’ll “work together to implement business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing.”

The news release doesn’t get into details, but sources told Bloomberg in 2017 that Charter has been pushing programmers to offer fewer simultaneous streams and requiring customers to reenter their account credentials more often. According to that same report, Disney had already cut simultaneous streams from 10 to five in the ESPN app and had been considering further limits to just three streams at a time.

Two years later, Spectrum continues to argue that password sharing is a major issue for the TV industry, likening it to piracy. The problem is that it’s hard to restrict without inconveniencing legitimate customers, and tighter streaming limits may not even do much to discourage sharers. In February, a survey by CordCutting.com found that 16.5% of Hulu viewers were using a login from someone else, even though Hulu only allows one stream at a time for its on-demand service. Netflix, which allows two simultaneous streams on its most popular plan, had a smaller percentage of moochers at 15%.

Besides, not all companies are as zealous about password sharing as Spectrum. “Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in 2016, adding that “legitimate” sharing between family members was hard to distinguish from a password that floats around more broadly.

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Nest users are mad about Google’s new privacy policy regarding camera status lights

Nest users are mad about Google’s new privacy policy regarding camera status lights
[Photos: Agence Olloweb/Unsplash; Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash]

Back in May, Google published a set of privacy principles for its smart home devices, one of which said that it would provide a “clear visual indicator” when a camera is turned on and sending data to Google. Now that Google’s making good on that commitment, a lot of customers aren’t happy.

As reported by Android Police, Google is now requiring all Nest Cam, Dropcam, and Nest Hello cameras to display a status light while recording, and to blink the status light when users are live-streaming the footage. A Nest forum post announcing the change is now filled with angry comments from users who say they need the status lights to stay off, whether it’s to monitor a baby without disruption, point a camera out of a window without reflections, or surveil their property without giving away the location of outdoor cameras.

But while some Nest users may have legitimate reasons to disable their cameras’ status indicators, silent recording also has plenty of nefarious uses, such as monitoring Airbnb units without guests’ knowledge. Setting up clear expectations around disclosure was always going to create some messes, which in a way makes the decision more admirable, though that’s of little consolation to users who say their hardware is now worthless. This’ll be a good early test of whether Google sticks to the principles it’s laid out.

Reached for comment, Google reiterated the statement it posted in its Nest support forums, and said not to expect further comment.

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Virgin Galactic is throwing open the doors to its Spaceport America headquarters

Virgin Galactic is throwing open the doors to its Spaceport America headquarters
[Photo: courtesy of Virgin Galactic]

Virgin Galactic has left the Mojave Desert and made its way to its new home in New Mexico. Last year, the company announced it was packing up its staff, vehicles, and operations for its commercial spaceflight activities and heading to Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built space station. Now we have the first glimpse.

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The company just revealed the operations center where mission control, a pilots’ working area, and the briefing center will call home. It also showed the ground-level lounge area for the well-heeled clientele who can pony up the reported $250,000 a ticket for a ride on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity. Friends and families who don’t have enough bitcoin to afford tickets or don’t want to risk of barfing in near-space can hang out there and wait, too. Meanwhile civilians can loiter alongside spaceship pilots, rocket engineers, and operatives from mission control.

This small glimpse of the interior is a big step toward completing Virgin Galactic’s move to New Mexico. Now that its carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, is parked at Spaceport America, it can complete its final tests from the state. Flight crew can use VMS Eve (or the “mothership,” as Virgin insists on calling it) to fly simulated spaceship launch missions.

When testing is complete, VMS Eve will head back to Mojave to pick up Spaceship Unity and bring it to its new home at the Spaceport to continue testing in the New Mexican desert. The corporation is getting closer all the time to completing its mission. It conducted VSS Unity’s first test flight with a passenger onboard back in February, two months after its first-ever flight to space.

Once its New Mexican testing is complete, Virgin Galactic just might start flying civilian astronauts into space.

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It’s snowing plastic in the Arctic now

It’s snowing plastic in the Arctic now
Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute use the board helicopter from the icebreaking research vessel Polarstern to collect snow samples. Even in the Arctic, the snow is polluted with microplastics. [Photo: Alfred-Wegener-Institut/Mine Tekman]

While the world may have hoped that it would rain tacos some day, instead it is snowing plastic.

In what is supposed to be one of the few remaining pristine wildernesses out there, scientists have discovered that among the snowflakes gently falling over the Arctic, there were a whole bunch of microplastic particles, too. It wasn’t just a gentle scattering of microplastics, either. The scientists found more than 10,000 plastic particles per liter of snow in the Arctic.

The lead scientist, Dr. Melanie Bergmann, told BBC News: “We expected to find some contamination, but to find this many microplastics was a real shock.” They also found rubber particles in the snow as well as remnants of rubber tires, varnish, paint, and possibly synthetic fibers, showing humanity’s inescapable bad influence on the planet.

The snow samples were taken from the Arctic’s Svalbard islands. The team of German and Swiss researchers published the alarming discovery in the journal Science Advances. They believe the majority of the microplastics they found in the Arctic were from the air. What that means for the health of humans or, more importantly, for the polar bears who call Svalbard home, is unclear.

This finding confirms the results of an earlier study that revealed that microplastics were falling from the sky onto the French Pyrenees. Thanks to our plastic addiction, there’s pretty much no plastic-free pristine oceanriversoil, or mountaintop left, except in Thomas Kinkade paintings.

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