Wednesday February 3, 2021

Facebook and Instagram users on iPhones may see new pop-up messages on the apps

As part of an ongoing back-and-forth between Facebook and Apple over user tracking, Apple’s upcoming update to its mobile operating system will give users the ability to prevent tracking from apps. This option could be devastating to companies like Facebook, which rely on tracking data collected through the app to serve advertisers. Facebook’s pop-up messages frame tracking as a method for users to receive more personalized advertising. Facebook may file an antitrust lawsuit, alleging that Apple’s own apps do not abide by its own App Store rules, and that it promotes its own products over those of competitors. Apple CEO has said that businesses should not be built on “misleading users” or “data exploitation,” and argued that advertising should be able to thrive without the collection of “vast troves of personal data.” Facebook has framed Apple’s planned change to iOS 14 an attack on small businesses who utilize ads on Facebook. The “App Tracking Transparency” feature is scheduled to roll out in iOS 14 in early spring. (Washington Post)

Rosier outlook for the US economy

The U.S. economy will grow back to its pre-pandemic levels faster than originally predicted, according to projections released by the Congressional Budget Office. The country should see its gross domestic product return to its pre-pandemic level by the middle of 2021, earlier than first predicted over the summer. A combination of vaccines and relief spending, including financial help for households and businesses — will help the economy recover “rapidly” and the labor market return to “full strength quicker than expected.” (The Wall Street Journal)

Google to settle case for $3.8 Million

Google will pay $3.8 million to settle allegations it discriminated against women and Asians, according to new research. The search giant was accused of underpaying nearly 2,800 women in its software engineering group in Mountain View, Calif., and Seattle, as well as unfairly passing over women and Asian candidates for various software engineering roles. The settlement, which includes $2.6 million in back pay, puts to a close a four-year case that stemmed from the Labor Department’s periodic reviews of pay practices by federal government contractors. (United States Department of Labor)

Lights, camera, GameStop

Streaming giants and film producers are racing to turn the GameStop market frenzy into a Hollywood movie. Even as the real-life ending of the story has yet to be written, projects are already in the works at Netflix and at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM has acquired the book proposal “The Antisocial Network” from author Ben Mezrich, which is about “a ragtag group of amateur investors, gamers, and internet trolls who brought Wall Street to its knees” . Growing competition in streaming is creating more pressure to capture subscribers with “buzzy titles” that speak to the current moment. (Deadline)

Suburban stores cash in on city exodus

The dearth of office workers in New York City, along with residents who fled the five boroughs for suburbia during the pandemic, have hobbled the revenues of scores of Manhattan businesses. Yet, those restaurants and retailers in commuter suburbs and in rural areas of the state are experiencing something unexpected. With scores of workers now remote, a new wave of customers are unexpectedly spending “a lot more time and money in the communities they live.” (The New York Times)

Uber is betting $1.1 Billion on alcohol deliveries

Uber announced that it is acquiring alcohol delivery startup Drizly for $1.1 billion in stock and cash. The deal, which is not yet complete, will result in Drizly being integrated into Uber’s food delivery app while also remaining a standalone app. Drizly was founded in 2012 and the news comes as delivery services have seen skyrocking demand during the pandemic. Uber has leaned on Eats, its food delivery business, while its core rides business has plummeted. In July, Uber acquired one of its smaller food delivery competitors, Postmates, for $2.65 billion in an all-stock deal. (Uber)

Middle schoolers asked how they would punish a slave as part of social studies assignment

Patrick Marsh Middle School students in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin were asked how they would punish a disrespectful slave in ancient Mesopotamia as part of a social studies lesson recently. According to a screenshot of the lesson on King Hammurabi’s Code, students were presented with the following scenario: “A slave stands before you. This slave has disrespected his master by telling him ‘You are not my master!’ How will you punish this slave?” Students were asked to give their decision and it was compared with that of Hammurabi’s code, which would have the slave put to death. The question has shown up elsewhere, including on a set of online flashcards for questions about Hammurabi’s code and in a Michigan school district last month. It was traumatizing for some students and parents, especially on the first day of Black History Month. A Facebook post with the screenshot of the assignment had more than 125 comments and 350 shares in just over four hours. The district sent an apology email to families, and the school’s principal and assistant principal issued a separate apology. The email from the school’s administration stated the activity’s aim was “to help students understand how order was kept in the early civilization, how the laws that were developed, and how unjust they were.” The district will support students “in processing their feelings about this incident,” according to the district email, and the Patrick Marsh leadership team will work with Black community leaders “to work toward community healing.” Staff will also reconvene the social studies curriculum review committee “for an intensive review of our social studies teaching practices with the lens of racial trauma and curriculum violence,” the email states. (The Cap Times)

Soon, You Could Be Wearing Mushroom Leather

It may look and feel like leather, but the material working its way into select handbags, clothes and shoes these days isn’t from animals, it’s from fungus. Engineers and new brands are looking for more sustainable products that still resemble traditional, livestock-produced counterparts. When it comes to replacement leathers, versions made of mushroom are leading the way. Start-ups around the world are growing and shaping their version of the flat, flexible fungus mats, and producing better versions all the time. While it’s tempting to assume a bag made of microbes is inherently better for the planet, mushroom leather might have some of the same sustainability issues as its animal leather counterparts. Mushroom leather is part of a suite of so-called vegan leathers, or versions that aren’t reliant on any animal byproducts. (Discover Magazine)

A woman wants an explanation from American Airlines regarding a racially insensitive bank charge

A woman in Charlotte, North Carolina said while traveling out of Charlotte Douglas Airport on Thanksgiving Day, she and her boyfriend were checking in with American Airlines. She said they had both paid for their own tickets and checked-in luggage, but when she looked at her bank statement, she found a strange charge. “I said hmmm, ‘African American, African service charge.’ It was just on my cell phone because I was looking at my banking app. I’m like ‘what is this?’” she explained. She contacted the airlines immediately, but said no one was helpful. “She’s like I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said about the representative. “I’m like I have a screenshot here on two different phones and a computer, and it says it’s from American Charlotte, and I want to know why it’s listed this way?” From November to January, she would get the runaround from the airlines and her bank. Both blaming the other for the peculiar charge. “The bank told American directly, we don’t have anything to do with that. When you put something into your system, we charge it as the merchant charges it, and that’s it,” she said. “To this day it hasn’t changed on each of our statements.” The airline said there is an investigation into this. (Fox 46)

Anal Swab Covid Test Won’t Make You Waddle Like A ‘Penguin,’ China Says

Chinese officials reassured members of the public Monday that newly introduced anal swab coronavirus tests will not make them waddle like penguins after a video purportedly showing people struggling to walk after using them went viral online. Authorities said a video of people waddling out of a hospital, which reportedly was viewed millions of times before being taken down, does not show people who have been subjected to the anal swab test. The video, set to a laugh track, is doctored and fake, officials said, though an explanation on what the video does show was not offered. The new tests, which involve inserting a cotton-tipped swab about 1-2 inches into the rectum and which Chinese authorities say can detect the virus more accurately than oral and nasal methods, are only used in high-risk cases owing to the less-than-convenient method of testing. The test does not cause any discomfort, the officials said, and has only been used on hospitalized Covid-19 patients with diarrhea. (Forbes)

Man Starts Fire in Walmart, Causes $6 Million Worth of Damage, Police Say

A man has been arrested in Arizona after allegedly starting a fire inside a Walmart store in the city of Mesa, causing at least $6 million worth of damage. Mesa Police said in a statement to Newsweek that it responded to a fire alarm call from the garden center at the store. Firefighters from Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix responded to the alarm. Officials described the smoke as “being so heavy that it encompassed their feet, and so thick that the firefighters had little to no visibility as they walked inside.” Police added that the smoke had “activated the sprinkler system, which helped contain the fire that had now ignited several pallets of merchandise.” A fan was used to clear the smoke from inside the store once the fire was extinguished, the statement added. CCTV captured the suspect picking out items in the store before heading to the garden center where he gathered cushions and padding in a pile on the floor, police said. The man who started the fire was found around 1,000 yards away from the scene of the incident. Store officials told officers the smoke, water damage and store closure would cost between $6 and $10 million. The man is is facing a count of arson, criminal damage, and endangerment—all felonies. He is being held on a $200,000 bond. (MSN)

North Carolina will no longer issue specialty license plates featuring Confederate battle flag

North Carolina will no longer issue or renew specialty license plates depicting the Confederate battle flag, officials said. The state’s Division of Motor Vehicles said the agency had received complaints about plates featuring the Confederate flag following nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “The Division of Motor Vehicles has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them,” the agency said in a statement. “We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.” The policy primarily affects members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) organization, a civic organization that is allowed to have a specialty plate. The DMV said that it will continue to recognize the group as a civic organization entitled to a specialty plate and remains open to considering an alternative design for the group. (WRAL)

California hiker plunges nearly 100 feet to his death, officials say

A California hiker has died after getting swept up in a rockslide that sent him over the edge of a cliff, causing him to fall nearly 100 feet, the National Park Service says. The incident involving the 38-year-old from Los Angeles, unfolded while he was descending a technical route down Deimos Canyon in Death Valley National Park with six of his “very experienced” friends, according to officials. “He apparently stepped on a rock that moved, triggering a rockslide that swept him past two companions and over the edge of the 95-foot-tall dry fall,” Park Officials said in a statement. Park officials say the group then used an emergency locator beacon to call for help. A Navy helicopter dispatched from nearby Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake was able to find the man a few hours after the fall and confirm his death. The California Highway Patrol, Inyo County search-and-rescue and Death Valley park rangers also assisted in the search. (Fox News)

Wednesday Brings In The Blessings Of:

  • Carrot Cake Day
  • Feed The Birds Day
  • Four Chaplains Memorial Day
  • Global School Play Day (First Wednesday)
  • Girls & Women in Sports Day (First Wednesday)
  • Missing Person’s Day
  • Signing Day for College Football (First Wednesday)
  • The Day The Music Died
  • Women’s Physicians Day

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