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High-skilled workers in small towns are a ‘waste of resources,’ says controversial Princeton study

High-skilled workers in small towns are a ‘waste of resources,’ says controversial Princeton study
[Photo: sol/Unsplash]

It would be more efficient if big cities like New York and San Francisco were transformed into “cognitive hubs” for white collar work, even if that meant paying other workers to stay away, according to a new study from economists at Princeton University and the Federal Reserve.

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“Our analysis underscores that while CNR workers are extremely useful, they are also scarce,” the economists write, referring to “cognitive non-routine” workers like doctors, lawyers, computer scientists, and managers. “Furthermore, their productivity is tremendously enhanced by living with other CNR workers. So attracting them to smaller towns with more mixed populations represents a waste of resources. CNR workers are too valuable for society to be used in this way. A better policy is to reinforce existing trends and let them concentrate in cognitive hubs while
incentivizing non-CNR workers to move and help smaller cities grow.”

While big cities would need to have some non-cognitive workers, and small towns would still need some professionals like doctors and lawyers, they say, overall the economy would be more efficient if brain workers were concentrated in big cities, which would become smaller and less congested after economic incentives were delivered to send workers to the designated type of community. Essentially, cognitive workers would be taxed to provide payments to other workers to live outside of the hub cities.

“Some large cities, such as Miami or Las Vegas, remain non-CNR abundant since they are particularly productive in industries where CNR workers are employed less intensively,” they wrote, pointing to hospitality and retail-related work.

Critics on social media were quick to point out that such a policy could boost racial and class segregation. Already, studies have shown that where children are raised can have a significant impact on future income and opportunity for class mobility, and it’s hard to imagine that deliberately dividing the country into professional and “routine” work zones.

In response to written questions about the study from Fast Company, a representative for Princeton said the authors wouldn’t be able to answer them.

In a summary of the paper, they emphasized that the research was an “academic exercise” and that they didn’t address all the factors or potential repercussions of such a policy.

“Of course, we acknowledge that where workers with certain skill profiles live—especially when their concentration in specific cities might lead to social segregation—has profound implications that extend beyond more immediate economic welfare,” they wrote. “And importantly, our model does not directly address all of the underlying forces that influence individual labor market outcomes.”

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Disney Store is the latest retailer hit with an ADA lawsuit over Braille gift cards

Disney Store is the latest retailer hit with an ADA lawsuit over Braille gift cards
[Photo: Raysonho/Wikimedia Commons]

Should retailers and restaurants be required to offer Braille gift cards for visually impaired customers? 

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The Walt Disney Company is the latest business facing this legal question after a new lawsuit accused it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act—the landmark 1990 law that codified civil rights for people living with disabilities—for not including the raised-dot writing system on gift cards at its Disney Store retail locations.

In a proposed class action filed in federal court in New York yesterday, lawyers for Kathy Wu, who is legally blind, say Disney is essentially denying “full and equal access” to visually impaired people. The lawyers are seeking a court injunction that would force the company to change its policies, along with unspecified compensatory damages for Wu and “all other persons similarly situated.”

According to the complaint, Brooklyn resident Wu contacted Disney on October 25 to ask if it sold Braille gift cards and was told by an employee that it does not. Because gift cards function as a way to obtain products and services sold at the Disney Store, Wu’s lawyers assert that the lack of accessible gift cards is tantamount to a “denial of its products and services offered thereby and in conjunction with its physical location.”

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of very recent litigation aimed at retailers and eating establishments that don’t sell Braille gift cards. Last week, news outlets reported that Hooters was sued for not selling Braille gift cards. A similar suit was also filed against Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

And those aren’t the only ones. Lawyers writing on the Lexology blog this week say they’ve uncovered no fewer than 33 cases filed in U.S. district courts in New York in recent days and that all the plaintiffs are represented by one or both of the same two lawyers. The lawyers, Lexology notes, are using a similar argument being used in ADA lawsuits regarding website accessibility.

Whether or not these new lawsuits will succeed in court remains to be seen, but the lawyers could have an uphill climb. As the blog post points out, arguing for website accessibility and arguing that retailers should offer Braille gift cards are not necessarily equivalent:

“Website accessibility litigation is premised on the DOJ’s express position (first enunciated in 1996) that a public accommodation using a website to communicate information about its goods and services must provide such communications through accessible means. The DOJ has not previously opined on whether Title III requires that gift cards be offered with Braille.”

However it eventually plays out, expect legal uncertainty around accessibility to continue for a long time. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue after Domino’s Pizza appealed a court ruling over the accessibility of its website. The Supreme Court’s nonaction allowed a lawsuit by a blind customer to proceed, but it didn’t settle the pressing questions at the heart of the case—namely, what businesses are, and are not, required to do to ensure that their services are accessible to all.

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Report: Fears over Chinese ownership of TikTok grow as U.S. launches security investigation

Report: Fears over Chinese ownership of TikTok grow as U.S. launches security investigation
[Photo: Pongsawat Pasom/Unsplash]

TikTok, the short-video app that’s proven particularly popular with teens, is owned by a Chinese company called Beijing ByteDance Technology Co., and that’s raised fears among members of Congress about U.S. national security.

Now the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which regulates foreign ownership of U.S. companies, is probing ByteDance’s billion-dollar purchase of app Musical.ly, Reuters reports. CFIUS is reportedly talking to the company about steps it could take short of selling off the app to satisfy regulators’ concerns.

A prior CFIUS probe led to Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. Ltd. looking to sell off Grindr, the gay dating app, amid similar concerns.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, wrote to acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire last week calling for an investigation into TikTok, concerned the app might be censoring content and collecting U.S. user data. The move comes as even domestic social networks such as Facebook and Twitter come under scrutiny over ad targeting and content regulation policies.

A TikTok spokesperson told Reuters the company is committed to earning regulators’ trust and working with Congress.

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Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare for All plan is confusing! Let us break it down for you.?

Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare for All plan is confusing! Let us break it down for you.?
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped her Medicare for All plan this morning in a 9,500-word Medium post. (For comparison, this post is 380 words.) Allow us to save you some reading time and break down the numbers.

The take-home message: The senator from Massachusetts and 2020 presidential candidate proposes to provide all Americans with coverage without raising taxes for the middle class. She is mostly accomplishing this by rerouting the money that governments and employers spend on health insurance to fund the program, as well as decreasing military spending, cracking down on tax evasion and fraud, and taxing Everyone With Money: the wealthy, financial firms, and large corporations.

Why she says this is essential: 1 in 4 Americans are uninsured or underinsured; medical costs are the number one reason families go broke; 1 in 9 Americans didn’t fill a prescription or see a doctor last year because they couldn’t afford it; families of four spend $12,378 a year on healthcare on average.

Key detail: Her proposed taxes on Everyone With Money will essentially replace most of your current healthcare costs. Yes, you read that correctly: FREE-TO-THE-PEOPLE Health Insurance. Or nearly free.

Where most of the money is coming from

Continuing our current healthcare system would cost $52 trillion over 10 years. Warren’s plan will cost the same amount—but insure everyone while axing family healthcare costs to near zero. Here’s where the money would come from each year:
  • $2.3 trillion: Income from collecting taxes currently not paid due to evasion and fraud, which is roughly 15% of all taxes.
  • $3.8 trillion: Fees on financial firms and large companies, including a financial transaction fee such as a small tax (one-tenth of 1%) on sales of stocks, bonds, and derivatives, assessed on firms (not investors). She also proposes removing some corporate tax loopholes.
  • $8.8 trillion: Taxes on companies, meant to reroute what they currently pay anyway for employee health insurance. Warren says they would save $20 billion a year.
  • $3 trillion: Taxes on the wealthy, including 6 cents per dollar on all net worth over $1 billion, as well as a 1% tax on capital gains every year, for which the tax rate would rise to income tax levels.
  • $80 billion: Most of what is currently allocated ($116 billion) for the military Overseas Contingency Operations fund each year, a “slush fund” that makes up roughly 10% of all federal discretionary spending. Warren proposes shutting it down and repurposing most of it toward insurance.

You can check out the full post here.

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Why are Black Friday deals starting so early? A shopper’s guide to an annoying trend

Why are Black Friday deals starting so early? A shopper’s guide to an annoying trend
[Photo: David Clarke/Unsplash]

Today may be Friday, but it’s not Black Friday.

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Or is it?

Kohl’s seems to think it is, unveiling a list of Black Friday deals available four weeks before the storied shopping day that comes immediately after Thanksgiving. The early Black Friday bargains are available through Sunday, but the Wisconsin-based retailer also released a copy of its Black Friday ad to excite traditionalists who prefer to shop after a turkey feast.

In fact, 2019 is giving stores an extra reason to panic about how much they’ll rake in during the pre-holiday buying time—and, no, they can’t blame this on Amazon. It’s a quirk of the calendar. This year has the fewest possible days between Thanksgiving, the unofficial launch of the shopping season, and Christmas: 26. Compare that to last year, for example, and you have six fewer days to find something for everyone on your list (and maybe yourself, too).

Thank God it’s Friday—forever

For years, people have complained about the encroachment of Black Friday. As stores chose to open earlier and earlier, family time was sacrificed as determined shoppers camped out overnight or went to bed early to get ready for doorbuster deals in the wee hours. Then Black Friday moved into Thanksgiving night, generating more harrumphing. Next came a slow spread across the week. And now it’s become a month-long event.

“With people shopping 24/7 and price promotions happening all the time, the magic of everything happening on one day is long gone,” says Barbara Kahn, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Most people are off work, ate a lot on Thanksgiving. It’s something to go out for. The integrity of the day made sense. Within the last 10-15 years, people have really accelerated shopping online.”

The enlargement of Black Friday’s presence is especially important to brick-and-mortar retailers that continue to suffer. Sales continue to migrate to the internet as American malls die off and storied chains file for bankruptcy, from Barneys to Forever 21 to Payless Shoes.

Fifty-six percent of Americans plan to shop for holiday gifts online, according to the National Retail Federation.

But that shopping also is moving to earlier in the year. The NRF found that 39% of people surveyed had planned to start holiday shopping in October or before, some as early as the summer.

Bob Phibbs, CEO of the New York-based consultancy the Retail Doctor, estimates as many as 20% of consumers begin holiday shopping in September, which means the race is on early for retailers.

“Any money I can take out of a customer’s wallet before the holidays is less money a competitor gets. The first one who gets it wins the game,” he explains. “Black Friday is a mental kickoff. It’s like back-to-school. It’s a defining consumer event . . . It says, ‘Something big happens from here forward.’ If you start earlier, shoppers start earlier.”

Testing our limits

Walmart caused a stir last Friday when it officially launched the start of its holiday-shopping season six days before Halloween—its earliest ever. Walmart didn’t deploy the term Black Friday, though. Instead, the name “Early Deals Drop” was used.

“Customers count on Walmart for the best prices every day, and the holiday season is no exception,” Steve Bratspies, Walmart U.S.’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, said in a statement on October 23. “Saving our customers time is also paramount at this time of year, especially with fewer days to get ready for big family meals, parties and gift giving.”

As U.S. retailers dream up new ways to get consumers to spend their money, overseas vendors are simply co-opting the American style. Black Friday has now come to countries that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, such as France, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

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Engineers have figured out how to charge electric car batteries in 10 minutes

Engineers have figured out how to charge electric car batteries in 10 minutes
[Photo: Vlad Tchompalov/Unsplash]

Have you seen the empty light on your gas tank many times? People who answer yes to this question are one of the reasons why the popularity of electric cars remains limited. Many of us are simply too busy or too irresponsible to fit multi-hour battery charges into our schedules.

That could soon change: Penn State engineers have just figured out how to charge car batteries in 10 minutes for 200-300 miles of driving. “Fast charging is the key to enabling widespread introduction of electric vehicles,” says Chao-Yang Wang, who published his team’s work in Joule.

The secret is heat. Previously, charging times were limited because lithium-ion batteries were degrading when charged at typical outdoor temperatures. The culprit was lithium plating, which is when deposits form on anode surfaces when batteries are charged at under 50 degrees Celsius. The plating shortens battery life. Wang’s team dodged this by charging batteries at various temperatures from 20 to 60 degrees Celsius. They found that with a 60-degree Celsius heat boost, batteries could recharge 2,500 times with no lithium plating. (At 20 degrees Celsius, batteries recharged a measly 60 times.)

This is an 80% plummet in charge time over most of the batteries currently on the market, which need around 50 minutes—just long enough to make many of us really late.

You can check out the full study here.

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It’s official: Google is buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion

It’s official: Google is buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion
[Photo: Fitbit]

After rumors swirled earlier this week about a deal, Google and Fitbit have now announced that the search giant is indeed buying the health wearable maker. In a press release announcing the deal, Fitbit said that Google is acquiring the company for $7.35 per share in cash–which is about $2.1 billion dollars.

Fitbit is one of the most popular health wearable makers out there–and was also one of the first. However, the company has lately stood in the shadow of Apple and its Apple Watch, which, according to Apple’s latest numbers, is seeing tremendous YOY growth.

With Google’s acquisition of Fitbit, the brand’s devices will probably be better able to compete with the likes of the Apple Watch due to all the R&D cash Google has available to throw at the maker. That’s not to mention that by acquiring Fitbit, Google is going to get a massive leg up in the expanding health wearables market and can leverage its popular software services and wealth of data to make Fitbit devices that may be better able to compete with the Apple Watch.

In a statement announcing the deal James Park, cofounder and CEO of Fitbit, said:

More than 12 years ago, we set an audacious company vision – to make everyone in the world healthier. Today, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved towards reaching that goal. We have built a trusted brand that supports more than 28 million active users around the globe who rely on our products to live a healthier, more active life. Google is an ideal partner to advance our mission. With Google’s resources and global platform, Fitbit will be able to accelerate innovation in the wearables category, scale faster, and make health even more accessible to everyone. I could not be more excited for what lies ahead.

The deal is pending due to the approval of shareholders and regulators, but if everything goes smoothly, Fitbit says the sale will complete sometime in 2020.

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Here’s how to get your free year of Apple TV+

Here’s how to get your free year of Apple TV+
Jodi Balfour, Sonya Walger, Sarah Jones, Krys Marshall, and Cass Buggé in For All Mankind. [Photo: courtesy of Apple TV+]

Apple’s long-awaited streaming service, Apple TV+, is launching today. The service is unlike most streaming services as Apple isn’t going to have a catalog of any third-party content. Instead, Apple TV+ will feature only Apple’s original content.

At launch, those shows are pretty sparse and include The Morning Show, a dramedy starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell; See, a dystopian sci-fi show staring Aquaman’s Jason Momoa; Dickinson, a comedic take on the life of poet Emily Dickinson starring Hailee Steinfeld; and For All Mankind, an alternative history series that imagines what the world would be like if Russia won the space race in the 1960s; as well as a few others–including an Oprah book show.

Given the limited catalog at launch, it’s no wonder Apple is only charging $4.99 a month for Apple TV+. But the company is also giving a full year of the service away if you’ve bought a Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch after September 10, 2019. You also get a year free if you’re a subscriber of the Apple Music Student Plan. Here’s how to activate that year’s free subscription.

  1. On your qualifying device, make sure you’re running the latest software (iOs 13.2 or macOS Catalina 10.15.1).
  2. Open the Apple TV app on the device.
  3. You should see the “Enjoy 1 Year Free” offer appear in the app, but scroll down if you don’t see it right away.
  4. Tap the “Enjoy 1 Year Free” button and enter your Apple ID and password. This is usually your iCloud username and password. All your devices logged in with that Apple ID will now be able to access Apple TV+ for one year.

But remember the following catches:

  • You must cancel the free year of service before the 366th day or you will be billed automatically for the next month of service.
  • However, if you cancel the free year of service before the 365th day, so you aren’t billed automatically when it ends, you’ll lose access to the free year of service as soon as you cancel it.

Still, despite the catches, a year’s worth of free Apple TV content is a pretty sweet deal—and just may end up getting you hooked on the service. At least, that’s what Apple is hoping.

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WeWork’s Adam Neumann has now been accused of pregnancy discrimination

WeWork’s Adam Neumann has now been accused of pregnancy discrimination
[Photo: Bastien Jaillot/Unsplash]

For months, WeWork has been in free fall, beset with financial troubles, a canceled IPO, and lawsuits claiming discrimination at the hands of ousted CEO and cofounder Adam Neumann. Now, Neumann is facing allegations of pregnancy discrimination from a former chief of staff.

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As reported by the New York Times, in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint filed Thursday, Medina Bardhi claimed that she had faced repeated discrimination, including Neumann’s references to her maternity leave as a “vacation” or “retirement.” In five years at WeWork, Bardhi went through two pregnancies and claims to have been demoted on both occasions. (The first time Bardhi got pregnant, Neumann reportedly gave her role to a male employee and paid him more than double what she earned.) According to the complaint, she was fired earlier this month. Bardhi also names WeWork co-president Jennifer Berrent in the complaint, who she claims said, “Wow, you’re getting big,” in earshot of another WeWork executive.

Bardhi had initially held off on telling Neumann she was pregnant, only divulging the information when she realized she could no longer join him on business trips, “due to his penchant for bringing marijuana on chartered flights and smoking it throughout the flight while in an enclosed cabin,” the complaint said. Bardhi also claims Neumann’s behavior gave her pause even before she started at WeWork, when he asked in an interview about her plans to get married and pregnant.

“WeWork intends to vigorously defend itself against this claim,” a WeWork spokesperson said in a statement to Fast Company. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are committed to moving the company forward and building a company and culture that our employees can be proud of.”

Bardhi’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, told the Times that he hopes the EEOC pursues class-action charges, in light of the myriad allegations levied against WeWork. (Filing an EEOC complaint is usually the first step toward bringing a lawsuit, though the EEOC itself only pursues a handful of lawsuits.) But WeWork, for all its issues, isn’t the only tech company accused of mistreating pregnant employees. Most recently, Chelsey Glasson, an ex-Google employee, brought pregnancy discrimination claims against her former employer, in an EEOC complaint filed last month.

UpdateWigdor shared the following statement with Fast Company: 

“It is astonishing that WeWork could reward Adam Neumann’s blatant sexist behavior with a staggering and unprecedented golden parachute worth over a reported $1 Billion, while the Company has subjected Ms. Bardhi and other women to repeated and systematic marginalization, lesser pay than their male colleagues, and retaliation for having the courage to raise legitimate complaints of gender and pregnancy discrimination. Our hope is that this class action complaint will send a loud and clear message to WeWork and other startups that pregnant women cannot be forced out of their jobs, that women must be paid fairly and afforded equal opportunities, and that you cannot retaliate against any person who voices a complaint of discrimination.”

Have you experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace? Reach out on Twitter @pavsmo (DM for Signal) or via email at pmohan@fastcompany.com.

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‘I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture’: Watch Katie Hill’s goodbye speech to Congress

‘I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture’: Watch Katie Hill’s goodbye speech to Congress
[Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Representative Katie Hill addressed her congressional colleagues for the last time today.

The Democrat from California resigned on Sunday after admitting that she’d had a three-sided relationship with a female member of her campaign staff and her own soon-to-be-ex-husband.

The news of the romance came to light when conservative website RedState published the allegations along with redacted topless photos of Hill. She says the pictures were released by her estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, without her consent.

“I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the whole country watching,” Hill said in her speech.  (A Washington Post reporter shared a transcript on Twitter.)

Here’s her speech on the House floor:

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Now you too can invest in obscenely expensive collectibles

Now you too can invest in obscenely expensive collectibles
[Photo: Viktor Forgacs/Unsplash]

Good news: Your assets can now include a 1982 Aston Martin V8 Vantage worth $297,500, and a Bleu Saphir Lizard Hermés Birkin Bag worth $58,000, and Michael Jordan’s game sneakers from 1988, worth $22,000. They can be yours—in tiny fractions.

Rally, an investment platform that lets you invest in small shares of collectables, is displaying these and other wares in Soho at a museum-cum-auction-house called “This Belongs in a Museum.” If you like what you see, you can whip out your Rally app and invest on the spot. Other items to cash in on include a $132 share of the Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card worth $132,000, or, for the more literary budgeted, a $24 share of the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, worth $72,000.

Rally began by investing in collectible cars in 2017, and in July expanded to items including books, sports memorabilia, and rare watches, like the 1970 Gold Rolex Beta 21, one-thousandth of which is up for grabs for $20.

Our fave: a 1969 New York Times signed by Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, now worth $32,000. The collectible items on display at the museum will rotate out every few weeks. Go see for yourself at 250 Lafayette Street in Manhattan.

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Think you’re creative? No, those are mental errors

Think you’re creative? No, those are mental errors
[Photo: Yannis Papanastasopoulos/Unsplash]

You thought you were so creative! Turns out that your penchant for variability, such as when you toss a new ingredient into a recipe or follow a creative hunch into the unknown, is often driven by brain errors that are imperceptible to you. Your curiosity is a mistake.

A study published in Nature Neuroscience this month found that our brains are not so savvy at evaluating our options—if they were, our minds would stick to the well-known, safe options. Researchers took brain MRIs of a hundred people playing a slot-machine game that presented two options, one of which had won them money in previous tests. They found that the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region that regulates decision-making, lit up when participants made errors in reasoning and that many of the subjects’ “curious” choices were a result of the brain’s failure to reason.

This is kind of a big deal. Curiosity has been long hypothesized by psychologists to be an exploration of choices with uncertain outcomes, a sort of rational process of weighing out the options. Lead researcher Valentin Wyart, from the École Normale Supérieure’s Laboratory for Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, says uh-uh.

“This finding is important, because it implies that many choices in favor of the unknown are made unbeknownst to us, without our being aware of it—our participants have the impression of choosing the best symbol and not the most uncertain, but they do it on the basis of wrong information resulting from errors of reasoning,” Wyart said in a statement.

Wyart points out that errors are not inherently bad: they fuel many of humanity’s great discoveries, such as Christopher Columbus’ accidental navigation to America, and evolution, which often derives from random genetic variation.

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Fiat Chrysler-Peugeot merger: Here’s what to know about world’s new 4th-largest automaker

Fiat Chrysler-Peugeot merger: Here’s what to know about world’s new 4th-largest automaker
[Photo: Olena Sergienko/Unsplash]

Fiat Chrysler and the parent company of Peugeot are merging to form the fourth-largest automaker on the planet, they announced today.

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The deal between FCA and Groupe PSA, which are Italian and French respectively, is worth close to $50 billion, according to estimates.

“In a rapidly changing environment, with new challenges in connected, electrified, shared and autonomous mobility, the combined entity would leverage its strong global R&D footprint and ecosystem to foster innovation and meet these challenges with speed and capital efficiency,” the two companies said in a joint statement.

Here are some key details:

  • Brands: FCA‘s portfolio includes Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram, and Maserati, while PSA brings Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall to the table.
  • Size: The two companies together sold 8.7 million vehicles last year, with revenues of just under $190 billion. Employees of the two businesses total an estimated 410,000.
  • Leadership: PSA’s Carlos Tavares will be the CEO of the newly combined company for the first five years. John Elkann, FCA’s chairman and American-born heir to the Italian family that founded Fiat, will be its chairman.
  • Financials: The shareholders of FCA and PSA will each own 50% of the equity of the new entity.

Fiat Chrysler had previously considered merging with another French automaker, Renault, but that fell apart in June. FCA, which includes one of the American brands once part of the Detroit Three, has always embraced consolidation. It was the mantra of the late FCA chief Sergio Marchionne, the black-sweater-loving Italian Canadian executive credited with turning around both Fiat and Chrysler.

Fiat completed its acquisition of Chrysler in 2014. It first took control of the beleaguered American car company in 2009. (That wasn’t the first time Chrysler experienced foreign ownership; Daimler-Benz bought it in 1998.)

Peugeot also has American ties. For example, earlier this year, it announced it was planning to return to selling cars in the U.S. market, and in 2017 it bought the Opel and Vauxhall brands from General Motors.

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’s executive director of industry analysis, sees some issues with the FCA-PSA merger, such as product overlap and an emphasis on “quirky city cars” that Americans aren’t interested in.

“But this merger isn’t really about product or expanding to new markets, which proves just how much the paradigm has shifted,” she said. “The electrified, autonomous future everyone is waiting for just isn’t feasible without automakers merging and forming strategic alliances to share research and development costs. This is a smart move by both FCA and PSA to ensure their companies continue to be viable and relevant as the industry evolves.”

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After Twitter bans political ads, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says they’re ‘not worth the controversy’

After Twitter bans political ads, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says they’re ‘not worth the controversy’
[Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair]

Facebook has issued its first public comments about political advertising on its platform after Twitter took the surprising step of banning all political ads on its service. In an interview with Bloomberg (via Business Insider), Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg defended the company’s stance on political advertising, telling the outlet that Facebook’s position on political ads remains unchanged.

“[We] believe in free expression, we believe in political speech, and ads can be an important part of that,” Sandberg told Bloomberg. However, many have criticized Facebook in recent weeks after the company said it would not only continue to run political advertising but that it would allow political ads to be shown even if they contained outright lies.

The worry is, of course, that such ads could spread disinformation and manipulate people into supporting candidates or issues that don’t accurately reflect the reality of the situation. It’s a worry that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shares. As Dorsey tweeted last night, “Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

The thread in which Dorsey’s above tweet is in begins at this tweet below, and the whole thing is well worth the read.

However, it’s now clear Dorsey’s view isn’t shared by Facebook or Sandberg. But while many detractors of Facebook’s political ad stance claim Facebook is putting revenue above social cohesion, Sandberg says that’s simply not the case. “We’re not doing it because of the money,” she told Bloomberg. “[Political ads on Facebook are] less than 1% of our revenue and the revenue is not worth the controversy.”

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Here’s why NYC just voted to ban foie gras, and why it won’t happen right away

Here’s why NYC just voted to ban foie gras, and why it won’t happen right away
[Photo: Flickr user Internet Archive Book Images]

If you’re a New Yorker, get ready to say “adieu” to foie gras.

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The New York City Council today voted to ban the classic French delicacy, which means “fat liver,” on animal cruelty grounds. The ducks or geese are force-fed before their livers are harvested to make the dish.

“As a lifelong advocate for animal rights, I am excited that the Council has voted to pass this historic legislation to ban the sale of these specific force-fed animal products,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, the prime sponsor, said in an email to Fast Company. “Let’s be clear that force feeding is an inhumane practice, plain and simple.”

That doesn’t mean you’ll lose the ability to get your foie gras fix right away. The ban won’t take effect for three years.

According to Rivera, the delay is to enable affected farms “to increase production and develop business opportunities in other regions and states.” She also suggested those businesses consider foie gras production methods used in Spain, where farmers use highly dense foods.

California originally passed a foie gras ban in 2004, but it was challenged over a period of years. It was finally laid to rest this past January when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. And in 2006, amid much mockery, Chicago became the first U.S. city to outlaw the food, but that legislation was repealed in 2008.

Countries around the world have made foie gras illegal, including the United Kingdom, Finland, India, Denmark, and Israel.

That this ban is happening in New York City, arguably the culinary capital of the U.S., is significant.

It’s a city known for its vast array of international cuisines in the form of upscale destination eateries, exotic street food, and deconstructed American offerings. Fusions mingle with luxury vegan options; food trends launch here, while classics are reinvented. All the food options are buoyed by the city’s incredible wealth and an overabundance of expense accounts.

Last week, the Michelin Guide unveiled its 2020 list of New York City and Westchester County selections; 76 restaurants have at least one star. Fifteen years ago, the foodie bible chose New York to be the first U.S. city to earn its own edition.

The Catskill Foie Gras Collective—comprising Hudson Valley Foie Gras, La Belle Farm, and Rougié, which say they’re the main foie gras producers supplying New York City restaurants and stores—says the decision means the loss of 400-plus jobs and millions of dollars in revenues.

The group plans to challenge the ban in court.

“The ducks are treated humanely. They run free and unrestricted in large, regularly cleaned, well-ventilated spaces. Unlike much of the poultry people buy at the supermarket every day, they are never confined to single-space cages,” the collective said in a statement.

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If everyone is mad at Facebook, why is business still booming?

If everyone is mad at Facebook, why is business still booming?
[Photo: Pixabay/Pexels]

Despite all the backlash it’s faced this year over user privacy concerns as well as its controversial advertising rules, Facebook beat analysts’ expectations nearly across the board today when it reported its third-quarter earnings for 2019.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken quite a beating lately, both in the news and from certain members of Congress. And in an almost impossibly shy nod to the challenges his apps and website face, Zuckerberg said today (emphasis ours): “We had a good quarter and our community and business continue to grow. We are focused on making progress on major social issues and building new experiences that improve people’s lives around the world.”

Well, whatever that means, investors are apparently happy to play along. The company’s stock price, overall, has been on the rise this October, and in after-hours trading on Wednesday, Facebook’s stock rose by more than 2% after trading slightly down earlier in the day.

Here are the highlights from the third-quarter 2019 report:

  • Revenue: $17.65 billion (analysts expected $17.37 billion)
  • Earnings: $2.12 per share (also beating expectations, of $1.91 per share)
  • Daily active users: 1.62 billion (just beating analysts’ expectations)
  • Monthly active users: 2.45 billion (in line with expectations)
  • Average revenue per user: $7.26 (analysts expected $7.09)

While there appears to be no fiscal drama for Facebook this time around, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter is banning political ads just as Facebook released its financial report today. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” said Dorsey.

That’s some hot tea brewing! Perhaps the move will nudge Facebook’s hand, toward either a better defense of its policies or even, dare I say it, change.

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In shocker, Jack Dorsey says Twitter will ban all political ads

In shocker, Jack Dorsey says Twitter will ban all political ads
[Photo: Jacobolus/Flickr user Virginia State Parks]

Well, this caught us off guard.

As Facebook faces increasing backlash over its lax political ad policies and the lying politicians they enable, Twitter just outright banned the entire category.

In a series of tweets today, CEO Jack Dorsey said the company will stop all political advertising—not just in the United States, but globally.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey tweeted.

The move earned a swarm of early praise on Twitter, although Wall Street seems less enthusiastic. Shares of Twitter were down as much as 2.38% in after-hours trading. For Twitter’s ad business, it’s double jeopardy, as the company recently reported lower-than-expected advertising revenue for the third quarter of 2019.

In all, Twitter’s stock is down more than 34% since early September, but sometimes you have to take one for the team. Your move, Zuck!

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AT&T is already taking away its free Watch TV streaming deal

AT&T is already taking away its free Watch TV streaming deal
[Photos: mohamed_hassan/Pixabay; FreeCreativeStuff/Pixabay]

When AT&T was fighting the government to acquire Time Warner last year, free live TV was one of its key public selling points. If the deal was approved in federal court, AT&T said, its wireless subscribers would get a free bundle of nonsports channels with any unlimited data plan.

Now, 16 months after completing the acquisition, AT&T is eliminating that perk for new subscribers. Starting November 3, AT&T will replace its two current unlimited data plans with a trio of new ones, none of which include Watch TV. While the service will remain available for $15 per month, AT&T confirmed that new wireless subscribers will have no way to get the service for free. (AT&T will continue to offer free HBO with its priciest unlimited plan, but that plan is $5 per month more expensive than the one it’s replacing.)

AT&T was never particularly supportive of Watch TV in the first place. The service still hasn’t arrived on Roku, which is the most popular streaming platform in the United States, and it hasn’t gained DVR capabilities. With AT&T planning to eventually include live TV in its forthcoming HBO Max service, it won’t be surprising if Watch TV disappears outright in the future.

Free live TV isn’t the only promise AT&T has walked back since the Time Warner acquisition went through. The company has also raised live TV prices multiple times, made valuable Time Warner content exclusive to its own services, and engaged in endless carriage disputes with rival Dish Network over HBO.

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Feds chop interest rates again, but don’t expect a huge change to your credit card rates

Feds chop interest rates again, but don’t expect a huge change to your credit card rates
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference on October 30, 2019 in Washington, D.C. [Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images]

For the third time this year, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter of a percent. The committee charged with setting interest rates reduced its target range to between 1.5% and 1.75%. The range sat at between 2.25% and 2.5% for more than 10 years until cuts began in July.

As CNBC writes, the reductions are expected to gradually lead to lower interest rates for many Americans with loans and credit cards. The changes are not, however, anticipated to provide significant relief for Americans saddled with debt, and it may also lead to worse returns for people with savings accounts.

Speaking on the cut, the Federal Open Market Committee said the move “supports the Committee’s view that sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective are the most likely outcomes, but uncertainties about this outlook remain.”

The FOMC may hold off on additional reductions, Bloomberg reports, as the committee removed its commitment to “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion” from its closely watched statement on the cuts. Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve chairman, suggested in a press conference today that the current range is “likely to remain appropriate,” barring some significant change, such as a “really significant” spike in inflation.

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Big changes coming to Molson Coors: layoffs, a new name, and a new location

Big changes coming to Molson Coors: layoffs, a new name, and a new location
[Photo: Flickr user Cherry Darlin’]

As many as 500 Molson Coors workers are not saying “cheers” to their employer.

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The beer giant announced today that it is laying off 400-500 people as part of its big restructuring plan. The news came in its third-quarter earnings report.

The company also plans to close its Denver office and make Chicago its North American operational headquarters.

And it’s tweaking its name a bit: from Molson Coors Brewing Co. to Molson Coors Beverage Co. “to better reflect its strategic intent to expand beyond beer and into other growth adjacencies,” according to the company. The change takes effect in January.

The three companies that are its heritage—Molson, Coors, and Miller—are all about the beer, but in recent years, there’s been a growing focus on other kinds of adult beverages, including hard seltzers like White Claw, Crispin Ciders, and nonalcoholic beers.

“Our business is at an inflection point. We can continue down the path we’ve been on for several years now, or we can make the significant and difficult changes necessary to get back on the right track,” Molson Coors president and CEO Gavin Hattersley said in a statement. “Our revitalization plan is designed to streamline the company, move faster, and free up resources to invest in our brands and our capabilities. Through it, we will create a brighter future for Molson Coors.”

Hattersley has been in the job since late September; he previously was CEO of MillerCoors, the U.S. business unit.

Today the company reported that net sales were a little over $2.8 billion, down 3.2% from the same time last year.

Molson Coors is one of the biggest brewers in the world. Molson and Coors merged in 2005, and in 2016, it acquired full ownership of Miller after a joint venture that had been in place since 2008.

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