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Business and Technology News


ICYMI: Fading circus; Crowley fail; bigger Macs; spilled Skittles

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 01:08:57 UT

Author and TV personality Monica Crowley found it’s really hard getting a job in national security, especially after CNN reported dozens of instances of plagiarism in her 2012 book. Bloomberg News reported that the Mac Jr. will have only one patty and no middle bun — don’t you call that, you know, a cheeseburger? — and the Grand Mac will be about 1½ times the size of the original, checking in at 860 calories. A Wisconsin sheriff posted on Facebook that “hundreds of thousands of Skittles” were spilled on a rural highway, and it was unclear how they got there. A spokeswoman for candymaker Mars told the Associated Press that the candies had been destined for destruction because they lacked the signature “S,” and the company is investigating the spill.

Facebook CEO trying to buy out land near his Hawaii estate

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 00:18:14 UT

HONOLULU — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went to court to gain ownership of isolated pockets of land tucked away within his sprawling estate in Hawaii, many of which are less than an acre and could be split between hundreds of owners in a situation unique to the islands. The 14 parcels on the north shore of Kauai initially belonged to Native Hawaiians who were awarded the land during mid-19th century, when private property was established in the islands. Many owners died without a will and courts never established who inherited the land, according to documents filed by Zuckerberg’s attorneys last month. University of Hawaii law Professor David Callies guesses Zuckerberg is concerned about the rights any landlocked property owners would have to cross his land to get to the road or ocean. Courts almost always award an easement that allows landlocked owners to cross another property to get to public areas, he said. The parcels emerged during land reforms by the Kingdom of Hawaii land in the 1800s. [...] that point, no individual owned land — it was collectively cared for and used. King Kamehameha III intended for the land to be divided equally among the monarch, other royals and the commoners who fished and farmed it.

Apple sues Qualcomm over patent royalties in antitrust case

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 23:50:34 UT

Apple has sued Qualcomm, accusing it of monopolizing the market for chips for wireless devices and withholding $1 billion in retaliation for cooperating with South Korean antitrust authorities. Qualcomm is holding back the money as punishment for Apple cooperating with Korean antitrust regulators, according to the complaint filed in San Diego, where Qualcomm has its headquarters. The Cupertino company also wants back some of the billions of dollars it claims it was overcharged in “Qualcomm’s illegal scheme” to control the market for mobile phone chips. Qualcomm, the largest maker of mobile phone chips, has been under fire by regulators around the world for its patent licensing practices. The lawsuit filed Friday is the first direct challenge by one of its biggest customers and threatens to upend how royalties are calculated by any owner of a patent on technology that underlies modern electronics. Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined. Qualcomm offered to pay the money “if Apple retracted and corrected its statements to government agencies,” according to the complaint. At the heart of the dispute between Apple and Qualcomm is a push by phone makers with the support of regulators to reduce the patent royalties Qualcomm charges.

Job disconnect: male applicants, feminine language

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 22:14:04 UT

Job postings for home health aides say applicants need to be “sympathetic” and “caring,” “empathetic” and focused on “families.” The study was done by Textio, which has analyzed 50 million job listings for language that provokes disproportionate responses from men or women. Common key words in the job descriptions were sympathetic, care, fosters, empathy and families — all of which Textio has found appeal more to female candidates — and are more likely to result in a female hire. Job listings for other fast-growing and female-dominated jobs like nurse practitioner, genetic counselor and physician assistant used similarly feminine language. Societal expectations and stigmas concerning masculinity deter men from feminine jobs, social scientists say, so some health care employers have tried to use more masculine language to appeal to men, like talking about the “adrenaline rush” of being an operating room nurse. [...] Textio said it improved the results for a job posting for a software development manager by changing a few words from masculine to gender neutral: “premier” instead of “world-class,” “extraordinary” instead of “rock star” and “handle a fast-paced schedule” instead of “manage” it.

Unicode group to meet in Cupertino to consider new redhead emoji

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 22:06:13 UT

Redheaded emoji could be on the horizon for smartphone users.

Tax chains try sweeter pitch: no-fee loans

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 21:56:52 UT

The nation’s big tax-preparation companies are so desperate for customers that they are willing to put money up front — with absolutely no hidden fees or interest charges, and no ironclad guarantees that the companies will be paid back. H&R Block, for one, has arranged a $1.65 billion funding line for its refund advances, giving pause to some of the Wall Street analysts who follow the company. The other is a series of regulatory moves that clamped down on refund anticipation loans, which the companies formerly relied on to lure in people who needed cash. The loans typically came with high interest rates and fees, which customers paid on top of the money charged for tax preparation. Customers who qualify will be advanced a portion of their tax refund within a day or so, with no fees or interest, though they will still need to pay for the provider’s tax preparation services, which can cost hundreds of dollars. Struggling tax companies acknowledge that they are using the loans as a come-on to make up for the loss of walk-in traffic and people who have migrated to TurboTax and its alternatives. The loan offers are open to all customers, but they are particularly aimed at low-income Americans who live paycheck to paycheck and rely on their tax refund as their biggest annual cash infusion. For many people, it is a critical way to pay off holiday debt, catch up on overdue bills or cover emergency expenses like car repairs. In 2002, at the product’s peak, nearly 13 million customers paid more than $1 billion in fees for refund loans, according to data compiled by the National Consumer Law Center. In late 2010, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ordered H&R Block’s lender, HSBC, to quit making refund loans. On top of the lost income from those lucrative fees, they found that without the offer of refund advances, many customers stopped coming in at all. A tax refund is a commodity, he concluded, and to stand out from the crowd, Jackson Hewitt, which has 3,000 of its 6,000 stores within Walmart stores, would need to offer things the competition did not — like refund advances. “We are looking to do a lot of loans to a lot of people, and we will be marketing this aggressively,” Bill Cobb, H&R Block’s chief executive, told analysts on a call. For some customers, H&R Block offers a credit line of up to $1,000 on those cards — for a $45 annual fee, at a 36 percent annual interest rate. If a customer’s refund is smaller than the amount that has been advanced, or is garnisheed by the IRS, the lender will be required to write the loan balance off as a loss. Consumer advocates are keeping a wary watch on this new incarnation of refund loans. A “mystery shopper” study done last year by Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group, found that the prices quoted to prepare a return for a low-income single mother at local stores, including independent shops and chains, ranged from $125 to $457.

Handler rates Trump’s cabinet; Super day for pizza; that VR smell

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 21:04:37 UT

Handler rates Trump’s cabinet; Super day for pizza; that VR smell Trump says his cabinet has the ‘highest IQ of any cabinet ever assembled’… and that includes the cabinets from the Malm collection @ Ikea. Comedian Chelsea Handler, not exactly impressed with President Trump’s proposed personnel moves. The day of the game, Feb. 5 this year, is the busiest of the year for Pizza Hut, which expects to sell more than 2 million pizzas that day. The chain, owned by Yum Brands Inc., has about 8,000 U.S. restaurants. If something smells funny here, it just might be virtual reality. Since the smells include such things as “body odor,” “panties” and “aphrodisiacs,” it’s not a huge surprise that it comes from CamSoda, which calls itself “a leading adult entertainment webcam platform.” [...] don’t turn up your nose at porn, either; it has had a key role in speeding up tech innovation for decades, from videotapes to streaming. Daily Briefing is compiled from San Francisco Chronicle staff and news services.

Ship traffic, January 21

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 20:19:12 UT

Ship traffic Due to arrive today SHIP FROM PORT APL Houston San Pedro, Los Angeles County OAK APL Philippines San Pedro OAK Gentle Leader Vancouver, Wash. RCH Due to depart today SHIP TO PORT Cosco Development Long Beach SFO Cosco Faith Xingang, China OAK Jericho Beach Port Unknown SCK Lodestar Princess Port Unknown SCK Mol Mission Tokyo OAK MSC Channe Port Unknown OAK NYK Themis Busan, South Korea SFO Splendeur [...]

Best devices for your smart home

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 19:31:58 UT

Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ’n Play Sleeper Fisher-Price’s SmartConnect Sleeper makes calming your baby easy and hands-free. The movement patterns work well, the cradle itself is soft and comfortable, and the sound quality is great for this type of product. The app connection and flexible settings are just an added bonus. Nest Cam’s high-resolution video (1080p), magnetic base, pivoting stand and updated app make this device an improvement over Dropcam Pro — and many other cameras. Like Dropcam Pro, Nest Cam is still just a webcam at heart. While it does offer security features like opt-in motion and sound alerts, they aren’t especially useful, because you can only receive one notification every 30 minutes. Given that Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro are pretty similar, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for existing users to replace their Pro. [...] anyone searching for a high-resolution live streaming camera really can’t beat Nest Cam. The Lifx Color 1000 is brighter and more efficient than the first generation of Lifx bulbs, and the colors are just as true. The easy-to-use app offers a good number of features, and integrations with IFTTT, SmartThings, Nest, Windows and Amazon Echo make the bulb a good choice for a wide range of users and homes. Amazon’s voice-activated smart-home speaker is undeniably futuristic, but it’s also practical and accessible. With a rapidly growing set of features and integrations, it’s easy to get excited about the Echo’s potential. The sound quality is uneven at times, with weak bass at high volumes. The growing list of Skills in the Alexa app could also benefit from better organization. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit

Shia LaBeouf debuts a 4-year anti-Trump live stream

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:05:49 UT

Shia LaBeouf unveiled yet another piece of online performance art, and this one is aimed directly at US President Donald Trump. On Friday, the day of Trump's inauguration, LaBeouf announced a project called "HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US," which is live-streaming footage from a camera installed outside the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. "In this way, the mantra 'HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US' acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community," the announcement said. 'House of Cards' drops nightmarish season 5 teaser during Trump inauguration: 'We make the terror'Seth Meyers jokes Trump's inauguration day will end with his impeachment hearingLewis Black mocks Trump's celebrity-free inauguration: 'as exciting as birdwatching'SEE ALSO:

Alec Baldwin brings out Trump impression during protest

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 14:54:00 UT

Alec Baldwin is getting plenty of mileage out of his Donald Trump impression, and he brought the act to a Thursday night protest of Trump's presidential inauguration. Baldwin spoke at a protest in New York City that was put on by the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. The "30 Rock" actor, who's recently been playing Trump on "Saturday Night Live," took a humorous turn in his speech. Watch Baldwin's speech at the Trump inauguration protest: Kanye West wasn't invited to perform at Trump inauguration because it's 'traditionally American'Lewis Black mocks Trump's celebrity-free inauguration: 'as exciting as birdwatching'9 artists who reportedly turned down performing at Trump's inaugurationSEE ALSO:

Mr. Conservative’s owner worries about fake-news crackdown

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:52:44 UT

On the eve of the presidential inauguration, as Donald Trump prepared to take the oath of office and millions of Americans readied themselves to march in opposition, the man behind a blog called Mr. Conservative mused about the lost art of debate. Cyrus Massoumi, 25, has been in the business of click-bait headlines and spreading what he calls “tilted news,” or information with a hard-right point of view, since he graduated from Redwood High School. [...] he’s worried about what the next several years may bring — not for politics, but rather for society as tech companies grapple with what to do about hyper-partisan websites and fake news and, in some cases, struggle to tell the difference. Lies and misinformation on the Internet have become a focal point for many in postelection America as companies, people and media organizations grapple with the impact of fast-spreading falsehoods on discourse and politics. Many have thrust blame onto Internet companies like Facebook and Google, which act as conduits of information for the vast majority of computer-using adults. A Stanford University study released this week found that social media may not have played as big a role in the election as people think — though researchers did not reach a conclusion on the extent to which fake news may have swayed the results. Massoumi was an early player in the game of manipulating news headlines to tap into people’s anger and fear to gain influence and clicks — and cash. Ohio State Professor Kelly Garrett said this unwillingness to debate and examine one’s own beliefs is what drives people to partisan sources and fake news. Liberal and conservative news outlets alike, he said, tap into anger and fear, which drive a wedge between people along ideological lines that can be hard to bridge. Soon, he found his way onto conservative Facebook pages, where he helped other publishers attract more readers with outrageous headlines. Garrett, the Ohio State professor, said that before the Internet, most media organizations largely reported the same information. [...] when you have an outlet that primarily is the ideological drumbeat — ‘Look at all these terrible things that people on the other side have done’ — it mobilizes people while also undermining all of the institutions around which we have historically found common ground. [...] that distinction doesn’t prevent critics from lumping the site in with fake-news outlets as social media companies like Facebook come up with easier ways to report and remove false information. Facebook announced last month that it would work with independent fact-checkers to verify stories circulating on the social network as part of a series of experiments designed to contain the spread of misinformation. To a first 100 days of fodder, a change in the political tide and his own plan to fight back against fake news, possibly helped by Facebook’s emphasis on video.

Court rejects shareholder suit over HP scandal

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:22:44 UT

Shareholders of the former Hewlett-Packard Co. can’t sue the Palo Alto technology company or its successor firms for securities fraud under former CEO Mark Hurd, who resigned over a 2010 scandal involving an actress that sent HP’s stock price plunging, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. The lead plaintiff in the proposed class-action suit, the retirement fund of Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union Local 338, said revelations of Hurd’s conduct and his resignation cost shareholders $10 billion. HP then proclaimed a renewed commitment to ethical behavior, with Hurd writing in a preface to the company’s code of conduct that employees must “build trust in everything we do by living our values.” In 2010, actress Jodie Fisher, who had worked for HP as an independent contractor introducing Hurd to new clients, accused Hurd of sexually harassing her, and also alleged that he had given her confidential information about an impending merger. Arguing for the right to sue for securities fraud, the plaintiff’s lawyers said HP’s proclamations of its strong code of conduct had proven to be both false and “material” to its stock value.

Business News Roundup, Jan. 20

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:36:53 UT

Uber has agreed to pay $20 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit over driver compensation claims and its auto leasing program. The FTC sued the San Francisco ride-hailing startup Thursday, saying Uber made false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims about how much drivers could earn on the service. The agency alleged Uber made similar misrepresentations about its vehicle financing program. The complaint alleged that the actual median income for drivers in New York was $29,000 less than Uber claimed and $21,000 less in San Francisco from May 2013 to May 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court granted drug manufacturer Bristol Myers’ request Thursday to decide whether a nationwide suit claiming health hazards from the anticlotting medication Plavix can proceed in San Francisco. The court’s order set aside a 4-3 ruling by the California Supreme Court in August allowing the suit, filed by 86 Californians and 592 residents of other states, to be heard in a single court in San Francisco. [...] Bristol-Myers’ lawyers told the nation’s high court that the suit, which attributed internal bleeding, heart attacks and deaths to the use of Plavix, was unrelated to the company’s California contacts, and that the state ruling would encourage plaintiffs to “shop suits to friendlier forums.” Alibaba chief Jack Ma says he hopes an accord with Olympics officials will fight counterfeiting, as the e-commerce giant seeks to repair its image after being deemed a “notorious” market for fakes by the U.S. The Chinese billionaire and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced Thursday a partnership to run through 2028 in which Alibaba will support the $500 million Olympic Channel in China, among other things.

US ends probe of Tesla fatal crash without seeking recall

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:35:31 UT

WASHINGTON — Tesla Motors Inc. won’t face a recall or fine as a result of a fatal crash involving its Autopilot system, but federal safety regulators are warning auto manufacturers and drivers not to treat semiautonomous cars as if they are fully self-driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it found that the system had no safety defects at the time of the May 7 crash in Florida, and that it was primarily designed to prevent rear-end collisions rather than other crashes. The probe began June 28, nearly two months after a driver using Autopilot in a 2015 Tesla Model S died when it failed to spot a tractor-trailer crossing the car’s path on a highway in Williston, Fla. The investigation “helps clarify that cars are still supposed to be driven by attentive people, and if people behind the wheel aren’t attentive, it’s not the technology’s fault,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. The safety administration released guidelines last year that attempt to ensure safety without slowing development of semiautonomous and self-driving cars. The agency says self-driving features could dramatically reduce traffic deaths by eliminating human error, which plays a role in 94 percent of fatal crashes. In its probe, the safety administration evaluated how the system functions and looked into dozens of other crashes involving Teslas, including a July one on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that injured two people. When Tesla released Autopilot in 2015, some safety advocates questioned whether the Palo Alto company and the safety administration allowed the public access to the system before testing was finished. Consumer Reports magazine called on Tesla to drop the “Autopilot” name because it can give drivers too much trust in their car’s ability to drive itself.