Dorsey says Trump is the ‘twit’ for trying to control social media platforms

May 29, 2020

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey doesn’t scare easily—even when confronted by a raging U.S. president who is threatening to sign a vindictive executive order—meant to hobble Dorsey’s ability to monitor his own platform and correct deceptive posts.

Twitter became the target of the president’s fury after the social media site added a disclaimer to two tweets riddled with inaccuracies that were written and posted by @realDonaldTrump on his feed early last week, The Daily Beast reports.

The first reaction of the POTUS, according to the news outlet, was to try to bully the site by threatening to close down social-media companies that he thinks “show bias” against conservatives—and it was reported late Wednesday, May 27, that he planned to sign  an executive order intended to remove important legal protections from sites like Twitter and Facebook.

In a series of tweets, Dorsey wrote that Twitter will “continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”

He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”

Despite his new intention to fight disinformation, this week Dorsey denied a widower’s request to remove Trump tweets that baselessly suggested Lori Klausutis was murdered in 2001 by her boss, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

HBO Max launches with curated Warner content, original series, acquired fan favorites, and films

May 28, 2020

During the pandemic, America’s “TV Generation” has stretched to encompass ages one through 100; Democrats, Independents, and Republicans; cat and dog lovers, married couples, families, and single dwellers—all of us streaming cable television nearly 24/7.

Now there’s new content from another major provider (as if we needed it).

WarnerMedia’s streaming platform, HBO Max, officially launched on May 27—featuring a streaming bundled curated from 100 years of what the company calls its own “iconic and beloved content;” as well new Max Originals; fan-favorite acquired franchises; and films.

Millions of existing HBO and HBO NOW direct-billed subscribers—as well as those who are billed through Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum and Verizon Fios Internet—can access this greatly expanded offering at no extra cost. Customers can download the HBO Max app; and then elect to access it on supported devices or via desktop (and log in using their existing provider’s username and password to unlock all of HBO Max).

The HBO NOW app automatically will update to the HBO Max app on supported devices. The service is available to others for $14.99 a month. For a full list of providers, please click here. To explore all the ways to get HBO Max, visit:  www.hbomax.com/ways-to-get

“Today we are proud to introduce HBO Max—a dream that was created and nurtured by an incredible team of talented executives who dedicated the last year-and-a-half to making it a reality for consumers nationwide,” said Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, in a press release. “However, this is just the beginning of our journey. We will continue to innovate and evolve this one-of-a-kind platform that brings together beloved programming from across the WarnerMedia family and around the world, while also paving the way for the creative voices of tomorrow.”

At launch, HBO Max will use screen real estate to encourage discovery and organize content into relevant, timely and personalized components. Viewers will see a sophisticated homepage, genre and category pages, editorialized landing pages, premium trays of curated content; and HBO Max hubs, which provide an easy on-ramp to discovery for brand-loyal viewers. Through Multi-User Profiles and features such as Continue Watching, My List and My Downloads, viewers will enjoy a customized and personalized viewing experience.

Max Originals available at launch include Love Life, On the Record, Legendary, Craftopia, Looney Tunes Cartoons, and The Not-Too-Late Show with ElmoThroughout the summer, new Max Originals will debut.

The entire HBO service will be available on HBO Max, including classic fan favorites such as  The SopranosSex and the City, and The Wire; as well as recent hits, including Game of ThronesBig Little LiesVeep, Curb Your EnthusiasmBarry, Westworld, Succession, Last Week Tonight with John Oliverand more. 

HBO’s summer premieres also will be available on the platform at the same time that they debut on the HBO service, including I May Destroy You on June 7; Perry Mason, starring Emmy winner Matthew Rhys, on June 21; and the six-part documentary series I’ll Be Gone in the Dark on June 28.

Highlights of the extensive WarnerMedia portfolio of library programming available immediately include the entire Friends library; the first season of TNT’s The Alienist; the first four seasons of truTV’s  Impractical Jokers; as well as the libraries of The Big Bang Theory, Rick and Morty, Robot Chicken, The BoondocksThe Bachelor, The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirCW shows such as Batwoman, Nancy Drew, and Katy Keene The O.C.; Pretty Little Liars; the CNN catalog of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown; and more. Soon, the platform offering will continue to grow—adding the libraries of Gossip Girl, The West Wing, and more within the first year of launch.

In addition, HBO Max will offer third-party acquisitions including Doctor Who (seasons 1-11 and the next three seasons); the U.S. premieres of Trigonometry and The Office; and seasons 17-25 of Top Gear—all as part of the previously announced deal with BBC Studios.

HBO Max will also premiere the 51st season of Sesame Street this year.

Finally, HBO Max will feature a library of more than 2,000 films within the first year. For more information on HBO Max, visit HBOMax.com

Research contact: @hbomax

Rocking and ‘rolling’: An eco-friendly toilet paper startup sees an unexpected surge in demand

May 25, 2020

About a year ago, Samira Far launched Beverly Hills, California-based No. 2,  a manufacturer and marketer of environmentally-friendly toilet paper.  Made entirely from bamboo, in plastic-free packaging and covered in recycled paper sporting attractive prints, the product seemed to be selling steadily.

Then the COVID-19 crisis hit, a national toilet paper frenzy set in—and demand went through the roof, Forbes reports.

How did it happen? Consumers unable to find TP on store shelves started desperately searching the Internet for alternatives. In the process, they stumbled upon No. 2, which is sold on the company’s website and through Amazon at a price of $39 for a carton of 24 rolls.

“The high demand for toilet paper gave us a lot more exposure,” says Far. (Fun fact. Americans consume 20% of the world’s toilet paper).

Forbes notes that other eco-friendly toilet paper startups, like Who Gives a Crap and Bippy, also have experienced a surge in demand.

For the first month or so, Far was able to fill subscribers’ orders. (The company has a subscription model, through which customers order on a schedule of anywhere from weekly to every three months). But demand peaked in the middle of March and, by the end of the month, she completely sold out—a 5,200% increase on Amazon.

Far is now taking pre-orders and expects to be back in stock later this month or early May. She’s ramping up production eight times more than usual. To stop consumers from going wild, the web site asks them to, “Please order responsibly”.

Research contact: @Forbes

Michigan AG: Trump has ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ responsibility to wear mask at Ford plant

May 22, 2020

He is not an outlier; he is a role model and leader for Americans and the world. Yet he refuses to wear a face mask during a global pandemic.

On May 21, as he prepared for a visit to the Ford plant in Michigan that has reconfigured its operations in order to manufacture ventilators—using an all-volunteer workforce that follows strict COVID-19 protocols—the president stirred controversey over his stance on PPE (personal protective equipment, Forbes reported.

President Trump has a “moral” and “legal responsibility” to wear a mask while he tours the Ford plant, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote in an open letter.

Nessel, whose letter was made available Wednesday, wrote that the mask wearing policy “is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders. It is currently the law of this State.”

Nessel also cited the size of Michigan’s coronavirus outbreak (53,000 cases, nearly 5,000 deaths) and Trump’s recent exposure to White House staffers who tested positive for the virus as reasons for the president to wear a mask.

A Ford spokesperson said on Tuesday, May 19, that the company requires masks on its premises, but added “the White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination,” leaving the door open as to whether Trump would wear a face covering.

When asked about this by reporters Tuesday, Trump said, “Where it’s appropriate, I would do it, certainly.”

He also said it depended on the situation. “Am I standing right next to everybody or am I spread out? And also…you know, is something a hospital? Is it a ward?…What is it exactly? I’m going to a plant. So we’ll see.”

Research contact: @Forbes

NASA’s human spaceflight leader mysteriously resigns before SpaceX Crew Dragon launch

May 21, 2020

The head of NASA’s Human Spaceflight program, Douglas Loverro, has resigned after spending about seven months at the agency.

The unexpected exit has set off alarms in Congress about the flight, itself—as well as how this disruption could affect the historic mission.

Indeed, in a letter to NASA employees, Loverro said that he is leaving the program “with a very, very heavy heart” after making a “mistake” during his tenure, according to a letter obtained by Politico,

The resignation comes little more than a week before NASA and SpaceX—the latter, a private American aerospace manufacturer—are slated to launch two astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station for the first time, Fast Company reports.

Meanwhile, Ars Technica reports that Loverro was set to give the final okay for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will carry astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

That job now will fall to Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations.

Loverro wrote that he was leaving the agency due to an undisclosed “mistake,” according to the letter obtained by Politico. Throughout my long government career of over four and a half decades I have always found it to be true that we are sometimes, as leaders, called on to take risks,” Loverro reportedly wrote. “I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences.”

The question is, why?

Top lawmakers demanded answers late Tuesday, May 19, about Loverro’s departure, especially since it occurred just eight days before the maiden voyage set for May 27 of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing,” Representative Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma), the chairperson of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee, said in a statement. “Under this administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our nation’s efforts at human space flight.”

The bottom line is that, as the committee that overseas NASA, we need answers,” she concluded.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who chairs the science panel, was “shocked” by the development; but said in a statement. “I trust that NASA Administrator [Jim] Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt.”

“Beyond that, Mr. Loverro’s resignation is another troubling indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is still not on stable footing.  I look forward to clarification from NASA as to the reasons for this latest personnel action.”

Reached by Fast Company, a NASA spokesperson sent over a boilerplate statement confirming Loverro’s departure and said that the agency is “unable to discuss personnel matters” beyond it.

Research contact: @FastCompany

SmileDirectClub slams NBC with $2.85B lawsuit for ‘hit piece’ about company

May 20, 2020

In a lengthy lawsuit that runs over 200 pages, SmileDirectClub—which claims to market its clear tooth aligners to straighten a buyer’s smile for up to 60% less than braces—has accused NBC Universal Media and reporter Vicky Nguyen of publishing false and misleading information about its operations and is seeking $2.85 billion for defamation, The Tennessean reports.

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, May 19, in Davidson County Circuit Court, attorneys for SmileDirectClub argue that the local NBC affiliate TV station aired over 40 false claims about the Nashville-based company during a February 13 broadcast. The newscast discussed the safety and effectiveness of SDC’s treatments and pushed back on the company’s practices at its hundreds of locations worldwide.

“The breadth of its misconduct is staggering,” the complaint reads, going on to call NBC’s claims inaccurate and a “hit piece.” 

“We stand by our reporting and believe this is a meritless claim,” an NBC News spokesperson said by email Monday.

Founded in 2014, the SmileDirectClub says that it “prides itself on providing affordable and accessible orthodontic care through its teledentistry.” Its dentists and orthodontists, 95% of whom the complaint says have their own practices, provide clear aligner therapy to straighten teeth.

The company says its patients would likely otherwise avoid treatment due to the cost or other accessibility issues. SDC patients pay up to 60% less than the typical rate for a retainer.

Indeed, The Tennessean reports, the lawsuit says opting for a treatment from SDC is not much different than seeking help in-person since the licensed doctors follow the same treatment protocols and render the same standard of care. 

During the broadcast, Nguyen, an investigative and consumer correspondent for NBC Nightly News, reported that SDC doctors didn’t follow standards and could be unsafe for patients.

Before the piece aired, SDC says in the complaint that they provided NBC with hundreds of documents with information about doctors and standards of care. They also made executives, doctors, and patients —even ones who initially had concerns about their treatment—available for interviews. NBC declined.

“SDC brought this lawsuit for its employees and officers, for its affiliated doctors, for its shareholders, and to recover from the damage NBC caused to its business and reputation,” said Erik Connolly, one of the attorneys representing SDC. “SDC respects the role that the media play in our society, but expects truthful accounts. NBC’s reports were defamatory, not truthful, and the facts show that NBC knew it was not telling the truth.”

The newscast featured interviews with people who said they were former patients of SDC and shared some issues they had with the company and their dental treatments.

In its complaint, SDC shrugged off responsibility, instead saying SDC-affiliated doctors are actually responsible for treatment, not the company itself. The company also pushed back on claims that it was offering “do it yourself” dentistry. 

After the report aired, SDC’s stock plummeted 15%, the lawsuit says, and it continued to. On Feb. 20, the stock price closed at $12.07 per share and by Feb. 26, it was down to $8.

Patients canceled their appointments, and the company lost an estimated $950 million in revenue. SDC employees had their reputations ruined, attorneys allege, because of NBC’s “reckless disregard.”

In additional to the $2.85 billion, The Tennessean notes, SDC is seeking a jury trial. 

Research contact: @Tennessean_d

Target will extend ‘hazard pay’ to frontline workers through July 4

May 19, 2020

Target, the eighth-largest U.S. retailer, has announced plans to extend its temporary $2-an-hour pay hike for frontline workers through July 4 as the company continues to deal with higher demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

The company also is extending policies that give employees who are 65 or older, pregnant. or with medical conditions paid leave for up to 30 days. In addition, workers will get access to backup care for children or family members.

Bloomberg notes that the way in which the store is stepping up for its employees “contrasts with recent moves by retailers such as Amazon and Kroger, which are winding down higher hourly pay initiatives as the coronavirus lockdown persists.”

This will be the second extension of higher pay for Target, which initially announced wage increases in March. The Minneapolis-based retailer has seen a big boost from selling essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic, but investors are bracing for lower margins due to the higher costs and the possibility it will write off slow-selling merchandise like clothing, according to the business news outlet.

Companies allowed to operate through the pandemic, such as supermarkets, warehouses, and transportation firms, have benefited from a boost in demand and a labor market swollen with newly unemployed workers. However, their treatment of workers has drawn regulatory scrutiny; as well as protests from employees worried about catching COVID-19 at work and bringing it home to their families.

Research contact: @business

Hydrow ‘streams’ rowing lessons from the river

May 18, 2020

A lifelong rower and former coach of the U.S. National Team, Hydrow CEO and Founder Bruce Smith now wants to share the physically and mentally transformative experience that has drawn him to the water—and keeps him there on a nearly daily basis.

According to The Boston Globe, Smith’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup sent out its first customer shipment one year ago—a specially designed rowing machine offering live-streamed on-screen experiences that make the indoor athlete feel as if he or she is navigating on the Charles River, along with the instructor.

And the pandemic actually has been a wellspring for Hydro’s business. Sales of its machines in April were four times those of January, Smith says.

Indeed, the Globe reports, Hydrow isn’t the only Boston-area company finding ways to grow in 2020 by offering a technological escape from our penned-up pandemic cabin fever.

Last May, Hydrow started shipping its $2,200 rowing machine to about a thousand customers who had put in pre-orders. It also announced around that time that it had raised $27 million in venture capital funding.

The following month, Best Buy started selling the device. Like a traditional rowing machine, it offers resistance to simulate the effort of pulling oars through the water as your seat slides back and forth. But unlike old-school “ergs,” or ergometers, Hydrow connects to the Internet and has a large flat-screen display.

After customers purchase the machine, they can use a basic mode for free, or $40 per month for access to a library of recorded workouts, as well as several live broadcasts each week.

The library includes trips to London, Scotland, San Francisco Bay; and Austin, Texas. During the winter, the company broadcasts live rowing sessions from Miami; in the summer, it relocates to Boston.

Finally, for those who do not want to purchase a new machine, Hydrow also makes a mobile app that you can use with a smartphone or tablet, to bring its prerecorded clinics to a rowing machine you already own.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

NBA drops Spalding as official basketball supplier after 37 years

May 15, 2020

The NBA has “bounced” Kentucky-based Spalding off its list of suppliers—ending a 37-year relationship with the sporting goods company that produced its custom-made basketballs, the league announced on Wednesday, May 13.

The new contract for the game balls has been awarded to Chicago-based Wilson, starting with the 2021-22 season, the league announced according to a report by CNBC.

“This partnership with Wilson returns us to our roots as we plan for the future,” Salvatore LaRocca, the NBA’s president of Global Partnerships said in a statement.  “We were partners … dating back to when Wilson manufactured the first official NBA basketballs in 1946, and we look forward to growing the game of basketball together.”

The financial terms of the NBA’s partnership with Wilson were not disclosed.

“Our commitment to growing the game of basketball on the global stage is at the heart of Wilson and our new partnership with the NBA,” Kevin Murphy, GM of Wilson basketball division said in a statement. “Our passion for this game and the league runs incredibly deep, as does our history with it. And as we start this new chapter in the game, our focus and energy will be on supporting the league and the players, coaches and fans with the most advanced, high-performance game basketballs possible.”

The end of the NBA’s partnership with Spalding comes as a bit of a surprise in sports circles. The company, which begin making the basketballs exclusively for the NBA starting in 1983, had just advised the league on cleaning equipment once games resume after the COVID-19 stoppage.

After 30 years using leather balls, the company switched to a synthetic version of basketballs in 2006, only to suffer backlash CNBC reports. Spalding eventually sought feedback from players before making another switch.

The company, which produced the world’s first basketball in 1894, became the official backboard of the NBA in 2009.

Wilson is owned by Finland based company Amer Sports.

Research contact: @CNBC

Twitter will allow employees to work from home ‘forever’

May 14, 2020

For those of its workers who are flourishing while conducting meetings on Zoom with a child on their laps and a cat next to the keyboard, social media giant Twitter announced on May 12 that it plans to let anyone who wishes to work from home to do so for the foreseeable future—even after its offices reopen in a post-pandemic world, ABC News reports.

“Twitter was one of the first companies to go to a WFH [work from home] model in the face of COVID-19, but we don’t anticipate being one of the first to return to offices,” the company said in a statement.

The past few months of having staff almost entirely remote “have proven we can make it work,” the statement continued. “So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

Twitter said its offices will not likely open before September, and when reopening does occur, it will be a gradual and cautious process, ABC notes. No in-person company events for the rest of 2020 are scheduled.

“We’re proud of the early action we took to protect the health of our employees and our communities,” Twitter said. “That will remain our top priority as we work through the unknowns of the coming months.”

Research contact: @ABC