Posts tagged with "The Wall Street Journal"

End of the road: FedEx to discontinue ground deliveries for Amazon

August 8, 2019

As Amazon continues to offer more products and faster shipments, most of its Delivery Service Partners are continuing to say “How high?” when the Seattle-based company asks them to jump.

But that’s not the case with Memphis-based Federal Express, which until recently had been among the company’s swiftest and most dependable contractors.

In fact, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, on August 7, FedEx announced that it would not renew its contract at the end of this month to deliver Amazon packages through its ground network—essentially severing ties with one of the world’s biggest shippers.

The shipping and logistics company already had discontinued its U.S. air deliveries for the e-commerce giant in June, but had said at that time that it would continue to handle ground deliveries and international shipments. Now just the global business remains.

The moves are evidence of escalating tensions between the longtime partners as the e-commerce giant builds out its own delivery services, the Journal said—including leasing cargo planes, buying trucks, and funding local delivery drivers.

“This change is consistent with our strategy to focus on the broader e-commerce market, which the recent announcements related to our FedEx Ground network have us positioned extraordinarily well to do,” FedEx commented.

The decision has come at a time when Amazon already is planning its holiday deliveries. The e-commerce company will have to find a new way to handle millions of packages ahead of the critical holiday shopping season at the same time it continues looking to speed home deliveries.

The once-staid delivery business has been upended in recent years as consumers buy everything from toilet paper to trampolines online, causing a surge in e-commerce shipments. FedEx and rival United Parcel Service have invested billions of dollars to handle the increased volumes. FedEx recently said it would expand to seven-day home deliveries, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Although Amazon ships millions of packages a day, it spreads the orders among FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, as well as its own growing delivery operations. FedEx has said Amazon represented 1.3% of FedEx’s total revenue in 2018, or less than $1 billion.

Research contact: @FedEx

Trump aides see personal malice, not political strategy, in Twitter attacks on Baltimore, Cummings

August 2, 2019

After a week during which President Donald Trump was labeled a “racist” and a “white supremacist” for his affronts to “The Squad” of women of color in the House, the activist Reverend Al Sharpton, CNN anchor Don Lemon, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland—and the latter’s home district, Baltimore, which Trump described as “rat-infested and  a “living hell”— the POTUS was asked by the media to explain his strategy.

“There’s no strategy. I have no strategy. There’s zero strategy,” he told reporters on July 30. “It’s very simple.”

However, most political pundits believe that he did have two underlying reasons for the attacks. First, he believes that his denigration of Puerto Ricans, immigrants, blacks, and others of color builds the loyalty of his largely white base nationwide.

Second, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal,  Trump was “set off by last week’s decision by the House Oversight Committee,” which Cummings chairs, to subpoena top White House aides, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, for its probe into official emails and texts sent from personal accounts.

The news outlet also pointed to Cummings’ remarks at a news conference last week, at which he suggested further action against the administration was imminent. “There comes a point when silence becomes betrayal,” Cummings said, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.

“People know this is the president. He’s going to fight back,” said one campaign adviser. “It’s not a surprise to anyone as much as it was before.”

Cummings responded on Twitter: “I will continue to do every day what I am duty-bounded to do—help my constituents to live their best lives and serve as a check on the Executive Branch.”

While Trump’s supporters have not come out in defense of the president’s remarks, they also have not criticized him to any great degree. Indeed, the Journal reports, Trump campaign officials do not view the gibes against Cummings as damaging to the president’s odds of re-election. The campaign sees the president’s polling numbers as most vulnerable when voters perceive the White House to be in chaos, when Mr. Trump’s base of supporters dislike legislation he signs, and when the president is perceived as “punching down,” one adviser told the news outlet.

In direct opposition to what he, himself, has said publicly, the president repeatedly has  bragged about his record on behalf of African-Americans. On Tuesday, he said African-Americans had “been calling the White House” and were “happy as hell.”

Research contact: Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

Facial recognition goes to camp

July 31, 2019

 “Hello Mudddah, Hello Faddah, Here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining.  And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.”

Those lyrics were written by comedian Allan Sherman—and produced as one of the most popular songs of 1963. Meant to satirize the sleepover camp experience through the eyes (and vocal cords) of a homesick child, the song is punctuated by the chorus, “Take me home, Oh Muddah, Fadduh, Take me home. I hate Granada.”

But the reality is that, when kids leave for summer camp for the first time (or any time), their parents miss them, too—and wonder what they are doing, if they are making friends, and if they are settling in. They wait anxiously for cards and emails—and check the camp’s daily photos for what they hope will be a happy and smiling face.

And that part is getting easier all the time: Summer camps across the country are allowing parents to  opt into facial-recognition services to receive photos of their camper without having to sift through hundreds of group shots for proof that little Susie is having a good time climbing ropes, The Wall Street Journal reported on July 30.

Camp photographers can upload photos to a service, where they are scanned and identified. Parents then receive photos of their kids via text or through a website.

Waldo Photos of Austin, Texas, Inc. is one of the services, now offered at more than 150 summer camps across the country. The service is starting to be adopted by schools and sports leagues, too.

Camps either pay for Waldo, themselves, and offer it to parents or they ask parents to pay directly at a price of $1 to $2 per child a day, the Journal reports. If parents want to sign up to receive photos through Waldo, they have to submit a reference photo of their child so that the artificial intelligence (AI )can detect a match. The images are stored until a parent asks for them to be deleted.

Is that a good thing?

Rodney Rice, Waldo’s founder, said the facial data the company uses to identify kids would be no good to anyone else. “The misperception is that facial recognition is a fingerprint. I could hand a 40-digit alphanumeric hash to Google or Facebook and they couldn’t do anything with it,” he said. “I’m a father of three and I’d have never started this business if I was going to be putting kids at risk.”

Privacy and cybersecurity experts say parents may well trust a company’s intentions, but what happens if the company changes hands? Waldo’s privacy policy contains the boilerplate legalese explaining that if the company were sold, its customers’ personal information could be transferred.

While commercial applications of facial-recognition software abound—and bear their own fair share of controversy—the fact that this latest wave is geared toward children has privacy experts and politicians urging parents, camps, and school districts to think twice.

Concerns over this precious data—children’s faces—range from accuracy to abuse, the Journal says. Could it one day be used for purposes other than that for which it’s currently intended?

In the movie, Minority Report, biometric systems created for marketing are commandeered to hunt down citizens suspected of wrongdoing. There’s no evidence of this happening yet, but as science fiction goes, it’s not too far-fetched.

“We’re in the very early stages of commercial, nongovernmental use of facial recognition and we shouldn’t be waiting until harms occur to do something, we should be acting now to mitigate the harms,” Nathan Sheard, a grass-roots advocacy organizer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the news outlet.

Facial data also is coming under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission—which earlier this month launched a review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that requires children’s websites to obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing a child’s personal information. The FTC now is seeking comment on whether the definition of “personal information” should be expanded to include biometric data.

The makers of facial-recognition software argue that concerns about the technology are overblown because people don’t really understand it. For these companies, facial data isn’t captured and stored as a usable image, but rather as lengthy chains of numbers and letters that can only be deciphered by proprietary software. Developers argue the data would be meaningless to anyone who doesn’t have their model.

“At some point we have to stop and ask ourselves whether the costs to our privacy are no longer outweighed by the benefits,” Sean McGrath, managing editor at ProPrivacy.com, a digital privacy advocacy group, told the Journal, adding,. “With facial recognition, more than any other technology, we’re at one of those watershed moments where we really need to step back and assess the bigger picture.”

Julie Jargon, a tech writer for The Wall Street Journal advises parents to ask the following questions before consenting to facial recognition for their children:

  1. Where will my child’s facial data be stored and for how long?
  2. Will the data be shared with third parties and, if so, what are their policies for storing and sharing the data?
  3. Are there purposes for the data other than what’s being advertised? For example, will my child’s facial data be used to train AI for law enforcement or corporate partners?
  4. What happens to my child’s data if the service provider is sold?
  5. What happens to the data if I decide I no longer want to use this service? Will it be deleted immediately?

Research contact: @WSJ

Left-leaning big tech is likely target of White House Social Media Summit

July 12, 2019

Ears must have been “ringing” at Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Twitter on July 11—since the big tech companies, likely, dominated the discourse at the Social Media Summit at the White House scheduled for that date.

While the big four were not invited to the confab, The Wall Street Journal reported that the event would offer a platform for supporters of the Trump administration, who claim they face censorship from the left-tilting social media companies—as well as a preview of a likely theme in the president’s re-election campaign.

Attendees include the Claremont Institute think tank; the right-wing media company PragerU; and the Media Research Center, a nonprofit “media watchdog” committed to “neutralizing left wing bias.” Also expected to attend are more familiar Washington conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation, the news outlet said.

The companies declined to comment on the event, but have said in the past that they seek to police harmful or fake content without regard to politics.

“It’s all about 2020,” Paul Gallant, managing director of Cowen Washington Research Group for Technology, Media & Telecom,  told the Journal. He sees it as a stage for the president to tell “the base that the media and Internet companies are against us” as well as “pressuring Facebook, Twitter, and Google to tilt content in Trump’s direction.”

The event grew out of complaints the White House has received about bias online, a spokesman said.

“Earlier this year the White House launched a tool to allow Americans, regardless of their political views, to share how they have been affected by bias online,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere. “After receiving thousands of responses, the President wants to engage directly with these digital leaders in a discussion on the power of social media.”

In May, the White House briefly opened an official website for the public to share information about “action against your account” by social-media platforms. Last month it described Thursday’s event as “a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”

Charlie Kirk, who leads the student group Turning Point USA, said in an interview with the financial news outlet that alleged bias by social-media companies resonates with the president’s supporters, calling it “one of the top, if not the top issue with people [who] I interact with on social media.”

Bill Mitchell, chief executive of YourVoice  made his first official White House visit at the event. Like others invitees, he told the Journal that he has seen anecdotal evidence that his pro-Trump videos and tweets should be reaching a larger audience. “We just want a level playing field so that everybody can have free speech,” he said.

But despite their enthusiasm for the cause,  neither the attendees nor the president will be able to effectively muzzle the big tech companies, experts think.

Trump “can’t do much” to change the way social-media platforms operate, said Sam McGowan, an analyst at Beacon Policy Advisers, a research firm based in Washington, D.C. “What he can do is hold these sorts of summits. …That in itself is a way to rally Trump’s base.”

The limited ability of President Trump to change the way social-media works was reinforced Monday when a federal appeals court ruled that his practice of blocking some users on Twitter violates the free-speech protections of the First Amendment.

Short of tangible action, calls to rein in tech firms could be a political winner on the campaign trail. In a March Wall Street Journal/NBC survey of 1,000 American adults, 54% said they weren’t satisfied with federal government regulation and oversight of social-media companies, compared with 36% who were satisfied and 10% who weren’t sure.

Research contact: ryan.tracy@wsj.com

Nike pulls ‘Betsy Ross Flag’ sneakers off shelves after Colin Kaepernick intervenes

July 3, 2019

Nike pulled its special, commemorative Fourth of July sneakers featuring a “Betsy Ross Flag” from store shelves this week after former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick—best-known for taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem as a protest against police brutality—complained that the company shouldn’t use a colonial symbol that he and others see as offensive, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kaepernick, who remains a national hero for his gesture, also has clout and leverage with Nike: He was named the new face of the sportswear and footwear firm’s “Just Do It” marketing campaign in February.

According to a report by Fortune, the Betsy Ross Flag design on the Air Max 1 USA was intended as a celebration of U.S. Independence Day—with a flag that featured 13 white stars in a circle on the heel. The design was created during the Revolutionary War.

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” said Mark Rhodes, a spokesman for the company, in an email to the media on July 1.

Kaepernick contacted the company after the shoes were posted online, saying the flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery, the newspaper said.

Research contact: @Nike

Barack and Michelle Obama seal podcasting deal with Spotify

June 10, 2019

Swedish audio-streaming platform Spotify Technology has sealed a deal with the Higher Ground production company—helmed by Barack and Michelle Obama—to develop and produce podcasts.

The former president and first lady are expected to participate in at least some of the podcasts covering a range of topics, the companies said in their announcement, released on June 6. That could potentially mean that they will take hosting, narrating, or interview roles. Financial terms of the multiyear agreement weren’t disclosed, nor were details about programming or how many podcasts the deal might include, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

In a formal press release, the Obamas noted that, when they launched their production company last year with an initial partnership with Netflix, their goal was “to create compelling content that entertains and inspires viewers.” Recognizing that content is consumed in many forms, this new partnership will give them the ability to expand the conversation—educating and engaging Spotify’s diverse and extensive audience.

Spotify, which recently surpassed 100 million premium subscribers and has more than 217 million monthly active users, will distribute the podcasts exclusively to audiences worldwide.

 “We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation,” President Obama said. “It helps us build connections with each other and open ourselves up to new ideas. We’re excited about Higher Ground Audio because podcasts offer an extraordinary opportunity to foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think, and, hopefully, bring us all a little closer together.”

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to amplify voices that are too often ignored or silenced altogether, and through Spotify, we can share those stories with the world,” Michelle Obama said. “Our hope is that through compelling, inspirational storytelling, Higher Ground Audio will not only produce engaging podcasts, but help people connect emotionally and open up their minds—and their hearts.”

“President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are two of the world’s most important voices and it is a privilege to be working with them to identify and share stories that will inspire our global audience, which looks to Spotify for unique, breakthrough content,” said Spotify Chief Content Officer, Dawn Ostroff. “Connecting people with original and thoughtful creators — especially those with the ability to highlight underrepresented and indispensable narratives — is at the core of our mission and we are thrilled that not only will the Obamas be producing content, but that they will be lending their voices to this effort.”

Research contact: @Spotify

Traditional MBA programs are toppling, as online education catches on

June 7, 2019

Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has joined other major business schools nationwide in announcing that—pending University approval—it will shift investments away from its residential full-time and part-time MBA programs. Instead, the college will focus its investments on its rapidly growing online iMBA as well as a suite of specialized master’s programs, undergraduate education, and lifelong learning. The College plans to stop enrolling new students in the full-time and part-time residential programs.

Indeed, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, applications to traditional M.B.A. programs have languished in a strong U.S. job marketdeclining last year, even at Harvard Business School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and other elite schools

The business news outlet reports that Millennials, saddled with more college debt than previous generations, have grown more reluctant to leave jobs for a year or more to pursue one of the nation’s priciest degrees.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of accredited full-time M.B.A. programs in the U.S. shrank 9% to 1,189, with schools reporting 119 fewer two-year degrees in the most recent survey by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Wake Forest University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly known as Virginia Tech, are among the others to recently cut their traditional M.B.A. programs, the Journal reports.

Against that backdrop, shorter and more-flexible graduate business degrees have proliferated. At the business schools in the same survey, there were 140 new masters programs in specialized subjects like data analytics last year, marking a 16% jump from 2014, to 981.

“The iMBA is the right format for the times— providing a powerful learning experience with anytime/anywhere accessibility at an affordable cost,” said Jeffrey Brown, dean of Gies College of Business, in a university press release. “Given the global reach and accessibility of this program, we are creating what I call the world’s MBA. With this and with our innovation in undergrad, specialized masters, and lifelong learning, we are playing to our competitive advantages and positioning ourselves for tremendous impact and steady growth. These moves will focus our investment in ways that will make us unquestionably one of a handful of the world’s very best and most innovative business schools.”

At Geis, Brown says, applications to the iMBA have nearly tripled—from 1,100 in 2016, when the program was launched, to a projected 3,200 in 2019. He says the new program is “revolutionary”in its delivery, stackable structure, concentrations, immersions, accessibility, and career-curated content. It combines material in ways that professionals use it in the real world, not in traditional academic silos.

Even better, iMBA students earn the same MBA that on-campus students have been earning for decades—at a total cost of less than $22,000, compared to the $80,000 full-time program.

“Our iMBA is the most innovative, highest-value MBA of any kind anywhere in the world,” said Brown. “Because it is online and offered at an affordable cost, it creates access to a high-quality, high-impact business education for larger numbers of talented people. It fulfills our land-grant mission and serves our state spectacularly well. At the same time, by being fully online, it extends and deepens our reach as a global player — ensuring a worldwide reach for our college and alumni network.”

In May, Stetson University in Florida also said it would stop admitting new students to its full-time, on-campus M.B.A. programs, funneling resources instead to more popular online equivalents.

Research contact: @WSJ

The Bay State’s Bill Weld challenges Trump for 2020 GOP nomination

April 17, 2019

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld—who served the Bay State from 1991 to 1997—announced on April 15 that he would challenge President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln—equality, dignity and opportunity for all,” Weld, age 73, said in a written announcement that made no mention of  Trump, the Journal noted. Instead, he referenced “great political strife” and blamed both parties for a “win at all cost” mentality.

“It is time for patriotic men and women across our great nation to stand and plant a flag,” Weld’s statement read.

Weld represents a flank of the GOP that sees Mr. Trump as disruptive to longstanding party ideology on topics such as foreign policy and trade, but this group has been largely muffled since the 2016 election.

Trump commands widespread support among the Republican base, and he has a formidable re-election war chest. The Trump campaign said it raised $30 million in the first three months of this year and had $40 million in the bank as of March 31. The campaign also is fully integrated with the Republican National Committee, giving it an additional $42 million in available cash.

“Trump’s grip on the party is strong,” Republican donor and Trump fundraiser Dan Eberhart said. “The party isn’t looking for a Massachusetts liberal.”

Mr. Weld served two terms as governor in the 1990s and was viewed as a moderate, reflecting the state’s electoral makeup. In 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama over fellow Republican John McCain. In 2016, he ran as the running mate to Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.

The Massachusetts resident is banking on a strong performance in New Hampshire, which will hold the first-in-the-nation primary in February 2020

According to a Newsweek report, an incumbent president hasn’t faced a primary challenger since Pat Buchanan challenged, and lost, to George H.W. Bush in 1992.

The weekly news magazine has said that there are four other Republicans who could possibly challenge the Trump machine for the presidency—naming the possibilities as  Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, newly re-elected Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Nebraska Senator Benn Sasse.

Research contact: @WSJ

Growth prospects: Americans are no longer taller than everyone else

March 25, 2019

For the first time in more than 200 years, U.S. citizens are “falling short of” another nationality—the Dutch— when it comes to physical stature, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

During the Revolutionary War, U.S. soldiers were a full two inches taller than their British counterparts, the news outlet notes. In World War II, they were two inches taller than the Germans. But today, Americans, and everyone else on the planet, must look up to the Dutch.

“They overtook us,” Dr. John Komlos, a professor emeritus of economic history at the University of Munich, said in a recent interview with the Journal. He is interested in height because it reflects quality of life—or, as he put it: “We find the economy goes bone deep,”

Based on data that Dr. Komlos has reviewed on white and black U.S.-born adults, the average American woman is 5 feet 5 inches tall, and the average American man is 5 feet 10 inches tall. By comparison, the average Dutch woman is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and the average Dutch man is 6 feet 2 inches tall. (Asians and Hispanics—who are shorter on average—were excluded from the study in order to better illuminate how Americans compare to Western Europeans.)

However, when it comes to income, the trend is reversed. In the United States, the average household’s net-adjusted disposable income per capita is $44,049 a year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index. By comparison, in the Netherlands, the average is $28,783.

Despite that income gap, Dr. Komlos told the Journal, “U.S. children are consistently behind, practically from birth.”

This becomes especially apparent when the pubertal growth spurts begin:  Between ages 8.5 and 13.5, American girls grow 11 inches. Between ages 10.5 and 16.5, American boys grow 12 to 13 inches.

But they still don’t measure up: Growth spurts in the Netherlands start later and last longer.

As for why the height of Americans has plateaued, while the Dutch continue to grow like weeds, Dr. Komlos theorizes that it is because of differences in nutrition, healthcare, and spending—but further research may be needed to identify the specific reasons.

“Average income is a very misleading indicator,” Dr. Komlos told The Wall Street Journal. “It depends on who gets that income, and how it is used. If you’re healthier, if you go to the doctor regularly, you’re likely to live longer. And you’re also likely to become taller.”

Research contact: Jo.McGinty@wsj.com

Family dormitories are on the rise

March 20, 2019

A co-living company that has been offering dormitory-like accommodations to single 20-somethings now has a new customer base in mind: families.

New York City-based Common, which rents out fully furnished private bedrooms in shared, serviced apartments—complete with a  shared and furnished living area, kitchen, and bathroom(s), and free on-site laundry; as well as a once-a-week professional cleaning team—is teaming with global real-estate developer Tishman Speyer to launch this new product on March 19, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It’s a grown-up concept designed to meet the needs of young and expanding family units. Under the new brand Kin, buildings will feature playrooms, family-size units, and on-demand childcare through an internal mobile app that also helps connect families looking to share nannies and babysitters.

Common and Tishman Speyer are testing out those offerings at an existing luxury project, Jackson Park in Long Island City, with plans to announce new developments in other locales in the coming months, the Journal reports.

The partners see this as an opportunity to help address a shortage of family-size apartments in many major U.S. cities, where developers have overwhelmingly built studios and one-bedrooms targeted to single 20-somethings.

“People are choosing to raise families in big cities more than ever,” said Rob Speyer, president and chief executive at Tishman Speyer. “It’s very difficult to find housing that’s tailored to that.”

Common pioneered the co-living concept, but since then it has become a crowded space with a handful of well-funded competitors. All are racing to see who can most quickly overcome hurdles—such as finding developers and banks willing to gamble on the unconventional layouts, and finding a way to shrink floor plans without alienating customers.

Brad Hargreaves, founder and chief executive at Common, said the idea for the product grew out of his own experience trying to find child care in the city when his son was born in 2015.

“When [my first son] was about to be born we started looking for child-care options, and we really struggled to find anything that was affordable and high-quality,” he said.

The Kin venture also provides a hedge for Common when its clientele are aging out of their 20s and potentially out of Common’s core product.

Some analysts have warned that co-living buildings serve a niche demographic and people are much less likely to live there when they become couples or have children.

“There is a large question from a venture-capital side about what these companies are going to look like in 10 years. When the largest cohort that is using co-living, what happens when these people grow up?” Jeffrey Berman, a general partner at Camber Creek, a real-estate-focused venture-capital firm, told the Journal in an interview.

Unlike Common’s co-living product, Kin buildings won’t require families to share kitchens and bathrooms. But Mr. Hargreaves said units will be compact to help make them more affordable, with larger common spaces to compensate.

Developers traditionally build much fewer two- or three-bedroom apartments because they are more expensive and tend to lease more slowly. In fact, the share of apartments with two or more bedrooms has declined to just over 40% since 2014, from about 55% from 2000 to 2013. Nearly 60% of new units constructed in the 54 largest metros since 2014 have been studio or one-bedroom apartments, according to CoStar, up from about 45% from 2000 to 2013.

Hargreaves told the news outlet that he is confident that families aren’t leaving the city by choice, but because of limited child-care and housing options. “One of the biggest things [families] fear is being forced out of the city into the suburbs,” he said.

Research contact: @hicommon