- Apple just shared some staggering statistics about how well the App Store is doing (AAPL)
- TinyLetter will fold into MailChimp in the future — but it's not going to happen in 2018
- THE MOBILE PAYMENTS REPORT: Key strategies that wallet providers can implement to break from disappointing growth
- The US Army's futuristic new helicopter is just the beginning of a future helo fleet
- Intel now says it has a fix for the Spectre bug that Google found to be unfixable (INTC)
- Tesla fell short on its Model 3 production goals again — but its latest numbers and past history offer some hope (TSLA)
- The US Government brutally laid out the magnitude of the Intel processor vulnerabilities that affect almost everyone (INTC, MSFT, AAPL, GOOG, GOOGL, AMZN)
- Stunning photos from space show the 'bomb cyclone' snowstorm blasting the US East Coast
- While Iceland is the first country to outlaw the gender pay gap, the rest of the world is seeing a bigger divide than ever
- One walk through Seattle's 'Amazonia' neighborhood made me very uneasy for whatever city gets HQ2
- Google and Amazon say the performance hit from the 'Meltdown' and 'Spectre' fixes is overblown (MSFT, AMZN, GOOG, GOOGL)
- Billionaire Democratic donor Reid Hoffman made a satirical Trump game — and it captures the spirit of 'the Resistance,' for better or worse
- After months of keeping my phone unlocked, I tried the Galaxy S8's futuristic security features — here’s what I thought
- Silicon Valley giants are investing hundreds of millions in housing projects across North America
- This substance lets you 'walk on water' — here's how it works
- Silicon Valley elites can't get enough of dangerous, untreated 'raw water' — here's why it's a bad idea
- How Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg uses New Year's resolutions to improve himself
- Closing the US gender wage gap isn't as simple as 'equal pay for equal work'
- Baltimore residents are resorting to GoFundMe to heat their freezing public schools
- Paying taxes on bitcoin isn't nearly as hard as it sounds
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 02:03 PM PST
Apple has an annual tradition in early January of announcing how well its App Store is doing.
But instead of simply announcing its yearly sales, or total downloads, or other key stats, it gives investors and users a few seemingly random data points.
Still, Wall Street analysts use these data points to back into an estimation of how big Apple's App Store is, especially as it becomes more important to Apple's services business, which executives have talked up in the past two years.
Apple makes money on the App Store because it takes a 30% cut of software and digital goods sold through it, except for subscriptions. The App Store is the only way for most people to install software on an iPhone.
This year, Apple announced:
Last year, Apple said:
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 02:02 PM PST
Not so fast, MailChimp told Business Insider. A representative for the company said that while TinyLetter will eventually merge into MailChimp's existing newsletter services, "there are no plans to sunset TinyLetter in 2018."
MailChimp bought TinyLetter in 2011 from Philip Kaplan, a web entrepreneur perhaps best known for creating the Fucked Company website, which documented the downfall of numerous dot-com companies and lampooned their excesses.
Though just a few months old at its time of acquisition, TinyLetter quickly developed a following with independent writers who appreciated the simplicity of both the newsletter and the user interface.
MailChimp, which offers enterprise-grade email marketing services, liked TinyLetter for the same reasons that users did.
"You could think of TinyLetter as a 'MailChimp Lite.' A more directionally accurate analogy would be, 'Gmail on steroids,'" MailChimp CEO Ben Chestnut wrote at the time of the acquisition. "Basically, TinyLetter is for people what MailChimp is for business."
MailChimp is still light on the details of what a it will mean to have TinyLetter merged with its MailChimp newsletter services.
The representative said that "it will still have the same super-simple newsletter building capabilities, with a refreshed, updated user experience."
But for now, at least, TinyLetter lovers can carry on as they have been for the past seven years.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 02:00 PM PST
This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.
In the US, the in-store mobile wallet space is becoming increasingly crowded. Most customers have an option provided by their smartphone vendor, like Apple, Android, or Samsung Pay. But those are often supplemented by a myriad of options from other players, ranging from tech firms like PayPal, to banks and card issuers, to major retailers and restaurants.
With that proliferation of options, one would expect to see a surge in adoption. But that’s not the case — though BI Intelligence projects that US in-store mobile payments volume will quintuple in the next five years, usage is consistently lagging below expectations, with estimates for 2019 falling far below what we expected just two years ago.
As such, despite promising factors driving gains, including the normalization of NFC technology and improved incentive programs to encourage adoption and engagement, it’s important for wallet providers and groups trying to break into the space to address the problems still holding mobile wallets back. These issues include customer satisfaction with current payment methods, limited repeat purchasing, and consumer confusion stemming from fragmentation. But several wallets, like Apple Pay, Starbucks’ app, and Samsung Pay, are outperforming their peers, and by delving into why, firms can begin to develop best practices and see better results.
A new report from BI Intelligence addresses how in-store mobile payments volume will grow through 2021, why that’s below past expectations, and what successful cases can teach other players in the space. It also issues actionable recommendations that various providers can take to improve their performance and better compete.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
In full, the report:
Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:58 PM PST
The V-280 can fly at 280 knots with a self-deployable range of 2,100 nautical miles, and a combat range of 500-800 nautical miles. It has a crew of four and can carry 12 troops, meeting all of the requirements the Army has laid out.
The Army has made it clear though that no single helicopter design would replace its entire helicopter fleet, according to Stars and Stripes.
"It's a myth that the Army is looking for a single [type of] helicopter to perform all its vertical-lift missions," Dan Bailey, a former AH-64 Apache pilot who is in charge of programs aimed at updating the Army's helicopters, told Stars and Stripes. "In fact, we will have a family of aircraft. Some may be tilt-rotor and some may be coaxial."
"We want to make sure we have advanced capabilities and configurations that allow that," Bailey said.
While the Army is looking to replace its Black Hawks, it may also replace its Apaches, CH-47 Chinooks, and OH-58 Kiowas. The service could turn to the other competitors in the race — namely Boeing and Sikorsky.
Boeing and Sikorsky are cooperating on a joint project called the SB-1 Defiant, which can come in both transport and attack variants.
Sikorsky claims that the SB-1 will have a cruise speed of 250 knots, will be able to carry 12 soldiers and four crewmen, and will have an easy multi-mission design — meaning it can operate as a medical evacuation helicopter with little changes.
The SB-1 will have many operational commonalities with its variants, according to Sikorsky, which could mean reduced training time and costs.
Sikorsky is also developing a replacement for the Kiowa called the S-97 Raider, which has already logged some twenty flight hours. Based off of the SB-1, it is smaller and designed for scout and recon missions.
Sikorsky says that the SB-1 is expected to make its first flight test sometime in 2018, but the S-97 is on hold after a hard landing last August revealed issues with its flight control systems.
Sikorsky is still "fully committed to the program," and will hopefully be back to flying in 2018, according to Chris Van Buiten, the vice president of Sikorsky Innovations.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:56 PM PST
Intel says that it's already starting to send out software updates that will make its processors "immune" to the "Meltdown" and "Spectre" hacks that were first revealed on Wednesday. The bugs could make it possible for a hacker to access sensitive information, like photos or passwords, from almost every PC, phone, and tablet.
"By the end of next week, Intel expects to have issued updates for more than 90 percent of processor products introduced within the past five years," Intel said in a press release Thursday.
That still leaves a long way to go: The Meltdown and Spectre attacks are believed to present a threat to almost any Intel processor made since 1995. But safeguarding the last five years' worth of chips is a good start.
The really interesting wrinkle is that Intel is claiming that it has a fix for "Spectre" at all.
When Google's Project Zero lab first disclosed the vulnerabilities, it said that it was possible to guard against Meltdown with software patches. So far, Meltdown has only been shown to run on Intel processors. It's comparatively easy to pull off a Meltdown attack, said Google, but it's also easier to detect and ward off with software.
But Spectre is different. It's harder to write and execute a Spectre attack, says Google. But it's also much harder to fortify against — Spectre can work on most Intel processors and many AMD and ARM processors, and the only known surefire way to completely safeguard against it is to simply not use a vulnerable processor.
That's harder than it sounds, given that almost every modern processor is, indeed, vulnerable. Spectre won't be stamped out entirely until processors stop relying on a concept known as "speculative execution," which is a cornerstone of modern chip design. That's going to take time. Which, in turn, is why Google named it Spectre.
"As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time," the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQ says.
It's not immediately clear how to reconcile that prognosis with Intel's claim that it has figured out how to defend against Spectre using software — Intel's announcement effectively contradicts what the Project Zero security experts told the world just yesterday.
We've reached out to Intel for additional comment and will update if we hear back. Intel stock was down 1.83% at the bell.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:48 PM PST
Here we go again. Tesla's got a new car model, and it's having trouble meeting its production targets. On Wednesday, the electric vehicle maker said just how far it was falling short in meeting its goals for its new Model 3. While company CEO Elon Musk had projected Tesla would make 20,000 Model 3s, it actually only made 2,425 — about 12% of that forecast. And the situation doesn't look like it will get better soon; after initially saying it planned to make 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of last year, it now doesn't expect to hit that production target until the end of the second quarter.
Investors and prospective Model 3 owners shouldn't be surprised. Tesla previously had trouble meeting its initial production goals of the Model S and Model X. The company launched the Model X, its crossover vehicle which was the last model it launched before the Model 3, two years later than it first planned and needed more than a year to fully ramp up production.
But the company's latest production numbers — and its past history — do offer some hope for Tesla fans. The company has a habit of steadily increasing its output and eventually meeting its targets, as this chart from Statista indicates. Last year, for example, it delivered a record number of vehicles, surpassing 100,000 for the first time. It also met a long-term goal of having its Model X sales double its total vehicle sales.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:47 PM PST
A short, but brutal, security update from the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERT/CC) lays out exactly how hard these vulnerabilities are going to be to fixed. Stamping out this issue once and for all will require drastic measures, says CERT.
"The underlying vulnerability is primarily caused by CPU implementation optimization choices. Fully removing the vulnerability requires replacing vulnerable CPU hardware," says the bulletin.
The word of CERT/CC carries a lot of weight: It's a part of the Software Engineering Institute, which is itself a non-profit that's largely funded by grants from the US Department of Defense. Indeed, CERT/CC regularly consults with the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI on cybersecurity issues.
There are operating system and software patches for Microsoft Windows, Google Android, the Linux operating system, and reportedly Apple MacOS that "mitigate the underlying hardware vulnerability," and are thus worth installing, as CERT/CC writes in its bulletin.
However, US-CERT — a related group that operates officially under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security — is a little gentler, but no less firm in its own bulletin: "Due to the fact that the vulnerability exists in CPU architecture rather than in software, patching may not fully address these vulnerabilities in all cases."
For more on Meltdown and Spectre, and what they mean, check out our simple guide here.
But what both CERT organizations are getting at is that Meltdown and Spectre are made possible because of a processor design concept called speculative execution. That concept has been put to use in almost every Intel processor since 1995, and many AMD and ARM processors today.
To fix the problem in its entirety would require a new kind of processor that doesn't rely on speculative execution. That means that Intel and its cohorts are going to have to seriously reconsider how they design and build the next generation of processor hardware.
In the meanwhile, CERT/CC's recommendation is going to be really hard to carry out. There aren't a heck of a lot of high-powered processors out there which don't rely on speculative execution.
In fact, that's how Spectre got its name.
"As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time," the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQsays.
And while we wait for those processors to come around, some of the operating system patches that mitigate the risk of a Meltdown or Spectre attack are reported by researchers to carry a hit to processor performance of as much as 30%. That performance hit has critics like Linux creator Linus Torvalds in a frenzy.
In other words, Meltdown and Spectre are here to stay for a while, and it's going to be a while before the path forward is entirely clear. Intel's stock is down 2.4% in intraday trading at the time of writing.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:25 PM PST
A "bomb cyclone" winter storm is pummeling the US East Coast with blizzard-like snow and wind conditions.
The huge storm was born when a surge of moist ocean air spiraled north to meet a frigid blast of Arctic air — the perfect recipe for a Nor'easter.
The winter storm has gained considerable strength over the past 24 hours, leading to what may be the region's most intense (and rapidly intensifying) in more than 40 years, according to Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and writer.
Thousands of flights have been canceled as a result, stranding travelers all over the US.
Although the storm's power is impressive from the ground, it takes on a whole other dimension in images taken from space.
Here are some of the best satellite pictures and animations we've seen, most of them recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-East satellite.
The jet stream set the stage for the January's winter storm beginning in December 2017, when it pulled a polar vortex of frigid air deep into the US and toward the East Coast.
That mass of freezing Arctic air met a cyclone of warmer, moist air from the Atlantic Ocean, setting the stage for massive snowfall and blistering winds.
Winter storm warnings for much of the East Coast went into effect late Wednesday and through Thursday.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:25 PM PST
On January 1, Iceland became the first country in the world to pass legislation with real teeth outlawing the gender pay gap.
According to Al Jazeera, companies and government agencies that employ more than 25 people must obtain a government certificate demonstrating pay parity, or else they will face fines.
This isn't the first or only national initiative aimed at closing the wage gap.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), two thirds of OECD countries have introduced policies on pay equality, including requiring some employers to publish calculations every year showing the gender pay gap.
Despite these initiatives, however, the global gender pay gap is widening.
According to WEF's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, while men around the world earn on average $21,000 a year, women earn $12,000 a year. This means that globally women earn about 57% of what men earn.
At the rate things are going, WEF predicts the economic gap between men and women won't be closed for another 217 years.
If not for altruism's sake, leaders around the world have a financial incentive to take a note of what Iceland has done and work towards closing the gender pay gap in their country.
According to WEF's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, "economic gender parity could add an additional $250 billion to the GDP of the United Kingdom, $1,750 billion to that of the United States, $550 billion to Japan's, $320 billion to France's, and $310 billion to the GDP of Germany." What's more, "the world as a whole could increase global GDP by $5.3 trillion by 2025 if it closed the gender gap in economic participation by 25% over the same period."
Based on the same WEF report, here's a look at what percentage women earn compared to men's earnings in the 35 OECD countries:
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 01:19 PM PST
The race for cities wanting to host Amazon's new $5 billion headquarters — and the 50,000 high-paying jobs the company says it'll come with — is on.
The global e-commerce giant received 238 bids for the second headquarters, dubbed HQ2.
For those wondering what their city may look like should Amazon choose it, the company's current home in Seattle is a cautionary tale. Locals point to snarled traffic, soaring housing prices, never-ending construction, and accelerated gentrification.
I recently spent a day in the Seattle neighborhood locals call Amazonia to see whether the "Ama-geddon" is as bad as everyone thinks.
In the '90s, Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood was a mess of parking lots, warehouses, and industrial buildings. Amazon has transformed the neighborhood and its surrounding areas, Belltown and Denny Triangle. Each of those pins on the map is an Amazon office.
Amazon's offices are spread across more than 33 buildings throughout the area, though some say the number is closer to 40. The company leases 100,000 square feet of office space in this building, nicknamed Otter.
Source: SF Gate
It's hard to overstate how thoroughly Amazon dominates downtown. The company is up to occupying 13.6 million square feet of office space in Seattle, according to some reports. Day 1 Tower, opened in 2016, is one of two towers that form the heart of Amazon's campus.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 12:52 PM PST
On Wednesday, Google revealed that there's a big security hole in pretty much every processor, including the one in your phone, the one in your laptop, and the processors running servers "in the cloud."
The two vulnerabilities, "Spectre" and "Meltdown," could even allow an attacker to steal passwords as a user typed them. Even worse, early speculation suggested that the fix for the two related but separate problems, "Spectre" and "Meltdown," could cause a major performance hit as the CPU would have had to do lots of extra work just to stay secure — maybe even reducing performance by 30%, according to The Register, which first reported the flaw.
Google and Amazon now say all of that gloom and doom is overstated.
In a technical blog post published on Thursday, Google says the software it built to fix the issue — it calls it KPTI — causes "negligible impact on performance."
Here's the key passage:
There has been speculation that the deployment of KPTI causes significant performance slowdowns. Performance can vary, as the impact of the KPTI mitigations depends on the rate of system calls made by an application. On most of our workloads, including our cloud infrastructure, we see negligible impact on performance.
In our own testing, we have found that microbenchmarks can show an exaggerated impact. Of course, Google recommends thorough testing in your environment before deployment; we cannot guarantee any particular performance or operational impact.
Basically: Google's not stressing about any impact to performance, and it believes that the performance hits that other analysts are seeing were conducted without the right data, leading to an "exaggerated impact."
Of course, Google's findings are only applicable to Google's cloud and services, which run on Google's version of Linux, presumably on an Intel processor.
But Google's findings are based on data from some real-deal, heavy-duty services that would be dramatically impacted by a major decrease in performance, including Gmail, Search, and YouTube.
Amazon also says all-clear
The lead cloud provider, Amazon, also said on Thursday that it did not expect performance to be severely impacted.
"We don’t expect meaningful performance impact for most customer workloads," an AWS representative told Business Insider. "There may end up being cases that are workload or OS specific that experience more of a performance impact. In those isolated cases, we will work with customers to mitigate any impact."
Amazon said on Wednesday that it had already protected its customers from nearly all AWS instances from the vulnerabilities.
Although Microsoft hasn't yet commented on what performance slowdowns it expects, its Azure service will also be closely watched to see if there are any impacts to processor performance. On Wednesday, it said it was in the process of implementing fixes.
NOW WATCH: Why airplane windows have tiny holes
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 12:31 PM PST
Hoffman is a billionaire who was a prominent Hillary Clinton donor during the 2016 presidential race and has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democrats. In January 2016, he decided to combine his lifelong passion for tabletop games with his passion for seeing Trump lose the election. After developing a version of "Trumped Up Cards" for his family and friends, he decided to release a polished version to the public that September.
When things didn't turn out for Hoffman and other Clinton voters, he decided he'd keep the game around and refresh it with booster packs, ostensibly to remind players to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.
"Inspired by 'The Daily Show' and 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,' we decided that satire that reveals the absurdity of our current situation is the only fitting response to these times," Hoffman wrote on Medium in September 2016.
Hoffman's team said that all profits from the game will go to charities, mentioning the ACLU.
We got a copy of the game and the two booster packs and arranged a time to play — Rich Feloni in the game and Hollis Johnson on photo duty — and invited some of our colleagues. We were joined by careers reporter Áine Cain, your money reporter Elena Holodny, global head of editorial partnerships Hayley Hudson, senior tech reporter Kif Leswing, video producer Manny Ocbazghi, and media reporter Max Tani.
The first thing we noticed is how much time Hoffman and his co-creators spent on the game. Everything from the packaging to the playing cards themselves is top quality.
Trumped Up Cards is based on the card game format pioneered by Apples to Apples in 1999 and further popularized by Cards Against Humanity.
In Trumped Up Cards, four to eight players each play with hands of 10 White Cards. The White Cards either contain a word or phrase or are Trump Cards.
The standard White Cards are intended as answers to Blue Cards, which contain either a question or a phrase with a line missing.
The role of CEO passes from player to player with each round, and it is the CEO's role to reveal a Blue Card that the other players respond to with one of their White Cards. The CEO then declares the best answer and the person who submitted the winning card is given that Blue Card.
Each Blue Card has the letter V, O, T, or E on it, and when a player spells VOTE, they win. If players play the DC Gridlock Variation, as we did, then the other players can pool their Blue Cards to spell VETO, sacrificing those cards so that the winning player has to discard their winning cards and the game continues.
We found the Trump Cards to be the most distinguishing and fun aspect of the game. They allow players to interfere with the regular flow of play.
For example, "Deport an opponent's answer!" allows the player who uses that card to dismiss the White Card the CEO chose as the winner of that round, forcing the CEO to make a new choice.
"Reframe the narrative!" makes the CEO for that round select a new Blue Card for the other players to respond to.
We found the rounds in which a Trump Card was played to be more enjoyable than those in which one was not.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 12:22 PM PST
The Samsung Galaxy S8 has six ways to unlock your phone: a fingerprint scanner, an iris scanner, a facial recognition system, as well as the more standard PIN, password, and pattern-unlock features. For the past two weeks, I've chosen the fingerprint sensor, iris scanner and a PIN code as my main three options to unlock my phone.
When I first got the Galaxy S8, I flip-flopped between the iris scanner and facial recognition systems (you can't have both set at the same time). Facial recognition works like a dream in ideal conditions, but limitations quickly arise: It doesn't fare well in darkly-lit areas and the Galaxy S8 must be held directly in front of your face to identify you. Holding the phone in a slanted position can affect its ability to recognize your face.
The iris scanner, on the other hand, presents you with a frame to let you align your eyes with the sensor. Under the right conditions, the iris scanner can authenticate you before the frame even has a chance to appear. Overall, it fails slightly less than facial recognition.
The second run
I don't like feeling like there's a wall between me and my home screen, period. There's nothing more immediate than swiping directly into your device, which can make authentication failures frustrating. If the iris scanner fails, I can tap the screen to reactivate the frame and try again, or just enter my PIN, but all of this time adds up when you're unlocking your phone dozens of times a day.
This is why, for most of the time I've had the Galaxy S8, I've usually left it unlocked.
Of all the various security features, though, I favor the Galaxy S8's rear-facing fingerprint scanner. The feature has been heavily criticized due to its odd placement, but it isn't so bad once you get used to it — but you do have to get used to it. I have an app that allows me to use a PIN or my fingerprint to log in, and I've found my fingerprint to be the fastest method. I rarely experience failures.
I've also found having a smartphone case helps me quickly identify the fingerprint scanner. Once my finger hits the right edge of the cutout, which exposes the camera and fingerprint scanner, I know where to place my finger. The device is particularly easy to use with your left hand, due to the location of the fingerprint sensor being to the right of the camera (if you're looking at the back of the phone).
Unlocking my Galaxy S8 during New York's winter season has had its own special challenges. My glasses constantly fogging up axes the iris scanner, while below-freezing temperatures can make the fingerprint scanner and the back up PIN a no-go, especially if you're wearing gloves.
Options outside of screen unlock
Still, despite my complaints about the Galaxy S8's security features, there are some clever built-in solutions.
Since the Galaxy S8 is an Android phone, it has Smart Lock settings, which let the phone identify when it is safe to remain unlocked. These options include "On-body detection," which keeps the phone unlocked while it's being handled by the owner; "Trusted places," which keeps the phone unlocked while in certain registered locations; and "Trusted devices," which keeps the phone unlocked while paired with certain nearby devices. I've made use of Trusted Places and my Galaxy S8 remains unlocked while I'm at home and at the gym.
While running this experiment, I've wondered on several occasions: "Do we need our devices to be this secure?" It's true, all of our most private information is stored on these devices, but we live in an age where things still get hacked and vulnerabilities are found regardless of how many security measures are put in place. This was my rationale for leaving my Galaxy S8 unlocked for several months in the first place.
That said, the many security options afforded to smartphone users do have the some merit. As I previously mentioned, I have my fingerprints set up to unlock certain applications on my phone I feel need that extra security. Perhaps the simple function of unlocking a device doesn't need to be that challenging, but there should be a wall of protection between certain sensitive in-app information and the data-hungry outside world.
My secure future
Using the Galaxy S8's security features isn't nearly as annoying as it was two weeks ago when I started this experiment, but I do see myself removing them sometime in the future. I plan to keep them set for now, as my paranoia has heightened as of the publishing of this piece. Perhaps I'll return to my old favorite pattern unlock.
Overall, though, I do recommend at least registering some or all of the security features on your smartphone, so it's just a matter of turning them on whenever you're ready to use them. Whether you're unlocking your phone, or authenticating an app or service, or paying for goods, having a plethora of security options is the new normal.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 12:03 PM PST
Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn are known for their digital products. But in the past several years, these companies and others like them have started to focus on an industry beyond their core business: real estate development.
From the lure of tax credits to efforts to provide residences for employees, there are several reasons why Silicon Valley companies are looking to build housing and even entire cities.
Take a look at some examples below.
In 2017, the Mountain View City Council approved a Google-backed plan to construct nearly 10,000 homes.
Google recently won city approval to construct a giant campus — which will include housing, offices, shops, businesses, and a public park — in the North Bayshore area of Mountain View, California.
Advocates of the 3.6 million-square foot development say that it will help alleviate the area's affordable housing crisis. Around 20% of the homes will be priced at below-market rate.
Though Google threatened to block the construction of the homes unless city officials gave the company permission to build another 800,000 square feet of office space beyond its original proposal, Mountain View City Council green-lit the plan for the homes in December, The Mercury News reported.
It calls for three new residential neighborhoods — Joaquin, Shorebird, and Pear — that will span 154 acres and include homes ranging from studios to three-bedroom units.
In late 2017, a division of Google parent company Alphabet announced plans to develop a swath of Toronto's waterfront into a "smart city."
Called Quayside, the neighborhood's plan will prioritize "environmental sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity," according to Sidewalk Labs.
From the renderings, it looks like Sidewalk Labs wants Quayside to be a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The preliminary illustrations include bikeshares, apartment housing, bus lines, and parks. Though details of the plan are still unclear, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor, has spoken about how self-driving cars, embedded sensors that track energy usage, machine learning, and high-speed internet could improve urban environments.
Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million to the project's first phase, and the 12-acre development is expected to cost at least $1 billion.
In the years following the 2008 recession, Google provided hundreds of millions of dollars in equity for several low-income housing projects in California and the Midwest.
In the years following the 2008 recession, Google, along with other large corporations, took advantage of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) to build affordable residential units. Since the program's creation in 1986, LIHTCs have helped finance more than 2.4 million affordable rental units across the US.
The tech giant has bought hundreds of millions of dollars worth of LIHTCs to fund developments in Iowa, Wisconsin, and California, according to CNBC.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 11:48 AM PST
Turns out, walking on water isn't as impossible as it might sound — as long as you have the right kind of water. Following is a transcript of the video.
These people are "walking on water." The substance is a mix of water and cornstarch. The mixture is two parts cornstarch to one part water. It demonstrates the properties of non-Newtonian fluids. Non-Newtonian fluids are solid if you apply a sudden force and liquid if you apply a steady, slow force.
How can something be a solid and a liquid? In the mix, there are tiny cornstarch particles evenly distributed. When a steady slow force is applied, the particles have time to move out of the way. So the object slides through, as it would in a liquid. When a sudden force is applied, the particles don't have time to move out of the way. So the object is stopped, as it would be on solid surface.
What makes non-Newtonian fluids unique is viscosity. Viscosity is the rate at which fluid flows. Common fluids, like water, have a consistent viscosity, so they flow the same regardless of what force you apply. In Non-Newtonian fluids, viscosity can change. Apply a sudden force, and the viscosity rapidly increases, forming a semisolid surface.
What can you do on a non-Newtonian fluid pool? Jump. Bike. Flip. Whatever you do, just keep applying high force, or you'll sink right in!
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 11:41 AM PST
Founder Mukhande Singh told the The New York Times that those who drink the regulated H2O that comes out of kitchen taps, public water fountains, and garden hoses are "drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them."
In San Francisco, his idea has gathered quite a following: the water is regularly sold out in grocery stores and people are spending more than $1 per glass to the drink water that's never been treated.
The company warns consumers on its site: "Consult your health care provider before making a decision to switch your drinking water source." But food safety experts tell Business Insider it’s a terrible idea to drink untreated water.
Why can unfiltered water be dangerous?
There are billions of people around the world living a "raw" water lifestyle right now. And it’s not very glamorous.
Chemicals like lead, microbes from feces (both animal and human), pesticide runoff, and underground waste are just some of the global threats to clean drinking water.
The US water system isn't perfect. A 2009 New York Times investigation found there was enough arsenic in the water in some parts of Texas, Arizona and Nevada to contribute to cancer.
But American drinking water does pretty well when stacked up against other countries where citizens might drink from less-than-ideally-filtered sources. The World Health Organization says dirty drinking water kills half a million people every year, and at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.
Guzzling from fresh mountain streams won't solve these problems. Clear mountain sources can infect hikers with the parasite Giardia, while another tiny, one-celled parasite called cryptosporidia can be deadly for people with compromised immune systems, and cause weeks of watery diarrhea for everyone else. Cryptospordium can infect a person even if they ingest a single bacterium.
How the US treats water
In the US, The Environmental Protection Agency is required to enforce The Safe Drinking Water Act. Passed in 1974, the federal law regulates over 90 contaminants in tap water. Most big cities are constantly monitoring their water supplies. In New York City in 2016, the Department of Environmental Protection tested more than 51,500 water samples.
Live Water says it tested a few of its own samples from its spring source in Oregon. Those vials came back negative for Legionella and other illness-causing contaminants, but the tests the company used were not performed up to federal regulatory compliance standards. Singh and his company also tout the health benefits of their spring water, but the single scientific research paper that they cite isn't about drinking water at all: it refers to the healing effects of spring water for rabbit wounds.
The Live Water team also says that their water is infused with some good stuff that tap water doesn't have. "Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are the four primary electrolytes that maintain the body’s fluid balance. LIVE WATER is abundant in each," the company writes on its website.
Physicians who’ve studied the mineral content in tap water in 21 major cities across North America say most of our tap water already has a healthy amount of calcium, magnesium and sodium. In many locations, tap water contains enough to provide up to 8% of a person’s daily dietary reference intake, if they’re well hydrated.
Live Water did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Why is there fluoride in tap water?
The raw water evangelists told The Times that fluoride in tap water is "a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health."
There's no evidence to support this. But fluoride, which is often naturally present at low levels in water, has been added in to some tap water for decades to help prevent cavities. The EPA regulates these levels to make sure the concentrations aren’t too high. (Kids under 8 can get too much fluoride, which can cause some cosmetic discoloration of teeth.)
What about lead?
The complex web of rivers, lakes, reservoirs and groundwater sources that people in the US draw on to drink from isn't perfect. What happened in Flint, Michigan in 2014 is a textbook example of water resource management gone wrong.
The city switched its main water source from the Detroit to the Flint River to save some money. Lead that started leaking into the drinking supply from the pipes wasn’t properly treated, and smelly, colored water flowed into homes. According to The Atlantic, there has been both a spike in miscarriages and drop in birth rates in Flint since then.
Marc Edwards, one of the first engineers who studied the water problem in Flint, says there's no way to be completely sure you'll never get sick from drinking water: "It is not possible to achieve zero health risk, with any water at all," he wrote Business Insider in an email. But he says "most cities provide tap water to standards that pose very little health risk at reasonable cost."
There are a few things everyone can do to make sure that the water they're drinking is up to par. There’s an annual drinking water report from the EPA, as well as an independent tap water database available from the Environmental Working Group. If you're worried about how clean your water might be, you can use an NSF/ANSI-approved filter at home.
But for some Americans, indulging in unregulated water may be about more than staying hydrated and healthy. Edwards believes they might really be seeking out some kind of mystical "glacial purity" or a hidden "fountain of youth," while shunning what they perceive as more "poisoned water."
At that point, he says, a person's urge to avoid the tap is simply "beyond the ability of science to quantify."
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 11:39 AM PST
His tool of choice? A New Year's resolution.
Zuckerberg on Thursday announced his 2018 resolution — and this time, it's focused on his job.
This year, he wants to fix Facebook's hardest problem: He wants to end the abuse of the platform, whether through election-interference efforts, fake news, or other nefarious practices.
His resolution last year, to meet someone from every US state, was made after the 2016 presidential campaign, during which many people accused Facebook of having a role in the nation's divided political discourse.
That resolution took Zuckerberg on a tour of the country that included visiting the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist killed nine black worshippers in 2015. He met people recovering from opioid addiction in Dayton, Ohio, and hung out with a dairy farmer in Blanchardville, Wisconsin.
His first resolution, in 2009, was also focused on his job: wear a tie every day.
"That first year the economy was in a deep recession and Facebook was not yet profitable," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. "We needed to get serious about making sure Facebook had a sustainable business model. It was a serious year, and I wore a tie every day as a reminder."
But many of his resolutions have focused more on personal growth — the kind that any of us might make.
Here's the full list, in case you need inspiration to take on a New Year's resolution of your own:
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 11:16 AM PST
And statistics citing annual earnings between male and female full-time, full-year workers (the US Census Bureau's latest data indicates women earned 82% of what men earned in 2016) don't tell the whole story, according to Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University who has spent years researching gender economics.
"What economists do is they use data to figure out whether the individuals are the same; they try to make them comparable as possible; they squeeze out these differences and productive attributes; they look for individuals who have the same education, the same labor-force participation rates over their life cycle, etc.," Goldin explains to Freakonomics Radio host Stephen J. Dubner.
When doing this, we still see a gender wage gap. But as Goldin ponders, "does that mean that women are receiving lower pay for equal work? That is possibly the case in certain places, but by and large, it's not that. It's something else."
When looking at gender earnings gaps by occupation, Goldin found something that might surprise people.
By comparing the 469 occupations in the US Census, she found that women disproportionately holding certain jobs only accounted for about 25% of the difference in earnings between men and women. Factors within each occupation overwhelmingly accounted for differences in pay.
Goldin tells Dubner, "the lion's share of the difference is due to the fact that in every occupation, just about, women receive less than men."
And they're receiving less than men for a host of reasons, she explains, one of which is that they're not working the same amount of time. "And in many occupations, working more hours or being there when the firm wants you to be there earns you a lot more."
Focusing on individuals in the top 105 occupations with an average annual compensation of more than $60,000, Goldin found that men almost always out-earned women. When classifying these jobs in categories like Business and Finance, Health, Science, and Technology, Goldin saw a larger gender earnings gap in Business and Finance occupations, where full-time, full-year working women earned about 78 cents on their male counterpart's dollar, than in Technology and Science, where, when combined, women earned closer to 89 cents on a man's dollar.
Goldin also found that those in a Business or Finance occupation who worked 50 hours per week were paid on average disproportionately more than those who worked 40 hours per week. In Technology or Science, though, people who worked 50 hours per week only saw an increase in their earnings that was proportionately more than those working 40 hours a week.
A major difference between these categories, Goldin argues, is how flexible work is approached.
In Business and Finance especially, caregivers, the majority of whom are women, pay a high cost for the ability to work flexible hours, work from home, or work outside the typical corporate schedule.
What's more, wage inequality has a compounding effect.
In the finance world, when you start saving money is far more important than how much you save. If you start early, you see greater returns over the long term.
In terms of pay, a little less money for a younger woman who may arrange flexible work to care for a new child ultimately results in quite a bit less for that woman further along in her career. And, as we see with compound interest, trying to correct the issue later on is often too little too late.
For Goldin, pay parity isn't so much about fighting outright discrimination or fixing differences in competitive drive or bargaining ability, nor does does she think it has to involve government intervention.
Closing the gender wage gap involves changing how jobs are structured and remunerated in a way that enhances flexible work schedules, she says.
Goldin looks to the technology, science, and health sectors as examples of industries beginning to lower the cost of flexibility. Many companies are increasingly using information technology, substitute employees, and handing off clients, patients, and customers from one employee to another.
"I don't think it's easy to mandate," Goldin notes. "How can you mandate that firms all figure out ways of reducing the cost of temporal flexibility and reducing the costs of having people be puzzle pieces? We're simply not going to do that. It's going to happen organically."
But Goldin believes this organic process has already begun.
"Go to Silicon Valley and they don't talk about family time, they talk about play time, and it's work-life balance rather than just work-family balance. So the more and more people in our society who value that, the more firms are going to be searching for methods to reduce the cost of this amenity," she tells Dubner.
DON'T MISS: The 20 jobs where women earn the most
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 11:13 AM PST
Now, without any sign of government intervention short of closing the schools indefinitely, one Baltimore native has issued a cry for help on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.
"Students are still required to attend classes that are freezing and expected wear their coats to assist in keeping them warm," Samierra Jones, a senior at Coppin State University and the fundraiser's organizer, wrote on her campaign page. "How can you teach a child in these conditions?"
Jones launched the campaign on January 3, hoping to raise $20,000 that will go toward approximately 600 space heaters and outerwear. As of midday January 4, the campaign had raised more than $15,000 from 385 people.
Baltimore students have had to deal with harsh winters for years. A combination of aging pipes, shoddy insulation, and a lack of funding for maintenance have forced schools to close in the past. This winter, the Baltimore Teachers Union has urged all schools to shut down until the city can resupply heat to buildings, The Baltimore Sun reported.
There are roughly 180 school buildings in Baltimore. One-third received complaints on Wednesday alone about freezing temperatures. Students who are still made to attend often wrap themselves in blankets and heavy jackets. They say they have a hard time concentrating, the Sun reports.
Like Jones' plea for support, other parents and students have taken to social media to publicize the heating issue.
Others pointed out that Baltimore's education system has been in widespread disarray for awhile, despite Maryland being the wealthiest state in the US.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, came out in support of the Baltimore Teachers Union, calling the conditions "unsafe, unbearable and unacceptable for students, educators and school employees."
"Kids can't learn and teachers can't teach in freezing classrooms and in schools with no heat, frozen pipes and frigid winds coming in through drafty windows," Weingarten said in a statement. "We stand with the Baltimore Teachers Union and our members, who are standing up for the children they serve and demanding that the district close schools until crews can properly assess and fix the heating problems in every school in the city."
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 11:12 AM PST
But as tax season approaches, it may not be immediately clear how the IRS imposes taxes on bitcoin: Are the gains considered income? Are they capital gains? Something else entirely?
With some help from financial experts, Business Insider dug into the tax code to make the process of paying taxes on bitcoin as simple as possible.
First, let's define our terms
Before we get lost in a forest of jargon, here's a handy glossary for common tax terms, which in this case apply to buying and selling bitcoin:
Bitcoin investments are taxed as a capital asset
To properly pay taxes on an investment in bitcoin, you'll need to wrangle some information from each sale you conducted over the last fiscal year. This includes the basis for each amount of bitcoin you sold, the date you bought it, the date you sold it, and the price at which you sold it.
You can use these figures to calculate your realized gains or losses for each sale.
You can also use the dates to figure out whether the specific sale qualifies as a short-term gain or a long-term gain. Short-term gains are taxed like regular income, so the rate is equal to your federal income tax bracket. Long-term gains are taxed at a lower rate, but still according to your income level.
The breakdown is as follows:
Two hypothetical cases
Taking all that into account, consider a sample bitcoin investor who makes $75,000 a year.
Hypothetical case #1: short-term gain
The investor bought one bitcoin on January 2, when it cost $1,000. After it hit $2,000 later that May, she decided to sell, for a profit — or realized gain — of $1,000.
In this case, the basis was $1,000 and the realized gain was also $1,000 ($2,000 sale price minus the $1,000 basis). Since she held the investment for less than a year, it was a short-term gain, meaning the money would be taxed at her tax bracket of 25%, for a total tax bill of $250. All told, she'd keep $1,750 from the sale — $750 of which would be her after-tax profit.
Hypothetical case #2: long-term gain
Now let's assume she bought the bitcoin a year prior, on January 2, 2016, when the price was just $433. If she sold at the same time — when it hit $2,000 — she'd realize a gain of $1,567. Since she held it for more than a year, the gain would be taxed at 15%, for a total tax bill of $235.05. The sale would put $1,764.95 in her pocket — $1,331.95 of which would be her after-tax profit.
Notice the long-term gain was larger than the short-term gain, even though the investor paid less in tax. The current US tax code rewards patience.
A final note on losses
With all the surges in price, it's hard to imagine bitcoin falling in value. But if the supposed bubble does pop, it helps to know you can deduct the losses on your tax return — even if you take the standard deduction.
(This is an "above the line" deduction. Student loan interest is a common one most people already claim.)
To calculate the loss, just subtract the sale amount from the basis. Assuming you have no other gains to subtract the loss against, your deduction will still be proportional to your income. So if our hypothetical investor lost $1,000 in bitcoin, and that was her only realized gain or loss this year, her income level would impute an approximate tax savings of $250.
Keep in mind, however, that the IRS caps capital loss deductions at $3,000 annually. Anything above that will roll over each year until the remainder is depleted.
Disclaimer: This article is not a comprehensive list of how to pay taxes if you bought and sold bitcoin this year. Contact your tax adviser for advice catered to your specific situation.
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