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12.05.16 | 6:26 pm

Evening intel: London is falling, tech giants target propaganda

• A coalition of internet giants including Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are launching a program they hope will help them move more quickly to identify and remove terrorist propaganda. The new program would create a database of digital "fingerprints" that could be used to identify bad actors, the AP reports

• At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in London, tech investors warned that the U.K.'s capital could lose its cachet among startups in the wake of Brexit. They called on the U.K. government to "answer lingering questions about immigration policy," Reuters reports

• The jury in the trial of Michael Slager, the South Carolina cop who shot Walter Scott, ended up in a deadlock. The mistrial comes despite compelling video evidence that Slager shot Scott in the back as he ran away.

• The new spaceship from Virgin Galactic completed its first successful glide flight. The company experienced a setback in 2014 when one if its spaceships crashed.

• And it turns out, there is no shortage of hubris among startup founders these days. About 20% of them think they are running a unicorn

07.24.17 | 3 hours ago

Snopes says its website is being held “hostage” in contract dispute

Today, the long-standing and venerated fact-checking website Snopes sent a plea to its readers. The site says it's currently in the midst of a confusing ownership dispute and legal battle with an outside vendor that has frozen the revenue it receives from digital ads. As a result, Snopes says it has no money coming in. 

In the post, Snopes described the vendor as holding the "website hostage." Today, it asked people to donate to help keep things afloat.

Snopes explains:

As misinformation has increasingly threatened democracies around the world (including our own), has stood in the forefront of fighting for truth and dispelling misinformation online. It is vital that these efforts continue, so we are asking the community to donate what they can. 

The campaign was published just a few hours ago, and money quickly began to flow in. With over 2,000 donors, Snopes has already received over $55,000. That number is going up steadily every minute, with the site hoping to hit a goal of $500,000. At this rate, it's looking like the fact-checking destination may be staying around for now. 

07.24.17 | 4 hours ago

That company microchipping its employees is owned by a major prison vendor

Three Square Market drew the internet's attention this weekend with plans to offer voluntary microchip implants to its employees to let them access vending machines and unlock doors in its offices. 

The company makes automated vending kiosks called "micro markets" for corporate break rooms, but its corporate parentage may not help with the Orwellian associations: Three Square is owned by TW Vending, which also sells supplies to jails and prisons, including automated inmate commissaries similar to the vending devices its employees will soon activate with their chips.

"While much of the micro market technology is two years old or less, our system is built on the same backbone and processes of our corrections industry kiosk system that has been in place since 2002," Three Square VP Patrick McMullan said back in 2013.

[Photo: vetkit/iStock]

07.24.17 | 11:27 am

DNA-based diet apps are a thing

People have been trying to make DNA-based diets a thing since at least 2012. However, instead of dying out like your beloved Tamagotchi, they just keep evolving. Now, as Engadget reports, weight loss app Lose It just introduced embodyDNA, a new take on the DNA-based diet plan. All you have to do to take part is give them sample of your DNA, a payment of $189.99, and download their app. In just "six to eight weeks" they'll analyze your DNA and send diet recommendations directly to your Lose It app based on your genetic profile, which sounds fairly similar to the service DNAFit already offers, but competition is probably good for burning calories. Go ahead and sign up for the app and send in your saliva sample, but even without sampling your DNA, we can guess they'll suggest eating more vegetables, cutting down simple carbs and refined sugar, and increasing exercise.

[Image: Lose It]

07.24.17 | 11:06 am

Facebook’s cafeteria workers, barely making ends meet, are now trying to unionize

Not everyone working at Facebook is living the dream. In fact, most of the contracted facility workers at the company's Menlo Park, California, headquarters are having trouble making ends meet. That's why about 500 of Facebook's cafeteria employees are banding together to join a union, reports the Guardian

While cafeteria workers do make wages above the $15/hour minimum wage, they are not provided benefits to help them stay afloat. With the price of living in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area rising to staggering levels, these employees are unable to afford adequate housing or health care. 

One family of Facebook cafeteria workers, profiled by the Guardian, lives in a garage. Facebook employees are given access to amenities like onsite doctors, but these workers are not allowed access to such perks. 

The big union push is to help these employees get the adequate support they need. While neither Facebook nor the food service contractor they work for opposes the union, the cafeteria workers likely have a long fight ahead. You can read the full profile here

[Photo: Flickr user Jimmy Baikovicius]

07.24.17 | 10:53 am

Julia Roberts to star in Gimlet’s latest podcast-turned-TV show

Homecoming—Gimlet's Peabody Award-nominated podcast—just kicked off its second season today, and now it may have more to celebrate than just another chapter in the dark psychological thriller. Deadline is reporting that Julia Roberts will star in the show when it makes the jump from podcast to Amazon drama.

It was previously reported that Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail was turning Homecoming into a TV series. The podcast, which was created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, was one of the first podcasts to head into the Hollywood pipeline, following shows like Limetown and Gimlet's Startup, which inspired a forthcoming series called Alex, Incstarring Zach Braff. Homecoming already made headlines when well-known actors Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer joined the cast, proving that podcasts could attract serious star power. According to Deadline, Homecoming has already been picked up for two seasons by Amazon. The only bummer is that they are reporting that Roberts will play a caseworker at a secret government facility that uses an experimental therapy protocol to help a soldier rejoin civilian life, which is the role originated by Keener. While Roberts is great and all, she's no Catherine Keener. 

If the rumors are true about Roberts, that's some serious A-list talent for little old podcasts and could be a boon for the format.

07.24.17 | 9:51 am

KKR is buying WebMD so it can continue its reign of symptom-Googling terror

TechCrunch reports that private equity group KKR is buying WebMD for $2.8 billion (that's $66.50 per share), and just in case Western medicine isn't working for them, Forbes reports that KKR is also buying The Nature's Bounty Co., a wellness company that sells fish oil supplements, vitamins, protein bars, and the like. 

KKR is trying to corner the market on internet-based health information dissemination at a time when Googling random symptoms to see if they explain that weird rash has become a very common practice. As TechCrunch notes, WebMD has a lot of competition in its quest to horrify, er, provide answers to anyone Googling their symptoms—including Google, which has started including health information on its main search app. Plus, any aspiring hypochondriac knows to also check out the Mayo Clinic's site, as well as those from the Cleveland Clinic, Everyday Health, and, and, which just so happen to be part of a KKR-owned company called Internet Brands, too. WebMD will be rolled into Internet Brands, which houses B2B sites like MedScape, as well as consumer-focused sites, and ever-popular web destinations like

07.24.17 | 9:03 am

Here’s Jared Kushner’s full statement to the Senate committee about Russian contacts

Jared Kushner may have had a few meetings with the Russians, but he didn't mean anything by it, baby, promise. Those four meetings meant nothing to him, nothing! According to Bloomberg, President Trump's son-in-law-in-chief confirmed four "contacts" with Russians during Trump's presidential campaign and his transition to power, but the encounters were "unmemorable" and he would never have actually "colluded" with Russia against his country or committed treason. Besides, "anyone would have taken that meeting," so don't hold it against him.

On Monday, Kushner released a lengthy prepared statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee ahead of a closed-door interview. 

"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest."

Read the full 11-page statement here.

07.24.17 | 7:51 am

Meow! Amazon-commissioned futurists think pet translators are coming soon

The internet retailing giant has sponsored a report by futurists Anne Lise Kjaer and William Higham, who claim that advances in AI and machine learning will enable companies to make devices that can accurately translate a cat's meows and a dog's barks into English, reports the Guardian. The report cites a study by Con Slobodchikoff, professor emeritus at the department of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University, who has found that prairie dogs have specific sounds they make for various predators and colors.

Though prairie dogs are rodents, Slobodchikoff believes other animals have similar "vocabularies" and thus a commercial device that will be able to translate animal sounds to human speech, and vice versa, is not far off. Personally, we're a bit skeptical and think Jeff Bezos is more likely to find talking aliens on a Blue Origin mission than he is to be selling devices on that allow humans and animals to converse in English.

07.24.17 | 5:59 am

After 32 years, Microsoft is killing off Paint

The computer graphics program has been bundled with every version of Windows since 1985, but the upcoming fall Windows 10 Creators Update signals the beginning of the end for the much-derided app, reports the Guardian. In the upcoming update, Microsoft has moved Paint to the "deprecated" features list, which includes apps that are "not in active development and might be removed in future releases."

Given that Microsoft introduced the new Paint 3D app this year, all signs point to the original Paint not being long for this world. Sure, Paint was never a match for professional graphics applications, but for the people who mocked it and its capabilities, maybe they just lacked artistic talent. As these awesome Paint masterpieces prove, the 32-year-old app was capable of creating some pretty stunning stuff.

[Photo: Regularvalenti via Wikimedia Commons]

07.24.17 | 5:47 am

This tool lets you enter your location to see how much you’ll be impacted by next month’s once-in-a-century solar eclipse

The Los Angeles Times has put together a cool tool that allows you to enter your city and state to find out if you'll be seeing a partial or full solar eclipse on August 21. If you're only going to see the partial eclipse the tool also tells you how many miles away you'll be from the total eclipse, just in case you want to hop in your car and drive to that better location.

[Screenshot: LA Times]

07.24.17 | 5:35 am

Grab is getting another $2.5 billion to fight Uber in Southeast Asia

The Singapore-based ride-hailing service is getting $2 billion worth of the massive round of investment from current investors China's Didi Chuxing and Japan's Japan's SoftBank, while another $500 million is expected to come from smaller investors, reports Reuters. The $2.5 billion round is reportedly the largest ever single financing round in Southeast Asia and demonstrates just how ferociously the powers that be are battling for ride-hailing dominance in that part of the world. Southeast Asia has a market of over 600 million people and the region is expected to become a keen focus for Uber after it pulled out of the Chinese market last year.

07.24.17 | 5:24 am

So, Apple and The Rock got together to make a movie about Siri…

And it's funny, it's essentially a long commercial, and Siri works way better in it than in real life.