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03.06.17 | 7:38 am

Now Russian hackers are reportedly blackmailing liberal orgs over their embarrassing emails

The FBI and private security firms are investigating a widespread attempt by hackers believed to be under the control of the Russian government to obtain sensitive or embarrassing information from liberal organizations in the U.S. in order to blackmail them for hush money, Bloomberg reports. So far the Center for American Progress and Arabella Advisors are among the organizations targeted, with the hackers asking them to pay up to $150,000 in bitcoin in order not to leak data they say they have obtained.

[Photo: Flickr user Christoph Scholz]

04.25.17 | 2 hours ago

The latest bad news for Chipotle doesn’t involve food

Chipotle beat earnings expectations today, with same-store sales growing 17.8% and revenue rising to $1.07 billion over the last quarter. But there was an asterisk pinned on that good news: The company is investigating "unauthorized activity" on a "network that supports payment processing" at Chipotle restaurants. 

The investigation centers around in-store transactions that took place between March 24 and April 18. Since then, a spokesman said, the company has "implemented additional security enhancements."

Chipotle plans to alert affected customers "as we get further clarity about the specific timeframes and restaurant locations," he added.

Shares climbed nearly 7% after Chipotle first published its earnings report, but dropped back to around $471 after the company disclosed the investigation. 

[Photo: proshob via Wikimedia Commons]

04.25.17 | 3:47 pm

Here are the painful steps J.Crew is taking to get back in the black

The J.Crew Group has seen declining sales for several years now. It is currently going through drastic cost-cutting measures in an effort to reverse the trend. In several cases, the J.Crew brand is poaching talent from Madewell, its younger, more successful sister brand. Here are some of the changes on the horizon, as reported by Bloomberg:

• The company will cut 150 full-time positions and 100 open slots, a move expected to save $30 million a year. (Although it will generate a one-time cost of $10 million for termination fees in the first quarter.)

• COO Michael Nicholson, who joined J.Crew last year from Ann Inc., will start managing the marketing and design decisions at the J.Crew brand.

• Lisa Greenwald will become chief merchandizing officer for the J.Crew brand; she previously oversaw merchandising at Madewell.

• CEO Mickey Drexler is discussing ways to restructure the company's debt. 

• Three weeks ago, the company announced that J.Crew's longtime creative director Jenna Lyons would be leaving the company at the end of 2017. Somsack Sikhounmuong, who previously served as Madewell's chief creative officer, will take on Lyons's role.  

[Photo: Unsplash user Shanna Camilleri]

04.25.17 | 3:41 pm

That giant DJI drone overhead is shooting 100-megapixel imagery with a Hasselblad camera

Drone photography just got real. Like 100-megapixel, super-stabilized real. All thanks to Chinese drone giant DJI and its partnership with the camera superstars at Hasselblad.

Today, DJI announced what it said is the world's first 100-megapixel integrated drone-imaging platform. Featuring the company's six-rotor M600 Pro drone, a Ronin-MX gimbal, and Hasselblad's H6D-100c camera, the aerial photography powerhouse is meant to appeal to filmmakers, as well as landscape and fine art photographers, surveyors, mapmakers, and others with industrial or scientific needs. In 2015 DJI acquired a minority stake in Hasselblad and this is the second collaboration between the two companies. 

04.25.17 | 3:25 pm

Netflix is finally going to China

After years of trying to enter the massive market—and basically giving up on the idea—the streaming powerhouse has finally inked its first deal to bring its content to China. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has secured a licensing agreement with iQiyi, the streaming platform controlled by Baidu. This is a pretty big deal given that China's box office is expected to become the world's largest very soon, and Hollywood studios are increasingly trying to create content that appeals to both markets (though not always successfully). Here's more context from THR and TechCrunch.  

04.25.17 | 2:02 pm

Breitbart has been denied permanent government press credentials

Breitbart has a clear ideological bent, but a committee that hands out congressional press credentials fears it may lean even further—to outside organizations that jeopardize its editorial independence. The US Senate Daily Press Gallery has concluded that it couldn't be certain of Breitbart's independence, due to outside ties of former staffers like managing editor Wynton Hall and Breitbart chief Steve Bannon. BuzzFeed News reports that three Breitbart journalists with temporary press passes will have to give them up at the end of May. Without passes, a news outlet doesn't have unfettered access to Congress and misses out on invitations to some government events. It's also unlikely to have a shot at joining the White House Correspondents' Association, which travels with the president.

The committee of five journalists hasn't outright rejected Breitbart's application, but it has tabled further action indefinitely. Members are concerned about several ties to outside groups, such as between Hall and the Government Accountability Institute. GAI itself is tied to the Mercer family that bankrolled the Ted Cruz and Donald Trump campaigns. Breitbart claims that Hall stepped down in February, but the Daily Press Gallery is skeptical that ties have been cut. It also raised the issue of Bannon, whose White House financial disclosure listed a different date of separation from Breitbart than the company had originally reported. 

[Photo: Flickr user Michael Vadon]

04.25.17 | 1:46 pm

Visual effects powerhouse Digital Domain’s new app aggregates VR content–no matter who made it

There's no end to the number of companies that want to be seen as leaders in the still-sort-of-nascent consumer virtual reality industry. From Hollywood studios like 20th Century Fox to well-financed startups like Jaunt to Samsung, Facebook, and Google, there's a thirst to be a go-to place for VR content.

Today, Digital Domain, a leading visual effects house, jumped on the bandwagon, announcing an app that aggregates VR content that it's created itself, as well as created by others. Available for Samsung's Gear VR, Google's Daydream, and for Android and iOS devices, the app features projects from Digital Domain's Teleport series, which showcases culture and landscapes of places like Hong Kong, Istanbul, and New Zealand, as well as trailers for the company's own VR content, and projects from the VFX studio's partners. It'll also feature live-streamed 360-degree events.

04.25.17 | 12:53 pm

Beyoncé is starting a scholarship fund to send women to college and then run the world

Okay, ladies, let's get in formation and start filling out scholarship applications. Beyoncé announced a new scholarship fund this morning on her website, writing that the scholarships are meant "to encourage and support young women who are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, creative, conscious and confident." In short, she wants to make sure girls continue to run the world.

The new "Formation Scholars" grants are specifically aimed at students pursuing "creative arts," music, literature, or African-American studies. (Note: If you write your thesis on Beyoncé it just might check all of those boxes.) Incoming or current undergraduate or graduate students at Boston's Berklee College of Music, Howard University in Washington, D.C., Parsons School of Design in New York City, and Atlanta's Spelman College are eligible to apply. It's unclear if the scholarship is a full ride or just a partial grant. But then the ability to tell everyone that Beyoncé is putting you through school is priceless. 

[Photo: Brooks Kraft/ Getty Images]

04.25.17 | 11:31 am

Tech companies are trying to make hearing aids cool—and they just might do it

Words like "hip," "cool," and "fashionable" probably don't make you think about hearing aids, but a new wave of tech companies is looking to shake up the way hearing aids are created, sold, and marketed. With luck, you might even be able to one day pick them up at the pharmacy next to the reading glasses and breath mints. According to Doppler Labs' Kristen "KR" Liu, who spoke with NPR, such devices could be "something that's hip and cool," to the extent that people will have "multiple pairs and it's fashionable." 

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration regulates medical devices, including hearing aids, and doesn't allow them to be sold over the counter. That may be changing though thanks to bipartisan (really!) legislation making its way through Congress, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which may have helped spur the FDA into action. In December, the agency announced that adults would no longer need to be medically evaluated before buying a hearing aid, according to NPR. That's the first step to over-the-counter hearing aid purchases. It could clear the way for the more than 35 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss to pick up a solution at the drug store, instead of hoping insurance will cover them or ponying up $5,000 for a pair.

04.25.17 | 11:18 am

Facebook now testing related articles with less fake news

Facebook says one of its big goals is to help people be more informed. That manifests both by being a place where we share (and read) countless articles on all topics, and through algorithms that suggest articles related to the ones we signal our interest in.

Today, the company said it is testing a new system that will automatically show related articles on hot topics, even before users click on an initial story. Perhaps more interesting is that, as Facebook wrote in a blog post about the experiment, it "should provide people easier access to additional perspectives and information, including articles by third-party fact-checkers." In other words, it is going to populate those related articles with ones that its systems deem not to be fake news. Will this help us actually be better informed? Stay tuned.

04.25.17 | 10:56 am

Lyft drivers sue Uber for allegedly tracking their movements

Lyft drivers are taking legal action against Uber for a program called "Hell" that allegedly tracked their whereabouts and pushed incentives to primarily drive with Uber, according to a complaint filed with a federal court in San Francisco. From the suit:  

"Defendants intentionally developed spyware that allowed it to gain unauthorized access to computer systems operated by its competitor, Lyft, and pose as Lyft customers. Using Hell, Uber employees, contractors, and/or agents were able to access the location of up to eight Lyft drivers (e.g., Class members) at one time and obtain their unique Lyft ID. Each Lyft ID Is unique, akin to a social security number, which allowed Uber to track Lyft drivers' locations over time." 

This is just the latest example of Uber being accused of using technology to thwart competitors and regulators. Read more here.

04.25.17 | 10:38 am

Report: A Republican lawmaker is the creator of Red Pill, one of the most misogynistic Reddit groups

Infamous for being one of Reddit's most toxic communities, the Red Pill is a popular space for men to connect, share content, and talk about how their entire gender has become a group of second-class citizens in this new man-hating feminist-ruled world. And it was started  by a New Hampshire state representative named Robert Fisher, according to a lengthy investigation by the Daily Beast, which linked the anonymous Reddit account—Pk_atheist—to Fisher by connecting associated accounts. 

When asked, Fisher denied knowledge of the Reddit community. Suspiciously, mere hours after the Daily Beast called him, two of the primary Reddit accounts associated with the politician were deleted. 

Here's the full story of how the Daily Beast's Bonnie Bacarisse tied the account to Fisher, as well as a history of the toxic community. 

04.25.17 | 10:27 am

Will we all be lonely and miserable in the cities of the future?

By the year 2050, more than 66% of the world's population will be living in so-called "smart cities," according to UN research. Those cities will be highly connected with digital devices monitoring our activity, making matches, managing our inboxestracking mosquitosfolding our laundry, and helping us work remotely. There will be flying cars, driverless cars, and robots bringing us our food and picking our clothing. The future is very digital, but that reliance on digital connectivity could come with a price (aside from the inevitable rise of the sentient machine, of course). The cost could be in the form of extreme loneliness, isolation, and depression, at least according to a new article over at The Week

The "epidemic of loneliness" is already on the rise. According to The Week, a quarter of Vancouver residents feel lonely sometimes, more than one in eight Brits say they don't consider anyone a close friend, and "the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades." 

Read the full article on your smartphone while waiting for the robot bartender to make you a drink and then go out and talk to some real people, for crying out loud!