China bans Facebook messaging service WhatsApp

The Chinese government has disabled Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, the New York Times reports.

Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Paris-based research firm Symbolic Software, told the Times his company began noticing slowdowns in the service Wednesday. By Monday, the block had become comprehensive.

Authorities blocked video-chat and file-sharing functions within WhatsApp in mid-July, but the app’s messaging capabilities, which employ a rare and strong form of encryption, remained functional. The government lifted bans on video chat and file sharing later, but has since disabled the app in its entirety, reports say.

WhatsApp’s messaging service uses a renowned end-to-end encryption technique. As the Times explains it, even Facebook itself cannot decode messages sent via the app. The encryption method is not widely used and is therefore difficult to compromise.

But the ban, as the Times points out, indicates that Chinese authorities have developed a means by which to breach WhatsApp messaging encryption.

“This is not the typical technical method in which the Chinese government censors something,” Kobeissi said.

Censorship of various technological communication services is commonplace in the country. If the government does not disable a service entirely, it slows down that service to such a degree that it becomes unusable.

“If you’re only allowed to drive one mile per hour, you’re not going to drive on that road, even if it’s not technically blocked,” Lokman Tsui, an internet communications specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, explained to the Times.

The goal of the censorship is to funnel users toward a handful of communication services that the government can easily monitor. WeChat is one such service. It is similar to WhatsApp except that the former, according to the Times, offers broader functionality.

Tencent, the company that runs WeChat, is based in Shenzhen and has said that it will comply with the government’s requests for information. In total, 963 million people use WeChat, the Times says.

Services like WhatsApp and WeChat have largely replaced e-mail in China, and are vital to many business operations. A large number of China-based businesses were unwilling to use WeChat, whether because of the threat of surveillance or some other reason.

Some former WhatsApp users in China expressed frustration on social media, the Times reports.

“Losing contact with my clients, forced back to the age of telephone and email for work now,” one user complained on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging site.

“Even WhatsApp is blocked now? I’m going to be out of business soon,” another person said via the same site.

WhatsApp was the last Facebook product available in mainland China, the Times says. The country banned the company’s main social media site in 2009. Instagram, another Facebook offering, is disabled as well.

The WhatsApp ban represents a setback for the social media behemoth, whose founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been advocating and taking steps toward re-entering the Chinese market.

The handful of American-created communication services China does tolerate include Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime. The former does not employ end-to-end encryption, the Times points out, and is, therefore, easier for the government to monitor. The latter does use end-to-end encryption but is less secure than WhatsApp.

The Times notes that the Office of the United States Trade Representative is investigating whether Chinese authorities have violated the intellectual property rights of American citizens. The Office has not clarified whether it will consider the bans as part of the investigation, or merely look for cases in which China has stolen US technology.

The WhatsApp ban comes just prior to the country’s Communist Party Congress on October 18, during which authorities appoint the leaders of the party, who in turn run the country.

According to the Times, the meeting, which the country holds once every five years, will likely reinstall President Xi Jinping as party leader. The question remains as to who will join Xi on the Standing Committee of Politburo, the party’s highest ranking group.

Under Xi’s leadership, the Times notes, China has tightened censorship, closed several churches and jailed a number of human rights activists.

Featured image via Pixabay

Crocs, Inc. is making a resurgence

After a series of struggles, most recently an abysmal fourth quarter of 2016, Crocs, Inc. and its iconic foam clog are making a comeback, the Washington Post reports.

The company posted a 28.4 percent year-over-year increase in net profit over the first six months of 2017, and according to the Post. Foot traffic in Crocs stores jumped 12 percent during the back to school season.

Founded in Niwot, CO in 2002, Crocs quickly jumped to prominence (or, some might say, infamy) around the world. Former U.S. president George W. Bush, actor Al Pacino, and former model Brooke Shields were all among the shoe’s early adopters, the Post says.

From 2003 through 2007, the company’s annual revenue grew from $1.17 million to $847.35 million.

But in 2008, amidst the recession, Crocs suffered its first annual revenue decrease since 2002, lost over $185 million and, according to the Post, laid off 2,000 workers. A $67.7-billion annual loss followed in 2009, but the company returned to profitability in 2010 and reported continuous profit growth from 2010-2012.

From 2012 to 2013, though, net income declined 92 percent.

In December 2013, Blackstone Group LP invested $200 million in Crocs. The company installed a new permanent CEO, Gregg Ribatt, the following year.

But the bottom line continued to drop. In 2014, Crocs posted a net loss of $4.9 million. The following year, the company lost over $83 million.

In 2016, profits began moving in a positive direction. Crocs cut its annual loss by 80 percent to $16.5 million.

But, the company lost $44.5 million in the fourth quarter of the year.

Back in March, in conjunction with the release of the earnings results for the fourth quarter of 2016, the company announced plans to close almost 160 stores and appointed then-president Andrew Rees to replace Ribatt as CEO.

Since, Crocs has recovered, reporting net income of $11 million in the first quarter of 2017—a 7.8 percent year-over-year increase—and of just under $22 million in quarter two—a 37.8 percent year-over-year spike.

“Crocs is starting to turn itself around, even in these very difficult times,” said Steven Marotta, an analyst at CL King & Associates, per the Post. “This is a company that has successfully gone back to the basics.”

Crocs discontinued a number of unpopular lines, the Post says, and is redoubling its focus on its flagship product, the foam clog.

That shoe, which sells for $35 a pair, now accounts for half of the company’s sales, according to the Post. “The classic clog has re-emerged as our hero,” said Crocs’ chief marketing officer, Terence Reilly, per the Post. “Certainly in 2017, there’s been a resurgence.”

The signature Crocs, which the company originally marketed as boating shoes, are slip resistant and easy to clean, and as a result, have garnered popularity amongst medical professionals and restaurant workers, the Post says. Targeting the latter group, the company has developed classic Crocs featuring prints of eggs and bacon, sushi, and chili peppers.

The culinary angle is one of a number of new augmentations to the classic shoe. Others include glitter-covered Crocs, and Crocs bearing prints of Batman, Spider-Man and Minnie Mouse.

“New colors and prints are selling well,” Rees said in last month’s earnings call, according to the Post. “We’re striking the right balance of comfort and style, and consumers are responding favorably.”

In December 2016, Crocs signed Drew Berrymore as a spokesperson, and in August, Berrymore agreed to collaborate with the company to create two Crocs designs. The first will launch next February; the second will appear next May.

Wrestler John Cena signed on with Crocs in June.

Both celebrities, along with a few others, are promoting Crocs as part of the Come As You Are campaign, which the company calls a “celebration of the rebellious, the impossible to categorize, the uniquely defined in all of us.”

Crocs may not be cool, but that’s exactly what so many new adopters find cool about them. The new marketing campaign is aimed at the alternative crowd, but the appeal is so great that Crocs are climbing back into the mainstream.

The shoe made three appearances at London Fashion Week, the Post says. Fashion designer Christopher Kane, a long-time proponent, featured an accessorized version of the shoe—replete with mink fur and gems—at his Spring 2018 show.

“Whether or not they’re actually cool — well, that’s up for debate,” said Cameron Peebles, chief marketing officer of inMarket, per the Post. “But our data shows that they’re popular again.”

Featured image via Pxhere

Village Voice to discontinue print publication, go digital

The Village Voice, the liberal, independent newspaper that has been a fixture in New York culture since the mid-20th century, announced Tuesday that it would discontinue its print publication, The New York Times reports. The paper will operate entirely online and will publish on a daily rather than a weekly basis.

The publication has not yet finalized the date of its final print edition, a spokeswoman told the Times.

The paper’s owner, Peter Barbey, who bought The Voice from Voice Media in October 2015, said in a statement that the decision to go paperless was an effort to keep up with the continued shift of media and its audience into the digital sphere.

Under Barbey’s leadership, the publication redesigned its website in 2015, and has since reported an increase in online traffic, the Times says.

The digitization, Barbey says, was also a response to readers’ desires to see Voice content more frequently. “Our audience,” wrote Barbey, per the Times, “…expects us to do what we do not just once a week, but every day, across a range of media.”

What is it, exactly, that the Voice does? It helps New Yorkers find everything from jobs to apartments to local music to phone sex. It offers political commentary, literary criticism, and descriptions of New York culture.

According to the Times, The Voice was “where many New Yorkers learned to be New Yorkers.”

Norman Mailer, Dan Wolf, and Ed Fancher founded the paper in 1955 in Greenwich Village. Since, the pages of The Voice have held the words of investigative reporters including Wayne Barrett and Jack Newfield, and music critics including Gary Giddins, Ellen Willis, and Robert Christgau. Nat Hentoff published a column in the Voice for more than 50 years.

Hilton Als, who has written for the New Yorker since 1994, and who won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2017, began his career at The Voice, as did novelist Colson Whitehead, who has won two Pulitzers for his fiction.

The paper has also published content by James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings, Allen Ginsberg, and a host of other notable writers.

The paper was sold until 1996 when management dropped the price in an effort to keep pace with competitors and to increase circulation. Then, Barbey notes, per the Times, “Craigslist was in its infancy, Google and Facebook weren’t yet glimmers in the eyes of their founders, and alternative weeklies — and newspapers everywhere — were still packed with classified advertising.”

Now, the Voice is making another change in an attempt to keep up with the industry. Some New Yorkers told the Times the Voice was already obsolete.  “You have Uber killing the taxi biz, are you going to lose sleep over The Village Voice?” said Paul Vezza, 60, the third generation owner of Astor Place Hairstylists. “No.”

Vezza remembers when hordes came into the shop every week just to pick up the most recent edition of the paper. He still keeps a stack of print copies of the Voice in his shop, but they remain mostly untouched, the Times says.

Alicia Johnson, a 46-year-old from Brooklyn, told the Times she hadn’t read anything in the Voice for a while. Still, she certainly hasn’t forgotten about it.

“That’s the iconic paper of this neighborhood,” she said. “If you are a New Yorker you should know that, period.”

Many New Yorkers, though, recognize the Village Voice by the red street corner boxes containing free copies of the paper. The recent announcement means those will be gone, and Johnson wonders how The Voice will capture the ears of New Yorkers without them.

But Barbey says that boxes or no boxes, weekly or daily, ink or pixels, the Voice will roar on.

“The most powerful thing about The Voice wasn’t that it was printed on newsprint or that it came out every week. It was that The Village Voice was alive, and that it changed in step with and reflected the times and the ever-evolving world around it,” Barbey said in a statement. “I want The Village Voice brand to represent that for a new generation of people — and for generations to come.”

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Monday’s total solar eclipse cost US employers almost $700 million

On Monday, many Americans saw a total solar eclipse for the first time in their lives. The last time United States denizens had a clear line of sight for a total solar eclipse was in 1979, according to a report by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc. So, American workers were more than willing to interrupt their banal daily routines to catch a glimpse of the historical event.

And financial experts were busy calculating the losses. According to the aforementioned report, the solar eclipse cost companies throughout the nation almost $700 million in lost time. Challenger, Gray, and Christmas estimated that 87,307,940 Americans would be at work during the eclipse and that each worker would take 20 minutes, on average, to gather his/her viewing supplies, travel to an appropriate viewing site, watch the two-and-a-half minute eclipse, and return to work.

The average hourly wage is $23.86, so if each worker takes a third of an hour to view the eclipse, he/she will cost his/her company $7.95. Multiply that figure by the estimated number of Americans at work during the eclipse and you find that U.S. employers lost approximately $694,098,123 as a result of the event.

Employers in areas which lie on the eclipse’s “path of totality” lost a combined $200 million, the report estimates. In Chicago, which lies just off of the totality path, employees “stole” $28 million worth of time.

However, the report notes that, in most cities, the eclipse occurred around lunch time, when workers are already taking breaks. “Since this is happening over the lunch hours, the financial impact is minimal,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in the report.

Moreover, preventing employees from viewing the eclipse would likely do more damage to morale than allowing viewing would do to the bottom line.

So, Challenger advised employers not to “board their windows and keep employees locked up in conference room meetings until the eclipse ends.”

“Rather,” he says, “looking for how to turn this lack of productivity into a way to increase morale and strengthen the team is a much better use of the eclipse.”

Challenger adds that the eclipse, in fact, “offers a great opportunity to boost morale. Employers could offer lunch to their staff, give instructions on how to make viewing devices, and watch together as a team.”

The eclipse’s “path of totality,” which encompasses the locations from which viewers could see the eclipse in all its fullness, travelled from the Pacific Northwest—those in Newport, Oregon, saw the eclipse at 10:15 a.m. local time—through the midwest—Troy, Kansas residents saw the eclipse at 1:05 pm local time—and into the Southeast—the eclipse hit Clayton, GA at 2:35 pm Eastern. Click here for a full list of locales within the “path of totality.”

Many people traveled to such locales to view the event. According to US News, AAA Mid-Atlantic issued an advisory preparing travelers for “huge crowds of eclipse watchers, long lines and roadside delays caused by the influx of travelers from other states into prime eclipse-viewing destinations.”

GreatAmericanEclipse.com says most American’s live within a day’s drive of some location within the eclipse’s path of totality. Further, because August is a popular vacationing time, the site points out, many people presumably planned getaways around the eclipse.

The event’s effect on auto traffic, the site says, was akin to that of “20 Woodstock festivals occurring simultaneously across the nation.”

Whatever toll the eclipse took on the average American employer, it likely provided a proportionate boost to the country’s travel industry. Lodging enterprises benefited from an influx of eclipse-seekers, and towns not ordinarily considered tourist destinations became the epicenters of eclipse-viewing.

The next total solar eclipse visible on American soil will occur on April 8, 2024, per greatamericaneclipse.com. The path of totality will stretch from Mexico through central Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, New York, and Montreal, Canada.

After 2024, North America will not see another total eclipse until 2045. So, get your gear and make your travel arrangements.

And tell your boss you’re taking a long lunch on April 8, 2024.

Featured image via Twitter/V3ctor

 

Cannabis Company Purchases an Entire Town in Eastern CA

According to an Associated Press report published by Business Insider, cannabis company American Green, Inc. announced Thursday that it is in the process of purchasing the entire town of Nipton, CA, which spans 80 acres and is home to less than two dozen residents, with the intention of turning it into “an energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.”

Nipton’s current owner, Roxanne Lang, said per the AP that the sale was still in escrow, but confirmed that American Green was the buyer. She did not disclose the price but did mention that the town was listed at $5 million when she and her husband, Gerald Freeman, put it on the market a year ago.

According to the AP, Nipton consists of an “Old West-style” hotel, a few houses, an RV park, and a coffee shop. Located just three miles west of the California-Nevada border, the town generates much of its revenue by selling California lottery tickets to Nevada residents, whose home state is one of six without a state-sponsored lottery.

American Green aims to turn Nipton into the epicenter of the cannabis tourism industry, creating an economy driven almost entirely by marijuana. The company will invite edibles manufacturers and other major players in the cannabis industry to relocate to Nipton, bringing jobs. American Green will also sell cannabis-infused water drawn from the town’s aquifer.

“We are excited to lead the charge for a true Green Rush,” David Gwyther, American Green’s president and CEO, said in a statement, per AP. “The cannabis revolution that’s going on here in the US has the power to completely revitalize communities in the same way gold did during the 19th century.”

A gold rush put Nipton on the map in the early 1900s, but by the time Freeman came upon the town in the 1950s, Nipton was all but deserted. Freeman bought it in 1985 and set to work revitalizing the hotel and creating a solar farm.

As part of its energy-independence initiative, American Green plans to expand the solar farm Freeman built. In fact, Lang told the AP after a laugh, Freeman would likely have supported American Green’s purchase of Nipton. Freeman, a libertarian, defended people’s right to smoke pot and would have been all for American Green’s efforts toward energy independence.

Lang has an interesting tagline to describe her town’s location: “I like to say it’s conveniently located in the middle of nowhere,” Lang said, per the AP. The town sits 60 miles south of Las Vegas and about 10 miles east of I-15, which connects Vegas and LA.

The remoteness of Nipton is exactly what Carl Caveness, a handyman at the town’s hotel, likes about the town. “We [Caveness and his wife] like the quiet and solitude,” the 53-year-old told the AP.

American Green’s announcement surprised Caveness, who worries that the town’s new owners may push him out of Nipton.

Today, most of the guests at the Hotel Nipton are “desert aficionados” and Old West fanatics, according to the AP. If American Green’s vision takes off, the hotel could become an unparalleled tourist destination.

American Green revolutionized the market with its ZaZZZ vending machines, which use “military grade biometrics” to verify consumers’ ages, thereby allowing the legal sale of age-restricted products like beer, cigarettes, and marijuana.  With its purchase of Nipton, the company is poised to see the cannabis industry through another revolutionary leap.

With 50,000 individual shareholders, American Green possesses “the largest shareholder base of any cannabis-related public company in the US,” according to its website. Shares increased 131% to $.0037—that’s 37/10,000 of a dollar or 37/100 of a cent—apiece on news of the Nipton acquisition. If the venture takes off, that decimal point may move quite a few places to the right.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Brewbudz’s Weed-Infused Coffee Debuts in Nevada

Nevada residents now have an extra choice to make as they brew their morning joe: cream, sugar, or…marijuana? According to Claire Shaffer of Newsweek, The Silver State has become the first locale to sell Brewbudz’s cannabis-infused, Keurig-ready “coffee pods,” which have been in development for over a year.

The coffee pods come in regular as well as decaf. For those averse to coffee, Brewbudz offers hot cocoa and three different varieties of tea (black, camomile, and decaf). Consumers need not worry about putting downers in their morning pick-me-ups or uppers in their nightly relaxation beverages—Brewbudz is no “hippie speedball.” The morning options will contain sativa strains, which keep users energized, while the night-time choices will incorporate calming indica strains.

Brewbudz’s are by no means first THC-infused coffee products to hit the market. There is a litany of similar products available, from Ganja Grindz to House of Jane.

Brewbudz differentiates itself from the herd in that its products contain cannabis flowers rather than extracted THC oil. As a result, Kevin Love, strategic accounts director at Cannabiniers, Brewbudz’s parent company, told Westword, the high is “functional and medicating.” 10-, 25-, and 50-milligram THC dosages will be available.

A carefully-studied delivery system will make Brewbudz products more efficient than other edibles, according to Love.

“We changed the barrier properties in cannabis, so as the compound is running through your system, it’s not breaking down until it reaches your liver,” he says. ”Most drugs have bioavailability, or how much your body actually receives versus how much you eat. Most edibles are at 5 percent because of how your body absorbs them, but Brewbudz is closer to 40 or 50 percent.”

Because the high does not compromise a user’s ability to function, Brewbudz are the perfect product for marijuana enthusiasts to integrate into their daily routines, the company says.

“Our vision was to create a revolutionary product that would deliver a medical solution to patients in a beverage that was consumed and enjoyed as part of our daily life.,” Brewbudz says on its website.

Of course, with the wide variety of edibles available, consumers can conveniently consume marijuana on a daily, even hourly basis. But, Love explains, unlike candy or cake, coffee and tea are already woven into the fabric of many people’s routines. He hopes the ubiquity of morning beverages will translate into sales.

“Weed chocolate bars account for almost 3 percent of the total purchase market in Colorado,” he says. “And an average American eats two candy bars every eight days. That’s 24 billion servings a year. Annualizing all the coffee Americans drink came out to over 200 billion servings.”

According to James Hamblin of the Atlantic, just under one third of American households use a pod-based coffee machine. Brewbudz, of course, hopes that a sizable portion of those machines become cannabis delivery mechanisms.

Unlike K-Cups, which “generate a ton of plastic waste” because they are neither biodegradable nor recyclable, Brewbudz pods are 100% compostable.

“The Brewbudz product is a responsible solution to [the] major ecological problem created [by] single serve coffee pods [like] the K-cup,” the company’s website says.

There is a financial premium to be paid for getting high and saving the planet, though. Each Brewbudz pod will cost $7; Keurig, by comparison, sells its K-Cups for $0.69 a piece.

Once it establishes a solid market presence, the company plans to produce THC-infused products compatible with traditional coffee makers. Brewbudz is taking steps to expand into Colorado and California. It is working toward a manufacturing agreement with the Bronner Corporation, which operates a 25,000 square foot edible factory in Denver.

“It’s an opportunity to bring together two different rituals in life,” BrewBudz Vice President Jeffry Paul said of his product in November, per Westword’s Kate McKee Simmons.

Harley-Davidson Stock Drops On Disappointing Quarter Two Reports

As of 11:17 Eastern Wednesday morning, Harley Davidson, Inc. stock has fallen just under 8%, from $51.96 to $47.82 per share, since the company released its quarter two earnings reports Tuesday morning. The motorcycle behemoth’s stock has not dipped this far since June 2016; on the first of that month, shares were priced at $45.30, according to Yahoo! Finance.

Amidst its struggles, Harley plans to cut production for the rest of 2017, Reuters’ Ankit Ajmera reports. The company now expects to ship between 39,000 and 44,ooo motorcycles in the third quarter—that would mean a 20% drop from quarter three of last year—and estimates its shipment totals for the year to come in between 241,000 and 246,000. Last year, Harley shipped 262,221 motorcycles; roughly a decade ago, it shipped 350,000 bikes a year, on average. Even if Harley hits the high end of its projected range for 2017, shipments would fall over 6% from 2016.

Production cuts will be accompanied by “reduction” of the “hourly workforce,” Ajmera says. Rick Barrett of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Harley plans to permanently remove 180 production jobs in the fall, and to temporarily furlough a number of other workers.

“It’s not looking good at this point,” Ross Winklbauer of the United Steelworkers union, which represents some Harley employees, told Barrett. “We did not see this coming.”

A worldwide decrease in demand for motorcycles, especially new ones, is taking its toll across the industry. Retail bike sales fell 9.3% in the US and 6.7% worldwide in quarter two. It appears each generation is growing less and less interested in motorcycles.  Moreover, those who purchased bikes in the industry’s heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s are getting too old to ride, and their used machines are flooding the market, cutting into sales of new bikes.

To compensate for decreasing retail sales, companies like Minnesota’s Polaris Industries, Inc. and Japan’s Honda Motor are offering discounts to incentivize buyers. Victory Motorcycles, owned by Polaris, is offering customers $1,000 dollars with the purchase of “any new 1700cc Victory motorcycle,” and $500 on “any new 2017 Victory Octane.” Higher-end models are discounted up to $10,000 dollars. Honda is running special offers on a host of models, including its Fury.

Harley, for its part, strives to avoid discounts in an effort to protect its brand image. In fact, quarter two reports suggest prices are going up rather than down.

Unit revenue rose $437 (2.9%) as compared to the numbers published in quarter two of last year, but total revenue was down 5.6% to $1.58 billion. Net income fell 7.7% to $258.9 million ($1.48/share). So, despite selling their bikes at higher prices, Harley is taking considerable hits on its bottom line.

Harley is losing its competitive edge in the U.S. “big-bike” market, Reuters’ Ajmera says. In quarter two, the iconic brand’s market share fell one percent as compared to last year’s second-quarter number, from 49.5 to 48.5 percent. It is worth noting, of course, that Harley remains dominant in the market, even if its dominance appears to be waning.

The company stood to benefit from President Trump’s corporate tax cuts and domestic production incentives, as well as from middle-class tax cuts, which would give motorcycle enthusiasts more disposable income to spend on bikes. But Bernstein analyst David Beckel points out that, given the political gridlock that has plagued Washington of late, Trump’s economic programs are “on hold, perhaps indefinitely.”

Bernstein has downgraded Harley to a “market-perform” rating, meaning he expects the company’s performance to be on par with that of its peers in the industry.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been iconic pieces of American culture since the company was founded over a century ago. But with demand for bikes trending downward, the USA may be changing gears. Somehow or other, Harley will need to adapt.

Featured image via Pixabay

Nevada’s Marijuana Shortage Might End Soon

The marijuana shortage which befell Nevada’s dispensaries after they sold over $3 million worth of marijuana in the first weekend of sales will be eased by a measure passed by the state’s tax commission Thursday to increase the number of entities who can distribute weed, Grace Donnelly of Fortune reports.

After hearing arguments from dispensary owners and alcohol wholesalers concerning whether the alcohol industry was equipped to handle the distribution of marijuana, the commission voted unanimously to pass legislation that will permit businesses outside of the liquor industry to apply for distribution licenses. Presumably, the state’s former medical marijuana distributors, some of whom have been operating for upwards of a decade, will be the first to apply.

But Neal Gidvani, who works in finance and cannabis law at Greenspoon Marder, a law firm that handles marijuana related cases, warns that the legal battles between the alcohol industry and the cannabis industry are just beginning.

“Early indications are that alcohol distributors will challenge the decision,” Gidvani told Fortune. The alcohol distributors really want exclusive rights, not just the ability to apply and compete in an open marketplace.”

Whatever they may want, though, alcohol companies must prove they are capable of delivering a massive supply of marijuana to dispensaries striving to fill an even more massive demand. The first weekend of pot sales in Nevada saw 40,000 retail transactions, Donnelly says. That means over 850 deals took place at each of the state’s 47 dispensaries, on average. In other words, a lot of Nevadans want to exercise their newly-gained legal right to purchase and use marijuana.

But at the moment, only two alcohol companies in Nevada are licensed to distribute weed. One of them, Crooked Wine Co., has contracted day-to-day distribution operations out to Blackbird, a company that distributed medical marijuana before the recreational legislation transferred all distribution responsibilities—medical and recreational—to the alcohol sellers.

Rebel One, a wholesale liquor distributor based in Las Vegas, received the second license. The company has made no public comment as to how it intends to perform distribution, but it would do well to emulate Crooked Wine and hand the duties over to a former medical marijuana distributor.

Most alcohol distributors, it seems, are uninterested in distributing marijuana. The Nevada Tax Commission garnered only “lukewarm interest” when it began inquiring as to whether alcohol distributors would be willing and able to distribute weed, Colton Lochhead of the Las Vegas Review Journal reports. On May 31, the original deadline by which distributors were expected to apply, Nevada Tax commission spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein told Lockheed just one alcohol company had sought for a marijuana distribution license.

Lochhead points out that alcohol distributors are “licensed on the federal level, where marijuana remains illegal,” and that by engaging in the distribution of weed, the alcohol companies might jeopardize their alcohol distribution licenses. Nevada Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opposition to marijuana legalization—despite overwhelming support for both recreational and medicinal marijuana use amongst his state’s voters—does not help anybody’s confidence.

“It definitely still worries me at night that we’re doing something our Department of Justice and our Attorney General says is illegal,” Nick Shook, who runs a dispensary in Las Vegas, told Donnelly. “I lose sleep over it.”

And with the dispensary shelves drying up, anxious marijuana sellers like Shook cannot afford to dip into their own product to alleviate the worries.

Still, there is plenty of support for Shook’s business within the Nevada government. Governor Brian Sandoval, who declared a state of emergency to help open legislative pathways toward increased marijuana supply, has budgeted $70 million in anticipated tax revenue from marijuana sales to the state’s public school system.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that we’ve licensed enough people in our market, that’s what we have to do. Our job is to license folks and to bring in the tax dollars,” Klapstein told Jenny Kane of The Reno-Gazette Journal.

New York Fashion Week: Reclaiming American Culture One Stitch at a Time

The American fashion industry is struggling. In the past year, a number of formerly iconic American clothing retailers have shut their doors. True Religion Apparel, Inc. became the latest casualty earlier this month.

Such brands are being pushed out of the market by foreign enterprises like H&M of Sweden and Spain’s Zara, which employ a “fast fashion” business model in which clothes move as quickly as possible from runways to store shelves so that companies can keep up with ever-changing consumer tastes.

But New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which kicked off Monday, may provide a much-needed spotlight that will reestablish US designers as major players in the global fashion scene. Over 65 fashion shows will take place throughout New York this week, showcasing the work of many young American designers eager to carve out space for themselves among fashion’s elite.

Many of the outfits showcased will be available on a “see now, buy now” basis, meaning viewers will be able to purchase them immediately. It is the ultimate in fast fashion: before a product even hits the shelves, a trend-setting consumer can have it in his/her hands.

Many designers are using New York Fashion Week as a platform by which to reclaim each of their unique American identities amidst a political climate they feel threatens to compromise those identities.

Julian Woodhouse, a renowned clothing designer who also happens to be a gay, African-American Army veteran, says much of the inspiration for his “Field Day” collection is born out of uneasiness with the political state of affairs in the USA.

“I called the collection ‘Field Day’,” he told Guy Trebay of the New York Times, “because I was feeling so heavy about political shifts.”

Said collection juxtaposes elements of traditional, conservative American culture against backdrops of chaos and disarray. In one outfit, a pair of suspenders is appended to a pair of cargo shorts and left hanging off of the model’s shoulder. Another outfit features “overalls with pegged ankles and bibs cut low for efficiency of escape,” Trebay reports.

The overalls could be taken as a symbol of outdated aspects of American culture, from which Woodhouse is inviting the viewer to escape. At the same time, Woodhouse’s African-American ancestors would have had far more pressing and concrete motivations for escaping from actual pairs of overalls.

Taofeek Abijako, an American of Nigerian descent, orchestrated a show that, in his words, demonstrates how “the African natives adopted European styles and made them their own.”

Abijako’s collection featured brightly colored, oversized clothing that Trebay says “[looked] as though borrowed from an older brother or else…pulled from the bottom of a prop trunk.”

Of course, African “natives” were forced to, in a sense, “borrow” European culture, but they also transformed it, made it fit them. So it’s not surprising that the baggy, belted trousers, are “tailored close to the leg” (Trebay’s words), for instance: they fit, even though they don’t.

Events like New York Fashion Week take place throughout the year in New York, London, Milan, Paris and Miami. Trebay admits that, from one perspective, the New York event is merely “continuation of a seemingly unending loop of clothes” going on tour throughout the world.

But in terms of the impact it could have on the American fashion industry and the American political situation, New York Fashion Week is uniquely American, just like the designers it showcases.

Hopefully, struggling American apparel companies are keeping an eye on the proceedings at New York Fashion Week, looking for cutting-edge designers who can launch their brands back to relevance. If not, maybe some of America’s political figures are keeping an ear tuned to the subtle undercurrents of social protest that run beneath each outfit.

Nevada Marijuana in Short Supply Just Ten Days After Sales Began

In the first three days after Nevada dispensaries began selling marijuana under the state’s new legislation permitting recreational use of the substance, the state’s 47 pot stores pulled in a combined $3 million dollars in revenue.

Nobody anticipated the demand. Now, just ten days after marijuana went on sale at midnight on July 1, the supply at the dispensaries is all but depleted, and at the urging of Nevada’s taxation department, Governor Brian Sandoval has called for a “state of emergency” which would ease regulations halting distribution.

In a concession to the liquor industry, which feared legal marijuana would hamper alcohol sales, legislators agreed to give alcohol wholesalers exclusive rights to distribute marijuana over the first eighteen months of legal sales. Only licensed distributors can “transport marijuana from cultivation and packaging facilities to the dispensaries.”

However, under state law, marijuana distributors must meet a number of regulative requirements. According to Stephanie Klapstein, a spokeswoman for Nevada’s Department of Taxation, “most [potential distributors] don’t yet meet the requirements that would allow us to license them.”

As a result, not a single distribution license has been issued.

The governor’s “state of emergency” measure would temporarily allow entities outside of the liquor industry to “distribute” marijuana. The Nevada Tax Commission will vote on it Thursday.

A host of businesses across the state have been transporting medicinal marijuana since it was introduced in Nevada in 2001. But, under the new recreational legislation requires dispensaries to get one hundred percent of their product—recreational as well as medicinal—from alcohol wholesalers.

Nevada Marijuana in Short Supply Just Ten Days After Legalization

Though it is unclear exactly how Sandoval’s “statement of emergency” will “expand the pool of potential distributors,” as Marketwatch’s Mike Murphy says it will, the most efficient approach may be to allow the businesses that handled the distribution of medical marijuana to become operational again.

That was, in fact, the original plan, before the alcohol industry won exclusive distribution rights in a last minute court scuffle.

The concerted effort the government is making to get pot back on the shelves may be hard to believe after decades in which politicians and law enforcement have done everything they could to keep marijuana out of people’s hands, but marijuana is fast becoming an indispensable source of revenue for the Nevada government.

A 25% tax on marijuana cultivation helps to fund Nevada’s school system, and an additional 10% sales tax goes directly to the government, with no hard and fast rules as to how it must be spent.

Of the $3 million in revenue Nevada’s marijuana industry generated over July 4th weekend, $1 million went to the government.

But Klapstein warns that the regulative bottleneck in the supply chain could have dire business consequences as well, perhaps extinguishing Nevada’s marijuana industry before it even gets smoking.

“The business owners in this industry have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building facilities across the state. They have hired and trained thousands of additional employees to meet the demands of the market. Unless the issue with distributor licensing is resolved quickly, the inability to deliver product to retail stores will result in many of these people losing their jobs and will bring this nascent market to a grinding halt,” Klapstein says.

Even if the red tape is cut, the marijuana shortage in Nevada could persist in the short term. Many cultivators in the state are between harvest cycles. Until their plants begin yielding flowers again, they will be unable to resupply marijuana retailers, regardless of bureaucratic obstacles or lack thereof.

This November, four states—California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada—voted to legalize recreational marijuana. All but Nevada chose to take a full year to decide how to best implement the voters’ wishes.

Nevada, on the other hand, hurried to complete marijuana legislation by the end of the 2017 legislative session. Now, consumers, businesses, and the government are all paying the price for the rush to get marijuana on the shelves.

Any stoner could have told the politicians not to move so quickly.

Record $1.7 Million for Charity Speedrunning

During the seventh Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) Speedrunning marathon event, the charity was able to raise nearly $1.78 million from just over 30,000 people. This year’s charity donation reaches a new record high from last year, continuing an ever-growing annual trend. The money raised will be donated to ‘Doctors Without Borders’ charity.

Two speedrunning marathon events are held every year, with the event being the Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) occurring in January. Both events are one week long, and see 100,000 concurrent viewers watching the event online and donating millions of dollars to charity. Games Done Quick is easily the largest speedrunning event, drawing runners from around the globe. The speedrun event lasts seven days with no breaks, meaning that it is in the player’s best interests to complete the required total of 132 games as fast as possible.

The event gathers hundreds of players together in a hotel conference room to play their favorite games at incredible speeds. The crowd these events draw is full of enthusiasts who watch the players play these games, usually matching the number of players playing or more. Often it is not enough to just finish the games with the fastest time possible, and players are challenged by those giving donations to complete the games with added difficulties. Speedrunner Halfcoordinated raised $2,740 by completing NieR: Automata while holding an Emil plushie in one hand.

The total donations for this year’s event come in part from direct donations that the players receive while playing the games, and in part due to partner donations from activities including but not limited to T-shirt sales and the Humble Bundle, which donates 100 percent of new monthly subscriptions, automatically entering new subscribers as donating towards the event charity. This year’s donations were 35 percent higher than the previous year, suggesting that speedrunning events are growing and becoming more popular, both as a charity event as well as a bi-annual gaming event.

Following the established trend, SGDQ accumulated donations were less than AGDQ, with this year’s AGDQ making $2.2 million in donations in the same amount of time. One suspected reason for why the AGDQ tends to be more popular is that it occurs during the holiday, making it more accessible by those who work during the SGDQ. Despite making less, the SGDQ was a major success and reinforces the input and support for the speedrunning gamer community.

For SGDQ, the highest single donation made during the event amounted to $20,300, and a total of 139 speed runs were held, meaning that players were able to accomplish more than the required total of 132. This goes to show how passionate the gamers are about these games, as they not only want to beat their individual games in the fastest time possible but in doing so try to complete more games. Some gaming categories included just single speedruns of players trying to beat the game, such as the already mentioned NieR: Automata and Final Fantasy VII, while in some other categories races were held as players tried to be the first to complete titles including Tetris: The Grand Master amongst other titles.

The SGDQ has progressed significantly since its inception seven years ago, where the first event raised $21,397, but there are passionate people whose ambition is for the event to generate more money to donate to the ‘Doctors Without Borders’ charity. Nevertheless, the SGDQ 2017 has been a massive undertaking and has the makings of a cultural touchstone for many in the gaming community. One tradition is for the event to begin and end with a new and old-fan favorite, which helps chapter the climate and feelings of the gaming community.

Since the events for 2017 have already concluded, fans already are waiting on the next AGDQ with baited breath in 2018. Thankfully, the dates have already been announced for next year, with the next Games Done Quick event occurring from January 7-14.

Sit Back and Relax: Autonomous Shuttles on UM Campus

The University of Michigan will be introducing two fully autonomous vehicles to its campus to shuttle students and faculty this fall. University officials announced the pilot program at the MCity test facility for autonomous and connected cars. The goal is to field test the vehicles while also observing both passenger and driver public perception.

This endeavor joins the recent increased attention autonomous vehicles has received lately as tangible steps to hopefully implement in the future on a grander scale. Two 15 passenger self-driving shuttles will travel along a two-mile loop through Michigan’s North Campus during normal business hours. This ensures that the conditions under which the shuttles are tested attempt to remain as fixed as possible, allowing for more accuracy.

Researchers have installed additional cameras on the exterior to examine how both drivers and pedestrians respond to autonomous vehicles on the road, and vice versa. Mcity Director and University of Michigan professor Huei Peng wishes to also utilize interior cameras to also examine passenger responses in order to gauge public perspectives regarding this new technology. The vehicles are also equipped with sensors and accurate GPS in order to accurately determine the operation of the vehicles as well as their location. University officials have stated that the autonomous shuttles will complete their 2-mile circuits roughly every ten minutes.

Peng also addresses the intent to track rider and usage pattern while also directly interviewing passengers regarding their experience. With constructive feedback Peng hopes the data gathered will help improve future designs in regards to safety and efficient operation. Furthermore, there are expectations to expand the operational hours beyond normal business hours, depending on the success of the pilot program, positive data provided. In order to maximize usage and potential data, the shuttle services will be free to all students, faculty and staff.

Mcity is a public-private partnership led by the University of Michigan directed at the speedy development of vehicle technology. The vehicles themselves were manufactured by French autonomous car start up Navya, an affiliate of MCity. While this is Navya’s first program in the U.S., there are Navya autonomous models operational in numerous countries around the world.

The success of this pilot program does not only impact Navya, MCity and the University of Michigan, but also future endeavors for autonomous vehicles. Success could revolutionize both public and private transport, with goals on improving the security and efficiency of future models in performance and production. Transportation plays a key role in culture paradigm shifts, and should autonomous cars become successful, opportunities for other forms of autonomous transportation also open up.

The success of the pilot program on a university campus also allows students to directly experience change, providing a more practical and tangible example of current efforts to reevaluate our daily lives instead of the more theoretical. Hopefully these programs cater to student participation beyond that of merely a data point, in order to inspire and educate future research.

Featured Image via Flickr/DoNotLick

Facebook Profile Picture Protection in India

Facebook is looking to introduce new forms of protection in India for user’s profile pictures. The goal is to stop copying, sharing, and other image misuse. More specifically these protections prevent others from being able to send, share, download or tag themselves in the image. These protections are not compulsory, but they do allow users to choose whether or not they want their profile picture’s protected.

Protected pictures display a blue shield border around their image, with additional capacities currently only available on Android to prevent users from taking screenshots of profile pictures where possible. The design overlay aims to reduce picture theft, protecting the identities and privacy of its users.

These features were inspired after Facebook heard from Indian social and safety organizations that predominantly women decided to not upload images with their faces due to privacy reasons. Facebook has partnered with a number of these organizations in order to introduce a tool that is both security focused that does not interfere with Facebook’s primary social agenda. This freedom for choice still enables those who are inclined to utilize their profile picture as more than a means of identification to do so, while providing an alternative option. Facebook has responded to this issue well, without overreacting and restricting the platforms intended use.

However, while the protection will alleviate image theft tensions, it will not completely prevent possible image misuse. The reality of the matter is that these preventative measures only make image theft more difficult, but not impossible. Those with enough intent and means will find a way to continue image theft if the need is great enough, but these protections will certainly reduce the frequency at which profile pictures are copied, shared or misused. Facebook predicts that simply adding a design overlay to a picture reduces the likelihood of others copying it by 75 percent, based on the underlying message that the user sends.

These protections are readily available in India, and users can easily add them quickly through Facebook’s user interface system. However, the screenshotting protection is only available via Android, and so other can screen shot a user’s profile picture through other means including desktops. Furthermore, the blue shield only acts as statement declaring the user’s intent that their profile picture should not be copied, and not a hard barrier that comprehensibly prevents copying.

Ideal for deterring opportunists through simple additions makes this tool a potentially useful option for Indian users. Facebook has not yet indicated whether similar measures will come to other countries. The criteria for this is twofold: whether there is a need for such a tool, and whether the additions can be easily transferred and implanted. Regarding the first, regardless of whether or not there is a sizeable desire for similar protections, Facebook should pursue a rollout of these protective measures for other countries. Considering that these features are optional, there is no downside for the users in other countries by adding this tool. For the second criteria, this is dependent on how easy it is to implement the protective measures. It is uncertain whether the transfer is possible based on the coding involved. However, Facebook has already developed the tool, and so a full rollout would not require much-added cost, and in fact can be beneficial towards Facebook’s reputation of being able to balance both its social and security responsibilities on behalf of its users.

The final issue to address is whether the major concern for why women in India rejected uploading a profile picture was indeed due to possible image theft. If the issue was instead based on the personal preference of maintaining privacy, then Facebook’s tool will not stimulate more user profile pictures. This does not mean that the tool is a waste, as its flexibility is an added benefit for current users wishing to further protect their images online.

Featured Image via Pixabay

Valentine’s Day Scams; A Warning From the Better Business Bureau

Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, and many will take this opportunity to shower their loved ones and partners with gifts to show just how much appreciation and admiration they have. Yet with the holiday estimating to cost America a big $18 billion this year, the scammers are going to be out on the prowl to take advantage.

The Better Business Bureau is providing a few tips on how to avoid those scams that will most likely cause a Valentine’s Day fail.

Pixabay/kaboompic

First, when it comes to ordering flowers keep a sharp eye out for scrupulous businesses. This year it’s estimated that American’s all over the country will shell out a good $2 billion on flowers. With that number as high as it is, scammers are certainly going to be on the move to get their fair share. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips on how to avoid scammers:

  • Let the Better Business Bureau be a guide for any and all purchases. On BBB.org, consumers will be able to use the search guide to find florists and gift shops as well as search for other customer reviews.
  • Make sure to visit the shop or talk to someone in over the phone. Discuss the exact arrangement you’re looking for. Even if you’re ordering online make sure to go to the shop in person if you can and inquire about your purchase, the company policies, delivery times, and guarantees. It’s important that you don’t finalize your purchases until all information is properly outlined. Finally, be sure to obtain a receipt after purchase.
  • Be on the lookout for suspicious calls and emails. Phishing scams spike around this time of year for those who expect to give flowers and gifts to their loved ones. Beware of fake e-cards and unsolicited emails that can contain viruses and request additional funds in order to deliver gifts.

Social media and online dating sites will be buzzing with activity come Tuesday. Match.com expects to see a jump in its new users by twenty percent. It’s also said that around 1.9 million Facebook users will change their relationship status. However, the internet is also a great place to find scammers who just loving preying on love struck victims.

It’s sometimes all too easy for a scammer to build a relationship with someone under false pretenses whether it be through video chat, over the phone, or texting. At some point in the is relationship the scammer will cry that they are experiencing some type of trouble with their finances, or say that they need money to come see the victim.

Once the funds are exchanged, the scammer drops off the face of the earth and the victim is out of who knows how much money. The BBB calls these type of scams Cupid cons. They are the hardest to avoid because scammers in this type of con know just how to make others feel vulnerable.

The following are a few tips on how to avoid Cupid cons and what to look out for:

  • Look out for a new friend that is always a no show. Whether its business travelling, vising family out of state, or a last-minute re-schedule. This is an extremely common excuse for scammers, and how they will lie to avoid meeting people face-to-face. A significant other would normally find time to see and get to know someone better. If your new boo is ignoring you, this should alert you to suspicion.
  • If you’re searching for a love interest on Facebook and find that their profile is extremely new, doesn’t fit their description or doesn’t exist you’re probably being scammed. When you’re talking to someone and find out things about them, the information they provided you with should most definitely match up with their social media profiles. Look for things like a small list of friends, little or no photos, major spelling or grammar errors. All those things can be signals that you’re talking to a scammer.
  • When it comes to loaning out money, people often always skeptical even if it’s to a really good friend. It’s just an uncomfortable situation at times. Be on the lookout for new loves that immediately ask you for cash. Their needs will range from a number of emergencies. They will claim to have been robbed, or there was a medical emergency. Scammers will tell any story to tug at your heartstrings. And your wallet. BBB says to never give out money or share your bank info with someone you don’t know very well and have never met.

Always be on the lookout for business scams or people who use the methods above.

The truth is everyone wants to feel special and needed, especially on a day of celebrating love like Valentine’s Day. The best way to protect yourself from a scam is not to let your emotions cloud your judgment, be aware of all the signs, and try not to ignore that gut feeling. Anyone is open to a scam so don’t think it won’t happen at some point. There are people out there who can’t wait to prey on vulnerability.

Valentine’s Day Will Cost $18 Billion in the U.S. This Year

Millions celebrate Valentine’s Day every year with jewelry, chocolate, flowers and other specials gifts given to that special someone. In fact, last year men spent two times more than woman did in celebration of Valentine’s Day. It has to be one of the most anticipated holidays throughout the year.

Valentine’s Day is recorded as the third largest holiday in the United States. It’s estimated that nearly $18 million total will be spent on this year’s Valentine’s Day.

For those who like to buy bouquets for their special someone, 34 percent of Americans, an estimated $2 billion will be spent on flowers which will raise flower sales by 20 percent. Over $1.7 billion will be racked up by those who plan on buying candy, and $4.3 billion will be spent on jewelry this year.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, it’s safe to say the holiday has an extremely big impact on the American economy. In fact, its calculated that the average Valentine’s Day gift giver will shell out $136.57 on the holiday. Those that plan on going out this year will spend an estimated $73.68 per couple. That number totals to $3 billion that will be spent by the 36 percent of couples who say they plan to spend their night out on the town.

Even though the holiday is wildly anticipated, gladly celebrated, and nearly 9 million marriage proposals will be made, not everyone takes part in it. In fact, 46 percent of adults say they don’t plan on celebrating the holiday at all, and 50 percent of those who are single say they are proud to be so.

Valentine’s Day even has a large impact on social media. The amount of dating sites that will receive new service is an estimated 399.  Match.com plans on seeing a 20 percent increase in new users, which will aid to calculated 5 percent of marriages that begin on dating sites. Those on Facebook, around 1.9 million, will change their relationship status this Valentine’s day as well.

With technology on the rise and more people making use of social media, it’s hard to believe that the greeting card industry would benefit as well as it does. Despite expectations, $1.4 billion will be spent on those buying gift cards for Valentine’s Day. Another $1 billion will be made from those who buy Valentine’s Day greeting cards. Hallmark has nearly 1,500 different options for consumers searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day card for their special someone.

However, what’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate covered strawberries? Linda Jackson owns The Chocolate Lady in Mesilla, New Mexico and knows that Valentine’s day means dozens and dozens of chocolate dipped strawberries. Jackson says that she and her team hand-dip and decorate over 20 pounds of strawberries for the 94 percent of Americans who receive candy and chocolate in some form or another this Valentine’s Day.

February 14th is coming up fast, so if you plan to get something for your special someone it’s best not to wait at the last minute. Nearly 53 percent of woman said they’d break up with their partner if they didn’t receive anything on Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t have a Valentine this year, that’s okay too. Twenty percent of American get gifts for their pets on Valentine’s Day. And if you find yourself without a pet just remember that 24 percent of Americans will buy something for themselves this year. So how will you be celebrating?

Skype Expands its Translator

Skype’s translation feature, created back in 2014, only allowed users to translate Skype to Skype calls. The company, however, recently announced that the translation option will soon be available for landline and mobile use as well.

Users will need to be members of the Windows Insider Program which is free and allows its users to sign up for Windows features before others. They will also need to have the latest version of the Skype app, Skype Preview, downloaded as well as have some Skype credits.

To begin, you’ll start like any other Skype call. Click the dialer, select the switch marked “Translate”, then chose the language you wish to translate. The person on the other end will hear a message telling them that the call is being translated through Skype Translator, and you will be able to carry on a normal conversation.

Skype Translator has about nine languages which include: English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. There will be some delays during the conversation while things are translated, but a good way to enhance the experience of using Skype Translator is to use headphones for the conversation.

Airbnb Finally Playing Nice?

Airbnb and their policies haven’t earned the company much favor with cities. The company had to go as far as suing New York and San Francisco.

Airbnb sued New York City after the state’s governor made it illegal to rent out a space for thirty days without the owner of said space being there. San Francisco was sued by the company due to the fact that the city has a law stating homeowners need to register their property with the federal government before listing their homes for rental. Somehow though the company seems to be trying to make things right, starting off with New Orleans.

Recently the company created a set of guidelines that will better aid in the cooperation between them and the city of New Orleans. Airbnb agreed to provide the city’s government with names of home owners including their address. The hosts would then in turn register and obtain permits, with the city, for leasing out their homes.

The company agreed to collect taxes on short-term hotel stays and even cap the number of days homeowners can rent out their houses. In order to sooth the hotel industry, Airbnb also conceded to end rentals in the French Quarter. These are compromises that Airbnb would have clearly rejected in the past but is more than willing to work with the city of New Orleans to enforce these agreements.

Airbnb’s new change in demeanor when it comes to New Orleans may be a new change for the company to make things right with other cities along with settling the lawsuits with New York and San Francisco. According to the New York Times Laura Spanjian, public policy manager for Airbnb, said, “This is just the beginning. We need to make sure that the rules work and that the city can enforce them, but we want this to be a model going forward.”

Standing Rock Protesters Stand Firm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the protesters at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation until Monday to leave the property. Four months of tear gas, water cannons, police confrontations and prayer marching leaves the protesters with the ultimatum of vacating the premises or be fined for trespassing. Though it is said that the land should belong to the Standing Rock Sioux, the property the protesters currently occupy is federal land.

Despite the cold and the threats coming from the Army Corps and the North Dakota governor’s office, the people are standing firm. Tents, tepee, and lodges are sprouting up all around the property. Thousands of people like veterans, tribal members, and even celebrities have gathered over the last four months to try and put a stop to the Dakota Access pipeline. However, as President Obama’s term quickly creeps to an end, along with the deadline to vacate the property, things don’t appear to be looking too well for protesters.

Activists and tribal members are attempting to get President Obama to block the Dakota Access project by filing an environmental review before leaving office, which should tie up the project for some time. The Standing Rock Sioux are concerned about water contamination from an oil spill that will end up polluting their water supply, the Missouri River. The laying of the pipeline would also run through sacred tribal burial grounds. These fears of water contamination have spurred clean water activist from all over to come join the fight. President-elect Donald Trump announced on Friday that he is in complete support of the completion of the $3.7 billion pipeline project.

Law enforcement and the Army Corps said while they will not forcibly remove people from the property, they are hoping that protesters and activists can make a “peaceful and orderly transition” off federal property and to a “free speech zone”. Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II is seeking investigation of the rights violations that many of the protesters faced at the hands of law enforcement. He believes that the use of rubber bullets and the spraying of freezing water onto “water protectors” was unnecessary.

However, Sheriff Kirchmeier denounced that saying that, “The protesters are forcing police and us into taking action. They’re committing criminal activities.” He and law enforcement are also disapproving of the federal government’s lack of involvement I the whole issue. They claim that not only did the federal government not offer much in the ways of manpower or funds, but that the entire protest has cost Morton County over $8 million.

Despite all the efforts of the North Dakota government and law enforcement, support and supplies have managed to keep protesters and activists going. Even though police blockades were set up, supply trucks managed to make it to the camp with wood, bottled water, and food. Pottawatomie member Cusi Ballew said, “What’s important isn’t how we’re doing it but why we’re doing it. We’re here for prayer and for action.”

Aspire Heads to NYC; Creativity, Achievements and Education to be Highlighted

Whether it be food, business, or fashion New York City has well-earned it reputation as the greatest city in the world. New York City is also known for its diverse creativity. In February, it hosts an event that will hopefully bring inspiration to artist over the world. The event is called the ASPIRE FESTIVAL.

ASP FEST, created by iConcept Media, seeks to give aspiring talent exposure to thousands of people. The audience, in turn, has the chance to get closer to artists who have dedicated so much time to their work. It is the Aspire Series’ hope that not only the artists, but the audience as well, benefit from the event.

The anticipation for what Aspire has in store continues to build as the inaugural event, the first of many like it, draws near. A range of 25 to 50 artists will display their talents. Aspire says that exhibits will vary from fashion, film, cooking, and performing and fine arts. Audiences can look forward to parties, inspirational speeches and conversations as well as art exhibitions each day of the event.

Three various artists will have the opportunity to present their talent within nineteen minute segments. During the segments, the artists will get their chance to perform, converse it the audience, or be interviewed by the host.

After its time in New York City, Aspire says it plans to head to Art Basel Miami Beach. Art Basel Miami Beach has its own set of extraordinary talent. As for New York City, the event will take place from February 23rd to February 26th and hopes to shine light on the imaginative accomplishments of creative minds from around the globe.

“The Hang New York”: What’s Happening in the City

Even though the supply of information is never ending, there are still not too many platforms informing the younger, educating crowd based in New York of what’s going on in their areas and most importantly within their own and other faculties. This is where The Hang New York comes in.

Living in the city that never sleeps can be overwhelming when it comes to coping with everything happening in New York City.

There are many apps, websites and other variations of information channels on events in the city such as what to do that’s cheap, shows, concerts, festivals and the list goes on.

“The Hang NY is a media platform where millennials are able to find out about the latest, most exclusive and exciting events in the city that never sleeps, New York City,” the website states, “Parties, festivals, conferences, workshops, we have got you covered!”

The company is founded by Ericka Sanchez, who graduated from New York Institute of Technology in Advertising in 2014. The 22-year-old entrepreneur started the website as a blog and with time it developed into a successful business.

The Hang New York allows college and university students to be aware of what’s happening within the city. It’s a main goal for the project to implement the different institutions attended by the younger crowd of New Yorkers which is right now being established.

On www.thehangny.com you are able to click through all sorts of event happening in the city allowing you to be up to date with what’s going on in the big apple.