• To capitalize on dual booms in digital audio and sexual wellness, venture capitalists have put $5.5 million into Dipsea, a start-up offering subscriptions to audio erotica. Here's the C.E.O.'s work diary. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 20:21

    Gina Gutierrez gets a lot of blank stares when explaining her start-up to people: It’s called Dipsea, and it sells subscriptions to immersive, short-form audio erotica. Venture capitalists, though, get it. They want to capitalize on dual booms in digital audio and sexual wellness, and some view Dipsea as the next Calm or Headspace. The start-up has raised $5.5 million in funding.

    Ms. Gutierrez, 29, and her co-founder, Faye Keegan, created Dipsea when they realized that while there were plenty of companies offering tech-enabled vibrators, no one seemed to be addressing the mental aspect of female sexuality. In December 2018, Dipsea began publishing erotica podcasts, saying, “We think it’s downright powerful for people to discover the most turned-on versions of themselves.” The company charges subscribers $9 a month or $48 a year for access to a library of 10- to 15-minute stories in categories like “open relationship,” “hookup,” “crush” and “voyeurism.” Dipsea’s app also...

  • Responding to increasingly intense pressure to fight climate change, big corporations are trying to show they can be environmentally sustainable and still make money. Some activists are skeptical. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 20:01

    LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Mark Schneider, the chief executive of the Swiss food giant Nestlé, gripped a bun-clad concoction that looked like a bacon cheeseburger but contained no actual bacon, cheese or beef. He took a bite.

    It was a faux-meat, dairy-free mouthful symbolizing what may be the future of the food industry. It was also a manifestation of how big corporations like Nestlé are responding to increasingly intense pressure to help fight climate change.

    Vegan burgers, Mr. Schneider said, are a response to rising consumer concern about the healthiness of red meat and to criticism that cattle farming is bad for the climate.

    “The reason I like the plant-based so much is this is where the two kind of connect,” he said between bites at Nestlé’s research and development center in Lausanne. “There’s an environmental side to it, and there’s a healthy nutrition side to it.”

  • RT @tiffkhsu: Twitter's political ads policy will: * Prohibit ads that discuss elections, candidates and parties * Restrict ads that genera…
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 19:51
  • Amazon had been considered the front-runner for the contract, partly because it had built cloud services for the Central Intelligence Agency Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 19:41

    Amazon on Thursday said it planned to officially challenge the Pentagon’s surprise decision last month to award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Microsoft, setting off another legal battle over the lucrative, decade-long project.

    Amazon said it had notified a federal court of its plans to protest the government’s decision. In a statement, a spokesman for the company suggested that the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI, was awarded based on political motivations.

    “It’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence,” said Drew Herdener, the Amazon spokesman, in the statement.

    “Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified,” he said.

  • It’s “a terrible measure of what people can actually afford,” one expert said. And many families will be asked to pay more, anyway Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 19:21

    The form opens the door to student aid. But it’s “a terrible measure of what people can actually afford,” one expert said. And many families will be asked to pay more, anyway.

  • Twitter rolls out its definition of a "political" ad: anything that expressly mentions a candidate, party, election or legislation Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 18:56

    SAN FRANCISCO — The Alzheimer’s Association, a health care advocacy group, recently spent more than $200,000 on an ad campaign on Twitter. The campaign had a singular purpose: To persuade people to ask Congress for larger investments in medical research for the disease.

    Now the nonprofit is worried about whether those messages will still fly. That’s because Twitter announced last month that it would soon forbid all political ads from running on its platform — and depending on whom you ask, pushing lawmakers for money for medical research could be seen as a political cause.

    The Alzheimer’s Association was so concerned that it contacted Twitter this month to express misgivings about the political ads ban. “We’re not really sure how it’s going to impact us,” said Mike Lynch, a spokesman for the group. “A lot of what we do is issue advertising, so it really depends on how they define political advertising.”

    The Alzheimer’s Association is one of many nonprofits...

  • Advice for parents saving for college: the earlier the better. Many families wait too long, a new study finds, and lose out on the chance to let their money grow. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 18:41

    Many families wait too long to open 529 college savings accounts, which means they miss out on the maximum benefits from the accounts, a new analysis finds.

    On average, 529 accounts are opened for children who are just over 7 years old, the investment research company Morningstar found in its annual analysis of the state-sponsored plans.

    That leaves only about a decade for families to save and for the earnings to compound, said Madeline Hume, lead research analyst for 529s at Morningstar. The company reviewed plans holding about 97 percent of 529 account assets.

    Money in the accounts, which take their name from a section of the federal tax code, grows tax free, and is tax free when withdrawn and spent on eligible expenses like tuition, fees, housing, meal plans, books and equipment. (As of 2018, up to $10,000 a year from a 529 fund can be used to pay for private school from elementary school onward.)

  • Apple bans apps that promote vaping Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 18:21

    Apple said on Friday that it would ban vaping apps from its online store, affecting 181 apps in total.

    The prohibition would affect apps that help people find vape stores or flavors, allow them to control their vape pens, or access games, news or social networks that promote vaping.

    “We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps,” Apple said in a statement.

    Apple said health authorities “have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic.”

  • With surveillance equipment becoming cheaper and more popular, checking your hotel room or home to see if you're being monitored isn't so paranoid anymore Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 18:01

    People worry that Big Brother and Big Tech are invading their privacy. But a more immediate concern may be the guy next door or a shifty co-worker.

    A growing array of so-called smart surveillance products have made it easy to secretly live-stream or record what other people are saying or doing. Consumer spending on surveillance cameras in the United States will reach $4 billion in 2023, up from $2.1 billion in 2018, according to the technology market research firm Strategy Analytics. Unit sales of consumer surveillance devices are expected to more than double from last year.

    The problem is all that gear is not necessarily being used to fight burglars or keep an eye on the dog while she’s home alone. Tiny cameras have been found in places where they shouldn’t be, like Airbnb rentals, public bathrooms and gym locker rooms. So often, in fact, that security experts warn that we are in the throes of a “bugging epidemic.”

    It is not paranoid to take precautions. A...

  • RT @ConorDougherty: Two years ago I wrote a couple stories about the economic wreckage done by noncompete agreements. Yesterday, Keith Boll…
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 17:56
  • To capitalize on dual booms in digital audio and sexual wellness, venture capitalists have put $5.5 million into Dipsea, a start-up offering subscriptions to audio erotica. Here's the C.E.O.'s work diary. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 17:41

    Gina Gutierrez gets a lot of blank stares when explaining her start-up to people: It’s called Dipsea, and it sells subscriptions to immersive, short-form audio erotica. Venture capitalists, though, get it. They want to capitalize on dual booms in digital audio and sexual wellness, and some view Dipsea as the next Calm or Headspace. The start-up has raised $5.5 million in funding.

    Ms. Gutierrez, 29, and her co-founder, Faye Keegan, created Dipsea when they realized that while there were plenty of companies offering tech-enabled vibrators, no one seemed to be addressing the mental aspect of female sexuality. In December 2018, Dipsea began publishing erotica podcasts, saying, “We think it’s downright powerful for people to discover the most turned-on versions of themselves.” The company charges subscribers $9 a month or $48 a year for access to a library of 10- to 15-minute stories in categories like “open relationship,” “hookup,” “crush” and “voyeurism.” Dipsea’s app also...

  • Investors have joined environmental activists in demanding that companies help fight climate change. But shareholders still want profits. Can sustainability and making money coexist? Nestlé provides a case study. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 17:21

    LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Mark Schneider, the chief executive of the Swiss food giant Nestlé, gripped a bun-clad concoction that looked like a bacon cheeseburger but contained no actual bacon, cheese or beef. He took a bite.

    It was a faux-meat, dairy-free mouthful symbolizing what may be the future of the food industry. It was also a manifestation of how big corporations like Nestlé are responding to increasingly intense pressure to help fight climate change.

    Vegan burgers, Mr. Schneider said, are a response to rising consumer concern about the healthiness of red meat and to criticism that cattle farming is bad for the climate.

    “The reason I like the plant-based so much is this is where the two kind of connect,” he said between bites at Nestlé’s research and development center in Lausanne. “There’s an environmental side to it, and there’s a healthy nutrition side to it.”

  • A bill to enlist banks in the fight against gun crime, Wall Street vs. Elizabeth Warren heats up, Amazon fights back over the Pentagon’s cloud contract, and more in today's DealBook Briefing Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 17:01

    A day after two students were killed at a school in Santa Clarita, Calif., Representative Jennifer Wexton, Democrat of Virginia, is planning to introduce a bill in Congress this morning that would require banks and other financial institutions to work with the government to help identify and report suspicious or illegal financial activity related to firearms.

    The bill was inspired, in part, by Andrew Ross Sorkin’s columns on the role that banks could play to help end gun violence.

    “Banks, credit card companies, and retailers have unique insight into the behavior and purchasing patterns that can help identify and prevent mass shootings,” Ms. Wexton said in a statement. “We know that financial intelligence can be an effective tool to combat gun violence in the same way it is for money laundering, human smuggling, and fentanyl trafficking.”

    Here’s how it would work: The bill, called the Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act, would require the...

  • Facebook and YouTube said they would block attempts to name the whistle-blower who set in motion the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. But, the tech companies’ human moderators and artificial intelligence tools are struggling to keep up. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 16:46

    SAN FRANCISCO — A week ago, YouTube and Facebook said they would block people from identifying the government official thought to be the whistle-blower who set in motion an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

    It hasn’t worked out so well. A name believed by some to be the whistle-blower has been shared thousands of times on Facebook. Videos discussing the identity of the whistle-blower have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube. And images professing to be of the person have circulated on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, under dozens of different hashtags.

    The purported name of the whistle-blower appeared on Facebook pages that, combined, were followed by over half a million Facebook users, according to CrowdTangle, a tool that analyzes interactions across the site. It is unclear how many of those users saw the post, but the name was easily searchable within various Facebook pages, including right-wing news sites and an individual...

  • Amazon had been considered the front-runner for the contract, partly because it had built cloud services for the Central Intelligence Agency Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 16:31

    Amazon on Thursday said it planned to officially challenge the Pentagon’s surprise decision last month to award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Microsoft, setting off another legal battle over the lucrative, decade-long project.

    Amazon said it had notified a federal court of its plans to protest the government’s decision. In a statement, a spokesman for the company suggested that the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI, was awarded based on political motivations.

    “It’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence,” said Drew Herdener, the Amazon spokesman, in the statement.

    “Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified,” he said.

  • President Trump's scattershot approach to sanctions is beginning to backfire as adversaries and allies look to reduce their exposure to the American financial system Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 16:16

    WASHINGTON — President Trump’s increasing reliance on economic sanctions to solve foreign policy problems is fueling concern that the United States is abusing its financial power and prompting some governments to seek ways to evade American measures.

    In recent months, the United States has increased pressure on Iran and Venezuela, dangled the removal of North Korean sanctions and, in only a few days, imposed, then reversed, sanctions against Turkey.

    Now, American allies and adversaries alike are stepping up efforts to protect themselves in ways that could, over time, erode American power by undermining a key national security tool and diminishing the world’s reliance on the dollar as the global reserve currency.

    In October, Turkey and Russia agreed to a new system for international transactions that would use their local currencies instead of the dollar, which President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said in October is being employed by the Trump administration...

  • Violent confrontations with the Hong Kong police and mass arrests of protesters have eroded faith in the government and the legal system Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 16:01
    Riot police officers chasing protesters in the Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong this month. A city known for stability has changed dramatically in the past few months.Credit...Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times
  • Apple bans apps that promote vaping  Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 15:46

    Apple said on Friday that it would ban vaping apps from its online store, affecting 181 apps in total.

    The prohibition would affect apps that help people find vape stores or flavors, allow them to control their vape pens, or access games, news or social networks that promote vaping.

    “We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps,” Apple said in a statement.

    Apple said health authorities “have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic.”

  • In this week's tech newsletter, we look at uncovering bias in algorithms. Also: the Motorola Razr is back! Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 15:31

    Each week, we review the week’s news, offering analysis about the most important developments in the tech industry.

    Hi, I’m Jamie Condliffe. Greetings from London. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news:

    I’m about to suggest something that sounds controversial: Maybe it’s good that we keep discovering biased algorithms?

    Let’s rewind. A pair of articles this past week revealed that software that is used to make decisions on the behalf of humans appears to do so with gender bias.

    First, it came to light that the algorithm that calculates credit quotas for Apple’s new credit card may give higher limits to men than to women. Goldman Sachs, which issues the card, said its credit decisions were “based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”

  • RT @bencasselman: Fascinating look inside the world of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and the army of low- (often very, very low-) paid workers w…
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 15:21
  • Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo! Viral smash, doo doo doo doo doo doo! I.P. risk doo doo doo doo doo doo, I.P. risk! Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 15:16

    By the time the confetti cannons burst, the toddlers were shouting in ecstasy, their eyes fixed on the superstars onstage. Ten costumed performers were delivering the climax of “Baby Shark Live!” — a 75-minute adaptation of a two-minute music video, and an edge case in translating viral popularity into an enduringly profitable real-world franchise.

    The global premiere took place on a Thursday night in October at South Carolina’s Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, and the crowd was split between very young children and their adult caregivers. Siauna Yeargin of nearby Greenville was there with her daughter, Mireya. “When I wash her hair, she wants me to sing ‘Baby Shark,’” Ms. Yeargin said. “I had her first birthday party — ‘Baby Shark.’ Second birthday party — ‘Baby Shark.’”

    Four years after the song’s release, by a South Korean media company called SmartStudy, the “Baby Shark” conquest of the planet may well have seemed complete. With just 18 words of lyrics, the song...

  • With surveillance equipment becoming cheaper and more popular, checking your hotel room or home to see if you're being monitored isn't so paranoid anymore Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 15:01

    People worry that Big Brother and Big Tech are invading their privacy. But a more immediate concern may be the guy next door or a shifty co-worker.

    A growing array of so-called smart surveillance products have made it easy to secretly live-stream or record what other people are saying or doing. Consumer spending on surveillance cameras in the United States will reach $4 billion in 2023, up from $2.1 billion in 2018, according to the technology market research firm Strategy Analytics. Unit sales of consumer surveillance devices are expected to more than double from last year.

    The problem is all that gear is not necessarily being used to fight burglars or keep an eye on the dog while she’s home alone. Tiny cameras have been found in places where they shouldn’t be, like Airbnb rentals, public bathrooms and gym locker rooms. So often, in fact, that security experts warn that we are in the throes of a “bugging epidemic.”

    It is not paranoid to take precautions. A...

  • Name a tax and there’s a way to reduce it, delay it or not pay it. Financial advisers say a wealth tax will be no different. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 14:46

    One of the signature initiatives of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign is a wealth tax that, she says, would pay for many of the programs she proposes, like government-paid health care and free college tuition. Bernie Sanders, one of her opponents in the Democratic race, has proposed his own version of a wealth tax that would collect, according to estimates, about $4 trillion over a 10-year period, or $500 billion more than Senator Warren’s plan.

    But here’s the big question: Would the proposals, elegant in theory, work in practice?

    Lawyers and advisers to the wealthy say there is no way the wealth taxes would collect anything close to the estimates, and they cite ample evidence of taxes that are reduced or eliminated through extensive and sometimes aggressive strategies.

    “I’m not saying if it’s a good or a bad thing, but it is hard to implement,” said Eugene Pollingue Jr., a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in West Palm Beach, Fla. “It sounds...

  • RT @GregoryNYC: Wealth tax proposals may sound intriguing in theory, but would they work in practice? Not even close, tax experts tell @sul…
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 14:41
  • Climate-change protest movements like Extinction Rebellion have corporations running scared. Nestlé's chief executive is trying to show he's one of the good guys. Link
    NYT Business Fri 15 Nov 2019 14:30

    LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Mark Schneider, the chief executive of the Swiss food giant Nestlé, gripped a bun-clad concoction that looked like a bacon cheeseburger but contained no actual bacon, cheese or beef. He took a bite.

    It was a faux-meat, dairy-free mouthful symbolizing what may be the future of the food industry. It was also a manifestation of how big corporations like Nestlé are responding to increasingly intense pressure to help fight climate change.

    Vegan burgers, Mr. Schneider said, are a response to rising consumer concern about the healthiness of red meat and to criticism that cattle farming is bad for the climate.

    “The reason I like the plant-based so much is this is where the two kind of connect,” he said between bites at Nestlé’s research and development center in Lausanne. “There’s an environmental side to it, and there’s a healthy nutrition side to it.”

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