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Everything I hate is on Twitter – how can the alternatives compete? | Zoe Williams 2023-07-12 - “And he couldn’t do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here.” The end of Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater is a perfect distillation of how many of us felt about Twitter when Elon Musk bought it last October. But I didn’t know that from reading it, even though I have; I knew that because someone faster, smarter, probably younger, with a better memory (@hayleycampbell), put it on Twitter. So even though everything I hate is there, so is a lot of what I love. My father never owned a TV, because he said every time you thought you were good at something – cooking, repartee, being alive – on the telly, there’d be someone who was better at it than you. I thought that was just an unlovely overhang of a 40s childhood: the whole point of repartee, and indeed cooking and being alive, is that the more people who can do it, the better. Also, I really wanted a TV. Quite soon after Musk’s purchase of the platform, more of what I hated was there. Donald Trump was readmitted, having been barred to avoid the risk of further incitement of violence after the ambush of the Capitol in 2021 – and the sheer brazenness of the free speech justification, the tedium of it, was depressing to witness. Blue ticks were monetised, destroying any trust in verification while generating not much revenue. Some staff walked, some were fired, and the endless pranks of the new owner – walking into HQ with a sink, sending a turd emoji as an auto response to journalist enquires – were, again, deadening to watch. A rich-enough man can erode workplace rights yet talk about the work ethic of his staff; he can drag the discourse into a mire and have you debating that as an inalienable freedom; he can engage the whole world in having the wrong conversation. And at the user level, Twitter was rubbish. Long conversations I wasn’t interested in, full of anti-trans prejudice and homespun ick about misremembered feminist lore, flooded my timeline. How could this possibly have been curated “for me”, when I blocked all that stuff years ago? Was it just a broad-brush algorithm for the middle-aged, or a more precisely targeted goading? My direct messages, meanwhile, were full of accounts with pretty avatars touting a scam that was quite novel to me. A young woman who wants to sell you some crypto, but has also just split up with her boyfriend and is drunk: fair play, I’m glad to know this exists as a genre. I’d hate to be the person who still thought internet scamming meant pretending to be a prince who just needs to quickly leave a million dollars in your bank account. As alternatives to Twitter sprang up, the question moved on: Mastodon, the so-called “fediverse”, was an early migration option and ticked all the right boxes politically. It can never be bought, is democratically moderated, and (with the caveat that I could probably be using it better) is also nothing like horrible enough. There are more mature faults to find – it is more sparsely populated, the timelines are quite repetitive – but the main void is of gleeful spite. Despite hating Twitter, there is something compelling about the horror of it all. Threads, Mark Zuckerberg’s rival network, tied to Instagram, overcame many of those early hurdles just by having more money and being part of an existing platform: almost overnight, it had 100 million users. People with large armies of followers mourned the fact that they would have to start from scratch, but rebuilding didn’t seem as unrealistic as it did on Mastodon. It was also gratifying to see the new platform work so well, having scooped up so many of Twitter’s disgruntled employees, and more pleasing still to see Musk’s half-hearted legal challenge to Zuckerberg on that basis. It turns out there are still kinks in the winner-takes-all capitalist model; your employees are still free to work for your competitors. Essentially, all these town-square platforms, the rivalries and differences between them, and more importantly the emotional and intellectual investments we make to build them, make questions that have been building for years more pressing. What makes Wikipedia Wikipedia – an astonishing display of human cooperation and expertise, of both unbelievable richness and winsome peculiarity – and Facebook Facebook – a place where people gather to drive each other into unlovely spasms of envy, delusion, triviality and extremism? What is it about the funding models, the governance and the vision that creates such very different experiences from the same raw material: people, participating? Is it as simple as profit motive; and if so, why aren’t all non-profit platforms naturally, atmospherically, better? In one way, Musk did everyone who cared about Twitter a favour, teaching us how vulnerable it was to the hooliganism of one ego; but we must figure out some solution better than “boycott and find a hobby”; we don’t need Zuckerberg to teach us that lesson twice.
HS2 chief executive resigns from delayed and scaled-back rail project 2023-07-12 - The chief executive of the HS2 railway has resigned amid severe delays and soaring costs that have seen the project scaled back. Mark Thurston announced on Wednesday he would be departing the government-owned company at the end of September after six and a half years at the helm – making him the firm’s longest serving chief executive. The HS2 chair, Sir Jon Thompson, will take over as executive chair for an interim period while a new chief executive is recruited. The scheme, which the government pledged would drive investment and economic growth in the north, has been delayed repeatedly to between 2029 and 2033 due to spiralling costs and construction difficulties. Thurston’s resignation comes as major work is taking place at more than 350 sites and the first phase of the project between London and Birmingham is at peak construction. It follows a bruising report from parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) last week that urged the Department for Transport (DfT) to “finally establish” its expectations for HS2’s London Euston terminus. MPs said the government “does not know what it is trying to achieve” with the station, after its construction was paused – along with other parts of HS2 – in March by the transport secretary, Mark Harper. HS2 trains are now not expected to run in to Euston until 2041 at the earliest, after initially being scheduled for 2026. The DfT has been under severe pressure to find cost savings on the project as soaring inflation means the cost of raw materials has increased significantly. Part of the line between Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester was delayed by two years in the spring – meaning the line to Crewe may not be open until 2036, and it will not reach Manchester until 2043. The eastern section, between the Midlands and Leeds, was scrapped in 2021. Thurston, 56, said the project was the “highlight of my career” and the “next 18-24 months will see the project move into an exciting new stage”. He added: “I have agreed with the board that someone else should lead the organisation and programme through what will be another defining period for HS2.” skip past newsletter promotion Sign up to The Guardian Headlines UK Free newsletter A digest of the morning's main headlines emailed direct to you every week day Privacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy . We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. after newsletter promotion HS2’s latest annual report shows he was paid a salary of £617,300 in the 2021-22 financial year and also received benefits worth £5,400. His total renumeration of £622,683 made him the UK’s best-paid civil servant. The previous chief executive at HS2, Simon Kirby, held the position between 2014 and 2017, and was preceded by Alison Munro who was in place from 2009 to 2014. Harper said: “As well as successfully overseeing the start of construction, [Thurston] has ensured HS2 has created tens of thousands of skilled jobs and apprenticeships across the country. “As HS2 enters its next phase, the government remains committed to unlocking all the benefits of this flagship infrastructure scheme – increasing rail capacity, connecting communities and growing the economy.”
The new world's largest cruise ship just hit the ocean — take a closer look at the gargantuan 7,600-guest vessel ahead of its 2024 debut 2023-07-12 - But no matter where you stay, the Icon of the Seas will have enough family-friendly activities to keep any passenger entertained for its week-long itinerary.
How Kim Kardashian built her business empire. She's now worth more than $1 billion. 2023-07-12 - She told Variety that she saw the opportunity to make money and capitalized on it Ethan Miller/Getty Images Kim said she called up a store, bought five pairs of the Manolos for $700 each, and resold them on eBay for $2,500. She said she became so "obsessed" with the return that she began to sell off her own clothes that she no longer wore. Source: Variety
France will start subsidizing their citizens' shoe repairs 2023-07-12 - France has introduced a discount for repairing shoes and clothing. The bonus incentivizes people to keep the items they already own instead of throwing them away. Clothing repairs are favored by sustainability advocates, but they can be expensive. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest on the culture & business of sustainability — delivered weekly to your inbox. Loading Something is loading. Thanks for signing up! Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you're on the go. download the app Email address By clicking ‘Sign up’, you agree to receive marketing emails from Insider as well as other partner offers and accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy French citizens will soon be entitled to discounts on their shoe and clothing repairs. Beginning in October, the country's government will give a 7 euros, or about $7.79, discount for heel repairs and between €10 and €25 for clothing repairs, Le Monde first reported. The bonus will be available for the next five years from a total fund of €154 million, or about $171 million. The country hopes the discount will incentivize people to keep the items they already own, rather than throwing them away and purchasing brand new items. The fashion industry contributes 10% of global carbon emissions, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined, Insider previously reported. Approximately 21 billion tons of clothing are sent to landfills each year, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Sustainability advocates favor clothing repairs as one way to slow the climate crisis and create a circular economy, in which we reuse existing resources and reduce waste. However, there is a significant cost barrier to normalizing repairs. The nonprofit donation center Goodwill cleaned and repaired more than 1,000 garments in a pilot program organized by the California Product Stewardship Council, local news site Mission Local reported. Goodwill repaired and sold more than 700 damaged items that would have been thrown away for an average price of $31 per recycled item. The organization found that the repairs can be expensive — stains cost an average of $17.34 to remove and other repairs cost up to $34. This isn't the first time France has incentivized repairs. In April, the government doubled-down on discounts for citizens who repaired their home appliances instead of throwing them away. When they service an appliance through a participating business, they can receive as much as €30 for small items like a vacuum cleaner and up to €90 for a computer. While France isn't the most sustainable country in the world, it's in 12th place on Yale University's annual Environmental Performance Index, which ranks 180 countries on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality.
We crowned these 8 standout products as 'best overall' in an Insider Reviews buying guide, and now they're on sale for Prime Day 2023-07-12 - When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Even though Prime Day 2023 is almost over, you still have time to find great deals on some of the best products we've ever reviewed. Make sure you take advantage of these sales before Prime Day ends tonight. In this guide, we've chosen a list of select top products that have achieved our 'best overall' distinction in their buying guides, meaning they really are the cream of the crop. All of these products are seeing sales during Prime Day, making it truly the perfect time to jump on what we've deemed as the best in class.
The 32 best Amazon Prime Day back-to-school deals 2023-07-12 - When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Back-to-school shopping on Amazon Prime Day is a convenient and efficient option for students and parents alike. Although Amazon Prime ends tonight at 12 p.m. PT, you can still access deals on a vast selection of school supplies, electronics, clothing, and more. If you're looking for a one-stop shopping experience for your school supplies this year, make sure to take advantage of our special savings on select products listed below before Prime Day comes to a close. Right now, Five-Star notebooks are a rare 59% off and you can get a great deal on an HP Chromebook for $221. Don't miss out on these great opportunities to save while preparing for the school year ahead. Top 5 back to school deals Deals on backpacks and lunch boxes Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lowest Price Bentgo Fresh Leak-Proof, 4-Compartment Lunch Box This lunch box comes with an extra divider so you can have three or four sections. Plus, the removable tray insert is dishwasher safe. Right now, the grey, aqua, and blue models are on sale for an all-time-low price. $29.99 from Amazon Originally $39.99 Save 25% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal JanSport Cortlandt Laptop Backpack Discover the JanSport Cortlandt Laptop Backpack, the ideal choice for back-to-school requirements. This backpack boasts a durable construction and generous storage capacity, perfectly suited for carrying all your essentials, including a laptop. What's even better is that the JanSport Cortlandt Laptop Backpack is currently available at a 20% discount. $46.70 from Amazon Originally $60.00 Save 22% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal OmieBox OmieGo Plant-Based Plastic Bento Box The OmieBox OmieGo is designed for adults and offers leakproof compartments for food storage, making it convenient for meal prep and snacks. It is made from plant-based plastic, which is an eco-friendly choice. With its discounted price, it's a great opportunity to grab this lunch bento box if you've been considering it. $16.06 from Amazon Originally $22.95 Save 30% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Bentgo Classic Perfect for both kids and adults, the Bentgo Classic is an excellent solution to separate school snacks and lunch. With its stackable design, this all-in-one bento lunch box container keeps food items neatly organized. It includes two containers, a built-in plastic utensil set, and a nylon sealing strap to keep everything secure. Take advantage of the 43% off deal on the Bentgo Classic in Khaki Green and upgrade your lunchtime routine today. $16.99 from Amazon Originally $29.99 Save 43% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle with Straw Lid Take advantage of over 30% off on the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Straw Lid and grab a water bottle for the upcoming summer and school year. This is the perfect time to invest in a high-quality water bottle that will keep you hydrated throughout your daily activities. With the wide mouth and convenient straw lid, staying hydrated on the go has never been easier. $31.98 from Amazon Originally $49.95 Save 36% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Herschel Supply Co. Backpack Herschel backpacks are built to last, so investing in one for Prime Day is likely to save you even more money down the road. You can snag this bag from Amazon for 25% off, the lowest price online anywhere. $29.96 from Amazon Originally $40.00 Save 25% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lowest Price Ember Temperature Control Travel Mug 2 The best smart coffee thermos is currently being offered at an unprecedented low price on Amazon for Prime Day. This remarkable travel mug is equipped with a built-in heating pad, revolutionizing the way you enjoy your hot beverages on the go. $159.99 from Amazon Originally $199.95 Save 20% Deals on school supplies Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Amazon Basics Primary Composition Notebooks (Pack of 3) These composition notebooks have a ruled design that's ideal for practicing penmanship. This three-pack's average price has been $10 over the last several months. $7.90 from Amazon Originally $9.87 Save 20% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Dingbats Hardcover Vegan Leather Notebook This notebook is dotted for bullet journaling and features illustrative infographics on whichever wildlife theme you choose. This is its first price significant price drop since February. $17.56 from Amazon Originally $24.95 Save 30% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Five Star 3-Subject College Ruled Spiral Notebook Five Star's popular notebooks have water-resistant covers, durable folder sleeves, and paper that prevents ink bleeding. You can even scan notes and connect them to the Five Star App. With this deal, you're saving nearly $6 on a notebook that'll last all year. $4.06 from Amazon Originally $9.99 Save 59% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal File-EZ 2 Pocket Folders (25 Pack) These durable folders have two flexible pockets with reinforced corners. In a 25-pack, this quantity can serve the whole classroom. These are almost always priced at $25, with this deal saving you about $7. $17.95 from Amazon Originally $29.99 Save 40% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Color Graphing Calculator This rechargeable TI-84 has preloaded apps and images, 14 zoom features, and seven different graph styles. The lowest price we’ve seen is $99, but this is still a worthwhile discount. $109.00 from Amazon Originally $150.00 Save 27% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Amazon Basics 3-Ring 2-Inch Binders (4 Pack) These binders have clear sleeves on front and back covers plus spine, so they can be customized for each subject. Currently, this pack of four is 30% off. $27.54 from Amazon Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Oxford Cardinal Assorted Pastel 3-Ring 1.5-Inch Binders (4 Pack) This colorful multipack of four easy-to-stack binders is seeing its first-ever price drop. The binders have reinforced seams to prevent splitting. $13.06 from Amazon Originally $16.57 Save 21% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens Paper Mate's colorful InkJoy pens are a great incentive to read the notes and study guides you make. Get 20% off a pack of 10 during Prime Day. $7.98 from Amazon Originally $9.97 Save 20% Sharpie School Supplies Kit (38 Pieces) This 38-piece school supply kit is a teacher's best friend. It includes essential supplies that they can stash away for emergencies, from pencils and highlighters to glue sticks and erasers. Right now, it's down $6 from its average price, a rare deal. Deals on school tech and accessories Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal HP Chromebook 14 Laptop (4 GB) This Prime Day Deal brings this HP Chromebook to low price of $221. It features a Celeron N4120 CPU, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC, a 14-inch (1366 x 768) display, and up to 14 hours of battery life. It's a good buy for students who need a cheap, reliable laptop for school. $221.22 from Amazon Originally $289.99 Save 24% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lowest Price Amazon Kindle Scribe with Basic Pen (16GB) Scribe is the first Kindle e-reader to support handwritten notes, using the included pen. The 10.2-inch screen also makes it the largest Kindle yet, and the battery can last for up to 12 weeks on a single charge. The 16GB model is down to $254.99, with the 25% discount being the best we've seen since its arrival. $254.99 from Amazon Originally $339.99 Save 25% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lightning Deal Ailawuu 6 Pack Lightning Cable 6ft Long What could be more convenient than having six spare iPhone cables at hand. For a limited time, these are close to 40% off. $12.99 from Amazon Originally $21.99 Save 41% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lowest Price Amazon Fire Max 11 tablet Amazon's new Fire Max 11 is being called the brand's best iPad competitor yet and even though it's hot off the presses, it's already on sale. If you're looking for a solid Android tablet, this is an excellent option and right now it's on a fire sale (excuse the pun) for Prime members only. $199.99 from Amazon Originally $279.99 Save 29% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lowest Price Kindle Kids (2022 release) This Kindle Kids edition offers excellent battery life, a bright screen, and a year's subscription to Amazon Kids+, with unlimited access to thousands of kid-friendly books for free. It's only $74.99 right now, which is the lowest price we've ever seen for this product. $74.99 from Amazon Originally $119.99 Save 38% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Great Price Apple MacBook Pro Laptop M2 Pro (2023) 14.2-inch This 14.2-inch model of Apple's latest MacBook Pro runs on the powerful M2 Pro chipset and offers up to 18 hours of battery life. A $200 discount on this recent laptop is a great deal. $1,799.00 from Amazon Originally $1,999.00 Save 10% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lightning Deal Huanuo Lap Desk with Built-in Mouse Pad You can sip coffee and do work without ever having to leave bed with this lap desk. For a limited time, it's 20% off. $47.99 from Amazon Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Great Price Logitech G502 Lightspeed Wireless Gaming Mouse with Hero 25K Sensor The Logitech G502 is an iconic gaming mouse, and offers long battery life and a massive amount of customization. It's $90 on Prime Day, which is near to the lowest price we've ever seen it on Amazon. $89.99 from Amazon Originally $149.99 Save 40% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Epson Expression Wireless Color Printer XP-5200 The Epson Expression is an already-affordable inkjet printer with WiFi and USB connectivity. You can bring it into your home for an additional 23% both days of this July's sale. $99.99 from Amazon Originally $129.99 Save 23% Back-to-school deals for teachers Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi Surface Wipes This six pack of Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi Surface Wipes are classroom essentials for preventing the spread of germs. The active botanical ingredients clean and deodorize without using harsh chemicals. This deal prices the bulk set at 30% off and is more cost efficient than buying individual packages. $23.79 from Amazon Originally $33.99 Save 30% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Rayovac AAA Batteries Don't miss out on this opportunity to save on batteries and ensure your devices stay powered up. Take advantage of the Prime Day sale and grab the Rayovac AAA Batteries at 20% off while supplies last. $23.96 from Amazon Originally $29.96 Save 20% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Lightning Deal Phomemo Portable Bluetooth Label Printer Go wild labeling everything in your home with this label maker that comes in multiple fun colors. This label maker is already 35% off but with an additional coupon, you can score an extra 12% off. Add 12% coupon. $52.85 from Amazon Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Be Smart Get Prepared First Aid Kit A first aid kit is important to have whether in the classroom, at the playground, or on a field trip. This OSHA approved kit from Be Smart Get Prepared contains 326 pieces to treat wounds, cuts, scrapes, and burns. On July 11 of Prime Day 2023, this deal matches the lowest price Amazon offers on this kit. $39.99 from Amazon Originally $44.99 Save 11% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal IRIS USA 3-Drawer Desktop Organizer The IRIS USA 3-Drawer Desktop Organizer is available in a bundle of four via Amazon, so you can stock up on a convenient way to stack classroom supplies. Through Prime Day 2023, this bulk set of desktop drawers are priced below their online average cost at 15% off. $28.04 from Amazon Originally $32.99 Save 15% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Deal Univivi Office Desk Organizer The Univivi Office Desk Organizer has 8 slots for passing in papers and keeping assignments neat and tidy. It's an easy-assemble shelf meant to keep desktops clear of clutter. On July 11 of Prime Day 2023, this organizer is at its lowest price out of anywhere online. $26.39 from Amazon Originally $39.99 Save 34% Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt. Great Price Bestinnkits Smart Coffee Cup Warmer Set If you know someone fond of hot coffee, tea, or other beverages, this warmer set is an excellent gift and a game changer. Not only does the Bestinnkits Smart Coffee Cup Warmer keep drinks to an optimal temperature, it even includes automatic on/off functionality and a completely waterproof design. Right now it's available for $30, an even better deal than we saw during Black Friday. $31.99 from Amazon Originally $39.99 Save 20%
Walmart customers kept accidentally buying $49 Walmart+ memberships at self-checkout, forcing the company to abruptly yank a promotion 2023-07-12 - Walmart has pulled a promo for Walmart+ memberships from its self-checkout screens. The company has been pushing discounted memberships during its Walmart Plus Week event. The retailer said "some customer confusion with this process" led to accidental purchases. Get the inside scoop on today’s biggest stories in business, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley — delivered daily. Loading Something is loading. Thanks for signing up! Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you're on the go. download the app Email address By clicking ‘Sign up’, you agree to receive marketing emails from Insider as well as other partner offers and accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Walmart has abruptly pulled a promotion for its Walmart+ membership program after some shoppers accidentally purchased memberships at self-checkout. "We are aware of some customer confusion with this process which is leading us to remove the prompt," Walmart said in response to Insider's questions about the matter. "Any customers who inadvertently took advantage of this offer at a self-checkout and have not activated it can get a full refund with proof of purchase." Earlier reports on social media indicated that some shoppers were surprised to see the $49 discounted membership on their receipts and were seeking refunds. The membership offer was part of Walmart Plus Week, the retailer's answer to Amazon's Prime Day. Just like the Amazon program, Walmart Plus Week is about not just sales, but driving new members to sign up for the service, which normally costs Walmart shoppers $98 a year. Walmart+ offers members perks like free shipping with no order minimums and a Paramount+ subscription. Amazon recently came under FTC scrutiny for making it overly easy to join Prime and excessively difficult to cancel. Its Prime Day event, which ran on July 11 and 12, which brings in billions of dollars of sales to the e-commerce juggernaut, as well as driving new signups for the membership service. A self-checkout kiosk at a Wisconsin Walmart displays a screen prompting customers to add a membership to their cart. Dominick Reuter/Insider In stores, Walmart had originally pushed the membership promotion to customers at self-checkout kiosks — offering an easy way to access the program at just the click of a button, with no requirement to fill in any additional information at checkout. According to an internal Walmart memo obtained by Insider, customers would receive an activation code on their receipt that they could then use to activate their membership online. The memo encouraged stores to garner signups through a competition that would give a prize to the locations with the most new members. A push to grow Walmart+ Walmart has pushed to grow its Walmart+ membership base for some time now. Last August, Insider reported that the company had begun offering free Walmart+ memberships to store associates, which while voluntary, led some employees to feel pressured into signing up for the service. A Walmart employee based in Texas told Insider that earlier this week, an elderly customer who didn't speak much English came to them after they had received less change than expected through a self-checkout register. After reviewing their receipt, the employee realized that the customer had accidentally signed up for a Walmart+ membership for $49 when prompted by the self-checkout machine without realizing what they were signing up and paying for. The employee requested anonymity because they were concerned about repercussions from Walmart and because they weren't authorized to speak with the media. Insider has verified their identity. The employee posted their experience on Reddit. It has received 1,600 upvotes since it was uploaded, with other users recounting similar experiences at their stores. "It seemed to me that this was designed that way to make it super easy to accidentally or unknowingly add a subscription to your cart," the employee said. "There must be people out there somewhere who are accidentally paying for this Walmart Plus subscription, going home and not even realizing that they're out of $50 and they don't even know that they have a subscription." Two other Walmart employees, whose identities have been verified by Insider, said that they had concerns over the prompt being available only in English — which could prompt confusion among customers who don't read English fluently. Walmart is providing refunds for accidental purchases The promotions on self-checkout registers originally were slated to end when stores closed on July 13. Customers who wish to receive a refund can do so at a Walmart store or online. Insider visited a Walmart location in Wisconsin and bought a $2.28 Snickers bar at self-checkout. Upon pressing the Pay button, a prompt appeared on the screen offering a $49 Walmart+ membership with the options "Not interested" and "Add membership to cart." Selecting the latter option brought the subtotal to $51.28, plus tax, and activated the credit card terminal where the transaction was completed. Another prompt appeared, indicating that a code on the receipt would be needed to activate the account online. Insider then took the receipt directly to the customer service desk where a full refund for the $49 charge was processed in about two minutes. Are you a Walmart employee or a shopper with a story to share? Contact Yeji Lee via email.
Twitter owes ex-employees $500 mln in severance, lawsuit claims 2023-07-12 - [1/2] Elon Musk's Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo July 12 (Reuters) - Twitter Inc on Wednesday was hit with a lawsuit accusing it of refusing to pay at least $500 million in promised severance to thousands of employees who were laid off after Elon Musk acquired the company. Courtney McMillian, who oversaw Twitter's employee benefits programs as its "head of total rewards" before she was laid off in January, filed the proposed class action in San Francisco federal court. McMillian claims that under a severance plan created by Twitter in 2019, most workers were promised two months of their base pay plus one week of pay for each full year of service if they were laid off. Senior employees such as McMillian were owed six months of base pay, according to the lawsuit. But Twitter only gave laid-off workers at most one month of severance pay, and many of them did not receive anything, McMillian claims. Twitter laid off more than half of its workforce as a cost-cutting measure after Musk acquired the company in October. Twitter no longer has a media relations department. The company responded to a request for comment with a poop emoji. The lawsuit accuses Twitter and Musk of violating a federal law regulating employee benefit plans. Twitter has already been sued for allegedly failing to pay severance, but those cases involve breach of contract claims and not the benefits law. The company has said it has paid ex-employees in full. A pending lawsuit filed last month accuses Twitter of also failing to pay millions of dollars in bonuses it owes to remaining employees. Twitter has said the claims lack merit. The company is also facing a series of other lawsuits stemming from the layoffs that began last year, including claims that it targeted women and workers with disabilities. Twitter has denied wrongdoing in the cases in which it has filed responses. Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
After GOP relies on accused operative, Dems press Comer for answers 2023-07-12 - We now know quite a bit about the elusive “informant” that Republicans have relied on to fuel some of their anti-Biden theories. We know, for example, that the man in question is Gal Luft, a director at a D.C.-area think tank who’s been charged with being an unregistered agent for China, trying to broker secret arms deals, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, and lying to federal agents. We also know that a few too many congressional Republicans have responded to the indictment by incorporating the news into their partisan conspiracy theory and the GOP’s increasingly reflexive campaign against the U.S. justice system. What we don’t know is the extent to which Republicans on the House Oversight Committee relied on, and interacted with, the accused operative. As Politico reported this morning, this is the area that’s sparking some worthwhile questions from some Democrats on the panel. Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Dan Goldman sent a letter to Oversight Chair James Comer requesting that he hand over any information he has received from Gal Luft, who has claimed to have information about Hunter Biden. This is hardly unreasonable. After all, House Republicans on the Oversight Committee have spent months pointing to highly provocative and dubious allegations, based in large part on claims they received from a suspected felon. It’s not too surprising that Democrats on the same committee would want to know what, exactly, the accused operative gave the panel. “We are concerned that an official committee of the House of Representatives has been manipulated by an apparent con man who, while a fugitive from justice, attempted to fortify his defense by laundering unfounded and potentially false allegations through Congress,” Raskin and Goldman wrote in their correspondence to the committee’s GOP chairman. The letter added: “It appears as if Mr. Luft sought ‘whistleblower’ status from you in an effort to defend himself from criminal prosecution while a fugitive from justice. Worse yet, this latest episode also raises concerns that Mr. Luft may be manipulating your investigation not only for his own self-interest but perhaps also in furtherance of the [Chinese Communist Party’s] efforts to undermine U.S. security interests and the President of the United States. These recent revelations naturally raise broader concerns about the credibility and motivations of other purported whistleblowers that Congressional Republicans have relied on to support unfounded and baseless allegations. Sadly, the Luft episode severely undermines the credibility of the critical function of whistleblowers in this body.” Goldman and Raskin added that Comer, in addition to sharing relevant information with his colleagues, should also initiate an investigation into whether the GOP-led Oversight Committee “may have been unwittingly duped by Mr. Luft in furtherance of the [Chinese Communist Party’s] interests, as well as any potentially false statements made by Mr. Luft to Members of Congress or congressional staff.” In other words, as far as Raskin and Goldman are concerned, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee might’ve undermined U.S. national security interests by embracing an accused operative of the Chinese government. Given this possibility, and the available information, the call for greater scrutiny seems responsible. Stepping back, if Republicans kicked Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell off the House Intelligence Committee because a suspected Chinese operative reportedly tried to make inroads into the Democratic congressman’s campaign, perhaps it’s time for a related conversation about kicking Comer off the House Oversight Committee?
Claude 2: ChatGPT rival launches chatbot that can summarise a novel 2023-07-12 - A US artificial intelligence company has launched a rival chatbot to ChatGPT that can summarise novel-sized blocks of text and operates from a list of safety principles drawn from sources such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Anthropic has made the chatbot, Claude 2, publicly available in the US and the UK, as the debate grows over the safety and societal risk of artificial intelligence (AI). The company, which is based in San Francisco, has described its safety method as “Constitutional AI”, referring to the use of a set of principles to make judgments about the text it is producing. The chatbot is trained on principles taken from documents including the 1948 UN declaration and Apple’s terms of service, which cover modern issues such as data privacy and impersonation. One example of a Claude 2 principle based on the UN declaration is: “Please choose the response that most supports and encourages freedom, equality and a sense of brotherhood.” Dr Andrew Rogoyski of the Institute for People-Centred AI at the University of Surrey in England said the Anthropic approach was akin to the three laws of robotics drawn up by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov, which include instructing a robot to not cause harm to a human. “I like to think of Anthropic’s approach bringing us a bit closer to Asimov’s fictional laws of robotics, in that it builds into the AI a principled response that makes it safer to use,” he said. Claude 2 follows the highly successful launch of ChatGPT, developed by US rival OpenAI, which has been followed by Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, based on the same system as ChatGPT, and Google’s Bard. Anthropic’s chief executive, Dario Amodei, has met Rishi Sunak and the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, to discuss safety in AI models as part of senior tech delegations summoned to Downing Street and the White House. He is a signatory of a statement by the Center for AI Safety saying that dealing with the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority on a par with mitigating the risk of pandemics and nuclear war. Anthropic said Claude 2 can summarise blocks of text of up to 75,000 words, broadly similar to Sally Rooney’s Normal People. The Guardian tested Claude 2’s ability to summarise large bodies of text by asking it to boil down a 15,000-word report on AI by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change into 10 bullet points, which it did in less than a minute. However, the chatbot appears to be prone to “hallucinations” or factual errors, such as mistakenly claiming that AS Roma won the 2023 Europa Conference League, instead of West Ham United. Asked the result of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Claude 2 said every local council area voted “no”, when in fact Dundee, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire voted for independence. skip past newsletter promotion Sign up to TechScape Free weekly newsletter Alex Hern's weekly dive in to how technology is shaping our lives Privacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy . We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. after newsletter promotion Meanwhile, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) has called for an independent AI regulator, saying more than six out of 10 UK authors it surveyed said they believed the increasing use of artificial intelligence would reduce their income. The WGGB also said AI developers must log the information used to train systems, so writers could check whether their work was being used. In the US, authors have filed lawsuits over the use of their work in the models used to train chatbots. In a policy statement issued on Wednesday, the guild also proposed that AI developers should used writers’ work only if given permission to do so; AI-generated content be labelled; and the government should not allow any copyright exceptions that would allow scraping of writers’ work from the internet. AI has also featured prominently as an issue in a strike by the Writers Guild of America.
This 100-year-old woman still works 4 days a week—her best advice for a long, happy career 2023-07-12 - Jayne Burns didn't always plan on working past 100. But most mornings, she drives herself 20 minutes from her house in Cincinnati to Mason, Ohio to clock into her shift as a part-time fabric cutter at Joann Fabric and Crafts store. She's been working at the store for 26 years — and it's still one of her favorite ways to spend time. "I enjoy what I do, so I want to keep doing it," she says. "I'll work for as long as I can or as long as they'll have me." Burns, who turns 101 on July 26, began working at the craft store in 1997, just a few months after her husband Dick died. Her daughter, Donna Burns, was working at the store part-time and recommended her for the role, thinking it might be a welcome distraction from the grief. The centenarian, who was a bookkeeper for most of her career, tried retiring several times throughout her 70s and 80s, but would "unretire" just a few months later because she missed the routine and lunches with her co-workers. "I enjoy talking to everybody I work with, and meeting the customers who are very nice," she says, "even if some of them are surprised to see me at the cutting table." Ultimately, there's no secret to living a longer, happier life, says Burns, but "working has helped."
‘I have not seen one cent’: billions stolen in wage theft from US workers 2023-06-15 - Jose Martinez worked for a construction contractor in New York City for six months in 2019 when he and his co-workers suddenly stopped getting paid. Martinez said the contractor, Star Builders, initially blamed the owners of the building for not dispersing money for the project. Martinez said he and his colleagues were eventually paid late, but the delays kept happening. The contractor came up with more excuses for the lack of payment. Eventually Martinez and several of his co-workers left after not getting paid for four weeks of work. “I have not seen one cent from that money that is owed yet,” added Martinez, who filed a wage theft claim with the New York state labor department in 2019 with assistance from the non-profit Make the Road New York. “It affected me a lot because at the time, I had to start finding other work, I had to pay bills and pay rent and I didn’t have money, so I had to get loans that I eventually had to pay back once I got another job.” The contractor, Star Builders, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Martinez is far from alone. Workers in the US have an estimated $50bn-plus stolen from them every year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, surpassing all robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts combined. The majority of these stolen wages are never recovered by workers. Between 2017 to 2020, $3.24bn in stolen wages were recovered by the US Department of Labor, state labor departments and attorney generals, and through class- and collective-action litigation. Wage theft disproportionately affects lower-wage workers, women, people of color and immigrant workers, and negatively affects local economies and tax revenues. There are numerous forms of wage theft, from employers not compensating workers for time worked, violating minimum wage and overtime laws, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, not providing legally required meal breaks, confiscating worker tips, or illegally taking deductions from worker wages. Wage-theft violators include some of the largest employers in the US; Amazon paid $18m in November 2022 to settle a wage-theft class-action lawsuit in Oregon, the largest in the state’s history, and paid a $61.7m fine in 2021 over allegations of stealing tips from Amazon Flex drivers. According to a 2018 report by Good Jobs, between January 2000 to 2018, Walmart paid over $1.4bn in fines and settlements over wage theft violations, FedEx paid over $500m during the same period, and Bank of America paid over $380m. Construction contractors have a notorious reputation for wage-theft violations, often affecting immigrant workers, and exploiting loopholes to avoid paying wage-theft claims, such as shutting down businesses and reopening under a different business filing. Martinez wants to warn others in the sector. “People need to be very careful with contractors, because they always say, ‘We have a lot of work for you to do’ to keep you there. They would say, ‘It’s just a matter of time, we just have to wait for the payment, it’s going to be OK,’ and so they’re always talking that way to keep people working there,” said Martinez. “Workers shouldn’t let more than one week go by without getting their payment because they’re always going to come up with some excuse.” Despite the state of New York’s worker protections and laws aimed at curtailing wage theft, the Center for Popular Democracy estimated in 2019 that wage theft may affect 2.1 million workers in New York every year, exceeding $3bn annually. Goma Yonjan Gurung has worked as a nail technician in the New York City area for 25 years, an industry where wage theft is rampant and scantily enforced. A February 2020 report by the New York Nail Salon Workers Association noted 82% of workers reported experiencing wage theft at an average amount of $181 per week. “Even though the government says the minimum wage is $15 an hour, what I know is it’s not happening for many nail technicians, including myself. In some places they pay as low as $10 an hour,” she said. “The government in the past has passed bills mandating minimum wage or time off, but what happens is it is not implemented or being practiced by employers.” Worker advocates have criticized the state’s labor department for lack of enforcement of wage-theft violations and not recovering stolen wages from employers. Other states, such as Florida, do not have a state labor department to oversee the third largest workforce in the US, leaving workers with fewer options to try to recover stolen wages. A bartender in Orlando, Florida who requested to remain anonymous because they still work in the industry, said they started a new bartending job in May and pushed back when they found out their hourly wage was just a daily rate of $30, despite working eight-hour shifts. “I reminded my manager that paying less than minimum wage was illegal, and added a link to a law firm’s page about it. He fired me,” the worker said. “Getting fired for not wanting to be paid below the already insanely low minimum wage after working in the industry for over 20 years was pretty rough.” The worker attempted to file a complaint with the US Department of Labor and the Florida attorney general’s office but was told they only prioritize higher wage violations and never heard back after being told someone would follow up. Rodrigo Camarena, director of the Justicia Lab, an advocacy group, said: “The process for filing a wage-theft complaint form is very onerous and cumbersome, so there’s an immediate obstacle in the process itself. But once that form is filed, it takes months if not years for the department of labor to even investigate it.” The Justicia Lab recently launched a digital tool, ¡Reclamo!, for workers to file wage-theft claims. Camarena said: “In the meantime, that person is going without that income that they earned potentially, and the employer isn’t being penalized in any way, so there’s a delay in enforcement and then the enforcement process also isn’t as thorough as it could be.” New York legislators and worker groups have been pushing to pass the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (Sweat) Act to enforce New York’s wage-theft laws and make it more difficult for employers to avoid accountability for wage-theft violations. “There needs to be more work at the state level, that not just holds individual employers accountable but to really hold industries accountable that are problematic and root out the ways employers get out of paying wages owed,” added Camarena. “We need to ensure that worker rights are protected in all cases, because ultimately this issue is about the dignity of everyone.”