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8 ways to fix iMessage if it's not working on your iPhone

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 5:06pm
There are many common fixes if iMessage isn't working.
  • iMessages are texts, photos, and videos sent between Apple devices using Wi-Fi or cellular data.
  • When iMessages are working properly, texts appear in a blue bubble.
  • You can troubleshoot iMessage issues by toggling your Wi-Fi, cellular, and iMessage on and off.

Color means a lot, especially when it comes to the text messages on your iPhone. When you send a text using iMessage, it appears in a blue bubble.

If all of your texts are in green bubbles, that either means you are only texting with Android users — as Android doesn't support iMessage — or your phone's iMessage feature simply isn't working. 

Here's how to troubleshoot iMessage and get it working.

What is iMessage?

iMessages are texts, photos, and video messages that are sent between iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, or Macs using Wi-Fi or a cellular network. iMessages are encrypted and have a signature blue color.

What to do if iMessage is not working

If iMessage isn't working properly for you, you're losing out on a couple of key advantages that iMessage has over ordinary SMS text messaging.

iMessages are sent and received as ordinary internet data, so they don't count against your cellular text plan. They're also encrypted from end to end, synchronize across all your Apple devices, and let you see when the other person is typing.

All of these features only work with other iPhone users. But if that's not working — and your messages appear in green bubbles with other Apple users — it's time to troubleshoot.

Quick tip: Check out our guide on how to fix iMessage if your messages aren't being delivered.

Check if iMessage is down

There's a chance that iMessage is down on Apple's end. To check this, visit Apple's System Status page. Here, you can check to see if services like iMessage, FaceTime, and more are having known technical issues.

If you're having trouble with iMessage or other Apple apps, check this site.Make sure you have a working internet connection

Anytime you're not sure if an internet service is working properly, it's a good idea to double-check your connection. In principle, iMessage should default to cellular if your Wi-Fi isn't working, but it's always possible something went awry.

Quick tip: Check out our guide on how to fix an iPhone that keeps disconnecting from WiFi.

1. Start the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi.

2. Turn Wi-Fi off by swiping the button to the left, wait a moment, and turn it back on with a swipe to the right.

Turning your Wi-Fi off and on might help with connectivity issues.

3. Go back to the main Settings page, then tap Cellular.

4. Turn your cellular data off by swiping the button to the left, wait a moment, and turn it back on with a swipe to the right.

Quick tip: You can see how much cellular data you've used on this page. Make sure that you have sufficient data to send iMessages when Wi-Fi is turned off.

5. Make sure you see both Wi-Fi and cellular symbols at the top of your iPhone screen.

You need a Wi-Fi connection or cellular data to send and receive iMessages.Figure out whether the problem is on your end or someone else's

Keep in mind that an iMessage failure can be caused by a problem with your iPhone — or with the person you're exchanging messages with. 

Is iMessage failing with only one iPhone user or with every iPhone user you text with? If necessary, send a short text message to several people and see whether the problem is limited to one person or to everyone.

Make sure iMessage is set up for your iPhone

It's possible that iMessage is misconfigured, and your phone is not on the list of devices that can use iMessage. 

1. Start the Settings app and tap Messages

2. Tap Send & Receive

You can send and receive iMessages from your phone number and email addresses.

3. Make sure your iPhone's phone number is selected in both sections of the page, but especially Start New Conversations From.

Quick tip: You should also make sure iMessage is enabled on all your other Apple devices. 

Restart iMessage

If all your settings are correct, toggling the entire iMessage service off and back on again might solve the problem.

1. Start the Settings app and tap Messages

2. Turn iMessage off by swiping the button to the left.

Similar to Wi-Fi and Cellular, restarting iMessage may resolve your issue.

3. Restart your iPhone, then turn it on again.

4. Go back to the Settings app, tap Messages, and turn iMessage back on by swiping the button to the right. 

5. If that doesn't fix your issue, sign out of your Apple ID, then sign back in.

Quick tip: To keep your phone from getting too cluttered, delete old iPhone messages.

Make sure your software is up to date

Whether it's iMessages or your phone is acting up in some other way, it's a good idea to ensure your iPhone is running the most up-to-date version of iOS.

Software updates can be a pain when you need to use your phone, but they often come with bug fixes.Reset your network settings

On rare occasions, your phone's network settings can get scrambled, which can interfere with iMessage and potentially other online services. 

As a last resort, you can toggle network settings off and back on again, beware this will erase your saved Wi-Fi networks and passwords, so you'll need to enter them again. 

1. Open the Settings app and tap General.

2. Tap Transfer or Reset iPhone

3. Tap Reset.

If you decide to go this route, make sure to back up your iPhone before the reset.

4. In the pop-up window, tap Reset Network Settings and confirm you want to do this.

Contact Apple Support

When all else fails, it's time to check in with the geniuses. Check out our help article for more information on how to contact Apple Support.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Netflix co-CEO calls Elon Musk the 'bravest, most creative person on the planet,' says people should 'give the guy a break'

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 5:01pm
Elon Musk; Reed Hastings
  • Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings called Elon Musk "the bravest, most creative person on the planet."
  • He added that their styles are different, but that Musk is "trying to help the world" by buying Twitter.
  • "He just spent all this money to try to make [Twitter] much better for democracy and society."

Netflix cofounder and co-CEO Reed Hastings seems to be a fan of Elon Musk, the world's richest man who recently bought Twitter.

During Wednesday's DealBook Summit, Hastings noted he and Musk have different styles: He is trying to be a "steady, respectable leader," while Musk is "out there," he said.

While Hastings isn't quite as active in the public eye, and he certainly tweets less often than Musk, he said that he was "excited" about Musk's Twitter takeover.

He added that Musk "the bravest, most creative person on the planet." To which Musk responded, "Wow, thank you for the kind words."

—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 30, 2022


Musk, on the other hand, had less-than-kind words for Netflix earlier this year. After the streaming giant reported it lost subscribers in the first quarter of the year, Musk tweeted: "The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable."

If he saw the tweet, it doesn't seem that Hastings took Musk's comment to heart.

Hastings said he is "100% convinced that he is trying to help the world in all of his endeavors," including buying Twitter.

"He's trying to help the world on that front because he believes in free speech and its power for democracy," Hastings said, but added "how he goes about it is not how I would do it."

Still, Hastings said that people are being too "nit picky" about the changes Musk is making to Twitter, urging people to "give the guy a break."

"He just spent all this money to try to make [Twitter] much better for democracy and society, to have a more open platform, and I am sympathetic to that agenda," Hastings said.

Musk has caused a stir with his changes since buying Twitter. Earlier this month, he rolled back Twitter's Covid misinformation policy.

He's also started to implement an $8 subscription fee for users to get blue checkmarks, which have, in the past, typically designated the accounts of public figures or institutions.

Critics say putting a price on the verification, essentially allowing anyone to have the check as long as they pay the monthly charge, could lead to the spread of misinformation.

The monthly fee is part of the new Twitter Blue subscription, which Musk has delayed multiple times to address impersonation issues. 

Musk, who styles himself as a "free speech absolutist," has called the new blue-check system "the great leveler."

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to make your AirPods louder or fix other volume-related issues

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 5:00pm
  • You can make your AirPods louder by using your iPhone or the built-in Siri feature on your AirPods.
  • If your AirPods aren't loud enough, try cleaning them or calibrating them with your iPhone.
  • The new over-ear AirPods Max have a Digital Crown to turn the volume up or down.

Apple's AirPods helped launch a thousand imitators — there are now countless wireless earbuds available for both iPhone and Android devices.

It's not hard to see why; there's something incredibly liberating about earbuds that have no wires, buttons or other controls. But how do you control the volume?

Quick tip: Check out our complete guide for how to use your AirPods

How to change the volume on your AirPods

You can make your AirPods volume louder using the volume slider or with Siri. 

Using the volume slider

The easiest way to change the volume of your AirPods is by dragging the volume slider in the app you're using, on your Lock Screen, or in the Control Center. You can also use the Digital Crown on your Apple Watch to change the volume on the Now Playing screen. As always, the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone will also work.

When AirPods are connected, the AirPods icon replaces the general sound icon when you change the volume.

Quick tip: If you have the 2nd generation AirPods Pro, you can adjust the volume using the actual AirPods. To change the volume, place your thumb on the stem of one of the AirPods and use your index finger to swipe up or down the Touch control — a flat surface along the stem.

Using Siri

If you have first generation AirPods, double tap either earbud to wake Siri and ask Siri to adjust the volume.

If you have second generation AirPods or later (this includes the AirPods Pro), and you've set up the "Hey Siri" function on your iPhone, say "Hey Siri" and ask Siri to adjust the volume.

On the AirPods Pro, you can set one AirPod to activate Siri, and then ask to adjust the volume.

You can ask Siri to turn up the volume for you.

You can tell Siri to "increase volume," which increases the volume in approximately 12% increments. You can also tell Siri to increase the volume by a specific percentage, or to a specific percentage like, "Hey Siri, raise volume by 20%," or "Hey Siri, raise the volume to 80%."

Quick tip: Be careful when telling Siri to raise the volume to a specific percentage, as the volume can get uncomfortably loud all at once.

What to do if your AirPods aren't loud enough

If your AirPods aren't as loud as you think they should be, there are some tricks you can try to coax additional volume out of them — this is especially true if they were once louder, but more recently, it seems like they have gotten quieter.

Clean your AirPods

Human ears are waxy, and anything you tend to frequently put in your ears, like earbuds, inevitably accumulate earwax. It doesn't take much wax to noticeably reduce the maximum volume of your AirPods.

When you clean your AirPods, it's important to refrain from using anything wet or damp — never get the mesh speakers wet. Keep sharp objects out of the speaker, toothpicks have been known to damage the mesh.

Instead, use a dry cotton swab or a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove any wax or debris from the speaker mesh.

Calibrate your AirPods with your iPhone

It's possible that your AirPods and iPhone need calibrating — the two devices might have different understandings of what "full volume" means and the AirPods stop using the full range of audio available. That may sound complicated, but it's actually quite easy to fix.

1. Put your AirPods in your ears and start playing music.

2. Using the volume buttons on your iPhone, turn the iPhone's volume all the way down. You shouldn't hear anything from your AirPods now.

3. Swipe down from the top-right of your iPhone to display the Control Center and tap the Bluetooth icon to disable Bluetooth. This will disconnect your AirPods from your iPhone. Leave your AirPods in your ears.

4. Start playing music again, this time through your iPhone's own speakers. Using your iPhone's volume buttons, turn the volume all the way down.

5. Reconnect your AirPods by opening the Control Center and taping the Bluetooth icon. You might also need to open the Settings app, tap Bluetooth, then tap AirPods to reconnect them.

When your AirPods are connected, you'll see a small message at the top of your screen.

6. Play music and adjust the volume as needed.

Check the Music app's sound settings

If your AirPods are too quiet when listening to music using the Music app, its settings might be misconfigured. You can fix that with just a couple of taps.

1. Open the Settings app and select Music.

2. Make sure that EQ is set to Off. If it's turned on, tap EQ and then tap Off.

Different equalizer options change how much base, treble, and vocals you hear.Make sure the both ears are the same volume

If one ear consistently sounds louder than the other, an accessibility setting on the iPhone might be suppressing the volume in one ear. Here's how to check it on your iPhone with iOS 13 or later:

1. Open the Settings app, then select Accessibility.

2. In the Hearing section, tap Audio/Visual.

3. Make sure that the left/right slider in the Balance section has the button in the middle. If it's leaning more to the right or left, slide it back to the center.

Ensure the slider is at the center so that you get the same amount of sound from both AirPods.Disable Low Power Mode

Disabling low power mode can make your AirPods louder. Here's how to do it:

1. Open the Settings app, then select Battery.

2. Tap the toggle next to Low Power Mode to turn it off.

If your AirPods aren't as loud as they should be, it might be a battery power issue.

Quick tip: If you're having issues with your AirPods, it's also worth checking to make sure they're updated.

Make sure your AirPods fit correctly

A proper fit will help ensure you get the best sound quality and noise cancellation, so it's worth making sure you're using the best-sized ear tips for your ears. The AirPods Pro come with small, medium, and large ear tips — plus extra small for 2nd generation AirPods Pro. 

AirPods Pro come with the medium earbuds by default. Put them in your ears, and if you can't get a good seal try switching to a larger tip. If it feels too large or uncomfortable, try a smaller tip. If you're still unsure, try the Ear Tip Fit Test:

1. Put your AirPods in your ears.

2. Ensure your AirPods are connected to your device via Bluetooth.

3. Open the Settings app, then select Bluetooth.

4. Tap the More Info button next to your AirPods.

You'll need to connect your AirPods with your iPhone before you can begin the Ear Tip Fit Test.

5. Tap Ear Tip Fit Test.

6. Tap Continue, then the play button.

Once you get your results, you can adjust your AirPods in your ear or try another ear tip size.

Quick tip: To get the best fit, you might need to use different sizes in each ear.

AirPods Max volume control

While the original AirPods and AirPods Pro don't have volume control built-in, the AirPods Max — Apple's over-ear headphones — do. A Digital Crown (like the one on an Apple Watch) lets you control the volume, skip between tracks, answer phone calls, and activate Siri.

Read our AirPods Max review for more information. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to contact Instagram support for help with your account

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:58pm
  • You can contact Instagram support via their online Help Center, or by reporting a post directly.
  • If you shake your phone while using Instagram, a pop-up will appear that lets you report bugs.
  • Instagram has a phone number, but you won't be able to talk to anyone there.

With more than one billion active users every month, it's easy to see how Instagram's customer service team might get overwhelmed. 

Unfortunately for users, this makes it so there's no way to speak with a live customer service representative from Instagram –– even if the issue is urgent, like your account getting hacked. Instead, you'll have to use one of the automated methods.

You can open Instagram's Help Center to read troubleshooting guides that might help with your issue. And if you're trying to report a problem, you can shake your phone or open a post's options.

Quick tip: Check out our guide on how to report posts, profiles, and comments on Instagram.

How to get Instagram support through the Help Center

Instagram's Help Center is a robust support tool that offers step-by-step guides and troubleshooting tips for most common Instagram problems. There's nobody to talk to there, but the guides are written by real people.

Access help on desktop

You can find the Help Center on your computer by heading directly to their website. Here, you can click on one of the suggested topics or use the search bar to locate articles relating to your issue. 

Alternatively, you can follow the steps below.

1. Go to Instagram's website. Click the Help button underneath account recommendations on the right side.

This is a simple way to access the Help page when you don't have the exact URL handy.

Quick tip: If you want to report an issue on Instagram, go to your profile page, then click Settings > Report a problem.

Access help on mobile

1. Open the Instagram app on your iPhone or Android device and tap your profile picture in the bottom-right corner.

2. Tap the three stacked lines in the top-right corner, then select Settings.

You can also access the Help Center via the Instagram app.

3. Tap Help near the bottom of the page, then tap Help Center.

Clicking Help Center will take you to Instagram's Help Center page.

You'll be brought to Instagram's Help Center page, which is filled with hundreds of different support topics. Pick one of the suggested articles, or use the search bar to find what you're looking for.

How to report hate speech, violence, and more to Instagram

Instagram lets you report individual posts, specific users, and comments. Just go to any post, account, or comment, tap the three horizontal dots on it, and select Report from the drop-down menu.

You can report any post, account, or comment that you feel violates Instagram's community guidelines.

If you're not sure whether your issue can be reported or if someone has committed a reportable offense, review Instagram's community guidelines

Here's some of what Instagram sees as legitimate issues:

  • Intellectual property: Issues that follow under this grievance include users infringing on copyright — which generally protects original expression like images and words but not facts and ideas — and trademarks, defined as a word, slogan, symbol, or design made to distinguish products or services from an individual, group or company. 
  • Nudity: Broadly defined as "appropriate" imagery, this more controversial guideline prevents nudity of any kind on the site, with a handful of exceptions — including post-mastectomy scarring photos, individuals breastfeeding, and nudity in paintings and sculptures.
  • Hate speech: The platform will remove any content from its site that encourages violence or includes hate speech — based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or disease — as well as bullying and harassment that target private individuals.
  • Illegal activities: Instagram will remove posts that offer specific services around sex, firearms, and drugs, in addition to removing posts or comments that "support or praise of terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups." 
  • Self-injury: Any content posted to the platform that appears to glorify or encourage any type of physical self-injury, including eating disorders, will be taken down — with the exception of posts that reference these issues in the name of increasing awareness or signposting support.
  • Graphic violence: Any videos or images featuring intense, graphic violence that isn't shared in relation to newsworthy events or to condemn or educate on a larger issue, will be removed for inappropriateness. 

After you report a post, you might get an email or Instagram notification telling you what decision Instagram's moderators made about it.

How to report bugs and glitches to Instagram

Instagram also accepts reports about issues with the app itself, like if a graphic isn't displaying correctly, or a menu won't open.

To quickly report a bug, shake your phone while Instagram is open. A pop-up should appear asking you to report the problem. You'll also be able to submit screenshots and other files.

You can also turn off this feature from this menu.Read the original article on Business Insider

How to delete or deactivate your Apple ID account

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:56pm
Apple's website allows you to delete or deactivate your Apple ID.
  • You can delete your Apple ID from Apple's Data and Privacy website.
  • Once an Apple ID account is deleted, you'll lose access to a number of services and saved content. 
  • Deactivating your account is a temporary alternative to permanently deleting your Apple ID.

While an Apple ID is essential for using an iOS device, if you are leaving the Apple device ecosystem, you might want to delete your account to clean up your digital footprint. 

Apple makes it easy to deactivate your account on their Data and Privacy website. Here's how to do it. 

How to delete an Apple ID account

1. Go to Apple's Data and Privacy website. Sign in using your Apple ID.

You may need to verify your sign-in using one of your Apple devices.

2. In the Delete your account section, click Request to delete your account.

On this page, you can also opt to deactivate your account.

3. Select a reason to delete your account from the drop-down menu, then click Continue.

Reasons include having concerns about the privacy of your data and wanting to stop using your account.

4. Follow the on-screen prompts to continue with account deletion.

Quick tip: Apple verifies all deletion requests, and can take up to seven days for an Apple ID account to be deleted.

What happens when you delete Apple ID?

Once an Apple ID account is deleted, you'll lose access to a number of services and saved content. Below is a list of a few things that happen:

  • You lose access to Apple services and App Store media purchases.
  • Photos, videos, and documents stored in iCloud are permanently deleted.
  • You'll no longer receive iMessages, FaceTime calls, or iCloud Mail.
  • You lose access to iCloud, the App Store, Apple Pay, Find My, and any apps or services associated with your Apple ID.
  • The email address associated with your Apple ID account will be unavailable for use with a new or existing Apple ID.
What to do before deleting Apple ID

Since you'll lose access to a number of services and data, there are a few things you should do before permanently deleting your Apple ID. 

  • Back up your data, or download a copy of your data from Apple.
  • Sign out of all of your devices and web browsers associated with your Apple ID. If you don't do this, you may not be able to use your devices.
  • Review your active subscriptions, as they will be canceled once your Apple ID is deleted.

Quick tip: Active subscriptions will be canceled at the end of their billing cycle.

How to deactivate Apple ID

Deleting your Apple ID account is a permanent action, so if there's any chance that you'll use it in the future you should temporarily deactivate your account instead. Here's how it's done: 

1. Go to Apple's Data and Privacy website. Sign in using your Apple ID.

2. In the Temporarily deactivate your account section, click Request to deactivate your account.

Deactivating your account is a temporary action, while deletion is permanent.

3. Select a reason to deactivate your account from the drop-down menu, then click Continue.

4. Follow the on-screen prompts to continue with temporary account deactivation.

Quick tip: Backing up your data is also recommended for account deactivation.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Protesters in China are trying to break out of quarantine

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:55pm
  • Demonstrations are escalating as people in China protest strict COVID-19 policies.
  • Police in hazmat suits are trying to stop people from breaking out of lockdown.
  • Protests have spread to the US, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Canada, and Turkey.

Protests are spreading across the globe as people in China try to break out of quarantine. These are the largest public protests China has seen in decades.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cannabis giant Curaleaf just laid off over 200 employees as the industry's downturn deepens

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:54pm
A customer shows purchased marijuana products at Curaleaf.
  • Curaleaf laid off staff in November, Insider has learned.
  • The cannabis giant previously cut 50 jobs and closed a facility in California in August.
  • The industry is suffering from a collapse in prices, heavy regulation, and increased competition. 

Curaleaf, one of the largest cannabis companies in the world, has laid off hundreds of its staff, Insider has learned.

The company laid off around 220 employees ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the company confirmed to Insider.

In a statement to Insider, Curaleaf said the cuts were "a part of an effort to control costs and drive efficiencies in the face of economic uncertainties ahead." A company spokesperson declined to say which departments the cuts were concentrated in.

Curaleaf employs over 6,000 people, according to its website.

"I don't like having to deliver this news, and we haven't reached this decision easily," Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin said in a company-wide email sent to employees and reviewed by Insider. Darin, who took over the top job in May, said Curaleaf was in discussions with unionized employees at affected Curaleaf locations.

Curaleaf cultivates cannabis and sells it through shops in 21 states, including Michigan, Illinois, and New Jersey. 

Curaleaf previously laid off about 50 workers and closed a major facility in Sacramento in August, Insider reported.

"The cannabis industry has grown fast and is constantly evolving," Darin said in the email. "In the current environment with inflationary pressures, increased competition and slowing growth, it's incumbent on us to be more efficient."

From public giants to small startups, cannabis companies are falling on hard times. Like other industries, cannabis companies have been contending with broader trends like rising inflation. But the industry is also facing with its own challenges — like the price of wholesale cannabis falling — as well as heavy regulations, taxes, and federal illegality that make doing business uniquely challenging.

Darin said he's hopeful that Congress will pass a narrow cannabis reform bill, the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow cannabis companies to access the banking system like any other industry, during the lame-duck period this year. 

Curaleaf is far from alone in making cuts: Cannabis tech firm Weedmaps laid off 10% of employees in August, with now-former CEO Chris Beals citing a sales slowdown in California in a letter to employees, as Insider reported. Cannabis startups Eaze and Dutchie cut staff earlier this year.

Do you work at Curaleaf or were recently laid off? Contact Jeremy Berke at or (508) 560-3813 on Signal for encrypted messaging. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk claims to have met with Tim Cook at Apple's HQ after putting the company on blast

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:52pm
Elon Musk posted a video Wednesday that claimed Apple CEO Tim Cook (right) showed him around the iPhone maker's California campus.
  • Elon Musk posted a video on Wednesday, claiming Tim Cook showed him around Apple's campus.
  • A reporter for The New York Times said on Twitter that Apple staff had spotted the two CEOs together.
  • Apple didn't respond to a request for comment; Musk's tweet comes after he slammed the company on Twitter.

Elon Musk claims to have met with Tim Cook at Apple's headquarters only two days after declaring "war" on the tech company.

Musk posted a video on Wednesday that appears to show the meditation pool at Apple's campus in Cupertino, California. New York Times reporter Kate Conger said on Twitter that Apple employees saw Musk and Cook together on campus on Wednesday.

"Thanks @tim_cook for taking me around Apple's beautiful HQ," Musk tweeted.

—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 30, 2022

Spokespeople for Apple and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.  Musk didn't say in his video whether the apparent visit was from Wednesday — and he's been known to troll people on his social platform, though it's not clear if he was being serious about having met Cook.

If the meeting did happen, it came after Musk had some choice words for Apple and its CEO earlier in the week. Musk, who calls himself Twitter's "Chief Twit," on Monday accused Apple of exercising monopoly powers through its App Store. He also said the company opposed free speech.

"Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter," Musk tweeted on Monday. "Do they hate free speech in America?

Musk later added that Apple had "threatened" to take Twitter off its App Store and "won't tell us why." He railed against the 30% cut Apple takes from in-app purchases made through apps on its iPhones. He even tweeted directly at Cook. The Apple CEO did not respond to Musk on Twitter.

If Apple decided to take Twitter off its App Store, it could present a significant hurdle to the social media company, slashing into user growth. Furthermore, Apple's 30% take could cut into Musk's plans to charge Twitter users $8 per month for verification.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump Org hopes to win its Manhattan tax-fraud trial with an 'ignorance' defense — a Trump hallmark

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:49pm
Donald Trump speaking at the Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nevada, on October 8, 2022, left, and the exterior of Trump Tower, home of the Trump Organization headquarters, in July of 2021, right.
  • Summations are Thursday and Friday in the Manhattan tax-fraud trial of the Trump Organization.
  • The defense will say Trump and top execs were too trusting or distracted to knowingly commit fraud.
  • Trump's real-estate empire faces $1.6 million in penalties — and 'felon' status — if convicted.

Donald Trump may have once referred to himself as "a very stable genius," but that's not at all how Trump Organization lawyers hope a Manhattan tax-fraud jury sees him or his top executives.

Instead, in day-long closing arguments Thursday, company lawyers are set to argue that Trump and his company's two key money men were too trusting, too distracted, or just too plain dumb to knowingly commit fraud.

Call it the "ignorance defense," where Trump knew nothing of a C-suite-wide, decade-long tax-dodge scheme, and his top finance executives had only the foggiest idea they were breaking rudimentary tax laws — until they got caught.

It won't take much for such a defense to tip the scales. If it confuses or convinces even a single juror, the ignorance defense could deadlock deliberations and stave off a possible $1.6 million in penalties and the black eye of a felony conviction for Trump's namesake real-estate and golf-resort company.

The strategy has taken shape since Halloween, when jurors heard opening statements in the New York Supreme Court case, inside a cavernous courtroom on the 15th floor of an Art Deco-style courthouse in lower Manhattan.

Trump was a big-picture guy who was totally in the dark, jurors were told in openings, about the payroll-tax funny business that ran rampant under his nose for years just down the hall from his desk at Trump Tower, his Fifth Avenue skyscraper.

Trump had no idea, jurors heard, that a handful of his top executives were saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in taxes through the scheme, which let the executives receive large chunks of their pay as cars, Trump-branded apartments, flat-screen televisions, and even tuition payments. 

These "perks" were studiously tracked as executive compensation in internal Trump Organization records but systematically kept off the company's W-2 forms, jurors were told by former CFO Allen Weisselberg and top payroll man Jeffrey McConney.

Star prosecution witnesses with arguably mixed loyalties, the two told jurors they never let anyone named Trump in on the scheme.

Jurors may well wonder how Donald Trump, or Eric Trump, or Donald Trump, Jr., could truly have been ignorant of the scheme when the three of them personally signed off on so many of the perks. But the defense has been laying the groundwork for a ready answer: Trump was just being generous.

"Donald Trump didn't know that Allen Weisselberg was cheating on Allen Weisselberg's taxes," as defense lawyer Susan Necheles told jurors in openings.

Weisselberg even teared up on the witness stand as he described "betraying" the Trump family by keeping them ignorant of the tax shenanigans for more than a decade. It's testimony that may stick with jurors — a display of apparent emotion in a trial otherwise packed with Excel spreadsheets and accounting ledger entries.

Ignorance has been a hallmark Trump defense through the years, floated as a hedge against fraud for his bogus claims of having "won" the 2020 election, and when there's been blowback for the company he's kept, including, most recently, white supremacist Nick Fuente.

In this trial, though, the ignorance defense goes into overdrive, and doesn't stop with a supposedly clueless Trump.

The defense has said it also plans to argue that Weisselberg and McConney themselves had little idea — at the time — that their tax-dodging was illegal or that it benefitted anyone but themselves, two key elements to proving corporate liability.

The pair told jurors they had relied on Donald Bender, the Trump Organization's longtime outside accountant from the Mazars, USA, accounting firm, to keep them honest, and they've implied that where Donald Trump knew nothing of the scheme, Donald Bender knew — or should have known— everything.

Weisselberg and McConney, the defense will argue, thought they had a tacit green light from Bender as they schemed, conspired and cheated — though both acknowledged on the stand that they now realize they committed tax fraud.

And they had only the vaguest idea, if any, that their scheme helped anyone beyond themselves, they told jurors.

"My intention was to save pre-tax dollars," Weisselberg testified on November 17, his second of three days on the witness stand.

"That was your sole focus, for you to get this pre-taxed dollars, correct?" Necheles, the defense lawyer, asked him.

"Yes," Weisselberg answered.

Defense closings are expected to last through Thursday, with prosecution closings set for Friday.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Forced Uyghur labor is being used in China's solar panel supply chain, researchers say

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:48pm
A construction worker walks past solar panels installed in Xinjiang, China.
  • The world's biggest solar producers employ forced Uyghur labor, according to new research.
  • Breakthrough Institute reports Uyghur workers extract and develop raw materials in tough conditions.
  • The alleged use of forced Uyghur labor could threaten the growth of the global solar supply chain.

The global solar panel manufacturing industry has a human rights problem, according to new research from the Breakthrough Institute that draws from more than 200 government documents, media reports, and academic papers.

The research report alleges that Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group based in Xinjiang, China, have been forced to produce polysilicon, a key material used to make solar panels, under state-sponsored labor transfer programs over the last two years. These arrangements have coerced minority workers into factory jobs by the "implicit" threat of arrest and even imprisonment, according to researchers.

The Biden Administration called China's treatment of the Uyghurs "genocide" in its 2021 human rights report.

China's polysilicon factories are concentrated in the Xinjiang region and were responsible for more than 42% of the world's total production of raw solar materials last year, according to the research. 

GCL Technology Holdings Limited, which researchers estimate produces 8.4% of China's solar-grade polysilicon, and other companies helped transfer more than 1,800 workers in total from the city of Hotan and asked that they participate in military-style training, according to the report. Other polysilicon manufacturers like East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy Corporation, and Xinte Energy based in Xinjiang were also found to employ forced labor, according to the research report. 

Kevin He, a spokesperson of Daqo New Energy Corporation, told Insider that the Xinjiang-based manufacturer doesn't employ any Uyghur workers and said China has no need to supply workers through the labor-transfer program.

"Why do people think a government will pay money to sponsor a company to use force labor?" He wrote in an email. "What does the govt get?" 

GCL Technology Holdings Limited, East Hope Group, and Xinte Energy didn't respond to a request for comment. 

Uyghur workers are expected to work under potentially dangerous conditions with low pay, researchers say

Manufacturers in Xinjiang specialize in upstream production, which includes the mining, smelting, and the slicing of silicon into wafers that are used in photovoltaics that convert sunlight into energy, according to the research report. The rest of the solar panel parts, like solar cells and solar panels, are assembled in other plants across China, the researchers wrote.

The study said that while there's not enough data to show how many Uyghurs are part of the solar factory workforce, transferred workers are often relocated hundreds of kilometers away from their hometowns, separated from their families and children.

Workers are expected to work long hours under potentially dangerous conditions with low pay, according to the report, and are forced to undertake a mandatory political indoctrination as part of their re-education process

The researchers allege Uyghurs also work at coal-powered electricity plants on-site and across the region that power the polysilicon facilities. Researchers also wrote that photos they obtained show that workers do not wear personal protective equipment needed to protect themselves from occupational hazards. 

Solar manufacturing companies are "complicit in the Chinese Communist Party's wider systematic campaign of oppression against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other minoritized peoples in the Xinjiang region," the researchers concluded.

China's dominance of the global solar supply chain could slow down the world's transition to clean energy

Many countries, including the US, rely on Chinese imports for most of its panels, according to Bloomberg. China is responsible for nearly 80% of global the solar manufacturing market in all stages of production, according to data from the International Energy Agency. China's solar exports reportedly increased by 60% to $28 billion dollars last year, according to China's ministry of industry and information technology.

China's dominance of the global solar market may expose the solar supply chain to a greater risk of disruptions from geopolitical disputes, extreme weather, and shifts in the economy, Seaver Wang, a researcher involved in the study, told Insider.

China's influence could also stifle the global expansion of the solar industry if domestic manufacturers outside of China are unable to compete with the low-cost labor in Xinjiang in the long-run, Wang said. It could even hurt the reputations of the solar photovoltaic sector, which could sway investors away from funding enterprises they deem unethical and reduce the overall shift from fossil fuels to solar, he said.

The US passed a law in June of 2021 banning some of the imports of solar materials from the Xinjiang region, a move that could make it more expensive for the Americans to switch to solar energy. The U.K and Australia have also considered banning Xinjiang exports, although no moves have been made. 

Researchers call for solar companies to stop doing business with Xinjiang manufacturers

Even though solar industry groups have adopted protocols and signed pledges to vet products that violate labor laws, researchers found that these moves haven't done enough to stop producers at the end of the supply chain from purchasing raw materials from Xinjiang, Wang said. 

Researchers urge energy companies to stop doing business with Xinjiang-based manufacturers. They also call for governments to create public programs like Biden's plan to triple US-based solar manufacturing by 2024.

"We think it is key for the clean tech industry to send a strong signal now that it will not tolerate sourcing from Xinjiang-based manufacturers complicit in the region's oppressive policies," Wang said.

Correction: This article has been updated to specify that the researchers reported multiple companies helped transfer more than 1,800 people in total from the city of Hotan.

Read the original article on Business Insider

AMC Networks booted its CEO after only 3 months, gave her a $10 million payout, and cut about 20% of its staff. So much for workers being empowered.

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:34pm
The former AMC CEO Christina Spade and the actor Bob Odenkirk.
  • The former AMC CEO Christina Spade got a $10 million payout after only three months on the job. 
  • CEO compensation has increased in recent years, while average worker wages decreased.  
  • Most Americans think CEO compensation is too high, according to a poll by Just Capital.  

Three months on the job and a $10 million payout. Nice work if you can get it.

That kind of windfall is reserved for America's top CEOs, like Christina Spade, the outgoing head of AMC Networks, who resigned Tuesday after taking the reins in September and is receiving that multimillion-dollar package. 

It's quite a different story for the rest of America's workforce. Case in point: Just as Spade collects her millions, AMC, which owns cable networks and streaming services, is expected to lay off 20% of its employees.

Spade is hardly alone in receiving a big payout. Disney pushed out CEO Bob Chapek in mid-November. He's likely to walk away with $23 million after less than three years in the top job. Now the company has put a hiring freeze in place, and workers are bracing for layoffs.

For years, the gap has been widening between what big-time CEOs rake in and what everyday workers take home. According to the AFL-CIO's annual Executive Paywatch Report, which has tracked CEO-to-worker pay ratios for more than two decades, S&P 500 CEOs averaged $18.3 million in compensation last year, which is roughly 324 times the median worker's pay.

The AFL-CIO report also showed that workers' real wages dropped 2.4% in 2021, after adjusting for inflation.

But what's especially galling is how the stratospheric size of CEO paychecks — and their severance packages — stands counter to the promises they've made. During the height of the pandemic, CEOs pledged to champion worker rights. They thanked their employees for working longer hours and, in some cases, risking their health to do their jobs. Around the same time, more than 180 CEOs signed a public letter declaring that businesses should have bigger goals than profits. And execs sounded the alarm on inequality in interviews and on social media. 

AMC's former CEO getting a massive payout for three months of work is not good for shareholder capitalism or stakeholder capitalism. 

Now, as recession fears loom, those promises are a distant memory. Spade and Chapek's windfalls underscore that stakeholder capitalism — the idea that businesses truly value their workers and consumers — is little more than cheap talk. 

"This is a divide right now: Do CEOs maximize shareholder value or do they work for the greater good?" Michael Dambra, an associate professor of accounting and law at the University at Buffalo School of Management, said to Insider. "But AMC's former CEO getting a massive payout for three months of work is not good for shareholder capitalism or stakeholder capitalism. 

"I can't imagine employees are going to be happy and I doubt the market will be happy either."

Most Americans think that CEOs are compensated too much, per a May poll by the nonprofit research firm Just Capital.Layoffs versus the golden parachute 

Research shows that CEO severance packages serve an important purpose in corporate America. Essentially, they reduce the CEO's financial risk, which is key when they take over a company where volatility is high and performance is lagging. "You get a contract that says, 'If it doesn't work out, you'll be made whole,'" Dambra said. 

This, in turn, compels the CEO to take on more risk and be more innovative in their role, which is good for shareholders. "There is sense in having severance packages, but as the divide grows between what CEOs earn compared to the average rank-and-file, it becomes harder to argue that these contracts are fair," Dambra said.

I mean some of these payouts really seem obscene.

In 2021, the New York Times journalist David Gelles wrote that some of the same companies that laid off thousands of workers during the pandemic still paid their CEOs millions of dollars. He pointed to the compensation packages of CEOs at Norwegian Cruise Line, Hilton, and Boeing.  

Shareholder support for US pay packages is at its lowest point since 2011, the year that "say on pay" votes were made mandatory, according to Equilar, a pay-data company. And some investor groups have recently proposed votes to curb CEO pay. 

Meanwhile, roughly three-quarters of Americans say that most CEOs are compensated too much, according to a 2022  online poll of about 1,000 adults by the nonprofit research firm Just Capital. 

But as workers face an uncertain economy, inflation, and an increasing number of hiring freezes and layoffs, CEOs will likely continue to rake in millions. 

Anthony Nyberg, a professor of human resources at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, told Insider that "it's possible that some of the macro things we're seeing in the economy — where employees are asserting their voices and unionizing at some of the biggest companies in America, like Starbucks and Amazon — could be viewed as a response to how these egregiously excessive pay and severance packages are perceived. 

"I mean some of these payouts really seem obscene."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Bitcoin jumps to a 2-week high of $17,000, but crypto experts say don't cheer the rally as FTX contagion is far from contained

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:17pm
Sam Bankman-Fried founded the now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX.
  • Bitcoin hit $17,000 on Wednesday, trading at a two-week high. 
  • An analyst breaks down why he expects continued headwinds across the board for asset prices.
  • Industry experts told Insider their crypto market outlook post-FTX collapse. 

Bitcoin notched a two-week high of about $17,000 on Wednesday, but experts said the fallout from FTX's crash has yet to fully play out.

In the past week, bitcoin and ethereum are up a respective 2.76% and 8.90%, according to Messari, despite continuous bad news within the industry. 

FTX, the once-$32 billion digital asset empire started by Sam Bankman-Fried, swiftly collapsed earlier this month and is raising contagion fears. Crypto lender BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, revealing significant exposure to FTX. And industry giant Genesis is organizing restructuring lawyers to prevent the crypto brokerage from going bankrupt, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

After losing two-thirds of its value since November 2021, the crypto industry continues to take hits — and despite the current bump in prices, the blows aren't done yet.

"I expect to see brief periods of excitement that produce strong [and] swift rallies, but I still see crypto-specific headwinds, as well as traditional market headwinds," Caleb Franzen, founder of research firm and newsletter Cubic Analytics, said.

He noted that even if the Fed slows the pace of its rate hikes, financial conditions keep tightening. And the decline in liquidity will "continue to expose overleveraged companies, bad actors, and 'naked swimmers,'" he added. 

Franzen see headwinds across the board for asset prices, with crypto looking particularly weak given the contagion events that have occurred.

Yaroslav Shakula, chief executive at venture studio YARD Hub, said bitcoin could be at a near-term bottom because it withstood the BlockFi news earlier this week.

"However, if the FTX-caused domino effect ends up impacting some other big crypto exchanges or funds, this upward correction could still give way to the continuation of the bearish trend," Shakula says. 

And even if the industry doesn't see more bankruptcy filings, that doesn't mean the contagion is over, warned CEO Dennis Jarvis.

For example, Genesis has taken a $175 million hit from FTX. Even if it weathers this storm, he said, liquidity restraints have put pressure on customers like Gemini, forcing it suspend its Earn lending program. "People are nervous, so even a whiff of trouble has the potential to snowball."

Elsewhere, Przemysław Kral, chief executive at crypto exchange Zonda Global, said that the FTX fallout has run its course because the token has barely dipped on the slew of bad news. 

"It's also been over a year now since Bitcoin's previous all-time high, which historically has always been a strong indicator of the bottom - in both 2015 and 2018," Kral added. "However, some believe a fall to around $13,800 (80% from ATH), would give true confirmation that the bottom is in."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk appear to agree on one thing: Apple's control over apps is 'problematic'

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:12pm
  • Mark Zuckerberg called Apple's control over the App Store "problematic" during an interview Wednesday.
  • The Facebook founder said Apple's control of iOS has made it difficult for Meta.
  • Zuckerberg's comments echo Elon Musk, who called the App Store "a serious problem" on Tuesday.

Mark Zuckerberg took a jab at Apple and appeared to side with Elon Musk over the iPhone company's control over the App Store during an interview on Wednesday.

"I do think Apple has sort of singled themselves out as the only company that is trying to control like unilaterally what what apps get on a device, and I don't think that's a sustainable or good place to be," Zuckerberg said during an interview at The New York Times' DealBook Summit. "I do think it is problematic for one company to be able to control what kind of app experiences get on the device," he added.

Spokespeople for Apple and Meta did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.

New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin had asked Zuckerberg for his thoughts on Musk's recent battle with Apple. On Tuesday, Musk called Apple's control over the App Store "a serious problem" and appeared to declare a "war" on Apple. The billionaire and "Chief Twit" said the tech giant had threatened to boot Twitter of its App Store, without providing a reason why. 

While Zuckerberg did not comment on Musk's battle with Apple directly, the Meta CEO said he believes Apple "stands out as the only one where one company can control what apps get on the device." He noted that even though the Google Play Store has booted apps of its store, there are other app stores available to Android users and the ability to side-load apps too.

Zuckerberg has been critical of Apple's policies for several years. In 2020, he accused the company of charging "monopoly rents" in the form of App Store fees and blocking competition. Musk has also criticized Apple's App Store fee. The tech company controls app distribution for the iPhone and iPad, and takes between 15% and 30% of most in-app purchases made on iOS apps.

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg said Apple's policies pose a risk to Meta as he sees them as one of the company's "big competitors."

"There is a conflict of interest there and it makes them not just a kind of governor that is looking out for the best of, of people's interests," Zuckerberg said. "I think they also have a lot of their own strategic interests, which makes it very challenging."

The Facebook founder also said Apple's new privacy policies have "been hard" on the company. Earlier this year, Meta said that Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature would decrease the company's 2022 sales by about $10 billion.

Read the original article on Business Insider

55 thoughtful gifts you can get on Amazon for less than $50

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:12pm

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A more expensive gift isn't always more meaningful. Here are 55 Amazon gifts under $50 that you'll love to give and others will love to receive.

The holiday season is here, which means it's time to get serious about gift shopping. As expert shoppers and product reviewers, we're here to make the holiday gifting process as simple as can be. 

If you're looking for gifts that ship out quickly and don't break the bank, look no further. Below, we've rounded up some of the best gifts you can find for $50 or less — for everyone on your list. From quirky kitchen gadgets to affordable tech, this list runs the gamut. To boot, you can find all of these products on Amazon for easy shopping, and shipping — most of the gifts on this list have fast, free Prime shipping. 

Keep reading for 55 of the best gifts you can snag on Amazon for $50 or less. 

A breakfast sandwich maker

Hamilton Beach Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker, $37.59

A lazy cook's dream, this breakfast sandwich maker whips up a delicious breakfast sandwich in five minutes with minimal effort on their end. All they have to do is load the device up with their favorite bread, cheese, and meats or veggies, add some eggs, and the gadget does the rest of the work.

A blanket they can wear

The Comfy Wearable Blanket, $49.99 

For the homebody who loves nothing more than being cozy, this wearable blanket is the ultimate gift. The aptly-named Comfy is a plush sherpa blanket in the form of an oversized hoodie. It's big enough for them to cuddle up in and keep them warm all winter long. 

A mug that keeps their coffee hot all day

Corkcicle Insulated Coffee Mug, $36.97

Whether they have a flourishing mug collection or a lean one, this insulated cup from Corkcicle will be a welcome addition. It's made of durable shatterproof materials for even the messiest of sippers. Best of all, it keeps drinks hot for three hours, so they don't have to worry about their morning coffee going cold.

A hilarious card game for meme lovers

What Do You Meme Game, $20.97

Lighten up game night with this hilarious card game. Fits of laughter are 100% guaranteed. If they already have this game, you can always opt for an expansion pack.

A pair of slides they can wear indoors or outdoors

EQUICK Cloud Slides, $16.99

The perfect pair of slippers to throw on while they go grab the paper, pick up a coffee, or go to a workout class, these TikTok-famous pillow slides are comfy, easy to slip on, and totally on trend.

A PopSocket that reflects their interests

PopSockets Donut PopGrip, $16.99

Not only are PopSockets a great way to grip a phone more easily or use as an impromptu stand, but they're also fun ways for people to express themselves. Amazon offers plenty of variations, from a movable vinyl record to a neon doughnut.

Homemade breakfast made with a heart-shaped waffle maker

Dash Mini Waffle Maker Machine, from $10.00

Get up early, and make your friend, significant other, or family member heart-shaped mini waffles for breakfast. The Dash Mini Maker is compact enough to keep for special occasions without cramping your kitchen, too.  

A durable, inexpensive Fire tablet

Fire 7 Tablet, $49.99

Amazon's Fire tablets are a relatively great deal for a tablet if you're not looking for anything super high-performance driven or luxe. For the average user, they're a good fit. It's Alexa-enabled, so they can get quick access to music and entertainment or messages and calling, and it has up to seven hours of battery life. 

If you're willing to spend more, you can shop the latest versions here

A smart home camera

Wyze Alexa-Enabled Smart Home Camera, $35.98

The Wyze v3 Camera is a popular and affordable smart home option that rivals expensive models. It's Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled and lets them view the footage anywhere on their mobile device.  

Read our full review of the Wyze v3 Camera here

A touch control bedside lamp

Yarra-Decor Touch Control Table Lamp with USB ports, $23.89

Home feels more comfortable and serene for them with this bedside lamp. The dimmable lamp is touch control with three brightness options and has two USB charging ports.

A digital camera that instantly prints photos

Kodak Printomatic Digital Instant Print Camera, $47.49

Instead of waiting on photos, this digital camera instantly prints those precious memories. Each moment is captured on 2 x 3" photos that are in full-color and durable, where they are tear and water-resistant. This convenient device can also save the photos to a MicroSD Card. 

A cast-iron skillet

Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet, $19.90

This 10.25-inch cast-iron skillet is one that became minorly famous online. Lodge has been making cast iron cookware since 1896, so they've learned a thing or two about what makes a great kitchen tool. 

A portable and waterproof speaker

Anker Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker, $27.99

This wireless Bluetooth speaker is waterproof, durable, and easily portable. It has 24 hours of playtime and maintains sound quality even at high volumes. 

A cold brew coffee maker

Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker, $27.99

This cold brew maker is as inexpensive as it is convenient, and it can even save hundreds of dollars per year. It easily fits into most refrigerator doors, is simple to use, and makes a good amount of cold brew at once. If they need more than one quart, there's also a two-quart option under $40. 

Read our full review of the Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker here.

Highly rated in-ear earbuds

Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbud Headphones, $9.24

Whether for everyday use, the gym, as a backup, or just for travel when Bluetooth headphones won't connect to the in-flight entertainment, there are ample uses for really solid in-ear buds with a stereo plug. This pair has an extended cord and three sets of ear pads for the perfect fit.

A cult-favorite clay mask

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Facial & Body Mask, $14.95

The Aztec Clay Mask is one of those cult-favorite products of the internet that's driven from the obscure depths of Amazon to beauty vlogs, Youtube testimonials with millions of views, and even the Sephora beauty blog. It's been called "the world's most powerful facial," and it's also under $10. It can be mixed with water, but it works best with a little bit of apple cider vinegar.

Read our full review of the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Facial & Body Mask here.

An electric bottle opener

Oster Cordless Electric Wine Bottle Opener with Foil Cutter, $24.99

This slim device cuts foil and uncorks wine bottles seamlessly, then stows easily out of sight. It has to be charged, but it'll open 30 bottles per charge. 

A universal USB wall charger

Anker 4-Port USB Wall Charger with Foldable Plug, $24.49

Double the outlet space with this four-port USB wall charger. Its advanced charging capacity also means tech devices will charge faster than average.

A fancy charcuterie board set

Smirly Cheese Board and Knife Set, $39.99

This elegant cheese board complements extravagant get-togethers at home with a refined serving experience. It's not difficult to create a charcuterie masterpiece on this board set that includes a slide-out drawer with four knives as well as a serving tray and tools. 

A milk frother

PowerLix Milk Frother, $9.99

A milk frother is an unexpectedly convenient tool to have around the house, and it can make an otherwise normal cup of coffee or hot chocolate closer to what they'd buy at the cafe. With it, they can make lattes, cappuccinos, and frothy coffees every morning for less.

A relaxing weighted blanket

YnM Weighted Blanket, $35.91

Gift a peaceful night's sleep with this calming blanket that comes in 40 colors and 15 various sizes and weights. Its seven-layer system includes tiny beads that deliver a contoured but comfortable fit to their body.

Read our full review of the YnM Weighted Blanket here.

A media streamer to turn a basic TV into a smart one

Roku Streaming Stick 4K, $24.48

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is a reliable media streaming stick that can convert a basic TV into a smart one that can stream Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and more. It includes a voice remote, too, for simple search and control.

Read our full review of the Roku Streaming Stick 4K here

A tough, wind-resistant umbrella

Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella, $24.98

It may seem boring, but everybody needs an umbrella, and this is way better than whatever version they bought the last time they veered into a CVS while it was raining. We think it's the best umbrella you can buy thanks to how well it resists wind and how long it lasts, and they'll find themselves thankful for it often. 

A comfy polyester bathrobe

NY Threads Men's and Women's Polyester Bathrobe, from $22.98

If looking to stay warm, this ultra-soft polyester bathrobe is perfect to relax and lounge in for the cold months. It features front pockets and an adjustable waist belt for a snug fit. 

A trendy ring light

AIXPI LED Ring Light, $14.99

Give the gift of light with Insider Reviews' best budget ring light. This simple, easy-to-use light has everything that phone videographers need to get started. It includes a tripod setup that's easy to move and adjust to their angles. They can also toggle between its three different light settings — white, warm yellow, and warm white — to find their perfect glow. 

A stylish bucket hat for any season

The Hat Depot 300N Unisex Bucket Hat, from $11.99

They'll appreciate this bucket hat that's both trendy and protective. It comes in just about any pattern and color — neons, tie-dyes, camos, and neutrals are just a few of the options. This hat is made of 100% cotton and includes eyelets for a more breathable feel. Plus, the nearly 2.25-inch brim will keep their skin and eyes protected from the sun.

An all-in-one wallet for the jetsetter

Zoppen Travel Passport Wallet, $14.99

With more people getting vaccinated and travel restrictions lifting, this wallet will help them prep for their next trip. It holds passports, boarding passes, credit cards, and every other essential in one slim design.

A versatile Japanese BBQ sauce

Bachan's Barbecue Sauce, $7.82

An Amazon bestseller, this vegan Japanese BBQ sauce tastes like a more complex, less sweet teriyaki sauce and pairs amazingly with everything from pizza to eggs. One of our editors loves it so much that she auto-subscribed to get it delivered every other month.

A portable touchscreen vanity mirror

Nezzoe Touchscreen Vanity Mirror, $19.99

This touchscreen vanity mirror enhances any facial ritual from glam, skincare routines to shaving. It makes their face clearly visible with its 33 radiant LED lights and works up to 250 minutes on a full charge. The portable device offers comfortable viewing angles at 30 or 100 degrees at adjustable brightness levels. 

A small toiletry bag for the avid traveler

Herschel Chapter Toiletry Kit, from $29.99

If they're getting back into traveling, you can't go wrong with gifting them a toiletry bag. This kit has a waterproof main compartment, an internal mesh storage sleeve, and a leather accent on the zipper. Plus, it's small enough to fit into their backpack, work bag, or carry-on. 

A Bluetooth microphone to sing karaoke

Wireless Karaoke Microphone, $18.99

This is a gift for everyone to enjoy, whether or not they can carry a tune. They can connect their phone and play music through the microphone's speakers, and turn the volume up and down depending on their comfort. It's the perfect thing to shake up a night in or to break the ice at a gathering.

A wooden caddy tray for the world's most luxurious bath

Royal Craft Luxury Bathtub Caddy, $28.97

Few things are as luxurious as a long bath filled with plenty of activities and treats. This one is waterproof, slip-resistant, and designed to accommodate one or two bathers at once. 

A portable cooler bag for spring and summer excursions

Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag, $32.99

Look no further than this convenient, hefty, and compact cooler bag. They can travel in style to spring and summer picnics, camping trips, and beach days. The padded handle and removable shoulder strap make it comfortable to carry, while its ability to collapse makes it easy to store. It's also large with a 24-liter capacity, meaning they can fit all of their essentials in one insulated bag.

A delicious gift basket of caramel, chocolate, and crunchy gourmet treats

Chocolate, Caramel, and Crunch Grand Gift Basket, $42.95

For less than $40, you can gift gourmet chocolates and caramels pre-wrapped in a keepsake basket. The set includes seasonal favorites like caramel corn, chocolate pretzels, and peanut brittle. 

A highly rated pump with universal wine stoppers to keep open bottles fresh for longer

The Original Vacu Vin Wine Saver with Two Vacuum Stoppers, $19.99

This hyper-popular pump and universal wine stopper set keep open bottles of wine from prolonged exposure to the air, which is what causes the breakdown of its character and taste. This version makes a "click" sound when the user has managed to create an airtight seal.

An ambient moon lamp

DTOETKD Multi-Color Moon Lamp, $15.99

Earning the title as Insider Reviews' best multi-color moon lamp, this light basks the room in 16 different soothing hues. Its wooden stand props up the 3D moon and, thanks to its sleep timer, they can fall asleep to its glow without needing to worry about leaving it on all night. 

A notebook they can fill with their favorite travel memories

Maleden Spiral Bound Traveler Notebook, $14.37

If they're always recounting memories from their favorite trip, a travel journal is an excellent place for them to put all of these stories to paper. This particular model comes with binder rings, so they can easily include tickets, photos, and other mementos.

Ear protection for concert-goers

Mumba Concert Earplugs, $19.95

Live music events can be pretty damaging to your hearing — any regular concert-goer can attest to that. These earplugs protect the wearer from damaging volumes without dampening the music. They even come with a handy case that can be attached to a keychain. 

A watercolor set that's great for beginners

Norberg & Linden Watercolor Paint Set, $15.99

Everything they need lives in this watercolor starter kit: A 36-color palette, a 12-page watercolor pad, and six brushes of various sizes. Not only does this set contain all of the essentials for a newcomer, but it's also portable. The pad measures 5.5 inches x 8.5 inches, and the watercolors themselves come in a lightweight, covered pan. Family and friends of all ages can enjoy painting with this kit.

Fluffy slippers that feel and look like a cloud

Parlovable Faux Fur Slippers, from $19.49

The Parlovable Faux Fur Slippers are among our favorite slippers for lounging around the house. They make your feet feel — and look — like clouds thanks to the faux fur upper and memory foam sole.   

A slime-making kit for kids (and nostalgic adults)

DIY Slime Kit, $17.59

Amazon has pretty much every kid-friendly DIY kit imaginable, and this slime kit helps kids learn a little science as they combine ingredients, dye, and even glitter to make their creations. Plus, for any parents nostalgic about their own childhood buying and playing with slime, this makes for a fun activity to do together.

A streamlined apron in their favorite color

Aobbybbs Linen Crossback Apron, $18.99

This pinafore-style apron is designed to slip on without any ties. It's great for protecting your clothes while in the kitchen, and it's cute to boot. This affordable version is similar to the Magic Linen Apron that we recommend.

A foot massager to ease stress and pain

HoMedics Triple Action Shiatsu Foot Massager, $49.99

After long days on their feet, they'll appreciate this foot massager gift. We name this one the best budget option in our guide to the best foot massagers for a reason. It can be used on all parts of the foot and parts of the body, is relatively compact, and is easy to store. Their feet will thank you for the endless massages that come with this gift. 

A cocktail shaker

BrüMate Shaker, from $27.05

With summertime upon us, there's no better gift than a cocktail shaker for the one who loves to create new drinks. This particular one has even been named the best cobbler option in our guide to the best cocktail shakers. We love this shaker because it doubles as a drinking vessel, is triple-insulated, has a built-in strainer, and comes in a bunch of colors. 

A portable picnic blanket

Oniva Outdoor Picnic Blanket Tote XL, $26.99

The Oniva Outdoor Picnic Blanket Tote is a huge blanket that fits six people easily. Our Insider Reviews team loved it so much, they named it the best picnic blanket overall. Its soft fleece interior has water-resistant backing that folds up quite compactly.

A candle that pays homage to their favorite place

Homesick Candles, $30.40

Gift them a candle customized to smell like their beloved hometown, college town, or favorite getaway. 

Read our full review of Homesick Candles here

A hair turban that will cut drying time in half

Aquis Original Microfiber Hair Turban, $20.49

Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels have inspired a slew of rave reviews online, including one from our own team of product reviewers.

The towels are made from a proprietary fabric called Aquitex that's composed of ultra-fine fibers (finer than silk) that work to reduce the amount of friction the hair experiences while in its weakest state. It also prevents hygral fatigue — the stretching and swelling of wet hair that makes it vulnerable to frizz and damage — by cutting the hair's drying time by 50%.

A journal for maximizing productivity and organization

Lux Productivity Daily Planner, $12.29

For the high achiever in your life, this productivity journal can help further motivate them to be their best self. This journal's undated, daily layout provides priority templates to get them headed in the right direction to accomplish their many goals. It also includes extra space for them to jot down their ideas, future tasks, and inspirations.

A foldable helmet for the bike commuter

Closca Foldable Bike Helmet, $39.90

One of the best products we've ever tested and the best gifts we've ever given, this lightweight bike helmet neatly folds down to about half its size and can easily be stashed in a backpack when not in use. 

DIY manicures with professional results

Beetles Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit, $23.99

Gel polish typically lasts longer than traditional nail polish and dries instantly under UV lighting, but it requires some additional gear to use. This kit includes everything you need to do your own nails at home.

Durable fetch balls for their furry friend

Chew King Fetch Balls (8-pack), $17

Whether they have a dog (or need to give someone with a dog a gift that will last), these balls are worth checking out. They're lightweight, bouncy, and durable enough to stand a big dog's chew. They make a great gift for the dog parent or fetch-loving pup in their life.

A pan that makes ice cream in minutes

Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker, $54.99

For a simple and quick way to make ice cream, you'll want to surprise them with this ice cream maker. There's no electricity, buttons, or tech involved, making it a great gift for anyone, even those with children. It's basically a quick-freeze shallow metal bowl that freezes their ice cream batter in a matter of minutes. You can read more about why we love this product in our guide to the best ice cream makers

A charging case that protects and charges wireless devices

Mophie Wireless Power Capsule External Battery Charger, $16.62

This compact, portable case charges wearables like the Fitbit Flex, Beats by Dre, and JBL Wireless Earbuds on the go. The 1,4000 mAh rechargeable battery translates to about 60 hours of audio playback in wireless earbuds. 

A vintage puzzle that doubles as home decor

Cavallini Papers & Co. Butterflies 1,000 Piece Puzzle, $22

All the puzzle lovers in your life will be beyond grateful for this gift. From house plants to constellations, Cavallini Papers & Co. puzzles are both challenging and aesthetically pleasing. Once they're done, they can frame it and hang it up as wall decor. 

A jade roller for the beauty enthusiast

Ginger Chi Jade Roller, $17.85

They can pamper themselves on the regular with this jade roller. It's made from 100% certified Xiuyan jade along with silver nickel. The double-sided roller helps to reduce puffiness and increase elasticity, with a larger end to use all over their face and a smaller end for tighter areas. A travel pouch and a tester of the brand's Regenerating Serum also come with it, making it perfect for novices and travelers alike. This product has even earned a spot as best for beginners in our guide to the best jade rollers.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Stolen checks, fraudulent activity: three major trade association PACs fell victim to theft in what's become a political epidemic

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:12pm
  • The PACS of three trade associations each reported tens of thousands of dollars in stolen funds.
  • Dozens of candidates and committees have fallen victim in recent years to fraudulent disbursements and theft.
  • Victims include the 2020 presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Kanye West, now known as Ye.

The political action committees of three major trade associations each reported falling victim to stolen checks and fraudulent bank activity this election cycle, according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

An Insider review of FEC filings shows that the National Association of Manufacturers' PAC reported eight instances of stolen and fraudulent checks and bank transfers, amounting to more than $10,000 in losses.

A separate filing from NAM-PAC notes that it "notified its bank and law enforcement of this fraudulent activity." The PAC added that some of the funds have since been recovered and others are still in the process of being rectified.

NAM officials did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

According to NAM's website, the trade association represents more than 14,000 companies or more than half of all Fortune 500 manufacturers. Its leadership includes executives from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, chemical manufacturer Dow Inc., oil company ExxonMobil, and construction vehicle leader Caterpillar Inc.

NAM-PAC contributed $392,500 to federal candidates this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets, the majority of which went to Republican candidates for the US House and US Senate, however, the group did donate to some Democrats, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Josh Gottheimer.

A filing with the FEC from NAM-PAC explaining how it fell victim to thieves.

Another trade association, the National Association of Home Builders, reported three instances of "fraudulent debit" during the 2021-2022 election cycle, amounting to more than $20,000 in lost funds. According to a filing with the FEC, the PAC filed a claim with Bank of America in October over the fraudulent transactions but has yet to be refunded. 

A filing with the FEC from the PAC of the National Association of Home Builders that details money lost from fraudulent disbursements.

The National Association of Home Builders represents more than 140,000 members who construct close to 80% of all the new homes built in the US, per the association's website.

OpenSecrets data shows that the National Association of Home Builders donated more than $1.2 million to federal candidates this election cycle, with more than three-quarters of this spending benefitting GOP candidates such as House Republican leaders Reps. Elise Stefanik and Steve Scalise, in addition to supporting failed US Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and Blake Masters.

The National Association of Home Builders did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Technology Association, whose member companies constitute about 10% of Fortune 500 companies — including Netflix, Adobe, and Alphabet — reported more than two-dozen instances of theft from its PAC this election cycle.

Total loss: $36,743.22.

According to a filing with the FEC, the malicious activity was the result of an "unknown individual" who "created, forged and cashed six fictitious PAC checks totaling $25,673.12 and initiated 20 fraudulent ACH debits totaling $11,070.10."

After reporting the fraudulent disbursements to Truist Bank, FEC filings indicate the committee was able to recover the more than $36,000 of illicit spending.

The PAC of the Consumer Technology Association spent more than $175,000 supporting federal candidates this election cycle, OpenSecrets records show, with just over half going to Democratic Senate and House candidates like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Michael Perticone, the PAC's treasurer, did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Epidemic of political theft

It's not entirely uncommon for political action committees to report misappropriated and stolen funds to the FEC — Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a GOP congresswoman from Tennessee, for example, reported this election cycle that her campaign lost close to $186,000 to a cyber thief. 

Presidential campaigns, such as those of President Joe Biden and Ye (formerly Kanye West), have also fallen prey to scammers and thieves in recent years, as well.

James E. Lee, the chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told Insider in a statement that campaigns are especially susceptible and enticing to cybercriminals as they "often lack the training, awareness, and tools to fight against the well-organized, highly skilled, and relentless cybercrime groups that specialize in phishing

"Campaigns also have two things that financially motivated identity criminals want – cash and the personal information of donors," Lee added. "Nation/state threat actors may also be interested in the donor information, depending on the candidate and office the candidate is seeking."

The FEC declined to comment on the filings of any specific committee or candidate but pointed Insider to its policies on misappropriated funds. The commission has a "safe harbor" policy in place that, as long as committees follow a series of protective regulations, grants them general amnesty from facing civil penalties for any misappropriated funds.

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US military confirms that another ISIS leader has been killed in Syria, revealing that he was taken out in a raid by local forces

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:12pm
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army are deployed on a checkpoint in the area of Kafr Jannah on the outskirts of the Syrian town of Afrin on October 19, 2022.
  • The US military revealed on Wednesday that another ISIS leader was killed recently.
  • CENTCOM said in a statement that he was taken out in a Free Syrian Army raid in October. 
  • The Islamic State's media affiliate confirmed Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi's death. 

The leader of ISIS was killed recently during a raid carried out by local Syrian forces in the southwest part of the country, the US military revealed on Wednesday. 

"The death of Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in mid-October is another blow to ISIS," said Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for the US Central Command (CENTCOM), in a statement. "This operation was conducted by The Free Syrian Army in Dar'a province in Syria. ISIS remains a threat to the region. CENTCOM and our partners remain focused on the enduring defeat of ISIS."

Earlier on Wednesday, the Islamic State's media affiliate announced that the leader of the terror group had been killed fighting recently. The terror group didn't mention who killed al-Qurayshi — or where, according to multiple reports. It did, however, announce a successor.

The previous two Islamic State leaders before al-Qurayshi were taken off the battlefield in raids carried out by US special operations forces. In February, a counterterrorism operation in northwest Syria killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi — who was appointed to lead the terror group after the October 2019 death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a US raid.

Prior to the CENTCOM announcement, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was asked about reports of the ISIS leader's death. "We're still working our way through that," he said, per Reuters. "We welcome the announcement that another leader of ISIS is no longer walking the face of the Earth."

Tensions have soared in Syria in recent weeks and the fight against ISIS faces potential setbacks following a deadly explosion that rocked Istanbul earlier this month, leading Turkey, a NATO ally, to blame the incident on Kurdish groups. In response, Turkey launched a series of strikes in northern Syria and Iraq targeting the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and threatened a possible ground invasion.  

Because of this, the US said it has reduced the number of joint patrols its military undertakes with the SDF, which Washington has supported and worked closely with in the fight against the Islamic State.   

"We do remain deeply concerned about the escalating actions in northern Syria, Iraq and Turkey. And so, we certainly urge restraint amidst the tensions in this region," Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Tuesday.

"And as you highlight," he continued, "the continued conflict, especially a ground invasion, would severely jeopardize the hard-fought gains that the world has achieved against ISIS, and would destabilize the region."

SDF commander Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi told Voice of America's Kurdish Service this week that "there is no doubt that Daesh will benefit more than anyone else from this Turkish offensive," using another name for ISIS. He added that actions by Turkey have led the SDF to suspend its operations against the terror group.

Read the original article on Business Insider

This 31-year old investor nearly quadrupled his multifamily housing empire from California to Texas in just 3 years

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:10pm
Sean Kia.
  • Sean Kia is one of Insider's Rising Stars of Real Estate for 2022.
  • In two years, he's raked in hundreds of millions by flipping apartment buildings in the Southwest.
  • He applies the Ford production model to real estate. Here's how he built his empire.

Los Angeles-native Sean Kia, 31, has been a bit busy the last few years.

Between 2019 and now, Tides Equities — the investment company he founded in 2016 and has run ever since — has built a small empire of apartment complexes in Sun Belt cities like Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix.

Just three years ago, Tides owned $2 billion in the apartment properties. Today, that number has grown to $7.5 billion, according to Kia.

In that time frame, Kia said Tides has grossed hundreds of millions of dollars for itself and its investors by fixing up decades-old buildings and reselling them. Tides deployed $7 billion in 2021 and 2022 alone, making it one of the country's most prolific buyers even as the overall market for multifamily properties was cooling, due to rising interest rates.

With Kia at the helm, Tides counts more than 600 individuals as his investors in addition to family-office and private-equity capital, including major firms such as KKR. The company now has 31,000 units across its portfolio.

This was a vision that Kia had at just 25.

An assembly line approach to real estate investment

After several years in the business of buying and selling apartment buildings for other companies, Kia noticed there were ways to make the process more efficient by reducing renovation times.

The Tides on 7th apartment complex in Phoenix was a recent acquisition.

So, he started Tides and applied the Ford model of large-scale production to his deals. The assembly-line approach was useful for his primary trade, which was to renovate the properties and sell them at a profit.

"Let's create an assembly-line approach to real-estate investing and do the exact same thing on every single building that we buy," he said, recalling the drive to start his business. "Because when you eliminate variables, you eliminate risks."

Kia reeled off a few examples of Tides' business. In July of 2020, it bought a 236-unit apartment building in Phoenix for $27 million, spent $3 million on upgrades, and sold it just over a year later for $59 million. In another deal, it paid $89.5 million for a 472-unit apartment building in October of 2020, spent $4 million on renovations, and sold it for $137 million in November 2021.

Because Tides uses much the same renovation plan for each acquisition, it can often start the work even before the ink on the sale contract dries. That's possible because the company typically secures its financing in advance.

The perfect spots

Another secret of Kia's is his attention to location. Cities must be fun, affordable, ripe for in-migration and positioned for job and wage growth, he said.

He's been checking those boxes since he got a start in Phoenix, which became home to some of the company's bread-and-butter investments. The typical renter had been paying only 20% of their income on rent, which represented "really good affordability," Kia said.

"It seemed like it had all the fundamental sort of tailwinds that could really help propel Phoenix to one of the major investment markets," he said. "Fast forward a few years later, we're absolutely right. Phoenix is in the top five markets in the country."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Nasdaq soars 4% after Jerome Powell indicates the Fed is on track to slow rate hikes in December

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:09pm
  • US stocks soared on Wednesday after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said slower interest rate hikes are likely.
  • Powell all but confirmed a 50 basis-point rate hike in December, dialing back from the four consecutive 75 basis-point hikes. 
  • "It is entirely possible the December hike of 50 basis points could be the last hike," Fundstrat's Tom Lee said.

US stocks soared on Wednesday, led by the Nasdaq Composite, which was up as much as 4% after Federal Reserve Chairman struck a dovish tone in a speech to the Brookings Institution.

The other major indexes also spiked on the Fed chief's comments. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 737 points and the S&P 500 ended up more than 3%. 

In his remarks, Powell said there are signs inflation is beginning to finally ease, and that it makes sense for the Fed to slow down its interest rate hikes as soon as December. 

"The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting," Powell said, though he did hedge his comments by saying there is still work to be done in terms of taming inflation. 

But Fundstrat's Tom Lee believes Wednesday's speech from Powell could mark a shift going forward that leads to a less hawkish Fed. "It is entirely possible the December hike of 50 basis points could be the last hike," Lee told clients in a Wednesday note.

Here's where US indexes stood at the 4:00 p.m. ET close on Wednesday:

Here's what else happened today:

  • The US dollar is on pace for its largest monthly loss since 2010. In November, it has fallen 4.2% against a basket of currencies, according to the WSJ Dollar Index.
  • Elon Musk called on the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates as soon as possible in a Tweet on Wednesday. Musk warned that the rapid rate hikes this year have dramatically increased the risk of a deep and painful economic downturn in the US.
  • Musk isn't the only person warning of a steep recession ahead. Both Michael Burry and Danny Moses of "The Big Short" fame warned of an imminent downturn ahead.
  • Kraken, the third-largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, said on Wednesday that it would slash 30% of its work force.
  • Economic data was mixed on Wednesday, with third-quarter GDP growth revised upwards to 2.9% from 2.6%. Meanwhile, the November payroll report from ADP showed private companies adding 127,000 jobs, well below estimates for 190,000 jobs. The Labor Department's November jobs report will be released this Friday.

In commodities, bonds and crypto:

  • West Texas Intermediate crude oil jumped 3.18% to $80.69 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international benchmark, rose 4.81% to $87.02.
  • Gold rose 1.08% to $1,782.70 per ounce.
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell six basis points to 3.69%.
  • Bitcoin rose 1.14% to $17,064, while ether jumped 1.88% to $1,293.
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'Selling Sunset' broker Jason Oppenheim says 'Compass basically destroyed the brokerage model for the entire industry'

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:01pm
The "Selling Sunset" broker Jason Oppenheim told Insider "there are other brokerages out there offering 90/10 and 85/15 splits" to compete with Compass' generous commission policy.
  • Jason Oppenheim, who runs The Oppenheim Group, said the rival brokerage Compass is "unfixable."
  • He said that Compass allowing brokers to keep too much of their commissions is "unsustainable."
  • Compass told Insider its current cost-cutting plan includes "no change in our split policy."

The superstar real-estate broker Jason Oppenheim railed against an embattled rival firm, Compass, saying the company "destroyed the brokerage model for the entire industry" and faces a "grim reality."    

"There's no fixing Compass," Oppenheim, best known from the Netflix reality show "Selling Sunset," told the real-estate news outlet Inman.

Oppenheim closed over $429 million in sales last year as the head of his own brokerage, The Oppenheim Group, a Los Angeles-based firm that his great-great-grandfather founded in 1889. 

Oppenheim's critique centers on "splits," the slice that a brokerage takes from an agent's commission each time they buy or sell a house on a client's behalf. Brokerages use that money for everything from shared office space to marketing resources.  

Splits can range from 50-50 all the way up to 90-10, with agents keeping 90% of a commission — which is usually 3% of a home's sale price — and giving their firm 10%. 

Oppenheim said the splits at Compass are unsustainably generous, in the ballpark of 90-10, generating too little revenue for the brokerage to function profitably.

Former Compass agents confirmed in a lawsuit they were offered 90-10 splits, and The Wall Street Journal reported that some offer letters allowed brokers to keep 100% of their commissions on the first eight deals.

"If you have a broken business model, it doesn't matter how many agents you have. It's irrelevant. If you are making televisions for $100 a piece, and you're selling them for $99 a piece, it doesn't matter that you're making more televisions, it doesn't fix your business model," Oppenheimer told Inman. 

Compass, meanwhile, told Insider it doesn't anticipate changing its split policies. 

"We are planning our cost structure to be profitable in 2023, even with a 25 percent decline in the market, with no change in our split policy. The market responded very favorably and multiple Wall Street analysts project Compass will be profitable without any change to split policies," a Compass spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Insider.  

In a call with Insider, Oppenheim broke down what he considers a more "sustainable and successful" split. 

"The most successful agents at 80-20, and the newer agents at 60-40. Then most of the agents will be at 70-30," he told Insider. He declined to share the range of splits for his agents at The Oppenheim Group. 

Oppenheim also believes that Compass has dragged down the rest of the industry. 

"There are other brokerages out there offering 90-10 and 85-15 splits because they had to in order to compete with Compass," Oppenheim told Insider. 

Compass is on a mission to cut costs by $320 million after a shaky year 

Compass was founded in 2012 by Robert Reffkin, who had never worked in real estate before, and two other entrepreneurs, Ori Allon and Avi Dorfman. The firm rose to become the top brokerage in the US in sales volume, selling $251 billion in real estate in 2021. But after interest rates went up earlier this year, the real-estate market  slowed down dramatically, leaving many agents — and by extention, their brokerages — earning fewer commissions.

Compass, which went public in April 2021, has never turned a profit. It reported a $154 million loss in the third quarter. Its stock price has steadily plunged from $18 the day of the IPO to $2.69 on November 29. Since June, Compass has laid off more than 1,000 people, and executives announced $320 million in cost-cutting. 

A few superagents have fled the brokerage, though Compass touted a 15% increase in its number of agents in the third quarter, saying it employs more than 13,000 agents in total. 

Oppeheim told Insider he currently employs "about 40" agents.

Oppenheim said in his Inman interview that at one point he hoped Compass would "buy me up," but the brokerage said it never responded to his inquiry. 

"Compass doesn't focus on other companies or reality TV, we focus on making our agents more successful," a Compass spokesperson said in an email. "Compass did not respond to Jason's inquiries because he would not have been a culture fit and therefore we did not want to waste his time."

Oppenheim told Insider he's not rooting for the downfall of Compass. "I hope they succeed, but time will tell," he said in a phone interview.  

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the metaverse is 'not the majority of what we're doing'

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:57pm
Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's first ever Meta Store.
  • Amid backlash to his metaverse pivot, Mark Zuckerberg clarified that it's "not the majority of what we're doing." 
  • Zuckerberg said 80% of investments still go toward Meta's core social media business. 
  • Some are concerned that Zuck has lost focus on Facebook and Instagram as he turns his attention to the metaverse. 

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company's metaverse bet is 'not the majority of what we're doing,' as he faces growing backlash for the costly venture. 

"About 80% of our investments – a little more – go towards the core business, what we call our family of apps, so that's Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Messenger, and the ads business associated with that. Then a little less than 20% of our investment goes towards Reality Labs," Zuckerberg said Wednesday at the New York Times Dealbook conference. 

"So still the vast majority of what we're doing is, and will continue to be, going towards social media for quite some time until the metaverse becomes a larger thing." 

Since last year, when Zuckerberg announced a surprise rebrand from Facebook to Meta, the company has sunk a significant amount of money into metaverse technology, reporting nearly $20 billion in losses from its metaverse "Reality Labs" segment since the start of last year. 

The losses keep piling up with no end in sight; some investors have expressed concern that Zuckerberg has lost focus on his company's core social media business in exchange for a long-shot project that may take years to reap financial rewards. 

"You can debate whether 20% is too much for this bet, but it's not the majority of what we're doing," Zuckerberg said. 

He broke down Reality Labs' spending, saying 40% goes toward VR investments, and about half goes toward building the longer-term project: "normal-looking glasses that can put holograms in the world."

Despite the resistance to his company's pivot, Zuckerberg sounded upbeat about his company's multi-billion-dollar investment in the metaverse. 

"We're not going to be here in the 2030s communicating and using computing devices that are exactly the same as what we have today. If someone has to build that and invest in it and believe in it, there's a lot of new technology that needs to get invented to create that. So I'm still very optimistic about that," he said. 

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