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How almost $427 million in taxpayer money is locked away in a forgotten government fund — and lawmakers won't spend it or return it

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:55pm
A pool of more than $426.8 million contributed by taxpayers is waiting for Congress to decide how best to use it. In the meantime, no one is using it — and they haven't for years.
  • The money is supposed to publicly fund presidential campaigns. But it doesn't.
  • Republicans and Democrats in Congress can't agree on what to do with the ever-growing pot.
  • Charities told Insider the money could do great good for suffering Americans.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Holed away in a government account is a massive cash stash most anyone — from depleted federal programs to American taxpayers — would love to tap.

But it sits idle and untouched.

The intended beneficiaries of the taxpayer-fueled Presidential Election Campaign Fund — presidential candidates — don't want it, as they're soured by its restrictions on their election fundraising and spending.

Other prospective recipients, meanwhile, can't have it.

Congress is what's preventing this. Conservatives would prefer to disband the fund and repurpose its money. Many Democrats want the money to seed a reimagined public campaign-finance program contained within a broader "democracy-reform" agenda that's hamstrung on Capitol Hill. Neither side will budge.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund's pot had topped more than $426.8 million, as of October 31 — a record amount during the fund's nearly 50-year history, according to US Treasury records reviewed by Insider. 

An accounting of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, as of October 31, 2022.

The fund grew by more than $600,000 from August 1 to August 31, according to US Treasury records.

If current trends continue, the fund will continue to grow each month by six- or seven-figures thanks to the financial heft generated by American taxpayers who check that little box on their annual tax return that directs $3 to the fund.

'Help people and communities recover'

In a congressional session when lawmakers are measuring economic relief, infrastructure, and "inflation reduction" bills in the billions or trillions of dollars, a few hundred million deserted federal greenbacks may seem comparatively paltry.

But some charitable organizations that serve people often possess next to nothing. Several nonprofit leaders told Insider that Congress could use the Presidential Election Campaign Fund money to immediately ease suffering, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The best possible use of $400 million would be to provide funds for charities to help people and communities recover," Steve Taylor, United Way Worldwide's senior vice president and counsel for public policy, said, citing a looming eviction crisis, a burdened childcare system, education challenges, and mental-health needs among urgent pandemic-era problems. "Charities are leading the way in addressing these problems, and $400 million in new funding would be a game changer."

While the federal government has directed significant funding toward its COVID-19 response, the pandemic is far from over, and people around the world will endure its aftereffects for a long while, said Judy Monroe, the president and CEO of the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit that supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's health-protection work.

"Additional federal funds that are not actively being utilized could, as deemed appropriate by Congress, be repurposed and brought to bear to address critical needs from COVID-19 to health inequities to strengthening the nation's public-health system to be prepared for the next, inevitable outbreak," Monroe told Insider.

Erika Cotton Boyce, a Habitat for Humanity spokesperson, declined to speak specifically about the Presidential Election Campaign Fund but broadly said Congress should "find resources to fund critical programs that will address housing supply and housing affordability, especially homeownership programs for low-income families."

Congress has various mechanisms for directing public funding to nonprofit entities. A bill introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, hopes to further help charitable nonprofits "provide services to meet the increasing demand in community needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, preserve and create jobs in the nonprofit sector, reduce unemployment, and promote economic recovery."

Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican of Iowa, wants the money sent to the US Treasury's general fund and used to help reduce the federal budget deficit.Debt reduction, pediatric care, Alzheimer's research

Some lawmakers and special-interest advocates have other designs on the nearly $427 million.

During the 2019-20 congressional session, two Republican lawmakers sponsored similar bills that attempted to kill the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma sought to transfer the campaign fund's cash balance to a pediatric-research initiative administered by the National Institutes of Health.

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, meanwhile, wanted the money sent to the US Treasury's general fund and used to help reduce the federal budget deficit.

Neither bill received a hearing, let alone a vote.

More recently, Ernst tried again with a similar bill that so far has garnered little support.

That's a shame, said Joshua Sewell, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense who deemed the campaign fund "a vestige of a bygone era." He recommended its money be used to help pay down the country's national debt, which stood at nearly $31.3 trillion as of October 31, according to the Treasury Department. 

Bradley Smith, a former Federal Election Commission chairman who now leads the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, said Congress should repeal the law establishing the fund and direct its money to the Treasury's general fund. 

In April, the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center released a report that recommended reallocating the fund's money to election administration. Doing so, it said, would provide "consistent, additional federal resources to meet a clear and growing need ... this incentivizes state and local governments to invest in their election infrastructure as well."  

Cole plans to reintroduce a new bill targeting the presidential fund, he told Insider. And he's open to broadening where the nearly $427 million might go.

"If the money were to be redirected somewhere other than pediatric-disease research, Alzheimer's research would certainly be a worthy cause," Cole said.

Resist and reform

Congressional Democrats in 2021 made voting, ethics, and campaign-finance reform a chief priority, which is enshrined in bills known as HR 1 and S 1 — colloquially, the "For the People Act of 2021."

A historically robust public financing system for federal elections is part of the For the People Act.

But Senate Republicans filibustered the For the People Act, effectively killing it. Democrats then floated a similar, but slimmed-down bill called the "Freedom to Vote Act," which does not include strong public financing language.

Supporters of publicly funded campaigns say this is no time to give up — or to give away nearly $427 million that's already earmarked and available for the public financing of elections.

The For the People Act "represents the boldest democracy reform since Watergate, and any funds currently available for the old system should be used for the new system of federal citizen-funded elections, which must pass so we can get big money out of politics," Beth Rotman, the director of money in politics and ethics for Common Cause, said prior to the bill's stall-out.

"Getting rid of the money at this point would send the wrong signal," said Meredith McGehee, the former executive director of the nonprofit group Issue One, a self-described "crosspartisan movement for political reform."

The pro-Democrat organization End Citizens United, which takes its name from the Supreme Court's 2010 decision that unleashed gushers of new political money into elections, also backed keeping the cash in place.

"The existing presidential system was designed following Watergate for anti-corruption purposes," the group's spokesperson Bawadden Sayed said, "and we would be supportive of potentially using it for future anti-corruption purposes."

Former President Barack Obama campaigns for Joe Biden in Atlanta on November 2, 2020.Thanks, Obama?

Public presidential-campaign funding wasn't always so derelict.

From the late 1970s to the late 1990s, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund enjoyed a heyday, distributing eight or nine figures of public money to candidates each election cycle.

Supporters lauded the program as an elixir to big-money politics and a defense against corruption. Candidates from both parties routinely opted to use it. Doing so allowed them to spend less time fundraising and more time campaigning.

And since both sides participated, neither side engaged in the kind of political money arms races emblematic of contemporary presidential elections.

But the détente wouldn't last. 

Citing financial advantages, George W. Bush rejected public matching funds during the 2000 Republican presidential primary. Both Bush and eventual Democratic nominee John Kerry declined public funding in their 2004 presidential primaries. 

Come 2008, Democrat Barack Obama rendered the Presidential Election Campaign Fund functionally obsolete by becoming the first major-party presidential candidate in post-Watergate politics to reject public funding during a general presidential election. 

Obama even broke a campaign promise to do so — he previously said he'd use public funding. The future president knew he could privately raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars more than the public program would afford him. Republican presidential nominee John McCain accepted public money — and lost.

No Democratic or Republican presidential nominee has since used public funding. Only a smattering of minor-party and longshot Democratic-primary candidates have patronized the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, who drew about $3 million combined since the 2012 race.

The fund didn't distribute a single dollar to any presidential candidate during the 2020 presidential election.

It last provided funding to presidential nominating conventions in 2012, as Congress two years later passed, and Obama signed, a law that axed public funding of conventions.

Congress siphoned tens of millions of dollars from the presidential fund that otherwise would have gone to party conventions to a pediatric-research fund — the same one that Cole, the Oklahoma congressman, wants to fill with the account's full balance.

Until that or any other repurposing decision comes down, the FEC continues to spend taxpayer resources keeping the Presidential Election Campaign Fund alive.

The agency's audit division has administrative, oversight, and enforcement responsibilities over the program, Judith Ingram, an FEC spokesperson, said. The independent, bipartisan FEC, which regulates and enforces the nation's campaign-finance laws, employs about 300 people. 

Its projected 2022 budget is about $76.5 million, meaning the balance of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund could theoretically fund the agency for a full five years.

This article was originally published on July 13, 2021, and has since been updated to include new financial data and legislative developments.

Read the original article on Business Insider

25 best fitness gifts for the most active people in your life

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:55pm

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Keeping fit and staying active looks different to everyone, but there's one thing that's the same no matter the workout preference: Gear. A wide variety of gear. 

Whether it's a rain- and wind-proof jacket to protect them from the elements or a set of adjustable dumbbells to help them round out their home gym, it's easy to break a sweat trying to decide which gift is best. But that's where we come in.

Below are 25 of the best fitness gifts for this holiday season, many of which are mainstays among our ever-active review team. You'll find a diverse selection of clothing, home gym equipment, footwear, and fitness tech that works both within your budget and their fitness goals.

Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell

Adjustable kettlebells aren't just a modern iteration of a classic piece of workout equipment, they're far more practical, too. With the SelectTech 840 Kettlebell from Bowflex, you can adjust the weight from 8 to 40 pounds, giving you access to six different kettlebells. For the person on your list building out their home gym, this is as good an addition as anything.

Oura Ring

The Oura Ring is unlike any wearable on the market, going above and beyond the typical fitness tracker experience by offering wearers highly customized data regarding their sleep patterns and efficiency, daily activity, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate. And instead of offering all this information without actionable insight, its companion app guides users on how to make positive changes. Plus, it's available in a variety of colors to match anyone's personal style.

Theragun Mini

The Theragun Mini is the best entry level massage gun on the market, as it packs quite a percussive punch in a relatively small package. Shaped somewhat like a spade (the card suit), it's easy and comfortable to hold and incredibly portable, making it the perfect gift for the active person in your life who likes to travel. 

Read our review of the Theragun Mini.

Gorilla Bow

Part resistance band, part barbell, the Gorilla Bow is a unique workout system that's a great addition to any home gym. Each Gorilla Bow comes with an assortment of attachable resistance bands that allow for workouts like banded benchpress, deadlifts, overhead press, and a ton more. Plus, the collapsible design of the Travel version makes it a great travel companion, too.

Hoka Torrent 2 Trail Runners

Popular in both fitness and fashion circles, a pair of trainers from Hoka is a no-brainer. Whether you're giving these Torrent 2 trail runners to someone who will actually wear them on outdoor runs, or someone who just wants some stylish footwear, they're a great gifting choice regardless. They're available in seven different colorways and a full size run for both women and men.

Chubbies Quests Workout Short

Chubbies has made a name for itself selling apparel with a variety of fun prints, and these training shorts are no different. But they're more than just a pair of shorts with some flair — they're also a supportive, comfortable, and functional pair of workout bottoms. They also feature an anti-chafe boxer brief liner, an interior pocket for storing a phone or credit cards, and four-way stretch material that makes them perfect for running, cycling, or lifting weights.

Omorpho G-Vest+

Weighted vests for workouts are having a moment, and one the most versatile options on the market is from Omorpho. Called the G-Vest+, this vest features the brand's signature weighted design that doesn't require you to stuff weight plates into it like other workout vests do. And the weight is distributed across the entire garment, so you won't feel too weighed down in any one spot. The G-Vest+ is available in 5 and 10 lbs versions, and is a great gift for the fitness enthusiast looking to add some intensity to their weekly routine.

GoRuck Training Sandbag

Training with a sandbag helps build strength, stability, and balance better than traditional dumbbells. They'll feel the results doing everyday tasks like carrying groceries, lifting awkward objects off the floor, or moving furniture. This sandbag from GoRuck is one of our favorites as it's durably built, features heavy duty, padded handles, and has quality filler bags that won't leak sand everywhere.

Anji MTX platform

One of the biggest concerns with outfitting a spare room into a home gym is what to do with the flooring. If it's anything other than carpet, picking up and dropping weights can do some serious damage to surfaces like hardwood, linoleum, or tile. This is where the Anji MTX exercise platform can help relieve those fears. Available in a variety of sizing options, this workout flooring turns any home gym into a bonafide weight room. Whether its to soften the impact of heavy weights or to serve as a platform for something like an exercise bike, every home gym needs an Anji MTX setup.

Jabra Elite 7 Active

The Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds have the same excellent audio quality as their more expensive counterpart, the Jabra Elite Pro. But unlike the Elite Pro, they don't get slippery when wet making them a great fitness earbud for those intense, sweaty workouts. They also come with 8 hours of battery life, a charging case with 30 hours battery life, and active noise cancellation so you can drown out that loud gym music.

Amazon Halo View

The Amazon Halo View offers two very distinct experiences: the basic, no-frills on-wrist experience and the innovative, in-depth app experience. On-wrist, the tracker counts things like steps and calories burned while also offering the ability to log exercises like runs or bike rides. But the app is the true star of the show, offering everything from meal advice and workout inspiration to body composition evaluations and sleep analysis. It's an innovative wearable that's as intriguing as anything else on the market. 

Read our review of the Amazon Halo View.

Garmin Forerunner 55

The Garmin Forerunner 55 may be one of the brand's least expensive running watches, but it still comes with a number of features including PacePro, Recovery Time, running track mode, and much more. So if you have a fitness friend who's just getting into running and doesn't need all the bells and whistles of the high-end options like the Garmin Forerunner 935, then this is a great gift.

Quiet Punch

Boxing has a number of benefits including improved balance, coordination, and agility. But if you don't have space in your place for a heavy bag, the Quiet Punch is a great alternative because you can set it up inside any doorway. You can also download the Quiet Punch Play App that offers over 500 drills, boxing challenges, and on-demand classes. But best of all, the app actually counts your punches in real-time so you can easily track your speed and progress.

Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein

Bone broth is packed with protein, making it ideal for people who are trying to build muscle. But bone broth is sometimes tricky to add to a standard diet, which is where bone broth protein comes in. Add it to smoothies or shakes for that extra protein boost. One scoop contains 80 calories and 20 grams of protein. Just remember — and this may go without saying — bone broth is not vegetarian or vegan-friendly. However, there are plenty of vegan protein powder options if you're in the market.

Comrad Compression Socks

In addition to reducing the risk of blood clots, Comrad claims that their compression socks can help you feel more energetic. Compression socks work by fitting snugly around your feet and calves to help promote blood flow. We tried them out and thought, given their snug fit, they were still comfortable. They were also stylish and helped relieve some muscle soreness from a previous day's run.

Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Tee

Tracksmith's apparel combines classic designs with versatile functionality to deliver some of the best running clothing on the market. Its Van Cortlandt Tee is one of our go-to tops as it features a lightweight mesh that's comfortable and breathable, and comes in a relaxed fit that doesn't feel too restrictive, especially on longer runs. We love the vintage sash design on the front, too.

Ten Thousand Lightweight Tech Jacket

When the weather turns from balmy sunshine to wet and windy, you need gear designed to withstand that changing of the elements. The Lightweight Tech Jacket from Ten Thousand does exactly that, able to keep wind and rain at bay while remaining lightweight enough to not feel like it's weighing you down. It's made using stretch fabric that's comfortable and doesn't chafe and features two-way zippers that add to its versatility. Plus, it can pack down into itself for easy portability.

NordicTrack Select-a-Weight Adjustable Dumbbells

Any fan of dumbbells can appreciate NordicTrack's adjustable dumbbell set. Choose from a wide variety of weights that range from 10-55 pounds. What makes this dumbbell set so convenient is that it offers 15 different weight options but only requires one set of dumbbells. So what would typically require 15 separate dumbbell sets is all combined into one set with the NordicTrack's select-a-weight set. Just adjust the dumbbell weights to whatever you like, similar to a barbell where you add more weight.

Bandit Running Training Shorts

Although you can technically run in normal workout or training shorts, wearing legit running shorts like this pair from Bandit Running makes a world of difference. Made with a combination of nylon and lycra, the Litewave Splitty Run Short is lightweight, doesn't chafe, and features an elastic waistband that stays comfortable no matter how many miles you cover. It also has a built-in brief liner for added comfort and hidden pockets to stash things like energy gels. 

Cotopaxi Kapai hip pack

Fanny Packs have always been useful, but they've recently become trendy, too. Whether running errands or a race, your giftee can conveniently store all of their essentials in this brightly colored, convenient hip pack.

Vuori Daily Leggings

The Vuori Daily Legging is an excellent gift for working out and working from home alike. Our style and beauty team is particularly fond of the leggings' softness and flattering cuts.

InvoSpa Shiatsu Back Neck and Shoulder Massager

This massager — with its three different  speed and strength levels and two massage directions — is sure to be a welcome addition to any recovery routine. There's also a soothing infrared heat function, and it comes with a car charger and a portable carry bag.

Oofos Ooahh Slide Sandal

The OOahh Slide Sandal are the perfect lounging footwear because they'll be the most comfortable shoes they own. They're ideal for recovery days or short walks, and they'll appreciate the welcome softness after a long day on their feet.

NekTeck Foot Massager

Many athletes spend lots of time on their feet, so they'll be especially grateful for a foot massager. This particular model is heated, features air compression, and can improve blood circulation.

Shred Fitness App Subscription

Shred combines the motivation of a fitness coach with the convenience of your home or gym. The app features personalized workouts from fitness professionals and influencers, and you can even coordinate with your friends inside the app for an extra layer of accountability.

Read the original article on Business Insider

China and NASA are racing to the moon. Side-by-side photos hint NASA has the edge, but China's secrecy makes the race hard to call.

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:45pm
China's Shenzhou 15 mission, left, lifted off on Tuesday, one week after NASA launched its Artemis I mission to the moon, right.

China and NASA are racing toward the moon, each vying for the first human moon landing since 1972. Two recent launches show that NASA may have the edge, but there is no clear winner yet.

A Long March-2F rocket carrying China's Shenzhou-15 mission stands at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province of China.

NASA just launched its new lunar rocket for the first time on November 15, carrying the Orion spaceship, designed to ferry astronauts on future moon missions. Now Orion is circling the moon, uncrewed, in a test flight to ensure it can safely take human passengers next time.

Orion, the moon, and Earth as the spaceship reaches its farthest point from our planet.

China, meanwhile, launched a new crew of taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) toward its new space station on Tuesday. The rocket roared through the Gobi Desert skies, past a quarter-full moon looming low on the horizon.

China built the Tiangong station over the last year and a half, and just completed it in October. This launch establishes the beginning of regular rotations of taikonauts staffing the orbiting laboratory.

The International Space Station, top, and an illustration of China's Tiangong space station, bottom.

While NASA is testing its moon hardware in lunar orbit, China is stuck firmly in Earth's orbit. Chinese officials say their space station is a crucial step toward the moon, and they're developing the hardware for a lunar landing. With the limited information China has shared about its lunar program, it's hard to assess how close it is behind NASA.

NASA's chief sees China as an 'aggressive competitor' for the moonA mannequin is onboard NASA's Orion spaceship, left, while China's launch sends three taikonauts, right, to its space station.

On paper, NASA is aiming to land its astronauts on the moon's south pole by 2025, but many experts and the agency's Inspector General say that timeline is unrealistic.

China could land its own people on the moon by 2030, Chinese lunar program designer and engineer Ye Peijian told state broadcaster CCTV in November 2021, according to Andrew Jones, the leading English-language journalist covering Chinese space programs.

The secrecy of China's lunar program makes it difficult for outside analysts to assess that timeline, but NASA's chief has expressed a sense that the race is tight.

"We have every reason to believe that we have a competitor, a very aggressive competitor, in the Chinese going back to the moon with taikonauts," Bill Nelson, NASA's administrator, said in a press briefing in November 2021.

"It's the position of NASA and, I believe, the United States government that we want to be there first, back on the moon after over a half-century," he added.

Administrator Bill Nelson said NASA wants to get to the moon before China.

Nelson, other Congress members, and past NASA administrators have previously pointed to China's ambitions in space as cause for concern, and a reason to increase NASA funding.

"The Chinese space program is increasingly capable of landing Chinese taikonauts much earlier than originally expected, but whatever," Nelson said, adding, "We are going to be as aggressive as we can be in a safe and technically feasible way to beat our competitors with boots on the moon."

Base-building on the moon is groundwork for the bigger space race: MarsNASA has identified these 13 regions as potential targets for its next human moon landing.

China and NASA have identified some of the same target landing sites on the lunar south pole, Jones reported.

Both have long-term plans to construct permanent stations on the lunar surface, and they're building coalitions to work with other nations there — but not with each other.

The south pole of the moon could become especially valuable real estate, since it seems to hold much of the moon's water. That will be a critical resource for space programs that plan to send astronauts from the moon to Mars — as NASA plans — since they can break the water down into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

Mars is the tighter space race, according to Doug Loverro, NASA's former associate administrator.

"If the target is to land on the moon and back, clearly the US is going to beat China. There's no question about it," Loverro told CNN. "But if the target is landing the first humans on Mars, the answer is a lot less certain."

Read the original article on Business Insider

A US plan to drop bombs from cargo planes hit another milestone, but the Air Force is still figuring out how it would use it in a war

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:39pm
An MC-130J on a rehearsal flight at Andøya Space Defense Range in Norway on November 8.
  • US Air Force special operators launched a cruise missile from a cargo plane over Norway this month.
  • The live-fire test of the so-called palletized munition was the first for the program in Europe.
  • The Air Force wants to have more planes that can launch long-range strikes, but there are logistical hurdles.

US Air Force special operators and other US and foreign military personnel dropped a cruise missile on a pallet from a cargo plane over Norway in early November in a first-of-its-kind test in Europe.

It was another milestone for the US Air Force's Rapid Dragon program, which aims to equip cargo aircraft for long-range attacks in order to expand the US arsenal of strike aircraft and make it harder for adversaries to target US forces.

The US military is already showing allies how to use their cargo planes in a similar way, but the Air Force is still sorting out the logistics of operating those improvised bombers.

A palletized munition falls from an MC-130J during a live-fire test in Norway on November 9.

The test on November 9 took place inside the Arctic Circle at the Andøya Space Defense Range in northern Norway.

An MC-130J, the special-operations variant of the C-130, from the UK-based 352nd Special Operations Wing deployed the Rapid Dragon Palletized Effects System, which was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory to launch long-range cruise missiles using standard airdrop procedures.

Pallets carrying Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range cruise missiles, which have a range of about 600 miles, "were sequentially released on a range over the Norwegian Sea," the laboratory said in a press release.

Footage released by the 352nd Wing shows an MC-130J dropping a pallet, its parachutes unfurling, and a missile deploying and flying under its own power before striking the ocean and detonating.

This was the first live-fire Rapid Dragon test since a December 2021 test over the Gulf of Mexico and the first test in the US European Command area on responsibility.

Rapid Dragon has "advanced rapidly from a concept on paper to a live fire using a developmental prototype in 24 months," Dean Evans, the program manager, said in a release.

"Now less than three years from the program's inception, Rapid Dragon is being used by [US Special Operations Command Europe] in the Arctic Circle. This is a testament to the team's focus on rapid fielding," Evans added.

A palletized munition falls from an MC-130J at Andøya Space Defense Range on November 9.

Rapid Dragon is now expanding from "palletized munitions" to "palletized effects," which includes "non-kinetic" munitions, cargo resupply, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, the AFRL said.

The November 9 exercise was also part of European Command's Atreus operation series, begun in April 2021 with the goal of training with NATO forces on capabilities located in Europe.

A video released by US Special Operations Command Europe shows US and Polish personnel conducting "palletized precision effects cargo training" with a Polish C-130 on November 8.

'Provocative without being escalatory'US and Polish personnel load palletized munitions on a C-130 in Powidz on November 8.

Rapid Dragon is meant to expand the fleet of aircraft that can deploy long-range weapons by incorporating cargo planes, like the C-17 and C-130, that can operate from more bases than traditional bomber aircraft.

Bolstering that fleet with aircraft that can operate from more bases is meant to frustrate adversaries that might target those aircraft and bases in a conflict — in line with other Air Force efforts to disperse its operations, especially in the Pacific.

"An MC-130J is the perfect aircraft for this capability because we can land and operate from a 3,000-foot highways and austere landing zones whereas a bomber cannot," Lt. Col. Valerie Knight, 352nd Wing mission commander, said in a release.

A crew qualified to drop heavy equipment could also deploy the Rapid Dragon pallet, Knight said, echoing officials who say the capability could be adopted by other militaries.

US Air Force personnel load a Rapid Dragon deployment system on an MC-130J before a test in November 2021.

"The beauty of that capability is it doesn't require any aircraft modifications. It doesn't require any special aircrew training. It really just takes advantage of the characteristics of that platform," Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of US Air Force Special Operations Command, told reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association conference in September.

"We've got a lot of allies and partners that have cargo airplanes. They don't necessarily have deep-magazine heavy bombers," Slife added, "but if we can give them similar kinds of capability to use with the cargo platforms we have, then we're helping our partners become more capable."

Slife said a C-130 can carry as many long-range precision munitions as a B-52, and a C-17 can carry three times as many. The desire for more long-range-strike options is driven in large part by the emergence of adversaries with their own long-range arsenals — chiefly China, but also Russia.

From the Andøya range, major Russian bases on the Kola Peninsula would be within range of the JASSM-ER, but the test "is not signaling to Russia or any adversary," US Army Capt. Margaret Collins told The Barents Observer before it was conducted.

A simulated cruise missile deploys its wings and tail after separating from the palletized munition container during a November 2021 test.

However, the US was "trying to deter Russian aggression" by demonstrating enhanced capabilities with allies, Lt. Col. Lawrence Melnicoff told Stars and Stripes ahead of the November 9 test.

"It puts this thing within range of Russia. We are intentionally trying to be provocative without being escalatory," said Melnicoff, Special Operations Command Europe's lead officer for Operation Atreus.

Expanding the number of planes and bases involved in long-range strikes brings logistical challenges, especially in the Pacific, where the distances are vast and facilities the Air Force wants to start using are often rudimentary.

Slife said the logistical issues reflect something "we're paying a lot of attention to right now, which is this idea that we're going to operate in very distributed, austere kind of environments and so forth. Even austere environments need some kind of logistics infrastructure, right?"

"Part of what we're working through on the palletized munitions thing is weapons storage and how do we actually think our way through where do we think we're going to keep these weapons, how are they going to be configured, do we really want them out in the middle of a field somewhere next to a straight stretch of road?" Slife added. "We're kind of working our way through the logistics implications of these kind of concepts for how we operate."

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Liz Cheney calls on Kevin McCarthy to condemn Trump for meeting with 'neo-Nazi' Nick Fuentes: 'I know you want to be Speaker, but are you willing to be completely amoral?'

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:34pm
Rep. Liz Cheney speaks during a news conference with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on July 21, 2020.
  • Rep. Liz Cheney is calling on Kevin McCarthy to condemn Donald Trump for meeting with Nick Fuentes.
  • Fuentes is widely known as a white supremacist and anti-semite. Trump hosted him at Mar-a-Lago.
  • McCarthy has condemned Fuentes, but he hasn't spoken out against Trump.

Rep. Liz Cheney is publicly calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to criticize former President Donald Trump for his pre-Thanksgiving dinner with Nick Fuentes, who is widely known as a white supremacist and anti-semitic Holocaust denier.

Cheney, who lost her Wyoming primary to a Trump-backed challenger, described Fuentes as a "neo-Nazi" in a tweet directed at McCarthy on Tuesday, a week after Trump's meeting at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida with the 24-year-old Fuentes and Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.

"Hey @GOPLeader - where is your condemnation of Donald Trump for meeting with neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes, the pro-Putin leader of the America First Political Action Conference?" she tweeted. "I know you want to be Speaker, but are you willing to be completely amoral?"

—Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) November 29, 2022

McCarthy won the votes of a majority of his caucus to become the GOP's nominee for speaker when Republicans take control of the House next Congress, but he still needs to win 218 votes in the lower chamber in January. If he wins, Democrats expect him to have a tough time controling his far-right ranks — including some who have also met with Fuentes or appeared at the America First Political Action Conference that he founded.

When Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona spoke at the conference this year, McCarthy called their attendance "unacceptable."

"For me it was appalling and wrong," McCarthy told Punchbowl in February. "And there's no place in our party for any of this. The party should not be associated any time any place with somebody who is anti-Semitic."

But McCarthy remained silent for several days about Trump's visit with Fuentes, even as other GOP leaders and some potential 2024 rivals — including former Vice President Mike Pence — have condemned the actions by the former president, who is again running for president in 2024. 

McCarthy on Tuesday condemned Fuentes' ideology when reporters asked about the meeting, but he did not denounce Trump. "The president didn't know who he was," McCarthy said. He also falsely claimed that Trump condemned Fuentes "four times."

McCarthy later said, "The president can have meetings with who he wants; I don't think anybody, though, should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes," according to The New York Times.

A spokesperson for McCarthy did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Fuentes is a 2020 election denier who helped organize Stop the Steal protests ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, and the House committee investigating the riot has subpoenaed him as part of the probe. Trump has claimed that he did not know who Fuentes was. 

Cheney, the top Republican on the House January 6 committee, blasted Greene and Trump in an earlier tweet for "hanging around with this anti-Semitic, pro-Putin, white supremacist. This isn't complicated. It's indefensible." 

The Anti-Defamation League describes Fuentes as a white supremacistanti-semite, and 2020 election-denier "who seeks to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP."

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow played a video montage, compiled by the Right Wing Watch project, with clips of Fuentes that include him calling for a dictatorship to "force the people to believe what we believe."

"The white people got to make the right decision, and then Trump's got to get in there and never leave," he said at one point. "It's time to shut up, elect Trump one more time and then stop having elections."

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2022

This story was originally published on November 29, 2022, and has since been updated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 31-year-old mortgage broker who's been laid off twice decided to open a bakery and she's never been happier: 'I don't have the stress of wondering if I'm going to be laid off tomorrow'

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:24pm
Taylor Audet and her husband, Levi.
  • Taylor Audet was in mortgage lending for eight years and was laid off twice.
  • Layoffs in the mortgage industry have become increasingly common over the last two years.
  • She rediscovered her love for baking while out of work and turned her pandemic hobby into a career.

For former mortgage lender Taylor Audet, the fate of her career being dependent on something she had no control over was enough for her to change tracks.

A resident of McGregor, Iowa — a 723-person town on the Mississippi River bordering Wisconsin — Audet, 31, had been in the lending business for eight years before giving it up.

After going through two layoffs during her career, she chose to open up a bakery instead of regularly being a casualty of the housing market.

"I'm tired of being at other companies' mercy," she told Insider. "I want to be my own boss and control my own destiny."

Mortgage lending's turbulent job market

The mortgage business has had a choppy two years in relation to staffing. Mass hirings and firings — highlighted by mortgage lender Better's layoffs — became typical as the housing market bucked.

Audet joined the mortgage industry in 2014, and relished the one-on-one connections she was able to make while helping out her community.

"I loved it," she said. "I'm in a small town, a small community, so you get to help people with their financial needs and that's pretty special."

Unfortunately for Audet, she was laid off alongside many other lenders during the pandemic.

Cupcakes made by Audet.

While away from lending, Audet tapped into a hobby of hers that she always enjoyed: baking. During the pandemic, she baked for friends and family and started to hone her skills — her specialty: strawberry cheesecake cupcakes.

"People were asking me to make them things for events and really supporting small, locally owned businesses during COVID," she said. "I was like, 'You know what, let's go ahead and make this an actual side business.'"

In March 2021, she officially opened her side business, Treats by Taylor — which remained a side business as she took a job as a corporate trainer in 2020. 

According to Eli Joseph, author of "The Perfect Rejection Résumé," and faculty member at Columbia University, New York University and UCLA, building up a secondary skill while working is a good way to brace for layoffs.

"You have to be ready in order to get ready," Joseph told Insider. "You have to be prepared, and the best way to be prepared is to diversify your skill sets."

Leaving lending for goodA drip cake made by Audet.

"We heard at the beginning of the year that layoffs might start happening," Audet said. "So I had started to map out this plan of what I wanted it to look like if I opened my own business."

In September, after being laid off, Audet wrote a LinkedIn post that received more than 16,000 reactions: I decided I was tired of being laid off from the finance/mortgage industry & chose to chase my dream.

"I don't have the stress of wondering if I'm going to be laid off tomorrow," she said. "I'll have new worries now, but that's all within my control as the business owner and not in somebody else's control. I'm excited, I feel good, and I'm happy."

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A fire broke out aboard US Navy aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and injured 9 sailors off the coast of California

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 3:08pm
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transits the Indian Ocean in this U.S. Navy handout photo dated January 18, 2012.
  • A fire broke out aboard the US Navy aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on Tuesday.
  • Nine sailors had "minor" injures, a Navy official told Insider, with six suffering from dehydration.
  • It's the latest incident to plague the Lincoln, which reported polluted drinking water last month.  

Nine US Navy sailors suffered injuries after a fire broke out aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln while it was operating off the coast of California, the Navy said Wednesday. 

The fire started Tuesday morning while the carrier was 30 miles off shore, but it was "quickly identified and extinguished" by the crew, according to a Navy statement. It said the cause of the fire is currently being investigated and that the ship will continue its routine operations in the area.

Lt. Samuel R. Boyle, a 3rd Fleet spokesperson, declined to elaborate on the specific location on the ship where the fire broke out, citing "operational security" concerns. He said the ship has no plans to pull back to port because of the fire. 

Boyle said none of the injured sailors were evacuated from the ship. All were treated onboard. Six of the injured sailors were dehydrated, he said, noting that it was not immediately clear what happened to the remaining three.

The injuries suffered by the sailors were classified as "minor injuries" in the Navy statement.

Tuesday's fire follows another incident aboard the Lincoln in September. The Navy acknowledged in an October statement that it found E. coli bacteria in the ship's potable water system, which contains the water sailors use for drinking, cooking, and bathing, after sailors noticed it had an unusual odor and an unnatural cloudy appearance. 

Later that same month, the Navy revealed in a statement that following further investigation into the matter, the sea service had determined that the ship's water supply had been contaminated with bilge water, which is wastewater that collects in the bottom of a ship. Videos from the ship obtained by Insider showed gray and murky water coming from fountains and sinks — which one sailor described as "horrible."

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Kanye West owes millions all over town for unpaid contract work and music samples, lawsuits allege

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 2:56pm
Kanye West is seen in Chelsea on January 05, 2022 in New York City.
  • Kanye West went without business partners after they abandoned him for antisemitic tirades. 
  • He tried that earlier with his music and has been hit with copyright lawsuits related to sampling.
  • West has also been dogged in recent years by lawsuits alleging he stiffed employees and contractors.

When Kanye West released his eleventh album, "Donda 2," earlier this year, he shed his usual business infrastructure.

He didn't release it under Def Jam Recordings, the Universal-owned label he's called home since his first album, "The College Dropout," in 2004. He didn't even use GOOD Music, the record label he personally founded.

Instead, he released it himself. West — who also goes by the name Ye — decided to put "Donda 2" on the Stem Player, a music remixing device he helped invent that costs about $200.

No one can be quite sure if "Donda 2" was a flop, since Billboard refused to chart it, but the rollout was a disaster. Many fans simply pirated the album instead of paying for a Stem Player. And what followed was a thicket of lawsuits from people who alleged West failed to properly credit their songs when using samples for the album.

The "Donda 2" fiasco foreshadows the legal risks West now faces as major brands and financial partners have abandoned him for his hateful conspiracy theories and violent threats toward Jews. He has already fallen fast from grace, losing fans and, he said, owing the IRS $50 million, apparently unable to hire capable tax advisors.

Yet without the usual corporate infrastructure behind his projects, West has been busy planning independent fashion projects without any major backers and launching a presidential campaign with a ragtag group of white nationalists.

If recent history is any indication, he'll have a host of more legal problems soon.

Lawsuits allege West failed to get rights for songs sampled in 'Donda 2'

Earlier this month, a recording label sued West, alleging he violated the company's copyright by knowingly sampling the song "South Bronx" by Boogie Down Productions on his song "Life of the Party."

West knew the song infringed on the copyright, according to the lawsuit, because his clearance agent asked for permission to use it on "Donda 2" but never actually got it.

"The communications confirmed that South Bronx had been incorporated into the Infringing Track even though West had yet to obtain such license," the lawsuit says. "Upon information and belief, despite the fact that final clearance for use of South Bronx in the Infringing Track was never authorized, the Infringing Track was nevertheless reproduced, sold, distributed, publicly performed and exploited in numerous ways."

Worse still, according to the lawsuit, West and his pals used "Life of the Party" to market the Stem Player. The Stem Player itself encourages more copyright infringement, the lawsuit alleges, since it allows people to split songs "into stems that can then be freely customized and manipulated using the device."

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Kanye West aka Ye is seen on October 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

The lawsuit followed a similar one from June, in which another label alleged West sampled a different song on a "Donda 2" track without permission.

"Specifically, West's song 'Flowers' — reportedly written about his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian — directly samples an iconic song written by another Chicago native, Marshall Jefferson, in 1986," the lawsuit says. "That song, titled 'Move Your Body,' and known as 'The House Music Anthem,' is instantly recognizable; the unauthorized sample taken by West is repeated at least 22 times throughout 'Flowers.'"

On October 31, US District Judge Analisa Torres, who is overseeing the case, ordered the parties to prepare for a trial since they failed to come to a settlement.

Unfortunately for West, her order was issued just after he threatened to go "death con 3" on Jews. His lawyers at Greenberg Traurig LLP asked Torres to let them withdraw from the case. They filed their reasoning under seal, but Torres indicated she's inclined to grant their request so long as they can prove they serve West with documents telling him they're dumping him.

A person familiar with the situation confirmed to Insider that West has been served such papers.

"We condemn antisemitism and all hate speech or bigotry, which is repugnant to the core values we believe in and live," Greenberg Traurig LLP told Insider in a statement. "This firm was founded by individuals who faced discrimination and many of us lost ancestors because of that kind of hate and prejudice. Accordingly, our firm has moved to withdraw from our representations. We will not take on any future matters."

A representative for West didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

West allegedly sampled people's prayers in his songs without paying them

Virtually every popular music artist is sued by lesser-known artists over alleged copyright infringement. It's part of the business.

What makes West unique is his proclivity for sampling from unexpected places. His song "Come to Life," on his 2021 album "Donda," features part of a sermon running as a refrain as West sings about sadness and salvation.

Bishop David Paul Moten, a Texas-based pastor who says he gave the sermon, sued West in May, alleging it was used without his permission and that neither West nor his music producers ever paid him for the sample.

"Defendants willfully and without the permission or consent of Plaintiff extensively sampled portions of the Sermon," the lawsuit said. "Over the span of several years, Defendants have demonstrated an alarming pattern and practice of willfully and egregiously sampling sound recordings of others without consent or permission."

INDIO, CALIF. - APRIL 21: Kanye West's Easter Sunday Service during Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Sunday, April 21, 2019 in Indio, Calif.

A later court filing indicated Moten planned to temporarily withdraw the lawsuit as he obtained a copyright for his sermon. Moten told Insider the lawsuit is "definitely ongoing" and referred all questions to his attorney, who didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January 2021, West reached a settlement over a comparable situation.

In 2019, the guardians of a 4-year-old girl (identified as "NG" in court filings) sued West for sampling her prayers, which went viral on Instagram, in his track "Ultralight Beam."

A member of West's team reached out to obtain permission just days before the song was released, in 2016, but the parties ultimately hadn't reached a written agreement and didn't establish how much West would pay for the usage of the prayer audio, according to the lawsuit.

Court records show the parties arrived at a settlement after the girl's guardians successfully convinced the judge overseeing the case to force West to sit for a deposition.

West has a track record of failing to pay people who work for him

Aside from allegedly pilfering songs, West has been hit with a smattering of lawsuits in recent years alleging he failed to pay for work done on his behalf.

Those lawsuits include:

All of these lawsuits were filed in the last three years and remain pending. West has either denied the allegations or has not yet responded in court filings.

He has settled, however, in one similar case. In September of 2021, he reached an agreement with MyChannel, a company that alleged West stiffed it millions of dollars. The terms of the settlement weren't disclosed in court.

MyChannel, the lawsuit said, spent months developing proprietary technology at West's request for his fashion brands, only for West to fail to deliver on a promised investment in the company. The company squandered months on the work, even relocating its headquarters to better closely work with West.

In the end, the lawsuit alleged, West used a rip-off of MyChannel's e-commerce technology to sell his clothing at a concert. It was so blatant, according to the lawsuit, that even West's confidants praised MyChannel for the work.

When MyChannel followed up with West's manager after the concert, the company received no response, the lawsuit says.

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The Fed doesn't know when inflation will stop being a problem, and it means interest rates could stay high for 'some time,' Powell says

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 2:55pm
Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve Jerome Powell speaks at the Brookings Institution, November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Powell discussed the economic outlook, inflation and the labor market.
  • Fed Chair Powell said on Wednesday that the "path ahead for inflation remains highly uncertain."
  • As a result, Powell said it's likely interest rates could remain high, but the pace of increases might slow in December.
  • He also noted there is still a path for the US to avoid a recession and achieve a soft landing.

The head of the nation's central bank isn't too sure when soaring prices will stop being a problem for Americans.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke at a Brookings Institution event on the economic outlook, inflation, and the labor market. Inflation rose 7.7% year-over-year in October, and while it's undoubtedly still a high level, that marked a decline from the September measurement of of 8.2%, showing signs the economy is headed in the right direction.

But as Powell noted in his remarks, there is still a ways to go to bring inflation down to the Fed's long-term goal of 2%, and "the path ahead for inflation remains highly uncertain."

To combat the high prices straining Americans' wallets, the Fed has acted aggressively over recent months to raise interest rates, most recently hiking levels by 0.75 percentage points in October. This was the fourth consecutive time rates had been hiked at that level, and Powell said on Wednesday that "the time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting," suggesting smaller rate hikes could be coming.

He added, however, that the fight against inflation is far from over, saying "the timing of that moderation is far less significant than the questions of how much further we will need to raise rates to control inflation, and the length of time it will be necessary to hold policy at a restrictive level."

"It is likely that restoring price stability will require holding policy at a restrictive level for some time," Powell said. "History cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy. We will stay the course until the job is done."

The high interest rate hikes have concerned some Democratic lawmakers who argued that acting too aggressively to combat inflation could trigger a recession, and in turn, a stream of job losses. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said earlier this month that "of course the Fed has a role to play in getting inflation under control, but there is a big difference between landing a plane and crashing it."

But as Insider previously reported, the latest economic data suggest that even if the country does find itself in a recession, it won't be as bad as many might expect. Given that the labor market continues to be strong, a growth recession is possible — defined as a shallow contraction that maintains a strong labor market.

Both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Powell said on Wednesday that they believe a recession is still avoidable. Yellen said preventing an economic downturn is "certainly possible" during her remarks at the New York Times Dealbook conference, and Powell expressed confidence the economy could achieve a soft landing, in which the Fed can combat inflation while avoiding a recession.

"I think we're now in a position where we're in a place where we really can get inflation under control," Powell said, adding that "I don't regret getting to where we are, and I think broadly the world would be better off if we can get this over quickly."

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The House passes an agreement that would stop a rail strike — and give workers 7 days of sick leave

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 2:48pm
A worker drives near freight trains and shipping containers in a Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal rail yard on November 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
  • The House took the first step towards averting a rail strike, passing legislation to impose an agreement.
  • But members also voted to pass a measure that would give workers 7 paid sick days.
  • Both measures now have to pass the Senate, where sick days might encounter resistance.

Congress has taken the first step towards heading off a rail strike and pushing through a new contract for union rail workers — and, through legislative maneuvering, passed a measure that would give workers seven days of sick leave.

A vote to push through a tentative agreement — and thus avert a potentially economy-rattling strike — passed with substantial bipartisan support. 79 Republicans joined 211 Democrats in voting to pass the measure. 

The additional measure that would tack on more sick days for workers had much closer margins, with 3 Republicans joining 218 Democrats to pass the resolution.

Paid sick leave, or lack thereof, has emerged as one of the biggest issues among rail workers. Currently, workers have no paid sick days. In the lead up to contract negotiations, workers pushed for 15 paid sick days to be added; they ended up with just one additional personal day, leading many to vote against that agreement.

On Monday, President Joe Biden asked Congress to step in and help avert a strike. Unlike other industries, Congress can step in to help resolve disputes in the railway bargaining process, or even vote to enact an agreement that not all rail unions have voted in favor of. 

After four out of the twelve rail unions voted not to ratify a tentative agreement mediated by the White House, and with a strike looming as soon as early December, Biden asked Congress to do just that. 

"As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement," Biden said in his statement.

He asked Congress to pass the tentative agreement "without any modifications or delay," although he said he shares "workers' concern about the inability to take leave to recover from illness or care for a sick family member." 

"But at this critical moment for our economy, in the holiday season, we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny workers the benefits of the bargain they reached, and hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown," Biden said.

Some members of Congress responded by pushing for the additional sick day resolution, insisting that legislation on the deal could not move forward without provisions for workers.

"It's no secret that his announcement and calling on Congress to intervene was disappointing to some of these unions — they've stated as much publicly — but I also think that we can turn this into a win, actually," Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Insider. She said that they're "fighting tooth and nail" to include the sick day amendment.

Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier told reporters that he was "cautiously optimistic" that the House would pass both the tentative agreement and the paid sick leave measure. He later joined Democratic senators including Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand in a statement commending the House for the passage of the paid sick day measure, and urging the Senate to "quickly take up the House-passed language for a roll call vote."

Ross Grooters, a locomotive engineer in Iowa and co-chair of Railroad Workers United, told Insider that "it's good to see the support that's been building and the recognition that paid sick time is important for railroad workers. It's important for all workers."

But both the tentative agreement and the paid sick leave resolution still need to pass the Senate. If the agreement passed without paid sick leave, "it's going to make life hard for railroad workers," Grooters said.

"Without paid time off under what the railroads are trying to do, it just becomes very difficult — and near impossible — to manage your life and exist outside of the railroads."

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Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, disappeared from public view in 2020. He's been living in Tokyo for the past 6 months, new reports say.

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 1:40am
Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma is reportedly living in Tokyo.
  • Alibaba group founder Jack Ma is now living in Tokyo, the FT reported.
  • The once high-profile Ma angered the Chinese authorities in 2020 and has since vanished from public view.
  • Ma is still lying low in Tokyo and socializes mainly within private clubs.

Once one of China's richest businessmen, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma mostly disappeared from public view two years ago after a run-in with the authorities. He has now resurfaced in Tokyo, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing people with direct knowledge of his whereabouts.

Ma, an outspoken teacher-turned-tech titan, was once a high-profile jet-setter who was the face of China's Big Tech. But he has been laying low since October 2020, after giving a speech criticizing China's financial regulatory system.

His words angered the Chinese authorities, prompting intense regulatory scrutiny on his businesses, and a wider crackdown on tech firms the country.

There has been intense speculation of Ma's whereabouts since he vanished from the limelight.

One of the most recent sightings of the billionaire was in July this year, when he visited Wageningen University & Research in July, the Dutch institution announced on its website.

Even though he's been living in Tokyo for nearly half a year, Ma has been keeping a low-profile in the city and socializes mainly within several private members' clubs, per the FT. He also spends his time in Japan visiting hot springs and ski resorts in the countryside with his family, according to the media outlet.

While based in Tokyo, Ma has been making regular trips to the US and tech-hub Israel, according to the FT.

Like China, Japan had some of the world's toughest border controls during the pandemic, but visa-free travel resumed last month. In contrast, Covid lockdowns still persist in China, leading to rare protests against the authorities last weekend.

The spotlight on Ma's activities coincided with Beijing's push for "common prosperity" — a concept that the rich must share their wealth with the poor to create a more equal society. The drive that intensified from 2020 has hit big tech as well as property firms, which were forced to reduce their debt levels, as authorities sought to control high home prices.

This weighed on Chinese tech and property firms, sending the net worth of the country's richest plunging. Ma, who at his peak was worth about $61 billion in October 2020, is now worth about $30.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Ma stepped down as the chairman of Alibaba in 2019. He still sits on the board of the Jack Ma Foundation, which he founded.

The foundation did not respond immediately to a request from Insider for comment.

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A senior official needs to be with Trump at all times after the dinner scandal with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West, per new campaign rules: AP

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 11:33pm
Former President Donald Trump.
  • Trump's team has a new rule: A senior official needs to be with Trump at all times, the AP reports.
  • The team is also putting in place a vetting process for all of Trump's guests, per the AP.
  • This comes after the backlash to Trump's dinner with rapper Kayne West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

Former President Donald Trump's team is putting new measures in place to try to reduce the number of scandals he gets into, per the Associated Press.

A senior official from the Trump campaign will accompany the former president at all times, a source familiar with the plans told the AP. In addition, the Trump 2024 campaign is also planning to vet and approve every single person who meets with Trump.

The measures come after Trump had dinner with rapper Kanye West, who now goes by the name Ye, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes at Mar-A-Lago on November 22.

Fuentes marched in the 2017 white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, during which an avowed neo-Nazi drove his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing a woman and injuring 35 people. The Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group, describes Fuentes as a leader of the "Groyper Army." This is a loosely organized alt-right group that espouses pro-white, racist, and anti-Semitic views.

In a statement to Axios, Trump said he did not know who Fuentes was, or what his views were before the dinner. And in several posts on Truth Social, Trump called Ye a "seriously troubled man, who happens to be Black." He denied that he knew Fuentes or Ye's other companions who joined them at the dinner. 

Trump's team is also claiming, per NBC, that Ye tricked the former president into meeting with Fuentes. Several sources close to Trump told NBC the dinner was a real blow to the Trump camp. 

"This is a fucking nightmare," an anonymous longtime Trump adviser told NBC. "If people are looking at DeSantis to run against Trump, here's another reason why."

The former president has drawn backlash from within the GOP over the dinner.

Former GOP governor Chris Christie, a one-time Trump ally turned critic, on Friday called the meeting "another example of an awful lack of judgment from Donald Trump" and a sign that Trump is an "untenable general election candidate." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blasted Trump's meeting with Ye and Fuentes, saying that there is "no room" in the GOP for white supremacy.

A representative for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on the campaign's new rules.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Twitter continues to see a 'significant decline' in advertising losses: report

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 11:24pm
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California.
  • A report from Platformer revealed that Twitter advertising revenues continue to fall.
  • This comes as the company struggles to retain advertisers following Elon Musk's takeover. 
  • "We are seeing a significant decline in bookings," a revenue analyst posted on Slack, as per Platformer.

On Tuesday, a report revealed that Twitter advertising revenues continue to dip, as the company struggles to retain advertisers following Elon Musk's takeover. 

Platformer reported that a revenue analyst for Twitter based in Europe posted a message to Slack on Monday that read: "We are seeing a significant decline in bookings."

The employee then shared that Twitter's ad revenue is down 15 percent year over year and weekly bookings are down 49 percent in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, as per Platformer.

The news comes one day after Musk called out Apple and its CEO Tim Cook, accusing the company of censorship and claiming it "mostly stopped" advertising on Twitter. 

—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Platformer also reported that on October 31, analysts found that $15.7 million from advertisers based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa was already at risk.

"It's catastrophic," a former Twitter executive told the site.

Half of Twitter's top 100 advertisers, including Chevrolet, Ford, and Chipotle have ceased advertising on the platform, according to the research center Media Matters,

Representatives for Musk did not respond to Insider's request for comment. 

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Bengaluru, home to 1.5 million IT workers and called 'the world's back-office,' has dodged the tech winter ripping through Silicon Valley — but experts warn it may not last

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 10:55pm
Infosys building.
  • Indian techies were tripling salaries during the pandemic due to bloated demand for talent. 
  • But the tech sector — especially edutainment —  has already begun feeling the pinch amid a global downsizing.  
  • The worst may come next year, a recruitment expert told Insider, who predicts a surge in layoffs in the Spring.

As the world strapped in for the pandemic, closing schools and sending workers home last year, India's techies were having a field day. 

Firms in Bengaluru, a tech hub in Southern India with 1.5 million IT employees and once dubbed the "world's back-office," hired willy-nilly, as they struggled to cope with a surge in global demand for digital products.

"Salaries hit the roof," Yeshab Giri, the chief commercial officer at Randstad India, told Insider. 

He recalled one applicant who left his job with an annual salary of 1.2 million rupees, or $14,700. The tech worker received five offers from five different companies, and over several months negotiated his yearly pay up to 3.3 million rupees, or $40,400, Giri said. That's almost triple his last paycheck. 

To put that into perspective, rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Indian tech hub Bengaluru costs $1,840 a year, according to data from real estate company NoBroker.

"These weren't one-off cases," said Uddhav Kumar, the co-founder and CEO of Lynkit, a firm that offers inventory and supply chain tracking services to logistics companies. "Everyone who was working would almost be guaranteed to have an offer that was double or triple what he earned."

The skyrocketing demand though, didn't outlive the pandemic. 

Like with the US, as COVID-19 measures receded in India, so did the tech boom. Silicon Valley has seen round after round of layoffs in recent months, and India's been feeling the pinch too.

Salary offers are declining, and at least 3,800 employees in Bengaluru were laid off in the last three months, according to data aggregated by

But India's tech winter has been muted so far, four Bengaluru-based hiring experts told Insider. They see the decline more as the market returning to the brink of normalcy, and said there's still hope for laid-off tech workers — as long as they've been active in their jobs.

'The glory days of last year are over'

Recruiters believe the industry reached its turning point near the end of the third quarter.

"The glory days of last year are over, where everybody and anybody could get a job if they were half-decent," said Anup Menon, the vice president of CIEL HR Services. "In that sense, the average to below-average talent will have things to worry about. It won't be so easy to get a job."

"Companies are now very clear about the budget they have, and will only hire within that range," he added.

By CIEL's estimates, India's IT sector saw a 41% decline in hiring in September, compared to monthly averages in 2022, Menon said. However, he added that companies traditionally also slow down their hiring toward the end of the year.

"If you look at 2018, 2019, these are numbers comparable to those years," he said. 

Tech workers, especially those just laid off from well-known companies like Twitter or Stripe, are still looking at a "fairly decent quality pool" of employers, said Menon.

But they'll have to expect fewer perks and lower salaries, he added.

CIEL found that 77% of all tech companies are ending remote work or switching to hybrid work arrangements, compared to 25% of companies who enforced similar policies last year, he said. 

Subhashree Ghoshal, a senior consultant at JAC Recruitment India, told Insider that most tech companies engaging in layoffs are mostly looking to trim off excess workers as fewer projects come in — not necessarily their core workforce.

"The major backlash has been faced by employees who have been bench employees," said Ghoshal, referring to employees who aren't actively working on IT projects but are still on the company payroll.

Firms are also looking to hire fresh graduates who are cheaper, while laying off employees who lead small teams like program managers and supervisors, said Ghoshal. Most in the latter category typically have five to 15 years of experience, he said.

'The worst, however, may come next spring'

The worst may come next spring, said Ghoshal, who predicts a surge in layoffs at the start of the first fiscal quarter and at the end of the second as Western demand for outsourced tech workers dwindles.

At Randstad, Giri estimates a 25% drop in hiring in 2023. "We read a lot about the West, experts talking about financial slowdown in the US. We'll have to wait and watch," he said.

For now, most of India's tech firms have shown resilience to market headwinds, faring better than their Silicon Valley peers.

Tata Consultancy Services, an India-based mega firm with 600,000 employees, announced a net income of $1.3 billion in the second quarter of 2022, per Bloomberg. In the same quarter, Infosys, which hires a 345,000-strong workforce, reported a $65.6 million net profit.  

In contrast, Twitter reported a net loss of $270 million in the second quarter of this year, while Amazon reported a net loss of $2 billion in the same time frame. Meta reported a 36% net income drop to $6.69 billion in Q2 2022, compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

Menon of CIEL believes demand for tech workers will pick up again in the second quarter of next year, after a "much-needed correction" in the industry. "It was a little too unpredictable with the job hops and the kinds of salaries that were floating around," he said.

Lynkit CEO Kumar concurred. "There was a lot of false hype around things that didn't add value but kept expanding," he said. "I think we are going to see that slowly being weeded out of the ecosystem."

Sectors like edutainment for kids are badly hit

One example of the post-pandemic decline involved digital services for kids, said Lynkit CEO Kumar. With schools shut during the pandemic, parents began buying educational and entertainment, or edutainment, subscriptions to keep their children busy.

"When schools started again, suddenly these kids had no reason to have these subscriptions," he told Insider.

Education startup Byju's, touted as the largest education tech startup in India, spent $2 billion during the pandemic buying up other education firms to boost growth. It suffered a $575 million net loss in the year ending March 2021, per Bloomberg. The company blamed poor macroeconomic conditions, and said it adopted a new revenue recognition model that led it to defer 40% of its revenue to the next few years, Reuters reported

In October, Byju's laid off 2,500 employees, or around 5% of its total workforce. Byju's did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment for this story.

Lynkit has been feeling the ripple effects of the third quarter fallout, said Kumar. Its HR department recently received around 1,200 resumes for an open product manager position, a role that normally sees 500 to 600 applications, the CEO said.

Yet compared to the high-profile dismissals in San Francisco, the furloughs in Bengaluru represent smaller proportions of staff let go.

And 2,500 jobs are a mere drop in the total pool of tech workers in India; Giri estimated that a total 350,000 people will join the local IT industry by the end of 2022.

"The layoffs that we're seeing are not really mass layoffs. Large companies laid off about 2,500 people, but we have to understand that they have a base of 50,000 people," Giri said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 1930s eugenics experiment is the reason women's clothing sizes are so damn frustrating

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 10:24pm
  • In her book, "Butts, a Backstory," Heather Radke revealed how women's sizes came to be.
  • Measuring squads visited American households and only maintained white women's measurements.
  • A 1930s eugenics experiment is the reason women's clothing sizes are inconsistent, as per Radke.

A 1930s eugenics experiment is the reason women's clothing sizes are incredibly frustrating, according to author Heather Radke, who wrote a book exploring the feelings women have with one particular body part — their butts. 

In her book, "Butts, a Backstory," a book about our complicated relationship with our backsides, Radke revealed the history of eugenicists' obsession with "what a good body is" and how their methods influenced women's clothing sizes.

Hint: It has to do with racism. 

During her reporting, Radke stumbled across the reason why clothes don't fit and where ideas about the "normal" American body originated: two statues created in the 1940s by gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson and artist Abram Belskie — and a government employee's quest to create sizing for women.

In an email to Insider, Radke said the discovery about women's clothing sizes was one of the biggest surprises to her when researching "Butts, a Backstory."

"I had always felt like there was something wrong with my body because I often couldn't find clothes that fit me well, but when I learned about the history of sizing and the way sizing works today, I realized that clothes actually aren't designed to fit. They can't be," she said. "There are just too many variables in the human body for clothes to fit most people well."

Heather Radke, the author of "Butts, a Backstory".

The life-sized plaster casts made by Dickinson and Belskie were dubbed Normman and Norma and helped create standardized clothing sizes. According to Radke, their purpose was to depict what a normal American body should look like.

Sculpting the perfectly normal man was easy: Men were required to have their measurements taken when they joined the army, therefore tons of data existed from both World War I and II.

As per Radke's book, to create Norma, Dickinson and Belskie needed to find more information on how women were shaped. As the workforce expanded and catalog shopping become popular, retailers wanted to capitalize on this new consumerism but there were limitations due to the lack of sizing available for women. In many instances, women were sending items back because they didn't fit. Many American women either made their own clothes or hired others to do so because of the dearth of sizing. Sears may have been the Amazon of its time, but it didn't come with the ease of making returns. 

In the 1930s, Ruth O'Brien, who worked at the Bureau of Home Economics and was the first head of the Textiles and Clothing Division — a US Department of Agriculture department that studied the best ways to clean, sew, and purchase food and clothing — wanted to tackle this problem facing half of the population.

O'Brien worked on the development of standard sizes for commercially-sold clothing and fabric selection for the home sewer. It's not clear whether the government was working with clothing manufacturers but part of O'Brien's job was to negotiate with manufacturers, retailers, and other government agencies. To help her, the Works Progress Administration — a New Deal agency established during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt — recruited women for "measuring squads" that visited American households and recorded women's measurements.

Non-white women's data erased

In the book, Radke revealed that O'Brien advised the measuring squads to take the measurements of all women, but O'Brien said non-white women would have their data erased. This included Black, Italian, Eastern European, and Jewish women, Radke said, who were not considered white.

"In the case of Norma, the minds that collated her measurements were enthusiastic eugenicists, motivated by a desire to effectively eradicate insufficiently white, disabled, and queer people," Radke writes in her book: "They were openly attempting to engineer a race of perfectly normal Americans, equating full citizenship with having this decisively average, yet demonstrably unattainable, body. By codifying normal, the Norma boosters were also codifying abnormal, which is always the implicit project of the creation of an ideal."

While Radke couldn't confirm O'Brien's reasoning, in a November "Radiolab" interview about her book, she hypothesized that it could be O'Brien believed that by including non-white women's sizes, whatever clothes were then made wouldn't fit white women. 

O'Brien created 27 sizes from her measurements, a number Radke said was prohibitively expensive. The garment industry, which was rapidly growing at the time, took those sizes and turned them into a version of the sizing we have now. 

"Although the data [O'Brien] collected was used for women's sizes throughout the 20th century, her story shows us both how difficult it is to create a standard sizing system for women's clothes, and how ingrained racism and eugenics were in American life in the 1930s and '40s," Radke told Insider.

'She's the new Norma'

Dickinson and Belskie discovered O'Brien's data and were able to create Norma and Normman, the statues that were displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1943. The statues were carved of white alabaster and based on the measurements of 15,000 men and women between the ages of 21 and 25 taken from the military and the measuring squads.

—Brendan Cormier (@BrendanCormier) April 6, 2019


In an excerpt from Time Magazine in June 1945, Norma was described as showcasing the evolution of the US female figure toward a taller, lustier type of body. During the "Radiolab" interview, Radke said that at the time, ideas about what was "normal" were appealing and people craved a return to that normalcy, which created an emphasis on how bodies should look — especially after the uncertainty during World War II.

During the 1950s, standardized clothing sizes were adopted by clothing brands. Over time, these brands began to use fit models to perfect the fit and drape of the garments. One fit model in particular, Radke said, has become the blueprint for sizing.

"She's the new Norma," Radke said in the interview, referring to a fit model named Natasha Wagner, a white, relatively thin woman, "whose butt is the butt that jeans companies use to make the jeans fit." According to Radke, Wagner's butt measurements are used by about eight clothing companies. "She's the only person they [clothes] fit unless you have her exact body and her exact measurements," Radke said.

The takeaway, the author told Insider, is that it's important to realize that, often, clothes aren't meant to fit.

"It's just too expensive for garment manufacturers to make enough clothing sizes to accommodate the wide variation of human bodies. This can be profound because it can help to feel less like something is wrong with your body when you can't find clothes that fit," she said.

"It isn't your body that is wrong," she said. "It's the clothes." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Oath Keepers founder's estranged wife 'beyond happy' for his Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy conviction: 'I am thrilled that he's finally facing justice.'

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 10:09pm
  • Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy on Tuesday.
  • It's the most significant charge related to the January 6, 2021, attack.
  • Rhodes' estranged wife told Insider she was happy with the conviction.

Tasha Adams, the estranged wife of Oath Keepers' founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, was "thrilled" to learn of her husband's conviction related to the January 6 Capitol riot on Tuesday.

A federal jury in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, convicted Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, another member of the Oath Keepers militia group, of seditious conspiracy to prevent the inauguration of President Joe Biden — a plot that led to the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.

It's the most significant verdict to have come out of the wide range of ongoing criminal investigations and trials related to the riot.

"I am beyond happy," Adams told Insider. "He has absolutely never had to face a consequence in his entire life. This will be the very first time. He's spent his life making others pay; this was past due for him."

Adams previously told Insider about Rhodes' temper and physical and emotional abusive tendencies against some of their six children.

The two met in Las Vegas in 1991 and married three years later. Throughout their relationship, Adams said Rhodes was controlling and often snapped at her and the children.

"He just viciously pushed every psychological button after just the slightest request of him," Adams said, adding that he would also grab their children's upper arms or hit them while no one was looking.

When Rhodes was arrested in January, Adams said she felt relief knowing that Rhodes was behind bars. With Rhodes' conviction on Tuesday, Adams now feels her husband is facing proper repercussions.

"I am thrilled that he's finally facing justice," she said.

Rhodes' and Meggs' convictions are a significant outcome for the Justice Department as it marks the first time prosecutors convinced a jury the violence at that Capitol was the result of an organized plot.

Michael McDaniel, Director of Homeland Law at Cooley Law School, told Insider proving the riot was a conspiracy comes with major hurdles.

"You have to have an agreement to carry out a criminal act. Secondly, it has to be criminal, it has to be illegal. Third, you have to knowingly participate," McDaniels said. "The prosecutor has to prove that the individuals who have been indicted now knew that this was an activity on behalf of everybody involved. And then there has to be some overt act, you have to be advancing the goal of the conspiracy."

On top of their seditious conspiracy convictions, Rhodes and Meggs were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding. Three other members of the far-right militia group were convicted on Tuesday of obstruction, but they were found not guilty of conspiracy.

A sentencing date was not determined. When examining the case against members of the Proud Boys who were also charged with seditious conspiracy, McDaniel said they could face a maximum of 20 years in prison. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Arianna Huffington slams Elon Musk and Sam Bankman-Fried as 'burnout deniers' whose intense approach is actually harming their companies

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 9:51pm
Sam Bankman-Fried, left, and Elon Musk.
  • Arianna Huffington rebuked Elon Musk and Sam Bankman-Fried as "burnout deniers."
  • In a Tuesday opinion piece, she suggested Musk's "hardcore" approach is bad for business.
  • The author and businesswoman co-founded a company in 2016 focused on ending the burnout epidemic.

Arianna Huffington lambasted Elon Musk's four-week tenure at Twitter thus far in a scathing take-down of the billionaire's "hardcore" approach to work.

In an opinion piece published in The Information on Tuesday, the businesswoman and author decried Musk and former FTX chief executive officer Sam Bankman-Fried as "burnout deniers," suggesting their intense, around-the-clock attitudes toward work have negatively affected their employees and companies.

Musk's first month as CEO at Twitter has been marred by "stunning missteps, reversals and mass defections," Huffington wrote. Less than half of the company's remaining employees opted to sign up for Musk's "extremely hardcore" vision after he issued an ultimatum.

 "Musk is not just inflicting an outdated way of working on his dwindling number of employees — he's showing the downsides of a model fueled by burnout and lack of sleep in his own decision-making," said Huffington, who in 2016 founded Thrive Global, a company focused on ending the burnout epidemic.

The Tesla and SpaceX co-founder's extremism in the workplace dates back years, emails from his early days at Tesla show. Musk revived his "hardcore" language in testing Twitter employees earlier this month.

"This will mean working long hours at high intensity," Musk wrote in a late-night email to employees. "Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade."

Staffer's mass rebuke of Musk's ultimatum shows that "employees no longer feel they have to tolerate, let alone celebrate, this burnout-factory approach to work," Huffington said. 

Musk did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

In her opinion article, the Huffington Post co-founder pointed to Bankman-Fried as another "burnout-denier."

The former cryptocurrency exchange CEO was famously known for sleeping only four hours a night on a beanbag chair next to his desk as he fielded calls from clients and investors in the middle of the night, Insider previously reported.

But Bankman-Fried's world came crashing down around him earlier this month when FTX was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the company failed to secure a bailout following a liquidity freeze and a Reuters report that the crypto exchange had transferred billions of dollars of client funds to Bankman-Fried's Alameda Research. 

The science behind burnout continues to grow stronger, Huffington wrote, but as the economy tightens, she warned CEOs to resist the temptation to "crack down" on already-stressed employees. 

"We still have a lot of work to do for our culture to fully catch up to the science of how we perform at our best and thrive in all aspects of our lives," Huffington said. "Ironically, Musk's actions over the past few weeks have brought us closer to finally discrediting the delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for peak performance."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Twitter's former trust & safety chief says 'Twitter needs Apple a lot more than Apple needs Twitter'

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 8:31pm
Tim Cook and Elon Musk
  • A former Twitter executive weighed in on Elon Musk's brewing conflict with Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook. 
  • Elon Musk had said Apple threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store "but won't tell us why." 
  • Roth said it would take something "dramatic" to happen for Apple to remove Twitter.

Twitter's former head of trust & safety, Yoel Roth, weighed in on Elon Musk's brewing conflict with Apple. 

"I think Twitter needs Apple a lot more than Apple needs Twitter," Roth said at the Knight Foundation's "Informed" conference on Tuesday.

Musk, who took over ownership of Twitter last month, hasn't shown hesitation in rocking the boat with Apple, though. 

Musk declared war on the tech giant earlier this week, accusing it of censorship and of being a monopoly in a series of tweets. He alleged that Apple had slowed advertising spending on Twitter and questioned whether the company and its CEO, Tim Cook, "hate free speech in America." 

Musk also said that Apple had threatened Twitter's place in its App Store "but won't tell us why." 

Roth said that the chances that Twitter is imminently removed from Apple's App Store are likely slim. 

"I think Apple is a very savvy company; they're very strategic. I think, ultimately, their primary focus is building products that their customers love," he said. "It would require something really dramatic to happen for Apple to remove Twitter from the App Store. I think both sides don't want that to happen." 

However, Roth did ech some of the same sentiments that Musk expressed on Twitter this week. "We should be really worried about App Store governance," he said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon wants to go to war with Apple. History suggests it's probably not going to make a difference.

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 8:17pm
Elon Musk sent Twitter staff a memo on Thursday confirming job cuts would be announced on Friday.
  • Elon Musk isn't the first — or necessarily most powerful — exec to take on Apple's App Store fees.
  • Industry insiders from developers to CEOs have long decried the 30% fee, dubbed the "App Store tax."
  • Lawsuits, regulatory bodies, corporations, and many others have failed to enact much change.

Elon Musk publicly launched a tirade against Apple this week, decrying the iPhone maker's "secret" 30% fee for all in-app transactions on its iOS platform.

While Musk is new to this particular fight, it's part of a war that's been waged in the tech industry for years now: Over the years, everyone from independent app developers to CEOs have decried Apple's "monopolistic" grip over its App Store, requiring the use of its in-house payment processing service. 

Still, Musk is arguably the most mainstream public figure to challenge Apple, and his very public stance on the issue shines a light on what had been a relatively niche issue for app-dependent businesses. For Musk, who's stated his intentions to turn Twitter into an "everything app" that rolls social media together with shopping and other forms of online payments, that 30% cut could present a meaningful drag on the business.

"It's a very unique thing to have someone who's also the richest man in the world to have the same problems that a small app developer — that maybe has one or two employees — is also experiencing," said Rick VanMeter, executive director of the industry group Coalition for App Fairness, a frequent critic of the so-called "Apple Tax."

At the same time, Musk's riches and influence may not be enough to turn the tide and get Apple to relent. Over the years, Apple has fended off lawsuits, regulators from around the world, and its peers in the tech industry — none of which had much success in getting Apple to change its approach to in-app payments 

But history might not be on the new Twitter owner's side. A high-profile lawsuit, global regulators, and major companies have all tried changing Apple's app payment systems with little success.

Epic Games challenged Apple even more directly

The most high-profile challenge to Apple's fees came in 2020, when Epic Games sued after its mega-popular game "Fortnite" was pulled from the App Store for offering users discounts if they used non-Apple payment methods to purchase digital goods.

A decision in the lawsuit came in late 2021, when a judge decreed largely in Apple's favor except for a concession that the iPhone maker must let developers link to non-Apple payment methods. Both parties are currently appealing the decision, leaving the ultimate outcome and impact of the legal clash uncertain. 

Epic's challenge was, however, successful in advancing the larger cause of putting pressure on Apple to change its ways. Shortly after the suit was filed, a group of companies including Spotify, Tinder parent Match Group, Tile, and formed the Coalition for App Fairness, with the self-appointed mission of advocating for a more balanced dynamic between apps and their marketplaces.

The coalition introduced 10 principles that it wants all app marketplaces to follow, including a request to get rid of "unfair, unreasonable or discriminatory fees or revenue shares" and a more basic plea to let developers communicate with their users more directly.

Apple has largely resisted regulationApple CEO Tim Cook.

VanMeter of the Coalition for App Fairness said the renewed attention to the App Store's 30% transaction fee re-emphasizes the problem and need for legislative solutions.

Regulatory bodies in the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and other countries with significant iPhone users have also set their sights on Apple's App Store payment structures. The European Union, Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands are just some of the jurisdictions that have successfully passed laws targeting the "Apple Tax," with others like the United Kingdom expected to follow suit soon.

The US, however, has so far not joined in — though a bill called the Open App Markets Act has languished on the Senate floor since its introduction in February. 

"If the United States does not act, it really risks falling behind these other jurisdictions that are moving forward to address the issues of competition in the app market," VanMeter said. "The United States has a real opportunity here to be a leader in that discussion."

Even in those places where Apple faces new laws that curb some of its power, however, the tech giant hasn't always shown full compliance. Dutch and South Korean regulators have clashed with Apple, which has so far made few if any changes to how it does business in those countries.

All of which means that Musk and his followers are joining a fight that's been raging in public and private spheres for a while now, and it's not clear that he'll be successful in pressuring Apple into rethinking things. But Evercore ISI analyst Mark Mahaney also says that the weight of his influence does change things at least somewhat.

"I don't know that it's any different," Mahaney said. "I don't know that he'll get a quick resolution to that any time soon, but his voice will matter."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Guilty: Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy in the most significant January 6 case yet

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 8:09pm
Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy in the January 6 investigation.
  • A jury found Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes guilty of engaging in a seditious conspiracy.
  • Three other members of the far-right group were found not guilty of joining in that conspiracy.
  • Legal experts said Tuesday's verdict in the high-stakes case will give the Justice Department momentum.

A jury on Tuesday found Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes guilty of engaging in a seditious conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to now-President Joe Biden, handing the Justice Department a victory in a prosecution featuring the most significant charges connected to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside Kelly Meggs, another member of the Oath Keepers. But the jury found three other members of the far-right group — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell — not guilty of joining them in that conspiracy.

All five were convicted of separate charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony that has led to some of the stiffest sentences in January 6 prosecutions.

"It's a really significant verdict. They could have just gone with the obstruction charge. But it was important to demonstrate that this really was a violent attempt to overturn the results of the election and interfere with the peaceful transfer of power. The jury's verdict confirms that that is what it was," said Randall Eliason, a George Washington University law professor and former top public corruption prosecutor in Washington, DC.

"Now, going forward, there are people higher up than the Oath Keepers who were potentially involved in the conspiracy," he told Insider. "This verdict gives the Justice Department some momentum in going up the ladder."

The jury reached the verdict after three days of deliberations that were interrupted by the Thanksgiving holiday, capping a high-stakes trial that lasted nearly two months. The verdict came just weeks before members of another far-right group, the Proud Boys, are set to stand trial on seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the Capitol attack.

Responding to the verdict, Attorney General Merrick Garland said it reaffirmed the Justice Department's commitment "to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault."

During the weekslong trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence of the Oath Keepers planning ahead of the January 6 attack, and they showed jurors images of some members of the far-right group entering the Capitol in a military-style stack formation.

In several messages shown at trial, the Oath Keepers discussed January 6 as a moment for revolution — with one member saying the group "would be in the lead of 1776.2," an apparent reference to the year in which American colonies declared independence from Britain.

"They claimed to wrap themselves in the Constitution. They trampled it instead," said prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler, in a closing address to jurors. "They claimed to be saving the Republic, but they fractured it instead."

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors played audio of a November conference call — recorded by at least one Oath Keepers member — in which Rhodes said the group was "very much in exactly the same spot that the Founding Fathers were in like March 1775."

"There's going to be a fight. But let's just do it smart and let's do it while President Trump is still commander in chief and let's try to get him to do his duty and step up and do it," Rhodes said.

In one of the most dramatic moments of the trial, jurors heard from Rhodes in person.

Testifying in his own defense, Rhodes sought to distance himself from the conduct of fellow Oath Keepers members and denied that the far-right group planned ahead of January 6 to breach the Capitol building. He told jurors it was "stupid" for those fellow members to go inside the Capitol as lawmakers gathered to certify the results of the 2020 election.

At trial, federal prosecutors said the Oath Keepers seized on the opportunity to enter the Capitol as members of a pro-Trump mob breached and ransacked it on January 6. Prosecutors pointed to a cache of weapons the Oath Keepers kept at a hotel outside Washington, DC, for a so-called "quick reaction force" that the group could deploy into the nation's capital.

Just as he distanced himself from Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol, Rhodes sought to downplay the far-right group's references to quick reaction forces, or QRFs, in his testimony before jurors.

 "It gets used too often, frankly, and becomes confusing," he said.

But with their relatively quick verdict, the jury rejected Rhodes' defense and efforts to separate himself from the events of January 6.

This is a developing story.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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