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SXSW 2020 canceled after Austin mayor declares coronavirus a ‘local disaster’

SXSW 2020 canceled after Austin mayor declares coronavirus a ‘local disaster’
[Photo: John Davis/iStock]

South by Southwest just became the latest victim of the coronavirus. 

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The famed Austin, Texas, mega-conference and festival was canceled Friday after the city’s mayor, Steve Adler, declared a “local disaster” due to COVID-19. In a late-afternoon press conference, Adler said he’s ordering the event’s cancellation as local health officials take steps to prepare for the inevitable arrival of the flu-like virus that has killed more than 3,400 people worldwide.

No COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Texas capital yet, but at least 14 cases have been confirmed statewide.

SXSW 2020 was scheduled to begin next week. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that is spreading across the United States and the world, high-profile vendors, advertisers, and other participants had been pulling out of the event, and an online petition calling for SXSW’s cancellation had attracted more than 55,000 supporters.

But organizers remained steadfastly determined to move forward with the festivities, saying earlier in the week that they had no plans to close up shop. In a statement Friday, SXSW organizers said they were “devastated” by Friday’s news and were now exploring options for rescheduling.

“‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place,” the statement read. “We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”

The event’s cancellation is certain to spark serious ripple effects across the city, where local restaurants, bars, and other venues rely on economic activity generated by SXSW and its more than 414,000 attendees each year.

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Foursquare shuts NYC office over coronavirus concerns

Foursquare shuts NYC office over coronavirus concerns
[Photo: Flickr user Achim Hepp]

Foursquare isn’t taking any chances in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The location data startup temporarily closed its New York City office today out of “an overabundance of caution,” a spokesperson confirmed to Fast Company. Employees were told to work from home, although Foursquare denied having any confirmed cases of the virus among its ranks. The company did not respond to a follow-up question about how long the shutdown will last.

As of Friday afternoon, New York State had 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 11 of those diagnosed in the last 24 hours. Most of the cases are centered around Westchester, north of New York City, but the entire metropolitan area has been on high alert over the last several days. Face masks and other protective outerwear are becoming an increasingly common sight on subways and commuter trains, and workplaces across the city are stocking up on Purell and reminding employees to wash their hands. But so far, most have stopped short of telling their employees to stay home.

Foursquare is not alone, however. The retailer Gap Inc. also closed its New York City offices today after one of its employees was diagnosed with the virus, Bloomberg reported.

New York is one of several hotspots around the United States where coronavirus diagnoses are mushrooming. Globally, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 today, with more than 3,400 deaths.

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Survey: 66% of executives have canceled their travel plans because of coronavirus

Survey: 66% of executives have canceled their travel plans because of coronavirus
Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 5, 2020 in New York City. Coronavirus fears have whipsawed markets recently, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending today down more than 950 points, or nearly 3.6%. [Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images]

How are companies handling coronavirus? A new survey of the CEOs and business executives on the Fast Company Impact Council reveals that COVID-19 is turning business plans upside down. They report major, sudden shifts across their operations, from customer spending to supply chains to travel:

  • Plans are going out the window: 66% of executives have canceled travel plans, and nearly all have had employees cancel work trips.
  • Supply chains are getting reworked: 40% say their production lines are getting makeovers, with most focusing on diverse options and avoiding bottlenecks.
  • Purchases have already changed, with 65% of executives saying that customers’ purchasing power has already been dramatically or heavily affected.
  • Emergency plans are front and center: Three-quarters have instated or activated company-wide contingency plans, such as “no flights, no conferences, no guests.” Many have put in place policies encouraging remote work and meetings.

Despite this, most say that employees have only been mildly impacted so far. Only a third of executives plan to revise their 2020 earnings estimates.

The survey was conducted this month and included 45 respondents.

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Sorry, caffeine won’t make you more creative, but it may help you solve problems

Sorry, caffeine won’t make you more creative, but it may help you solve problems
[Photos: Steve Johnson/Unsplash; Negative-Space/Pixabay; Flickr user Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla]

Famous authors and artists are commonly photographed alongside a trusty mug of coffee, but that cup of joe is more likely to help the Great American Manager. Caffeine, it turns out, does not improve creativity, but it significantly enhances problem-solving, according to a new study.

This is news, given how strongly we associate coffee with creative occupations and lifestyles. The study, published today in Consciousness and Cognition, followed 80 participants after they consumed either a placebo or 200 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of 12 ounces of coffee—and then tracked their problem-solving, creative idea generation, working memory, and mood. While problem-solving abilities improved significantly, the caffeine had no effect on memory or creativity. Subjects also reported feeling “less sad.”

Previous studies have shown that caffeine improves alertness, focus, attention, and motor skills, but little research existed on creativity.

This means that caffeine helps some kinds of thinking, specifically convergent thinking, such as when you need correct answers, for instance, while taking a GRE or MCAT or recalibrating a budget. It will not help you in the divergent thinking of creativity, such as brainstorming a novel plot or imagining a new design. “It also doesn’t make it worse,” notes lead author Darya Zabelina, assistant psychology professor at the University of Arkansas, “so keep drinking your coffee. It won’t interfere.”

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Android had the most vulnerabilities of any OS in 2019, says report

Android had the most vulnerabilities of any OS in 2019, says report
[Photo: Dmitry Bayer/Unsplash]

A new report using data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Vulnerability Database has looked at the top tech products of the last 20 years and discovered which had the most vulnerabilities that left them susceptible to attacks from hackers and nation-states.

The data was crunched by TheBestVPN, which found that of all technology products in recent years, the one with the most vulnerabilities on a consistent basis year after year was Google’s Android operating system. According to the report, Android had the most vulnerabilities of any operating system in 2019, 2017, and 2016. The only recent years Android got a reprieve from the top spot was in 2018, when Debian GNU/Linux had more vulnerabilities.

But going back the full 20 years, the data tells a more complete story. When looking at a company’s products as a whole, the report’s authors found that Microsoft’s products had more vulnerabilities than any other company. Since 1999, Microsoft products have had a total of 6,814 vulnerabilities all told. Here are the top 5:

  1. Microsoft—6,814 vulnerabilities
  2. Oracle—6,115 vulnerabilities
  3. IBM—4,679 vulnerabilities
  4. Google—4,572 vulnerabilities
  5. Apple—4,512 vulnerabilities

But perhaps the most worrying trend of all is that vulnerabilities have only increased in the last 20 years as operating systems and other software products become more complicated. In 1999 there were only 894 technical vulnerabilities reported. That number has increased more than 14 times to 12,174 technical vulnerabilities reported in 2019.

Reached for comment, an Android spokesperson sent the following statement:

“We’re committed to transparency and release public security bulletins monthly on issues that have been fixed in Android to harden the security of the ecosystem. We disagree with the notion that measuring the number of security issues fixed in an OS is any indication of the security of the platform. This is actually a result of the openness of the Android ecosystem working as intended.”

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United, Delta, American Airlines offer COVID-19 fee waivers, but what if you booked in advance?

United, Delta, American Airlines offer COVID-19 fee waivers, but what if you booked in advance?
[Photos: Ross Sokolovski/Unsplash; Samantha Gades/Unsplash; Nick Morales/Unsplash]

You booked a flight months ago. You were getting super excited about your upcoming dream vacation to Italy or Bangkok or the Grand Canyon or Los Angeles. But now the new coronavirus outbreak has you rethinking your plans. Do you go and take your chances or cancel and take the financial hit?

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That dilemma is playing out for countless travelers as COVID-19 spreads in U.S. states and countries around the world. Many airlines, including the top three major U.S. carriers—United, American, and Delta—have begun to offer fee change waivers for flights, which means travelers who booked or plan to book this month won’t have to pay the extra charge, usually hundreds of dollars, to change their travel plans amid the coronavirus uncertainty.

But as many, many, many observers have pointed out on social media, those policies don’t necessarily help people who booked their travel in advance—which is really what you’re supposed to do in the first place if you want a good deal on airfare.

So what can you do if you’re in that situation? The answer is, it depends on which airline you’re dealing with and which country you were planning to travel to. We reached out to the top three carriers for answers, and here’s what they told us:

United Airlines

The policy: If you booked in advance to China, Hong Kong, South Korea, or Northern Italy, you can change your flight without paying a fee, according to a United spokesperson. (The airline has also suspended travel to select cities. In those cases, you can get a full refund.) Fee change waivers extend to travel anywhere—domestic or international—for tickets bought between March 3-31. You can also cancel a flight booked during that time and get credit for up to 12 months.

The details: United has the full terms and conditions posted on its website, as well as updates to its policies. More info here.

American Airlines

The policy: AA has suspended flights to and from Seoul, Milan, mainland China, and Hong Kong. If your flight was canceled, you can get a refund for your ticket. The airline is also waiving change fees for all new travel booked between March 1-31.

The details: AA has a dedicated page on its website (aa.com/coronavirus) for COVID-19 updates. It also has a page for travel alerts, where coronavirus updates are being posted. Find it here.

Delta Air Lines

The policy: If you booked in advance to select cities in China, South Korea, or Italy (full list here), you can get a one-time waiver to change your ticket without a fee. (Like other airlines, Delta has suspended service to China, reduced service to South Korea and Japan, and suspended flights from JKF to Milan; you can request a refund if your flight was canceled.) Additionally, all international flights that were booked in advance and scheduled to fly in March are eligible to be changed for no extra charge. For domestic travelers, the fee waivers apply only to flights booked between March 1-31. However, a Delta spokesperson tells us the airline is offering “situational flexibility” for all customers.

The details: Delta has a dedicated coronavirus page on its website with updates as well as all the terms and conditions of its policies. Find it here.

Other Airlines

Most major U.S. carriers have coronavirus-related policies stated on their websites, including Southwest, Alaska Air, and JetBlue. The same holds true for international carriers like Emirates, Lufthansa, Air France, and even Ryanair.

These policies don’t apply to me. What do I do?

Call the airline! Even if your situation falls outside the scope of the policies announced publicly, you can often negotiate waivers or other special accommodations with a little persistence. Keep in mind the airlines are inundated right now with calls about the coronavirus, so wait times are likely to be insanely long. But it also means that customer service teams have an extra incentive to keep the calls moving along and keep you happy. Good luck.

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Watch flight traffic literally disappear from the skies as the coronavirus hits travel demand

Watch flight traffic literally disappear from the skies as the coronavirus hits travel demand

As the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States, major American carriers such as United Airlines and JetBlue have begun to cut domestic flights and even waive some fees for flight changes. Globally, new restrictions on travel and general anxiety about being in close quarters with other human beings are wreaking havoc on flight traffic—to the point where the International Air Transport Association now expects industry losses of up to $113 billion, according to fresh estimates released today.

None of this will be especially new news to air travelers in China, where the coronavirus first began to spread late last year. According to data from flight-tracking service Flightradar24, air traffic at China’s 50 busiest airports is down a staggering 80% since the beginning of the year. The country, which instituted a series of severe quarantines and draconian city lockdowns after the outbreak took hold, is usually among the most air-congested in the world.

But a time-lapse GIF shared by Flightradar24 on Twitter this afternoon shows the tracker’s bright yellow airplane icons literally disappearing from the skies. It’s a compelling sight to behold:

One bright spot in the GIF is that it indicates the worst may be over for China, with the biggest dip in air traffic appearing around the middle of February. It’s since recovered a bit, according to Flightradar24, even if flights are still down 61% from where they were in January.

All of this is a reminder that the world is more interconnected than it’s ever been, and all the various infrastructures that keep those connections going are entirely more fragile than we realize.

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Goodbye, Elizabeth: Women supporters devastated as Warren drops out of the presidential race

Goodbye, Elizabeth: Women supporters devastated as Warren drops out of the presidential race
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has dropped out of the presidential race. In a press conference in front of her home—the same place she began her campaign 14 months ago, with her then-8-month-old golden retriever Bailey—she returned today with a full-grown Bailey to suspend her campaign, her voice cracking.

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One reporter asked what her message is for supporters now “left with two white men”; another reporter asked how gender affected the race.

“Gender in this race, you know that is the trap question for every woman,” said Warren. “If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says ‘Whiner.’ And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’ I promise you that I will have a lot more to say on that topic.”

Warren failed to win any states in Super Tuesday, a stunning turn of events for a candidate who was Democratic front-runner last fall. Many of her female supporters are devastated at the lack of broad support for a candidate who excelled at debates and provided dozens of extensively well-crafted policy plans at elizabethwarren.com/plans.

“We had the candidate of a lifetime—someone with energy, vision, and follow-through—and the media and voters basically outright erased and ignored her,” commentator Jessica Valenti wrote in a piece called It Will Be Hard To Get Over What Happened to Elizabeth Warren. “Don’t tell me this isn’t about sexism.” The Atlantic ran an article called America Punished Elizabeth Warren for Her Competence.

Even voters who favored other candidates would be hard-pressed to argue that the loss of Warren is not a striking blow to the Democratic party’s view of itself as the party of diversity and inclusion. Remaining candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are both avidly seeking her endorsement, although she has not yet offered one. Instead, Warren said today she is focusing on staff, supporters, and volunteers.

“I have no regrets at all. This has been the honor of a lifetime,” she said. “I’ve had a chance to get out and talk with millions of women.”

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Lawsuits accuse Marriott, Hilton, and other hotel chains of ignoring sex trafficking

Lawsuits accuse Marriott, Hilton, and other hotel chains of ignoring sex trafficking
[Photo: Kseniia Ilinykh/Unsplash]

Dozens of lawsuits nationwide accuse major hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton, and Wyndham, of not just ignoring sex trafficking on their properties, but profiting from it, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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The suits, filed in both state and federal courts and involving dozens of hotel companies, seek monetary damages as well as policies to stop trafficking at both corporate-owned and franchised locations.

The lawsuits’ details are graphic and gut-wrenching: malnourished, underage girls loitering in lobbies and lounges for weeks; obvious signs of sex and drug activity in hotel rooms; girls obviously in distress in sight of employees; large quantities of sex paraphernalia in rooms paid for with cash; numerous male visitors appearing without luggage; excessive towel and sheet requests.

The suits argue that the hotels would reasonably be aware of trafficking on their properties and point to an array of external indications, such as online reviews discussing the activity and police busts on site.

The lawsuits make use of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which allows civil suits against people and entities reasonably aware of trafficking and profiting from it. Lawyers around the country began searching for survivors through advocacy groups to serve as plaintiffs. The suits are in early stages, and dozens more are expected to be filed.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hilton says the company “condemns all forms of human trafficking, including for sexual exploitation. As signatories of the ECPAT [End Child Prostitution and Trafficking] Code since 2011, we are fully committed, in each and every one of our markets, to protecting individuals from all forms of abuse and exploitation. We expect our Team Members, as well as our business partners to help us meet this commitment. We require all our hotels, including franchises, to conduct training on identifying the signs of human trafficking and on how to report them.”

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts declined to comment on the lawsuit but said: “We condemn human trafficking in any form . . . We mandate training for our company employees around the world to help them identify and report trafficking activities. We also make training opportunities available for our franchised hotels, which are independently owned and operated.”

Marriott said it does not comment on pending litigation.

This post has been updated with responses from Marriott and Wyndham.

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YouTube TV just dropped the YES Network and some Fox Sports regionals

YouTube TV just dropped the YES Network and some Fox Sports regionals
[Photo: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images]

YouTube TV’s regional sports situation just got messier, as the live-TV streaming service has dropped the YES Network and some Fox Sports regionals.

Last week, YouTube TV said it was dropping all regional Fox Sports channels, but then made a short-term deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group (which owns those channels) to keep them on board. In a post on Twitter, (via Cord Cutters News), YouTube TV says it has now reached an agreement with Sinclair, but one that excludes regional sports in “select areas.”

One of those excluded markets is New York City, where the YES Network is no longer streaming on YouTube TV. YES, which is jointly owned by Sinclair, the New York Yankees, Amazon, and several private investment firms, lashed out on its own Twitter account, saying that YouTube TV refused to accept the same rates and terms to which other distributors have agreed.

“When YouTube TV realized it could not get a sweetheart, below-market deal, it dropped the YES Network,” YES wrote.

YouTube hasn’t yet provided a list of other affected markets, but The Streamable reports that Fox Sports West and Fox Sports Prime Ticket are being dropped. Cord-cutters who don’t want to give up regional Fox Sports networks can subscribe to Hulu + Live TV ($55 per month) or AT&T TV Now ($80 per month for the “Max” package with regional sports).

Keep in mind that the national FS1 and FS2 channels are owned by Fox and remain available on YouTube TV.

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Forget foldable phones, and check out TCL’s rollable screen that stretches

Forget foldable phones, and check out TCL’s rollable screen that stretches

If you thought foldable screens were the next big smartphone trend, TCL would like to have a word. The company is showing off a concept phone with a rollable display, allowing one section to slide out and form a larger tablet. Apparently users would press a button on the phone to activate its internal motors, causing the screen to unfurl. Compared to foldable screens, TCL says rollable displays don’t have any creasing down the middle.

TCL had planned to demonstrate the phone at Mobile World Congress last week, but its organizers canceled the trade show due to fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Being a concept, TCL isn’t saying when it will bring rollable phones to market, or if it ever will at all. The same goes for TCL’s tri-fold tablet concept that it began showing off last fall. Given all the issues that the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, and foldable Motorola Razr have run into, TCL could be forgiven for not rushing anything to market.

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Humans can now infect their pets with the coronavirus

Humans can now infect their pets with the coronavirus
[Photo: Adrianna Calvo/Pexels]

If you’ve got the coronavirus or think you may have it, you’re probably following the recommended precautions of self-isolating from your friends and family. But now it appears that infected people need to isolate themselves from their pets as well. That’s because Hong Kong has reported its first human-to-animal transmission of the coronavirus.

A pet dog, a Pomeranian, has tested positive for the virus after its owner came down with the disease. Officials tested the owner’s dog last week, and it was confirmed that the dog has a “low-level” infection of COVID-19. A statement from Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) says the tests suggest that the dog’s infection is “likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.”

The news that human-to-animal transmission is a worrying one for pet owners, as they can inadvertently infect their animals simply by interacting with them as they normally would. If there is a silver lining, however, it’s that the AFCD says that “there is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 [in humans] or that they become sick.” In other words, if an owner does infect their pet, the pet can carry the coronavirus, but it doesn’t look like the disease makes them sick. And as the AFCD stated, it doesn’t look like pets with the coronavirus can pass the infection back on to humans.

The AFCD says that pet owners should maintain good hygiene practices to minimize transmission, but other than doing that there is no need to be “overly concerned” and a department spokesperson emphasized that “under no circumstances should [pet owners] abandon their pets.”

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If you shop at J.Crew, your sensitive personal info may have been stolen

If you shop at J.Crew, your sensitive personal info may have been stolen
[Photo: iAmMrRob/Pixabay; Jon Tyson/Unsplash]

In an attack last spring, a hacker hit J.Crew’s website and accessed sensitive information in some users’ accounts, the company disclosed on Tuesday.

According to a notice hosted by the Attorney General of California’s website, the hacker would have been able to access some users’ personal information, including:

  • “the last four digits of credit card numbers you have stored in your account”
  • “the expiration dates”
  • “card types, and billing addresses connected to those cards”
  • “order numbers”
  • “shipping confirmation numbers, and shipment status of those orders”

J.Crew blamed “an unauthorized party” for the hack and said it happened “in or around April 2019.” According to reports from TechCrunch and Bleeping Computer, the accounts were accessed with a method called credential stuffing, which uses compromised login info to automatically break into accounts (made possible, in part, because people so often reuse their passwords).

It’s not clear why it took the American clothing brand nearly a year to disclose the hack. Fast Company has reached out to J.Crew for more information.

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Doctors injected CRISPR into the eye of a blind patient with hopes of restoring vision

Doctors injected CRISPR into the eye of a blind patient with hopes of restoring vision
[Photo: JC Gellidon/Unsplash]

For the first time, scientists say they used the gene-editing tool CRISPR inside the body of an adult patient to treat a rare form of blindness.

The biotech firms that sponsored the groundbreaking work, Editas Medicine and Allergen, announced the news today but did not disclose the date of the hour-long procedure, which was used to modify the DNA of an older patient with Leber congenital amaurosis, an inherited disease that causes vision loss, NPR reports.

The procedure involves injecting tiny droplets containing the treatment behind the patient’s retina to edit the mutation that causes blindness. The doctors involved in the study anticipate it will take about a month to see if the treatment is safe and successful in restoring some degree of the patient’s vision.

Scientists have used CRISPR, controversially, to create gene-edited babies, and the tool has been used outside the body to potentially fight cancer. Changing DNA inside a human body with CRISPR, however, is novel and “could open up a whole new set of medicines to go in and change your DNA,” Editas Medicine chief scientific officer Charles Albright told the Associated Press.

“We literally have the potential to take people who are essentially blind and make them see,” said Albright.

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The surprising reason why reinventing yourself can make you less happy

The surprising reason why reinventing yourself can make you less happy
[Photo: Min An/Unsplash]

You might think twice before you morph into a motorcyclist or entrepreneur or artiste. A new study out of the University of Georgia finds that good ‘ole American reinvention is often a bad idea—because people who reinvent themselves often become less happy.

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“In American culture there is a notion that we have a lot of freedom, and that you can reinvent yourself, and that’s a positive thing,” says Brian Haas, associate psychology professor at the University of Georgia. “But are you better off? Are you happier than people who do not change? We found that it’s not the case.”

The researchers examined personality data from the U.S. and Japan, and noted that major identity changes over the course of several years were associated with plummets in well-being in Americans. This was not the case for reinventers in Japan.

The reason? Social webs. American individualism includes the freedom to choose new friends and partners, and leave your family and hometown behind. “That sense of freedom might mean we don’t need to keep those relationships in check, and that’s likely what is contributing to this effect,” says coauthor Michelle vanDellen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. “Americans do not need to be adaptable because we can just start new relationships or opt out of them easily.”

In Japan, social webs are highly valued and thus more flexible, adapting to major shifts without severing relationships.

Underlying this is a difficult truth to swallow about Americans: We value consistency, and poorly tolerate big identity changes. You’ve likely seen this in your own life, when you become single or coupled or a student or a parent, and friends disappear.

You heard it here first: You may quickly find yourself “growing apart” from your peers when you show up in that pink mohawk.

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H&M joins the ‘open innovation’ craze with a plan to share its production chain with rivals

H&M joins the ‘open innovation’ craze with a plan to share its production chain with rivals
[Photo: Becca McHaffie/Unsplash]

This season, while H&M is hawking the ubiquitous dress-and-sneakers look (why?), it is also debuting Treadler, a new supply-chain sharing service that will allow smaller brands to utilize its infrastructure from development to delivery, reports the Financial Times.

The program will begin as a pilot for mid- and large-sized brands and expand. The clothing industry is notably scrappy, where brands painfully piece together their own development, supplier, factory, and logistics connections, often across a handful of countries. The recent coronavirus outbreak has revealed just how shaky those arrangements can be.

This news comes weeks after Helena Helmersson took over as CEO. Her previous roles include a five-year gig as H&M’s sustainability manager. Fast-fashion brand H&M has long been criticized for fueling an economy of frequently replaced clothing, while also aiming to be carbon-neutral in 10 years.

Sharing challenges with other companies, called “open innovation,” is the latest evolution of the sharing economy ethos. It is an increasingly popular business move by industry giants: Last week, Amazon announced that it would share its cashless checkout system with retail rivals.

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Michael Bloomberg calls it quits after blowing $600 million on a doomed presidential campaign

Michael Bloomberg calls it quits after blowing $600 million on a doomed presidential campaign
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

After entering the race only 100 days ago to be the Democratic presidential nominee, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has announced he’s ending his bid for the White House. The former New York mayor officially made the announcement on Twitter, where he said he was endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden, who performed better than expected in Super Tuesday voting (and suffered some viral drama).

Announcing the suspension of his campaign, Bloomberg wrote, “Three months ago, I entered the race to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I’m leaving for the same reason. Defeating Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. It’s clear that is my friend and a great American, @JoeBiden.”

What’s unique about Bloomberg among all other Democratic contenders this year is money: The candidate funded his brief campaign with a jaw-dropping $600 million from his own fortune, basically $6 million a day. Despite the massive spend, Bloomberg only won American Samoa, a U.S. territory, last night, while rivals Biden and Bernie Sanders cleaned up. That means the widespread advertising blitz and meme-making activity he spent hundreds of millions of dollars on did not win him a single state.

But while Bloomberg says his exit from the race will serve to boost Biden and defeat Trump in November, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny points out that Bloomberg now will not be required to disclose details about his media empire and financial fortunes.

Bloomberg’s willingness to spend over half a billion dollars of his own money sparked criticism from the day he first entered the race. Many progressive activists pointed out the vast array of things Bloomberg could have done with that $600 million to improve democracy in America (like funding groups who need it) instead of spending it on a personal campaign to become president.

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These stylish bags help women in politics—and they’re selling out as the 2020 race gets more male

These stylish bags help women in politics—and they’re selling out as the 2020 race gets more male
[Photo: courtesy of MZ Wallace & Lingua Franca]

It’s been a turbulent few years for groups fighting for better representation of women in politics. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton appeared to be on track to become America’s first female president before losing to Donald Trump (despite winning the popular vote). Now history is repeating itself: Over the past few weeks, it’s become increasingly unlikely that a female candidate will clinch the 2020 Democratic nomination. The nonprofit She Should Run, along with the cult fashion brands MZ Wallace and Lingua Franca, have a message for women who are frustrated in their fight to break the highest glass ceiling: You’ve still got this.

[Photo: courtesy of MZ Wallace & Lingua Franca]
Today, in advance of International Women’s Day, MZ Wallace releases its second collaboration with Lingua Franca, which is known for embroidering empowering sayings onto sweaters and accessories. The new bag simply has the words “I’ve Got This” on it. All of the net proceeds from the bag will be donated to the nonprofit She Should Run with the 2020 general elections in mind.

The previous bag that MZ Wallace and Lingua Franca partnered (which was also in support of She Should Run) for had the words “Give A Damn” on it. It came out in 2018, shortly after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, in which Christine Blasey Ford brought testified about how the then-nominee for the Supreme Court had assaulted her when they were in high school. It was another devastating moment for many women around the country, who felt like Ford’s credible claims had not taken seriously.

While it now looks unlikely that a female candidate will be the next president of the United States, She Should Run urges women not to give up on the fight for better representation in politics. Since the last bag came out, for instance, She Should Run has added more than 4,300 women to the pipeline across all levels of government and also saw a 46% year-over-year increase in registrations for its incubator program that prepares women for a run for office.

While many women are disappointed that so many inspiring female candidates for the Democratic nomination were unable to get the support they needed to move forward, it’s good to know that things are slowly changing on the ground, paving the way for more women to win in the years to come.

The tote retails for $235 and is available at Lingua Franca and MZ Wallace stores in New York, as well as on MZ Wallace’s website.

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Watch the pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court, as it could decide the future of abortion in America

Watch the pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court, as it could decide the future of abortion in America
[Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images]

Today the Supreme Court is hearing a case about a Louisiana abortion law that could have ramifications across America. As NPR reports, SCOTUS is hearing arguments in a case to decide whether an abortion access law in Louisiana can go forward. That law mandates that any doctor performing an abortion in the state can only do so if they have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. “Admitting privileges” is when a doctor has an agreement with a hospital to be able to send and treat their patients there.

Supporters of the law say it increases the health and safety protections of women who undergo abortions. However, opponents argue that the hurdles for an abortion doctor to get admitting privileges are so great that the law would have the opposite effect: there would be fewer doctors who could legally carry out abortions in the state.

Matter of fact, a federal district court judge already struck down the law, siding with opponents. As NPR notes, the judge found that the law would mean only one abortion doctor in the state would be able to legally provide abortions. The judge also noted that abortions are relatively safe procedures, and it’s “extremely rare” for complications needing hospital treatment to arise.

But after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the federal judge, now the Supreme Court is having its say. Back in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that a similar Texas law was unconstitutional. However, that swing vote was provided by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018. Kennedy was replaced with Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has stated his belief that the Louisiana law should be left in place. With Kavanaugh the swing vote now, its possible SCOTUS could rule 5-4 in favor of the Louisiana law this time.

The concern from women’s health and pro-choice activists is that if SCOTUS does uphold the Louisiana law, it could be the first step in a more conservative Supreme Court overturning the decades-old Roe v. Wade ruling. It’s little wonder then that a rally to protect abortion rights in America is happening outside the Supreme Court right now. You can check out the livestream of it below.

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Companies cofounded by women are getting more funding than ever

Companies cofounded by women are getting more funding than ever
[Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com/Unsplash]

Global startups with a female founder that have received funding doubled over the past five years, according to a new report from Crunchbase. That includes 21 new unicorns (with a valuation over $1 billion) in 2019, the highest ever in a one-year period. They include women-only owned businesses, such as Away, Glossier, Guild Education, Rent the Runway, and The RealReal. Together those 21 startups raised nearly $3 billion last year.

Ten years ago, only 9% of funding was going to female cofounded companies. Last year, that number was up to 12%. Although an increase of 3 percentage points over a decade is slow, the report found that the amount invested has gone up from $3 billion to $26 billion overall during that time.

The gap is closing particularly among average seed rounds, which in 2010 for female-only founders started at $350,000 and ended at $1.2 million in 2019. For male-only founders, the average was $650,000 in 2010 and $1.35 million in 2019.

Of course, these numbers pale in comparison to funding for businesses founded by men. Startups with male founders saw funding go from $31 billion in 2010 to $195 billion in 2019. Women cofounding businesses with men have fared better. Mixed-gender founding teams raised 2,300 rounds of funding while women-only businesses raised 1,100 funding rounds in 2019.

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