Business and Technology News
In a week when your employee of three months said that his job is harder than he expected — even though he gets free housing, great benefits, a huge staff and lots of missiles — this also happened: Nordstrom got dragged through the mud on social media for selling a pair of dirty-looking jeans for $425. [...] some on social media, including Mike Rowe of the TV show “Dirty Jobs,” said the jeans mocked blue-collar workers. ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted that Charmin delivered a dump truck’s worth of toilet paper to a University of Michigan football player before the NFL draft. Two Eastern hellbenders are at the zoo — they’re giant salamanders — but they’re also known by more colorful names, like “devil dogs,” “snot otters” or “old lasagna sides.”
Classified ad posting website Craigslist filed a federal lawsuit Friday against San Francisco online automobile marketplace Instamotor, alleging that it scraped Craigslist for car ads and re-appropriated them as its own. Craigslist, also of San Francisco, also accuses Instamotor of harvesting Craigslist users’ contact information and “harassing those users with unsolicited text and email messages advertising Instamotor services,” according to the complaint. The private-party market is broken and full of fraud, which costs consumers billions of dollars a year,” Instamotor says on its website, adding that the service “is safer to use than Craigslist.
Medical pot patients could see their marijuana become cleaner and safer, with the cost jumping about 10 percent, under new draft regulations for California’s multibillion-dollar medical cannabis industry. Friday afternoon, a trio of state agencies released 114 pages of draft rules for the medical cannabis industry. The rules cover every aspect of growing, processing, distributing and selling medical pot in the state, and kick off a 45-day comment period before they become law. All of the nitty-gritty details about how people will operate and what things they’ll need to do to get compliant or stay compliant — that all comes out in these rules, said Nicole Howell Neubert, a cannabis industry attorney in San Francisco. Medical pot business owners could see compliance costs increase by $524 per pound, according to regulators. Overall, medical marijuana businesses could see compliance costs jump by $125,000 per year for a small business and $310,000 per year for an average business, regulators estimated in a financial-impact analysis. “The consumer is also getting something for that premium price — mandatory testing, knowledge and confidence the product was grown by folks (who) were following the rules and taxes were being paid,” Allen said. California was the first state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, but lawmakers failed to follow up with comprehensive rules for the booming market. In October 2015, the Legislature voted to regulate medical marijuana and divided up licensing authority among a handful of state agencies. State legislators hope to align rules for the medical and recreational markets through cleanup legislation this year. During a call with reporters Friday, Brendan Murphy, an assistant program budget manager with the state Department of Finance, said that a proposed trailer budget bill will eventually meld the regulatory regimens for medical and recreational use and sale “into one unified structure.”
New government rules to help people find out how many calories are in their restaurant meals are set to go into effect this week after years of delays. [...] they could be pushed back again if grocery stores, convenience stores and pizza delivery chains get their way. Originally passed as part of the health care overhaul in 2010, the law requires restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays. Facing a May 5 compliance deadline set by the Food and Drug Administration last year, those groups are eyeing a massive spending bill that Congress will have to pass in the next week to keep the government open. The idea behind the menu labeling law is that people may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger at a chain restaurant, hot dog at a gas station or large popcorn at the movie theater if they know that it has hundreds of calories. The industry groups are backing legislation by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., that would narrow labeling requirements for supermarkets by allowing stores to use a menu or menu board in a prepared foods area instead of putting labels on individual items. Margo Wootan, a lobbyist at the Center for Science and the Public Interest who helped negotiate the original legislation with the restaurant industry, says the rules are important because people get a third of their calories from eating out, and restaurant portions tend to be larger.
[...] nearly half of homeowners said they wish they had done something differently, according to a survey of more than 1,400 homeowners released by NerdWallet this year. [...] before you take the jump, here are some things that others have said they regretted after making their purchase, based on surveys and discussions with industry experts. Some people buying homes in tight markets may try to beat competing offers by not requiring an inspection, says Daisy Kong, a spokeswoman for Trulia. Buyers who overlook these issues before signing on the dotted line could get stuck making expensive repairs and renovations they weren’t prepared for. Some buyers become so focused on specific neighborhoods that they miss good deals elsewhere, says Sarah Staley, a housing expert for Realtor.com. Branching out in terms of location can increase your chances of finding a home with the space and features you need, such as a backyard, or the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, Staley says. The findings suggest that some people are not doing enough research about mortgages, fees and other costs they may face when buying a home, Manni says. Buyers who don’t research their credit histories may miss a “black mark” on their credit reports that can lead to a higher mortgage rate, he says. [...] some people can buy homes with as little as 3.5 percent of the purchase price down if they use a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration. [...] the larger the down payment, the lower the interest rate and monthly payment. Potential buyers should use online calculators to estimate what their monthly payments may be, depending on the size of their down payment and other factors, Staley says.
The slowdown primarily reflected slower consumer spending, which grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.3 percent after a growth rate of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter. Growth is expected to be fueled by a revival in consumer spending, supported by continued strong job growth, accelerating wage gains and record stock levels. The sharp slowdown in consumer spending in the first quarter was attributed to a collection of temporary factors: warmer weather, which shrank spending on heating bills, a dropoff in auto sales after a strong fourth quarter and a delay in sending out tax refund checks, which also dampened spending. Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said he expected consumer and government spending to bounce back, leading to a much stronger second quarter. Trump had repeatedly attacked the weak GDP rates during the campaign as an example of the Obama administration’s failed economic policies. In addition to weaker consumer activity, the first-quarter slowdown also reflected a cutback in restocking of store shelves. [...] acting as a drag was a reduction in government spending, which fell at a 1.7 percent annual rate with both the federal government and state and local governments seeing cuts. On the positive side, business investment rose at a 9.4 percent rate, helped by a record surge in spending in the category that tracks spending in the energy sector. The Federal Reserve, in fact, has begun raising interest rates to ensure that the tight job market doesn’t trigger high inflation pressures.
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday left in place a decision blocking Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem’s bid to buy rival Cigna, saying that a bigger company is not better for consumers. The 2-1 decision upholds a federal judge’s ruling in February that said the proposed $48 billion acquisition would further reduce competition in the already concentrated health insurance market. Industry experts suggested any consumer impact from the deal would take years to materialize and could lead to savings in some areas but higher costs elsewhere. Writing for the majority, Judge Judith Rogers said the lower court was correct to halt the acquisition “based on Anthem’s failure to show the kind of extraordinary efficiencies necessary to offset the conceded anticompetitive effect” of the deal.
Didi Chuxing’s big funding; a Fitbit witness for the prosecution A Connecticut man has pleaded not guilty in the slaying of of his wife, but information from her Fitbit differs from his account of what happened. Connecticut State Police allege that Richard Dabate killed wife Connie two days before Christmas in 2015, while their two young sons were in school. Dabate told investigators a masked man shot his wife and tied him up, but police say that Connie Dabate’s Fitbit showed she was still moving around the house an hour after her husband said she was shot. Almost two weeks after Apple got permission to test its autonomous-car technology in California, the first images of the vehicle have been captured on Silicon Valley roads. The white Lexus RX450h SUV emerged from an Apple facility this week, featuring an array of sensors, according to a person who saw the vehicle and provided photos to Bloomberg News. Daily Briefing is compiled from San Francisco Chronicle staff and news services.
A meme making the rounds on Facebook asks users to list 10 concerts — nine they’ve attended and a fabricated one — and invites others to identify the fake one. [...] the post — “10 Concerts I’ve Been To, One is a Lie” — might also be an invitation to a mid-level threat to your online privacy and security, experts said. The meme, which surged in popularity this week, is the kind of frivolous distraction that makes up social media interactions, similar to other viral memes, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge. Privacy experts cautioned it could reveal too much about a person’s background and preferences and sounds like a security question — name the first concert you attended — that you might be asked on a banking, brokerage or similar website to verify your identity. Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, said Friday that the meme poses a moderate security risk, adding that not every website relied on a security question about a person’s first concert. Mark Testoni, a national security and privacy expert who is chief executive of SAP National Security Services, said in an email that he recommends exercising “vigilance bordering on a little paranoia” in online posts. Alec Muffett, a software engineer and security researcher, wrote in an email that he is sympathetic to polls like the concert question.
Terrified that rallies in Facebook, Amazon.com and Google portend a millennial catastrophe along the lines of the dot-com bust? Based on its model, which measures the S&P 500 Index by six factors including earnings, dividends and cash flow, the Minneapolis firm found stocks currently trade at the multiple they first reached 20 years ago. While elevated multiples are usually associated with lackluster returns, Leuthold’s study may provide a mild salve to investors at a time when everyone from the Federal Reserve to Paul Tudor Jones are voicing concerns over equity valuations. “You’ve seen CEO, consumer confidence bouncing back, there is more interest in the stock market, but it’s still nothing like late 1990s,” Doug Ramsey, Leuthold’s chief investment officer, said by phone. The top-heavy performance is a signal that investors are chasing a small pool of big winners, a trend that if it persisted could create problems should valuations become untenable. “There are a lot of next-generation themes that are developing, creating the need for technology,” said Michael Sheldon, the chief investment officer at RDM Financial Group at HighTower in Westport, Conn. Investors’ love for tech shares may smack of the Internet frenzy, with the Nasdaq Composite Index crossing 6,000 Tuesday for the first time. With debt levels and effective tax rate already trailing many other industries, tech shares also serve as a shelter with less sensitivity to changes in taxes and interest rates. The same kind of desire for safety has persisted throughout this bull market as investors flock to stocks that offer low volatility or dividend yields.
Which LED floodlight should you hang overhead? Cnet rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 Cree’s floodlight is one of the most efficient and well-designed bulbs in its class, and its 10-year warranty is light years ahead of the competition. Color rendering performance, though fine, wasn’t quite as sharp as advertised. The bottom line: If your home needs floodlights and you don’t want to think about it too much, you really can’t go wrong with Cree. Cnet rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 The good: GE’s floodlight is the brightest BR30-shaped bulb we tested, and one of the most efficient, too. Though it dims pretty well otherwise, the GE wasn’t able to dim below 10 percent on any switch we tested. The bottom line: Philips’ current-gen floodlight is a well-rounded bulb that offers plenty of brightness, decent efficiency and solid dimming. The Philips floodlight was a so-so performer at best in our heat tests, so it might not be the best pick for an enclosed fixture. The bottom line: The GE will absolutely make the colors look a little more vivid and true in your home. Dimming performance isn’t nearly as good as we saw with previous versions of this bulb, and efficiency is a little worse than the competition due to the way Reveal bulbs filter out excess yellow light. The bottom line: For more reviews of personal technology products, visit www.cnet.com.
LinkedIn now boasts more than 500 million registered users, Microsoft said Monday, up from 467 million in October, when LinkedIn released its last quarterly earnings report as a publicly traded company. Beginning in July, Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 software for salespeople will draw on LinkedIn’s trove of workplace data, allowing users to bring in resume information and other details to inform interactions with potential customers. Another tool to help hiring managers will loop in LinkedIn profile information and the site’s recruiting tools within Dynamics. Microsoft executives have said LinkedIn, the default Internet resume portal, would be used to make the company’s existing software smarter.
Premiums for health plans sold on Covered California, the insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, could spike nearly 50 percent if the federal government stops enforcing two of the law’s key provisions that have been put in question under President Trump, according to a new analysis by Covered California and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The projected increase would apply to all health plans in California’s individual insurance market, which includes 1.3 million people who buy plans through Covered California as well as 1.1 million people who buy plans directly from insurers outside of the exchange. The latter group would bear the brunt of the premium spike, because those people do not receive financial assistance to buy plans, whereas the vast majority of people who buy on Covered California do. The analysis, released Thursday, found that if the federal government stops enforcing the individual mandate to buy insurance and halts the payment of subsidies — a $7 billion stream of money that currently goes to insurers to lower co-pays and deductibles for poor Americans — premiums on the state exchange would rise 28 to 49 percent in 2018. The study also found that up to 350,000 Californians would no longer buy insurance if the federal government stopped enforcing the two provisions. Enforcement of the individual mandate, which requires people to buy insurance or face a tax penalty, has been loosened. Molina went a step further Thursday, saying in a letter to congressional leaders that the company would immediately exit all state health insurance exchanges if the subsidies are not funded.
Perez left and is now the co-founder and chief product officer of HealthSherpa, a startup with offices in San Francisco and Sacramento that helps people obtain health coverage. Firms like Facebook and Google have started disclosing the gender and racial makeup of their workforce, but recent company-issued diversity reports suggest the industry is making at best glacial progress. Other reasons for employees’ departures included being poached by another company, seeking better opportunities or dissatisfaction with their role or work environment. Of those surveyed, 37 percent said they left their jobs because they felt they were unfairly treated; 78 percent said they had experienced some form of unfair treatment; and 85 percent said they had witnessed ill treatment happening to someone else at work. Black and Latino employees, the study said, were more likely to leave due to unfair treatment at work than white or Asian colleagues. “This study is one step forward in demonstrating that there is a problem across the tech industry,” said Allison Scott, the center’s chief research officer. The study estimates that the tech industry loses $16 billion annually from employee turnover due to unfair treatment. Scott said one employee’s departure could cost a company $144,000 in lost productivity and recruiting a replacement. “A lot of companies view diversity as a nice to have as opposed to a need to have,” said Daniel Malmer, chief technology officer of Blendoor, a recruiting startup that released a diversity ranking for 138 Silicon Valley companies this month.
Automatic Labs sold; Luxe cuts; low pay at factory for Ivanka Workers are not exactly getting rich at the Chinese factory run by a company that makes Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. The Washington Post reported that a factory audit showed that employees worked almost 60 hours a week for wages that barely topped $62. The company also works for brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, so it’s not clear if people were working on Ivanka products when the inspection occurred. Automatic Labs is one of several startups selling a Bluetooth device that plugs into a car’s diagnostic port, sending data about performance and driving habits to a smartphone app and potentially connecting with other smart devices. Automatic Labs will operate independently within Sirius, and co-founder Ljuba Miljkovic said its 40 employees will remain in San Francisco.