Viewers Are Ditching Cable For Streaming Faster Than Anyone Expected

“Cord cutting” has been a kind of ghost story for cable providers for much of the past decade—a tale that, while foreboding, didn’t seem entirely real. But consumers are abandoning traditional cable for streaming services faster than ever, turning what had been an ominous prediction into a clear and present danger.

Three major pay-TV providers last week reported dramatic declines in subscribers to traditional cable and satellite television packages. Some of the losses were more than double what Wall Street analysts expected, and stocks in major TV providers have fallen off a cliff. Those dismal results followed reports of huge subscriber growth at streaming services like Netflix, leaving would-be defenders of legacy TV with nowhere to stand.

The numbers tell the story in no uncertain terms. Charter Communications, which offers cable service under the Spectrum brand, announced on Friday that it lost 122,000 TV customers in the first quarter of 2018. That massively exceeded Wall Street projections, which the Wall Street Journal said averaged about 40,000 lost subscribers ahead of the earnings report. Charter’s stock dropped as much as 15% Friday.

That collapse followed similarly grim reports from other legacy providers. Comcast announced Wednesday that it had lost 96,000 customers for the quarter, its fourth straight quarter of subscriber losses, and slightly worse than analyst projections. AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service lost 188,000 customers in the same period, driving down video revenue by $660 million despite growth of its own online streaming service. AT&T stock tanked as much as 7% the day after its report. Comcast notched healthy earnings from its increasingly diverse business, but even it couldn’t fight the headwinds, with its stock draining more than 7% by the end of the week.

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The reports continue a strong trend away from traditional cable services—total cable subscriber numbers declined 3.4% over the course of 2017, a faster decline than in 2015 and 2016. The fact that the latest numbers so dramatically underperformed even grim Wall Street expectations suggests the dropoff is continuing to accelerate.

At the same time, streaming services, also known as “over the top” or OTT services, are showing gains that are even more dramatic. Netflix, the 800-pound gorilla in the sector, reported earlier this month that it had added a net 1.96 million subscribers in the first quarter. Perhaps even more worrisome for cable providers are services like HBO Now, which deliver what had been exclusive cable content directly to subscribers, and whose growth is also accelerating.

There are a lot of factors driving the dramatic transition. Arguments about the appeal of “unbundling,” or the ability to pay only for the content a subscriber specifically wants, are widespread. In terms of user experience, the sheer convenience of browsing shows without being bound to a broadcast schedule—or worrying about programming a DVR—makes traditional cable feel downright prehistoric. Cable services have also spent years digging their own graves with bad service and opaque billing—both Comcast and Charter have regularly been among American companies most hated by their own customers.

For years, it was thought that live sports would keep many subscribers from ditching cable, but that dam has cracked in half. Both broadcast networks and ESPN are available through services including Sling and Hulu. And a standalone ESPN streaming service, ESPN+, launched this month, at a stunningly low $4.99 a month rate that seems likely to deepen cable’s losses further.

The impacts of the switch to streaming packages are still unclear, but they’ll be complex. Done right, the transition could channel more revenue directly to creative powerhouses like Disney, which is planning to launch its own OTT service, packed with Star Wars and Marvel IP in addition to animated films. But the decline of cable could be tough for smaller players, such as niche channels which currently get a share of cable fees but might not be able to attract subscribers on their own.

It’s more than likely that cable providers will find some role in this reshaped future. But it’s clearer than ever that their glory days—when they had the leverage to do things like tack on steadily rising fees—are over.

5 Things Successful People Do Every Sunday

Successful people know that the week starts the moment their alarm sounds on Monday – and they’re ready to get after it. It’s not hard to realize that elite performers, and the people who live full lives, maximize all the different moments that compose a week. Whether it’s business or life, these people are intentional in how they expend their energy and use their time. 

In my experience, winning the first half of Monday sets a great tone for the week. Yet, if you wait until Monday morning to plan for the week, you’re already behind. The best time to set intentions is over the weekend. Naturally, Sunday is a great day, or night, to set the tone just before the week starts.

Here’s a look at five easy, yet powerful, habits you can maintain on Sundays that will help you have a great week. And if you have enough great weeks, you’ll have a great year. If you have many great years, you’ll enjoy a full life.

1. Prioritize yourself

You likely sacrifice a great deal of time and energy for your business or others during the week. Sunday is the perfect day to enjoy the moments that you like most.

When you think of what makes you feel good, let go of any judgments. It doesn’t matter if this time is spent playing with your kids, going to yoga, reading a book or finding a quiet corner to sit in silence. This time is whatever you need it to be in order to regroup, feel fulfilled and carry great energy into the week.

2. Write out your goals for the week

It’s hard to win the week if you wake up Monday without a clear sense of what you want to create or accomplish. Use Sunday night to think about the previous week, think about your short and mid-term goals and define the objectives for the week ahead. 

I’ve started taking this practice to another level. Instead of focusing only on productivity and business objectives, I also focus on how I want to feel that week. This causes me to use my awareness to sense how I feel in the moment, and determine if it’s congruent with how I want to feel. If it’s not, I can set a new intention for the week.

By doing both the pragmatic and the feeling intentions, you’re combining advantages from the head space and the feeling body. Together, you gain from the intuition and guidance of emotions and the creativity and execution of the mind.

3. Take inventory of your life 

Too many of us focus only on our work. Collectively, we are reaching near epidemic levels of stress at work and obsession over society’s definitions for success. We’re chasing milestones, raises and titles while sacrificing the things that make us happy on a personal level.

Avoid that trap by checking in on how your life is unfolding. Are you making time for the things, people or experiences that make you happy? Are you planning the trip you’ve wanted to take, or are you putting it off? Are you setting intentions in your personal life and investing energy into realizing them? Are you aligned with the career path that makes you fulfilled? 

Your work is not your life. Use every Sunday as a moment to remember that.

4. Disconnect the tech

Too many of us spend nearly every moment of the workday in front of a computer or some type of LED back-lit screen. Not only does this have physical effects on our bodies, it also creates disconnection to ourselves and to others. This divide is only exacerbated by social media.

Give your body, mind and soul a rest by taking a break from social media and putting the devices aside. Feel what it’s like to experience life through your eyes and senses, and spend time connecting to real-life human beings.

The world is a beautiful place and life is an incredible experience when you step back and live in real life.

5. Turn your phone into black and white mode

If you’re up for it, consider changing your phone’s display from color to black and white before you go to bed on Sunday night. My brother told about this and it’s made a fast impact on my mood and physiology.

By turning my phone to black and white during the week, I find that it reduces the visual stimulus that tires my brain and triggers my nervous system and it reduces the time I spend on social media. It reminds me that my phone is just a tool and not my life. I now only use the color on my phone during the weekends.

Final Word

Our habits have a big impact on the ways we experience life – often without us noticing. It’s imperative to establish healthy habits that allow you to sustain a higher baseline of happiness, health and fulfillment. Consider adding just one of these actions or habits to your Sunday until it sticks. Then move to the next one. Over time, you’ll sustain all of them and you’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Outrage breaks out after Whole Foods partners with Yellow Fever eatery

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Amazon.com’s Whole Foods Market sparked social media outrage after its newest store in its 365 grocery chain partnered with an Asian restaurant with the racially charged name of Yellow Fever.

A Whole Foods Market store is seen in Santa Monica, California, U.S. March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The independently owned and operated eatery – whose name is taken from the slang term for a white man’s sexual attraction to Asian women – is located in the 365 store that opened in Long Beach, California, on Wednesday.

“An Asian ‘bowl’ resto called YELLOW FEVER in the middle of whitest Whole Foods — is this taking back of a racist image or colonized mind?” Columbia University professor and author Marie Myung-Ok Lee, wrote on Twitter.

Whole Foods, which has eight stores in its 365 chain that was launched with a no-frills concept to win over millennials, declined comment.

“Yellow Fever celebrates all things Asian: the food, the culture and the people and our menu reflects that featuring cuisine from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Hawaii,” said Kelly Kim, executive chef and co-founder of Yellow Fever, which also operates two Los Angeles-area restaurants.

“We have been a proud Asian, female-owned business since our founding over four and a half years ago in Torrance, California.”

Kim, who is Korean-American, in previous interviews said she was aware that the name choice would be attention-getting and controversial.

“One night, we just said ‘Yellow Fever!’ and it worked. It’s tongue-in-cheek, kind of shocking, and it’s not exclusive — you can fit all Asian cultures under one roof with a name like this. We just decided to go for it,” Kim told Asian American news site NextShark six months ago.

A year ago she told the Argonaut, a local Los Angeles news outlet, that Yellow Fever means “love of all things Asian” and that public push back over the name had not been as drastic as expected.

Some people on social media defended the news of the partnership with Whole Foods as part of a broader cultural trend.

“This is no more offensive than @abc naming an Asian sitcom Fresh of the Boat or FOB- which is considered racists [sic],” wrote Lorin Hart, who uses the Twitter handle @CubeProMH.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Marguerita Choy

3 Simple Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From the Historic Meeting Between North and South Korea

The meeting earlier today between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in was something most of us never expected to see in our lifetimes. Whatever happens next, we should pause to take note of this historic event and the lessons we all can learn from it.

If you watched the video, it was a breathtakingly simple moment. An older, trim man stood waiting by a building on one side of a concrete barrier only a few inches high. A younger, heftier man strode confidently across a road and up to the barrier, reached his arm across it, and shook the older man’s hand. Onlookers applauded as the younger man stepped over the barrier and the two posed together for pictures. Then he took the older man’s hand and led him back across that same low concrete step. 

Afterward, there were many speeches, television, pictures with the leaders’ children, and champagne toasts. But that was the mind-bending moment when the leaders of North Korea and South Korea, two nations that have been at odds since North Korea’s founding 60 years ago, first briefly visited each other’s countries. Their encounter came with a lot of pomp and was met with a certain amount of skepticism from foreign relations experts in Japan, the United States, and many other countries who question whether North Korea will ever agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons.

But the two leaders had another surprise in store: They announced their intention to end the Korean War–officially going on since 1950, although in a cease-fire state–by the end of 2018. Whether they keep that promise or not, and really whatever happens next, there are some important lessons we can all learn from this emotional day.

1. Just because something bad has been going on for a really long time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to change it.

How many things do we just live with because it’s always been that way? Unless you’re a senior citizen, there has never been a time in your life when these two nations were not at war. Kim and Moon, who are 36 and 65 respectively, have both known the war as a constant from before they were born. And although the two nations have lived side by side relatively uneventfully since the cease-fire was signed in 1953, their navies have had skirmishes around their disputed border in the ocean and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two countries remains a tense place. A formal end to hostilities should have been signed 65 years, except that the various nations involved, which included the United States, the Soviet Union and China, couldn’t agree on terms. Signing one now would be a big step toward a safer, better world.

2. Talk is cheap.

The skeptics on both sides of the DMZ are skeptical for good reason. Although we’ve never seen anything quite like today’s events, the two Koreas have flirted with peace before but made little progress negotiating actual treaties. Experts everywhere foresee that North Korea won’t willingly give up its nuclear arms, although as a start, Kim has said he’ll forego building the long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

In the past, promising initiatives have been followed by negotiations that stalled for years, so the U.S. and South Korea are pushing North Korea to agree to deadlines for completing the process of denuclearization. So far, there’s no agreement to a deadline so the practial results of today’s meeting, if any, are hard to predict.

3. A little bit of progress is still progress.

Kim and President Donald Trump are planning to meet within the next few months. That would be another first: No sitting U.S. president has ever met face to face with a North Korean leader. (Former President Bill Clinton did meet with Kim Jong-un’s father and predecessor Kim Jong-il, but that was long after Clinton’s time in office.) 

Moon and Kim announced plans to open a liaison office in the DMZ to improve relations. They also said they would arrange a reunion in the fall for Korean families separated by the war. Many of these family members will have been out of touch with their relatives on the other side of the line for decades. If nothing else, that’s a great reason to celebrate.

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Western Digital beats estimates, sets upbeat forecast on chip demand

(Reuters) – Western Digital Corp reported better-than-expected profit and revenue on Thursday, as demand for its memory chips used in smartphones and personal computers rose coupled with higher prices for its hard disk drives.

FILE PHOTO: A Western Digital office building under construction is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The multi-billion dollar memory industry has flourished due to demand from smartphones and cloud services that require more powerful chips to store a massive amount of data.

Western Digital and Seagate Technology PLC control most of the world’s hard disk drive market. Western Digital said average selling prices in the third quarter rose 14.3 percent to $72 from a year earlier. Analysts on average expected $63, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet.

The company’s shares rose about 3 percent following the release of its earnings, but slipped after Chief Executive Officer Stephen Milligan warned that the company’s margins are “normalizing” due to an expected drop in NAND prices.

The company forecast current quarter adjusted profit in the range of $3.40 and $3.50 per share, above analysts’ average estimate of $3.29, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The data-storage device maker’s net income fell to $61 million, or 20 cents per share for the third quarter ended March 30, after booking a $1.04 billion charge for interest and other expenses. Last year, it earned $248 million, or 83 cents per share.

Net revenue rose to $5.01 billion from $4.65 billion.

Excluding one-time items, the company reported a profit of $3.63 per share.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $3.30 per share and revenue of $4.93 billion.

Reporting by Sonam Rai and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

Brazil prosecutors say Windows 10 settings violate local laws

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors in Brazil asked a court on Wednesday to force Microsoft to change its default installation process for Windows 10, which they said violated several local laws by collecting user data without their “express consent.”

FILE PHOTO: A display for the Windows 10 operating system is seen in a store window of the Microsoft store at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York, U.S., July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

Microsoft has faced criticism in the European Union and elsewhere about the installation settings of Windows 10 and users’ apparent lack of control over the company’s processing of their data.

Microsoft’s press office in Brazil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the default setting for Brazilian customers when they installed Windows 10 gave automatic approval for the company to collect user data, such as browsing and search histories, the content of emails and their location.

“The procedure violates innumerous constitutional principals, such as the privacy protection,” the federal prosecutors office in Sao Paulo said.

It said it filed a civil lawsuit against Microsoft to block Windows 10 “from continuing to collect personal data without users’ express consent.”

Prosecutors asked that the company stop within 15 days its “automatic collection of data” by Windows 10. They are also demanding that Microsoft include alerts for consumers when they install the software, so that they better understand “the consequences of authorizing the transfer of data.”

The Brazilian authorities added that their lawsuit was asking that Microsoft be fined 10 million reais ($2.87 million) and 100,000 reais for each day it does not comply with prosecutors’ demands.

It was not clear when a judge may issue a ruling.

Prosecutors said users were able to opt out of allowing Microsoft 10 to sweep up much of their personal information – but that installing it in that manner was “labor intensive and complex” for consumers, and that the software still collected some information.

The statement said Microsoft was trying to increase profits on the back of the data collected by Windows 10, for instance by aiming targeted advertising at specific groups of consumers.

Prosecutors added that several federal government entities, including the judicial system and electoral agencies, used the Microsoft software, creating a risk that legally private information could be made public.

Reporting by Brad Brooks and Aluísio Alves in Sao Paulo; Editing by Peter Cooney

What Happens When a Self-driving Car Is at Fault?

March 18 changed everything—and nothing—in the frenzied and nascent world of autonomous vehicles. That Sunday evening, in a Phoenix suburb that has become a hub for testing autonomous vehicle technology, an Uber self-driving vehicle struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg. The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a human test driver behind the wheel.

The incident is believed to be the first death caused by a fully autonomous vehicle. It prompted Uber to halt autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in four cities and other companies to pause their own public road tests. It also led Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a proponent of autonomous vehicle technology, to suspend Uber from operating in the state. Advocacy groups called for a national moratorium on self-driving tests.

A fatal self-driving car crash seemed inevitable. Though the arrival of the robot car promised a dramatic reduction in the 1.25 million road traffic deaths that occur around the globe each year, there was also the sneaking suspicion that someday, for some reason, a self-driving vehicle would cause a collision—perhaps because of a string of bad code, an unexpected equipment failure, or an impossible decision. And then what? Who is responsible, legally speaking, in a world where machines make their own decisions?

“The short answer is, it depends,” says Jim McPherson, a California attorney who studies autonomous vehicles. “The longer answer is, anyone who is responsible for causing harm.”

A visualization (top photo) and the reality (bottom) of an autonomous vehicle encountering a school bus.

A visualization (top photo) and the reality (bottom) of an autonomous vehicle encountering a school bus.

Courtesy of Waymo

In the eyes of insurers, today’s self-driving vehicles are treated no differently than conventional cars when they’re involved in a collision, according to Maureen Brown of Munich Reinsurance America, a firm that insures a number of companies testing autonomous vehicles. And states that allow companies to test self-driving vehicles require them, as with human drivers, to have insurance. Every autonomous Uber vehicle, for example, is covered by commercial auto liability insurance that covers bodily injury (including death) and property damage. And that coverage is in place regardless of whether the car is in autonomous mode or not.

An autonomous Volvo SUV, owned and operated by Uber, lying on its side in the road after a collision in Tempe, Ariz., on March 24, 2017.

An autonomous Volvo SUV, owned and operated by Uber, lying on its side in the road after a collision in Tempe, Ariz., on March 24, 2017.

Mark Beach—Fresco News/Reuters

Still, expect changes. The rise of self-driving cars will prompt us to adapt existing frameworks for new operators. “Today when you’re writing an auto insurance policy, it’s all about the drivers,” says Robert Passmore, an executive at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “What’s their driving record and that kind of thing? As we get more and more into where the system is driving, it’s going to be increasingly about that system.”

Not to mention its track record. “It’s not just being able to show what happened but being able to show that the data should be believed,” says Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies driverless car regulations. “And then having the resources on all sides—that’s government investigators, plaintiffs, even defendant companies—to be able to analyze that data, understand it, and model it.”

The U.S. legal system has yet to be truly tested by a self-driving car crash. Every incident involving an autonomous vehicle in the U.S. to date—and there have been few—has been settled out of court. Just one proper lawsuit has been filed so far, stemming from a collision involving a self-driving car powered by GM-owned Cruise Automation and a motorcyclist in San Francisco. But even that case appears destined for a settlement.

Expect that pattern to continue—after all, no one wants to take the road not yet traveled. Indeed, Uber reached a settlement with Herzberg’s husband and daughter within 10 days of the incident, notes University of Toledo law professor Agnieszka McPeak.

“That case settled pretty quickly because they don’t want negative precedent,” she says. “As soon as there’s a case that goes against them, it opens up a Pandora’s box of liability.” 

This article originally appeared in the May 1, 2018 issue of Fortune.

G7 tells tech firms to boost efforts to combat extremism: Canada

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Group of Seven leading industrialized nations on Tuesday told leading tech and social media companies to ramp up efforts to combat the spread of extremism, a top Canadian official said.

Security Ministers pose for a group photo on the second day of Foreign ministers meetings from G7 countries in Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

G7 security ministers raised their concerns during a Toronto meeting with Facebook, Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

The four companies are part of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), set up last year under pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of deadly attacks.

“All through the conversation the message was … some progress has been reported, we needed to see more,” Goodale told a news conference.

Security officials say a spate of so-called lone wolf attacks around the world is in part caused by people becoming radicalized by what they see online.

“Removal of terrorist material needs to be faster … We also want the companies to report in larger volume and in a regular way to the G7 governments,” said Goodale, adding that the G7 was also keen for the companies to improve automated methods of deleting suspect material.

The GIFCT said last December that a database it had created to identify extremist content contained more than 40,000 videos or images.

The European Union last month said internet companies had three months to demonstrate they were removing extremist content more rapidly or they would face legislation forcing them to do so.

Goodale suggested the G7 reserved the right to “take other action” unless the firms moved more quickly to “get rid of this vile material off the internet”.

But a source directly familiar with the meeting said the United States, which dislikes the idea of clamping down on what are predominantly American firms, made clear it had no interest in the prospect of regulation.

The four companies said they were willing to do more while adding that governments did not appreciate how technologically challenging this could be, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Google and Facebook declined to comment, while the other two companies did not respond to requests for comment.

The G7 nations – the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan – also discussed cyber security and how to prevent attacks by militants returning to their home countries after fighting in places such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bill Trott and James Dalgleish

NYC Is Redesigning Its Slow, Old, and Unpopular Bus System

Like the Empire State Building observation deck and a Circle Line cruise ship, the view from the top of a double-decker bus in New York has long been reserved for tourists and maybe the occasional local cajoled into showing them around. The bus part, however, is about to change: Starting this spring, Staten Island commuters will begin boarding blue-and-yellow double-deckers that will whisk them from their outer borough homes to the heart of Manhattan’s business district.

Yes, New York City is getting a bus makeover, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced this week, complete with 10 electric buses, already testing in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. And if you can believe it, the addition of shiny new vehicles to the fleet isn’t the most exciting thing about it. The MTA is also giving the city’s bus system—all 325 routes and 16,350 stops, used by 2.4 million riders every weekday—a “top-to-bottom, holistic review and redesign,” its first in decades. By reexamining the entire bus system, the city has a chance to fix its routes, ease congestion, give better options to transit riders, and maybe even relieve the pressure on its strained subway network.

In terms of direness, this revamp is closer to an episode of Hoarders than your standard spring cleaning. Since 2009, New York City’s annual bus ridership has plunged by almost 11 percent, even as the city’s population booms and its overcrowded subway flirts with collapse. The pattern repeats itself all over the country. In the LA area, annual ridership is down 25 percent over the same period, as more cars plug up highways and side streets. Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and Washington, DC—all with growing populations—each saw bus use drop in recent years.

The problem isn’t the bus itself. The success of bus networks in countries like Brazil, China, and Germany—where nearly 100-foot-long human-toters have their own lanes and traffic signals, and race through congestion at 25 mph—makes clear that people are down with the things, as long as they’re practical, efficient, and safe. In Manhattan, buses average 5.5 mph. Chances are you could jog at that pace.

Part of the problem is that New York’s bus system was designed around the city as it once was, with lines connecting to the streetcars, busy wharfs, and big businesses of the time. The city has changed, of course. The bus network, not so much. Take the three lines that terminate in Port Richmond, a Staten Island ferry terminal. Those were probably super convenient—until 1962, when ferries stopped using the port.

A recent series of radical bus redesign projects have shown that smarter routing and scheduling can make all the difference. In 2015, Houston cut low-frequency routes in favor of a high-frequency grid that operates 24/7, and improved connections to the city’s light-rail network. Transit ridership climbed 7 percent. Seattle, Portland, and Columbus, Ohio, have seen similar results from their own network rejiggerings.

New York’s plans are still a bit sketchy, timeline-wise, though transit advocates are heartened by the involvement of new New York City Transit Authority president Andy Byford, who stepped into his role in January after establishing himself as a get-‘er-done kind of transit official in Toronto. We do know, however, that the redesign effort will kick off in Staten Island, where new routes (announced last summer) will have their debut in August.

But how does one go about redoing an entire city’s bus network, and making it easier for residents to get around? First things first: gathering data, so you can fit routes and stops to current patterns of living, working, and commuting. Fortunately, most cities have access to a wealth of data about how people are moving around inside of them.

The census offers a good baseline. New York can also track MetroCard use to know how many people are getting on which buses. It has years of GPS data to help determine where their vehicles are most likely to get stuck in traffic. It even has some intel about where ride-hailing companies are picking up and dropping off passengers, offering a better sense of what’s happening on the roads.

There’s the good, old-fashioned, underrated human too. “Operators know which stops are the busiest and which are not, and the most successful agencies we’ve seen in redesigning their networks engage operators at the very beginning,” says Kirk Hovenkotter, who studies transit agencies at the New York-based research and advocacy group TransitCenter.

Even the public can be helpful. In Houston, conversations between the transit agency and various community groups began in 2013, almost two years before the city officially launched its new network. Just know that you won’t make everybody happy. “You’ll definitely get some grumbling,” says Jon Orcutt, who directs communications at TransitCenter. “It’s inherent in change.”

The goal is to get a fresh picture of where people are, and where they go, and make the buses match up. If this neighborhood suddenly has hundreds of thousands more people in it, time for a bus line. If this waterfront area has a new ferry, maybe build some connections to it.

With those inputs in hand, start craft routes that do cure the maladies that plague many a system. Today, many routes curve and swerve, trying to cover the entire map, and get riders as close to their destinations as possible. That sounds nice, but hurts efficiency—too many stops, too many turns—and leads to infrequent service.

Organizations like the National Association of City Transportation Officials have encouraged metros to make long bus routes less circuitous, valuing efficient grid service. Cities are also thinking about cutting down the number of bus stops. This is doubly attractive in places—like a lot of New York—where sidewalk infrastructure makes it easy for riders to walk an extra block or so for the bus. New York (and other cities) are thinking seriously about bus-only lanes, bus stops that don’t block traffic, and traffic signals that give public transit—and not private cars—the jump on green lights. It’s even going for all-door boarding, making it faster to get everybody aboard. When San Francisco’s transit agency did something similar, dwell times at bus stops dropped 13 percent.

Cap that off by sending the buses where the people are, and voila: a bus system that might actually work. Now, NYC just has to fix the dang subway.


Transportation Going Public

Facebook says it is taking down more material about ISIS, al-Qaeda

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Monday that it removed or put a warning label on 1.9 million pieces of extremist content related to ISIS or al-Qaeda in the first three months of the year, or about double the amount from the previous quarter.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, also published its internal definition of “terrorism” for the first time, as part of an effort to be more open about internal company operations.

The European Union has been putting pressure on Facebook and its tech industry competitors to remove extremist content more rapidly or face legislation forcing them to do so, and the sector has increased efforts to demonstrate progress.

Of the 1.9 million pieces of extremist content, the “vast majority” was removed and a small portion received a warning label because it was shared for informational or counter-extremist purposes, Facebook said in a post on a corporate blog here.

Facebook uses automated software such as image matching to detect some extremist material. The median time required for takedowns was less than one minute in the first quarter of the year, the company said.

Facebook, which bans terrorists from its network, has not previously said what its definition encompasses.

The company said it defines terrorism as: “Any non-governmental organization that engages in premeditated acts of violence against persons or property to intimidate a civilian population, government, or international organization in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim.”

The definition is “agnostic to ideology,” the company said, including such varied groups as religious extremists, white supremacists and militant environmentalists.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Leslie Adler

Google parent Alphabet profit beats despite privacy concerns

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Google owner Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) reported first-quarter sales and profit Monday that topped financial analysts’ estimates as it achieved better pricing on ads and saw unrealized income from startup investments, sending its shares up about 1 percent after-hours.

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S., August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The results eased concerns that investment in new ventures beyond its core search business was undermining Alphabet’s outlook. There also were no immediate signs that rising global privacy concerns would affect profits.

Alphabet’s profit margins have fallen in recent quarters as it ramps up costly new projects in cloud computing and hardware at its core Google unit, and despite spending cuts on an unprofitable set of ancillary initiatives known as “other bets.”

But quarterly profit of $9.4 billion, or $13.33 per share, exceeded estimates of $6.56 billion, or $9.28 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. About $3.40 of the earnings per share were attributable to a new accounting method for unrealized gains in Alphabet’s investments in startups such as Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL].

Excluding the investment-related gains and other items, adjusted earnings were $9.93 per share, topping the $9.28 per share consensus.

The price for clicks and views of ads sold by Google rose in its favor as advertisers pursued ad slots on its search engine, YouTube video service and millions of partner apps and websites.

Investor appetite for Alphabet has been weakened by a combination of cost and regulatory concerns as officials across the world seek to force changes in Google’s business practices, such as giving customers more control over privacy of their data. Shares had fallen nearly 3.5 percent this year until a swift pre-earnings rebound last week.

U.S. lawmakers initially sought to question Google alongside rival Facebook Inc (FB.O) at a hearing this month on how British data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica was able to acquire data on unwitting Facebook users.

Google was later excused. But analysts who follow the company have said Google may not escape European Union regulators, which plan to begin enforcing a new data privacy law next month. It could prompt more users to reject receiving personalized ads online, costing Google a few billion dollars in annual sales, said Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research.

Advertisers also may limit ad-buying this year while sorting out their own compliance with the new European policy, known as General Data Protection Regulation, he said.

Still, any pullback would be temporary because of the effectiveness of Internet advertising compared with declining media such as print and broadcast, analysts say. Alphabet’s first-quarter results again showed that advertisers’ attraction to Google’s powerful systems in particular is strong, which could help it rebound from any privacy setbacks.

Worldwide ad sales increased to $31.1 billion, above the average analysts’ estimate of $30.3 billion.

Revenue from Google’s mobile app store and growth priorities such as cloud computing services and consumer devices was $4.4 billion in the first quarter.

But Google saw its operating margin fall compared with a year ago as it acquired 2,000 employees in Taiwan for $1.1 billion from HTC Corp (2498.TW).

Google also saw cost increases from moving up when it awards equity to employees and acquiring streaming rights for its YouTube TV offering.

Executives have said some costs will moderate this year.

Reporting by Paresh Dave and Arjun Panchadar; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Henderson

Facebook Accused of Ignoring Government Warnings Before Mob Violence in Sri Lanka

Angry mobs of Buddhists in Sri Lanka last month attacked minority Muslims, burning mosques and killing at least one. Those riots appear to have been triggered in part by false stories spread on Facebook and WhatsApp. And despite efforts by governments and nonprofits to alert them to the mounting risk, Facebook is accused of doing next to nothing to remove clear incitements to violence in the weeks leading up to the attacks.

The sequence of events in Sri Lanka is detailed in a bruising new report by the New York Times, which threatens to undermine Facebook’s longstanding claim to be a force for good in the world. At their heart were allegations of a plot by Muslim Sri Lankans to sterilize the country’s Sinhalese-speaking Buddhist majority, supported by a false story on Facebook saying that police had seized 23,000 sterilization pills from a Muslim pharmacist in the town of Ampara.

In an episode eerily reminiscent of reactions to the Hillary Clinton Pizzagate conspiracy theory, those stories led a mob of Buddhists to storm a Muslim-owned restaurant in the town of Ampara, falsely claiming its food was laced with drugs. The exchange exploded into beatings, rioting, and mosque-burning. Video of those events was also uploaded to Facebook, feeding further violence and the death of a 27-year-old aspiring journalist.

Aside from the brutal violence itself, the most disturbing part of the Times report is the allegation that Facebook, which has no offices in Sri Lanka, ignored or deflected repeated attempts by government officials and nonprofit monitors to intervene in a growing storm of hatred. As early as October of 2017, Sri Lankan officials pleaded with Facebook to better police hate speech, hire more Sinhalese-speaking content screeners, and establish a direct point of contact with local authorities.

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Instead, Facebook insisted its content-flagging tool would be enough to alert the company to dangerous content. Members of a Sri Lankan group called the Center for Policy Alternatives did as recommended, repeatedly flagging posts including messages such as “Kill all Muslims, don’t even save an infant.” But “nearly every report,” according to the Times, was deemed to not violate Facebook’s standards. According to the Times, Facebook still has not filled around 25 positions for Sinhalese screeners that have been open since June.

The violence in Sri Lanka mirrors similar events in Myanmar, India, Mexico, and even the United States. They strike at the heart of Facebook’s utopian promise to connect people, showing that such connections can spread violent hatred as quickly as cute baby pictures.

Ethnic and religious resentments are not created by Facebook. But as the Times points out, Facebook’s core structure – including an algorithm that prioritizes content that gets the most engagement – may help foment outrage and tribalism. In nations with weak legal systems, citizens may be more likely to take justice into their own hands.

“The germs are ours,” as one Sri Lankan official told the Times, referring to the sectarian devisions in Sri Lanka, “but Facebook is the wind, you know?”

Southwest's Apology to Passengers on Flight 1380 Is Brilliant, and It's Not Just the Cash. Here's Why

For the passengers who survived the emergency landing on Southwest Flight 1380 this week, on which Jennifer Riordan died, the flight must have been a horrifying experience. 

The pilot and copilot have had been hailed as heroes, and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was praise for the fast apology and condolence statement he offered via video. But you can imagine that the airline might want to continue to respond to the affected passengers quickly.

Apparently, it has. Even as the federal investigation into the incident continues, Southwest reportedly sent letters with personal apologies and quick compensation to passengers from Flight 1380 just a day after the emergency.

Obviously, any big company that faced a debacle like this needs to do something similar and quick.  Many do, but only in exchange for people offering to drop all claims against the company (more on whether that’s happening here, in a second).

But there’s something interesting in how Southwest handled the issue–a combination of what they offered, and how they worded the apology letter, as reported, signed by Kelly:

We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. … In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs.

As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $1,000 travel voucher…

Our primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible.

What leaps out at me is, oddly, the smallest financial part of the compensation: the $1,000 travel voucher. (Although, it’s funny: psychologically people sometimes put a higher subjective value on a tangible thing valued at a certain amount, then they do on cash.)

Even in the wake of tragedy, Southwest is taking steps to try to keep these customers–as customers. 

As some commenters have pointed out, while the uncontained engine failure aboard flight 1380 was terrifying for passengers, and resulted in loss of life and injury, it’s by no means the first time a flight suffered a similar catastrophe and ultimately landed.

Commercial airlines like a 737 are designed to be able to fly with one of the engines disabled, and professional aircrew train and drill on what to do in this kind of situation. The emergency was deftly handled by Captain Tammie Jo Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor.

Part of why this story was so widely reported however, is that passengers were immediately sharing it on social media. One passenger famously paid $8 for inflight WiFi even while he thought the plane was going to crash, so that he could broadcast on Facebook Live what was happening and say a farewell to friends and family.

So, connect this to the travel vouchers. Beyond taking a step toward repairing the relationship with these passengers, what better PR result could Southwest hope for than some positive travel experiences and social media posts from one of them, as a result? 

I wouldn’t expect Southwest to articulate this rationale; that would actually undercut it. And, I do have a couple of other questions about how this all works, for which I’ve reached out to Southwest for answers. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

For example, I would assume that the family of the passenger who died on the flight, Jennifer Riordan, would be treated differently, and maybe also the seven passengers who reportedly were injured. 

There’s also the question of whether these are really just goodwill payments, or a way to quickly settle 100 or more potential claims against the airline. If it’s the more traditional, transactional legal strategy of just trying to settle claims quickly, then that undercuts a lot of this.

However, I’m judging based on the experience of one passenger, Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, that this might not be the case. Zilbert reportedly checked with a lawyer before accepting the compensation,” to make sure I didn’t preclude anything.” Based on the lawyer’s advice, went ahead and did so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every passenger is happy with the gesture. For example, Marty Martinez of Dallas, the passenger who became famous after he livestreamed the emergency landing over Facebook Live, said he’s not satisfied.

“I didn’t feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don’t think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime.”

Even so, Southwest sort of got what they’d probably like to see in his case, anyway: a tangible demonstration that despite the experience aboard Flight 1380, he’s willing to fly with the airline again.

The proof? He gave his quote to an Associated Press reporter, the account said, “as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.”

Uber CEO and transport boss had second meeting over London license battle

LONDON (Reuters) – London’s Transport Commissioner Mike Brown met Uber [UBER.UL]boss Dara Khosrowshahi in January, a freedom of information request revealed, as the Silicon Valley app fights to keep its cars on the streets of its most important European market.

FILE PHOTO – Dara Khosrowshahi, Chief Executive Officer of Uber Technologies, attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture

Uber is battling a decision by the city’s transport regulator last September to strip it of its license after it was deemed unfit to run a taxi service, a ruling Uber is appealing.

Since then Uber has made a series of changes to its business model, responding to requests from regulators, including the introduction of 24/7 telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to London’s police.

Khosrowshahi flew to London in October for discussions with Brown after which Uber promised to make things right in the British capital city.

The pair had a second meeting in London in January, according to a response to a freedom of information request from Reuters.

“The Commissioner met with Dara Khosrowshahi on 3 October 2017 and 15 January 2018, both meetings took place in London,” Transport for London (TfL) said.

A TfL spokesman declined to provide an immediate comment on what was discussed at the meeting. Uber declined to comment.

Reuters had asked for a list of every meeting which had taken place between Uber and TfL’s private hire team and/or Brown since Sept. 22 but TfL declined to release such details.

“We are not obliged to supply the remainder of the information requested in relation to meetings as it … relates to information where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the exercise by any public authority of its functions ..,” it said.

A court hearing over Uber’s appeal is due this month before the substance of the appeal is heard in June.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison

German lawmakers to grill Facebook manager on data privacy

BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers will question a senior Facebook Inc manager about data privacy in the wake of revelations that the personal information of millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration photo, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament will grill Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, during a closed-door session on Friday morning.

The meeting mirrors the appearance of Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg before a U.S. Congressional joint hearing on April 10-11 over the scandal engulfing the world’s largest social network.

The 87 million Facebook users affected included nearly three million Europeans and Zuckerberg is also under pressure from EU lawmakers to come to Europe to shed light on the data breach.

“Facebook needs to show more openness and transparency when dealing with user data,” said Nadine Schoen, deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc in the Bundestag.

She said Facebook needed to do more than just pay lip service and it remained to be seen how serious the company was about really improving user rights.

“It is not enough to exchange the gray T-shirt and jeans for suit and tie,” she said in reference to Zuckerberg’s appearance in the U.S. Congress.

The senior lawmaker said that Facebook so far was giving the impression that it only wanted to save its business model.

“For example, the company is already rowing back in the supposedly world-wide announced implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation,” Schoen warned, referring to privacy rules that will enter force in the European Union next month.

“We no longer need excuses, but facts,” she said.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley last month summoned executives of the firm, including European public affairs chief Richard Allan.

Misuse of data by Facebook means it will in future be bound by stricter regulations and the threat of tougher penalties for further privacy violations, Barley said after the meeting.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Douglas Busvine