Exclusive: China regulator requests pause in new game applications to clear backlog – sources

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s top content regulator has asked local authorities to stop submitting requests to monetize new video games while it processes a backlog of applications built up after a lengthy pause last year, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: A man plays a computer game at an internet cafe in Beijing,China May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

The General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) issued the notice this week, the people said, indicating the impact on gaming stocks of the nine-month hiatus could continue and dulling hopes raised by the recent resumption of approvals.

The regulator’s notice has not previously been reported.

Shares of industry leader Tencent Holdings Ltd, which were up 2.2 percent in morning trading, pared back gains to trade about 1 percent higher after the Reuters report was published. Shares of smaller players also slid.

China stopped approving the monetization of new titles last March amid a regulatory body reshuffle triggered by growing criticism of games being violent and addictive, as well as concern over the increase in myopia among young people.

Gaming firms such as Tencent – China’s most valuable listed company – were able to continue filing applications, building up a backlog. They could also distribute new titles but were unable to earn any income from them, such as through in-game purchases.

The regulator resumed processing applications in December, with industry insiders estimating at least 5,000 games await approval. In China, game companies file applications to local authorities which in turn submit them to the regulator.

“The regulator asked local authorities to stop submitting applications because there is too much of a backlog for it to deal with at the moment,” said one of the people, whose company was informed about the matter by its local authority.

Game companies will still be able to file applications but they will no longer be passed on to the Beijing regulator while it deals with applications already in hand, said a second person.

The people declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak with media on the matter.

GAPP and the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China, which oversees GAPP, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The approval freeze dragged down shares in Tencent and wiped billions of dollars off its market value. Among titles for which Tencent is awaiting a license to monetize is “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile”, which industry insiders estimate could generate annual revenue of up to $1 billion.

The freeze has also hit many smaller companies that rely on a number of game releases each year.

The regulator approved 1,982 domestic and foreign online games during January-March last year before the freeze, government data showed. It approved 9,651 domestic and foreign online games in all of 2017.

It has approved 538 games since December.

Reporting by Pei Li in BEIJING and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Qualcomm urges U.S. regulators to reverse course and ban some iPhones

(Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc is urging U.S. trade regulators to reverse a judge’s ruling and ban the import of some Apple Inc iPhones in a long-running patent fight between the two companies.

FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Qualcomm is seeking the ban in hopes of dealing Apple a blow before the two begin a major trial in mid-April in San Diego over Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices. Qualcomm has sought to apply pressure to Apple with smaller legal challenges ahead of that trial and has won partial iPhone sales bans in China and Germany against Apple, forcing the iPhone maker to ship only phones with Qualcomm chips to some markets.

Any possible ban on iPhone imports to the United States could be short-lived because Apple last week for the first time disclosed that it has found a software fix to avoid infringing on one of Qualcomm’s patents. Apple asked regulators to give it as much as six months to prove that the fix works.

Qualcomm brought a case against Apple at the U.S International Trade Commission in 2017 alleging that some iPhones violated Qualcomm patents to help smart phones run well without draining their batteries. Qualcomm asked for an import ban on some older iPhone models containing Intel Corp chips.

In September, Thomas Pender, an administrative law judge at the ITC, found that Apple violated one of the patents in the case but declined to issue a ban. Pender reasoned that imposing a ban on Intel-chipped iPhones would hand Qualcomm an effective monopoly on the U.S. market for modem chips, which connect smart phones to wireless data networks.

Pender’s ruling said that preserving competition in the modem chip market was in the public interest as speedier 5G networks come online in the next few years.

Cases where the ITC finds patent violations but does not ban the import of products are rare. In December, the full ITC said it would review Pender’s decision and decide whether to uphold or reverse it by late March.

In filings that became public late last week ahead of the full commission’s decision, Apple for the first time said that it had developed a software fix to avoid running afoul of Qualcomm’s patent. Apple said it did not discover the fix until after the trial and that it implemented the new software “last fall.”

But Apple said that it would need six months to verify that the fix will satisfy regulators and to sell its existing inventory. Apple asked the full commission to delay any possible import ban by that long if the commission reverses the judge’s decisions.

In a filing late on Friday, Qualcomm argued that Apple’s disclosure of a fix undermined the reasoning in Pender’s decision and that the Intel-chipped phones should be banned while Apple deploys its fix.

“Pender recommended against a remedy on the assumption that the (Qualcomm) patent would preclude Apple from using Intel as a supplier for many years and that no redesign was feasible,” Qualcomm wrote. “Apple now admits—more than seven months after the hearing—that the alleged harm is entirely avoidable.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

American Airlines Just Suffered a Huge Embarrassment. But Is It Really the Airline's Fault?

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Frequent business flyers can be an insipid, self-regarding bunch.

They watch the masses troop to the back of the plane, sip on their champagne and smugly pat themselves on the back for their evident superiority.

Airlines pander to them, of course. They want their money on a repeat basis. 

Sometimes, though, you have to wonder what goes through fine minds of so-called Elites.

Last weekend saw the release of a video — posted to Twitter by travel blogger Jamie Larounis — that starrred four female American Airlines Flight Attendants.

They were in slightly more alluring Flight Attendant attire than that normally seen on board.

And they were performing a skit in which they fawned all over a First Class passenger. 

You know, um, sexily.

The organizers of this, oh, entertainment, reportedly were some Executive Platinum and Concierge Key customers. Yes, American’s most important passengers.

It was held at a private venue and was supposed to raise money for charity.

Some might be less than charitable on seeing that the performance featured a large American Airlines logo in the background.

It’s not clear who took this liberty, but American did offer a few items for auction at this event.

I feel fairly sure its brand image wasn’t one of them.

Perhaps this was all good clean, humorous insider fun for these privileged types.

The part, however, that may have caused a little more consternation was when the four female Flight Attendants began to dance — with alleged sexy intent — around a First Class passenger.

To heighten the steamy effect, they sang Big Spender.

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Yes, of course a Flight Attendant ends up sitting on the customer’s lap. You needed to ask?

The song was first performed in 1966.

And goodness me, this skit wouldn’t have looked out of place then.

These days, however, it might reek to many of bilge-brained sexism.

The fawning Flight Attendants are, reports say, real Dallas-based American Airlines Flight Attendants.

Which led the The Association of Professional Flight Attendants — representing American’s Flight Attendants — to demand an investigation.

There was the suspicion, you see, that the airline had some involvement in all this.

The Transport Workers Union — which also represents many American Airlines employees — saw the invisible hand of American’s management in the show. It claims this is all part of the airline’s strategy: 

Destroy blue collar America and expose air travelers to potential disaster by fixing AA planes on foreign soil, while simultaneously sexualizing and degrading their own flight attendants.

Naturally, I contacted American to ask for its view. It offered me the contents of a memo it sent on Sunday to all its staff. It read, in part: 

This was not an American Airlines event. We did not have any say about the content of the event, nor did we preview any of the agenda. Additionally, we were particularly upset to see our logo on the screen as the skit was performed.

Well, indeed. American also said: “We are as upset as many of you are with the video.”

It didn’t, at least in this memo, specifically rail against its manifest sexism. (Its utter lack of actual humor might have deserved a mention, too.)

Larounis, at American’s request, removed the video. Sadly, thanks to the internet’s cloying immediacy, it soon proliferated far and wide.

Many will hiss and tut at those who performed in this abject display.

Somehow, though, I can’t help but consider those who laughed and applauded. 

Flying regularly in First Class may have its privileges. 

I wasn’t aware that permission to be a sad, myopic, dunderheaded Neaderthal was one of them. 

Influencer Marketing Has Become a Massive Waste

Hulu decided to do something clever. It hired celebrity influencers–NBA stars Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo–and put them into a series of commercials it called “Hulu Sellouts.” The whole point was to promote the streaming service while making it absolutely clear that the participation of the athletes was all about the money.

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Influencers have become all the rage in marketing. However, if you’re interested in effective marketing, you still should wonder yourself why. Often influencer campaigns fall flat. Many of them rent their audiences, as branded content strategist Lena Katz showed when she turned an uncooked potato into a figure with a following in two weeks. Payless Shoes actually was clever and trolled a whole bunch of fashion influencers. Shortly before announcing that it was going out of business. Well, at least it was a last hurrah.

Hulu is making fun of the whole influencer approach and trying to let the audience feel like insiders who get joke. It’s quite similar to the RXBar ad last summer, when it hired Ice-T for one of its commercials. The actor and rapper says, “It’s one of those commercials with a rapper–you can’t even remember his name–comes out and says something dumb about an RXBar.”

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There are two reasons for the direction that Hulu and RXBar took. On is the need to be clear on advertising regulations. The Federal Trade Commission says that if someone takes money to promote a product, they must explicitly say so in some manner. As Hulu vice president for content marketing Ryan Crosby told the Wall Street Journal, “Everyone is looking at what’s happening in social promotions. You’re not fooling anyone when you do these ads.”

The other aspect is advertising as postmodernist statement, rather than postmodernist literature looking at an ad. It’s an eyewink, letting consumers know that you know that they know what’s really going on. If they give it that much thought.

There really isn’t anything new about using “influencers” or making inside statements about their use. The pairing of recognizable names and brand promotion goes back a long way. Technically, you could say that pottery and china designer and manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood used royal warrants as endorsements, promoting his products as used by English royalty. In the late nineteenth century, companies employed trade cars featuring the brand and an image of a sports or entertainment figure. Tobacco companies made heavy use of name endorsers in the early twentieth century.

There’s also nothing new about using endorsements with tongue planted in cheek. This was a common device used in the 1930s and 1940s on radio. Promotional messages were inserted into the middle of a comedy show, receiving the same insider view treatment that some marketers use today.

With the drive to using influencers and then finding new and clever ways to distinguish their brands from others, marketers have forgotten a lesson that’s been underscored time and again. Whether you call them celebrities or influencers, it’s not clear that celebrity or influencer ads necessarily .

The celebrity and brand connection can work, like when Meghan Markle wears a piece of clothing and then there’s a run on the item. But that seems more an organic event.

In ads, often it’s the celebrity or influencer, not the product, that’s remembered. Ad industry giant David Ogilvy wrote about this years ago:

Viewers have a way of remembering the celebrity while forgetting the product. I did not know this when I paid Eleanor Roosevelt $35,000 to make a commercial for margarine. She reported that her mail was equally divided. “One-half was sad because I had damaged my reputation. The other half was happy because I had damaged my reputation. Not one of my proudest memories.

Although there aren’t a lot of public studies that have compared use of celebrities to sales, there have been some that looked at various measures of ad effectiveness on television. Celebrity ads tended to perform at most equal to the average ad, and often worse.

Even if some influencer campaigns have worked, it seems like next to none compared to the vast number of supposed influencers taking money to promote things.And what happens when one of them ends up with bad personal publicity that is now tied to your brand?

Although not all influencer marketing is all worthless, success depends on the particular person, the actual connection they have with an audience, and the appropriateness of the context to the brand. Amazon has its own group of influencers that reportedly work via affiliation links for percentages of sales, which means at least Amazon can track the effectiveness.

But if your marketing team or client show a keen interest in using an influencer as an automatic win, maybe it’s time to go back to a brainstorming session and see what other ideas everyone can come up with instead.

Germany to extend electric company car tax incentives: paper

FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a media briefing during his visit to Beijing, China, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz plans to extend tax incentives for electric company cars, he told a newspaper on Saturday, the government’s latest attempt to boost demand for clean vehicles.

Germany is trying to increase electric car sales in the wake of a diesel emissions cheating scandal that has engulfed its auto industry in the last three years.

“Half of all cars sold in Germany are company cars,” Scholz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

“So I have decided that we will not end tax support for electric cars and plug-in hybrid company cars in 2021 but extend them maybe over the whole decade,” he said, adding that would help improve air quality and meet climate goals.

He added, however, that the rules for plug-in hybrids would be tightened, so that only cars that can travel on electric power further than they do today would be eligible.

Since January, drivers of electric company cars which they also use for private journeys pay less tax than they would for a vehicle with a combustion engine.

Government subsidy schemes have helped boost sales but even with rising demand, electric cars made up only 1 percent of new car registrations last year, according to the KBA motor vehicle authority.

The government has acknowledged it will miss its target of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020 by two years.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones

How Amazon scrapped its plans for a New York headquarters

(Reuters) – More than a year of work to bring Amazon.com Inc’s headquarters and tens of thousands of jobs to New York City ended on Thursday with a couple of phone calls.

A delivery person pushes a cart full of Amazon boxes in New York City, U.S., February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Jay Carney, the company’s top policy executive, told New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the world’s biggest online retailer would not go ahead with plans to invest $2.5 billion to build a second head office in the New York City borough of Queens.

Carney, a former press secretary for President Barack Obama, told New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio the same shortly after.

Abruptly scuttling its Big Apple plans blindsided Amazon’s allies and opponents alike. The company said the decision came together only in the last 48 hours, made by its senior leadership team and Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, chief executive and the richest person in the world.

Yet by some measures the decision was months in the making, as community opposition signaled to the company that it was not entirely welcome.

Seattle-based Amazon captivated elected officials across North America in September 2017 when it announced it would create more than 50,000 jobs in a second headquarters dubbed HQ2. Cities and states vied desperately for the economic stimulus, with New Jersey offering $7 billion in potential credits and the mayor of an Atlanta suburb promising to make Bezos mayor for life of a new city called “Amazon.”

A backlash began in earnest when Amazon announced two winners to split the offices last November: Arlington, Virginia, and New York’s Long Island City neighborhood, with New York offering incentives worth $1.53 billion to Amazon. The company could apply for $900 million more, too.

New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said that day that it was “unfathomable that we would sign a $3 billion check” to one of the world’s most valuable companies considering the city’s crumbling subways and overcrowded schools.

City Council meetings in December and January showed Amazon executives who showed up the stern opposition they could expect from some elected officials and labor organizers.

Protesters interrupted the meetings. A television report showed people unfurling signs saying, “Amazon delivers lies,” and “Amazon fuels ICE deportations” – a reference to the company’s cooperation with the U.S. Department in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Amazon felt that a small number of local and state officials had no desire to collaborate on a path forward, the company later said, despite what it said was strong popular support for its project.


Tension ratcheted up earlier this month, when Gianaris was nominated to a state panel set to vote in 2020 on whether to approve the financial terms for Amazon.

Days later, Amazon executives weighed the pros and cons of whether to follow through with its New York headquarters, two people briefed on talks inside the company said. Concerned that Amazon could be in limbo for more than a year ahead of the state panel’s vote, the growing consensus within the company was that it did not make sense to move ahead in the face of persistent opposition with a headquarters in New York City, where it already has 5,000 employees.

Amazon had no binding legal contracts to acquire or lease the land for the project. It could exit with relatively little pain, the people said.

Company officials also concluded Amazon could shift the jobs that would have been created in New York to other corporate centers it has across the United States, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Boston. Reopening talks with former HQ2 contestants did not make sense, the people said.

Gianaris blamed Amazon for the reversal.

“Amazon never showed willingness to look seriously at the concerns that were raised,” he said.

Still, up to the moment of the announcement, there were signs that the parties could work together.

One union leader said he and other labor organizers met on Wednesday with Cuomo and four Amazon officials, including Brian Huseman, its vice president of public policy.

“We had such a productive meeting yesterday. Everyone left happy,” said Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The group is trying to organize workers at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, another New York City borough, despite the company’s past opposition to unionization.

“It was a complete surprise that they would say they look forward to working with us, and we talked about next steps, and then they call it all off the next morning,” said Appelbaum.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco, David Shepardson and Nandita Bose in Washington and Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Bill Rigby

It Might Be Time to Stop Assuming Hotels Are the Best Option for Business Travel

I travel about 75,000 miles a year for business, yet I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel. That may surprise many business travelers, but to me, it’s a relief. I suffered through years of expensive boutiquesor cookie cutter chains, uncomfortable mattresses and terrible breakfasts. Finally I gave up on hotels altogether, and I’ve never looked back.

For several years now, Airbnb has been the secret weaponto my business travel success. There’s an amazing variety of locations, types of lodging, and hosts. I’ve found wonderful places and fascinating people I never would have if I’d stayed in hotels.

1. Feels More Like Home

One of the biggest complaints about business travel is that you don’t have your stuff. It may sound silly, but the stuff and the people are what turns a house into a home. And if you can’t have the people while you’re traveling, at least you can have things more like your own stuff at home. Hotels can be so sterile – or worse yet, unsterile!

2. Cheaper than Hotels

I’ve saved a ton of moneyusing Airbnb instead of hotels. This is especially true for me because I’m willing to stay in a privatebedroom in a shared unit. Even if I weren’t into sharing, Airbnb-ing a fully private unit is often a huge savings over even a modest hotel. Don’t forget to consider a whole house rental for group business travel. It may be closer quarters with your colleagues than you’re used to, but think of it as bonding time. Everyone could still get their own bedroom, and you can save using group transportation and food options.

3. Healthier Eating

In the last 2 years, I’ve lost – and successfully kept off– 54 pounds. One of the benefits of Airbnb is that many units provide a fully functional kitchen, often including staples like salt, pepper, and olive oil. All I had to do was take a quick trip to the grocery store. Then instead of eating bad take out or overindulging at a restaurant, I could cook exactly what I wanted at exactly the calorie count I could afford. No more temptation for midnight room service. It saves calories and money – and you can multiply the savings by making your own lunch, too.

4. Often More Convenient

Business travel can be unpredictable, and often doesn’t leave flexibility for changingdates. So what can you do if you have to go visit a client at the same time as the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships, and every hotel room in Springfield, Illinois, is booked? Airbnb to the rescue. Just like hotels, Airbnb prices go up with demand, but I’ve never had a problemfinding an Airbnb that worked. Sometimes the Airbnb is considerably more convenient to where I need to spend time. I also often save money on parking by avoiding expensive hotel garages.

5. Opens Opportunities – and Eyes

One of the most fun and powerful reasons to use Airbnb is the amazing experience it can provide. While others are isolated in boring hotelsfilled with other businesspeople, you’ll be living among the local people. The hosts can share a great deal about the local way of life, which may be helpful in dealing with your client. The fellow guests, if you have them, often have wonderful stories to tell. For this and all the above reasons, Airbnb makes travel easier and more accessible, which means you can experience even more of this world!

7 Reasons To Start Your Own Company in Your 20s

The traditional narrative for entrepreneurs is a step-by-step process that generally looks something like this:

  1. Get a degree
  2. Get a job
  3. Build a network
  4. Save some “seed capital”
  5. Start your business

The assumption is that you’ll be ready to launch your startup in your 30s or 40s. Or maybe your 50s because, well…, kids.

Now, I don’t want to burst any happy bubbles for those of you who are already treading the traditional pathway, but that traditional narrative no longer makes much sense because over the past two decades, big corporations, big academia, and big corporatist government have rigged the business world so that the longer you wait to start your own company, the less likely you are to be successful. 

Because of this, young entrepreneurs (Millennials and Gen-Zers) should launch their startups immediately rather than waiting until they’ve got a degree and some experience. Here’s why:

1. College has become increasingly irrelevant.

If you already know you’re going to be an entrepreneurs, college is a waste of time. Business colleges are so out of touch that very few teach sales skills–the most important business skill for any entrepreneur. B-schools are also notorious repositories of wannabee entrepreneurs spouting clouds of fluffy biz-blab. Furthermore, colleges are always a decade behind the real world in technical skills and technology. Example: almost all computer animation college programs lack even a single class on real-time animation, the most important new technology in that industry.

2. College has become absurdly expensive.

How many thousands of times have you read about recent college graduates who can’t get a decent job in their field but are nonetheless saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt? By contrast, how many times have you heard successful entrepreneurs say: “wow, I’m sure glad I graduated from college…”? Like never, right? Look, if you’re going to spend yourself $50,000 into debt, do you want to end up with a useless, but largely symbolic degree? Or do you want to own a business that cost $50,000 to start?

3. College doesn’t impress recruiters anyway.

Let’s suppose you want to start your own business but you’re banking on your college degree as a backup plan… as in “I’ll give this startup my best shot but if I fail I can get use my degree to get a job.” Well, IMHO, if you’re thinking that way, you’re setting yourself up to fail as an entrepreneur, but whatever. Let’s suppose it’s a reasonable plan. Hate to tell you, but recruiters are far more impressed by an effort to start your own company than whatever cookie-cutter degree you managed to eke out of the college system. Even fancy Ivy League degrees don’t have much cachet any longer.

4. Employers hire contractors not employees.

According to a recent study conducted by Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, “the current growth of freelancing is estimated to be three times faster than that of the traditional workforce, with approximately 47% of working millennials now working in some freelance capacity.  At the current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will freelance by 2027.” Freelance positions lack benefits and pay less, thus making it more difficult to put aside the money you’ll need to start your business. Can you spell “dead end street,” boys and girls?

5. Employers legally limit your options.

You may think you’re gaining valuable experience and contacts that you can use to launch your own business, but chances are that your employee agreement or “work for hire” agreement vastly limits your ability to use whatever you’ve learned. You might launch your business and find yourself at the short end of a lawsuit, from a company that can afford an entire staff of lawyers to make sure you’re properly crushed.

6. Resumes don’t impress investors.

Investors don’t give a rodent’s posterior about your college experience. They also don’t value your work experience much more than that, unless what you were doing was directly relevant to building and running the company you’re envisioning. Investors want people who’ve successfully started their own businesses or, at the very least, somebody who’s gained the valuable experience of starting a business that didn’t pan out.

7. Exuberance is a limited resource.

You may think all those long hours and hard work working for somebody else is preparing you for the long hours and hard work you’ll need to make your startup successful. But you’d think wrong. Their plan is to burn through your youthful energy and enthusiasm until you’re an empty husk. Even if you keep your spirits up and your body in tip-top shape while they try to suck you dry, as you get older, you will INEVITABLY find it more difficult to summon extra oomph. Far better to expend your youthful exuberance making your own business a success, rather than lining someone else’s pockets, right?.

Tesla rolls out 'sentry mode' safety feature

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen at a groundbreaking ceremony of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

(Reuters) – Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc on Wednesday launched a safety feature called “sentry mode” for its electric cars, as it attempts to make its vehicles more attractive to buyers.

The feature will be compatible with U.S. Model 3 vehicles, followed by Model S and Model X vehicles that were manufactured after August 2017, the electric carmaker said.

When enabled, the “sentry mode” monitors the environment around an unattended car and uses the vehicle’s external cameras to detect potential threats, according to Tesla’s blog here

A minimal threat will be detected if anyone leans on the car, triggering a message on the touchscreen and warning that its cameras are recording.

For a more severe threat, like someone breaking a window, the mode activates the car alarm, increases the brightness of the center display, plays loud music and alerts owners on their Tesla mobile app.

The United States had 773,139 motor vehicles stolen in 2017 – the highest since 2009, according to data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. here

Last week, Tesla lowered the price of its Model 3 sedan for the second time this year to make its cars more affordable for U.S. buyers. The Palo Alto, California-based company has been cutting costs as it looks to turn in profit this year.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Cities Spurned By Amazon for HQ2 Renew Courtship After Winning New York Has Second Thoughts

As Amazon faces political obstacles in building a huge office in New York City, cities that were once candidates for the campus are courting the tech giant once again.

Cities including Miami, Chicago, and Newark, NJ have all recently talked to Amazon, brushing off their earlier rejections in hopes of landing thousands of jobs. Then Denver and Dallas said they never stopped speaking with Amazon.

Since announcing plans to build a new “second headquarters” in New York City three months ago, Amazon has encountered intense blowback. New York politicians are balking at a plan to hand over huge financial incentives to one of the biggest companies in the world while local residents complain about the impact of thousands of new workers on an already expensive and crowded neighborhood.

The opposition has Amazon second-guessing its move into the city, according to media reports, opening the door to former candidates to dust off their old proposals.

Last year, Amazon last year received 238 bids for the new headquarters, which originally was planned for one city. Candidate cities made big offers—like Maryland’s $8.5 billion incentive package—in hopes of landing the giant.

After going through the proposals, Amazon released a list of 20 finalists, which included Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and Columbus, OH—though very few of these cities publicly disclosed the incentives attached to their bids.

Ultimately, Amazon decided to change course and name two winning cities, but with only 25,000 job each. In addition to New York City, the company chose Crystal City, VA.

And while many losing cities were disappointed about being passed over, a few now are taking advantage of the tension in New York for a second chance with Amazon.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker, who previously helped pitch Chicago, immediately jumped on the phone with Amazon.

“Governor Pritzker reached out to Amazon to make a full-throated pitch to attract these good-paying jobs to Illinois and assure them that they would have a strong partner in the governor’s office,” Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, told Fortune in a statement.

Meanwhile, Newark, NJ contacted Amazon to let the company know the city and state still have incentive packages, approved before the city was rejected, waiting for Amazon. Officials hope the news will show Amazon that it can move in without any risk of second guessing.

Miami-Dade’s mayor Carlos Giménez told the Miami Herald that he’s ready to restart talks about bringing the Amazon to Miami or other South Florida sites that were included in an earlier joint bid. The mayor of Magic City, Fla., said he planned to reach out to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to pitch him directly, according to the Herald.

A representative of the Dallas Regional Chamber said during a panel that that organization “never hung up the phone with Amazon,” according to media reports. The chamber declined to comment on whether Dallas planned to approach the company directly.

But Dallas mayoral candidate Jason Villalba was vocal about the matter on Twitter, saying, “Dallas can win this bid!” Undoubtedly, he also was using the issue as a way to highlight his experience in economic development to voters.

Similarly, The Dallas Morning News took the opportunity to write an op-ed titled, “Dear Amazon, New York doesn’t want you; Dallas does.” Mind you, the Morning News’ former headquarters is one of the potential sites for Amazon’s headquarters that Dallas listed in its proposal—a financial consideration that the News failed to mention.

When People Ask How You Are, Stop Saying 'Busy'

Whether you’re talking to a colleague, a close friend, or even a perfect stranger, the conversation often is the same.

“How’s it going?” “Good! Just busy.”

This refrain is the default for so many people in our personal and professional circles. However, busyness shouldn’t be viewed as a status symbol–it doesn’t make us happier, and it doesn’t make us more productive. It often means we are just misusing our time.

Years ago, in one of our quarterly offsite meetings, a leadership team member told our facilitator, “I just don’t have enough time!” The facilitator looked at her, then at all of us, and said, “As a leader, ‘not enough time’ is an excuse you all must take out of your vocabulary. If you are waiting for all this free time to come, it’s never going to happen. It’s about what you prioritize and how you use your time. Effective leaders know how to prioritize what’s most important.”

His words have stuck with me. Though I am often tempted to describe myself as busy, I have worked to remove that instinct and have encouraged my team to do the same. High achievers have long known that busyness is not valuable. Instead of saying, “I’m busy,” they do these three things.

1. Prioritize important versus urgent

Time is your most valuable resource, and you must spend it accordingly. That means putting careful thought into your top priorities and removing unnecessary things from your schedule. Steven Covey’s Eisenhower Urgent/Important principle teaches us to place to-dos on a grid according to their urgency and their importance. Often, we prioritize tasks the following way:

  1. Urgent and Important
  2. Urgent and Not Important
  3. Important and Not Urgent
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important

A common mistake is to prioritize urgent tasks, not important ones. Things that are important, but not urgent, often concern big picture thinking and strategy that will transform your business and shape your life. Make sure to dedicate time to those tasks, rather than clogging your schedule with busy work that is urgent, but not important. This will cut down on your feeling of busyness and dedicate your time to long-term goals.

2. Schedule based on your core values

Many people find that the more successful they are, the more people and things demand their time. High achievers know it’s critical to prioritize things that are aligned with their personal and company core values and dedicate their time to the people who are most important. Invariably these are the things that will bring the most fulfillment and will increase rather than deplete your energy.

Start by taking a detailed audit of your schedule and determine how much time you are dedicating to things that connect to your core values. Are you wasting time on things that will not matter in the long term? Are you missing out on time with your loved ones because you are doing unnecessary busy work? The answer to those questions will tell you a lot about how well you are designing your schedule.

3. Understand that you are accountable for how you spend your time

Management expert Peter Drucker has said that effective leaders manage and consolidate their time. If you hold yourself fully accountable for how you spend your time, you can make conscious choices to limit your busyness and focus on top priorities.

It is counterproductive to book 100 percent of your time; successful people know that rest and relaxation are necessary. Warren Buffett famously has a nearly empty calendar, which gives him flexibility to spend time thinking and strategizing, rather than sitting in meetings all day.

When an important task doesn’t get done, it is vital to acknowledge that you have chosen to use your time doing something less productive. Instead of saying “I ran out of time,” try saying “I chose to do X today instead of Y” or “I’m focusing on the wrong things.” Once you acknowledge that you control your time, you can hold yourself accountable for misusing it and decide to improve.

Managing your time is not easy–many people go through their entire lives without figuring out how to do it. But simply saying “I’m busy” is a crutch that keeps leaders from evaluating and improving their time management. Prioritize what is important, make time for people who matter and understand that only you control your time. Then, when people ask how you are, you’ll have a better answer than “busy.”

Cyber Saturday—Investigating Jeff Bezos’ Sexts, Huawei FBI Sting, Facebook’s Outspoken ex-Security Chief

How did the National Enquirer obtain the richest man in the world’s sexts?

While the truth remains a closely guarded secret, plenty of theories have been floated. Gavin de Becker, the sagacious security consultant granted carte blanche to investigate the situation by Jeff Bezos, the ultra-billionaire founder of Amazon, alleged adulterer, and target of the Enquirer’s prurient exposé, supposedly believes his boss was not hacked. That’s what Manuel Roig-Franzia, a feature writer with the Washington Post, a publication Bezos owns, says de Becker told him anyway, adding that de Becker believes the leak may have been “politically motivated.” In a recent interview on MSNBC, Roig-Franzia added that de Becker, with whom Roig-Franzia says he has chatted extensively about Bezos’ predicament, is entertaining the possibility “that a government entity might have gotten hold” of Bezos’ text messages and then, somehow, these texts found their way into said tabloid.

Considering for a moment that this might be true, which regime might have done so? Michael Sanchez, an avid Trump supporter and brother of Lauren Sanchez, Bezos’ mistress, has apparently discussed with de Becker the possibility that the president, an avowed Bezos opponent, enlisted allied intelligence services, such as those run by the UK and Israel, to dig up the dirt. It’s a fantastical scenario that stretches the imagination beyond all elasticity. Bezos, on the other hand, seemed to intimate in an essay on the blogging site Medium that the intrusion could have involved another state actor. Specifically, Bezos dwelled on connections between American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent, and Saudi Arabia. (The recent murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, and the kingdom’s reported penchant for mobile spyware, lend plausibility.)

To be clear: I have no privileged information about the entity behind this whodunnit caper; I will note, however, a worthwhile contribution toward the howdunnit. In all the speculation, a blog post by Rob Graham, CEO of Errata Security, a hacking shop, stood out. Using a cheap, online “people finder” service, he was able to discover possible contact information for Bezos’ ladylove, including email addresses, phone numbers, and the names of close relatives. Entering Sanchez’s email addresses into a database of compromised login credentials—the recent mega-leak dubbed “Collection #1”—turned up associated passwords. If Sanchez reused compromised passwords to secure Bezos’ love notes, this might explain the dallying duo’s undoing. If that’s true, then the methods behind this intrusion might not have involved super-sophisticated spy-craft so much as teenage hacker hi-jinx.

Again, I have no idea how these leaks were procured, or who did it, but Graham’s findings suggest at least one possible, simple explanation. If the security of both parties to a conversation is not up to snuff, everyone suffers. “If you send sexy messages and you are a celebrity, there are large parts of the hacker underground who specialize in trying to steal them,” Graham notes—a statement that is not an endorsement, but a reality. Through password reuse and phishing attacks, “getting celebrity nude pics is fairly simple.” He adds: “there is no reason to consider conspiracy theories at this time.”

People interested in protecting their own privacy might consider the following advice: Segment your information by using multiple email accounts dissociated from your real-life identity. Secure your digital accounts with strong and unique passwords—and use a tool like HaveIBeenPwned to make sure none of these has been compromised. Adopt two-factor authentication as an added layer of protection. And finally, instruct confidantes in the merits and methods of proper digital security. (Heck, you might even recommend they sign up for this newsletter.)

If a nation state goes after you, it’s likely game over. But there are steps you can take to make it harder for run-of-the-mill hackers to get their hands on your goodies.

Robert Hackett


[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

7 Traits the Most Successful Employees Share (That Can Keep You Ahead of Competitors)

Every mature company I know is looking for more innovation from within. They are painfully aware that tenure on the list of S&P companies is shrinking — from thirty-three years back in 1964, down to twenty-four in 2016, and predicted to be just twelve by 2027.

They need inside intrapreneurs: people who work at the company who think and act like the entrepreneurs who are disrupting their business.

I have seen this happening firsthand from my years of experience in several big-name companies, including IBM and Fujitsu. In my view, success starts with nurturing and bringing in the right people to make it happen, or being one of the right people from within if you want your career to blossom.

I just completed a new book on this challenge, Disrupt-It-Yourself, by Simone Bhan Ahuja, which includes a great summary of the required attributes to maximize your success potential in this area.

I don’t believe that any of these requires a birthright, and all can be adopted or learned by anyone, so I encourage you to take a hard look at your own interests and key team members:

1. Action trumps ideas and more analysis every time.

Real change comes from people who are obsessed with action, not ideas. Thinking and analysis without execution feels like zero cost to existing organizations, but it actually ignores the opportunity cost lost.

If you act, you learn from other people, especially customers, and you build momentum.

2. Focused on progress rather than process.

Most entrepreneurs realize that for early stage startups, process is the enemy of progress, slowing you down when you’re trying to move forward.

But more mature companies have learned that scaling a business requires process, so the focus changes. Intrapreneurs have to always think like entrepreneurs.

3. Relishes the opportunity to learn from problems.

Corporate environments tend to treat problems as failures, rather than opportunities. People are trained to avoid change, and stick with the safer status quo.

True entrepreneurs, like Thomas Edison, realize that the biggest innovations come from solving problems, such as failing light bulb filaments.

4. Loves to “hack” new outcomes from existing systems.

In software, hackers love the intellectual challenge of confronting a system designed to do one thing and cleverly exploit it to achieve something different.

That’s the essence of innovation, and good intrapreneurs need to find new opportunities by bending existing strengths in new ways.

5. Reach out across the aisle for complementary talent.

Smart intrapreneurs know they can’t do it alone, and know how to enlist the help they need by making it clear “what’s in it” for others.

They enjoy engaging in informal partnering and co-design solutions with other stakeholders, while making the total opportunity as much possible about others. 

6. Married to a mission, but not just to one way to do it.

The people you desire know the “what” and the “why,” but don’t want to be told “how.” They are always looking for gaps and misalignments, and thrive on changes, even radical changes, so the organization performs better.

In this context, strategy deviations can keep the company on track.

7. Frugal by nature, and don’t ask for much to proceed.

Even though they see huge budgets all around, they prefer to start on the cheap (like an entrepreneur), reusing existing resources, working on the side, and employing messy, make-do methods over expensive sanctioned systems that have long approval cycles and much oversight.

Because fostering entrepreneurship internally is hard, many companies have now shifted their innovation focus to acquisitions and partnerships.

All have found that this approach can be equally difficult, due to the integration of multiple corporate cultures, processes, supplier dependencies, and management styles.

Thus, I continue to assert that effectively harnessing and building of internal talent to drive innovation from within will continue to be one of the single most important factors for your company’s long-term success.

It starts with a mindset that disrupting your business regularly is necessary, before your competition and new startups do it to you. Measure your tenure from today.

A Passenger on an American Airlines Flight Asked For an Irish Coffee. Then, a Horrific Escalation

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Anyone can have a bad day.

How bad, though, does it have to be to justify what appears to have happened on an American Airlines flight from Long Beach to Phoenix last weekend?

The story is told by one of the passengers, who presented a detailed account on the FlyerTalk forums.

It all began, he says, with a First Class passenger asking for an Irish coffee while the plane was still on the ground.

At first, it seemed as if the Flight Attendant — the flight was operated by Mesa Airlines under the American Eagle banner — would oblige. Then she came back and said she couldn’t, after all.

When asked why — apparently politely — things began to take a detour.

Said the onlooking passenger: 

She came unglued. Voice raised, ‘Because the FAA won’t let us serve hot beverages on the ground. Are you going to have a problem with that?’ Politely he responded, ‘No, Are you having a good day?’ She responded with something along the lines of, ‘I have to get everyone boarded, and you aren’t my priority. You are holding up boarding. Do you think I’m being combative or simply trying to do my assigned job?’

I fear, should this story be accurately told, that many would think there’s a touch of combativeness going on here.

Next, it seems, the passenger kept trying to be conciliatory while the Flight Attendant reached a new altitude of anger.

Until, the onlooking passenger says, the Flight Attendant declared: 

If you don’t settle down, I’ll have you taken care of. I’m going to speak to the captain now.

Ah, that sweet moment when a Flight Attendant becomes law enforcement.

Soon, the infamous line emerged: 

Are you going to cause problems? if you are, I’ll have the captain come back and take care of you.

This would be care in the not-so-caring sense.

You’ll be stunned into choosing boats for your next vacation when I tell you that the onlooker’s wife tried to intervene. 

It didn’t go well.

The captain arrived and asked for things to be “taken outside.” Which, at least in the bars I occasionally visit, means fisticuffs.

Ultimately, it seems that no one was removed from the flight, though the Flight Attendant kept her distance and even allegedly turned her name tag over, so that her name wouldn’t be noted.

When you’re working in customer service, some days can be hard. You’re simply not in the mood and you have to work. Personally, I find it hard to be pleasant on such days.

But when your job is in the public eye, when you’re supposed to be offering hospitality and when the issue is a mere Irish coffee, perhaps it’s best to walk away for a moment, take several breaths and realize that expressing your frustration isn’t likely to help. 

Perhaps even get someone else to look after the customer, if you feel you might suffer an exploding gasket.

Of course, it could be that the passenger had a difficult look in his eye. So many minute things occur when humans try to communicate with each other. 

The onlooker says he’s now filed a complaint with American Airlines.

I contacted American to ask for its view and will update, should I receive a reply.

Facebook Messenger Lets You Unsend Now. Why Doesn't Every App?

With the notable exceptions of Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights, none of us are perfect, especially on messaging apps. We write missives we regret; we make typos; the autocorrect nanny state warps our intentions. Sometimes you want a mulligan. On Tuesday, Facebook made one available to Messenger users, in the form of an unsend feature it had first promised nearly a year ago.

Unsend seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to erase the dumb and wrong things they’ve said in their lives? The many, many dumb and wrong things. And yet while Messenger isn’t the first chat platform to offer the feature, the ones that do are few and far between. As it turns out, that’s for a few very good, or at least understandable, reasons.

You’ve Ungot Mail

First, for those eager to start unsending, here’s how Messenger’s version works: If you send a message and feel that instant twinge of regret, for whatever reason, you have 10 minutes to scrub it from everyone’s view in a chat. Tap the offending message, then tap Remove, then Remove for Everyone. A pop-up will ask you if you’re absolutely certain. Tap Remove one more time if you are. Presto, down the memory hole it goes.

You can also remove the message just for yourself if you want to clear away clutter; the only differences in the process are that, instead, you tap Remove for You, and there’s no time limit.

Pretty easy! Yet it took 10 months for Facebook to deliver the feature at a broad scale. And even then, Facebook only went public with plans to introduce Remove Message after it came out that CEO Mark Zuckerberg could remove his messages from other people’s inboxes at a whim.

Chalk that up less to laziness than to the difficult questions lurking just underneath so seemingly simple a feature. (Also note that Facebook apparently did not bother asking those questions when giving the power to Zuckerberg and other company executives.) “With a feature like Remove Message, we wanted to carefully balance flexibility and control with protecting our users from abuse of the feature,” says a Facebook spokesperson. It’s easy enough to envision scenarios where bullying or harassment quickly transitions to gaslighting, the offending message disappeared before the victim can grab screenshot evidence.

Three aspects of Messenger’s unsend feature hope to combat that possibility. The 10 minute time limit means people can’t retroactively vanish old promises whenever they lose interest in keeping them. Facebook will also retain removed messages for an unspecified period of time so that people can effectively still report any that violate its policies against harassment. And while the actual contents of your comment will disappear from the chat, a note will remain in its place that the message was removed.

Facebook has also had a chance to prove those protections out; it began trials of Remove Message back in November in Poland, Bolivia, Colombia, and Lithuania. It also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, which have allowed users to unsend messages for much longer. In fact, Instagram offers few if any of the protections Messenger does; you can remove a message from a DM any time you want, without leaving a visible trace. Which leads to even more questions, specifically about what happens when Facebook merges its three messaging platforms into one.

“I am extremely curious and wary about how those all will come together into something that maintains the integrity of these features and promises that users have come to rely on,” says Genni Gebhart, a researcher at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, about Messenger. If the Remove Message protections built into Messenger don’t carry over to Instagram, for instance, you could find yourself unexpectedly exposed.

Vanish vs. Delete

Concerns about user protection would be explanation enough for why every messaging app doesn’t dive head first into unsend. But there are more pedestrian reasons for its lack of ubiquity as well.

The one that stands out: Many services prefer ephemerality, in which an entire conversation deletes for both parties after a set amount of time, versus revoking individual chat contributions. Security-focused app Signal introduced disappearing conversations in 2016, with an eye not on privacy but on tidiness. “After all, if someone who receives a disappearing message really wants a record of it, they can always use another camera to take a photo of the screen before the message disappears,” wrote Signal protocol cocreator Moxie Marlinspike at the time.

Ephemerality also keeps everyone honest in a way that targeted message removal often does not. “There’s definitely a difference between ephemeral messages versus a delete feature,” says Gebhart. “An ephemeral message ideally in the UX will provide clear messages to both participants in a conversation about what is going to be deleted, and when.”

What’s more, there seems to be relatively little demand for unsend versus ephemeral messaging. Take the next generation of texting, a protocol known as rich communications services, which Google and others have backed as the heir to SMS. As it turns out, RCS already has the ability to revoke individual messages built right in, which it uses when it has to route a message sent from an RCS client to someone still living in an SMS world.

“The technical capability of actually recalling something, as you can do in Microsoft email, is there today,” says Henry Calvert, head of future networks at GSMA, the mobile operator trade group behind the RCS standard. “Whether it’s used as a UX feature at this point in time depends on the implementation of Android Messages, Samsung, et cetera. If they see that there’s market attraction for that type of user experience, then I’m sure they’ll implement it.”

If they ever do, that would potentially unlock unsent messages for hundreds of millions of people. Seventy-four networks worldwide currently support RCS, including every major US network absent Verizon, which has already committed to it and is expected to launch sometime this month. “We let the operators and the wider ecosystem create a laundry list of features, and we work through that in the standards and specifications. We’ve heard of time-limited messages, and that’s on the list,” says Calvert. “We just haven’t seen recall on that list as of yet.”

There are also technical reasons that make it extremely unlikely that Apple, for instance, would ever allow you to unsend iMessages. “When a message is ‘delivered’ to an iMessage client, your client receives the message, tells the sender that it was received, and then all transmissions are closed,” says Michael Facemire, principal analyst at Forrester research. “For Apple to allow that to be edited, they’d have to allow the sender to update data on the recipient’s device, which is a harsh violation of how Apple views privacy and sandboxing of user data.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, the landscape remains scattered. You can delete Twitter and Slack DMs at will, for instance, but SMS, the world’s most heavily used chat protocol, has no undo options and never will. And any message that hops across platforms will invariably lose the protections of either.

Like all things messaging-related, it’s complicated, and if anything it will only continue to become more so. The best thing you can do to navigate the morass? Be more careful about what you send in the first place.

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