Showing posts with label Technology News on The Huffington Post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology News on The Huffington Post. Show all posts

Friday, 23 June 2017

A Fan Painted Mark Zuckerberg's Face On Her Nails, And Here's What Happened Next

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Girl Scouts Will Soon Earn Badges In Cybersecurity

Cookie sales may take a back seat to fighting identity theft and other computer crime now that Girl Scouts as young as 5 are to be offered the chance to earn their first-ever cyber security badges.

Armed with a needle and thread, U.S. Girl Scouts who master the required skills can attach to their uniform’s sash the first of 18 cyber security badges that will be rolled out in September 2018, Girl Scouts of the USA said in a press release.

The education program, which aims to reach as many as 1.8 million Girl Scouts in kindergarten through sixth grade, is being developed in a partnership between the Girl Scouts and Palo Alto Networks, a security company.

The goal is to prevent cyber attacks and restore trust in digital operations by training “tomorrow’s diverse and innovative team of problem solvers equipped to counter emerging cyber threats,” Mark McLaughlin, chief executive officer of Palo Alto Networks, said in the release.

The move to instill “a valuable 21st century skill set” in girls best known for cookie sales is also aimed at eliminating barriers to cyber security employment, such as gender and geography, said Sylvia Acevedo, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Women remain vastly underrepresented in the cyber security industry, holding just 11 percent of jobs globally, according to a recent study by (ISC)2, an international nonprofit focused on cyber security.

“In our increasingly tech-driven world, future generations must possess the skills to navigate the complexities and inherent challenges of the cyber realm,” Acevedo said in the release.

“From arming older girls with the tools to address this reality to helping younger girls protect their identities via internet safety, the launch of our national cyber security badge initiative represents our advocacy of cyber preparedness,” she said.


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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

People Are Apparently Spending $400 On A Machine That Brews Tea

Welcome to 2017, the year in which your kitchen counter could very well host a fancy Keurig for making coffee, a pricey Juicero for making juice you don’t need the Juicero to make, and a new $400 device for making tea

The app-enabled Teforia Leaf claims to brew tea to perfection, as opposed to whatever pedestrian bag-dunking method you’re using. Depending on the type of its branded tea you crave, the gadget employs a series of short “microinfusions” and adjusts elements like water temperature and volume to “unlock each tea’s true character and depth of flavor,” per a description on

Gizmodo reviewer Libby Watson, a “literal British person” who drinks tea, reported the complexity of it all gave her an “existential crisis” while making her first cup. The tea, she concluded after questioning everything she ever knew about tea, was “fine.” And of course, some Twitter users were quick to chime in, critiquing the gadget as unnecessary and expensive since, you know, making decent tea really isn’t that hard. 

Teforia Leaf hit the market last week as a cheaper version of the $999 (!) Teforia Classic, which debuted in 2015. The Leaf is currently available only online via the Teforia websiteWilliams-Sonoma and Amazon, where it has mostly positive reviews for its beauty and flavors.

Its $399 price tag includes 15 “Sips,” Teforia’s answer to K-Cups, which come in “varietals” from classic Earl Grey to more adventurous “Velvet Rubies” black tea. Just plug one in, and Teforia Leaf brews your specific tea to alleged perfection with its “advanced algorithms.” 

One thing it can’t do is go in the dishwasher: “The Carafe and the Globe are not dishwasher-safe, which seems to really miss the point of being rich enough to spend $400 on a tea machine,” Watson points out. 

Wild as it sounds, the Teforia Leaf does have a benefit: Optimal brewing time and water temperature do indeed vary by tea type, and while we humans may not often take time to consult the rules, Teforia knows them by heart. 

However, that certainty comes with costs, both financial and in time spent washing the gadget. The Sips pods (between $1 and $6.50 when purchased individually) are recyclable, but you’ll need to separate them into three pieces and mail the lids back to Teforia in order to dispose of them properly.

Sounds like the regular ol’ brew-and-pour method would be easier, indeed.

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What's Next For Uber?

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick metaphorically exited a moving vehicle Tuesday night and resigned from his position atop the company.

What challenges should Uber’s next CEO expect to tackle first? We asked some experts, and one thing is clear: Whoever lands behind the wheel should expect full throttle from Day One.

Jeff Reid, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the founding director of the school’s entrepreneurship initiative, said success will flow from an improved corporate culture, which could start with filling the company’s numerous senior vacancies with “people with great integrity and the right gravitas.”

“I think the first thing you’ve got to do is clean up the culture. And that means putting the right people in place,” Reid said. The right management team, and accompanying management systems, will signal to employees, customers and Uber drivers “that things are truly going to change.”

Having the right people in place starts at the very top, Evan Rawley, a professor at Columbia Business School and an expert on corporate strategy and entrepreneurship, explained to HuffPost in an email.

Uber doesn’t need a visionary anymore, they need a capable pair of hands to steer the ship.

Rawley said Uber needs a new CEO who is an outsider, with experience running a big tech company.

“Uber doesn’t need a visionary anymore, they need a capable pair of hands to steer the ship through some known challenges,” Rawley explained. Those challenges include “fixing the culture, competition with Lyft, international competition, fixing or selling off the autonomous car business, dealing with regulators, [and] managing driver relationships.”

Reid and Rawley both said Uber also needs to put serious effort into recruiting and hiring a trustworthy chief financial officer.

Uber has attracted substantial amounts of outside investment, but it’s no secret the company is burning through money and needs to get its cash flow under control.

“The biggest issue for Uber is how to generate enough cash to fund internal investments,” said Rawley. “If they have to go back to the capital markets with so much red ink flowing, the current investors will take a huge haircut on their investment.”

Rawley also suggested a new Uber leadership team may view this as an opportune time to raise prices to help increase cashflow, and to bring in an external consulting firm like McKinsey & Co. “to ‘professionalize’ the organization.” 

You have to keep the drivers happy at the same time you’re investing in technology that might replace them. That’s not an easy task.

As for self-driving cars, Reid said it makes sense for Uber to continue devoting significant resources to develop the technology. He noted a new CEO will have to focus more on the company’s drivers as well.

“You have to keep the drivers happy at the same time you’re investing in technology that might replace them. That’s not an easy task,” Reid said. “But if you stop doing the things that are clearly manipulative in relation to drivers, that’s a good first step.”

Despite substantial challenges, Reid was optimistic about Uber’s potential.

“Uber has transformed the transportation industry. If they continue to innovate and work on the core business model, then I think they should continue to be successful,” Reid said. “But the self-inflicted wounds are significant.”

The CEO role isn’t Uber’s only vacancy. Take a look at how much the company’s top leadership has crumbled in the last six months:

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Former DHS Secretary: Russian Intrusion In The 2016 Election Is 'A Fact, Plain And Simple'

WASHINGTON ― The Obama administration’s top homeland security official warned on Wednesday that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was far more advanced than previously reported.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson lamented that there was not enough public awareness and urgency on the issue, while defending the former administration’s reticence to publicly discuss the information in the months leading up to the election.

“In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple,” Johnson said, testifying before the House Intelligence committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Echoing the testimonies of other government officials, Johnson warned that Russian interference would continue, urging congressional leaders and members of President Donald Trump’s administration to prioritize cybersecurity and take steps to prevent further intrusions into U.S. elections.

Yet Trump, whose campaign is under investigation for potentially colluding with Russian officials, has maintained that reports of Russian interference were “fake news.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement official, testified before the Senate last week that he had never received or asked for a briefing on the issue.

Johnson also said during his testimony that the Democratic National Committee refused the Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to help them with security precautions, after hackers obtained and released DNC emails last July.

“I recall very clearly that I was not pleased that we were not in there helping them patch this vulnerability,” he said. 

Members of the House panel repeatedly pressed Johnson on why the Obama administration was slow to go public with their reports on Russia’s role in the cyberattacks.

Johnson defended the former administration’s cautious approach, for fear of “injecting ourselves into a very heated campaign,” he said.

Without referring to Trump directly, Johnson noted that in particular, “one of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting that the election was going to be ‘rigged’ in some way.”

But Johnson said that he had raised the issue with other intelligence officials and with state election officials over several months. And when he and James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, released a public statement about the matter on Oct. 7, Johnson said that the public and the media largely ignored it. “It did not get the attention it should have” because it came on the same day as the bombshell tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault, he said.

Much of the problem in the administration’s inadequate response was that the sophistication of the Russian interference was “unprecedented,” he said, particularly their ability to “dump information into the public space to influence the election.”   

“No one knew how far the Russians were going to go,” Johnson said, adding that “in retrospect, I should have bought a sleeping bag and camped out in front of the DNC.”

While Johnson testified that he had no evidence suggesting the Russians directly altered votes, he was still deeply concerned and had made the issue “a top priority” during his time at the DHS.

“We were pushing information out the door to everybody,” he said.

Johnson testified that throughout the early fall, he had offered cybersecurity support to state election officials, but some ignored the DHS’ warnings.

When asked for his recommendations, Johnson said that the onus was on state election officials to adopt greater cybersecurity protections and suggested grants to fund them.

Johnson’s warnings of future Russian interference echoed those of fired FBI director James Comey, who told the Senate intelligence committee earlier this month that the issue was “about as unfake as you can possibly get” — a clear reference to Trump’s claim that it was “fake news.”

Johnson on Wednesday shed light on his working relationship with Comey, describing Comey as “the cop, and I am the fireman,” referring to the FBI’s role in identifying threats and the DHS’s role in “patching vulnerabilities, detecting bad actors in the system.”

But he did criticize the delay in communication about the DNC hack between the FBI and DHS, noting that “there were glitches, instances where we did not communicate as effectively as we could have.”

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Netflix's New Feature Is One Big 'Choose Your Own Adventure' Game

With Netflix’s cool new feature, kids are in control.

The streaming service launched “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale” on Tuesday to introduce its new “interactive storytelling” feature. Throughout the program, which stars the feline character from the “Shrek” film series, kids will be prompted to decide where the plot should go next. For example, in “Puss in Book,” viewers can choose whether the bear characters should be “friends or foes” with Puss in Boots. 

Netflix’s next interactive storytelling program, “Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile,” will launch on July 14.

The press release for the feature pointed out the way many kids interact with shows already. With interactive storytelling, though, they have a direct impact on what they’re watching. Or as Netflix director of product innovation Carla Engelbrecht Fisher told Variety, it’s “putting viewers in the driver’s seat.”

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Here Are Some Of The People Who Could Replace Travis Kalanick As Uber CEO

Embattled Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO on Tuesday after five investors reportedly requested he step down. The task of finding a replacement to lead the ride-hailing giant begins now. 

I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Kalanick said in a statement to The New York Times.

His departure was a long time coming. An onslaught of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations have placed Kalanick’s leadership tactics in doubt.

A group of senior executives have been running the show since Kalanick announced an indefinite leave of absence last week. But their plates are full, since Uber also needs to fill the roles of chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of engineering.

Here are some of the people who have been floated as potential replacements for Kalanick:

Garrett Camp

He’s Uber’s co-founder and current chairman. His longstanding connection to the company would make him a pretty obvious choice.

“In a highly competitive market it is easy to become obsessed with growth, instead of taking the time to ensure you’re on the right path,” he wrote Tuesday in a Medium post. “Over the years we have neglected parts of our culture as we have focused on growth. But what matters now is that we know what needs to be changed.”

Ryan Graves

Graves was the ride-sharing app’s first CEO. Once known as the company’s “Mr. Nice Guy,” he led Uber through its first few years of success and then took a back seat when Kalanick took the reins. 

But there are also reports that Graves, too, may be asked to step down. He might be affected by Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of Uber, since he was the head of human resources when Susan Fowler, the woman who blogged about sexual harassment at the company, was employed there.

Arianna Huffington

Although only a board member since last year, HuffPost’s former editor-in-chief has taken on an outsize role in navigating the company through its myriad crises in the last few months, all the while becoming one of Kalanick’s closest confidantes.

In February, she spearheaded Holder’s investigation of workplace practices. It also certainly doesn’t hurt to have a woman acting as the public face of a company plagued with allegations of misogyny. 

Bill Gurley

Gurley is an Uber board member and partner at venture capital firm Benchmark ― one of the five investors who pushed for Kalanick’s resignation. He tweeted his appreciation for Kalanick’s accomplishments late on Tuesday and was one of the former CEO’s most trusted advisers. But he’s also been known as one of the primary actors working to clean the company up, and called for Holder’s investigation of Uber. 

Jeff Holden

Holden has been in charge of products since 2014 and is behind some of the company’s forward-looking initiatives, like UberPool and self-driving cars. Flying taxis are next on his agenda, he said earlier this year.

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McDonald's Customers Lose Patience With Long Wait Times For Quarter Pounder

Tracy Moore grew impatient as she waited for a Quarter Pounder recently in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in central Dallas.

The burger, made with fresh beef and billed as hotter and juicer than the original made from a frozen patty, is part of the company’s effort to serve tastier food.

But after about four minutes, it was Moore who was steamed. Like other customers who’d ordered the new Quarter Pounder at the restaurant’s drive-through, she was asked to pull into a parking space and wait.

“If it’s going to be that long every time, I won’t order it. I’d go” elsewhere, said Moore, who hits the drive-through every morning for a Coke and dines frequently at the chain.

The tradeoff between time and taste looms large for McDonald’s Corp as it works to win back business lost to rivals. The introduction of cooked-to-order, quarter-pound burgers made with fresh beef is part of the chain’s attempt to improve food quality. Announced in March, the new sandwiches are already in selected test markets and are expected to be served in all U.S. stores by mid-2018.

But the success of the initiative may well hinge on satisfying important customers like Moore: speed-minded drive-through patrons who account for 70 percent of the firm’s U.S. revenue.

An on-demand Quarter Pounder takes about a minute longer to land in a customer’s hands than does the original sandwich, according to restaurant managers and analysts, even though fresh beef fries up faster than frozen patties. That’s because grilling begins only after a patron orders. Traditional Quarter Pounders were often cooked up in batches ahead of time.

Every second counts in the fast-food business. McDonald’s drive-through speeds already lag those of some major competitors, according to one widely watched survey. McDonald’s does not share such data, but company representatives told Reuters earlier this year that service times have slowed.

Still, company executives are bullish on prospects for the popular Quarter Pounder, which accounts for about one-fourth of McDonald’s U.S. burger sales. At an investor conference last month, Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said the changeover has created fewer complications than expected and that restaurant operators are on board.

Some industry veterans, however, are skeptical. Richard Adams, a former Southern California McDonald’s franchisee-turned-consultant, says convenience is paramount for the chain’s patrons, who may go elsewhere if speed deteriorates.

“Any time the cooking process begins after the customer orders, the service time will be slower,” Adams said.

The fresh-beef initiative comes as pressure builds on McDonald’s kitchens.

Adams says restaurant crews already are juggling trickier menu items thanks to the recent national launch of McDonald’s new “Signature Crafted” sandwich line, which allows customers to pick their own meat, buns and toppings. “Signature Crafted” quarter-pound burgers also will use fresh beef as it becomes available nationwide.

McDonald’s cooks could be further strained by the chain’s embrace of self-service kiosks and mobile ordering. The technology shaves ordering times, but can create new bottlenecks by swamping kitchens at peak hours, as companies such as Starbucks Corp have learned.


The revamped Quarter Pounder is the latest move by Easterbrook to modernize the 60-year-old chain and reverse four straight years of traffic declines.

It’s also a direct shot at Wendy’s Co, Whataburger and In-N-Out. Those fresh-burger chains are among the fast-food rivals that McDonald’s says have siphoned 500 million U.S. transactions from its stores since 2012.

Easterbrook’s introduction of all-day breakfast in October 2015 was a big hit and has helped lift sales. The company’s stock price is up more than 25 percent so far this year.

Analysts expect the fresh-beef push, along with moves to ditch artificial ingredients in popular items such as chicken nuggets, to bolster sales by addressing consumer demand for simpler, “cleaner” and fresher ingredients.

The Quarter Pounder makeover has won early support from analysts and McDonald’s franchisees in the heart of cattle country, where the product has been tested for almost two years in about 400 stores in Oklahoma and Texas.

Three Dallas-area McDonald’s managers who spoke with Reuters estimated the switch has improved their Quarter Pounder sales from 20 percent to 50 percent, albeit aided by advertising and coupons.

“We’ve been stealing customers from a Whataburger down the street,” said Edgar Meza, a manager at a McDonald’s restaurant in an upscale neighborhood in north Dallas. Officials at Texas-based Whataburger, a regional chain, declined to comment.

Some burger lovers are taking notice too.

“They’re a little juicier,” said Bob Riley, who was polishing off a Quarter Pounder at an outlet near Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood, his third McDonald’s meal of the week.

“I think Wendy’s woke them up,” he said.

Joe Jasper, a former McDonald’s executive who owns 20 restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has been deeply involved in the effort. He described the new Quarter Pounder as “the best burger in our industry, but more importantly, (one delivered) at the speed of McDonald’s.”

Trouble is, the “speed of McDonald’s” isn’t as fast as that of many of its competitors.

The average service time at a McDonald’s drive-through last year was 208.2 seconds, according to a study published by QSR magazine, an industry publication, using data from SeeLevel HX, an Atlanta-based business intelligence firm. That’s well behind industry leader Wendy’s at 169.1 seconds, according to the survey. Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC all beat McDonald’s too.

McDonald’s narrowed the gap with Wendy’s by one-third from 2012 to 2016 by adding more drive-through lanes at some stores and by scrapping products such as “snack wraps,” tortilla-wrapped sandwiches that proved time-consuming to prepare. Still, its average drive-through service time last year was almost 20 seconds slower than it was in 2012, according to SeeLevel HX data.

[For a look at drive-through speeds, see]

Claudia Barcenas, assistant manager at a McDonald’s off Dallas’ Central Expressway, says her counter and drive-through staff inform patrons that fresh-beef Quarter Pounders can be delayed, particularly if the sandwiches are ordered well-done.

“We have to explain that it takes a bit longer. Perhaps a minute,” Barcenas said.

Whether that’s worth it for McDonald’s customers remains to be seen as the experiment goes nationwide.

Juan Rodriguez waited on his lunch break for a fresh-beef Quarter Pounder at the drive-through of another Dallas McDonald’s outlet about nine miles from Barcenas’ store. At the three-minute mark, the 20-year-old was getting restless.

“If it’s better, I don’t mind waiting,” Rodriguez said. “But if it tastes the same, then no.”

(Editing by Marla Dickerson)

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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Uber Pulls A U-Turn, Decides Tipping Is OK After All

Uber reversed itself Tuesday and said it will allow tipping of drivers.

Drivers in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston can receive gratuities from passengers through the Uber smartphone app beginning Tuesday, and tipping will be allowed elsewhere in the U.S. by the end of July.

The ride-hailing company announced the policy U-turn as part of its “180 days of change” initiative that aims to improve conditions for drivers. The company is trying to cut down on driver turnover. Only 4 percent of Uber drivers stick with the company for more than a year, a study found, and compensation is the primary reason for leaving.

Uber called the change “the right thing to do” and “long overdue” in a company blog post.

Uber competitor Lyft has allowed tipping since 2012. As of Monday, its drivers have collected more than $250 million in tips.

New York’s Independent Drivers Guild, which represents 50,000 ride-hailing drivers in New York City, welcomed the news as a big step toward better wages.

“Today’s tipping announcement is an important win for drivers and proves that thousands of drivers coming together with one voice can make big changes,“ Jim Conigliaro Jr, founder of the group, said in a statement emailed to HuffPost.

“Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry have made tipping income more important than ever,” Conigliaro said. “We were proud to lead the way on this fight on behalf of drivers in New York City and across the nation. This is an important first step toward a more fair ride-hail industry.”

Uber also announced seven other policy changes for drivers, including eliminating unpaid wait times, an increased base fare for teenage passengers, and the option for drivers to pick up and drop off passengers while en route to a pre-set destination. 

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This Groundbreaking Online School Is About To Revolutionize Sex Ed

Sex Heroes is an ongoing HuffPost Q&A series by Voices Editorial Director Noah Michelson that explores the lives and experiences of individuals who are challenging, and thereby changing, mainstream culture’s understanding of sex and sexuality. 

Try googling “sexual education in America” and then sit back and wait for the depression to wash over you as you read headlines like “Sex-Ed In America Is Even Worse Than You Thought” and “These Maps Show Where Kids In America Get Terrifying Sex Ed.” From woefully inadequate abstinence-only curriculums to programs that neglect to discuss consent or queer sex ― much less pleasure ― it’s no small feat to locate informative, accessible classes in this country that realistically prepare individuals for sexual encounters.  

Andrea Barrica wants to change all of that.

The 27-year-old queer Filipina-American technology entrepreneur is preparing to launch, a groundbreaking shame-free online platform for pleasure education, this fall.

The school will offer courses, led by instructors from communities around the country, to help participants “un-learn” elements of problematic sex ed they may have previously encountered. The classes will also be dedicated to investigating and championing sexual issues specifically facing queer people and people of color, addressing sexual trauma, and celebrating female sexuality and pleasure.

I recently spoke with Barrica to learn more about her plan to bring her pleasure-based sex ed to the masses, how she intends to reach victims of toxic masculinity, and more. 

HuffPost: Where did the idea for come from?
Andrea Barrica: I knew that I wanted to build something that affected people around something that was highly stigmatized. It was very clear to me that people are getting their sexual perspectives and beliefs and ideas from porn ― and I’m very pro-porn, I know it can be a good thing ― and I thought, “There must be other places on the internet where people learn about [sex].” It was really shocking to me that there really aren’t any safe spaces on the internet to learn about it — especially if you’re queer, especially if you’re a person of color, especially if you’re a woman. So I thought, what if there was a place online that you could go to unlearn shame and learn about sex and pleasure ― and not just how to put a condom on a banana. I’m talking about [teaching things like] “how can I get more pleasure?” and “how do I learn about all of these really amazing ways to connect with people sexually?”

And then I started to learn about all of the barriers to doing that and I found there are three main barriers. One is that there are no safe spaces on the internet ― period. The second is sexual trauma — there’s so much shame in trauma. And lastly, there’s so much stigma around anything that is vulva-based. I was going into spaces and I was told “that’s too much.” So trying to teach people about their vulvas or about the structure of their clitoris — that’s been hidden for a long time. 

Why do you think sex ed is so awful in America?
$2 billion is spent on abstinence-only sex ed and where you’re born dictates what sex ed you get. That’s just wrong. That’s fucked up. It’s not fair that if you grow up in Oklahoma versus San Francisco versus somewhere in Florida, you’re going to have drastically different sex ed experiences. Secondly, you can’t learn about sex on the internet because if you search for these terms, you’re just going to get porn. There’s nothing wrong with porn but learning about sex from porn is like learning how to drive from “The Fast and the Furious” movies. [Porn] is entertainment and because we don’t talk about [sex] at home, because we don’t talk about it at school, the most accessible source of education is coming from the entertainment industry. That’s what this is about — there’s a big gap. It’s like [your sex ed choice is either] science books or porn and there’s nothing in the middle. So we wanted to create a place where anyone could go to learn about sex. It seems really simple and it seems like it should exist but because of trolling, abuse and harassment on the internet, it really doesn’t.

Do you think that sex ed should be mandatory? 
I think basic sex ed about bodies should be mandatory. I think everyone should learn about what their bodies can do. I mean, we don’t even get consent training in the abstinence-only classes. I think the reason why is so needed is because of that sex ed. The way I look at it is that half of is like “unlearning content.” There are a lot of people in this country who would have been better off getting no sex ed. I count myself as one of them. I learned about the purity of virginity in Catholic school. I literally would have been better off without learning any of the things I learned about sex from [Catholic school]. So much of what we do and the services that we provide and the content that we put in the live streaming context are around people unlearning and processing all of the emotions that they got from state-mandated and paid-for sex ed.

Talk to me about the actual nuts and bolts of How does it work?We are a shame-free, live-streaming platform for pleasure education and we’re centering women and gender-diverse people. It’s a place to help people unlearn shame and own their desire and the mission is to help millions of people work through their struggles with body and religious shame and to help them heal from sexual trauma, develop skill sets to help them communicate what they want or don’t want, discover a new interest in an LGBTQ-friendly, kink-friendly intersectional space. The nuts and bolts is that it’s closed — if we just made it a public platform, we would have to have the same platform as others in the tech space: Twitter, YouTube, you name it ― and you’re going to get abused, harassed and trolled. That’s why we’re an invite-only platform right now. You have to get an invite code. It’s not because we want to be exclusive — it’s quite the opposite. I think what people are learning is that the internet is a place. It’s just like another place. And if you had an offline place, you’d have to keep that safe. We are a unique tech company in that we prioritize safety and security and privacy over just super fast growth at any other cost. Everyone’s like, “Why aren’t you getting to a million views?” Not like we have any problems with that — we have an immense demand ― but for us, creating a space that feels safe, we are creating most of our technology to support that. 

There’s nothing wrong with porn but learning about sex from porn is like learning how to drive from “The Fast and the Furious” movies.

Once you’ve been admitted, how is the curriculum distributed?
We’re still in beta but most of the live streams are offered and you can watch them but we’re going to roll out a membership model but there will always be a portion of the streams that are free to the public. And then for advanced streams or if you want to keep going and watch more, there will be a membership model. It will be paid — we’re not selling data, we’re not going to be ad-supported. That’s not the future of what I believe the internet is going to be like because I believe that people are wising up to the fact that when you don’t pay for a product, you are the product. I think people are starting to care about that and so that’s never going to match our mission and values. However, we are going to help empower the educated. That’s another that’s really important about our product: we are partnering with existing educators. We are not inventing anything new in pleasure-focused, intersectional sex ed. I think that’s why we have so many women of color, so many trans people, so many queer people. People who come from these marginalized communities are sick and tired, so we’re disrupting [the old method of approaching sex education]. That’s really key to our mission — when you’re seeing live streams, you’re seeing them from these communities. We have “Afrosexology” in St. Louis — it’s all these [instructors and educators] who have already been doing the work, they just have zero online presence and zero tools to do it online [until now].

I’m queer and understand the importance of having sex ed that centers around queer people, women, people of color, etc. At the same time, I think part of what we need to do is also address the cis, white, straight men who have learned all of these toxic things and need to unlearn them as well. What do we do about these men? How do we get them to be part of this movement as well? Because, at least to me, it seems like without them being de-educated and then properly re-educated, we can only make so much progress, right?
Absolutely. We are open to straight, cis men. We have content on the platform for straight, cis men to address toxic masculinity. The key here is that we’re centering around gender diverse people to bring those people in but if we just left it open to the public, it would challenge our safety. We’re for anyone who didn’t get the pleasure education they deserved and that includes trauma education, which, again, cis men being the victims of sexual assault is something we care about. We’re really focused on this segment of people because these products don’t get sold to them but we agree that toxic masculinity is a massive, massive problem. My team is mostly led by queer women of color and in that vein, we also believe that we’ve got to start where we know the problem the best. I’m a queer woman of color, I’m partnered with another queer woman of color and we have a team that knows this specific problem. We think that one of the problems is also that cis white men are the main purchasers of porn — they’re the market. All the money that basically has been made in porn is from this group of people. In that way, you’re totally right, but we’re just trying to fill a need that’s really immediate but we have plans and already have content for [cis straight men].

Our country has a really long and terrible history when it comes to (not) championing sex and sexuality and pleasure but it seems like right now, especially in this political climate, things are even more dire. Talk to me about emerging right now — in 2017 — with the current administration and everything that comes with it in terms of women’s rights and queer rights and women’s and queer health.

Right — reproductive rights are under attack. I see a lot of people on the defensive and I see as being on the offensive. There are so many amazing organizations that are fighting for basic reproductive rights but they’re fighting because there are active forces coming at them and this is my stance: It doesn’t matter what your political or cultural or religious backgrounds are — shame and trauma are universal. Everybody has something they’re ashamed about. Everyone has something about their body that they have a hang up about. For me personally, I think this is the perfect time to go on the offense against shame because I want to be a place for everyone - including people who haven’t gotten the education to be trans inclusive or whatever else. The only way we’re going to reach them is if we build a product that can really help people wherever they are.  

Activism is hard — fascism is designed to exhaust us and if we can fuel the resistance with orgasms, that’s the best way I can help the resistance. I want to heal people from shame, heal people from trauma and give them the energy they need to fight for whatever cause they want to fight for in their lives. That’s my thought on “why now?” It’s 2017 and I still meet people who don’t realize that consent should be the rule. There are still people being shamed for asking to use condoms. There are still people who are so paralyzed from body shame that labiaplasty — the procedure to alter or remove labia — is the fastest growing procedure in some places. We’re still living in a place where a lot of women tell me that they didn’t know that they could masturbate — they didn’t know that they could have pleasure! They’re having sex and they don’t have any expectation for pleasure. It’s 2017 and some of my friends who are 70 year old women are like, “We feel like we already did this.” That’s one of the biggest misconceptions that I find — people think this generation is so sexually liberated but we’re not at all. 

10 years from now, what do you want to have accomplished?
In 10 years, if we have a world where people feel less shame about their bodies, about their sexuality, and feel like there are places where they can talk about sex on the internet, that will be enough of a success for me to feel great. will launch in Fall 2017. To join the waitlist, please head here.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Is there a sex hero you think deserves to be covered on The Huffington Post? Send an email to Noah Michelson.

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This Stunning Video Aims To Raise LGBTQ Awareness Through Dance

Two men get into the Pride Month groove on the Los Angeles streets in this colorful music video that’s also a retro-inspired meet cute. 

Released by the DanceOn Network, the video stars dancers Derek Tabada and Will Johnston, who sport jewel-toned Paul Smith suits as they perform a playful, acrobatic routine to the tune of singer-songwriter Dylan Hyde’s “Clearly.” Eagle-eyed viewers may recognize Johnston, who also choreographed the number, from “The LGBTQAlphabet,” a similarly queer-inclusive video produced by Equinox in collaboration with the LGBT Community Center and released earlier this month. 

At one point, the dancers strut their stuff in front of Paul Smith’s West Hollywood storefront, which received a rainbow makeover earlier this month as part of an Instagram Pride Month initiative

DanceOn CEO Amanda Taylor told HuffPost her company hoped to “act as an ally and an advocate” for the LGBTQ community by releasing the video, which aims to “channel artistic expression for positive change.” Last year, the group produced a contemporary dance homage to Orlando’s Pulse nightclub tragedy that has since received over 2 million views on YouTube

The Paul Smith storefront, of course, is typically painted pink, and is known as one of the most photographed locations of its kind in Southern California. Unveiled June 7, the new paint job is one of five “rainbow walls” created by Instagram to “strengthen relationships through shared experiences,” particularly among members of the LGBTQ community. Visitors are asked to share images of themselves in front of the five walls, which will also appear in London, Madrid, Cleveland and Nashville, Tennessee, with the hashtag #KindComments so that others can use Instagram to find a “community of support.”

“For Pride, we hope the rainbow walls become physical structures that inspire kind comments and support,” Instagram’s Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine told HuffPost, “but equally create an opportunity for people to come together on Instagram to support the LGBTQ community.”

Take a look at some photographs from the June 7 rainbow wall debut below. 

Find ways to celebrate Pride by subscribing to the Queer Voices newsletter.    

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Tech Leaders Met With Trump, And The Looks On Their Faces Said It All

The leaders of some of the world’s biggest tech companies met with President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday, but it didn’t look like a happy little get-together. It looked more like only one person wanted to be there.

Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Oracle’s Safra Catz, Intel’s Brian Krzanich and more attended the summit to discuss modernizing the technology that runs the U.S. government.

But Cook, Nadella and Bezos got much of the attention on social media not for what they said at the meeting but because of how they looked as they sat next to Trump. 

Here are some of the reactions:




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This 10-Year-Old Is Creating A Device To Prevent Infants From Dying In Hot Cars

After Bishop Curry heard his neighbor’s 6-month-old infant died from being in an overheated car, he decided to create a life-saving device to prevent incidents like this from reoccurring ― as any responsible 10-year-old would.

“It kind of came in my head,” Bishop told HuffPost of his device, the Oasis. 

The Oasis would respond to rising temperatures by emitting cool air and use an antenna to signal parents and authorities. At the moment, Bishop only has a 3-D clay model of the device, but his father, Bishop Curry IV, began a GoFundMe campaign for the Oasis in January.

“I got lots of help from my parents,” Bishop said. 

Attorneys advised the family that the minimum amount they’d need for prototyping and manufacturing fees, as well as a patent for the device, is $20,000. 

The GoFundMe campaign has already exceeded that $20,000 goal and, as of Monday, has raised over $23,700. Bishop, who will begin sixth grade in the fall, told Fox News last week that in addition to his parents, his classmates and friends are fully behind him on his projects. 

“They want to work for me,” he said. 

Last June, CNN reported that the number of hot-car deaths had nearly tripled compared to the same time in 2015, which had 24 hot-car deaths in total.

When Curry grows up, he wants to center his career around inventions, including a time machine. 

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Registered to Vote? If So, A GOP Firm Probably Exposed Your Personal Data

A Republican data analysis company called Deep Root Analytics left exposed an online database containing the personal information of almost all of America’s 200 million registered voters, the cyber security firm UpGuard has found.

The data contained in the breach includes an unsettling amount of personal information, including voters’ first and last names, birth dates, home and mailing addresses, phone numbers, registered party, self-reported racial demographic and voter registration status. 

A Deep Root spokesman confirmed the breach in an email to HuffPost, saying, “We take full responsibility for this situation.”

The company added it is undertaking a full review of the lapse, which is believed to have begun June 1 and lasted through June 14. UpGuard Cyber Risky Analyst Chris Vickery, who found the files, notified federal authorities of the exposure.

Deep Root said it believes only Vickery accessed the database during that time.

Vickery was able to download 1.1 terabytes of “entirely unsecured” data, which uses 9.5 billion data points to describe 198 million potential U.S. voters’ likely political preferences across 48 different categories. Those categories span nearly every major political debate, including a voter’s likely stance on abortion, gun control, stem cell research and environmental issues.

The exposure of such personal data for so many voters is the largest breach of its sort.

It is a testament both to their talents, and to the real danger of this exposure, that the results were astoundingly accurate.

Vickery’s colleague, UpGuard reporter and analyst Dan O’Sullivan, looked himself up in the database and was taken aback by the RNC’s analyses. “It is a testament both to their talents, and to the real danger of this exposure, that the results were astoundingly accurate,” he wrote.

Most of the data appears to have originated from Republican super-Political Action Committees and other external collection firms, and not with Deep Root itself.

Large caches of text appear to have been scraped from Reddit, while other folders seem to have been named to track the origin of the data each contains. UpGuard reported that American Crossroads, the super-PAC Republican strategist Karl Rove helped start, likely contributed data, as did a company called Data Trust, which boasts a mission of “continually develop[ing] a Republican and conservative data ecosystem through voter file collection, development, and enhancement.”

Last January, Vickery found a database with 56 million records that appeared to belong to a right-wing Christian organization. In addition to more standard information like a person’s name and address, it included individual income levels, whether they donated to religious organizations, where they worked, and whether they were politically conservative.

In 2015, Vickery uncovered a database of 191 million voter records that didn’t seem to have an owner.

UpGuard notes the recent lapse also eclipses political data breaches in other countries, including those for 93.4 million Mexican voters and 55 million voters in the Philippines, both of which occurred in April 2016.

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School Employee May Be Fired For Claiming Gays 'Should Be Killed' On Facebook

An Ohio school employee is likely to lose his job after posting that gay people “should be killed or at least relocated” ahead of a local Pride celebration. 

Chris Dodds, who has worked as a garage assistant supervisor with Columbus City Schools since 2004, reportedly posted the hateful message on a Facebook page for the 2017 Columbus Pride parade and festival last week. In the since-deleted post, Dodds said he hoped Friday’s festival, which has drawn more than 500,000 people in the past, “turns out like the Boston Marathon,” a pointed reference to the 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured several hundred others.

Take a look at a screenshot of the alleged post, courtesy of, below.  

The post quickly prompted an online petition calling for Dodds’ dismissal. “This is completely unacceptable,” organizer Tom Neffs wrote, “and we need to take a stand and demand that this man not be allowed to spread this hate to the children in affiliation to our school system.” The petition has since drawn over 46,000 supporters as of Monday afternoon.

School officials addressed the news in a Facebook post Thursday. 

Scott Varner, who is a spokesman for Columbus City Schools, told The Columbus Dispatch on Friday that the district “values and celebrates its diversity” and was “working with authorities to address this matter and [Dodds’] actions.” 

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Varner said. “We are currently working toward Mr. Dodds’ termination.”

In an email to HuffPost, Columbus City Schools Communications Manager Jacqueline D. Bryant confirmed that the school district was planning to terminate Dodds, and noted that more than 500 teachers, staff, students and family members joined the city’s Pride Parade on Saturday in the end. 

On Saturday, school officials shared some jubilant images of those teachers and students marching in the parade on Facebook, and their praise seemed even more profound in the wake of the controversy.  

Find more ways to celebrate Pride by subscribing to the Queer Voices newsletter.    

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Pandora Celebrates And Supports LGBTQ Community With Launch Of 'Sounds Like Pride'

Pandora, “the world’s most powerful music discovery platform,” is turning up the volume on Pride with a brand new spotlight on queer artists and experiences.

The “Sounds Like Pride” campaign includes a special station, exclusive content from emerging LGBTQ+ musicians and Pandora employees, and a charitable collaboration with The Ally Coalition, according to a press release sent to HuffPost.

The “Sounds Like Pride” station features “personal Pride experiences from Riff Raff and Jonny Pierce from The Drums,” as well other artists throughout June, via Artist Audio Messages. It will also offer listeners music from LGBTQ+ artists including Against Me!, Grizzly Bear, Le TigrĂ© and Perfume Genius, as well as classics from ABBA, Blondie, Culture Club, David Bowie, George Michael, Queen and many more.

Pandora users can donate directly to The Ally Coalition via the “Sounds Like Pride” station to support their LGBTQ+ advocacy. 

In an effort to shine a light on queer employees working for the company, Pandora will also be featuring their personal stories to reveal what “Pride sounds like to them.”

“Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate and recognize the strength, resilience, courage, creativity, and beauty of the LGBTQ+ community,” Colleen Finnegan, who works for Pandora Employee Experience and Marketing, told HuffPost in an email. “By celebrating Pride at Pandora, we are not only saying ‘I see you, I got you,’ to our employees – we are saying it to LGBTQ+ folks everywhere.”

That’s music to our queer ears.

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Google Launches Effort To Remove Terrorist And Extremist Content From YouTube

(Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s Google will implement more measures to identify and remove terrorist or violent extremist content on its video-sharing platform YouTube, the company said in a blog post on Sunday.

Google said it would take a tougher position on videos containing supremacist or inflammatory religious content by issuing a warning and not monetizing or recommending them for user endorsements, even if they do not clearly violate its policies.

The company will also employ more engineering resources and increase its use of technology to help identify extremist videos, in addition to training new content classifiers to quickly identify and remove such content.

“While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now,” said Google’s general counsel Kent Walker. 

Google will expand its collaboration with counter-extremist groups to identify content that may be used to radicalize and recruit extremists, it said.

The company will also reach potential Islamic State recruits through targeted online advertising and redirect them towards anti-terrorist videos in a bid to change their minds about joining.

Germany, France and Britain, countries where civilians have been killed and wounded in bombings and shootings by Islamist militants in recent years, have pressed Facebook <FB.O> and other providers of social media such as Google and Twitter <TWTR.N> to do more to remove militant content and hate speech.

Facebook on Thursday offered additional insight on its efforts to remove terrorism content, a response to political pressure in Europe to militant groups using the social network for propaganda and recruiting.

Facebook has ramped up use of artificial intelligence such as image matching and language understanding to identify and remove content quickly, the company said in a blog post.

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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Someone Trolled A GOP Senator By Signing Him Up To Nickelback Emails

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is not diggin’ this at all.

On Friday, he tweeted that someone had signed several of his email accounts up to Nickelback promotional newsletters. “It’s. Not. Funny,” he wrote:

Whilst signing people up to spam email is never to be condoned, Sasse does have major form in trolling the Canadian rock band himself.

Over the past 16 months, he’s repeatedly used Twitter to poke fun at the group:

It’s also not the first time someone has added Sasse to the band’s mailing list:

Sasse claimed the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was behind the latest prank:

Hatch’s office hasn’t confirmed its role in the joke, but did use the opportunity to indulge in some more trolling:

Sasse saw the funny side, as did many of his Twitter followers:

Some, however, used the exchange to quiz both Sasse and Hatch over the GOP’s health care reform:

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