David Sacks’s Craft Ventures just closed its second fund with $500 million

Craft Ventures, the venture firm launched in 2017 by serial entrepreneur David Sacks, has closed its second fund with $500 million in capital commitments, an amount the firm was said to begin targeting roughly a year ago. Craft’s debut fund had closed with $350 million. The outfit — which Sacks runs with other serial entrepreneurs […]

AMC Theatres launches its own on-demand streaming service

AMC Theatres announced a new service today called AMC Theatres On Demand — a marketplace where members of AMC’s Stubs loyalty program can buy or rent individual movies to watch at home. The launch of an iTunes-style, à la carte movie marketplace seems almost quaint at a time when all the major media companies seem […]

Will unreliable research bury your healthcare startup?

For healthtech founders and funders, scientific claims and conclusions are more than policy — business models depend upon the lucid appraisal of clinical problems, evaluating inadequacies in current standards of care, a clear understanding of disease pathways, and designing superior interventions.  At each step along this value chain, founders stand on the shoulders of the […]

Hands-on with the new Pixel 4

After the onstage presentation at Made by Google 2019, we got our hands on a Pixel 4. In this video, you can watch us do a quick run-through of the major new features — like Motion Sense, which provides gesture controls that don’t require you to touch your phone, and improved Night Sight, which allows […]

Product lessons from building our subscription service Extra Crunch

Subscription has been all the rage in media circles as the industry searches for new, sustainable business models. We’ve seen companies from infrastructure plays like Substack and Pico to brand verticals like Holloway and The Athletic receive venture funding, all with the goal of changing the economics of news, information and entertainment. Every day, I […]

Up close with Google’s budget Chromebook, the Pixelbook Go

The Chromebook has been a marked hit for Google — well, for Google’s hardware partners, at least. Low cost devices have flooded the market, with a stranglehold on the educational category in particular. Google’s own first party offerings, on the other hand, have been a bit more curious. Devices like the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate […]

How Lockheed Martin Ventures manages its early-stage $200M fund

In niche markets like aerospace, where the traditional VC model might not yield an abundance of available funding, corporate venture funds can offer entrepreneurs an interesting alternative. Unlike traditional VCs, firms like Lockheed Martin Ventures are in constant contact with internal business units about challenges they need solved, or improvements they’re seeking that cannot be […]

Kabuto is building smart suitcases for geeks

French company Kabuto is launching a Kickstarter campaign today for the second generation of its smart carry-on suitcase. The company was previously known as Xtend. If you think about smart suitcases, chances are you picture a suitcase with a battery pack in it and that’s it. In other words, they are not that smart. Kabuto […]

Up close with Google’s new Pixel 4

This is the Pixel 4, the handset that literally everyone saw coming. Even by Google’s standards, the handset leaked like crazy. Some was almost certainly by design, as the company looked to hype its new flagship amid slowing smartphone sales. That said, showing up for pre-order on two different sites in the past few days […]

Uber, Lime and Spin scooters are now legal in SF

Uber, Lime and Spin have officially deployed their electric scooters on the streets of San Francisco as part of the city’s permitting program. Last month, the city announced Uber’s JUMP, Lime, Ford’s Spin and Scoot were granted permits to operate the shared electric scooter services. Scoot, however, has operated in the city since last year. […]

Entrepreneur First, the ‘talent investor,’ pulls out of Hong Kong

Entrepreneur First (EF), the Greylock-backed “talent investor” that recruits and backs individuals pre-team and pre-idea to enable them to found startups, is pulling out of Hong Kong, TechCrunch has learned. According to sources, the London-HQ’d company builder has told provisional candidates for its 2020 Hong Kong cohort that they should instead apply to one of […]

Annie Leibovitz used the Pixel 4 to shoot a new collection of photos

Google ended today’s hardware event by going deep on the photo technology in its new Pixel 4, and brought out someone who’s actually been using the camera — legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz. The company announced that it was working with Leibovitz back in October 2018. Today, she spoke about the experience of working with the Pixel […]

The final countdown to Making Tax Digital for VAT (part 3) – your questions answered

In the final post of our Making Tax Digital Countdown series, we speak to accountant Linda Gibson from Gibson Whitter. She unpicks some of the challenging questions you might have from using spreadsheets to poor internet access, and touches on what’s next on the horizon for digital tax.

The post The final countdown to Making Tax Digital for VAT (part 3) – your questions answered appeared first on Xero Blog.

Get your Startup Alley Exhibitor package plus bonus hotel stay

It’s getting down to the wire for your opportunity to show off your early-stage startup in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt SF this October 2-4. There’s simply no better way to place your ideas and technology in front of influential change agents that can help you propel your business forward and set the stage for future success. […]

Lunchclub raises $4M from a16z for its AI warm intro service

There are apps out there that help you find friends, find dates and find your distant family histories, but when it comes to “growing your professional network,” the options are shockingly bad, we’re talking LinkedIn here. Lunchclub is a startup that’s looking to help users navigate finding new connections inside specific industries. The company has […]

California Governor Gavin Newsom signs gig worker bill AB-5 into law

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law gig worker protections bill AB-5. This comes shortly after AB-5 passed in the California State Assembly and Senate. “Today, we are disrupting the status quo and taking a bold step forward to rebuild our middle class and reshape the future of workers as we know it,” bill […]

Daily Crunch: Facebook announces Portal TV

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here. 1. Facebook launches Portal TV, a $149 video chat set-top box The Portal TV lets you hang out with friends using your […]

3,000 Xero advisors (and counting) are here to guide you through all things STP

As a small business owner it often seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. And the struggle to stay on top of things is likely all too familiar. 
With the ATO now requiring all businesses in Australia to digitally report their payroll information through Single Touch Payroll (STP), you may be finding it tricky to get your head around these new changes. 

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Small businesses know how to impress at ANZLF Awards 2019

At Xero, we’re always looking for ways to support small businesses to succeed and grow. That’s why we were thrilled to sponsor the Trans-Tasman Innovation and Growth Awards this year. Run by the Australia and New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), the awards are all about recognising emerging businesses having an impact through innovation and collaboration.

The post Small businesses know how to impress at ANZLF Awards 2019 appeared first on Xero Blog.

Apple doesn’t want Google ‘stoking fear’ about serious iOS security exploits

Apple has issued a tart response to an extensive report by Google of a serious security flaw in iOS. The flaw, which let an attacker gain root access to a device visiting a malicious website, was reported last week. Apple wants to “make sure all of our customers have the facts,” which is funny, because it’s likely we wouldn’t have any of the facts if Google had not so rigorously documented this issue.

APIs are the next big SaaS wave

While the software revolution started out slowly, over the past few years it’s exploded and the fastest-growing segment to-date has been the shift towards software as a service or SaaS…

Anti-utopian type design with Monotype’s Charles Nix

Monotype recently introduced a new typeface called Ambiguity, created by its chief type designer, Charles Nix. Its unusual proportions deliberately challenge typographical conventions, going wide where a letter was once narrow and vice versa. I had a chance to talk to Nix about the genesis of Ambiguity and the state of type design; The conversation was interesting enough that I felt I should publish it more or less intact.

US senator demands answers from Amazon’s Ring over its police partnerships

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is looking for answers from Amazon about its doorbell camera Ring and the company’s relationships with law enforcement agencies around the U.S. In a letter published on Thursday, he writes to the technology giant how partnerships like Ring’s raise “serious privacy and civil liberties concerns,” and asks Amazon to further […]

Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups

Yesterday at TechCrunch’s Enterprise event in San Francisco, we sat down with three venture capitalists who spend a lot of their time thinking about enterprise startups. We wanted to ask what trends they are seeing, what concerns they might have about the state of the market and, of course, how startups might persuade them to […]

Only a few hours left for early-bird passes to Disrupt SF 2019

We’re in a price-hike homestretch, startup fans. Early-bird savings head south, and ticket prices head north in just a few short hours. Want to save up to $1,300 on passes to Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Buy your passes by 11:59 p.m. (PST) tonight, September 6 — avoid the costly stroke of midnight. Wring even more savings […]

NY attorney general will lead antitrust investigation into Facebook

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced this morning that she’s leading an investigation into Facebook over antitrust issues — in other words, whether Facebook used its social media dominance to engage in anti-competitive behavior. In a statement, James said: Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect […]

Huboo raises £1M to take the pain out of e-commerce fulfilment

Huboo, a U.K. startup that operates a multi-channel fulfillment service for e-commerce businesses of varying sizes, has raised £1 million in seed funding. Backing the majority of the round is London venture capital firm Episode 1, alongside a number of unnamed private individual investors. Launched in November 2017 by Martin Bysh and Paul Dodd after […]

Why Box is one of the most underappreciated companies

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week, we recorded on location at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco, a show that saw talks from Box’s Aaron Levie, Atlassian CEO Scott Farquhar and venture capitalists Maha Ibrahim, Rebecca Lynn and Jason Green. The latter, […]

Alibaba’s UCWeb to launch an e-commerce service in India

UCWeb, a subsidiary of Chinese giant Alibaba Group, plans to launch an e-commerce service in India in the coming months. In a statement to TechCrunch, a UCWeb spokesperson said the firm plans to build an e-commerce service around content platforms in India. It has no intention to compete with existing e-commerce businesses in the country, […]

Super early-bird pricing for Disrupt Berlin 2019 ends tonight

The last few hours of serious euro-savings are upon us, startuppers. In the States, we’d say it’s time to fish or cut bait. What we’re trying to tell you is that super early-bird pricing for Disrupt Berlin 2019 ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Buy your passes now and save up to €600 or pay […]

Xiaomi has shipped 100 million smartphones in India

Xiaomi said on Friday it has shipped more than 100 million smartphones in India, its most important market, since beginning operations in the nation five years ago. The company cited figures from research firm IDC in its claim. The Chinese giant, which has held the top smartphone vendor position in India for eight straight quarters, […]

Alibaba acquires NetEase Kaola in deal worth $2 billion

Alibaba Group has acquired NetEase Kaola for $2 billion, the two companies said today, and will integrate it into Tmall, creating the largest cross-border e-commerce platform in China. The announcement follows weeks of media reports about a potential deal, which was said to have stalled in the middle of August after the companies reportedly disagreed […]

Looks like Medium is testing a way to save articles across the web

Medium seems to be building a tool to save and reformat online articles for future reading. That’s according to Jane Manchun Wong, a reliable source of scoops on unreleased features. Wong said she spotted this one by reverse engineering Medium’s Android app and monitoring network traffic. The “Save to Medium” feature appears to scrape web […] says a third party exposed user data but didn’t tell anyone

An exposed web server storing résumés of job seekers — including from recruitment site Monster — has been found online. The server contained résumés and CVs for job applicants spanning 2014 and 2017, many of which included private information like phone numbers and home addresses, but also email addresses and a person’s prior work experience. […]

Flat, a Mexican property tech startup, raises $4.6M pre-seed led by ALLVP

Flat has raised one of Mexico’s largest pre-seed rounds to take the Opendoor real estate marketplace model across the Rio Grande.  The company snagged a $4.5 million pre-seed round to expand its business helping homeowners quickly sell their properties in Mexico. The round was led by ALLVP, an active early-stage fund in Mexico. California-based Liquid 2 […]

Facebook is making its own deepfakes and offering prizes for detecting them

Image and video manipulation powered by deep learning, or so-called “deepfakes,” represent a strange and horrifying facet of a promising new field. If we’re going to crack down on these creepy creations, we’ll need to fight fire with fire; Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are banding together to help make machine learning capable of detecting […]

Watch TC Sessions: Enterprise live stream right here

TechCrunch is live from San Francisco’s YBCA’s Blue Shield of California Theater, where we’re hosting our first event dedicated to the enterprise. Throughout the day, attendees and viewers can expect to hear from industry experts and partake in discussions about the potential of new technologies like quantum computing and AI, how to deal with the […]

BigID announces $50M Series C investment as privacy takes center stage

It turns out GDPR was just the tip of the privacy iceberg. With California’s privacy law coming on line January 1st and dozens more in various stages of development, it’s clear that governments are taking privacy seriously, which means companies have to as well. New York-startup BigID, which has been developing a privacy platform for […]

Spirable refuels with $7.4M to serve more personalized video ads in the US

London based adtech startup Spirable has closed a £6M Series A. The round was led by Smedvig Capital, with existing backers Frontline Ventures, Downing Ventures and 24 Haymarket also participating. The startup is one of several playing in the customized video ads space — offering a platform that simplifies and scales video ad creation by […]

YouTube launches a dedicated Fashion vertical

YouTube today is launching a new vertical called YouTube Fashion that aims to capitalize on the popular style and beauty content that attracts millions of viewers to its platform. According to Statista, beauty videos last year alone generated more than 169 billion views on YouTube, and more recently, some of fashion’s biggest names have set […]

What to expect from Apple’s September 10 iPhone event

Here’s what we know for sure: Apple’s holding a big event on its campus at 10AM PT on September 10. Here’s what we almost certainly know for sure: The iPhone 11 will launch with a new camera configuration. There will be probably be three different models. From there, things get a bit more complicated. There’s […]

Here are this year’s Breakthrough Prize Winners

On Sunday, November 3, at the 8th annual Breakthrough Prize Awards, hundreds of scientists will win their share of $21.6 million in awards for their outstanding work in the fields of Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics. Breakthrough Prize was founded by DST Global partner and billionaire Yuri Milner, who has a particular passion for […]

Take your business from local to global with the Bricks & Clicks Roadshow: Next stop Wagga Wagga

The team behind Bricks & Clicks are on a mission. Here to help Australian businesses embrace the power of e-commerce, they’ve got their sights set on large scale change. And they won’t stop until local retailers across the country are given the tools they need to become global brands.

The post Take your business from local to global with the Bricks & Clicks Roadshow: Next stop Wagga Wagga appeared first on Xero Blog.

Take your business from local to global with the Bricks & Clicks Roadshow: Next stop Wagga Wagga

The team behind Bricks & Clicks are on a mission. Here to help Australian businesses embrace the power of e-commerce, they’ve got their sights set on large scale change. And they won’t stop until local retailers across the country are given the tools they need to become global brands.

The post Take your business from local to global with the Bricks & Clicks Roadshow: Next stop Wagga Wagga appeared first on Xero Blog.

Take your business from local to global with the Bricks & Clicks Roadshow: Next stop Wagga Wagga

The team behind Bricks & Clicks are on a mission. Here to help Australian businesses embrace the power of e-commerce, they’ve got their sights set on large scale change. And they won’t stop until local retailers across the country are given the tools they need to become global brands.

The post Take your business from local to global with the Bricks & Clicks Roadshow: Next stop Wagga Wagga appeared first on Xero Blog.

Snap looks to raise $1 billion in private debt offering

Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, is looking to add some cash to its coffers via a new proposed private offering of $1 billion in convertible senior notes, with a due date for maturation of August 1, 2026. The debt offering will be used to cover the cost of general operating expenditures involved in running […]

Apple rolls out Apple Card Preview to select users

Apple Card is getting its first group of public test users today. A limited amount of customers that signed up to be notified about the release of Apple Card are getting the ability to apply for the card in their Wallet app today — as well as the option to order their physical Apple Card. […]

Apply to be a TC Top Pick at Disrupt Berlin 2019

It’s official — applications are now open for TC Top Picks at Disrupt Berlin 2019, which takes place on 11-12 December. This pre-conference competition is your chance to experience Disrupt Berlin VIP-style and exhibit your early-stage startup to some of the world’s most influential tech leaders, investors and media outlets across Europe, Asia and beyond […]

Penta, the German business banking startup, raises €8M additional funding

Penta, the business banking provider for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that was recently acquired by fintech company builder Finleap, has raised “over” €8 million in new funding. The round is led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures. Also participating is Finleap, alongside Fabrick, the Italian platform for open banking and fintech services, which is another […]

Cybereason raises $200 million for its enterprise security platform

Cybereason, which uses machine learning to increase the number of endpoints a single analyst can manage across a network of distributed resources, has raised $200 million in new financing from SoftBank Group and its affiliates.  It’s a sign of the belief that SoftBank has in the technology, since the Japanese investment firm is basically doubling […]

Audi’s new scooter might actually solve a major problem with scooters

Electric scooters are inundating cities, and for good reason. They’re relatively easy to use, accessible, cheap and even a fun means of traveling short distances. And yet, scooters aren’t infallible. For one, it’s nearly impossible to use hand signals, a problem that jacks up the danger factor of these increasingly popular devices. Audi introduced an […]

The Inside adds sofas to its custom furniture lineup

While The Inside already offers a range of made-to-order furniture like beds, headboards, chairs and ottomans, it’s aiming for the center of your living room today with the launch of its first sofa collection. Founded by CEO Christiane Lemieux (who previously founded Dwell Studio and sold it to Wayfair) and COO Britt Bunn (who previously […]

Google is shutting down its Trips app

Google is shutting down its Trips app for mobile phones, but is incorporating much of the functionality from the service into its Maps app and Search features, according to a statement from the company. Support for the Trips app ends today, but information like notes and saved places will be available in Search as long […]

Instagram and Facebook are experiencing outages

Users reported issues with Instagram and Facebook Sunday morning. [Update as of 12:45 p.m. pacific] Facebook says the outage affecting its apps has been resolved. “Earlier today some people may have had trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps due to a networking issue. We have resolved the issue and are fully back up, we apologize […]

On second attempt, hoverboard inventor successfully crosses Channel

Following a failed attempt in July, French inventor Franky Zapata successfully crossed the Channel on top of a hoverboard this weekend. Starting his trek in Sangatte in northern France, the journey took 20 minutes, before landing in St. Margarets Bay, England. “For the last five to six kilometers I just really enjoyed it,” Zapata told […]

Roblox hits 100 million monthly active users

Roblox is big. Bigger than Minecraft big. The massively multiple online title has been around since 2006, but the game has been achieving a crazy amount of momentum of late. On Friday, it announced via blog post that it’s grown past 100 million monthly active users, pushing past Minecraft, which is currently in the (still […]

On the Amazon panopticon

Last year, “Amazon employees met with ICE officials … to market the company’s facial recognition technology,” the ACLU informs us. Amazon VP Brad Huseman later said “We believe the government should have the best available technology.” Then, last month, Motherboard revealed Amazon has partnered with police departments around the country to create “a self-perpetuating surveillance […]

India’s Reliance to buy majority stake in Google-backed Fynd for $42.3M

Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries is acquiring 87.6% stake in Fynd, a seven-year-old Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers, for 2.95 billion Indian rupees ($42.33 million), the two said in a brief statement late Saturday. Fynd, which was founded in 2012, helps offline retailers sell their products to consumers […]

Week in Review: Equifax, Capital One and your stupid desire for justice

Hello, weekenders. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure. Last week, I talked about the Facebook FTC fine, the Sprint/T-Mobile deal getting […]

With the acquisition closed, IBM goes all in on Red Hat

IBM’s massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat closed a few weeks ago and today, the two companies are now announcing the first fruits of this process. For the most part, today’s announcement further IBM’s ambitions to bring its products to any public and private cloud. That was very much the reason why IBM acquired […]

A newly discovered hacking group is targeting energy and telecoms companies

There’s a new hacking group on the radar targeting telecommunications and oil and gas companies across Africa and the Middle East. Industrial security company Dragos, which discovered the group, calls it “Hexane,” but remains largely tight lipped on its activities. The security company said Thursday, however, that that the group’s activity has ramped up in […]

TikTok-parent is getting into mobile search

China’s ByteDance, which owns popular video sharing app TikTok, is already working to enter the smartphone business and the music streaming space. It appears the world’s most valued startup also has ambitions about developing its own search engine. Kind of. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch on Thursday that it has introduced a search function in ByteDance’s […]

Fitbit lowers guidance after Versa Lite disappoints

Fitbit continued solid device growth for Q2, up 31%, year over year, representing a 5% bump in revenue. From that angle, the company’s long-term turnaround appears to be on track — but things weren’t all cheery this time out. Notably, the company’s stock is down in after-hours trading after it lowered guidance for annual revenue. […]

Amazon acquires flash-based cloud storage startup E8 Storage

Amazon has acquired Israeli storage tech startup E8 Storage, as first reported by Reuters, CNBC and Globes and confirmed by TechCrunch. The acquisition will bring the team and technology from E8 in to Amazon’s existing Amazon Web Services center in Tel Aviv, per reports. E8 Storage’s particular focus was on building storage hardware that employs […]

Lyft pulls e-bikes in light of apparent battery fires

Lyft is pulling its e-bikes from the streets of San Francisco, as well as from those in the South Bay Area in light of two recently catching on fire. The first reported fire took place over the weekend, with the second happening today, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Don’t think I’ll be going on […]

Small business, big impact: Revitalising communities across Australia

Of Australia’s 2.1 million small businesses, 400,000 employ just four people or less. But while they may be micro in size, the impact they have on our community is immeasurable. 
These same business owners are now required to digitally report their payroll information to the ATO through Single Touch Payroll.

The post Small business, big impact: Revitalising communities across Australia appeared first on Xero Blog.

Single Touch Payroll is here: Your top queries answered

We’re fresh into the new financial year, and there’s change afoot – as of 1 July, Single Touch Payroll (STP) legislation has kicked in for all employers across Australia. 
An ATO initiative to enable real time digital salary reporting, STP means employers are now required to report salaries and wages, PAYG withholding, and superannuation information, each time they pay their employees.

The post Single Touch Payroll is here: Your top queries answered appeared first on Xero Blog.

Days after pledging to expand internet, Ethiopia’s government shuts it off

Days after Ethiopian ICT officials made public pledges to improve net access, the government began playing on-again, off-again with the internet — shutting it down (almost completely) to coincide with the country’s national exams. Data provided to TechCrunch from Oracle’s Internet Intelligence confirmed intermittent net blackouts from June 11 to 14, with connectivity returning for brief […]

From Project Scarlett to Gooigi: The best of E3 2019

Every story about E3 has opened with a mention of Sony’s absence, and this one’s no different. The lack of one of gaming’s “big three” loomed large over the show, right down to a strange sense of space on the showroom floor. Even Xbox chief Phil Spencer mourned the absence of the company’s biggest competitor, […] to close, replaced as a section of GameStop

Sad news for anyone who loves geeky goods and top-notch April Fools’ jokes:, the 20-year-old online retailer known for selling more geek-centric gadgets and peripherals than you could fit in a TARDIS, is going away. According to an FAQ sitting at the top of its site, ThinkGeek isn’t “shutting down,” it just won’t continue […]

Price tag to return to the Moon could be $30 billion

NASA’s ambitious plan to return to the moon may cost as much as $30 billion over the next five years, the agency’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, indicated in an interview this week. This is only a ballpark figure, but it’s the first all-inclusive one we’ve seen and, despite being a large amount of money, is lower than some might have guessed.

You won the H-1B lottery: Don’t lose your ticket when changing jobs

Getting an H-1B skilled-worker visa is like winning the lottery — literally: With the number of new visas issued each year capped at 85,000, most of this year’s over 200,000 applicants face disappointment. But if you’re already working in the United States, then you’ve already won the H-1B lottery, and that makes you a hot commodity.

Why Tesla and Uber won’t escape 25% tariffs — for now

Tesla and Uber both had requests for tariff relief rejected by U.S. trade officials, a decision that will force the companies to pay a 25% tariff or seek new suppliers. Reuters was the first to report the decision by the office of the U.S. Trade Representatives. TechCrunch previously reported on the Trump administration’s refusal to […]

Tesla’s in-car touchscreens are getting YouTube support

Tesla has consistently been adding software to its in-car touchscreen infotainment displays — including sometimes things that probably leave a lot of people scratching their heads. During a special Q&A today at annual gaming event E3 in LA, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that Tesla’s in-car display will support YouTube someday soon. This isn’t the […]

Tesla is bringing the ‘Fallout Shelter’ game to its cars

As part of the gaming option for Tesla’s cars, Todd Howard, the director of Bethesda Games, said that the company’s “Fallout Shelter” game will be coming to Tesla displays. Elon Musk is a huge fan of the Fallout series, saying in an interview at the E3 gaming conference that he’d explored “every inch” of Fallout […]

Daily Crunch: Telegram faces new attack in China

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here. 1. Telegram faces DDoS attack in China… again The popular encrypted messaging service Telegram is once again being hit with a distributed […]

A widely used infusion pump can be remotely hijacked, say researchers

A hospital infusion pump widely used in hospitals and medical facilities has critical security flaws that allow it to be remotely hijacked and controlled, according to security researchers. Researchers at healthcare security firm CyberMDX found two vulnerabilities in the Alaris Gateway Workstation, developed by medical device maker Becton Dickinson. Infusion pumps are one of the […]

Apple soups up Logic Pro X ahead of Mac Pro launch

When it announced the long-awaited Mac Pro relaunch onstage at WWDC last week, Apple settled on creative pro software as the best way to illustrate the desktop’s power. Along with Final Cut, Logic was one of the centerpieces of that introduction. Today the company issued the update to Logic Pro X illustrated onstage. Version 10.4.5 […]

Spotify outage not related to today’s update, company is working on a fix

This morning, Spotify announced the rollout of a redesigned app for its Premium users. Now, the service is down. The streaming music provider is experiencing an outage today, according to reports from social media and various outage tracking websites, including DownDetector. Spotify had failed to acknowledge the outage on its Spotify Status Twitter account. But […]

UK government invests $194M to commercialize quantum computing

The UK government today announced a £153 million investment into efforts to commercialize quantum computing. That’s about $193 million and with additional commitments from numerous industry players, that number goes up to over $440 million. With this, the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme has now passed £1 billion (or about $1.27 billion) in investments since […]

Why is Andreessen Horowitz (and everyone else) investing in Latin America now?

Investments by U.S. venture capital firms into Latin America are skyrocketing and one of the firms leading the charge into deals is none other than Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz . The firm that shook up Silicon Valley with potentially over-generous term sheets and valuations and an overarching thesis that “software is eating the world” has […]

Kickstarter issues new transparency guidelines for projects

Fresh off its 10th anniversary and under the helm of a new CEO, Kickstarter is shaking things up with a new set of guidelines targeted at seller claims. A new page titled Honest and Clear Presentation in Projects notes: The language you choose to present your project plays a critical role in setting expectations for […]

Google’s Game Builder turns building multiplayer games into a game

Google’s Area 120 team, the company’s in-house incubator for some of its more experimental projects, today launched Game Builder, a free and easy to use tool for PC and macOS users who want to build their own 3D games without having to know how to code. Game Builder is currently only available through Valve’s Steam […]

Fieldays 2019: First day done and dusted

It’s so exciting to be back at Fieldays this year, showing how we can help empower small businesses in the agri sector to run their business smarter. As the largest agricultural event in the southern hemisphere, Fieldays is the perfect opportunity for farming teams to stop, take a breath and evaluate their farm processes and management – and we love being right at the heart of all of it.

The post Fieldays 2019: First day done and dusted appeared first on Xero Blog.

Qubole launches Quantum, its serverless database engine

Qubole, the data platform founded by Apache Hive creator and former head of Facebook’s Data Infrastructure team Ashish Thusoo, today announced the launch of Quantum, its first serverless offering. Qubole may not necessarily be a household name, but its customers include the likes of Autodesk, Comcast, Lyft, Nextdoor and Zillow . For these users, Qubole […]

Spacemaker scores $25M Series A to let property developers use AI

Spacemaker, a Norway-based startup that’s created AI software to help property developers and architects make better design decisions, has picked up $25 million in Series A funding. The round is jointly led by Atomico and Northzone, with participation from investors in property and construction tech including Danish property developer NREP, Nordic property developer OBOS, and […]

Fiat Chrysler partners with Aurora to develop self-driving commercial vans

Aurora, the autonomous vehicle technology startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon, has struck a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop self-driving commercial vehicles. The partnership will focus on integrating Aurora’s technology into FCA’s line of Ram Truck commercial vehicles, a portfolio that includes cargo vans and trucks. The deal could extend to FCA’s […]

Fallout 76 is getting a 52-player battle royale mode

Tonight’s Bethesda E3 press conference was all about free additions. In fact, the company actually took to the stage to apologize for Fallout 76’s rocky launch. The publisher quickly added that it’s continued to improve on the title since late last year, listening to player feedback and adding all sorts of additional content. That includes […]

Microsoft’s Project xCloud preview launches in October

Big news out of today’s Microsoft press conference. A few days after Google finally revealed some long awaited details about its Stadia offering, Microsoft just gave us a lot more info on its competitor, Project xCloud. Announced back in October, the game streaming service is designed to offer a hardware agnostic gaming experience. Unlike Google’s […]

Microsoft acquires Psychonauts-maker Double Fine Productions

As it did last year, Microsoft used its Xbox E3 keynote to announce its moves in bulking up its in-house gaming content. At its press conference, the company’s Xbox Game Studios head announced that Microsoft had acquired SF-based Double Fine Productions, a game creator that’s been around since 2000 and was founded by LucasArts’s Tim […]

These Sea Creatures Are Another Big Reason to Go to the Maldives

I was surveying the impossibly white sand and Technicolor-turquoise Indian Ocean outside my beach villa at the Four Seasons Resorts Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru—a dazzling, 44-acre island resort in the country’s remote northern Baa Atoll—when the ring of the mobile phone I’d received at check-in only 20 minutes before shattered my paradisiacal revelry. “The team […]

Game Pass Ultimate brings Xbox subscriptions together at a discount

Update 1:38pm PT: At its E3 conference, Xbox announced that the service will also be integrating Xbox Game Pass for PC as well. Xbox wants the future of the gaming business to lean heavily on subscription services. The company’s Game Pass service has let users download games from a pool of dozens of titles, now […]

Feedback loops and online abuse

I’ve long thought that much of the world can be explained by feedback loops. Why are small companies nimbler than large ones? Why are private companies generally more efficient than governments? Primarily because in each case, the former has a better feedback loop. When faced with a baffling question — such as, “why do online […]

Apple puts accessibility features front and center

Although the meat of Apple’s accessibility news from WWDC has been covered, there still are other items announced that have relevancy to accessibility as well. Here, then, are some thoughts on Apple’s less-headlining announcements that I believe are most interesting from a disability point of view. Accessibility goes above the fold One of the tidbits […]

Watch Microsoft’s Xbox E3 press conference live

This year’s E3 is already off to an interesting start. Sony’s nowhere to be seen, and Nintendo, per usual, has opted to go online only. That leaves Microsoft as the only member of the big three with its own, honest to goodness press conference. The company’s got a big opportunity here, and we’re hoping for […]

Microsoft shares pricing details for Xbox Game Pass on PC

Update: The beta is live today. Ahead of the Xbox E3 keynote this afternoon, Microsoft has dropped the pricing for their Xbox Game Pass plan which gives PC users access to a library of top games. The Service will be launching at a very reasonable $4.99 per month (though they note that’s an “introductory price,” […]

Simple Ways to Refresh Your Brand

Written for EO by Jessica Thiefels, social media coach and organic marketing consultant. A brand refresh is critical for all companies, from worldwide organizations to small local businesses. “As businesses grow and change, it’s important for their brands to reflect the current marketplace. Simply put, if you stayed the same while all the companies in your industry… Read more »

The post Simple Ways to Refresh Your Brand appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

What Driving in Italy Taught Me About Business Growth

Written for EO by Joshua Carlsen, who heads business-to-consumer lead generation and client retention at Propelo Media, an EO company owned by San Francisco member Andre Chandra. On a recent vacation in Italy, I enjoyed amazing sights and experiences, ranging from Michelangelo’s The David and the once-buried-now-excavated city of Pompeii to The Pantheon. I also indulged in culinary delights,… Read more »

The post What Driving in Italy Taught Me About Business Growth appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Key Takeaways From Startup Grind Global

Carlo G. Santoro attended the 2019 Startup Grind Global as an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) ambassador and mentor. He has been an EO Melbourne member for almost 25 years and is currently the managing director of RetailCare. After the Startup Grind Global conference, he took time to reflect on the lessons he learned from the many early-stage entrepreneurs he spoke… Read more »

The post Key Takeaways From Startup Grind Global appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Why Every Startup Needs to Shift Its Focus From the Checkbook to Cash Flow

Written for EO by Terry Lammers, certified valuation analyst and managing member of Innovative Business Advisors.  After 24 years of raising children, my wife and I will become empty nesters soon. When I see a young couple with children, I think, “How the heck did we raise three kids into responsible adults?” That feeling reminds me of what… Read more »

The post Why Every Startup Needs to Shift Its Focus From the Checkbook to Cash Flow appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

10 Ways to Celebrate National Small Business Week

This week is National Small Business Week! And of course, that means we’re celebrating you — our awesome community of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Regardless of where you are in your business journey, remember to take some time and celebrate yourself.

Show your business some love by throwing a party, catering lunch, or celebrating in some unconventional ways that give back to the business you’ve worked so hard to build:

1. Join a BNI, Chamber of Commerce, or Other Business Club

Growing a business is all about who you know. You want to become the go-to accountant or architect that everyone recommends. To do it, you have to get involved. Joining a BNI, Chamber of Commerce, or other business club is a great way to get involved in your community. Membership will help you become a go-to connection.

Why do it:

People trust people they know more than people they don’t. Get to know more people and they will help spread word organically (and help you build reviews).

Read up:

2. Partner With Another Business

Get in front of a new audience by leveraging partnerships. Find another business who caters to the same people as you do, and dream up a way to collaborate. You might co-host an event, co-write an eBook, or help sponsor a contest where you give away their products.

Why do it:

Other businesses have huge audiences, many of whom may be looking for the very solution you offer but have no idea who you are. Dipping into those audiences is a huge opportunity and could result in some new loyal followers.

Read up:

3. Do Some Social Promotions 

Your customers are hanging out on social media, so meet them where they are! Put some money behind carefully constructed ads. Test out a few different ads against each other, and see how the channels work for you.

Networks like Facebook also have some great tools you should take advantage of. For example, adding Facebook Pixel to your website can allow you to target website visitors with ads automatically. And using Facebook’s audience data, you can even target shoppers who have recently looked for similar products and services as your business.

Why do it:

The world’s on social media, and paid promotion goes a long way. Just a few dollars can result in huge exposure.

Read up:

    4. Support Other Small Businesses

    Small businesses give back to their local communities through taxes and job creation, and have a huge impact on our world at large. They also share similar struggles, lacking the resources of big brands. They work tirelessly to keep their customers happy, and their employees are often involved in many aspects of the business, rather than very specific, niche tasks. Celebrate and support the other small businesses in your neighborhood this week.

    Why do it:

    Small businesses are more powerful when banded together. Help preserve your community and create a sense of belonging.

    Read up:

      5. Try a New Small Business Tool

      When it comes to running a small business, time and effort are precious resources, and the last thing you want to do is waste them. Thankfully, there are tools available to make your life much easier. From marketing to accounting, communicating, and more – there’s a tool for that!

      In fact, you can try Grasshopper’s virtual business phone system for free today! There’s no commitment and no credit card needed.

      Why do it:

      You’re a busy person, and it’s hard to stay organized. A tool can’t make or break a business, but it can take a load off so that you can focus on more important things.

      Read up:

        6. Brush up on SEO

        Getting Google to recognize you may seem harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but being a top search result can position your brand above the rest (literally). Plus, traffic that comes in (and buys!) via organic search is free. Instead of paying for each click, you simply reap the benefit of appearing when someone is looking for your products or services.

        Why do it:

        The world is online searching for products and services. If you’re not visible and searchable, you’re missing out on sales!

        Read up:

          7. Host a Contest

          Contests are a great way to engage your audience. These contests don’t have to be fancy sweepstakes. Instead, you can give away a product or an Amazon gift card in exchange for participation. Contests are a fun opportunity to get customers and clients to share their stories, and they can result in a lot of traffic to your site.

          Why do it:

          Contests create ‘buzz’ about your brand, products, and services. They encourage people to visit your website, and you can even use them to build your email list, all the while positively interacting with your customers.

          Read up:

            8. Find a Mentor

            If you don’t already have one, make it a priority to add a mentor to your arsenal of friends, partners and advisers. A mentor is someone who can help you navigate the challenges of running a business, make connections, and help guide you through the complex maze of starting and growing a successful business.

            Why do it:

            Mentors can be an invaluable asset to your business thanks to their knowledge, connections and skills. Having someone you trust to bounce ideas off of or talk you off the ledge might be just the help you need to take your business from good to great.

            Read up:

              9. Throw a Customer Event

              A little customer appreciation can go a long way and have a huge impact! It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort either. It could be something as simple as inviting them to the office for a small event, or hosting a happy hour.

              Why do it:

              The real value of these events comes from talking to your customers. You’ll be surprised at how much they’re willing to share and what you can learn from them. Bonus: They’ll feel appreciated and get to meet other like-minded people; helping not only you grow your business, but theirs too.

              Read up:

                10. Update the Office to Enhance Productivity

                Your office should be a stimulating and inspiring space. From the lighting to the décor, or lack thereof, it all plays a role in your mood and productivity at the office.

                Why do it:

                A quick office makeover (or makeunder if your office looks like it should be on an episode of Hoarders) can make all the difference in office productivity levels and even happiness. Think of all the time you spend at the office. A small investment here could yield big results in the future.

                Read up:

                  Happy National Small Business Week!

                  Investing time, energy and money in your business is never a bad idea when it’s done thoughtfully and intentionally. Consider celebrating your business, your customers, and your team members this week (or any week) through any of the ideas listed here, or something entirely unique to your company’s needs.  And don’t forget to support others in your region and industry by shopping small!

                  What will you do to celebrate National Small Business Week?

                  How to Continue the Momentum Gained from Small Business Week

                  The small business sector across the United States account for 58.9 million employees, 8 million minority-owned businesses, and 99.7% of all businesses in total. And while we are at the end of Small Business Week, there’s still plenty to appreciate them for next week, the week after and beyond. 

                  The potential to capitalize on all the momentum you’ve enjoyed during Small Business Week is here, which means there are few opportunities like the present to make the most of your small business plans. Whether that means starting up a small business of your own, showing your enterprising colleagues your appreciation, or even launching a new marketing initiative, here are a few ways you can strike while the iron’s hot:

                  Read the Trends and Position Yourself Accordingly

                  Use Google Trends, you’ll find that there’s no better time to have yourself positioned for a few select small business searches:


                  Is it too late to capture that renewed interest? Not necessarily; trends tend to spike in interest without falling back to earth overnight. But even if that’s the case here, you can use next week as a reminder that there will always be cyclical trends from which you can build a more effective content calendar.

                  Using Small Business Week as a Wake-up Call

                  If you’ve ever sat in a cubicle, looking out the window, dreaming of a day in which you controlled your own financial destiny, you’re far from alone.

                  Small Business Week is more than just a way to appreciate small businesses or celebrate your success. For those who’ve considered starting a small business but have yet to take the leap, it can serve as a wake-up call. Why? Consider the following:

                  • Delaying your business means you aren’t learning entrepreneurship. According to one survey, 51% of people thought starting a company was the single best way to learn about entrepreneurship.
                  • Failure isn’t final. Even if your first business fails, you’ll learn a lot. There’s some data that suggests a slightly better chance at succeeding on your next go around.

                  Small Business Week is also a great time to remind yourself that you don’t have to go into a new business venture blind. There have never been more resources designed for aspiring small business owners like yourself, including the Entrepreneur Store and Udemy’s Small Business and Marketing Essentials. 


                  Treating Small Business Week as Your Spring Cleaning Week

                  Even if you don’t make a yearly tradition out of actual spring cleaning, there’s no better time to trim the budget, simplify your life, and cut a few recurring items from your calendar. Think of it as your entrepreneurial spring cleaning time.

                  A great first step: evaluating the way you currently spend your time. Use a service like RescueTime to observe where you’re spending most of your time online. That’s when it comes time to use the KonMari method on your schedule. What activities do you need more of in your life? What sites do you need to restrict? What word habits do you maintain that seem to generate most of your results?

                  There are many different forms of clutter in our professional lives. From reducing the amount of clutter in our inboxes to eliminating the mental clutter that comes from managing too many projects, spring cleaning should go above and beyond “sweeping out the garage.” Sustaining the momentum from small business week should affect everything else you do at your business—and de-cluttering is a great way to ensure that happens.

                  Capturing More Business as a Result of Small Business Week

                  When you do manage to garner more attention, it’s important to make full use of it:

                  • Include a lead capture form on your site. If your small business is receiving more traffic this week, you don’t have much time to add a lead capture form that will ensure that you make full use of the boost. Software like Growlabs makes this easy to integrate with your web presence.
                  • Connect your web presence as much as possible. It’s difficult to drive a lot of conversions when a customer has trouble identifying your website from your social media presence. Give them the proper links and point them to the right landing pages every time you reach out. Now’s the time to make sure that your calls to action are above the fold, as welEngage Your Audience on

                  Social Media

                  There’s no time like the present to rethink the way you approach your social media. If your social media presence has been lagging behind as you concentrate on other areas of the business, you might want to consider the following:

                  • Engage new influencers. Some 49% of influencers now use influencers to make purchase decisions, and don’t be surprised to see that number grow to a majority in a hurry.
                  • Research new content. If you don’t have a content calendar, Small Business Week is a great time to look around and see what other small businesses are doing to promote themselves. Try following a few small businesses that strike you as particularly engaging. What content do they create, and what do you notice is garnering the most interest from your shared audience?

                  Try a New Avenue for Advertising

                  If you find your marketing has grown stale over the past year, branching out can be a great way to mix things up. 

                  In some cases, it may feel like you’re only spinning your wheels here. Why bother with mobile marketing, for example, if you’re just a local business? Keep in mind that statistics suggest that 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases. By combining your traditional advertising with something you haven’t tried before, you might stumble on a similar connection for your customers that you haven’t previously imagined.

                  Maximize Your Momentum

                  Small Business Week comes and goes rather quickly. The true question is what you did with your time and the subsequent boost that lingers for a few days. Have you committed yourself to another year of successful growth, or are you simply spinning the proverbial wheels until the next important calendar milestone? Take the steps you read here to ensure that you maximize your momentum after Small Business Week is in the rearview mirror.




                  How One-on-Ones Can Reinforce a Culture of Integrity

                  If you are not running one-on-ones with your team members, you are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to build rapport and create a culture of transparency.


                  Because no matter how well-oiled your team is, one-on-ones go beyond getting a status update on daily projects.

                  They are about greater matters: an employee’s personal and professional development within the organization, soliciting feedback and creating an environment in which your employees are willing to be transparent.

                  Ultimately, your people will be more likely to stick around for the long haul.

                  Need proof? According to a Harvard Business Review study, the TOP 3 drivers of employee dissatisfaction are (1) the lack of recognition of employee achievements, (2) the absence of clear guidance and (3) not having the time to give meaningful commentary to the employee.

                  So if you’re looking into introducing one-on-ones, which will give you that warm, bubbly feeling, here’s a guide for you.

                  Use it to run silky smooth one-on-ones and foster a culture of transparency in your organization that will attract 90% of job seekers.

                  Put Your Team in the Know

                  First things first.

                  If you have never held one-on-ones with your team before, you may want to let your team know what these sessions are all about. This way your people will know what to expect from the get-go.

                  Set your team members’ expectations from the start by informing them that the purpose of these meetings is to help them feel included, informed, and supported in their day-to-day work. Then send a recurring calendar invite their way.

                  Build Cadence Through Consistency

                  After all, the key to running successful one-on-one sessions with your employees is to make them recurring rather than ad-hoc.

                  And there are several reasons for it:

                  • It will help you send a clear message to the employee that they are valued in the workplace.
                  • It allows for clear, consistent, and transparent communication between you and your direct and prevents them from interrupting you during the week with small questions. Instead, they will wait for your next scheduled meeting.
                  • Constant one-on-one sessions encourage a culture of continuous feedback, which adds to integrity within your organization.

                  Here is an important thing to keep in mind, though. Make sure you schedule one-on-ones with each and every team member — not only top performers.

                  Why? Because otherwise, you’ll be implying: there’s only a handful of people that are worth my time. The others aren’t as important and can wait.

                  The result of that?

                  The workplace engagement will increase with the employees you have met whereas the morale of those who you did not meet will be completely demolished.

                  Now, sometimes things come up, and you will have to do something about your one-on-ones. In which, you want to reschedule the meeting but never cancel it altogether.

                  On board? Great.

                  As for timing, try to schedule these meetings weekly, dedicating enough time to address all needs — at least one hour.

                  You can always end earlier if needed, but rushing through a 30-minute meeting will not provide the opportunity to explore ideas and provide coaching to your employees on their day-to-day responsibilities.

                  Let Them Run the Show

                  There’s a time and place when you should dish out your feedback. And that’s during the performance review meetings. One-on-ones should be all about the employee — unless, of course, something major comes up.

                  So put your employees in the driver’s seat and eagerly solicit feedback.

                  How? Start your meeting by asking the employee: So, how’s everything going? Any problems/issues?

                  This is a simple attempt at getting an initial data point that you can use to dig deeper into how they are progressing in their current projects, how they feel about their work, and whatever else that they want to bring up.

                  It should help you gauge their emotional, mental, and professional state of stability in their role and largely within your organization.

                  Stay on Top of What You Discuss

                  Next up, you want to fire up your shared Google Docs file, start documenting your one-on-ones and drive action.

                  A simple way to do this is to use the same document week in and week out, so employees can easily reference past projects they were working on, and keep an updated account of current tasks and projects (both short- and long-term).

                  It can look something like this:

                  Week 2

                  Long-term tasks

                  • List here, including a general timeline

                  Weekly tasks

                  • List here, including all relevant details

                  Week 1

                  Long-term tasks

                  Weekly tasks


                  The idea behind using Google Docs or another document sharing tool is great because it enables you to stay on top of things and have an archived history of things done or planned to be done.

                  Here is how you can use these shared documents to max out your one-on-one sessions.

                  Review the Action Items Prior to Each One-On-One

                  At the beginning of each one-on-one session, make sure you do the legwork before the next meeting to review what needed to be done. This will help you pinpoint potential roadblocks, which you can discuss in the next meeting.

                  Decide on Takeaways and Deliverables

                  Throughout the meeting, write up action items and make sure you are on the same page with your direct in terms of what needs to be done before the next meeting arrives.

                  The greatest thing about one-on-ones is that when employees come to you with a problem, you will not only listen to the problem you will actually take steps to solve it.

                  And that paves the way for trust and integrity.

                  Bottom Line

                  At the end of the day, on-one-ones can supercharge your company culture allowing for transparency and higher job satisfaction.

                  But if you fail to treat each and every employee like they are worth every minute of your time, you will have disengaged employees who are unwilling to be integral and ready to jump ship.

                  How to Have Productive Meetings with Remote Workers

                  Holding effective meetings can be something of a challenge under the best of circumstances, but it can be particularly difficult with remote teams. Here are four keys to holding productive meetings with remote workers.

                  1. Use the right technology.

                  Chat and instant messaging apps have become just as popular for business as for personal use and can facilitate a great deal of communication. That being said, there is eventually going to come a time when you need to actually hold a meeting for your entire team. Under the best of conditions, it is difficult to keep meetings from being enormous time wasters, so the last thing you want is to spend time struggling with technical issues. Whether your meeting only involves one or two other people, or hosts a larger group, you might consider using a video conferencing service like GoToMeeting. Using a video conferencing service doesn’t just guarantee you a smoother connection, but it also allows you to easily share information right within the service.

                  2. Plan and communicate ahead of time.

                  Just remember that while meetings are important to help get and keep everyone on the same page, every minute that people spend in meetings is a minute they are not moving your business forward.

                  If you need to have a meeting that involves 10 people for 30 minutes and it ends up running an hour because of technical issues or a lack of planning, that equates to 300 wasted minutes or nearly five man hours of wasted time. Here are some tips to help you avoid such situations: 

                  • Choose your time carefully: This is particularly important if you are working with a team located in different time zones. You want to do your best to try and ensure that no one is required to attend a meeting in the middle of the night or even during an important event. Also keep in mind that just before lunch, people are hungry and just after lunch they might be ready for a nap. Ultimately, there is just no perfect time for a meeting, but you want to do your best to arrange a time that will gain you the most participation.

                  • Set an agenda and distribute it in advance: Meeting will always run more smoothly when everyone knows exactly what topics will be covered and are prepared in advance to offer any input that might be expected of them. This is also a helpful time management tool because it helps everyone keep an eye on the clock. It if it is supposed to be a one-hour meeting covering 5 topics and you are only on the second topic 30 minutes in, then most people will generally start evaluating their own comments or contributions for importance before making them.

                  • Let people know in advance what will be expected of them: Video or online conferences and meetings generally have different protocols than physical or face-to-face meetings. Just like every company has a unique culture, so does every team. What might be acceptable or even encouraged on one team might not be on another. It is always helpful to have a standing SOP for how to handle comments, questions, suggestions or even what proper etiquette is, but it’s even more important if you have new members or regular turnover. Remote teams, in particular, tend to have higher turnover than many office teams, so the faster you can get newcomers up to speed, the better.

                  3. Only plan large meetings if you absolutely have to.

                  There is perhaps no place where it is more important to remember that time is money than when it comes to meetings. While it may be simpler to schedule one meeting with the entire team to cover a range of topics, it is always important to keep in mind that you are still paying each individual employee for every minute they spend in a meeting.

                  In simple terms, if you have 10 employees that make $30 an hour and schedule a one-hour meeting, that meeting is costing you $300, not to mention your own time. On the other hand, if you schedule three 20-minute meetings with 4 employees each, then you’re still only using one hour of your time, but you’re only paying $40 for each meeting or spending a total of $120 in man-hours.

                  The other 40 minutes of each employee’s hour can be spent actually working rather than sitting in a meeting they only participate in for a grand total of 10-15 minutes. Before you schedule your next meeting, use a cost calculator to determine not only the most efficient but the most cost-effective means of getting the results or information you need.

                  4. Keep the meeting moving, but also create engagement.

                  For remote teams, a meeting may be one of the rare times they have any type of opportunity to interact with one another.

                  As important as it may be to keep the meeting moving and get what you need to accomplished, this can also be an important time for remote teams, in particular, to get to know each other or to learn more about each other.

                  You want to use your time wisely and plan it well, but sometimes the best use of your time might be to facilitate some team interaction rather than keeping things all business. While team meetings may be best kept to being few and far between, when you do have them, you certainly want to make the most of them.

                  Running an efficient meeting with remote workers may be challenging, but it can be done.

                  Your meeting will be more successful when you manage to keep people on topic and on track while also encouraging participation from everyone. The term “herding cats” often gets thrown around a great deal when it comes to managing a team, and this term is probably particularly appropriate when it comes to leading meetings.

                  Keeping your team on track and your meeting running smoothly can be a challenge, but with a little planning, preparation, and attention to detail, it can be successfully accomplished.

                  How to Reinvest in Your Business Without Wasting Money

                  Dollars are important. You work hard for them. When you have them, you can build a business, hire new people, and expand your offerings.

                  When you don’t, life is stressful.

                  It’s only natural that parting with the money you’ve worked so hard to earn gives you pause—even if the prospect of “reinvestment” sounds like the next logical step for your company.

                  But if you’re still skittish about sinking money back into your business, you have to remove the fear of wasting money.

                  Don’t let the risk of sunk costs steer your company off the path to growth. Instead, consider these strategies for reinvesting in your company without wasting money:

                  Tip #1: Reinvest in Areas You Know Need Improvement

                  One of the most powerful advocates of business reinvestment was the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie wasn’t a man who thought he should invest in a lot of side businesses—in fact, he once said that the key to succeeding in business was to put one’s eggs all in one basket—but he did believe in making his own businesses better. Carnegie would repeatedly sink surplus capital back into new technology in his steel mills to make them more efficient and better than the competition.

                  You don’t have to own your own steel mills to glean a lesson here: there are probably some areas in your own business where you know you can do better. Here are some focus areas to consider:

                  • Customer service. According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, customers who had the best experiences with a company spent 140% compared to those with poor previous experiences. Customer service is a reinvestment that pays off in reputation and the perception of quality—which in turn helps fuel further growth.

                  • Quality of your product or service. It’s not just about your reputation—it’s also about your quality. When a customer has your product in hand, what’s their experience? Will they feel more inclined to buy from you in the future?

                  • Productivity. The basic balance sheet of a business says that you spend X and receive Y. Productivity helps you minimize X while maximizing Y. The more productive and happy your employees are, the better off your bottom line will be. Think about reinvesting in productivity boosters such as software suites and investing in automating those processes that can be automated.

                  Tip #2: Reinvest in Your People

                  A company is only as good as the people who run it. That doesn’t just mean you. It means everyone—from the founder/CEO to the most recent hire.

                  This reinvestment isn’t only about working with the right people. It’s also about building a culture that attracts the right people. A 2017 study found that over 90% of top-performing employees viewed employment training programs and development opportunities as an important priority in deciding where to work.

                  If you aren’t reinvesting in your people, you might not always attract the right ones.

                  Want additional tips for creating and investing in an employee development program? Check out the resources available at

                  Tip #3: Reinvest with Marketing that Has Demonstrable ROI

                  Sometimes you’ve already got the infrastructure in place. You’ve got good service. You’re ready to scale. You’re ready for more customers.

                  You just don’t have the customers.

                  If that’s the case, then reinvesting in your business with an increased marketing budget may be the way to go. Here are some marketing statistics and trends that should offer you the return on investment (ROI) you’re looking for:

                  • Email marketing. Statistics suggest that email marketing offers some of the best ROI, with three quarters of company agreeing that it offers “good” to “excellent” return on investment. If you knew in advance that most companies would agree that email marketing was a good way to spend your marketing money, would you do it? Well, now you know.

                  • Analytics. It’s not always easy to slap a bottom-line statistic on the value of analytics, but consider this: without effective analytics, you can’t run the tests that help improve your efficiency. Think of analytics as the bedrock of the knowledge you hold: with it, you’re able to demonstrate where you’re going wrong and where you’re going right. When you consider that only 21% of companies report confidence in their analytics, you’ll recognize what an advantage this can be.

                  • Video marketing. A 2013 survey showed that more than half of respondents believed video marketing to have the best ROI in all of marketing. Video has only grown in relevance since then.

                  Tip #4: Invest in Yourself

                  If you’re running the business, then your business will often grow at the rate you grow. That can be good news or it can be very bad news.

                  But there’s upside here: reinvesting in yourself will pay dividends in a wide variety of ways, from improving the way you run the business to the way you approach your personal life. It pays to invest in yourself—and oftentimes, it’s not nearly as costly as you might think.

                  • Take more time to read. Think of reading nonfiction as downloading new information like Neo in “The Matrix.” Reading gives you access to a wealth of experience and cuts down the learning curve in any area of life you can imagine.
                  • Take more time to manage your stress levels. You aren’t at your best when you’re stressed. Consider planned vacation days and de-stressing activities to be more than an investment in your business; they’re also an investment in your personal health. The better you function, the better you’ll interact with your company.
                  • Take more time to invest in your leadership skills. You might have had a great idea to build a company, but your entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t always translate to leadership skills. Consider an example from the NFL: in the off-season, quarterback Mitch Trubisky knew the Chicago Bears had invested a lot in of resources in the hope that he would lead their franchise to a winning tradition. Trubisky decided to read “The Captain’s Class” in the off-season to learn from the experience of historic sports dynasties throughout history; as it stands, the Bears (and Trubisky) are much improved on the year.

                  Spending money doesn’t always mean you’re wasting it. If you put it back into your business—and buy something other than more office supplies—there are plenty of ways you can maximize your productivity and build a stronger company.

                  Maker Faire halts operations and lays off all staff

                  Financial troubles have forced Maker Media, the company behind crafting publication MAKE: magazine as well as the science and art festival Maker Faire, to lay off its entire staff of 22 and pause all operations. TechCrunch was tipped off to Maker Media’s unfortunate situation which was then confirmed by the company’s founder and CEO Dale […]

                  Audi proves two little screens are better than one big screen

                  I’m spending some time in the new Audi Q8, and the car company equipped the crossover with its latest infotainment system. I love it, fingerprints, dust and all. The grimy screens are part of the story. I could have cleaned up the screens for the photos, but I thought it was essential to show the […]

                  Sennheiser debuts its first wireless gaming headset, the GSP 670

                  During Computex last week, Sennheiser gave media a sneak peek at its first wireless gaming headset, the GSP 670, slated to ship starting at the beginning of next month. The GSP 670 retails for €349 (about $393), significantly pricier than other popular wireless gaming headsets (as well as its wired predecessor, the Sennheiser GSP 600, […]

                  Tibbits are colorful pre-programmed modules for building IoT devices

                  At first glance, Tibbits look like building blocks, but each one is a module or a connector that makes it easier to build connected devices and systems. Tibbits were created by Tibbo Technology, a Taipei-based startup that exhibited at Computex this week (it showed off a humanoid robot built from various Tibbits). The heart of […]

                  Muro is a retro-style cylinder music box you control with an app

                  The light twinkle of an old-fashioned cylinder music box evokes many things: nostalgia, childhood memories, sometimes even horror (they are a trope in scary movie soundtracks). Most music boxes play one tune, but with the Muro Box, which exhibited at Computex this week, you can use an app to pick different songs or even compose […]

                  LEGO celebrates Apollo 11 with a lovely, bricky Lunar Lander

                  The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first lunar landing is approaching, and there will be no shortage of fanfare — so why shouldn’t LEGO get in on the fun? This Lunar Lander set looks like a great way to celebrate the missions of the space program’s past, while the space station and launch sets celebrate its present and future.

                  Reliance on Property Taxes in Europe

                  A recent report compares to what extent OECD countries rely on various tax revenue sources. Today’s map looks at property tax revenue, which, compared to other taxes, accounts for a relatively small share of total tax revenue in Europe. In 2017, property taxes accounted for only 4.6 percent of tax revenue on average in the 27 […]

                  Ekasbo’s Matebot may be the cutest cat robot yet created

                  If Shrek saw Matebot, no amount of sad-eyes could win him back to Puss in Boots’ side. Created by Shenzhen-based robotics company Ekasbo, Matebot looks like a black and white cartoon cat and responds to your touch by wiggling its ears, changing the expression in its big LED eyes and tilting its head. Built with […]

                  InWin’s Alice is a mid-tower PC case you can match to your cosplay

                  There’s a huge amount of crossover between the gaming and cosplay communities, and InWin’s Alice computer chassis will appeal to many in the middle of that Venn diagram. The company is currently showing off Alice and its other PC cases at Computex in Taipei. Named after the Lewis Carroll character, the mid tower case comes […]

                  To What Extent Does Your State Rely on Individual Income Taxes?

                  State and localities rely heavily on the individual income tax, which comprised 23.5 percent of total U.S. state and local tax collections in fiscal year 2016, the latest year of data available. The individual income tax lands just below the general sales tax (23.6 percent), both behind property taxes (31.5%) as the largest category of […]

                  Delane Parnell’s plan to conquer amateur esports

                  Most of the buzz about esports focuses on high-profile professional teams and audiences watching live streams of those professionals. What gets ignored is the entire base of amateurs wanting to compete in esports below the professional tier. This is like talking about the NBA and the value of its sponsorships and broadcast rights as if […]

                  Measuring Opportunity Zone Success

                  Related Research Opportunity Zones: What We Know and What We Don’t Key Findings The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) established the Opportunity Zones program to increase investment in economically distressed communities. This place-based incentive program provides capital gains tax incentives for those who reinvest capital gains into qualified opportunity funds (QOF). To establish that […]

                  Go chat yourself with Facebook’s new Portal companion app

                  Facebook has launched the start of its push into smart home software. Ignoring calls that it’s creepy, Facebook is forging onward with its Portal gadget Today Facebook quietly released iOS and Android Portal apps that let owners show off photos on the screen without sharing them to the social network, and video call their home […]

                  Business in America

                  Who are the workers, consumers, and shareholders who interact with businesses in the U.S.? What forms do these businesses take? How do business taxes impact people’s lives? It is essential we answer these questions in order to design a business tax system that is simple, efficient, and enables economic progress.

                  We’ll soon know the exact air pollution from every power plant in the world. That’s huge.

                  Keeping an eye on the polluters.

                  Satellite data plus artificial intelligence equals no place to hide.

                  Earlier this month brought a mind-blowing announcement in the world of power plants and pollution.

                  In a nutshell: A nonprofit artificial intelligence firm called WattTime is going to use satellite imagery to precisely track the air pollution (including carbon emissions) coming out of every single power plant in the world, in real time. And it’s going to make the data public.

                  This is a very big deal. Poor monitoring and gaming of emissions data have made it difficult to enforce pollution restrictions on power plants. This system promises to effectively eliminate poor monitoring and gaming of emissions data.

                  And it won’t just be regulators and politicians who see this data; it will be the public too. When it comes to environmental enforcement, the public can be more terrifying and punitive than any regulator. If any citizen group in the world can go online and pull up a list of the dirtiest power plants in their area, it eliminates one of the great informational barriers to citizen action.

                  And citizens have reason to organize. According to the latest State of Global Air report, air pollution is the fifth greatest global mortality risk. It causes 5 million early deaths and 147 million years of healthy life lost, every year, and the countries building the most power plants are experiencing the most air pollution. Their citizens have the most on the line. And now they’ll be armed with information.

                  Things are about to get interesting. Let’s look at the details.

                  The Navajo Generating StationGoogle
                  The Navajo Generating Station, a giant coal power plant in Arizona … from space.

                  Eyes in the sky will track all power plant pollution

                  The plan is to use data from satellites that make theirs publicly available (like the European Union’s Copernicus network and the US Landsat network), as well as data from a few private companies that charge for their data (like Digital Globe). The data will come from a variety of sensors operating at different wavelengths, including thermal infrared that can detect heat.

                  The images will be processed by various algorithms to detect signs of emissions. It has already been demonstrated that a great deal of pollution can be tracked simply through identifying visible smoke. WattTime says it can also use infrared imaging to identify heat from smokestack plumes or cooling-water discharge. Sensors that can directly track NO2 emissions are in development, according to WattTime executive director Gavin McCormick.

                  Between visible smoke, heat, and NO2, WattTime will be able to derive exact, real-time emissions information, including information on carbon emissions, for every power plant in the world. (McCormick says the data may also be used to derive information about water pollutants like nitrates or mercury.)

                  Who’s behind it

        , Google’s philanthropic wing, is getting the project off the ground (pardon the pun) with a $1.7 million grant; it was selected through the Google AI Impact Challenge.

                  WattTime, a nonprofit that is now a subsidiary of the Rocky Mountain Institute, made a splash earlier this year with Automated Emissions Reduction. AER is a program that uses real-time grid data and machine learning to determine exactly when the grid is producing the cleanest electricity. It can then automatically adjust power consumption to match up with those times, ensuring that users take advantage of the lowest-carbon power available. (Many kinds of power consumption can be safely shifted in time, like water heaters, battery charging, and some industrial processes; they are “dispatchable.”) AER is, as the name indicates, entirely automated; it works behind the scenes, without any user intervention.

                  WattTime is partnering with Carbon Tracker, a think tank that’s done previous work with satellite imagery, using it for financial analysis of power plants (including a pioneering study showing that 42 percent of global coal power plants are operating at a loss), and the World Resources Institute, which operates the world’s most comprehensive Global Database of Power Plants.

                  WattTime is a mission-based nonprofit with a track record, legitimate partners, and serious financial backing. Despite its diminutive size, it has a chance of becoming the global clearinghouse for transparent, reliable pollution data.

                  What it will immediately enable

                  This information is going to empower all kinds of tools and avenues for pollution reduction. Here are a few McCormick mentioned to me:

                  • Every pollution law or international agreement relies on monitoring and verification. Many countries, or areas within countries, are suspected of underreporting emissions. It creates a background level of mutual mistrust. Now there will be a trusted, third-party source of verified information on every power plant; no more gaming the system by fiddling with local monitoring equipment or misreporting emissions. Transparent third-party verification will raise everyone’s confidence in the ability of regulators and negotiators to produce results.
                  • Remember Automated Emission Reductions? Real-time pollution data will enable AER to work anywhere in the world, without undue reliance on state or industry sources of data. I’ve written before about how battery storage doesn’t always reduce carbon emissions on the grid, because it’s rarely timed to sync up with clean energy. California is trying to fix that problem. AER will make it easier, for California and everyone else, to match clean energy production and consumption.
                  • Real-time, public pollution data will help renewable energy developers site their projects in areas where they can maximize emission reductions.
                  • Carbon Tracker has already shown that satellite data can be used for more precise financial analysis of power plants (again: 42 percent of the coal plants in the world are operating at a loss). WattTime’s program will make that analysis more robust and help better identify those areas where renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil power.
                  • Finally, the data will help fill in the gaps even in US pollution monitoring, which are many.

                  All that stuff will crank up the minute the information becomes public. WattTime is currently gathering data and working with partners who will put the information to use.

                  The global panopticon, but for pollution reduction.

                  But the really interesting stuff will happen after this data is unleashed on the world and becomes accessible everywhere.

                  What it could enable in the long term

                  To help illuminate the larger impact this information might have, indulge me in a brief anecdote.

                  In 1986, the US created the Toxic Release Inventory, a database tracking the toxic emissions of all US industrial facilities.

                  It was strengthened in 1990, as part of the Pollution Prevention Act. At the time, this outcome was seen as something of a failure — the originally proposed bill contained stiff penalties for toxic emissions, but they were stripped out in negotiations. In the end, all that was left was the information, the TRI itself.

                  But the TRI has gone on to prove one of the most effective environmental regulations in US history. Simply making the information available to the public empowered citizens, nonprofits, and state governments to organize pressure on the worst emitters. In the five years after it was implemented, toxic emissions fell by almost half.

                  The TRI enabled what scholars Archon Fung and Dara O’Rourke (of Harvard and MIT, respectively) have called ‘‘populist maximin regulation,” which differs from conventional command-and-control regulation in four ways. First, the role of government agencies “is not to set and enforce standards, but to establish an information-rich context for private citizens, interest groups, and firms to solve environmental problems.”

                  Second, standards are not set according to expert risk analysis, but according to what the public is willing to accept. Third, emitters “adopt pollution prevention and abatement measures in response to a dynamic range of public pressures rather than to formalized agency standards or governmental sanction.” Finally, the information allows public attention to focus on the worst emitters — maximum attention on minimum performers, thus “maximin.”

                  A shorter way of putting this: Once the public knows what polluters are up to, it stops letting them get away with it.

                  Just as the TRI enabled populist maximin regulation in the US — a wave of bottom-up activism that the authors of the TRI never anticipated — so could WattTime’s data be used to organize citizen pressure on the biggest carbon emitters, on a global scale.

                  If nothing else, the biggest polluters, and the biggest cheaters, will be exposed. No company, no country, will be able to hide or fudge its numbers. The public will know how to find them.

                  People leave nearly $1 million in loose change in TSA bins every year

                  Bring your change with you!

                  Air travel can be stressful when passengers are rushing to get to their boarding gates on time, especially on busy days like Memorial Day. Maybe that’s why people keep leaving behind their change at security — almost $1 million a year, all of which goes to the Transportation Security Administration.

                  The existence of this loose change recently entered the limelight when an internal Department of Homeland Security proposal asked the TSA for $3 million worth of loose changed gathered at airports for border operations if Congress does not approve its $1.1 billion funding request, according to a report from NBC News. While that might not seem like a lot in comparison to the $232 million DHS wants TSA to hand over in total, $3 million is a lot to gather from leftover coins in plastic bins at airport checkpoints.

                  Where is all that money coming from? Loose change left in security bins has long been an unusual revenue source for the TSA, and the amount of money left behind continues to grow.

                  Every year, the agency has to release a report on all the unclaimed money it collects to Congress: In 2012, TSA collected $531,000 and in 2016 it jumped up to $867, 812, according to NBC News. By 2018, it reached $960,105.

                  It’s easy to leave possessions behind when people are asked to empty their pockets, said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. There are plenty of distractions at security checkpoints: Loose change can be missed because of advertisements at the bottom of bins or forgotten while passengers struggle to collect their items from three different trays, she said.

                  It’s not just quarters and dimes, either, Farbstein said: The money that the agency collects also includes large bills left behind in unclaimed wallets.

                  The most money, naturally enough, comes from busy airports in big cities: According to the agency’s report on the 2017 fiscal year, John F. Kennedy International Airport collected the most money at $72,392. Los Angeles International Airport was a close second at $71,748. Miami International Airport and O’Hare International trailed behind at $50,504 and $49,597.

                  Travelers in Reno, Nevada, meanwhile, left behind a mere $19.85.

                  Once the loose change is found, smaller airports send the money they collect to larger hub airports, which then rolls the change and deposits it to TSA, Farbstein said. The TSA keeps track of all the money that is being stored and transported, she said.

                  “If a TSA employee even takes a quarter or a dime, they would be fired,” she said. “There’s no excuse for that. It’s a matter of integrity.”

                  Since 2005, Congress has allowed the TSA to spend the money however it wants to improve security operations. In the past, some of it has been used to translate security signs into foreign languages and to expand the TSA Precheck system, which expedites security for prescreened passengers (although even those passengers have to empty change from their pockets).

                  But the money has piled up — leading to an attempt by Congress to control how the TSA spends it. The TSA Loose Change Act was introduced in 2013 to donate the money to nonprofit organization that would “provide places of rest and recuperation for Armed Forces members and their families” in airports. Though the bill received bipartisan support and passed in the House of Representatives, it died in the Senate. It was reintroduced in 2017, but no progress has been made.

                  It’s not yet clear if the money will end up being used for border security. But for travelers hoping to avoid contributing to the growing pile of loose change, Farbstein has some advice: When taking things out of your pocket, immediately drop them into your carry-on.

                  Game of Thrones and the danger of planned finales

                  Drogon burns down the idea of planning out your series finale.

                  The series has known where it was heading for many seasons now. So why did it fall apart?

                  Game of Thrones’ series finale, “The Iron Throne,” is the show’s lowest-ranked episode ever on IMDB, with the site’s users grading it a 4.3 out of 10. And what’s the second lowest-ranked episode of the series on IMDB? That would be the final season’s fourth episode, “The Last of the Starks,” coming in at a 5.6.

                  And if you look a little further, you’ll realize that IMDB users’ lowest-ranked six episodes of the entire series are the six episodes of the final season. The second episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” ranks the highest of the six, with an 8.0, but it’s still behind season five’s “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” IMDB’s lowest-ranked episode of Game of Thrones that’s not in the final season, with a score of 8.1.

                  On one level, these rankings are a little nuts — I think all six episodes of Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season, whatever my issues with them, are better than “Unbowed,” which is a bad episode of television!

                  But on another level, they’re pretty well aligned with Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus on the final season, which sits at 58 percent, by far the worst ever. (Season one is in second place, with a 91 percent.)

                  The season certainly has its defenders, who feel the series wrapped up just about perfectly. And there are plenty of people like me, who feel the season was conceptually interesting, while whiffing several key moments of execution.

                  But I still think it’s fair to say that the general consensus on Game of Thrones’ final season could be described, charitably, as “disappointing.” And the further we get from the finale, the more I can feel myself detaching from the show in a way that suggests I might not think about it much in the years to come. For a show this big to mostly evaporate is somehow more disappointing than if it had ended in a way that actively infuriated me.

                  So what was it about Game of Thrones final season that left so many people disappointed? Sure, some of the disappointment was an inevitable function of hype. But I would argue it was just as much a function of the show having a planned finale.

                  TV is a medium where you have to plan everything and plan nothing simultaneously — no small feat

                  The AmericansFX
                  The final season of The Americans was met with critical acclaim.

                  One of my favorite stories about the construction of a great TV series has always been about the five-season classic Breaking Bad. Throughout that show’s second season, creator Vince Gilligan and his writers seeded hints in several episodes about a catastrophe that would occur in the season finale. And Gilligan felt because these hints were being seeded, the writers needed to know what that catastrophe was.

                  It worked, more or less. I really do love Breaking Bad season two. But Gilligan found the whole process so arduous that, in the show’s following seasons, he mostly plotted things on the fly, even as several later episodes featured flash-forwards to some future timeline when Walter White’s crimes had been found out. Gilligan trusted both his writers’ room and his overall conceit for the show — a meek family man becomes a ruthless drug kingpin — to hold everything together while all involved worked toward finding the best story. (You can read a much fuller version of this basic tale in Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised.)

                  This is the paradox of TV. You’d think that having a satisfying ending would require having a rock solid plan to get to that ending. But the opposite is often true, because the more you know about how a story is going to play out in the macro, the more the micro just becomes a series of items checked off a list. The storytelling can start to drag, because you’re so focused on set, arbitrary signposts you’ve already set for yourself down the road. If you can’t get to that major revelation until the end of season two, well, season one might start to feel a little slow.

                  Yet you also have to plan some things, because audiences still want to feel like the destination they’ve reached is inevitable. Thus, the best endings are often ones where the writers have a very vague idea of what will probably happen and work toward that point, while also leaving themselves room to radically change everything until the last possible second.

                  One show that excelled at this approach was FX’s spy drama The Americans. I talked to the creative team behind The Americans several times during the construction of that show’s generally acclaimed final season, and even though they’d had an idea of the show’s finale in mind since season two, they still wanted to leave things open just in case a better idea came along that blew their original one out of the water. (What made it to screen mostly conformed to their original pitch, with a few minor tweaks here and there.)

                  And the more I’ve thought about why the planning that led to The Americans’ final season left me feeling so satisfied, where the planning that led to Game of Thrones’ final season left me feeling so dissatisfied, the more I’ve realized that planning plot points and character arcs is all well and good, but it falls apart if you adhere to them so rigidly that you can’t account for how the characters’ relationships might change.

                  Though The Americans’ writers had a very rough idea of where their show’s characters and plot might end up, they left themselves a good amount of leeway in terms of where their characters’ relationships might end up. This came in handy with the main characters’ kids in particular, because the writers were able to try out endless variations on which kid ended up where, in hopes of finding just the right version that would have the maximum impact for all of the show’s relationships.

                  And I think if I had to pinpoint why Game of Thrones’ final season so often felt slapdash, it’s probably because it didn’t pay enough attention to its characters’ relationships, as opposed to the fates of individual characters and plot points.

                  The big turn toward genocide that Daenerys takes in Game of Thrones’ penultimate episode isn’t entirely unmotivated, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere because her relationships with the other characters have barely been affected by her growing paranoia and desire for conquest. As such, it feels like she exists in a vacuum, where her actions are easier to read as simply an extension of the would-be queen she’s always been, rather than a ruler whose actions impact the people she rules, even those in her inner circle.

                  Game of Thrones as the reverse Lost

                  The Lost finale angered many of the show’s fans.

                  Ever since Lost ended in 2010, it’s been held up as an example of a show that had immense goodwill headed into its series finale, but nevertheless botched that goodwill with a bad final episode. (I love the Lost finale, but I’m well aware this is something of a niche opinion.) Nobody might claim it’s the worst finale of all time — Dexter is right there — but there’s definitely a sense that the final episode hurt the series’ reputation on some small level.

                  And on the night that Game of Thrones’ finale aired, I surmised that Game of Thrones might be the reverse Lost — a show where everything was so planned out (thanks to George R.R. Martin’s outline for the final books, which he revealed to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss shortly before season four) that it felt like an adaptation of bullet points more than something organic.

                  I wrote:

                  I don’t really think their lack of planning is to blame, because I tend to believe that planning too far ahead in TV results in bland, boring storytelling that feels deeply schematic. (See also: the How I Met Your Mother series finale, which was planned out in season two but failed to account for how much the characters would change between that season and season nine, when it finally ended.) But for quite a while there, Game of Thrones, with its carefully etched narratives, felt like it was proving me wrong.

                  Well, guess what? Game of Thrones pulled a reverse Lost! Everything was accounted for, and the writers certainly had a plan. But to put that plan in motion, they had to twist and contort the characters so heavily that the whole show became a warped, funhouse mirror version of itself.

                  Most of the time, that was fine. The spectacle was enough, and the actors were fun. But now it feels ever more like so much of what Game of Thrones made us care about for all of those years was worth very little.

                  I still think it’s true that much of what the show did amounted to very little, and that’s part of the problem. Viserion the dragon becoming an ice dragon existed solely as a schematic way for the Night King to bring down the Wall. The Night King existed mostly to unite the vast majority of the characters in a place where they could eventually squabble about letting Daenerys lead. And so on.

                  But the more I think about it, the more I think there’s an even more frustrating way in which Game of Thrones pulled a reverse Lost. Where Lost’s final few episodes made the mistake of being too much about the show’s character relationships — to the point that the biggest question the final season answers is “Will these people find each other in the afterlife?” — the final few episodes of Game of Thrones prioritized the exact opposite, rushing so quickly through plot points and character beats that viewers had no way to understand the ripple effect massive changes had throughout the cast. And that led to a gradual disconnection from the characters as anything other than symptoms of what the plot needed them to be.

                  The longer I write about TV, the more I think it’s a medium where relationships are more important than anything else. Great relationships between characters are what unites a show as traditional as The Big Bang Theory and a show as experimental as Twin Peaks (yes, even the 2017 revival season). TV is an exploration of change, and how change affects people, and how the ways those people are affected breed further change.

                  The best shows reflect this question right back at us. How do we feel about these characters now that they’ve changed? How do their shifting relationships include us in that equation? Do we still care? Do we want to see what else is on?

                  In its early going, Game of Thrones kept these questions in sight. It was really good at tracing the elaborate ways that change rippled throughout its massive cast. But in its final two seasons, the show mostly created a series of implications about what was happening and to whom.

                  Game of Thrones — which for so long was so good at tracing how small moments could create huge vibrations on entirely different continents — became a show that just kept asking you to take its word for things. Of course Dany would do this, and of course Tyrion would do that, right? If the writers say they did?

                  For some viewers, that worked well enough. But for a lot of us, it felt like what it was: a series of cut corners that damaged Game of Thrones’ most important relationship of all — the one it had with the audience.

                  Philanthropy is undergoing a massive backlash. A new book argues it’s gone too far.

                  What says “big philanthropy” more than a picture of Bono and Bill Gates at Davos?

                  A veteran philanthropy consultant defends the field.

                  American philanthropy has faced criticism basically since its inception.

                  The founding of the Rockefeller Foundation, the first institution of its kind in the US (and the benefactor of this section of Vox), was met with controversy and calls for Congress to disallow the group’s creation.

                  But the past couple years have featured the biggest backlash against elite philanthropy in decades. Three books — Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All, Rob Reich’s Just Giving, and Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Philanthropy — made the case that giving by wealthy elites can be undemocratic, a distraction from the unjust ways that wealth is created, and do more good for the givers than the receivers.

                  Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy professionally advises large foundations and other philanthropic institutions, and he thinks this backlash has gone too far. In his new book Giving Done Right and in several accompanying op-eds, he’s argued that the critiques, particularly that of Giridharadas, paint with too broad a brush and risk discouraging valuable donations.

                  “Giving among the biggest donors worldwide may fall as their charitable efforts are increasingly caricatured as self-protective ruses,” Buchanan warned in the Financial Times.

                  Buchanan and I talked the week of his book’s release about the backlash against elite philanthropy, and whether mega-donors can be defended. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

                  Dylan Matthews

                  You wrote that you think philanthropy’s getting a bad rap. Why?

                  Phil Buchanan

                  Stepping way back, for the last 18 years in this job I’ve felt like philanthropy and the nonprofit sector it supports often get taken for granted. I think we undervalue the role of this sector, particularly in our country, and I think much of the narrative has been, “Philanthropy and nonprofits are broken and business thinking has the answer.”

                  And now we have a new critique, which is more from the left politically, from folks like Anand and others, which is, “No, actually, philanthropy is just an anti-democratic force or a ruse to distract from evil-doing. Actually, government has the answer.”

                  I actually think that nobody’s got all the answers. I think it’s particularly concerning right now because there’s some evidence that giving levels may be plateauing. It’s hard to tell for sure because we’re all waiting on the Giving USA data [the gold standard dataset on charitable giving]. And while I think we should be really critical of stupid or ineffective philanthropy, we should hold up giving as a value and recognize that when done well, it can have tremendous positive impact.

                  Dylan Matthews

                  Do you really think that these critiques are deterring donations? That seems to imply that donors are more sensitive to public commentary than I would have expected.

                  Phil Buchanan

                  I don’t know for certain. I want to be clear that by all means we should critique, you know, Mark Zuckerberg for getting it wrong in Newark or the Gates Foundation for getting it wrong in their early efforts — well, really, for most of their efforts — on public education. I’ve got a ton of critical things to say, but I do worry that if philanthropy is portrayed in a consistently negative light, then I believe that that could have a negative effect on giving.

                  And I think it could also affect the perspective of policymakers. Already we’ve seen policy changes that are not necessarily positive for philanthropy in terms of the tax code and the reduction in the number of itemizers.

                  Dylan Matthews

                  To use one of your examples, one of the ideas that this wave of philanthropy skeptics has been raising is that the question to ask about what Zuckerberg did in Newark isn’t, “Did it work?” but “Why was an outside billionaire was able to funnel $100 million to a school district to affect its policies?”

                  You talk about policy change in your book, and the need to be careful in funding policy change, but I’m curious what you make of that argument, that the problem is the structure that allows this.

                  Phil Buchanan

                  I hear that argument. Ultimately in Newark, there were elected public officials who were making decisions about whether and how to relate to philanthropists. I think that there are great examples of partnerships between elected officials and philanthropy that have contributed to really, really positive effects. Part of my challenge with the current critique is I think people are conflating their unhappiness with the decisions of folks who have been elected in our democratic system with critiques of philanthropy. It’s certainly fair to also critique Cory Booker and Chris Christie for their role [in Zuckerberg’s donation].

                  I think it’s easy to forget that [in] a strong, healthy civil society, institutions that are funded outside government are an important check and counter to the power of both government and business. We can look at other countries — China might be one example — where that doesn’t exist and I’m not sure that that’s what we want.

                  Dylan Matthews

                  I want to push you on the idea that this is just pluralism. It’s not a participatory democratic system where everyone’s putting in their share and collectively we’re building the civil society that we all, together, want. It’s a select group of very high net worth individuals making those decisions.

                  And if you believe people like Benjamin Page, Jason Seawright, and Matthew Lacombe, who just wrote a whole book about this, these donors tend to have political beliefs that are not representative of the public at large. They tend to be more skeptical of taxes, tend to be more skeptical of economic regulation generally — which makes sense.

                  So I think this is an anti-oligarchy critique: by allowing these kinds of philanthropic donations, are we setting up an oligarchic structure that exists alongside our democratic structures?

                  Phil Buchanan

                  I think we run the risk of exaggerating the degree to which philanthropy is focused on, or even big philanthropy is focused on, direct policy advocacy.

                  Much of what is done is actually through the support of grassroots organizations that are working on particular issues. So, for example, the Public Welfare Foundation has done a lot of work on criminal justice reform. They have supported organizations in many states across the country that have helped to influence policy to reduce by half the number of juveniles who are incarcerated in the past decade and a half or something.

                  I write in the book about the Wilburforce Foundation, which supports conservation efforts. Most of the folks whom they are supporting are quite small. These are organizations with budgets sometimes under $1 million who are in particular communities and organizing to try to protect habitats. That’s the way that change happens.

                  Is it perfect? No. Nothing’s perfect. Should taxes on wealthy people be higher? In my view, yes.

                  The structural critiques are important and they play out in our democratic politics. But in the meantime, here we are. We have significant wealth that’s been accumulated in this country. We have endowed private foundations that don’t even have a connection on the board to the original donor. These are institutions that are focused on a mission. They’re focused on the public good.

                  I like working in the day to day, in the practical reality, where there are people with decision-making power to allocate these resources. I want to help them to do it effectively. Do I hope that our systems change? Over time, do I hope that we elect different people with different priorities? Yes. And yet every day I go to work and try to help people who are in the here and now. And I think both parts of those conversations are obviously really important.

                  Dylan Matthews

                  Your book is about doing philanthropy most effectively, and there’s one version of that idea that is exemplified by a place like GiveWell, that takes that very literally and applies it to cause selection, and tries to find causes that are best promoting living standards and health, as measured in an at least somewhat quantitative way.

                  The foundations you’re working on do that sort of work but also arts funding and cultural funding. How do you find a standard that can do all of that? How do you know that what you’re doing is effective and not just effective toward a goal that might not be desirable?

                  Phil Buchanan

                  There are no easy answers to this. Ultimately, the choice of goals is subjective. Your positive goal could be my negative outcome, right? We could have goals that are in direct opposition if, for example, one of us is seeking greater accessibility to abortion and then the other one of us wants to limit access to abortion. I think this stuff is nuanced and contextual and there isn’t a single right answer.

                  I do think that the effective altruist types have a sort of relentless rationality — this argument that you should look for where you can have the maximum effect on human lives. I think that’s a helpful challenge. At the same time, I think it’s too absolute. There is a natural human desire to give locally, for example, and to be connected to a community. I don’t think we should necessarily tell all givers that they need to squelch that desire and give internationally because their dollars go further. And I also believe that there is a role for thriving arts and cultural organizations in our societies that it’s harder to make the case for using effective altruists’ methodology.

                  I think you just have to wrestle with all of these different choices. And in the book, I try to suggest some ways to think about it and some questions to ask yourself. But I am not an absolutist on this stuff. Ultimately it’s about head and heart, and it’s about the context that you’re in and the values that you have.

                  Dylan Matthews

                  One big question that comes up a lot is, “Why should taxpayers be subsidizing this?”

                  In your book you talk about Tim Gill, who I agree is a really, really interesting case. He helped bankroll the gay rights movement, and in particular the marriage equality movement.

                  I’m all for marriage equality. I think Tim Gill had a net positive impact on the world. But I wonder, “Why is it that we have this subsidy for him and, say, a very wealthy Catholic donor who might’ve have opposed him, to go at each other? Why is that a proper thing for us to be subsidizing?”

                  Phil Buchanan

                  That’s a good question. I think public policy encouraging giving makes sense. Our tax policy unfortunately encourages things like purchasing second homes. We tax capital gains at a lower rate than regular income. There are all kinds of issues with the way we tax people in this country. I’m a little puzzled sometimes by some of the folks — particularly some of the folks on the left politically — who I tend to agree with on a variety of things. But then it’s like, wait, why are we talking about charitable deduction, but not some of these other issues?

                  I’m sure it can be done better. I think one of the big problems right now is some people don’t get any tax benefit from contributing [if they take the standard deduction]. It’s hard to justify the deduction existing just for some.

                  Basically, my view is we want to create incentives for people to give — all people at every level. What is the right level of that incentive? How should it be provided? I think Rob Reich and his book have some interesting ideas. I’m certainly not a tax policy person and I don’t have the answers, but I do think that the nonprofit sector, with all its flaws and all its weaknesses, is one of the great strengths of the country. And I think we want our policies to be supportive of that sector.

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                  The 24 Democrats running for president and everything else you should know about 2020

                  The biggest questions about the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, answered.

                  The 2020 presidential campaign is well underway.

                  Any Democrat with dreams of occupying the Oval Office can see Donald Trump is a vulnerable president who hasn’t broadened his appeal beyond his base. A lot of them are running for their party’s nomination next year.

                  Former Vice President Joe Biden finally jumped in, establishing himself as an early if unproven frontrunner. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders have been in the fray for months. Beto O’Rourke is also in. Pete Buttigieg picked up some steam. The Democratic field includes a record number of women and nonwhite candidates, a mix of high-wattage stars and lesser-known contenders who believe they can navigate a fractured field to victory.

                  Whoever emerges will face Trump, who has already raised more than $100 million for reelection to a second term. Recent history tells us Americans usually give their presidents another four years. That should lend Trump an advantage. But the president has been historically unpopular during his first term, and the US economy — typically at the top of voters’ minds — has stumbled lately.

                  Many Democratic voters don’t yet have fully formed opinions of the presumed candidates, even the “big” names: the Beto O’Rourkes, Kamala Harrises, Cory Bookers. The potential nominees with substantial name recognition are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, two older white men in a diversifying party.

                  We have a long way to go, in other words. It’s silly to pretend anybody knows how this campaign is going to end, and the 2016 election should have humbled all political prognosticators. Still, the 2020 campaign has already started. Here is what you need to know to get oriented.

                  Who is definitely running for president in 2020?

                  On the Republican side, there is of course President Donald Trump.

                  A few Republican officials — former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and popular Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — have hinted they might challenge the president in a primary. But any primary challenger would be a huge underdog against the sitting president. Republican leaders have said they want to protect Trump by potentially having state parties change the rules for their primaries to guard against an insurgency.

                  The only GOPer willing to make the leap so far is former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, a libertarian-leaning Republican who has officially entered the race.

                  On the Democratic side, the field is almost set, barring some unexpected late entries. They are, in rough order of public profile:

                  From left: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Inslee, Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennett, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson.

                  Former Vice President Joe Biden: Biden thought hard about running in 2016, but he decided against it, being so soon after his son Beau’s death and with the party establishment uniformly behind Hillary Clinton. He’s still very popular with Democratic voters, and the former veep apparently wasn’t sure any of the other potential candidates would beat Trump. Though surely inflated by name recognition, Biden has a sizable lead in the early Democratic primary polls.

                  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): The 2016 runner-up is running again. He has the biggest grassroots base of any potential candidate, and he has been the leader of the push to move the party leftward. Press reports of staff sexual misconduct within his 2016 campaign and a more competitive field will present Sanders with a very different race this time, however. Still, for many of the Democratic left, Sanders is the only candidate with the credibility to pursue their top-tier issues, like Medicare-for-all.

                  Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): The former California attorney general started generating White House hype almost as soon as she got to the Senate in 2017. As a younger black woman, she personifies the Democratic Party’s changing nature. She’s endorsed Medicare-for-all and proposed a major middle-class tax credit, though her days as a prosecutor may present problems with the progressive grassroots. Based on the early polls and media hype, Harris has made the biggest splash of any Democrats not named Sanders.

                  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): The Massachusetts senator is proudly progressive, though she tends to position herself as wanting to fix capitalism rather than replace it. She wants to outflank Trump on trade and give workers seats on corporate boards and tax extreme wealth. Warren got on the ground early in Iowa and other early states. (You might have also heard about her releasing a DNA test in an attempt to prove she had Native American roots — a poorly executed attempt to rebut Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts.)

                  Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): The former Newark mayor and part-time firefighter is another fresh face with big ideas like savings accounts for newborns, and he’s also running in a Democratic primary with a lot of black voters. He’ll have to contend, though, with his work promoting charter schools (not a favorite of the teachers unions) and the perception that he’s close with Wall Street.

                  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): Gillibrand has evolved over the years from a centrist Democrat in the House to a progressive who endorses Medicare-for-all and universal paid family leave; a pillar of her Senate career has been cracking down on sexual assault in the military. Gillibrand is presenting herself as a young mom in tune with the #MeToo era and the Democratic women who powered the party to historic wins in the 2018 midterms.

                  Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): She will look to blend her folksy, Midwestern manner with some crossover appeal, given her history of working across the aisle with Republicans and winning elections handily in a purplish state. Klobuchar is also known for her willingness to crack down on big tech firms, focused on privacy and antitrust issues. She is struggling with a lack of name recognition, however, and she has been the subject of several recent reports about her alleged harsh treatment of staff.

                  Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO): Bennet is a well-regarded but nationally little-known senator. He tacks toward the center ideologically. The passion that fuels his candidacy is a fervent frustration with the way Washington works now. Bennet believes Americans are not nearly as divided as the parties in Washington and is positioning himself accordingly.

                  Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke: The former Texas Congress member is maybe 2020’s biggest wild card. O’Rourke built a historically successful fundraising apparatus during his losing 2018 Senate run against Ted Cruz. He’s young and he gives a good speech. Obama’s old hands seem to like him. The open question is whether his self-evidence political talents are matched by policy substance.

                  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: De Blasio, mayor of America’s biggest city and already the unlikely victor of a contentious Democratic primary to get there, is touting his progressive achievements in the Big Apple as a model for the nation: enacting universal pre-K, ending stop-and-frisk, and an ambitious local health care program.

                  South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Something of a viral political star, though he leads a city of “just” 100,000 people, Buttigieg is a military veteran and a Rhodes scholar, and he would be the first openly LGBTQ president in American history. Redevelopment and infrastructure projects have been staples of his tenure as mayor.

                  Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: Inslee is centering his work on environmental issues and the threat of climate change. He has pushed a bill to get his home state off coal energy and all other carbon-producing energy sources by 2045. It hasn’t always been smooth — voters in Washington rejected an Inslee-supported carbon fee in 2015 — but the governor hopes to quickly build a profile by focusing relentlessly on humanity’s direst existential threat.

                  Montana Gov. Steve Bullock: Bullock, a two-term Democratic governor in a Trump-friendly state, is campaigning as a Washington outsider who will confront moneyed interests and reform campaign finance. He can also claim the successful expansion of Medicaid, with the buy-in of a Republican legislature, to showcase his bipartisan bona fides.

                  Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper: Hickenlooper is a moderate ex-governor who is pitching his ability to work across the aisle. On the issues, he can tout his record on gun violence, environmental regulations, and expanding Medicaid. He conveys an everyman persona, having founded a Denver brewery before he ever ran for public office.

                  Former San Antonio mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro: Castro got VP buzz in prior elections; now he’s running in his own right after serving in Barack Obama’s Cabinet, on an aspirational message as the grandson of immigrants.

                  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI): Gabbard fires up a certain strain of antiwar progressive. She’ll face tough questions, though, about her apparent friendliness with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and her past comments on LGBTQ rights.

                  Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA): The California Democrat has gained a bit of a profile from his role on the House Intelligence Committee, which has taken much of the responsibility for investigating the Trump administration over the last two years. He’s selling his candidacy as one focused on national security.

                  Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH): The Ohio congressman is pitching himself as the Democratic answer for Trump Country, arguing he can connect with the blue-collar workers the party has lost in the Midwest. He cited the closure of the Lordstown GM plant in his home state as part of his motivation for running. Ryan has a history of long-shot bids: he challenged Nancy Pelosi for the House Democratic leader post in 2016.

                  Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA): Another Pelosi skeptic who helped lead the unsuccessful rebellion to stop her from becoming House Speaker again in 2016. Moulton, who represents a district in Massachusetts and is an Iraq War veteran, is positioning himself as a moderate in contrast to the socialist energy animating the left and seeking to take over his party.

                  Former Rep. John Delaney: The most notable thing about Delaney is he’s already been running for president for two years, more or less living in Iowa, the first state on the presidential calendar. But he was the first choice of just 1 percent of Iowa Democrats in a recent poll.

                  Former Sen. Mike Gravel: The 88-year-old former senator, famed for reading the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record, is running 2020’s oddest campaign. Two teenagers convinced Gravel to launch a protest candidacy targeting the center-left and the forever war of mainstream American foreign policy.

                  Andrew Yang: A humanitarian-mind entrepreneur who also served under the Obama administration. He’s running on a policy platform that includes, among other things, a universal basic income that would pay out $1,000 a month to every American over age 18.

                  Marianne Williamson: A self-proclaimed “bitch for God” who has been a spiritual adviser to Oprah. Her previous political experience is a failed run for Congress as an independent in 2014.

                  Miramar, FL, Mayor Wayne Messam: The mayor of a Miami suburb, it seems safe to assume Messam has the lowest name recognition of any Democrat in the race. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he’s raised wages for city workers as mayor and confronted the Republican-led state government over gun control.

                  Who else might run for president in 2020?

                  The field might finally be set. There are a handful of names we’re still watching — former senator, Secretary of State and presidential nominee John Kerry and Georgia state senator Stacey Abrams chief among them — but otherwise, we have all the candidates we’re going to get.

                  When are the 2020 Democratic primary debates?

                  The Democratic National Committee announced it will hold 12 debates, starting in June 2019 and extending into 2020.

                  Given the huge field, the debates will be split across two nights to start with. Here are the dates we know so far:

                  • June 26 and 27 in Miami, FL
                  • July 30 and 31 in Detroit, MI

                  The DNC has developed a multi-faceted rubric for deciding which candidates will participate in the debates. As Vox’s Ella Nilsen reported:

                  In order to qualify for debates, candidates will need:

                  – To register 1 percent or more support in three polls between January 1 and two weeks before the debate. These polls don’t necessarily have to be national polls; public polls in the first four primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada also qualify. But they have to be done by major news organizations or qualifying universities.

                  – The DNC is also trying to incentivize grassroots donations. Candidates can qualify for the debates if they show their campaign has received donations from at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 US states.

                  The DNC is also preparing for a scenario in which there are more than 20 candidates that qualify for a single debate. If that happens, the top 20 candidates will be selected using a methodology that favors candidates that meet both the polling and grassroots donations thresholds. That will be followed by the highest polling average, which will followed by the most unique donors, according to the DNC.

                  When are the 2020 Democratic primary election and caucus nights?

                  The votes that matter won’t be cast for another year. We have 12 months of formal announcements, speeches, policy rollouts, campaign gossip, unpredictable polling, and some debates before any elections happen, when candidates start collecting the delegates they’ll need to claim the nomination.

                  Early momentum is always critical, especially in a big field with numerous candidates trying to prove they’re viable. With that in mind, the first two months of the primary schedule:

                  • February 3: Iowa caucuses
                  • February 11: New Hampshire primary
                  • February 22: Nevada caucuses
                  • February 29: South Carolina primary
                  • March 3 (“Super Tuesday”): Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont primaries
                  • March 7: Louisiana primary
                  • March 10: Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio primaries
                  • March 17: Arizona, Florida, Illinois primaries

                  There are at least three more months of primaries and caucuses after that. But the candidates will focus their attention and organizing on the earlier states, and we should know a lot more about the field and the strongest candidates once the first sprint is over.

                  How do you win the 2020 Democratic nomination?

                  The short version is you have to win a majority of the delegates.

                  Every state has different rules for its primary elections or caucuses in terms of allocating delegates. Candidates win delegates proportional to where they finish in the results.

                  In terms of numbers, there are 4,051 delegates for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (where the nominee will be formally selected) up for grabs during the primary elections. One candidate needs to win at least 2,026 delegates to be nominated.

                  You might hear talk of a “brokered” or “contested” convention if no candidate gets the necessary delegates to win on the first ballot. But that hasn’t happened for decades, and it’s way too early to think that will happen in 2020. That doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility, but let’s wait for some votes to come in before we start up that parlor game.

                  Democrats have made one major change from the 2016 primary on “superdelegates” — elected officials, party leaders, and other prominent Democrats who have votes in addition to the regular delegates awarded by state elections. In the past, superdelegates didn’t have to follow any rules and could back whichever candidate they desire and make up their minds at any point in the process. When most of them endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, it gave her a built-in delegate advantage over Bernie Sanders, though she still won enough votes independent of the superdelegates to secure the nomination.

                  In a series of reforms, the DNC has stripped superdelegates of a vote on the first ballot. So unless the convention has to move to second or third votes because no candidate has the sufficient number of delegates — something that hasn’t happened since the 1950s — superdelegates won’t matter in 2020. (Arguably, they never did. Many pointed out it was unlikely for superdelegates to use their power to overturn the outcome of the primary system, but it nevertheless created consternation within the party.)

                  Okay. So who will be the next president?

                  Ha! You almost got me.

                  I’m obese. I want a healthy lifestyle. But it’s often inaccessible to disabled people like me.

                  Diet and exercise are especially challenging for disabled people.

                  I’m at the doctor’s office watching him study my chart when a frown crinkles his cheeks. He looks up, and I know what he’s about to say.

                  “According to the BMI, you’re obese.”

                  “Is that so?”

                  “You need to diet and exercise more,” the physician, who has a chiseled physique, scolds. “Given your condition, life will be much better if you trim down.” Before I have a chance to respond, he moves on.

                  What this doctor doesn’t know, and what I don’t have the heart to tell him, is that it’s nearly impossible to lose weight when your body won’t cooperate.

                  For the past six years, a brace has ensconced my left leg, forcing me to use a metal cane to get around. I’m disabled. This is my life. It’s a good one, and most of the time I don’t complain, even when I see the pity on people’s faces after they learn that a red pick-up truck careened into me. The spinal cord injury I suffered as a result will affect me for the rest of my life.

                  Before the accident, I was a varsity tennis player and member of my high school’s marching band. I bicycled regularly, ran with friends, worked out with my father, and was in the best shape of my life. Afterward, everything changed.

                  This is because staying fit is a rarely discussed challenge for many disabled people, even in conversations with supposed experts. According to the CDC, individuals “with mobility limitations and intellectual or learning disabilities” are far more likely to be overweight, with rates of obesity for disabled adults and children 58 percent and 38 percent higher than for their able-bodied counterparts, respectively.

                  For the sake of the ever-shifting disabled community then, we need to begin a conversation about this complicating reality and the social miasma it generates.

                  The difficulties of weight loss for the disabled

                  Higher obesity rates for disabled people shouldn’t surprise us. Certain medications keep weight on, pain often deters physical activity, and cooking when impaired can be a real struggle, making it harder to maintain a healthy diet.

                  With two titanium rods and eight screws in my back, even bending down fatigues me. Since my muscles aren’t innervated properly, balance is difficult, and the slightest of unanticipated weight shifts potentially dangerous. Plates, glasses, silverware rest in cupboards at different heights in different places around the kitchen. Just securing the groceries needed to cook in the first place usually means walking around a store with no place to sit down.

                  Often, take-out is the safest option.

                  Exercising itself is a struggle: Running or hiking — a favorite pastime for my peers — clearly isn’t possible, and sometimes when I try to go without the mobility scooter, a fall ensues. Parks and gyms also pose accessibility challenges. Many parks often have unpaved paths, inaccessible curbs or unnavigable topographical features such steep hills and unlevel woods. Gyms, meanwhile, typically provide safer environments due to requirements from the Americans with Disabilities Act, but many, including my own, remain inaccessible.

                  Shortly after my accident, I was gutted to find out that I couldn’t get to the work-out room of the local tennis club without taking stairs. Changing rooms can also be hard to manage, personal trainers rarely have much experience with disabled clients, and most gym staffers never consider how a disabled individual might need help to use their facilities.

                  Numerous friends have welcomed me to join them at more accessible venues. But then my personal pride gets in the way. I don’t want to be seen bumbling about on the treadmill, out of sync with everyone else around me. I’m afraid of becoming a spectacle — of showing them just how “abnormal” I actually am.

                  Getting in shape depletes my physical and emotional resources. Most of the time, I just can’t manage the loss.

                  Facile opinions on weight-loss have outsize impact on disabled people

                  In a world where ableism is a real threat, the last thing our community needs is to be judged for our weight.

                  Yet with each new article or report about obesity comes rejuvenated efforts to address the “epidemic” or “crisis” that larger people like me, disabled and able-bodied alike, perpetuate. Physicians with lackluster training in nutrition fat-shame patients who “delay or avoid seeking medical care” as a result, a problem that has been highlighted by body positivity activist Linda Bacon. Government officials also woefully misunderstand the situation, and countless studies have confirmed that most people believe those of us with bigger bodies should be able to summon the courage to lose weight on our own.

                  But while monomaniacal exercise and diet work for some people, they don’t for most: A staggering 95 percent to 98 percent of attempts to lose weight by the general public fail for reasons that “are biological and irreversible,” wrote Michael Hobbes in HuffPost last year. Relying on these two solutions as “the primary treatment for those in larger bodies, particularly those who also have disabilities, ignores the lived experience of the individual and is not evidence-based medicine,” said Louise D. Metz, a physician connected to the Association for Size Diversity and Health.

                  Bigger disabled individuals can fall prey especially easily to the personal failure model of obesity, and be recriminated appropriately, because we attract attention. Our bodies are doubly a spectacle, not only because of our size but because we move and function differently in the world, two realities that mutually inform and magnify one another.

                  A great many other do-gooders besides the doctor above, such as medical professionals, friends, relative strangers, are also quick to point out that my existence will be much improved, that my back will feel much better, or that my brace will last much longer if I watch my weight. But no one really explains how to do this, and I don’t ask, because I can’t kick the shame associated with being fat.

                  Where does that leave us?

                  In the end, two paths lie open to those who want to address the stigmatizing relationship between disability and obesity: the first recognizes that strategies for staying physically fit as a disabled individual, while not completely elusive, require far more time, money, and creativity. To start redressing this wrong, we must ameliorate obvious barriers: Make parks more accessible, gym environments more inclusive, assistance for cooking and ambulation more affordable, and wheelchair athletic leagues a normal presence in communities.

                  But at the same time, we need to educate health care professionals who should know better in the first place. “The research is damning,” Bacon points out. “If we really care about health, we should be fighting fat stigma—not fat.” This points me toward the other path, which sets fitness aside to reconfigure the dominant model of obesity as a badge of shame. I’m not the first to suggest this of course.

                  But until more people begin asking the question, “What unique perspective might the obese person have to offer?” no amount of fat activism will do a bit of good. Those with smaller body sizes, including doctors, need to engage with large individuals before casting judgment — or even worse, making themselves feel better with the vile phrase, “at least I don’t look like that.”

                  Life would be far better for people in my position if we manage as a society to walk, run, shuffle, limp, or wheel down both.

                  Pasquale Toscano currently lives in Oxford, England, but heads to London often for the theater scene. He will return to the US for a PhD program in early-modern English literature at Princeton University, focusing on representations of disability in drama and epic poetry.

                  First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at

                  Trump ignored Congress on war powers. Constitutional scholars want Democrats to take him to court.

                  U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

                  Should Nancy Pelosi take Donald Trump to the Supreme Court?

                  A group of constitutional scholars and lawmakers want House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take President Donald to the Supreme Court — over the war in Yemen.

                  Their case is straightforward: Trump is unilaterally involving the United States in war, and that’s unconstitutional. For four years, the United States has participated in a war in Yemen that was never authorized by Congress, and that Congress expressly told Trump to withdraw from. Trump ignored the directive. Now, as the White House escalates tensions with Iran, there’s growing concern that unless legal action is taken, Congress will cede more war powers to Trump.

                  In April, Congress passed a historic War Powers Resolution, directing Trump to remove troops involved in “hostilities” in Yemen. Trump vetoed it, cementing American fingerprints on one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world: According to the most recent United Nations report, 80 percent of the Yemeni population — 24 million people — is in need of humanitarian assistance. The Senate failed to reach the 67-vote threshold needed to override the executive veto on the bill.

                  Trump said the War Powers Resolution was an attempt to “weaken [his] constitutional authorities.” But the power to authorize a declaration of war, of course, sits with Congress, not Trump.

                  Constitutional scholars are now arguing a War Powers Resolution isn’t a normal bill. They say it is a fundamental constitutional question about the power to authorize war. And the stakes are high.

                  “The president’s veto doesn’t end this conversation,” Bruce Ackerman, a constitutional law scholar with Yale University told Vox. He, along with a diverse group of legal experts have sent Pelosi a letter urging her to take legal action.

                  The United States got involved in Yemen four years ago when Saudi Arabia and its allies began a military campaign in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The US is providing Saudis with intelligence, arms and ammunition, and, until late last year, fuel for their warplanes. The warplanes that bombed a school bus, killing at least 40 children last August, did so with an American-made bomb.

                  The war that has killed more than 50,000 people, according to one independent estimate, and has left tens of millions more in need of assistance. Trump is determined to keep course, and has shown he is committed to his alliance to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even after it became clear the prince called for Saudi Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

                  Since Trump’s veto, his administration has escalated tensions with Iran, spreading concern that Trump is itching to stoke another war. These concerns were exacerbated on Friday, when the administration sidestepped Congress again, unilaterally authorizing $8 billion in arms sales, including to Saudi Arabia and its allies, to counter Iran.

                  “This is a moment of truth, both for the congressional war power and for the Supreme Court of the United States,” Ackerman said. “Does the Supreme Court of the United States — and its claim of originalism — is that supposed to be taken seriously?”

                  The case for taking Trump to the Supreme Court, briefly explained

                  Constitutionally, Congress has the power to declare war, and the president, as the commander in chief, has the power to direct the military after Congress’s authorization. Historically, America’s war making has gone differently; presidents have consistently pushed the boundaries of their power.

                  For example, for the past 18 years, presidents of both parties have have used the same 2001 congressional war authorization — passed after 9/11 — as justification for going into war across the Middle East, including Yemen. The Obama administration did not ask Congress for specific authorization before involving itself in Yemen. The Trump administration hasn’t either, bypassing the legislative branch as it negotiated billions of dollars in arms deals, and as it conducted military operations.

                  Instead of seeking congressional approval for war, presidents have increasingly turned to their internal legal counsels to build a largely secret body of law to defend their war engagements, Mary Dudziak, a constitutional scholar with Emory University School of Law, said.

                  “Especially since 9/11, Congress has let power accumulate in the executive branch,” Dudziak said. “And Congress does that by sitting back and not objecting, which is why Pelosi’s role is really important right now.”

                  Now, Dudziak, and others, say Congress has an opportunity to fight back. Legal scholars are pointing to a 1950s Supreme Court case, the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, to make the case to Democratic leadership that Congress has the winning argument against Trump on war powers.

                  In 1952, during the Korean War, a labor strike stalled steel production, cutting the availability of war materials for American troops. So President Harry Truman invoked his emergency powers to seize private steel mills to force steelworkers back, blatantly defying specific provisions in the Taft-Hartley Act — a largely anti-union labor law from 1947. Truman’s justification was that he could not wage a successful war without the proper materials, and therefore was allowed to act outside the law.

                  The Supreme Court rejected Truman’s case, and importantly, Justice Robert Jackson’s opinion established a clear three-tier framework for presidential powers. He wrote a president’s powers are at maximum strength only with Congress’ authorization. When Congress shows indifference, presidential power is in a “twilight zone,” as both branches can claim authority over a given matter. Finally, a president’s power is “at its lowest ebb,” when Congress has specifically disapproved of an action.

                  US involvement in the war in Yemen firmly sits in this third category. Congress has passed a War Powers Resolution — a form of legislative action established in 1973 to prevent another Vietnam War — specifically directing Trump to withdraw from Yemen. In passing the resolution, Congress not only tried to claw back its constitutional powers from the president, but also asserted that the executive had overstepped his bounds as commander in chief, going to war without Congress’s approval.

                  “We have the leading fundamental precedent on this requiring the Supreme Court to scrutinize presidential war making,” Ackerman said. “If Nancy Pelosi doesn’t go to court and urge the Supreme Court to intervene when Congress has for the first time invoked this [War Power Resolution], in the case where neither President Obama nor President Trump has gained the approval, it establishes a precedent that this War Power shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

                  Do Democrats want to get into this fight?

                  Since Trump’s veto, lawmakers and activists have all been waiting for their next move on Yemen.

                  “We continue to consider all viable options to end this humanitarian crisis,” Pelosi’s spokesperson said.

                  Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who shuttled the War Power Resolution through the House, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) doing the same in the Senate, is hopeful: “It wasn’t a no,” he told Vox of leadership’s interest in taking Trump to court. That said, there still isn’t consensus that this is the best strategy going forward.

                  Sanders told Vox he would be supportive of Pelosi taking legal action, but said his primary focus is on building enough support that the Senate can overturn Trump’s veto. Sanders often talks about Yemen, and the importance of Congress’ war powers (especially with respect to Trump’s escalations with Iran), on the national stage as one of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

                  “I think essentially we have got to rally the American people to understand what a horrible humanitarian disaster this is, and we need the votes to override Trump’s veto — that is to me the major issue,” Sanders said. “The court case would go on and on. And we need immediate action.”

                  Dudziak acknowledged the need for both legal action, and a national campaign to gain Americans’ attention.

                  “The only way for Congress to have any role in restraining president’s war power is for Congress to act,” she said. “The hardest thing to [doing] anything is profound apathy about our conflict on the part of the American people.”

                  Mike Gravel, 2020’s oddest Democratic presidential candidate, explained

                  Mike Gravel ran for president in 2008 and then seemed done with political life. But now he is running 2020’s oddest presidential campaign.

                  Mike Gravel, the anti-war zealot, is running for president on Twitter.

                  Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel is running for president. Seriously.

                  Gravel isn’t holding campaign events. He hasn’t stepped foot in Iowa or New Hampshire. In fact, until a couple teenagers called him in March and urged him to run for president again, he was just an 80-something former Democratic senator and 2008 presidential candidate quietly fading from the public’s memory. Now Gravel is the subject, if not exactly the author, of the 2020 presidential election’s oddest campaign.

                  The former senator is a legend of the anti-war movement, having fought to end the Vietnam War draft and taken the perilous step of entering the leaked Pentagon Papers into the official congressional record. He made a big splash in 2008, his last serious foray into politics, by hammering the other Democratic candidates for being too closely allied with the military industrial complex. This was and is a serious guy.

                  But that doesn’t change the fact that it was two teenagers who convinced Gravel to enter the 2020 race and that the same teens are effectively managing his campaign by running his Twitter account. The most bizarre part of all of this is that Gravel could actually secure enough donors to technically qualify for the Democratic Party’s primary debates that begin next month. For a campaign that sounds a little like performance art, that would be quite an accomplishment.

                  Gravel is a credible voice for the anti-war left and, during a primary largely defined by how little interest the competing candidates have shown in criticizing one another, his unusual campaign has been happy to take shots at other Democrats. It can only help to have online-savvy youngsters turning his anti-establishment message into Twitter-friendly Marie Kondo memes.

                  You would be forgiven for not knowing what to make of Gravel 2020. We’ve never seen a protest candidate quite like this. But his candidacy should be a reminder of two things: the energy on the anti-war left is real and the rules of presidential campaigning have been rewritten after Trump.

                  Mike Gravel and some teens are kind of running for president

                  It sounds like a tall tale — two random New York teenagers listen to the ribald socialist podcast Chapo Trap House, learn about Gravel, and then literally call him up and ask him to run for president — but that is more or less what happened.

                  Gravel’s 2020 campaign started seemingly at random in mid-March, as his Twitter account announced he would run for president “not … to win, but to bring a critique of American imperialism to the Democratic debate stage.” Splinter got the whole backstory from David Oks, the high school senior who thought up this unlikely endeavor:

                  Oks, a high school senior who has previously run for mayor of his small New York town, told Splinter that he and several friends are avid listeners of the Chapo Trap House podcast, which mentioned Gravel in a recent episode. About a week ago, he and a couple friends reached out to Gravel and asked if he would consider making another run for president. Their pitch was clear. “My friends and I were encouraging him to consider running for president with the idea being that he would not try to contest any primaries, he would just try to get into the Democratic debates,” he said.

                  Oks and his friends were clearly inspired by Gravel’s performance in the 2008 debates, where he delivered a searing indictment of the vast majority of his fellow candidates for their support of the Iraq war and their continued commitment to American interventionism in the Middle East.

                  Thus far, Gravel’s campaign has largely been limited to saucy tweets. Oks and his friends, who act as the senator’s voice on social media, have been aggressive about criticizing the center-left candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Frontrunner Joe Biden is the frequent target of the Gravel account’s vitriol.

                  The senator himself has appeared on a popular podcast from the lefty Intercept news organization and espoused the same message in an interview with the Washington Post’s David Weigel. He is not here to make friends. Here is a sampling of what Gravel told Weigel about some of his 2020 competitors, starting with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:

                  “I don’t think he’s a very good mayor,” said Gravel, a former senator from Alaska who, with much less fanfare, is running for president. He thought even less of other candidates. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) was an “empty shirt.” Climate-focused Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was running on “the safest issue any Democrat can run on.” Beto O’Rourke “jumped on tables like he had Saint Vitus’ dance.” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who represented a district not far from Gravel’s adopted home, was a total mystery: “If he’d gotten anything done in Congress, wouldn’t I have heard about it?”

                  You could boil down the entire Gravel candidacy, especially given its extremely online nature, to one tweet:

                  Mike Gravel is still trying to be recognized as a legitimate 2020 campaign

                  Despite those pointed barbs and bemused media coverage of the unusual origins of his campaign, Gravel has struggled to gain mainstream acceptance that he is, in fact, a real candidate for president.

                  Prominent polling outfits often leave him out of their 2020 surveys — and considering those polls help candidates qualify for the primary debates under the rules set up by the Democratic National Committee, that’s a serious problem. Gravel’s campaign has been left to urge his fans to lobby polling firms to include him.

                  Gravel’s campaign has all but accused the DNC of blacklisting the senator. In this Medium post, aide Kate Tyler said the campaign called Democratic headquarters more than 200 times to get information about the party’s debate qualifications:

                  In those 200 attempts, we spoke to a real person three times. The first person told us they’d call back, the second transferred us to a voicemail that was never returned, and the third tried to send us back to the front desk. We’ve left messages and sent e-mails and scoured our contact lists for someone who might give us the time of day. After hundreds of man-hours with no results, we’re left with only one conclusion: we’re being stonewalled.

                  To this day, we have yet to get in contact with someone with authority over debate qualifications. That means we have no more information than what is publicly available. That is completely unacceptable.

                  It should be noted that the DNC has indicated it will have some say over which candidates make it into the debates, with its rules allowing for further “winnowing” to keep the events manageable in a race with two dozen candidates. Gravel will clearly be on the bubble and this amusing little side story of a campaign might quickly draw to a close if he doesn’t get the imprimatur of an official debate invitation.

                  Still, Gravel had received money from 30,000 donors as of early May, about halfway to the 65,000 threshold to qualify for debates under the DNC’s rules. And if the senator somehow gets up on that stage, he will have a point to make.

                  Mike Gravel, the anti-imperialist leftist candidate

                  The Democratic presidential campaign so far has been preoccupied with the idea of electability. The whole premise of Joe Biden’s campaign is that he can beat Donald Trump. Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and other candidates have predicated their White House bids on a generational contrast with Trump. Elizabeth Warren is hoping that the candidate with a real plan for what they’d do as president can break through with the primary voters.

                  But Gravel is distinct. When he entered the race, winning wasn’t even on the agenda. He (and his industrious young assistants) wanted to leave a mark on the debate. And while the infrastructure of his campaign might sound like the set-up for a late-night monologue joke, the point Gravel wants to make is deathly serious.

                  Gravel is the anti-war, anti-“American foreign policy for the last 50 years” candidate. Some of his priorities are the same as every other Democrat: He wants to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. But he also wants to end unilateral sanctions against other sovereign nations. He wants to close every American base in a foreign territory and cut US military spending by 50 percent.

                  He wants to end American aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Mike Gravel, it is safe to say, says things you won’t see almost any other candidate say.

                  It’s not as if Gravel is above making mistakes, but the man knows his message. After he made some ill-advised comments about Buttigieg’s sexual orientation, Gravel backtracked and then he turn it into a critique of American imperialism. You can decide for yourself how effective the pivot was — offensive comments about another candidate’s sex life are proof enough that being woke on war isn’t a cure against other blind spots — but it is illustrative of how singularly focused Gravel’s campaign is.

                  Gravel has the bona fides, dating back to his 12 years in the Senate from 1969 to 1981. He filibustered to try to end the draft during the Vietnam War. He read the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record. He opposed nuclear testing. After leaving office, he was an opponent of the Iraq war and criticized Barack Obama for his drone strike campaign.

                  Look, he is a character. Gravel oddly campaigned for the vice presidential nomination in 1972. He ran for president in 2008 after nearly 30 years out of office, getting a viral moment for his troubles, and then he pursued the Libertarian Party’s nomination when he quickly fell out of the Democratic running. He has talked about putting every piece of legislation up for a nationwide ballot referendum. Then a couple teenagers convinced him to quote-unquote run for president again.

                  But, as an uncompromising anti-war candidate, he’s still an interesting voice in the debate. Bernie Sanders didn’t formulate much of a foreign policy message in 2016 and, while he has worked to flesh out his platform, the left still really hasn’t pulled together a cohesive foreign policy message, as Vox’s Alex Ward recently outlined:

                  The Democratic Party is a big tent, and the party’s left flank is increasingly out of step with more centrist Democrats who have espoused traditional US foreign policy positions for decades. And progressives have historically stumbled when trying to present a viable foreign policy alternative to the more military- and security-focused conservatives on the right.

                  Other lefty candidates, such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), have some problematic associations (she has been criticized for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad) that prevent them from being taken very seriously. Gravel has gravitas, if nothing else, on the issues he cares most about.

                  Mike Gravel almost certainly isn’t going to be the next president. But he could give a voice to the anti-war left in a primary hurting for bigger and bolder ideas about how to reorient American foreign policy. That is, if he can get anybody to take him and his motley crew of unlikely campaign staff seriously.

                  Correction: This post originally stated Tulsi Gabbard has spoken well of Syria’s Bashar al Assad. Rather, she has met with him and she has said he is not an enemy of the United States.

                  Reminiz automatically indexes and tags videos in real time

                  Meet French startup Reminiz, a computer vision company that can index any type of video — it’s a sort of Googlebot, but for video content. Reminiz can add tags of people, logos or emotions on live streams and on-demand videos. “The web is designed so that you can search for text — not video. We are […]

                  Lindsey Graham proposes invading Venezuela to oust Maduro

                  A rally for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

                  Graham believes the threat of an invasion could check what he says is Cuban influence in the country.

                  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close ally of President Donald Trump, suggested the president take a tough stance in dealing with the ongoing Venezuelan crisis: A US invasion similar to the one executed by Ronald Reagan in Grenada back in 1983.

                  “Trump said rightly, Maduro’s not the legitimate leader of Venezuela. The entire region supports the Trump approach, that Guaidó is the legitimate leader,” Graham said on Fox News Sunday. “I would do exactly what Reagan did. I would give Cuba the ultimatum to get out of Venezuela. If they don’t, I would let the Venezuelan military know, you’ve got to choose between democracy and Maduro. And if you choose Maduro and Cuba, we’re coming after you. This is in our backyard.”

                  Venezuela is currently in the midst of a presidential crisis following a massive economic collapse. The US has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly, as the country’s rightful president.

                  Guaidó declared himself president this past January, arguing that the 2018 election that put President Nicolás Maduro in the executive’s chair was invalid, in part because members of the opposition were banned from running. As head of the National Assembly, Guaidó said he will serve as Venezuela’s president until new elections can be held. But Maduro refuses to step aside.

                  Graham called on the United States to be ready to intervene militarily in Venezuela last week in a piece in the Wall Street Journal. There, as in his Fox interview, the senator argued Cuba is helping to prop up Maduro, and that the US should use its military to counter what Graham called the “Western Hemisphere version of Iran.”

                  White House national security adviser John Bolton has said Cuba has at least 20,000 soldiers in Venezuela assisting Maduro; Cuban officials have called that figure outrageous, saying they have no troops in the country.

                  Graham is clearly disinclined to believe Cuba, and told McClatchy, “We’re not occupying Venezuela, but if Maduro refuses to go and the Cubans keep using their military apparatus to prop him up, it is in our national security interest to do in Venezuela what Reagan did in Grenada.”

                  The Grenada invasion occurred in 1983, following a violent power struggle within the small Caribbean country’s Marxist government. The Reagan administration said the invasion was necessary to protect American citizens on the island; it initially sent in 2,000 troops, with the number eventually swelling to 6,000. Around 20 American troops were killed — though the regime was in fact overthrown within a matter of days.

                  Reagan later called the invasion an important check on communist influence, telling the American people “when the thugs tried to wrest control of Grenada, there were 30 Soviet advisers and hundreds of Cuban military and paramilitary forces on the island.”

                  Graham has not outlined how an invasion of Venezuela using Grenada as a template would work. In 1983, Grenada had a population of less than 100,000, and as Reagan noted, the island is roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C. Venezuela, on the other hand, has a population of a little over 28 million people, is larger than Texas, and has roughly 160,000 troops in its military.

                  In speaking with Fox, the senator did advise caution in another area of foreign policy, voicing misgivings about the new round of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which the Trump administration might execute using a legal loophole to circumvent Congress.

                  “I’ve got a real problem with going back to do doing business as usual with Saudi Arabia. Jordan is a great ally; the UAE has been problematic in Yemen, but a good ally,” Graham said. “Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, but the Crown Prince was, in my opinion, involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. And he’s done a lot of other disruptive things.”

                  At the same time, Graham also called for a greater presence of American troops in the Middle East, claiming increased troop presence would serve as a check on Iran while arguing against invading the country.

                  “I do support American troops going into the Mideast in larger numbers, to deter Iran,” Graham said. “President Trump is putting a lot of pressure on Iran. They’re trying to break our will, and this is an effort to deter Iranian aggression — not to invade Iran.”

                  CoinBits launches as a passive investment app for bitcoin

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                  Livekick raises $3M to use live video for one-on-one training

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                  Luckin leaves bitter aftertaste, now trading below IPO price

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                  Why Luckin’s ultimate target may not be Starbucks

                  Starbucks plans to double its store count in China to 5,000 in 2021 and Luckin, a one-year-old coffee startup, is matching up by aiming to reach 4,500 by the end of this year. Luckin’s upsized $651 million flotation has brought American investors’ attention to this potential Starbucks rival in China, where the Seattle giant controlled […]

                  Nigeria’s Gokada raises $5.3M round for its motorcycle ride-hail biz

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                  Online bank Simple makes things harder by removing bill pay

                  With a growing number of challenger banks taking on the U.S. market, one of the original startup banks, Simple — now owned by BBVA — has taken the unusual step of removing a core banking feature: bill pay. The company claimed the feature was under-utilized and usage was trending downwards, which is why it decided […]

                  Facebook releases community standards enforcement report

                  Facebook has just released its latest community standards enforcement report and the verdict is in: people are awful, and happy to share how awful they are with the world. The latest effort at transparency from Facebook on how it enforces its community standards contains several interesting nuggets. While the company’s algorithms and internal moderators have […]

                  Canopy’s upscale co-working business adds a new location in SF on the heels of strategic funding

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                  Instagram’s vertical IGTV surrenders to landscape status quo

                  A year ago Instagram made a bold bet with the launch of IGTV: That it could invent and popularize a new medium of long-form vertical videos. Landscape uploads weren’t allowed. Co-founder Kevin Systrom told me in August that “What I’m most proud of is that Instagram took a stand and tried a brand new thing […]

                  Streem buys Selerio in effort to boost its AR teleconferencing tech

                  Streem, an AR startup that is meshing teleconferencing software with computer vision tech, has acquired a small U.K. startup called Selerio that’s also building out augmented reality technologies. The startups were both members of betaworks’ VisionCamp accelerator program last year where they met and collaborated while tackling separate computer vision problems in the AR space. […]

                  Indian PM Narendra Modi’s reelection spells more frustration for US tech giants

                  Amazon and Walmart’s problems in India look set to continue after Narendra Modi, the biggest force to embrace the country’s politics in decades, led his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to a historic landslide re-election on Thursday, reaffirming his popularity in the eyes of the world’s largest democracy. The re-election, which gives Modi’s government another […]

                  Not All Tax Expenditures Are Equal

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                  Automattic acquires subscription payment company Prospress

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                  Andreessen pours $22M into PlanetScale’s database-as-a-service

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                  Tax Burden on Labor in Europe

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                  Vox Sentences: Nevada is no Alabama

                  Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what’s happening in the world. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

                  Nevada pushes back against a national trend of restricting reproductive rights; polls predict strong results for nationalists in EU elections.

                  Nevada moves to relax abortion restrictions

                   Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
                  • Nevada is pushing back against a national trend of restricting reproductive rights by passing a law that would relax abortion requirements. [Las Vegas Review-Journal / Colton Lochhead]
                  • The state Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that removes a requirement for physicians to document the age and marital status of a patient seeking an abortion and tell them about the “physical and emotional implications” of the procedure. It would also decriminalize the act of giving a pregnant patient abortion-inducing medication without a physician’s advice. [Vox / Anna North]
                  • The bill, which passed on a mostly party-line vote 27-13, will go back to the Senate for a final vote. It will then go to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who is a supporter of abortion rights. [NPR / Matthew S. Schwartz]
                  • The bill comes only a week after Alabama passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban, which did not even allow exceptions for rape and incest.