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Why Instagram Removing Public Likes Won’t Solve the Platform’s Problems


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If a friend likes your post, but no one can see it, does the like even matter? Beginning this week, that hypothetical becomes a real issue. As early as today, Instagram will begin rolling out a new update: removing like counts from public view. Positioned as a “test,” the update won’t affect all users right away, but it could become a permanent update if early trials go well. And while users originally theorized that it could be an attempt to quell the power of influencers, it turns out that it’s mostly a measure meant to get all of us to stop comparing our damn selves to one another.

The move was announced Friday by head of Instagram Adam Mosseri at a Wired event. Already in effect in multiple other countries, the elimination of public likes is an attempt to shift Instagram from a popularity contest to an innocuous collection of your friends’ posts, with Mosseri citing the competitive pressures that have riddled the app for a while. You know, because if your dog gets fewer likes than your friends, it’s probably garbage. Just kidding. No dog is garbage, but apparently you could feel that way. Additionally, there have been studies (most putting the emphasis on teens) suggesting that attention to likes can affect the mental health of users, contributing to a decreased feeling of self-worth. Yikes.

But to recap, the hiding of likes will go as follows: Users can still like posts, see likes on their own posts, and comment. You just can’t see other people’s likes. And those metrics are still available to businesses who need them for reporting and research purposes (a.k.a., hiring influencers to push their brand). So really, likes aren’t going anywhere, as much as they’re just taking some private time.

While the removal of Instagram likes has the good intention of alleviating social media pressure, it also seems a bit… inconsequential. The very existence of likes continues to perpetuate an unhealthy need for approval and acceptance. A joint 2017 study from the AP and the University of Chicago indicated that around 15 percent of teens admitted to feeling a pressure to show “their best selves” on social media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the pressure stemmed simply from a comparison of like counts. In recent years, Hollywood stars have been forced off the platform for the hate messages received in comments, which indicates Instagram’s pressure issue runs deeper than tapping “like” and counting the total.

Users can still like posts, see likes on their own posts, and comment. You just can’t see other people’s likes.

The decision has been met with social media backlash, of course, including a comment from Cardi B, who suggested that Instagram’s real issue is with the comments section and not like counts. “This is just my opinion….I mean what makes you feel more insecure getting no likes or people constantly giving opinions about you, your life and topics?” she wrote. And as some have suggested, hiding likes doesn’t particularly mean that users won’t air their like counts manually via posts and stories.

In short, Instagram is just making it way harder for a user to flex their popularity. And when it comes to mental health and like measurements, it appears that the onus is going to be more on the user and less on the company who perpetuates “like culture.” A great first step? Remember this: No matter how many likes your IG post about your dog gets, know that he’s a very good boy who doesn’t need metrics to prove his worth.





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Politics

Trump To Reporters: “You’d Be Doing The Public A Service” If You Reveal Identity Of Ukraine Whistleblower | Video



President Trump rages against the media, House Democrats and the Ukraine whistleblower, and the most recent election polls as he returns to the White House from New York City.

He claimed the whistleblower’s report about the Ukraine phone call was “a false story” and that he or she “should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false stories — some people would call it a fraud.”

“My phone call was perfecto, totally appropriate,” Trump also said, calling the whistleblower a “Brennan guy” and an “Obama guy” and a “fraud” and “a radical.”

“The whistleblower should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false information,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “He made up a story.”

“They know who it is! You know who it is, you just don’t want to report it. CNN knows who it is, but you don’t want to report it. And, you know, you’d be doing the public a service if you did,” said to the reporters gathered on the White House lawn.

Trump tweeted earlier Sunday morning:

(The name of an individual alleged to be the whistleblower was published last week by Paul Sperry with RealClearInvestigations..)

Lawyers representing the whistleblower published an op-ed in the Washington Post Sunday edition saying: “Because our client has no additional information about the president’s call, there is no justification for exposing their identity and all the risks that would follow… Exposing the identity of the whistleblower and attacking our client would do nothing to undercut the validity of the complaint’s allegations. What it would do, however, is put that individual and their family at risk of harm. Perhaps more important, it would deter future whistleblowers from coming forward in subsequent administrations, Democratic or Republican.”





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Technology

Autonomous flying taxi startup Ehang files $100 million initial public offering


Ehang, a Chinese company that builds drones large enough to carry human passengers, filed paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to go public on Nasdaq with a $100 million offering of depository shares. The company, which has flown thousands of test flights over the years, is preparing to launch what it hopes is the world’s first autonomous air taxi service in the coming months.

The company’s primary vehicle is the two-seater, 16-rotor Ehang 216, which is based on the previous generation Ehang 184, but with eight arms instead of four. This allows the vehicle to seat two passengers instead of just one. The 216 was first announced in February 2018, after which time the company demonstrated both piloted and autonomous test flights. A piloted flight test with Dutch Prince Pieter-Christiaan took place at the Amsterdam ArenA in April 2018.

Ehang recently received approval from local and national regulators to launch a commercial air mobility service in Guangzhou, China. As part of the pilot program, Ehang is working with the Guangzhou government to set up an air traffic control center to oversee its “autonomous aerial vehicles.” On the passenger front, Ehang has said it plans to use the pilot program to test more flight routes and “vertiports” from which its electric aircraft would take off and land. The company also plans to cargo deliveries of low-weight medical supplies, including blood and organs for emergency use.

Ehang is one of dozens of companies that are convinced “flying cars” will become a viable mode of urban transportation in the future. These include drone makers, aerospace firms, ride-hailing companies, and even a few automakers. There are broad technical and regulatory challenges that could prevent this future from being realized — which Ehang acknowledges in its filing with the SEC — but the sheer number of prototypes that have taken flight around the globe suggests some version of an aerial taxi service may eventually come to pass.

Founded in 2014, Ehang last announced funding in 2015 when it raised $42 million in a Series B round, according to TechCrunch. Ehang got its start in the commercial drone business, though, recently, it has stopped selling its drones in the US and Germany due to “intense competition” in both of those countries, according to the filing. As a result, Ehang’s subsidiaries in those countries declared bankruptcy.

Ehang lists other risk factors, including the ongoing trade war and the Trump administration’s use of national security powers to ban certain Chinese companies from selling products in the US. Ehang warns that its autonomous aerial vehicles could also end up on a “blacklist” in the future.

Ehang is not a profitable company: in the first half of 2019, it had a net loss of $5.5 million and net operating cash outflows of $5.8 million. It’s also particularly dependent on one customer for the bulk of its revenue, around 45 percent, it says. As of June 2019, the company’s accounts receivable from two customers accounted for 66 percent of Ehang’s total balance. The company would be “adversely affected” if these customers canceled orders or stopped purchasing Ehang’s products, it says.


Ehang acknowledges that one crash or fatality could upend its entire business. This risk factor, in particular, should be read and absorbed by anyone who thinks flying taxis will become a common sight in cities in the future. It’s a fairly substantive reality check (emphasis ours):

An accident involving an AAV provided by us or another manufacturer could cause regulatory agencies around the world to tighten restrictions on the use of AAVs, particularly over populated areas, and could cause the public to lose confidence in our products and AAVs generally. There are risks associated with autopilot, flight control, communications and other advanced technologies, and, from time to time, there have been accidents associated with these technologies. The safety of certain cutting-edge technologies depends in part on user interaction, and users may not be accustomed to using such technologies. We could face unfavorable and tightened regulatory control and intervention on the use of autopilot and other advanced technologies and be subject to liability and government scrutiny to the extent accidents associated with our autonomous navigation systems occur. Should a high-profile accident occur resulting in substantial casualty or damages, either involving our AAVs or products offered by other companies, public confidence in and regulatory attitudes toward AAVs could deteriorate. Any of the foregoing could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and growth prospects.

In an interview earlier this year with The Verge, Ehang chief marketing officer Derrick Xiong said the greatest challenge his company faces is “social acceptance” of autonomous flying taxis. “We need to have more flying hours, we need to have more flight data,” Xiong said. “We need to increase our testing passenger from 200 people to 2,000 people to 20,000 people.”

Xiong recalled feeling “really nervous” during his first test flight in the Ehang 184 three years ago, but once he landed, he immediately wanted to go again. “I was like, you know, I want to do one more!” he said.



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Movies

Jim Carrey Talks Kowtowing To Sonic The Hedgehog Public Pressure



Jim Carrey plays the movie’s villain, Dr. Ivo Robtonik in Sonic the Hedgehog and is now sharing some of his thoughts on what happens when the fans win. Here’s what he says:

It’s not often that fans share their distaste in a movie prior to a release and the filmmakers decide to just go back to work and shift things around. Paramount is likely losing money on Sonic with redesign reworks happening at a quick pace and not to mention the movie will now open against Birds of Prey and The King’s Man. Jim Carrey poses some interesting words in light of the changes being made to Sonic the Hedgehog to the Sioux City Journal. What happens when creatives give away some creative liberties to please their audience?

But in this instance we are talking about Sonic the Hedgehog, the vastly popular video game character tons of fans grew up with. The issue at hand was that Sonic just didn’t look like Sonic. He had human teeth, long legs and completely different eyes. Some might say the design veered on nightmarish. Although it’s pretty incredible the filmmakers couldn’t anticipate this reaction before, they seem to understand it now as its inspired edits.

Sonic executive producer Tim Miller, who directed Deadpool and the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate recently said he’s seen the redesign and thinks “fans will be pleased” about it. The movie stars Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz as the blue hedgehog (who is apparently an alien now), James Marsden as a cop named Tom, alongside Jim Carrey’s Dr. Ivo Robtonik.

Sonic the Hedgehog hits theaters on February 14, 2020.



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Trending News

The Public School Calendar Forces Me To Choose Between Academic Success or My Jewish Faith


In 2014, I made the difficult and overwhelming decision to switch from the private Jewish day academy where I’d spent six years to attend middle school at a public magnet program. I dropped the khaki shorts, polos, and traditional “kippah” head covering for the unfamiliar world of graphic tees and Abercrombie jeans.

At first, my transition was easy. There was no initial culture shock — I made friends, did well in my classes, and quickly grew accustomed to the busier, more diverse environment of public school. It wasn’t until late September, a month into school, that I was hit with the cold reality of how difficult my life was about to become.

Each fall, Jewish people are faced with back-to-back religious observances, starting with Rosh Hashanah and lasting through Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. When I had attended the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy, I was given breaks for all the Jewish holidays, fasts, and religious observances, allowing me to spend time with my family or in our synagogue. In public school, however, I had to report to class on day two of Rosh Hashanah, on Erev (the eve of) Yom Kippur, during the entire weeklong holiday of Sukkot, and on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. My family traditions were disrupted, and my religious obligations were stifled. (The A.W. Dreyfoos School did not immediately return Teen Vogue‘s requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County School District told Teen Vogue that local schools close annually in observance of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and sent a link to the policy outlining that students are allowed to take excused absences for religious reasons and make up missed work “without adverse effects.”)

Students of other minority religions and cultures encounter the same obstacles. Muslim students sit in class during the entire fasting month of Ramadan as well as Eid; Hindu students miss out on Diwali festivities; and most public schools do not offer time off for students who participate in significant cultural celebrations like the Chinese New Year. The only group of American students that receives real time off for their observances are Christians, who in some districts receive two full weeks off for the two day holiday of Christmas.

People have asked me, “But doesn’t Hanukkah occur during winter break too?” The answer is only sometimes, since Jews follow a lunisolar calendar that doesn’t always line up with the Gregorian calendar. Besides, Hanukkah is not even one of the Jewish high holidays; on the hierarchy from most to least holy, it ranks pretty low. It’s just the holiday that Christians assume to be most momentous, because, well, it falls around the same season.

Of course, non-Christian students could just take the day off from school when necessary, right? Many schools would mark these practices as excused absences, after all. In middle school, this worked for me fine, so I kept my mouth shut. But now, in a high school system that pressures students to unrealistically stack four or more AP or college-level courses, try dual enrollment or take online classes, and participate in countless extracurriculars, excused absences only go so far. Missing class can be a major setback, and getting back on track isn’t as simple as turning in a late assignment. So I find myself sacrificing the traditions my ancestors have kept for thousands of years to keep up with my workload.

The root of the problem is Christian-centrism. America was founded by Christians and has always created institutions that disproportionately benefit the majority religious group. It’s no surprise that our school breaks are unfairly centered around Christian traditions while neglecting the equally important holidays of other faiths and cultures. My struggles won’t end when I graduate high school, as it’s possible I will face the same issue in college and in future jobs.



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Music

Public Enemy’s Chuck D Awarded 2019 Woody Guthrie Prize


Chuck D, the iconic Public Enemy rapper, has been awarded the 2019 Woody Guthrie Prize, Variety reports. The award is given to artists who speak up for the less fortunate through their art. Previous recipients include Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples, and Kris Kristofferson.

“Woody was a fighter for the people, and Chuck D’s message has consistently aligned with Woody’s: choose a side, fight the power and work for a better world,” said Woody Guthrie Center director Deana McCloud. “We are honored to recognize Chuck’s work as he shines a light on social and cultural issues through his words and encourages us all to take action for equality and justice. We know that Woody would be rapping right alongside him as he speaks truth to power.”



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Trending News

Chicago Public School Teachers Are on Strike — With Support From Their Students


Miracle Boyd, a senior at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy and a youth leader with GoodKids MadCity, emphasized the importance of investing in predominantly Black and Latinx schools. “There is a social inequity that has plagued minorities for years at a time and it can only be fixed if America redefines its practices and segregation between people of different backgrounds.”

Teachers also want the school district to address other urgent social justice issues that impact students and school communities, including assigning a nurse and social worker to every school (as of earlier this year the district only had 300 nurses for 500 schools, and, as of June of this year, just one social worker for every 865 students); improved protections for undocumented students; and affordable housing for the district’s more than 16,000 homeless students as well as teachers new to the profession.

Some teachers had conversations with their students about the strike before it started. As Paula, a student teacher for CPS, told Teen Vogue, “We told them exactly what was happening and why we’re fighting,” she said. “A lot of them thought it was still [just] about [wages].” Paula said students were supportive and that they want teachers “to get us those resources” after they had a conversation about all of the issues at stake in the contract negotiations.

Regarding teachers’ salaries, Kamil Moaton of GoodKids MadCity said, “I’ve had multiple teachers [pay] out of pocket for things that they shouldn’t need to; they barely make enough as it is.” She added that, in her experience, some teachers “help students get home, and buy food when they know their home situation isn’t the best,” adding, “It’s a shame they have to fight for this.”

“CPS has starved its students for decades and left us hopeless with the lack of resources such as social workers, therapists, librarians, and even nurses,” Miracle said. She added that the city has recently approved $33 million in funding for police officers in schools, and says “that has done nothing except bring about chaos.” Many students of color in Chicago have raised objections to this new measure because they feel adding police officers to schools makes them less safe.

Jennifer, the Kelly Prep student with Students Strike Back is particularly concerned with having nurses in schools. “It makes absolutely no sense for us not to have full-time nurses [in every school]. We’re surrounded by other teenagers and all these germs… and they expect us not to get sick.” She also said that it’s critical for students to have access to social workers and therapists at school “because there’s a lot of trauma that goes on that we don’t get to discuss.”

Mayor Lightfoot has argued during CTU contract negotiations that these social justice issues, like affordable housing, are “not germane to the nuts and bolts of a CTU contract,” but the union adamantly disagrees. CTU president Jesse Sharkey responded to these remarks in early October, saying, “It’s germane when you think of the fact that there are over 16,000 students who are homeless in the Chicago Public Schools, and many of our schools have a hard time offering even basic services to those students,” adding, “It’s germane when you consider that… many of our members can’t afford housing in the city of Chicago,” according to local PBS affiliate WTTW.

Kamil Moaton with GoodKids MadCity said she would also like to see a greater investment in the arts in Black and brown CPS schools. “Art and music classes need to be prioritized just as much in Black and brown schools [as in predominantly white schools],” she said. A 2018 analysis conducted on behalf of CPS by Kids First Chicago demonstrated that the majority of funding for arts programming in public schools is concentrated in lakefront and downtown neighborhood schools, according to Chalkbeat. These locations tend to be both wealthier and have higher populations of white people than neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides.



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Business World

Going public is ‘certainly our objective as a company’


If StockX has plans to hold an IPO, it now has a person at the helm with experience in pubic markets.

StockX, the Detroit-based e-commerce marketplace that started out as an exchange for limited-edition sneakers, in June brought on eBay alum Scott Cutler to lead the privately held company as CEO. In the same month, the company raised $110 million in a Series C funding round to give it a $1 billion valuation.

The resale platform, which has expanded into other high-end products, was launched in 2016 by Josh Luber and billionaire Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert.

“We have world-class investors, including Dan, that are in this and I think wouldn’t that be great if we ended up with that [public] outcome, that’s certainly our objective as a company,” Cutler, who previously was a senior vice president at eBay and president of StubHub, a unit of eBay, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in a “Mad Money” interview Monday. “But we’re going after a global opportunity with consumers around the world and we’re super excited about this innovation in commerce.”

StockX and its 800 employees across the United States and Europe serve customers in 170 countries, according to Cutler. The e-retailer is one of the many new companies that are helping change the direction of the industry.

Before eBay, Cutler was an executive vice president at the New York Stock Exchange for nearly a decade. He succeeded co-founder Luber as chief when he joined StockX earlier this year. Intrigued by its business model, Cutler said he first became acquainted with StockX in its infant days and got connected with Luber via LinkedIn.

“I saw the idea and I thought it was just transformational, the combination of all of these things together in this company,” he told Cramer, “and then who would have known a few years later that I would join and have the opportunity to run it in partnership with the founders.”

StockX already has its mind on the IPO process, though not the kind that stock investors can get their hand on. Last week, the company rolled out a collectibles initiative, its fifth product category, in collaboration with Adidas dubbed “The adidas Campus 80s StockX IPO.”

Through the partnership, three designers from across the globe are tasked to design, create and produce a total of three “unique sneakers” in 10 days, Cutler said. StockX then debut 330 pairs of each sneaker on its online market where customers place bids over the course of three days.

There were 10,000 bids placed with 20% coming from outside of the United States, the CEO said.

“This is the first time where a brand comes direct into the marketplace and allows the consumer to dictate the price that they’re willing to pay for these rare, one-of-a-kind sneakers,” Cutler said. “When it came down to it, when you talked about the average clearing price was a little over $200 across all three, and 90% of the bidders paid less than what they bid on the sneakers.”

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Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified StockX co-founder Josh Luber.





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