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Money How Twitter Is Cracking Down On Trolls

By checking the phone numbers provided against the database that Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) will now maintain of such users, the company can weed out users who were previously banned for some offense or the other.Twitter had previously tripled the size of its workforce since its last security update, but this update requires more work on the software side. Twitter has taken certain steps to address this issue recently, and allows users other than victim to report tweets or users who harass others.

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 4:52 pm EST

As is usually the case with social media, Twitter has had its fair share of trolls, or individuals who only exist on the website to harass other users. Twitter has taken certain steps to address this issue recently, and allows users other than victim to report tweets or users who harass others. Now it has taken another step to improving the quality of the users on the website/application.

The Verge reports that Twitter users who have been confirmed to be trolling other users will now have to confirm their accounts by verifying their email address or phone number before being allowed to continue using the service, if their offense was not bad enough to warrant a ban altogether. By checking the phone numbers provided against the database that Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) will now maintain of such users, the company can weed out users who were previously banned for some offense or the other.

Twitter had previously tripled the size of its workforce since its last security update, but this update requires more work on the software side. One drawback, and possibly a good thing for existing Twitter users, is that not all users are required to submit their phone numbers and email for verification. This means that a potentially annoying and off-putting feature (that is only available as an option at the moment) will not be forced upon users. On the other hand, it also means that trolls can just switch accounts or make a new one if they are asked to verify their current account.

However, if the user starts trolling enough to attract the attention of users who report the new account again, that account will also be asked to verify the email and phone number before it can proceed to tweet again on the website. Hence while the verification process does not offer an entirely foolproof method of weeding out trolls from the website, it does add another layer of protection to the current security measures. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo had previously said, "We suck at dealing with abuse." They have certainly taken one noticeable step in eradicating it now though.

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Bidness Etc
Today
19 Points
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Money Credit Suisse Sees Slight Improvement In FY15 For JC Penney (JCP)

He adjusted loss per share estimates for J C Penney slightly downward from $1.67 to $1.55 in FY15, anticipating a decrease in SG&A expenses. Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm EST In a report published on Friday, Credit Suisse commented on J C Penney Company Inc's (NYSE:JCP) performance outlook during financial year 2015 (FY15). the first quarter after 2QFY10 to realize YoY SG&A dollar growth. Sales, general and administrative (SG&A) costs increased by $28 million during the quarter .

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm EST

In a report published on Friday, Credit Suisse commented on J C Penney Company Inc's (NYSE:JCP) performance outlook during financial year 2015 (FY15). The sell-side research firm argued that while J C Penney has delivered somewhat good financial results in 4QFY14, the key ongoing challenges are there to stay with the enterprise in the medium-term. Credit Suisse kept its price target on J C Penney stock unchanged at $7, and reiterated an Underperform rating. The stock was trading down 6.8% at $8.5 at the closing bell on Friday.

The American departmental store chain posted somewhat positive financial results during the past quarter. Comparable same-store sales grew by 4.4%, mainly due to a 12.5% year-over-year (YoY) surge in e-commerce sales. Transaction size and average unit revenue (AUR) also hiked, while traffic increased for the first time during the last twelve quarters.

Men’s apparel, home, and fine jewelry remained the best-performing segments; central and western regions performed better than the company average. Inventory saw a 9.6% decline amidst a 3% growth in net-sales during 4QFY14. Payables financed 37.6% of the inventory as compared to 32.3% in 4QFY13.

Gross margin soared by 5.4% YoY to 33.8%, because of better mix and clearance margin. Sales, general and administrative (SG&A) costs increased by $28 million during the quarter ? the first quarter after 2QFY10 to realize YoY SG&A dollar growth. SG&A came in at 33.8% of sales.

Commenting on J C Penney’s performance outlook in FY15, Credit Suisse analyst, Michael Exstein, stated: “We applaud management for stabilizing the decline in sales; however, we think it will be challenging for the company to continue driving revenue growth past the first half of the year as they rationalize their store base. As JCP nears peak historical gross margins and sales growth continues to shift towards lower margin e-commerce, we think further significant gross margin improvement will prove to be a challenge.”

Mr. Exstein suggested an expense reduction and deleveraging strategy for the company. He adjusted loss per share estimates for J C Penney slightly downward from $1.67 to $1.55 in FY15, anticipating a decrease in SG&A expenses. The target price reflects an EV/EBITDA of 12.3x, based on estimated EBITDA of $556 million during 2015.

The Street remains firmly bearish on J C Penney. Out of the 28 analysts who cover the stock, five suggest a Buy, and 12 recommend a Hold. The 12-month average target price assigned by the analysts to the stock is $8.34.

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Bidness Etc
Today
17 Points
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Money Barclay Increases Price Target On L Brands Inc

All the three reportable segments under L Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works International) performed well.Victoria’s Secret (VS) and Bath & Body Work's (BBW) comps were up by 4% and 8%, respectively. Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 4:13 pm EST Barclays' analyst, Mathew McClintock, reiterated a Buy rating and increased the price target from $90 to $100 on L Brands Inc (NYSE:LB) stock on Friday.

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 4:13 pm EST

Barclays' analyst, Mathew McClintock, reiterated a Buy rating and increased the price target from $90 to $100 on L Brands Inc (NYSE:LB) stock on Friday. Currently the stock is trading flat at $91.98 as of 3:49 PM EST.

The increase in price target is largely impacted by the company releasing strong fourth-quarter (4Q) financial results on Thursday. L Brands reported that total quarterly revenue increased by 6.6% to $40.7 billion, with comparable sales up 6%. All the three reportable segments under L Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works International) performed well.

Victoria’s Secret (VS) and Bath & Body Work's (BBW) comps were up by 4% and 8%, respectively. Victoria's Secret finished financial year (2014) with strong momentum and healthy margins.

The sell-side firm looks positively towards the swim segment (expecting business of $500 million); it also expects additional opportunities from the sports segment and direct channel realignment. Moreover, L Brands continues to successfully expand its footprint internationally, as the company reported international sales exceeding the $300 million mark in FY14, as well as higher year-over-year (YoY) profitability.

Guidance for FY15 includes opening of around 120-140 Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works (VSBA) franchises and approximately 55 BBW franchise stores internationally, reporting an accelerated momentum compared to 2014. The sell-side firm continues to view global expansion as a long-term driver of earnings per share (EPS) growth for the company, potentially reaching at least $1 of contribution by the end of FY19.

Barclays decreased its EPS estimates for FY15 from $3.75 to $3.70 and initiated coverage on FY16 EPS with a figure of $4.25. The sell-side firm stated that the L Brands continues to demonstrate outsized shareholder return, which is evident by the company's announcement to increase the special dividend.

Out of 37 analysts who cover LB stock, 18 rate it a Buy, and 19 recommend a Hold. The 12-month price target forecasted by the analysts for the stock is $93.31.

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Bidness Etc
Today
15 Points
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Money Oppenheimer Stays Bullish On Taser International, Inc. (TASR)

The 12-month consensus target price on TASR is $23.2.Other firms that provided coverage on the stock include Dougherty & Company LLC and Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC. (NASDAQ:TASR) stock, following the company reporting its fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 (4QFY14) results on Thursday. Dyer of Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC also maintained a Buy rating, but raised the target price from $22 to $30.Taser shares are up 3.06% trading at $23.38 as of 3:33 PM EST.

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 3:59 pm EST

Oppenheimer analyst, Andrew Uerkwitz, maintained an Outperform rating with a $28 target price on TASER International, Inc. (NASDAQ:TASR) stock, following the company reporting its fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 (4QFY14) results on Thursday. Taser posted an earnings per share (EPS) of nine cents that came in below the consensus estimate of 14 cents, thereby kickstarting a sell off of its shares in yesterday’s trading session.

Mr. Uerkwitz thinks that the sell off should be seen as an opportunity for investors to buy the stock. He stated: “Taser reported a very good quarter: revenue beat ($46.8M vs. Street $42.4M), strong bookings (up 61% q/q), record camera/evidence.com sales, y/y growth in adj. EBITDA. On the flip side, with an inventory charge causing GAAP GM and EPS to miss (one time item we're not concerned with), weapons segment down q/q (just lumpiness) along with shifting investors' mindset to new metrics/strategy (ASP per evidence seat came in weaker than modeled), the good wasn't good enough as the stock sold off significantly. We see business more than on-track, like the investment in OpEx, and would be buyers on any sustained weakness.”

The sell-side firm reduced its 2015 and 2016 EPS estimates for Taser from $0.46 and $0.65, to $0.44 and $0.59, respectively.

In its 4QFY14 results, Taser posted revenues of $46.8 million, beating the Street’s estimate of $42.2 million. In the last eight quarters, the company has managed to beat revenue estimates seven times and earnings estimates five times.

Out of the seven analysts that follow Taser stock, three rate it a Buy, two recommend a Hold, and two advocate a Sell. The 12-month consensus target price on TASR is $23.2.

Other firms that provided coverage on the stock include Dougherty & Company LLC and Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC. Dougherty & Company LLC analyst, Gregory J. McKinley, reiterated a Buy rating with a $23 price target on the stock. Steven L. Dyer of Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC also maintained a Buy rating, but raised the target price from $22 to $30.

Taser shares are up 3.06% trading at $23.38 as of 3:33 PM EST. The stock has plummeted 11.89% year-to-date (YTD).

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Bidness Etc
Today
13 Points
1

Letter of grieving sister read at funeral Mass for Westchester teens slain by ex-cop dad: ‘This tragedy has broken me’

Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News Anamarie Hochman (center l.), with her oldest daughter Samantha (center r.), at funeral of her two daughters . Gregory the Great Church in Harrison, N.Y., began sobbing and the grieving big sister hugged her mom, Anamarie Hochman, as they sat near the two wooden coffins."This tragedy has broken me,” Samantha, 22, wrote. They were killed last Saturday by their ex-cop father Glen (rear l.) as they slept in their Harrison home.
Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News Anamarie Hochman (center l.), with her oldest daughter Samantha (center r.), at funeral of her two daughters ? 17-year-old Alissa Hochman and 13-year-old Deanna ? at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church on Friday.

Words of regret from the grieving sister of two teenagers murdered by their suicidal ex-cop dad turned a Westchester County church into a vale of tears Friday.

Samantha Hochman did not mention their killer dad in the letter she wrote to her slain younger sisters that was read by a family friend at the girls’ funeral mass.

“I truly regret the times we would argue over the most pointless things,” she wrote to 17-year-old Alissa. “I look back now and say, why in the world would we waste our time, precious time, fighting?”

To her “favorite” 13-year-old sister Deanna, she wrote:

“As an older sister I hope that you idolized me, but the truth is, I idolized you,” she wrote. “You were the funniest person I've ever known. You had the ability to make me laugh at any given moment.”

Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News The caskets of the young girls are carried out of the church.Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News The funeral was held Friday at a church in Westchester Count, which was packed with mourners for the two young girls.Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News The community has supported the familiy since the loss of the two girls, as more than $50,000 had been raised since the beginning of the week to help cover the costs for the family. Previous Next Enlarge

Many of the mourners packed inside St. Gregory the Great Church in Harrison, N.Y., began sobbing and the grieving big sister hugged her mom, Anamarie Hochman, as they sat near the two wooden coffins.

"This tragedy has broken me,” Samantha, 22, wrote. “I will never be the same. I will stay strong for mom, reminding her every day that we have two of the most beautiful angels watching over us.”

In closing, Samantha asked her sisters, “Keep an eye on each other and give pop pop a kiss. I love you.”

That was a reference to their grandfather, not their dad, former White Plains police officer Glen Hochman, who killed himself last Saturday after he killed the girls and their three family dogs.

“How do you do that to your daughters,” one grief-stricken woman cried out when the caskets were first rolled in.

Among the mourners were dozens of Harrison firefighters and paramedics, including some who responded the house on Adelphi Ave. that Glen Hochman turned into a horror show.

Alissa and Deanna were murdered in their sleep last Saturday while Samantha and their mother were on a planned trip to the Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut.

Police found a typed, five-to-six-page suicide letter addressed to Anamarie Hochman in the garage beside Glen Hochman’s body.

facebook Alissa Hochman (front l.) and Deanna Hochman (front c.) seen here in a family picture, were laid to rest Friday. They were killed last Saturday by their ex-cop father Glen (rear l.) as they slept in their Harrison home.

The 52-year-old dad-turned-killer explained why “the two girls were taken away,” Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said earlier this week. 

The chief said there had been “marital issues” and “a family discussion about a possible separation.”

But no divorce papers had been filed and there was no history of domestic violence or psychiatric problems with the family.

Also, the Hochmans also did not appear to have money problems. 

Seth Wenig/AP Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said the suicide note left by Glen Hochman, a former White Plains cop, indicated that the killing of his teenage daughters in their beds was a premeditated act.Richard Harbus for New York Daily News The police chief also said there had been 'marital issues' between Glen and his wife, Anamarie, and there had been 'a family discussion about a possible separation.' Previous Next Enlarge

Still, a day before the killings, Anamarie Hochman, 50, had gone to the police to report an argument over an $80 cellphone bill. She did not press charges.

The next day, nobody answered at the house when she called home.

So the worried widow phoned Alissa’s boyfriend and asked him to go over and see what was going on.

Using the pass code, he entered the garage and found Glen Hochman dead with a .40-caliber Glock still in his hand.

It was a stunning end for Glen Hochman, who served on the White Plains force for 22 years and was a decorated police officer with a reputation as a reliable cop.

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Related Stories Fund-raiser for Westchester teens slain by father nets $55K Ex-White Plains cop shot daughters while they slept: police Police seek answers why ‘dependable’ cop snapped Ex-White Plains cop killed two daughters, himself: officials
Daily News
27/02
20 Points
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Money Why Exxon Mobil Corporation Aims To Cut Capital Spending This Year

This has proved to be detrimental for companies such as BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) and Exxon. These smaller companies are aiming on decreasing their capital expenditures by 20% YoY. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) is also planning to decrease its capital expenditure by 13% YoY in 2015.Another problem that some of the US companies are facing are the recent sanctions imposed on Russia by the West.

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 3:54 pm EST

As reported by Reuters, according to a regulatory filing, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) intends to cut its capital spending budget by 11% year-over-year (YoY) in 2015. The cut means that Exxon would undertake capital spending of $34 billion this year.

In 2014, the spending had fallen by over 9% YoY to $38.5 billion. The company is expected to spend around $37 billion between 2015 and 2017.

The decision comes ahead of the declining crude oil price. The shale oil boom in the US has allowed the country to produce more than nine million barrels per day, according to the International Energy Agency estimates. Crude oil price since June 2014 has fallen more than 50%. The US benchmark for crude oil West Texas Intermediate is trading at $49 per barrel during the early hours today.

Smaller energy companies have been impacted the most by the oil price decline. These smaller companies are aiming on decreasing their capital expenditures by 20% YoY. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) is also planning to decrease its capital expenditure by 13% YoY in 2015.

Another problem that some of the US companies are facing are the recent sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. This has proved to be detrimental for companies such as BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) and Exxon. According to a regulatory filing, the company has indicated that it would only be exposed to loss of $1 billion stemming from its losses in Russia.

According to Reuters, Exxon stated: “Prohibited activities involving offshore Russia in the Black Sea, Arctic regions, and onshore western Siberia have been wound down.”

According to Samantha Holroyd, the technical director at Denham Capital, the larger oil companies are less exposed to the fall in the crude price as they plan better for the future and because of their long-term view on crude oil price, as reported by Reuters.

Exxon stock dropped 1.4% yesterday. Today the stock dropped 0.09% to $88.57, as of 3:33PM EST.

                                                                                             

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Bidness Etc
Today
11 Points

Arts 'How to Get Away With Murder': How about that crazy finale?

(SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains key plot points featured in the Season 1 finale of "How to Get Away With Murder" Thursday night on ABC):-----Viola Davis and her "How to Get Away With Murder" posse brought down the curtain on Season 1 of the full-throttle crime serial Thursday night, but not before delivering some wild twists.So who killed Lila Stangard. Apparently that will be our first new mystery going forward into Season 2.Oh, and there was at least one more mystery.

(SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains key plot points featured in the Season 1 finale of "How to Get Away With Murder" Thursday night on ABC):

-----

Viola Davis and her "How to Get Away With Murder" posse brought down the curtain on Season 1 of the full-throttle crime serial Thursday night, but not before delivering some wild twists.

So who killed Lila Stangard? It turns out that it was Frank -- not Sam or Rebecca -- who choked her out on the sorority rooftop and then dumped the poor pregnant college girl into that water tank!

But Frank was working on direct orders from Sam, who was apparently had something on Frank and was owed a great big favor.

But then "HTGAWM" gave us another killer moment right before leaving us until the fall. In the closing minutes, Frank and Annalise go down into the basement of her home/office and look upon the dead body of Rebecca Sutter, who earlier in the finale had been bound and gagged and forced to face a makeshift trial to determine whether it was she who murdered her former friend.

Neither Annalise and Frank seem particularly surprised that Rebecca has become a corpse, with each one saying they thought the other did it. Apparently that will be our first new mystery going forward into Season 2.

Oh, and there was at least one more mystery. Before she met her demise, Rebecca managed to send a text to someone that read "Eggs 911. Lawyer's house." We have no idea who that message was sent to, but apparently someone will be looking for her, and that may present a big problem for Annalise and her band of uptight students.

So what did you think of the "HTGAWM" finale? Did it live up to, or surpass, your expectations? And do you have any theories on who killed Rebecca and/or who her text was sent to?

Contact Chuck Barney at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney, or Twitter.com/chuckbarney

San Jose Mercury News
Today
17 Points
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Money US Navy Considers Awarding F/A-18 Contract To Boeing Co

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 12:46 pm EST The US Navy announced on Friday, that it intends to ask the United States Congress to finance its new fighter jets, that are likely to be manufactured by Boeing Co (NYSE:BA).

Published: Feb 27, 2015 at 12:46 pm EST

The US Navy announced on Friday, that it intends to ask the United States Congress to finance its new fighter jets, that are likely to be manufactured by Boeing Co (NYSE:BA). The Naval authority seeks financial assistance regarding F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers from the Senate, to be financed as part of its “unfunded priorities,” which is a bill subject to the Congress' approval.

The orders placed by US Navy will increase Boeing’s domestic F/A-18 production line capacity and will keep it busy beyond 2017. However, authorities in the US Navy disclose that they are still uncertain whether the Congress will approve the bill and provide further assistance in terms of financing its warfare equipment.

The current Chief of Naval Operations, Jonathan Greenert, stated that the navy force is considering “a whole host" of reasons to present its case as "unfunded priorities" to the Congress lawmakers. He added that the Navy institution may encounter deficit in its aircraft carriers in the next decade, when the older models of F/A-18 will be retired.

Boeing representative, Caroline Hutcheson, said: “The company was looking at several possible foreign orders and working through multiple scenarios to extend production into 2018 and beyond.”

The US Navy is currently working with Boeing on refurbishing fighter jets held by the force, in order to restore its older aircraft and to increase the availability rate, which has decreased to approximately 50%.

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Bidness Etc
Today
9 Points
1

People Kelly Osbourne exiting 'Fashion Police'

No decision has been made on Osbourne's replacement, the channel said.Fashion Police recently added Kathy Griffin to replace the late Joan Rivers.Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. News.Osbourne tweeted Tuesday that she doesn't condone racism and was reconsidering being part of Fashion Police.E. It appears the Fashion Police have issued another citation.Kelly Osbourne is exiting the show days after complaining about co-host Giuliana Rancic's comments on Zendaya's dreadlocks.E.

It appears the Fashion Police have issued another citation.

Kelly Osbourne is exiting the show days after complaining about co-host Giuliana Rancic's comments on Zendaya's dreadlocks.

E! Entertainment said Friday that Osbourne is leaving to pursue other opportunities.

"We would like to thank her for her many contributions to the series over the past five years, during which time the show became a hit with viewers," E! said in a statement.

Osbourne's publicist did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday's post-Oscar edition of Fashion Police, Rancic said that actress-singer Zendaya's hair suggested the smell of patchouli oil or marijuana. Rancic came under fire from Zendaya and Osbourne, among others, and apologized the next day on E! News.

Osbourne tweeted Tuesday that she doesn't condone racism and was reconsidering being part of Fashion Police.

E! said the series will air next as scheduled on March 30. No decision has been made on Osbourne's replacement, the channel said.

Fashion Police recently added Kathy Griffin to replace the late Joan Rivers.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

USA Today
Today
16 Points
New

Money Give us our porn! Google reverses Blogger's no-nudity policy

Google spokeswoman Katie Watson said the company does not disclose how many Blogger users it has nor how many of them would have been affected by the policy change. And Google's Blogger policy does not allow users to post nudes or sexually explicit images of someone else without that person's consent. In an online post Friday, Google's Blogger said longtime users thought it was unfair to suddenly change the policy. Sexually explicit content on Blogger will still be marked by an "adult content" warning.

NEW YORK -- Apparently Google bloggers like to post porn. A lot.

Just three days after saying sexually explicit material would be banned from public Blogger forum sites, Google is backing down. Faced with "a ton of feedback," Google said Friday that it instead will "step up enforcement" against commercial and illegal porn.

Google spokeswoman Katie Watson said the company does not disclose how many Blogger users it has nor how many of them would have been affected by the policy change.

On Tuesday, Google warned Bloggers that effective March 23 any site hosting nude pictures would be switched to private mode -- only available to the authors and invited viewers. That ban came the same day that social forum and news site Reddit said it would remove explicit photos, videos and links if the person pictured hadn't consented to the image being posted.

In an online post Friday, Google's Blogger said longtime users thought it was unfair to suddenly change the policy. The company also was swayed by users who say posting sexually explicit content is part of expressing their identities.

Sexually explicit content on Blogger will still be marked by an "adult content" warning. And Google's Blogger policy does not allow users to post nudes or sexually explicit images of someone else without that person's consent.

Mountain View, California-based Google Inc. bought Blogger in 2003. It was created by a company founded by Evan Williams, who would go on to co-found Twitter.

Blogging platforms have different approaches to porn and nudity. WordPress permits "mature content," but excludes it from public areas of the service and does not allow pornographic material such as "explicit sexual acts." Photo-heavy Tumblr, now a part of Yahoo, says "sexual or adult-oriented content" must be flagged as "Not Suitable for Work" and does not allow for the embedding of sexually explicit video. Medium, also founded by Evan Williams, says flat-out: "No porn."

San Jose Mercury News
Today
6 Points
New

Money Teamsters win vote to unionize more tech shuttle bus drivers in Silicon Valley

With that group and Facebook's team, the Teamsters represent about 65 percent of the shuttle bus drivers in the valley, Aloise estimated. "Our next step now is to move forward and pick up the rest of the drivers." Friday's vote covered 158 drivers who shuttle workers for the five tech companies as well as Amtrak. The shuttle bus drivers, who are employed by Compass Transportation, followed the lead of Facebook's team, which voted to join the union in November and approved a contract last week.

Shuttle bus drivers for five major tech companies voted to unionize Friday, an outcome that could inspire more low-paid service workers in booming Silicon Valley to band together for better pay and benefits.

Drivers for workers at Yahoo, Apple, Genentech, eBay and Zynga voted 104 to 38 to join the Teamsters union in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The shuttle bus drivers, who are employed by Compass Transportation, followed the lead of Facebook's team, which voted to join the union in November and approved a contract last week. The Teamsters plan to use that agreement -- which provides for higher wages, full health insurance and paid sick and vacation time -- to set a standard for all the shuttle bus drivers who ferry high-tech workers from their homes in San Francisco, the East Bay and elsewhere to their offices in the valley.

Rome Aloise, international vice president and secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 853, said the vote marks a turning point for Silicon Valley's service workers, who cook, clean and maintain security on tech campuses without any of the industry's famous perks.

"This is systemic change to what is happening in the tech industry," he said. "Our next step now is to move forward and pick up the rest of the drivers."

Friday's vote covered 158 drivers who shuttle workers for the five tech companies as well as Amtrak. With that group and Facebook's team, the Teamsters represent about 65 percent of the shuttle bus drivers in the valley, Aloise estimated. He said drivers for most of the remaining tech companies have already reached out to him about joining the union.

Tracy Kelley, a shuttle bus driver for Yahoo workers, said the outcome of the election has left him and his peers with a new optimism for their futures. He observed the vote count Friday afternoon, beaming as each "yes" vote was called.

"The result was exactly what we thought it would be: a landslide," said Kelley, a 51-year-old San Francisco resident. "People want change, and they knew it wasn't going to happen any other way."

Spokesmen for Compass, Apple, Yahoo and eBay did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Zynga declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Genentech said the company has a strong record of working with both union and nonunion contractors.

The drivers' vote comes amid mounting calls that Silicon Valley's service workers deserve to share in the wealth coursing through the region. Although most of the janitors in the area have been organized since the 1990s, few valley workers followed suit until the Facebook drivers joined the Teamsters in the fall.

United Service Workers West has also launched a campaign to organize security guards in the valley, starting with a call for Apple to choose a different contractor.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has advocated for better working conditions for service workers in the valley, applauded the shuttle bus drivers' vote.

"They are setting a new platform for working people in Silicon Valley where they can negotiate for better wages, health care and fair working conditions," he said in a statement. "These workers are the heart and soul of Silicon Valley -- they have dreams for their families and communities, and are standing up for the dignity and respect they so rightfully deserve."

The income gap is particularly stark in the valley, where the median salary for highly skilled workers is nearly $92,000 higher than the median pay for low-skilled employees, according to a recent report from Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

Often making about $18 an hour, shuttle bus drivers in Silicon Valley say they have struggled to make ends meet as the cost of living climbs in the Bay Area. They have also had to contend with a split shift that requires them to drive routes in the morning and evening with no pay in between.

Aloise said the contract the Teamsters have negotiated for Facebook drivers will afford them much-needed relief. The agreement approved last week, which Aloise said he expects to negotiate for others, calls for benefits including guaranteed overtime after an eight-hour workday, up to five weeks of paid vacation and retirement contributions. In the first year of the contract, they can earn as much as $25 per hour for a standard shift and as much as $27.50 an hour if they choose to work the split shift.

Under the new contract, a driver working full time will receive a compensation package worth about $33,000 more, based on wages and other benefits, than what they received previously, Aloise said.

Contact Julia Love at 408-920-5536 or follow her at Twitter.com/byjulialove.

San Jose Mercury News
Today
6 Points
New

Money Biz Break: Apple Watch likely star, but will MacBook Air make cameo at March event?

Today: Apple invites media to an event March 9 that seems to be geared toward its coming smartwatch, though a new MacBook Air could make an appearance as well. Baker noted rumors of a larger, so-called iPad Pro device aimed at enterprise customers and also mentioned Apple's need to update the MacBook Air, but he doubts those devices will make an appearance at this event. Salesforce roared to a record high Thursday after disclosing that 2014 was its first year with annual revenues topping $5 billion.

Today: Apple invites media to an event March 9 that seems to be geared toward its coming smartwatch, though a new MacBook Air could make an appearance as well. Also: Salesforce roars to a record high.

The Lead: Apple plans San Francisco launch event in March

An Apple launch event planned for March seems assured to focus on the Cupertino company's smartwatch, but experts say there is a chance Apple will show off another new gadget.

Apple on Thursday sent out an invitation to a March 9 event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, while offering little information about the topic. The colorful invite said only "Spring forward," seemingly a reference to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time the day before the event.

The reference to time in Apple's invitation and the event's proximity to the April launch of the Apple Watch immediately focused attention on the company's smartwatch, which was announced along with the latest iPhones last fall. Bloomberg News later reported that an unnamed "person familiar with the matter" confirmed the event will divulge details on the Apple Watch, which could be launching earlier than CEO Tim Cook announced.

"I know they already said April, but maybe production went really well and they're ready to roll the thing out -- 'Spring forward' obviously alludes to time change," Gartner analyst Van Baker said Thursday.

Baker and Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies both predicted Apple will focus on its smartwatch at the event. More important than another look at the actual watch, however, will be information on the apps Apple and third-party developers have come up with for the device.

"What's continued to surprise me is how creative and innovative the software developer community has been. We saw it with the iPhone, we've seen it with the iPad, and we're now going to see it with the Apple Watch," Bajarin said in a phone interview Thursday. "It's hard to predict what a great app will be for me versus what will be a great app for you, but I am excited about seeing what the software developers deliver on the Apple Watch platform to make the Apple Watch something I want to buy."

Bajarin said he has been wearing a smartwatch for a year and a half and has yet to find a "killer app" that makes the devices worthwhile. Baker downplayed the notion of a single desirable application, however, and said that the entire Apple ecosystem could be the key to making the Apple Watch a big seller.

"Everyone has been asking since the smartwatches first came out, 'What's the killer app?'" Baker said. "I don't think there is a killer app. I think there is a portfolio of apps and functionality that collectively is very compelling."

Beyond the Apple Watch, Bajarin said there is "a 50-50 shot" that Apple also announces a new MacBook Air at the March event, mostly because the devices would then be available when schools typically purchase equipment in April and May.

"If Apple wanted to get a new MacBook Air in the school-buying process, they'd have to do something in this time frame. Plus, the MacBook Air needs a refresh," the analyst, who has covered Apple for more than three decades, noted. "However, we haven't heard anything from the supply chain on this, which makes it less likely."

The last time Apple held a March launch event, in 2012, the company showed off a new iPad and refreshed Apple TV. Baker noted rumors of a larger, so-called iPad Pro device aimed at enterprise customers and also mentioned Apple's need to update the MacBook Air, but he doubts those devices will make an appearance at this event.

"They certainly could, but would that detract from the launch of the watch? It might, so I'm not necessarily holding out hope that there's going to be more products in the announcement," he said.

Apple stock rebounded from two consecutive days of declines that followed a series of record highs, adding 1.3 percent to close at $130.41.

SV150 market report: Tech stocks gain as Salesforce soars to record

Stock indexes mostly sagged on Thursday, but Silicon Valley stocks gained and the tech-heavy Nasdaq continued its march to the 5,000 milestone with help from huge Salesforce gains.

Salesforce roared to a record high Thursday after disclosing that 2014 was its first year with annual revenues topping $5 billion. The San Francisco cloud software pioneer's stock soared 11.7 percent to $70.24, pushing its market valuation near $45 billion. The other cloud-software company that showed off earnings Wednesday did not perform as well: Workday fell 5.6 percent to $88.65 despite living up to expectations, as analysts questioned the Pleasanton company's pricey valuation. Canaccord Genuity analyst Richard Davis called the earnings "Solid results for an expensive stock," while Summit Research's Richard Williams wrote, "We think the stock is fully valued and prefer to wait for a better entry point."

As the Federal Communications Commission approved strong net neutrality rules, one of the biggest proponents of such a move, Los Gatos-based Netflix, gained 1 percent to $483.03. Google gained 2.2 percent to $559.29 after announcing that it will begin showing ads in its Android app store, which should help bring in more mobile revenues. The Mountain View search giant also committed $300 million to a $750 million SolarCity residential solar fund, the largest nest egg of its kind; SolarCity dropped 0.3 percent to $52.10. Facebook added 1.1 percent to $80.41 while adding a custom gender option for users, but the Menlo Park company's WhatsApp messaging service was ordered to suspend operations in Brazil and German authorities threatened to sue Facebook. LinkedIn added 0.7 percent to $270.76 while detailing its plans for development in Mountain View, which don't seem as ostentatious as Google's proposal for a fancy new building. Gilead dropped 0.2 percent to $104.19 after a report showed that it shifted billions overseas to avoid U.S. taxes.

In Thursday afternoon's earnings reports, San Francisco big-data software company Splunk detailed a loss of $57 million, or 47 cents a share, on sales of $147.4 million, and shares gained more than 7 percent in late trading. Nimble Storage lost $24.7 million, or 33 cents a share, on sales of $68.3 million, and shares in the San Jose flash-storage company declined more than 5 percent. Aruba Networks, which is reportedly an acquisition target for Hewlett-Packard, earned $5.7 million, or 5 cents a share, on sales of $212.9 million, and shares jumped more than 5 percent in late trading.

Up: Salesforce, Google, Twitter, Tesla, Cisco, Yelp, Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Netflix

Down: Workday, SunPower, HP, Symantec, Pandora, Juniper

The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 14, or 0.79 percent, to 1,792.22

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 20.75, or 0.42 percent, to 4,987.89

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 10.15, or 0.06 percent, to 18,214.42

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 3.12, or 0.15 percent, to 2,110.74

Sign up for the 60-Second Business Break newsletter at www.siliconvalley.com. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.

San Jose Mercury News
27/02
17 Points

Money Uber breach may have exposed 50,000 drivers' data

NEW YORK -- Uber says a database containing the names and drivers' license numbers of 50,000 of its drivers was breached in May. Uber is the latest company to report a data breach in recent months. Uber says it will offer a one-year membership in Experian's ProtectMyID Alert identity theft protection service to the drivers involved. The features were rolled out after a highly-publicized case where a passenger said she was raped by an Uber driver.

NEW YORK -- Uber says a database containing the names and drivers' license numbers of 50,000 of its drivers was breached in May.

The ride-sharing service says it has notified the drivers and hasn't received any reports of the information being misused. Uber says it will offer a one-year membership in Experian's ProtectMyID Alert identity theft protection service to the drivers involved.

The company said Friday the breach affects drivers in multiple states, but involves only a "small percentage" of its current and former drivers.

Uber says it discovered a potential breach in September. It announced the events in a statement posted on its blog and described them as a one-time occurrence. The San Francisco company says it has changed the access protocols for its database to prevent similar breaches.

Uber is the latest company to report a data breach in recent months. Others include retailer Home Depot, health insurer Anthem and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The problems can be costly as well as damaging to consumers' perception of a company.

Uber is privately-held and valued at $40 billion. It lets passengers summon cars through an app in more than 250 cities worldwide, but faces multiples legal and regulatory challenges as it expands in the United States and abroad. The company has been criticized over the thoroughness of the background checks it does on drivers and other safety issues as well as its method of raising prices when demand goes up.

Earlier this month Uber introduced new safety features for riders in India, include a "panic button" on its app that would let riders notify police in an emergency and a "safety net" that would let riders share trip details with others. The features were rolled out after a highly-publicized case where a passenger said she was raped by an Uber driver.

San Jose Mercury News
Today
5 Points
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Money Psychology on order: How restaurants get you to spend more

Get the $ out:Greg Rapp, a menu consultant in California, says he advises restaurants and fast-food chains to leave those off when listing prices on a menu. Pitched as "Mini Indulgences," the method of presentation has pushed dessert sales higher than those of most other restaurants, said Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant based in Orlando, Florida. Giving more choices also just increases the odds that something will appeal to people.

NEW YORK -- You may think you're immune to transparent sales pitches like "Do you want fries with that?" But the tactics restaurants use to nudge you into spending a little extra may be subtler than you realize.

Here's a look at a few ways companies get you to spend (and eat) more than you intended.

Get the $ out: Restaurant menus are a complicated mixture of psychology, art and sales pitches. No detail is too small to matter, right down to the dollar sign.

Get the $ out:

Greg Rapp, a menu consultant in California, says he advises restaurants and fast-food chains to leave those off when listing prices on a menu.

"Dollar signs remind people of money," Rapp said. "When you use dollar signs, your food looks more expensive."

Words matter: Imagery and language can also make prices go down easier.

Florid descriptions for menu items can seem like parodies, but it's an effective way to make a fairly standard dish sound special.

So, you may balk at paying $19 for baked fish and the vegetable of the day, yet gladly pay that for "flaky cod marinated in our house sauce, served with country peas."

"The more you talk about it, the less it costs in the customer's head. The more value you're giving them," Rapp said.

Hand-eye coordination: The closer you are to something, the more likely you are to make an impulse buy.

It's why the areas by registers are so crowded with those little extras. If you walk into Starbucks for a $4 latte, the cafe can push up the value of that transaction by 25 percent just by getting you to grab a $1 tin of mints. So while nobody goes to Starbucks specifically for mints, a lot of people buy them.

By a similar logic, Dunkin' Donuts began rolling out small display cases on front counters last summer that feature items like cookies and Danish pastries. The thinking is that you're more likely to get something to nibble on with your drink if it's practically in your grasp.

A classic example at fancier restaurants is the dessert cart. At the casual dining chain Seasons 52, servers bring out a tray of mini-desserts to show diners. Pitched as "Mini Indulgences," the method of presentation has pushed dessert sales higher than those of most other restaurants, said Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant based in Orlando, Florida.

And over at McDonald's, apple pie dispensers are behind the registers where customers can see them. Jeff Stratton, former president of McDonald's USA, has said pie sales would fall dramatically if the dispensers were back in the kitchen.

Controlling the choices: Sometimes the choices available will push people to spend more.

Sonic, for instance, used to offer two sizes for its shakes: a 14-ounce "regular" and a 20-ounce "large." In 2012, the drive-in chain revamped sizes; the "regular" became a "small" and the "large" became a "regular."

It then added a new 32-ounce "large," as well as a 10-ounce "mini." So the people who tend to automatically opt for a "large" were shifted up to a bigger, pricier size.

Drinks are a particularly ripe area for what's known in the industry as "upselling" because people usually don't pay as much attention to their prices as they do for main dishes, said Kit Yarrow, a professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University and author of "Decoding the New Consumer Mind."

Paying 25 cents more for a bigger soda or fries seems like a no-brainer to most people, even if they would've been content with the smaller portion.

"Consumers really do order much more food than they need, because it seems like a value to them," Yarrow said.

Giving more choices also just increases the odds that something will appeal to people. That's not really as necessary for main dishes, which people will order regardless, but can push up sales of extras like appetizers or desserts.

"When you have eight appetizers on the menu versus six, you sell more appetizers with eight," said Eugene Lee, CEO of Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, while addressing concerns about the complexity of the chain's menu last year.

What's next: In the future, that drive-through menu board might just try to read your mind. Or at least predict what you, in particular, might be tempted by.

Sonic CEO Cliff Hudson has said the chain is working on ways to have digital menu boards feature items based on the particular customer.

The tailored offerings would be possible over time with the help of the mobile app, which is set to launch this spring and would help the company keep track of what people like to order. Already, Starbucks says its email offers to customers with its apps are tailored based on past purchases.

San Jose Mercury News
Today
5 Points
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