Analyzing the top news stories across the web

Nov. 24 2014 1:28 PM

Google Just Removed a Game about Killing Gay People from the Android App Store

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Google has removed a game named "Ass Hunter," in which players hunt and kill gay men, from its Android app store. The game had been available in the Google Play store for weeks.

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The Independent reports that Ass Hunter was downloaded over 10,000 times, and even received over 200 five-star reviews before it was pulled from the store today. 

Googled declined to comment on this story.

To win Ass Hunter, players needed to kill as many gay men as possible by shooting them with a shotgun. The game has a top-down, first-person-shooter format. If you fail to shoot the gays, they swarm your player and rape you.

This screenshot shows a gay man sneaking up behind the player:

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Google Store

Here's how Ass Hunter described itself in the Google Play Store:

Popular game hunting on gays is now on Android! Play and do not be gay! Legendary game, where you are hunter and your mission is to kill gays as much as you can or escape between them to the next level. Gays may be hidden in bushes and unexpectedly catch you. Remember! When they catch you they will do with you whatever they want ;)

Ass Hunter has existed as an online Flash game since 2006, but it seems that its developers—who seem to be French—had managed to release an Android version, too. The Google Play Store bans apps that contain either hate speech or violent or bullying behaviour.

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Nov. 20 2014 12:46 PM

Apple Made a Small but Significant Change to Free Apps in the App Store

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Apple has made a small change to the App Store, replacing the “Free” download button to “Get.”

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Apple hasn’t specified why it made the change, but it most likely has to do with the rise of so-called freemium games that are free to initially download but offer in-app purchases to unlock more features. No change has been made to apps that cost an upfront, one-time fee. Those apps still feature the price on the download button.

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Apple

Labeling freemium games as free has proved problematic for Apple in the past. Early last year, Apple paid about $100 million to settle a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission that alleged “Apple failed to adequately disclose that third-party game apps, largely available for free and rated as containing content suitable for children, contained the ability to make in-app purchases.”

Apple has since implemented additional alerts for in-app purchases, but it appears the company has decided it’s best to simply do away with the “free” terminology altogether.

Apple is actually following Google’s lead with its rebranding of free apps, with Google announcing in July it would stop calling apps with in-app purchases free, according to MacRumors. Google Play apps now feature an “Install” button instead.

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Google

The decisions by both Google and Apple to ditch the “Free” label is likely in response to the European Commission’s request for the companies to better inform customers that apps with in-app purchases were not truly free.

Nov. 19 2014 1:41 PM

Facebook Shuttle Drivers Are Not Happy

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Jimmy Maerina has about had it with Facebook. He is one of 70 bus drivers who shuttle Facebook employees from their homes in San Francisco to the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters 30 miles away. Though their passengers are exclusively Facebook employees, the bus drivers actually work for a company called Loop Transportation, which Facebook pays a fee to get its workers to and from Menlo Park during the week.

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Maerina says he and his fellow drivers work a grueling schedule, starting their day at a bus depot 15 minutes from Facebook’s campus at 5:30 a.m. and finishing at 8:45 p.m. Although the drivers have about five unpaid hours off in the middle of the day, they are prohibited from finding other employment during that time, Maerina says. He adds that many of his co-workers live far enough from the lot that it doesn’t make sense to commute all the way home and come back. Because the rest trailer provided by Loop Transportation has only four beds, Maerina says, drivers are forced to sleep in their cars between shifts. 

For all this, drivers make as little as $17 an hour. Perhaps of more concern, Maerina, who has a wife and two children, says he pays nearly $1,200 a month for Loop’s company-sponsored health plan. 

On Wednesday, the drivers will vote on whether to join a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union that represents 1.4 million workers in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. If the majority of drivers vote yes, the union would be able to negotiate on their behalf for higher wages and better working conditions.

The union vote represents what could be the climax of a yearlong war Maerina has waged against Facebook and Loop, during which Maerina says Loop has attempted to intimidate drivers from organizing for better pay and Facebook has been complicit in its contractor’s actions by failing to stop them. 

“Facebook needs to open their eyes and decide this treatment can’t continue, because their employees’ lives are in our hands,” Maerina, 54, tells Business Insider. “If it’s the last thing I do before I quit my job, I want to see the bus drivers unionized.”

A representative for Loop Transportation declined to confirm or deny individual allegations, and Facebook did not respond to our inquiry at all. 

Maerina, who served as union president during a previous driving job at another company, has been trying to organize his fellow Loop drivers since February, in hopes that a union would be able to negotiate with Loop for higher wages, cheaper health benefits, and better working conditions.

According to Maerina, Loop sent people to Facebook’s campus to speak with drivers about how a union would ultimately hurt their interests, a process that has continued in the months leading up to the vote. Meanwhile, he says Facebook told Loop to give the drivers a $0.75 raise to convince drivers that they didn’t need a union to improve their work situation. “I am sure that Facebook is aware of this because if you don’t know what the heck is going on in your own home, then the home might not be yours,” Maerina says of Loop representatives sent to discourage drivers from unionizing.

A Loop representative said the following about its discussions with drivers: “In accordance with federal law, we are cooperating fully with the National Labor Relations Board in advance of the secret ballot election. This includes notifying our drivers of the election and their rights surrounding this issue.”

The representatives also said Loop’s drivers made between $17 and $25 an hour, wages the representativessays are among the highest in the commuter bus industry. 

The dispute escalated in August, when Maerina went public with his grievances in a story published by USA Today in which he told reporter Jessica Guynn that he and other drivers were “just barely making it.”

Maerina has been joined in airing his complaints by Cliff Doi, a fellow driver who has worked for Loop for three years. In a blogpost published by the Teamsters, he says he has little downtime and actually lost vacation days earlier this year because he couldn’t get Loop to find someone to cover his shifts when he wanted to take time off.

To hold a union vote, federal labor law requires a group of workers to file petition in which 30 percent of the employees hope to represent express interest in forming a union.

Maerina says Loop attempted to fire him for speaking out but that Facebook told its contractor not to do so after USA Today contacted company officials. In addition, the driver says Loop moved its offices from Facebook’s campus to a building beside the bus lot that had previously been a room drivers could rest in. The move has led to increased scrutiny of the drivers by management, and Maerina says drivers have been further intimidated by Loop’s decision to drug test more frequently than it had in the past.

Nonetheless, he says the actual act of driving passengers to and from work is relatively pleasant. He spoke highly of the Facebook employees on his route, saying that some had even written messages on an internal website encouraging the company to make sure the drivers get higher wages. In his estimation, Facebook would do well to cut out the middleman and hire its bus drivers directly, as Google did when it announced last month that it was hiring about 200 security guards who had previously been the employees of a contracting firm.

“They’re awesome,” Maerina says of his passengers. “The only thing that is screwing this up is Facebook.”

Nov. 19 2014 6:15 AM

This New Bike Helmet Has a List of Crazy Features including Brake Lights and a Wiper System

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Cycling can be dangerous. Last November six people were killed while riding on the streets in London. Big cities like New York and Sydney can also be hazardous for pedalers, and sometimes just a regular helmet won’t do. 

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Enter the rather perplexing Smart Hat, a product so elaborate Gizmodo even questioned its authenticity. But it appears to be a real concept—with the backing of a local councillor in Australia, in fact. 

A Sydney-based website, the Daily Telegraphreports that creator Toby King presented the helmet to Mosan Council on Nov. 11. 

Here are all the crazy things the design includes: 

  • Multilayer construction with impact-absorbing features and facial protection 
  • In-helmet Bluetooth display with speaker, satnav, speedometer, speed zones, temperature, heart rate, tilt sensor, ultrasonic object proximity warning, and more
  • Remote control indicators
  • Automatic brake lights
  • Head lights and night lights
  • A retractable visor, with a wiper system
  • Integrated digital camera
  • Smartphone storage
  • E-tag storage 
  • Batteries
  • Bluetooth
  • ID sign-in
  • Customisable outer skin
  • In-helmet cooling fan
  • Comfort additions

Yes, it’s a staggering list. And it looks as futuristic as it sounds:

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Smart Hat

King explains he has the “skills to fully develop” the product and although it’s not commercially available “yet,” he’s now looking for funding.

While the least technological, the most important aspect of the Smart Hat is its registration plates. The state government of New South Wales is now considering licencing options for cyclists—a very controversial idea.

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Smart Hat

King says the Smart Hat would cost about $200, or about 100 pounds in the U.K. It’s worth checking up on, because if it is approved and funded in Australia, maybe it’ll one day turn up on British roads?

Could all this really be on so many people’s heads? 

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Smart Hat

Nov. 18 2014 2:42 PM

Even Microsoft Is Sick of PowerPoint

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

We can’t even remember the last time we saw someone under 30 fire up a PowerPoint instead of a Prezi when giving a talk. Microsoft hopes to put the kibosh on that with Microsoft Sway, its new presentation app. Sway lets you drag and drop photos, videos, files from your computer, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or cloud storage. It works via a Web browser or an app for your phone, and the presentation is stored on the Web.

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Microsoft announced Sway in October and on Monday offered an update, giving preview invites to various journalists, including Business Insider. We played around a little with Sway and can confirm that it is remarkably easy to use. It has some nice features like “change my mood,” which lets you choose a new layout, background, and fonts. The “remix” button does that for you (a little like the “I feel lucky” button on Google).

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Julie Bort/Business Insider

We didn’t see anything in the demo that made us say, “Wow! No one’s ever done that before!” But first things first. Prezi says more than 50 million people use it, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500. That’s an awful lot of people who have had their heads turned from PowerPoint. Microsoft needs an easy-to-use alternative to Prezi, and Sway fits that bill.

Here’s a demo from Microsoft’s video. Notice this Microsoft ad shows the guy using Sway on an iPad.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about Sway is that it’s part of an bunch of new apps developed under CEO Satya Nadella’s new mission: to "reinvent productivity."

Sway joins:

  • Skype Translator, a service launched earlier this month that will translate a Skype conversation between two languages in real time.
  • Delve, an Office 365 tool that rolled out in September that is supposed to find all the important stuff buried in your documents, calendars, and contacts.
  • Power Q&A, an add-on cloud service for Office 365 customers.
  • And Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri, available in the current version of Windows Phone and, sources say, later as a desktop app in Windows 10.

And here’s an example of a Sway presentation.

Nov. 18 2014 2:25 PM

What's the Matter With Urban Outfitters? Their CEO Says It's the Stores.

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Urban Outfitters shares are tanking after the company reported disappointing profits. Sales at the namesake brand declined 7 percent in the third quarter, and also fell 10 percent last quarter. Meanwhile, the brand's Anthropologie and Free People labels continue to thrive. Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne identified the brand's biggest problem in a recent call with analysts. 

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"The team did a poor job of designing the architecture of the store and creating different assortments for different types (of) stores," Hayne said. As a result, many stores were "needlessly overassorted and piecey, which made the shopping experience more difficult and less appealing," he said. 

Urban Outfitters has expanded to include home, gifts, apparel, and shoes. While sister brand Anthropologie pulls off this assortment, Urban Outfitters stores have simply become confusing. Hayne's theory that Urban Outfitters' problem lies in stores is supported by the company's strong online performance. Online traffic and sales both grew in the third quarter. 

"The most positive sign, in my opinion, is that the Urban customer is back," Hayne said. "She’s definitely online, and she’s buying, but she’s also coming back into the stores."

Hayne assured analysts that his team is putting in extra hours to fix Urban's layout and assortments. He's also planning to ramp up customer service. 

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Hayley Peterson/Business Insider

"Urban has always felt that the Urban customer wanted to sort of be left alone when they come into the store, and that may no longer be appropriate," he said.

Nov. 17 2014 3:36 PM

Here’s Exactly What a Hiring Manager Scans for When Reviewing Résumés

This video originally appeared on Business Insider.

Hiring managers spend just six seconds on your résumé before they decide on you. The video above shows exactly where they look.

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Follow Business Insider Video on YouTube and watch more videos: Psychologists Discovered How to Make People Like You

Nov. 14 2014 1:36 PM

Germany Is Starting to Look a Lot Like Japan

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Three things have happened in the last 48 hours that tell you a lot about the state of the German economy:

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  1. Inflation and GDP figures were confirmed. Germany grew by 0.1 percent in the third quarter, with inflation of 0.8 percent in October.
  2. German politicians have negotiated “schwarze null,” the first balanced budget for the country since the 1960s.
  3. Jens Weidmann, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank, played down the idea of the European Central Bank buying sovereign bonds (usually described as quantitative easing).

These are all microcosms of the problems facing Germany. Growth and inflation are at very low levels, politicians (and voters) are extremely reluctant to pursue fiscal stimulus, and Germany’s monetary policy representatives are some of Europe’s most hawkish.

It’s easy to see where this is going. A relatively aging population, low inflation, low growth, and a political climate that doesn’t really seem that unhappy with any of this is precisely what happened to Japan in its lost decade (or two).

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fact that Japan saw deflation during this period. Germany might not see that, but inflation and real growth combined, known as nominal growth, looks set to be extremely low, just like it was for Japan.

Chris Scicluna and Robert Kuenzel at Daiwa Capital Markets have some policies that might help fend off the German economy’s slump. 

Here are Kuenzel and Scicluna’s policy prescriptions:

  • Fiscal stimulus: Germany’s budget is now practically balanced. But it’s got room within the EU’s fairly strict rules to run a deficit of up to 3 percent of GDP. Borrowing costs for the country are practically nonexistent, so it’s hard to see downsides to a little loosening here.
  • More public investment: Thankfully, Germany has a lot of things to spend a potential stimulus on. The IMF itself has flagged up the declining quality of Germany’s famous infrastructure, so the stimulus would also have its own merits.
  • Cut taxes: Building roads and bridges and fixing ports takes a while, and the effects are spread over a long period of time. If you want to boost German spending soon, tax cuts are the way to go about it.
  • Structural reform: Germany’s economic reforms in the early 2000s are now lauded as an example to other nations, but it has actually slipped a little. Energy policy is in a mess after Angela Merkel’s 2011 nuclear moratorium, and with the population aging, Scicluna and Kuenzel say a decision to cut retirement ages in some sectors is “plain perverse.”

If that list sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not unlike Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s three arrows, with some public investment thrown in. There’s no monetary arm, because German monetary policy is controlled by the ECB (although Germany policymakers could stop arguing against easing).

Skeptics could reasonably argue that both Japan and Germany have a problem that can’t be solved by monetary or fiscal easing: that it’s just the standard for an aging, highly productive, and advanced economy. But if the Japanese experience has taught us anything so far, it’s that there’s very little harm in trying.

But it took 20 years for Japan to get Shinzo Abe and Haruhiko Kuroda as Japanese PM and Bank of Japan governor. Given the attitudes of many Germans, it might take just as long to get their own radicals.

Nov. 12 2014 3:17 PM

Why Two out of 23 People in a Room Will Likely Share a Birthday

This video originally appeared on Business Insider.

How the “birthday paradox” can be used to explain a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances.

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Follow Business Insider Video on YouTube and watch more videos: We Asked Bill Nye About Interstellar—and He Had One Big Issue With It

Nov. 12 2014 11:19 AM

Meat Lovers Want More Beef than Farmers Can Produce

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Meat lovers want more beef than cattle farmers can produce.

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Last week, live-cattle futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit an all-time high of $1.705 a pound. And this year, real per capita expenditure for beef—a measure of demand—is up 5.2 percent from a year ago, and 9.1 percent more than any of the last five years, according to Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics. When futures prices increase, consumers feel the pinch a lot more than when they go down, Meyer said.

"If you want beef, you’re going to continue to pay these kinds of high prices," Meyer told Business Insider

This chart shows how demand in 2014 has surged above previous years on a constant dollar basis.

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Paragon Economics, Inc. using USDA and Dept. of Commerce data

On why there’s more demand, Meyer said, "We’ve seen this really happening over the last two years as people said 'meat is not as bad for me as they once told me it was'," adding that this, "has benefitted the red meats more than it has poultry and turkey." 

Consumption of the four major meats—beef, pork, chicken and turkey—is up 8 percent from last year. The supply side of the equation tells another story that is not great news for meat lovers. Cow herds fell in 2011 because of droughts that hit Texas and Oklahoma, which account for over 25 percent of all U.S. beef production. The weather is much more favorable now, but Meyer said farmers are undergoing a lengthy cattle replacement process, which involves taking female cows out of the beef supply to breed, thereby reducing supply available to grocery stores.

It takes about two years to get any beef from heifers that are retained, Meyer said, and the process just really kicked in this year. So with tight supply and soaring demand, expect higher beef prices to persist over the next several months.

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