Business Insider
Analyzing the top news stories across the web

July 27 2015 3:06 PM

Twitter Is Taking Down Tweets That Steal Other People’s Jokes

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Twitter has started taking down tweets that copy the same joke that somebody else has already shared, the Verge reports. Olga Lexell, a freelance writer from Los Angeles, spotted that one of her Twitter jokes was being reposted by other accounts without her permission. They didn't retweet her; instead they just copied and pasted her joke. Lexell decided to ask Twitter to take down the tweets, as they were her intellectual property.

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Sure enough, Twitter responded by deleting the jokes. 

It's unclear whether Twitter would have deleted the joke tweets if they weren't ripping off a writer who makes a living through the site. But if you want to ask Twitter to take down a tweet that rips off one of your jokes, here's the link to do so.

Here, via the Verge, is what Lexell said about her decision to ask Twitter to take down the tweets:

I simply explained to Twitter that as a freelance writer I make my living writing jokes (and I use some of my tweets to test out jokes in my other writing). I then explained that as such, the jokes are my intellectual property, and that the users in question did not have my permission to repost them without giving me credit.

If the social network does launch a crackdown on copied tweets then that could be bad news for the hundreds of accounts that repost tweets found on other accounts.

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July 24 2015 3:59 PM

Canada and the U.S. Are Having a Border Dispute Over Lobster

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

There is still a tiny bit of disputed territory between the U.S. and Canada, and relations on the border are getting frosty.

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In the northeastern-most part of the U.S.—on the coast where Maine meets New Brunswick—there are two tiny, uninhabited islands in a political gray area. It isn’t because anyone wants the islands. Instead, they want the lobster surrounding the islands, and it’s disputed which country has the fishing rights.

During normal times, the dispute seems to be little more than an annoyance. But apparently this year, there are real problems because the price of lobster is so high ($5.50 a pound in that area, compared to $4 the previous year), according to Zane Schwartz in Maclean’s.

Schwartz writes:

The conflict bubbles to the surface every few years, when a bellicose lobsterman on one side or the other gets quoted in the press and sets the other side off. But things are different this year. Due to the high price of lobster, new lobstermen have entered the fray, and they are ignoring unwritten rules that have kept the conflict on a low simmer since 1783.

There are fears from the Maine side that this might get violent. “Somebody is going to get killed. We’ve had bad years in the past and got lucky, but this is the worst year I’ve ever seen,” says American John Drouin, chair of the Maine Lobster Zone Council district in charge of the grey zone. Drouin fears things are even more dangerous than they were eight years ago, when Maine lobsterman Patrick Feeney had his thumb ripped off. It got caught as he was trying to free his equipment while jostling with a Canadian for territory.

Meanwhile, both countries assert their legal rights to the islands.

Click here to read the whole story, and see a really fabulous photo of a puffin.

July 23 2015 4:03 PM

Google Wants to Lure Businesses Away From Amazon With Free Cloud Storage

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

What would you do with 100 petabytes of free cloud storage? Google is hoping to find out as it officially launches its Cloud Storage Nearline service and tries to get a leg up on rival Amazon. The service, which has been in beta since early March, provides businesses with a cheap and easy way to store files and documents that a user doesn't need instantly. 

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Today, Google's Nearline is available to the world. And to entice people to switch away from the cloud storage competition—namely, Amazon Web Services, the unstoppable $6 billion juggernaut of the market—Google is offering 100 petabytes (100 million gigabytes) of free storage to anybody who comes aboard.

Normally, Google prices the data stored on Nearline at 1 cent per gigabyte per month. This works out to Google extending a service credit of $1 million per month to any customer who switches. For a big company, they'll probably blow through that pretty fast. For a startup or smaller company with less intensive data needs, it could last a while.

The deal isn't explicitly aimed at Amazon Web Services, and you'll get the credit if you switch from any other cloud provider or storage software vendor. But Google rolled out a calculator to go alongside this announcement to specifically show how much customers can save with Google Cloud Storage Nearline versus Amazon Web Services, so the intention is clear.

To further the promotion of its cloud storage, Google also rolled out the Google Cloud Transfer service, which makes it easier to move data from other storage providers like, of course, Amazon, into the Google platform.

All of this, including the free credits and the transfer tools, are in the name of getting more and more people to sign up with Google's cloud instead of Amazon's. But it's also furthering the dangerous "race to zero," when cloud storage is so cheap and so plentiful that companies like Google and Amazon won't be able to sell it anymore.

July 22 2015 2:27 PM

Coca-Cola Wanted to Make More Money by Selling Soda in Smaller Bottles. It Worked.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Over the past few months, Coke has shifted its focus toward selling smaller cans and bottles in the U.S., in the hope that slimming down on portion size will help fatten up its margins. And it's a bet that appears to have paid off.

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Coca-Cola said in its second quarter earnings report published Wednesday that it gained non-alcoholic ready-to-drink (NARTD) beverage volume for the 21st consecutive quarter, driven by an increase in both the quantity and quality of marketing investments, and also its "continued rational approach to pricing and disciplined price/pack strategies.” Net operating revenue in North America grew 3 percent year-on-year to $5.9 billion in the three months to July 3. Profit grew 7 percent to $887 million.

On the earnings call, Coke gave more detail: Smaller packages are growing much faster than larger packages, and smaller packs have a higher price per gallon/liter/case. Coca-Cola chairman and chief executive officer Muhtar Kent explained on the Q2 earnings call that Coca-Cola's marketing model is about "more people enjoying more Coke, more often, for a little more money." Smaller packages are helping drive up overall transaction growth, he added.

"Moms in particular like small packs and are returning to the category to use small packs as a way to give treats to teenagers and others in the household. It's particularly positive that moms can do this without the packaging being too big. For many years we marketed packs that were too big, or were over-consumed. And that's one of the reasons why we are over-accelerating," Kent said on the call. 

Strategies have included more aggressively marketing 7.5-ounce mini-cans and smaller 8-ounce glass bottles on supermarket shelves. Coke also recently said it distributed a million mini cans as part of its "Share a Coke" summer marketing push that saw it print popular names on-pack.

Last November, Coke's North American president Sandy Douglas said the trend towards health and wellness had set up a "tremendous opportunity for the Coca-Cola brand with our smaller packages,” the AP reported. He explained that a regular 12-ounce can of Coke sold on average for 31 cents. But a 7.5-ounce mini can sells for 50 cents—or, in other words, 2.6 cents-per-ounce for a regular can, or 5.3 cents-per-ounce for the mini can.

July 21 2015 2:24 PM

Tech Companies Really Don't Want Apple to Win Its Patent War With Samsung

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies are backing Samsung in its patent war with Apple. A coalition of huge firms including Facebook, Google, HP, Dell, and eBay are asking a U.S. appeals court to review a decision forcing Samsung to turn over full profits for Galaxy products found to infringe on Apple patents.

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In a July 1 "friend of the court" filing to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, picked up by Inside Sources, the group pointed out that devices like smartphones or TVs contain thousands of different bits of hardware and software. This means their design is too complicated to lump it into a single patent-infringement case when only certain aspects of the device could have been copied from another firm. Google, Facebook, Dell, and HP, along with other tech firms and trade groups, believe that the ruling against Samsung sets a bad precedent.

Here's the group's argument: 

Under the panel's reasoning, the manufacturer of a smart television containing a component that infringed any single design patent could be required to pay in damages its total profit on the entire television, no matter how insignificant the design of the infringing feature was to the manufacturer's profit or to consumer demand.
Software products and online platforms face similar dangers. A design patent may cover the appearance of a single feature of a graphical user interface, such as the shape of an icon. That feature—a result of a few lines out of millions of code—may appear only during a particular use of the product, on one screen display among hundreds. But the panel's decision could allow the owner of the design patent to receive all profits generated by the product or platform, even if the infringing element was largely insignificant to the user and it was the thousands of other features, implemented across the remainder of the software, that drove the demand generating those profits.

According to the Inside Sources report, Apple hit back by asking for the group's opinion to be dismissed because Google has an interest in the case as the designer of Android, the mobile platform Samsung devices use. 

The patent war between Apple and Samsung has been going on for years, with each company accusing the other of infringement at several different points.

Apple originally accused Samsung of ripping off designs for tap-to-zoom, single-finger scrolling, and two-finger zooming, as well as edge-to-edge glass design, among other iPhone features. Samsung was eventually found to have infringed on six out of seven patents it was accused of stealing and ordered to pay $930 million in damages. This was the "total profit" of the infringing Galaxy products and was supposed to make up for Apple's lost sales.

This May, an appeals court lowered the amount Samsung was ordered to pay by $382 million. Apple had also accused Samsung of violating the "unregistered trade dress," or wider design of the iPhone such as "a rectangular product with four evenly rounded corners." The court established that these were not just design features of an iPhone but necessary to create a smartphone. Samsung asked the court to review the decision again in June.

July 20 2015 4:44 PM

Microsoft's Virtual Personal Assistant Will Adapt to Your Country's Culture

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Microsoft's Cortana virtual personal assistant is a big part of the forthcoming Windows 10, and, soon, Android and iOS. And Windows 10 is a big part of Microsoft's product push all over the world, with availability in U.S., UK, China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain at its July 29 launch.

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To further that end, Microsoft today announced in a blog post that Cortana is coming to Japan, Australia, Canada, India, Brazil, and Mexico. Cortana is rolling out first to members of the Windows Insider early testing program by the end of this year, and then to everybody else using Windows 10 after those early international adopters put Cortana through her paces. 

It turns out that it's important that Cortana does get that pre-launch workout, because Microsoft's blog post also revealed she's getting tweaked in each market to better serve users in those countries. For example in China, Cortana will track air quality and alert users:

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Windows 10's Cortana will help users in China track smog and air quality.

Microsoft

It extends to more cosmetic things, too. in China, users requested a voice for Cortana who "sounded like she was smiling." Meanwhile, the UK wanted an "English Rose," a more easy-going personality with some self-deprecating modesty—and a dry, ironic sense of humor that includes "playful irony" if she detects you're asking silly questions. In fact, in all markets, Cortana's is getting a humor update to make sure she can tell jokes that work in the native language.

And in a nuts-and-bolts kind of way, Cortana will pay more attention to cultural touchstones in each market, Microsoft says. In France, she's knowledgeable about the Cannes Film Festival. In Canada, Cortana will have opinions about hockey. In India, she's a fan of cricket star player Sachin Tendulkar. Ask Cortana to sing a song in Italy, which Microsoft says has a strong national identity, and she'll bust out the national anthem.

Plus, in Japan, Cortana will bow to users by default:

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Windows 10's Cortana will bow to Japanese users by default.

Microsoft

Cortana is a big part of Microsoft's strategy, presenting users with an easy-to-use, natural-language kind of way to sift huge amounts of data. Making Cortana more accessible to everyone, everywhere is a big step towards that end. 

July 16 2015 4:55 PM

Egg Prices Soar as Birds Drop Dead From Avian Influenza

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

The avian influenza that's affecting millions of birds nationwide is also disrupting the fast-food industry. More than 48 million birds have been affected with the flu since December.

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This outbreak is causing an egg shortage that's forcing restaurants to modify their menus and improvise. The latest chain to take a hit because of the increase in the egg prices is the popular Chinese fast casual chain Panda Express. 

The chain removed eggs from its fried rice and replaced them with corn in June, according to CBS San Francisco. The eatery was also forced to discontinue its hot and sour soup temporarily. It's also looking like the eggs will not return to its menu anytime soon.

“We have been informed by suppliers that the egg shortage will last between 18 and 24 months. Egg prices have definitely increase [sic] for those who are able to purchase them,"a Panda Express spokesperson told CBS. "In our case, the number of suppliers from whom we can purchase liquid is extremely limited, which jeopardizes our ability to consistently purchase safe and reliable product.” 

Panda Express isn't the first chain to turn to alternatives for eggs. Many restaurants simply can't keep up with the high raise in prices.

"In June, producer prices for eggs for fresh use surged 71.7 percent in price from May. Consumer prices are also jumping with one USDA report for daily New York eggs showing large Grade A and USDA Grade A egg prices at major chains rising to a range of $1.99 to $3.49 Friday from $1.99 to $2.79 to a year ago," according to CNBC.

In early June, another company implemented changes. The San Antonio-based fast food chain Whataburger faced major backlash after it was forced to shorten its breakfast window due to the shortage. Around three weeks later, the restaurant announced it would resume normal breakfast hours. 

"We know it’s been a tough couple of weeks for our customers, but we’re really grateful for their support while we worked to build up our egg supply,” said Whataburger COO Dino Del Nano in a press release. 

Last week another popular chain, Rita's, announced that it was temporarily replacing its frozen custard, which contains eggs, with soft serve ice cream. The company does not guarantee that its prices will not be affected as pricing is at individual franchisees discretion.

The switch has been met with mixed responses on Twitter.

The shortage is even affecting large grocers as many of the stores' items contain eggs, especially their bakeries. Publix is expecting cost increases. "The recent avian influenza outbreak has had a nationwide impact on the supply and availability of both turkey and egg products. Certain items may be temporarily discontinued until we have an adequate inventory," a Publix spokesperson said in an email statement to News-Press. 

Last month another Texas-based grocer H-E-B instated a new policy that only 3 dozen eggs can be purchased per customer, according to the Houston Press. Post Holdings, a large packaged food company that owns popular brands like Raisin Bran and Honey Bunches of Oats, announced at the end of June that the company was affected by the flu.

"A third Company owned chicken flock in Nebraska has tested positive for AI. This brings the total affected supply to approximately 35 percent of the Company's volume commitments as determined prior to the recognition of force majeure," according to a Post Holdings press release.

The company said that it's future remained uncertain because of the outbreak. 

July 15 2015 4:34 PM

Oregon Drivers Can Now Choose to Be Taxed by the Mile

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Oregon was the first state to implement the gas tax in 1919, and may be the first to abandon it. Starting this month, Oregon drivers have the option to pay by the mile for road usage instead of by how much gas they purchase. OReGO, as the program is known, launched on July 1 with the a goal of enrolling 5,000 participants to test the three private partnerships set up by the state’s Department of Transportation for this trial run.

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The scheme is designed to shift road tax revenues from a gasoline-based structure to what supporters believe is a more fair approach, given the increasing number of hybrid and electric vehicles. Under the scheme, drivers will pay 1.5 center per mile driven in the state, and then receive credit on their bill for the 30-cents-per-gallon paid at the pump as state gas tax.

"Oregon and other states know that the gas tax drivers pay at the pump isn't cutting it anymore," said Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matthew Garrett in a press release.

"As newer cars squeeze more miles out of each gallon of gas, and more hybrid and all-electric vehicles are sold, paying for road use by the mile instead of by the gallon ensures that everyone pays their fair share—no more, no less.”

Average miles-per-gallon of vehicles in the United States has improved considerably, from just 16 in 1980, to over 24 mpg in 2013, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Portland, Oregon has the most hybrid cars registered of any American city.

Several other states, including Washington, California, Colorado, and others, are considering similar programs.

July 14 2015 12:20 PM

Mozilla Just Blocked Flash Player. Will Other Tech Firms Follow?

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Mozilla is blocking the Adobe Flash Player from automatically running in its Firefox Web browser until an update is released to address concerns about its security. Flash is a common software used to view videos, GIFs, and animations in web browsers. It is supported by most Web browsers including FireFox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Chrome.

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The Mozilla Foundation, which makes a number of free-to-use email, Web-browsing, and mobile services, announced it would start blocking the use of Flash Player by default on Firefox in a threat advisory. "Following Adobe’s advisory for two critical vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash Player 18.0.0.204 [the latest version of Flash] and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux, we have disabled Flash by default in Firefox to protect our users from active exploits which are distributing malware,” Mozilla director of product management Chad Weiner told Business Insider. 

The vulnerabilities in question were uncovered in the wake of the high-profile Team Hacking leaks. The leaks occurred on July 6 when a group of hackers infiltrated Italian surveillance firm Team Hacking—which creates and sells spy software.

The hackers published 400GB of allegedly stolen Team Hacking data online, including the source code of the firm’s spy tools and what software vulnerabilities they exploited. The exploits targeted included the Adobe Flash flaws mentioned by Mozilla. The security flaws led to a backlash against Adobe, after it was discovered criminal groups have begun using the Flash bugs in their cyber scams.

Facebook’s new chief security officer Alex Stamos led the charge against Flash and called for Web browsers to “announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day,” on Monday.

Stamos is one of many professionals to call for an end to Flash. Deceased Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously hated Flash and worked hard to keep it from running on iPhones and iPads during his tenure as the company’s CEO.

Mozilla’s Weiner confirmed the current block is not permanent and the firm plans to stop blocking it when Adobe fixes the software’s security. “Adobe is expected to release an update to Flash sometime this week. This new version of Flash will be activated in Firefox by default," he said.

A Mozilla spokesperson declined to comment the firm would ever consider permanently blocking Flash Player, telling Business Insider the firm “has nothing to add for the moment.”

Business Insider has reached out to Adobe for comment. Business Insider also reached out to Microsoft and Google’s security teams to see if they are also considering blocking support for Flash, but similarly had not received a reply at the time of publishing.

In the past, Mozilla has been proactive and aggressive when dealing with insecure products, or technologies it feels are invading on its customers’ privacy. Mozilla used a solution developed by privacy advocate and Stanford lecturer Jonathan Mayer to turn off third party cookies in Firefox on May 2013. Cookies are pieces of code websites drop into your browser when you visit websites. They are used by advertisers to target you with adverts.

The European Parliament imposed laws, forcing websites dropping cookies to alert visitors they are doing it in 2012.

July 10 2015 3:55 PM

Chevy Is Turning Discarded Volt Batteries Into Habitats for Bats

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Chevrolet has found a unique use for the discarded cases of its Volt batteries—and it involves bats and ducks.

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The Chevy Volt battery cover is made of thermoset, a type of plastic that's difficult to recycle. And once the batteries are ready for use, the thermoset cases that shipped them become useless. Not anymore.

GM's waste reduction expert, John Bradburn, gives new life to these cases by turning them into shelters for bats—and, with some tweaks, for wood ducks, owls, eastern bluebirds, and scaly-sided merganser.    

Bradburn and his team have installed 700 nesting boxes for critters at GM's 40 wildlife habitat sites in the past five years. A box can house up to 150 little brown bats, one of the most common species found in North America.

But research shows that bats are dying in great numbers due to the spread of a disease called white-nose syndrome. The loss of these nocturnal flying mammals is a dangerous development for the planet. Bats help maintain ecological balance by eating 2,000 to 5,000 insects in one night, and more than 500 species of flowers rely on them for pollination. A study in Science magazine even found that loss of bats could cost North American agriculture $3.7 billion. 

A nesting box can at least make life a little easier for bats looking for a roosting spot. Here's how Bradburn puts together a bat box using wood scraps, battery cases and nails:

In a recent tweak to the bat box, Bradburn went a step further by swapping the scrap wood used for laying pallets inside the box with old circuit trays pulled out from GM's SUVs and truck engines.  

"When I held the circuit tray up the length was about right and the width was perfect," he said in a press release. “I figured with some epoxy adhesive applied and sand sprinkled on it to make for a grittier surface, bats would have no problem hanging on."

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