Monthly Archives: February 2017

Tesla responds to allegations of ‘pervasive harassment’ and gender discrimination

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REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Tesla rebuffed a female engineer’s allegations of sexism and harassment in a statement Tuesday, saying an investigation found the claims to be unsubstantiated.

The allegations, by AJ Vandermeyden, were made public by an article in The Guardian. Vandermeyden, who still works at Tesla, says that she was denied promotions despite being as or more qualified than male coworkers and received lower pay.

Vandermeyden, who filed a lawsuit against Tesla, also claims that she experienced “unwelcome and pervasive harassment by men on the factory floor including but not limited to inappropriate language, whistling, and cat calls.”

Tesla denied the allegations in a statement Thursday, noting that an inquiry that concluded March 2016 found the claims to be unsubstantiated. The 2016 investigation was conducted by Anne Hilbert, a partner at Employment Matters Counseling & Consulting, a law firm in Palo Alto, California.

Tesla’s statement reads in full:

“Tesla is committed to creating a positive workplace environment that is free of discrimination for all our employees. Ms. Vandermeyden joined Tesla in a sales position in 2013, and since then, despite having no formal engineering degree, she has sought and moved into successive engineering roles, beginning with her work in Tesla’s paint shop and eventually another role in General Assembly.”

“Even after she made her complaints of alleged discrimination, she sought and was advanced into at least one other new role, evidence of the fact that Tesla is committed to rewarding hard work and talent, regardless of background. When Ms. Vandermeyden first brought her concerns to us over a year ago, we immediately retained a neutral third party, Anne Hilbert of EMC2Law, to investigate her claims so that, if warranted, we could take appropriate action to address the issues she raised.”

“After an exhaustive review of the facts, the independent investigator determined that Ms. Vandermeyden’s ‘claims of gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation have not been substantiated.’ Without this context, the story presented in the original article is misleading.”

Therese Lawless, a partner at the law firm Lawless & Lawless who is representing Vandermeyden, said the investigation’s findings were not entirely accurate.

“It is my understanding that, at least from what I can tell, the investigation, parts of it, are inaccurate and it appears that information was selected in terms of what was given to the investigator,” Lawless told Business Insider.

Vandermeyden made her allegations to Tesla’s legal department in September and October 2015.

Tesla wrote in its statement that after making those allegations, Vandermeyden was advanced from a manufacturing engineer in the general assembly department into a new role in the purchasing department, which should serve as “evidence of the fact that Tesla is committed to rewarding hard work and talent.”

Lawless, however, said after Vandermeyden made the allegations, she voluntarily left the general assembly department and took a new role in the purchasing department where she is still paid less than male counterparts.

Democrats’ pick to respond to Trump’s speech was selected for one huge reason

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Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear
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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Steve Beshear, the former governor of Kentucky, has been tapped to deliver the Democratic party’s response to President Donald Trump’s address to both house of Congress for one big reason.

The move may seem odd. Beshear currently holds no elected office after his second term expired in 2015 (Kentucky has a two-term limit for governors) and is not the traditional idea of a “rising star” in the party that typically uses the spot to launch themselves into the national spotlight.

So why was he selected? The choice of Beshear seems to be aimed at one of the Democrats most important policy goals: the preservation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Embraced Obamacare

During Beshear’s time as governor, he embraced the ACA and its numerous reforms. The government set up Kynect, a state-based Obamacare exchange after the laws passing in 2010 abd expanded Medicaid coverage for lower income people in the state.

Since then Kynect has been relatively popular. Before the state move to a federal exchange by new Republican governor Matt Bevin, 33% of Kentuckians approved of Kynect while 29% disapproved accoridng to a poll by Public Policy Polling in 2015. By comparison the Affordable Care Act had a 33% approval and 47% disapproval in the same poll.

Additionally, between 2013 and 2016, Kentucky saw the biggest drop in its uninsured rate. Currently, just 7.8% of Kentuckians don’t have health insurance, a huge drop from the 20.4% without coverage in 2013 said a recent Gallup-Healthways tracker.

This does not mean that everything was perfect, much like other states Kentucky has problems with premiums but not as much as other states. Despite this, the state was relatively successful in its roll out of the ACA.

Senior support

Despite the fact that Beshear is not a current office holder, his history with the ACA sets him apart to deliver the response according to most senior Democrats.

“Under Governor Beshear’s leadership, Kentucky became one of the great success stories of the Affordable Care Act in delivering quality, affordable health coverage for all,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the press release announcing the pick. “Governor Beshear is an experienced job-creator and a uniquely credible voice on the devastating consequences of Republicans’ plans to Make America Sick Again for families across America.”

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, echoed similar comments in the same release.

“Governor Beshear’s work in Kentucky is proof positive that the Affordable Care Act works; reducing costs and expanding access for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians,” said Schumer.

Even former Democratic presidential candidate and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that Beshear’s ACA credentials were the “reason he was picked” and he was a good choice despite the fact that Beshear supported Sander’s rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Singular focus

The logic behind the move is also fairly clear. The repeal and replacement of the ACA is shaping up to be the first main legislative battle of the new Congress.

Republicans have pushed forward on repeal, but there are disagreements among the GOP in regard to a replacement. Couple the discord of Republicans with polls showing that Obamacare is hitting its highest levels of popularity ever, and the Democrats may sense an opening to sway the conversation.

According to Politico, White House Correspondent Sean Spicer said that Trump’s speech will not go into detail on a specific Obamacare replacement plan and the possible proposals from Republicans are still wide ranging, so it remains to be seen how granular Beshear’s response will be on the ACA.

Beshear, in a Facebook post about the response, said he was excited to highlight his record as Kentucky’s governor.

“During my eight years as governor, Kentucky was considered a leader in areas like health care reform, education standards and job creation, and it’s exciting that our voice is still being sought out,” wrote Beshear.

Fox News viewers turned their backs on the Oscars this year, which saw its ratings drop

Many Fox News viewers turned against the Hollywood elite on Sunday night, helping to drive down ratings for the Oscars, according to a report by analytics firm Samba TV.

Samba TV did an analysis of which heavy cable news watchers didn’t tune into the Oscars this year, after watching in 2016, and found that 48% were Fox News viewers, 30% were CNN viewers, and 15% were MSNBC viewers.

This changed the makeup of the Oscars audience, Samba TV found. The 2016 audience was 46% Fox News viewers, 32% CNN viewers, and 16% MSNBC viewers. But for 2017, it was 45% CNN, 23% MSNBC, and 30% Fox News.

In all, according to Nielsen ratings data, 32.9 million people watched the ABC broadcast. That’s compared to the 34.4 million viewers who watched last year’s broadcast. So total viewers dropped by 4%, but in the advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic, there was 14% drop in ratings year-over-year.

“New viewers are showing up to the Oscars, but not enough to replace all the Fox News people who are tuning out the celebrities,” Samba TV CEO Ashwin Navin told Broadcasting & Cable.

Hollywood has had a contentious relationship with President Trump, and has often seemed to be in open war with him since he took office. Trump and acting legend Meryl Streep have exchanged barbs, with Trump declaring her “one of the most over-rated actresses” in a tweet, after Streep lambasted him in a Golden Globes speech.

At the Oscars, host Jimmy Kimmel took repeated shots at Trump, and even tweeted at him at one point during the broadcast.

It’s good to note, however, that politics can’t entirely explain the ratings drop. Not only has there been ratings pressure on many live TV “must-see” events, like the Olympics and the VMAs, but the Golden Globes, which felt equally antagonistic to Trump, saw an uptick in ratings this year.

Additional reporting by Jethro Nededog.

Harvard president on Trump: ‘This administration seems unpredictable in many ways’

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Harvard President Drew Faust.
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Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Harvard President Drew Faust explicitly addressed President Donald Trump and his administration’s policies in a media roundtable at Bloomberg News on Tuesday, The Harvard Crimson reported.

“This administration seems unpredictable in many ways,” Faust told journalists, according to The Crimson. “It doesn’t seem tied to the traditional notions of the role of government. And so [the new administration’s] understanding of this long relationship between federal government and higher education is unclear to us,” she continued.

Her comments are some of the most pointed yet. In the past, Faust has tread more carefully in calling out Trump by name, instead voicing support for students while aiming to remain nonpartisan.

At the roundtable, she restated her concern for “safety and welfare of our students, our undocumented students, immigrants who are students and faculty and those who come to conferences and bring international perspectives that are key to learning and discovery,” The Crimson reported.

Much of that sentiment echoes earlier concerns Faust voiced to students in an email sent in January.

“Nearly half of the deans of Harvard’s schools are immigrants – from India, China, Northern Ireland, Jamaica, and Iran,” she wrote at the time. “Benefiting from the talents and energy, the knowledge and ideas of people from nations around the globe is not just a vital interest of the University; it long has been, and it fully remains, a vital interest of our nation.”

The email urged the Trump administration, Congress, and the court system to reconsider an executive order signed that bars citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. That order is currently stalled in federal court.

But worry still exists across the US among undocumented immigrants as the Trump Administration has indicated it wants to ramp up mass deportations.

And Faust indicated that the harsh rhetoric concerning immigrants may dissuade future students from pursuing an education in the US.

“Who are we going to lose if enormously talented people don’t feel welcome here?” she asked.

Trump is taking his time to fill more than 500 key jobs, and that could stymie his agenda

President Donald Trump has an explanation for why he has not yet proposed a nominee for 516 key Senate-confirmable positions.

“In many cases, we don’t want to fill those jobs,” he told Fox News on Tuesday morning. “A lot of those jobs I don’t want to appoint because they’re unnecessary to have.”

So far, Trump’s pace of nominations doesn’t lag that far behind former President Obama’s: Trump has nominated 33 people, compared to 49 for Obama at this point in 2009. However, a 2010 law was supposed to help this president get people in place faster than previous ones by starting the transition earlier, in the August before the election.

If Trump is serious about his stated intention to leave a lot of jobs unfilled, then his agenda is likely to be undermined. Just because you leave a job unfilled doesn’t mean it doesn’t get done. Often, it means it gets done by someone who isn’t loyal to you.

If you don’t put your people in jobs at departments and agencies, then holdover staff and civil servants will have more control over what those agencies do.

I suspect Trump understands this on some level, given how much he has complained – not always without cause – that people in the bureaucracy don’t like him and are trying to stop him from implementing his agenda.

Trump’s claim that he wants to leave many jobs open might just be his excuse for a transition process that has been slowed by the reluctance of some Republican policy experts to go to work in this administration, Trump’s insistence in many cases on finding candidates who were loyal to him through the election, disputes between the White House and agencies over staffing choices, and the disorganization that stemmed from Trump’s choice to fire transition head Chris Christie right after the election.

Still, there are reasons Trump is not good at staffing up and strategizing about how to deal with a hostile bureaucracy. It’s not an accident that the man’s slogan is “You’re fired” and not “You’re hired.”

It’s one more reason I expect a lower quantity of policy out of this administration than its backers hope or its detractors fear. If personnel is policy, then choosing not to have personnel is choosing not to have policy.

Salesforce posts an all-around beat for its earnings, but investors aren’t thrilled

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Salesforce had a full-on beat for its fiscal Q4 2017 quarter and raised its guidance for its full-year FY 2018, though shares fell on disappointment on that 2018 guidance anyway.

Salesforce reported:

    Q4 Adj. EPS of $0.28, versus expectations of $0.25 – that’s a beat Sales of $2.29 billion versus estimates of $2.28 billion – another beat.

It also reported deferred revenue (revenue that has been paid but not yet earned) of $5.54 billion, up 29% year-over-year.

And the all-important unbilled deferred revenue (or revenue that is under contract but not yet billed) is about $9.0 billion, up 27% year over year.

Salesforce predicts that its FY18 will be $10.15 billion to $10.20 billion. Analysts were looking for $10.15 billion.

Even with all this good news, the stock was down slightly, less than 2%.

Here’s the full press release.

Report: FBI once reached agreement to pay former British spy who authored explosive Trump dossier

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U.S. President Donald Trump signs H.R. 225 in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, DC, U.S. February 28, 2017.
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REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The FBI reached an agreement to pay the former British spy who authored the dossier full of unverified claims of President Donald Trump’s ties to the Russian government, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the agreement.

The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent who worked in Moscow. Steele was ini tally hired by DC-based opposition research firm Fusion GPS to suss out the connections between the Trump camp and the alleged Russian hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

The FBI had reached an agreement with Steele as early as October to pay him to continue his work, though the FBI did not end up paying Steele as the dossier became the center of a media storm, The Post reported.

Steele wrote a series of memos – compiled into a 35-page dossier by Fusion GPS and published in full by BuzzFeed in January – that alleged the Russian government, led by President Vladimir Putin, had cultivated Trump for five years with the ultimate goal of “encouraging splits” in the Western alliance among other salacious details.

Trump has condemned the dossier as “fake and fictitious,” though certain details have been corroborated by intelligence officials. Many of the allegations in the document remain unsubstantiated, however.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s recently ousted national security adviser, was named in the dossier after the Kremlin funded a 2015 trip to a gala honoring the 10th anniversary of Russia Today, a state-sponsored news outlet. Flynn resigned earlier this month amid a separate Russia-related firestorm.

Samsung introduced 10 times as many phones as Apple last year, but its mobile division made half as much revenue

March 29 will be a big day for Samsung. After announcing an upcoming “Galaxy Unpacked” event at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona this week, the Korean tech giant is all-but-guaranteed to launch its next major flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, on that date.

Given the spectacular failure of Samsung’s last flagship, the now-defunct Galaxy Note 7, the company will pin higher-than-usual hopes on its next hero device to rebuild trust, make up for lost profits, and give it a worthy competitor to Apple, which is expected to unveil a significantly redesigned iPhone model in the fall.

Along those lines, it’s worth noting that Samsung’s mobile division has fallen well behind its chief rival in recent years. This chart from Statista tells the story: While the two are neck-and-neck when it comes to overall unit sales, Apple now makes roughly twice as much revenue from mobile devices. This is despite the fact that Samsung sold more than 30 different phones in 2016, whereas Apple sold just three.

A must-have high-end Galaxy S8 may not reduce the deficit completely, but it would go some way toward erasing Apple’s position as the only company making real profits off smartphones.

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Statista

Republicans are hitting more roadblocks on their Obamacare repeal

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016.
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Reuters

The biggest emerging obstacle to the Republican plan to change the US healthcare system might be the GOP itself.

Conservative lawmakers are grumbling within their own party over the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the law better known as Obamacare.

Arguments over the future of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law and a tweak in attitude from the administration of President Donald Trump have shifted the Obamacare changes into a slower gear.

Battle brewing

A draft of the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the law that was leaked to Politico on Friday has already faced pushback from some conservative lawmakers.

Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the influential House Freedom Caucus, and Mark Walker, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said on Monday that he would vote against the leaked draft of the bill if it were introduced. And some Republican senators are on the fence.

A coalition of conservative members, including Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, have all expressed dissatisfaction with the framing of the debate, pressing the need for a total repeal of the law.

Given the budget-reconciliation method Republicans plan to use for much of the law, the GOP only needs a simply 51-vote majority to pass the upper chamber. Without Paul, Cruz, and Lee, however, the party would not have enough votes to get even a reconciliation bill through the body.

On the other end, some GOP senators in states that have expanded the Medicaid program under the law are unhappy with the House version of the bill because it does not preserve the expansion. GOP governors in states with Medicaid expansion have also been critical of any plan that does not continue to provide states with funding to expand the coverage program for low income individuals.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, when asked about the timing of Obamacare’s repeal and replacement, told reporters the GOP “was not there yet.”

Trump’s slowdown

It’s not just Congress. The Trump administration itself has been setting up the possibility of a slower timetable for repealing and replacing Obamacare.

In the days leading up to his inauguration, Trump told the New York Times that he did not want to wait long on healthcare. He said he expected a repeal vote “sometime next week” and a replacement “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”

Now, however, Trump and his team seem to be pumping the brakes on their messaging. They have stressed the difficulty of the repeal process have urged patience.

Trump told a meeting of governors this week that reform was coming soon, but he hinted how surprised he was at the reality of the process’ complexity.

“Nobody knew that healthcare would be this complicated,” he said.

In an interview with Fox & Friends on Tuesday, Trump also said he hasn’t had enough time to get the replacement done.

“I’ve only been here for like four weeks,” Trump said. “Somebody said, ‘He hasn’t done healthcare yet,’ but they’ve been working on healthcare for 30 years. I’ve only been here for – what is this, like my fifth week?”

Trump did say, however, that “we’re set to propose a plan.”

The Washington Post reported last weekend about internal disagreements over the future of the health law within the Oval Office. After meeting with Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is an advocate of Medicaid expansion and a less aggressive ACA repeal, Trump was reminded that that Kasich’s suggestions did not represent the plan GOP leaders were pushing for – to which he reportedly said, “Well, I like this better.”

It remains unclear whether the administration will present its own ACA replacement plan. Trump’s administration has held meetings about the ACA with participants such as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Trump promised a plan once Price was confirmed.

CNBC’s John Harwood, however, reported that most Republicans in Congress do not expect a separate plan from the administration and that the legislature will dictate the course of healthcare policy.

With congressional lawmakers arguing over the course of policy and no apparent direction coming from the White House, all eyes will be on Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, when he is, in part, expected to provide details of his vision.

Watch the US Navy’s biggest helicopter refuel from a plane while carrying a Humvee over the ocean

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A US Marine Corps CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter approaches an US Air Force HC-130P Hercules aircraft for aerial refueling over Djibouti during Operation Enduring Freedom.
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U.S. Department of Defense.

The CH-53E Sea Stallion is the US military’s largest and most powerful helicopter, capable of carrying a Humvee like handbag.

But even the Stallion’s seven chopping blades can’t scare away US Marine Corps refueling planes.

In the video below, see how the US transports a huge truck, with a huger helicopter, across a huge expanse of sea with the help of a KC-130J refueling plane, which is huge in its own right.