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Colin Kaepernick Convinces Nike to Pull ‘Betsy Ross Flag’ Sneaker

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  • Nike announced Monday that it would not release a new sneaker that featured the Betsy Ross flag on the heel, which was designed to celebrate Independence Day.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that the decision to pull the shoe came after Colin Kaepernick, a Nike spokesman, told the company he and others found the flag offensive because of its connection to an era of slavery.
  • After the report broke, people began debating the situation on social media, with some supporting Nike and Kaepernick and others calling it an overreaction.

The Shoe

Nike canceled the launch of a new sneaker that featured the Betsy Ross flag after Colin Kaepernick told the company he and others found the flag offensive, sparking a viral debate on what the flag symbolizes. 

On June 24, Nike announced plans to release a new sneaker on July 4 to celebrate Independence Day. The heel of the shoe would feature an early American flag often referred to as the “Betsy Ross flag,” which was designed during the American Revolution and includes 13 stars for the original 13 colonies.

People began criticizing the sneaker design, arguing that it was insensitive to use because the flag is a symbol connected to an era of slavery.

On Monday, Nike said they would no longer be launching the shoe and pulled it from their website and apps, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag,” a spokesperson for the company explained to the outlet. 

According to the Journal, the company had already sent out shipments of the shoe to retailers when Colin Kaepernick, one of Nike’s most prominent spokesmen, saw the sneaker and asked the company to reconsider. 

“Mr. Kaepernick…reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery,” the Journal reported.

Responses

News of Nike canceling the shoe and the reason behind the decision sparked mixed reactions from the public. Some agreed with Kaepernick and also view the flag as an offensive symbol linked to the slavery era and white nationalism.

Others felt like Nike and Kaepernick were overreacting and defended the flag. 

Arizona Governor Takes Action

Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey was among those against the decision. In the early hours of July 2, Ducey tweeted that he had ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw from a financial incentive deal with Nike. 

According to city documents, the deal involved Nike building its next U.S. manufacturing facility in the city of Goodyear, near Phoenix. The company had also agreed to:  

  • Create at least 505 full-time manufacturing jobs.
  • Provide an average salary of around $48,000 a year.
  • Pay a minimum of 65% of health-care premiums.
  • Invest at least $184.5 million in tenant improvements Goodyear and the manufacturing facility.

In exchange, the city of Goodyear had agreed to waive almost $1 million in plan reviews and fees, as well as reimburse Nike $1 million for the jobs created. 

The Goodyear City Council agenda shows they met Monday evening and signed off on the agreement less than 12 hours before the Governor’s decision to withdraw.

Past Controversies

This is not the first time the Betsy Ross flag has created controversy like this. In 2016, a high school in Michigan received backlash after pictures of students waving a Trump flag along with a Betsy Ross flag went viral.  

The school district superintendent condemned the act and later said in a letter, “to wave a historical version of our flag, that to some symbolizes exclusion and hate, injects hostility and confusion to an event where no one intended to do so.” 

The president of the NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch also responded to the situation. In his own letter, he wrote the flag “has been appropriated by the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.” 

While the Betsy Ross flag is not often used, the date it was adopted by Congress has become an American holiday known as Flag Day. 

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The Root) (Forbes)

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Houseparty Denies Viral Hacking Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty for Proof of Smear Campaign

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  • Users of the group video chat service Houseparty have complained that their online accounts like Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and even bank accounts were hacked after downloading the app. 
  • Houseparty said it found no evidence to suggest a link between its app and the hacking of unrelated accounts. 
  • The app also believes the rumors are part of a “commercial smear campaign” against it and are offering a $1 million dollar bounty for evidence that proves this. 
  • Forbes enlisted a cybersecurity expert who found no obvious dangers with the app, but damage to Houseparty’s reputation may have already been done as people continue to urge others to delete it.

Hacking Accusations Surface 

Houseparty is now the latest group video-chatting app to come under fire over privacy concerns, but the app is fighting back, aggressively denying recent data breach rumors. 

People forced indoors all over the world during the coronavirus pandemic have been turning to video-chatting apps over the last few weeks, not only for school and business meetings but also for virtual gatherings with friends and family. 

With apps like Zoom facing increased criticism over data sharing policies, meeting crashers, and other issues, many have instead opted to download its “fun” competitor, Houseparty, which features in-app group games like Heads Up!, QuickDraw!, and Trivia. 

But over the last few days, Houseparty users have been complaining on social media that their non-related accounts were compromised, including Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and online-banking accounts, among others.

Many have suggested that the Epic Games owned app is in some way the reason for this.

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Houseparty Denies Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty

On Monday, an Epic Games spokesperson issued a statement saying, “We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts.” 

“As a general rule, we suggest all users choose strong passwords when creating online accounts on any platform,” it added. 

The company also took to Twitter to assure users that its “service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

Later that same evening, the app launched more aggressive measures to shut down the hacking rumors, saying, “We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.”

The company even said it was offering a $1 million dollar bounty “for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign.”  

Is Houseparty Safe? 

So is the app actually safe to use? Well, no app can be guaranteed 100% secure, but it seems like as of now, there are no dangerous flaws that have been found. Forbes released a report examining the app and enlisted cybersecurity and privacy researcher Lukas Stefanko to take a look at the Android version of it. Stefanko ultimately determined that there was nothing of concern. 

“I analyzed the app’s permissions usage and since the app provides video chats with your friends it is logical that requested permissions are necessary. I haven’t found any shady misusing of them by the app,” said Stefanko said. “The app doesn’t provide a lot of in-app options and settings, which creates less scenarios for exploiting security issues.”

From a privacy perspective, the Forbes report said there is one obvious issue that some might want to note before downloading. That is that the app’s games are open to any of your friends and any of your friends’ friends unless you lock the “room” where you’re playing. 

So essentially if you don’t lock rooms down, there’s a chance people you don’t know will invade your game. However, the report noted that there is an easy fix for this issue: simply hitting the padlock button at the bottom of the screen.

As far as its privacy policy, the report again said there was nothing outrageous there as well. They did say that the most concerning language in the policy says that the app can collect “anonymized and aggregated information, such as de-identified demographic information” and “de-identified location information.” The issue here is that even when location data is “de-identified,” it’s still possible to find out who the person is by linking it with other information.  

And while the app collects contacts so you can find friends to play with, the company promises that it “will never share your phone number or the phone numbers of third parties in your contacts with anyone else.”

Forbes noted that there is the standard warning that user data can be used for more targeted advertising and if you’re concerned enough about that, they provided specific steps you can take to boost privacy and still use the app. 

Thomas Brewster, the Security, surveillance and privacy reporter who wrote the Forbes report, later tweeted that he had reached out to a few different researchers for their opinion. They too had not found any notable security issues with Houseparty.

So as of now, it seems like the app is fine to use, but some don’t seem too convinced. The damage to Houseparty’s reputation may already be done as social media users continue to urge one another to delete the app altogether. However, we’ll all have to wait and see if Houseparty’s interesting efforts to debunk the rumor pay off in the future. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Engadget) (BBC)

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Taylor Swift Uses Leaked Kanye Call to Raise Money for Coronavirus Relief Efforts

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  • Over the weekend, the full-length footage of the phone call between Taylor Swift and Kanye West about his song “Famous” emerged online. 
  • The call seemed to back up Swift’s original story that she didn’t know West would call her a “bitch” in the song, years after Kim Kardashian released snippets of the footage that seemed to indicate otherwise.
  • Both Swift and Kardashian acknowledged the drama and the larger crisis of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Some were critical of Kardashian for seeming to focus more on the drama and only offering to donate 20% of her profits to emergency response efforts, while Swift quickly directed followers to donation pages unrelated to her.

Background of Taylor-Kim-Kanye Feud

Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, odds are you’re at least somewhat familiar with the drama between Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian West, and her husband, Kanye West.

But just for good measure, here’s the gist of it:

It all started in 2009, when pop star Taylor Swift accepted an award for “best video by a female artist” at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was interrupted by Kanye West coming on stage, saying the infamous four words, “Im’a let you finish,” before proceeding to imply, in front of the crowd and on television, that Beyonce Knowles should have won the award instead. The moment stunned Swift and many of her fans. 

Then, in 2016, West dropped his song “Famous,” referencing the incident and Swift directly by name. 

“For all my southside n***** that know me best, I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous,” West raps in the hit.

According to a report from TMZ, Kanye said that Swift had approved the song before it was released. Swift denied this through a publicist. 

“Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account,” Swift’s representative Tree Paine told The New York Times. “She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message.” 

“Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that bitch famous,’” Tree Paine added.

Meanwhile, West maintained that he received Swift’s approval. Months later, the feud got worse when Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian West released bits of the phone call between the two musicians, defending her husband and claiming Swift actually did okay the song. 

This resulted in a lot of backlash for Swift, with many slamming her and accusing her of lying, and Swift said in her recent documentary “Miss Americana” that the whole affair made her want to “disappear.”

Stars Acknowledge Developments, Point to Coronavirus

Over the weekend, the full-length, 25-minute phone call between West and Swift from years ago was somehow leaked and made its rounds on social media, appearing to back up Swift’s claim that she didn’t know about the line referring to her as a “bitch.” 

There’s actually one part of the call where Swift is relieved he didn’t use that word, saying “I thought it was going to be like, ‘That stupid, dumb bitch.’ But it’s not.”

From listening to Kim’s snippets of the call released in 2016 alone, it was not known whether the pair of musicians talked about the use of the word “bitch.” 

The hashtags #KimKardashianIsOver Party and #KanyeWestIsOverParty were trending over the weekend, imitating the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hashtag that populated in 2016 after Kardashian leaked snippets of the call. After several days of online reactions, both Swift and Kardashian finally spoke out about it. 

Swift posted to her Instagram story Monday night, acknowledging the leaked footage and how the controversy has negatively impacted her over the years. However, Swift quickly pointed attention to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that seems to be mentioned in nearly every other headline.

“Instead of answering those who are asking how I feel about video footage that was leaked, proving that I was telling the truth the whole time about *that call* (you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated in order to frame me and put me, my family, and fans through hell for 4 years),” Swift wrote. “Swipe up to see what really matters.

Credit: Taylor Swift Instagram

Upon swiping up, viewers could access a donation page for Feeding America, a non-profit organization devoted to providing food to those in need. Swift also pushed her followers to donate to the World Health Organization. 

“If you have the ability to, please join me in donating during this crisis,” Swift wrote.

Several hours later, Kardashian West posted her take on the matter with a much longer message. She wrote across her Instagram stories and Twitter page, also referencing the coronavirus outbreak.

“Taylor Swift has chosen to reignite an old exchange – that at this point in time feels very self-serving given the suffering millions of real victims are facing right now,” Kardashian West wrote. 

Kim went on to continue her defense of herself and her husband. 

“To be clear, the only issue I ever had around the situation was that Taylor lied through her publicist who stated that “Kanye never called to ask for permission…” They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word ‘bitch’ was used without her permission,” Kardashian West wrote.

Kim also addressed accusations made against her of altering the story by only releasing bits of the footage in 2016.

“I never edited the footage (another lie) – I only posted a few clips on Snapchat to make my point and the full video that recently leaked doesn’t change the narrative,” Kardashian West wrote.

Internet Users React

Many took to social media to praise Swift for the way she handled the most recent development in the feud by trying to point it away from herself and onto the more serious matter of the coronavirus.

Some Twitter users argued that while Kardashian West tried to do the same, she missed the mark.

Others also compared Taylor’s urging of donations with no monetary gain for herself, while criticizing Kim for only donating 20% of her SKIMS profits to a COVID-19 emergency response program.

And some criticized Kim for equating Swift’s documentary, “Miss Americana,” and the questionably-legal phone call that Kanye recorded as documentations of musical journey and process.

Ultimately though, even though some good may come of it as people are urged by famous voices to contribute to a good cause, it appeared some users were just plain tired of hearing about the rehashed drama in general. 

“In 2020, we can’t escape the coronavirus and we also can’t escape Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s tiring feud,” one user wrote.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (NBC) (Variety)

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TV Medical Dramas Are Donating Supplies to Hospitals Fighting COVID-19

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  • In an effort to help medical professionals facing equipment shortages, TV shows like “Greys Anatomy,” “Station 19,” and others are donating their stock of supplies.
  • This comes as companies like Apple, Facebook, Tesla, L’Oreal, and others redirect efforts to produce or donate essential goods like hand sanitizers, masks, and ventilators. 
  • The White House has not ordered companies to produce emergency equipment under the Defense Production Act, despite calls from politicians and medical associations.
  • But the lack of supplies has become dire, with NYC’s mayor saying, “If we don’t get ventilators this week, we are going to start losing lives we could have saved.”

Medical Shows Donate

Hospitals around the globe have been working tirelessly to treat the growing cases of coronavirus, all while dealing with shortages of masks, gloves, and other essential medical supplies. Now, several TV shows are stepping in to do what they can to support those on the frontlines of this pandemic.

ABC representative said several of its shows were donating their stock of highly-needed goods. “At ‘Station 19,’ we were lucky enough to have about 300 of the coveted N95 masks which we donated to our local fire station. They were tremendously grateful,” the representative said.  

Those masks were given a station in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood, as well as the Ontario, California Fire Department where firefighters were having to reuse masks because of the shortage.

ABC’s “Greys Anatomy,” one of several shows forced to halt productions amid the pandemic, also donated its backstock of gowns and gloves from its costume department to local L.A. hospitals. Meanwhile, “The Good Doctor,” donated surgical masks, surgical gowns, face shields, soap, disposable booties, disposable isolation suits, latex gloves, and medical caps to Vancouver Coastal Health. 

“We are all overwhelmed with gratitude for our healthcare workers during this incredibly difficult time, and in addition to these donations, we are doing our part to help them by staying home,” ABC added in its statement.

But donations didn’t stop there, NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” which films in New York hospitals, donated masks, gloves, and gowns to the New York State Department of Health. This news came after actor Daniel Dae Kim, who just scored a recurring role on the show, announced he was diagnosed with COVID-19 himself. 

FOX’s medical drama “The Resident” made a donation of gowns, glows, scrubs, shoe covers, lab coats, masks, and other items to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where the show is filmed. Showrunner Amy Holden Jones told The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s pretty appalling to think that our doctors and nurses at hospitals don’t have the proper protection — they’re facing these patients who are highly contagious without being protected.”

Other Shows Follow Suit 

Even non-medical shows are stepping in help. FX’s “Pose” donated supplies it had from some of its episodes. In an Instagram post the show’s creator Ryan Murphy wrote, “One of our regular sets and locations is a hospital where in Season 3 Blanca works as an AIDS/HIV counselor. Today, we donated all our prop supplies to Mount Sinai hospital to help nurses and doctors battling the Covid outbreak. Let’s all keep giving when and where and how we can.” 

“Filthy Rich,” a satirical dramedy that airs on Fox, said it was planning to make a donation of cleaning supplies and food pallets.

Businesses Help as Situation Becomes Dire 

Several other shows have been turning over what they can while businesses think of ways to redirect their efforts toward helping healthcare workers. For example, brands like L’Oréal Group, 

Coty Inc, and perfume makers like Givenchy and Dior, are using their facilities to produce hand sanitizers to give to French and European health authorities for free. 

At a press conference on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said Apple would donate two million respirator mask to help in the fight against COVID-19. CEO Tim Cook later confirmed that claim on Twitter.

And even the clothing company Hanes is retrofitting factories to make masks. Facebook also said it would give its emergency reserve of 720,000 masks to health workers. The company had initially bought them in case the wildfires in California continued. Zuckerberg said the company is also “working on sourcing millions of more to donate.” 

Meanwhile. Tesla has been donating supplies to medical centers in need and its CEO Elon Musk said his company is making ventilators. He expects to have over 1,200 to distribute this week.

These are just some of the companies volunteering their efforts. The White House has not demanded that companies produce emergency gear, which the president can do under the Defense Production Act. Despite calls from politicians and medical associations for the president to use the DPA, the administration has only encouraged companies to donate what they can. 

When President Trump signed the DPA last week, he said he will only use it as a “worst-case scenario.”

Over the weekend he said he hasn’t needed to use the DPA because of all the help from companies stepping up so far. 


Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government had placed orders for “hundreds of millions” of the N95 face masks, though it is unclear when that supplies will arrive and if it will be available before facilities start getting completely overwhelmed by patients.

As each day passes, it’s becoming more and more apparent how dire the shortages are in some areas. Earlier this week New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio estimated that the city had enough supplies to make it into April, but now he says there is only enough to get through this week.

In an interview with CNN Monday, he said called on anyone with equipment to donate, saying, “If we don’t get ventilators this week, we are going to start losing lives we could have saved. I can’t be blunter than that.”

On top of that, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned Monday that the coronavirus outbreak will worsen this week, as he encouraged Americans to stay home. “I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad,” Adams said in an interview on the “TODAY” show.

“Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home.” 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Verge)   

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