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How Companies Have Responded to the Killing of George Floyd

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Photo: Andy Manis/ The State Journal

  • As protests continue over the killing of George Floyd, many have pushed brands to speak out against racism and police brutality. 
  • Countless companies have responded, with some donating supplies and legal defense funds.
  • Others in the music industry plan to suspend operations Tuesday and instead discuss how they can support the black community. 
  • However, one of the most criticized statements came from the NFL, who was slammed as disingenuous given their handling of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests.

Target’s Statement

Like celebrities, many companies have also been hit with pressure to address George Floyd’s death. So over the last week, several have released statements condemning racism and expressing their solidarity with the black community. 

One of the biggest companies people turned to for comment was Target, which is actually based in Minneapolis. Target stores have been notably ransacked and set on fire in protests across the country. But even so, Target released a statement Friday in support of the demonstrations. 

Company Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell penned a letter acknowledging the pain felt across America over the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, adding, “We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts.”

Then, he said teams were preparing truckloads of first aid equipment, bottled water,  and other essentials “to help ensure that no one within the areas of heaviest damage and demonstration is cut off from needed supplies.”

He also promised to give full pay and benefits to all displaced team members, including over 200 from the Minneapolis store that was set on fire last week. This response was met with a ton of praise from those who were glad to see Target prioritize people over property and replaceable goods. 

Still, while the company supports the protests, it made a decision the following day to temporarily close or shorten hours at nearly 200 stores for the safety of employees and guests. Team members impacted by this will be paid up to 14 days of scheduled hours during closures, including COVID-19 premium pay.  

Countless Others Show Support 

Target was just one of the countless brands that addressed the topic of racism and police brutality. We saw brands like Nike and Adidas speak out. Others like Hot Topic and Glossier have promised to donate money toward legal defense funds. 

Tech giants like Twitter, Google, Apple, Facebook, and TikTok all raised their voices, along with other entertainment players like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Warner Brothers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many, many others. 

The music industry, for its part, has organized a blackout for Tuesday, June 2, using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. As part of the initiative, several record labels have vowed to postpone new music releases and suspend business operations, calling it a day to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.” 

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But while a flood of companies have released statements, in some cases, it actually took a lot of pushing and public call outs for brands to speak up. 

For example, beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina called out clothing stores like Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Things, and Revolve for staying silent about issues facing the black community. That eventually prompted brand CEOs to reach out to her for advice or make official statements on their own.

NFL Statement Receives Criticism 

And just because a company released a statement, doesn’t mean it was well-received. In fact, one of the most criticized statements came from the National Football League.

In a message from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL expressed condolences to the families of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery. It also said: “We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address the systemic issues together with our platers, clubs and partners.”

That statement did not sit well with a lot of people given the NFL’s history with Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016, famously began kneeling during the national anthem to protest the very same issues people are speaking up against now. 

Many feel the NFL failed to back Kapernick at the time when he and others faced criticism from the President and team owners. Many also believe he’s been blacklisted from the league as a result of his activism. So now, this statement is being viewed as disingenuous since the organization already had a major opportunity to support the black community. 

Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills said “Save the bulls—,” in response to the statement. 

Director Ava DuVernay tweeted: “Shame on you. This is beyond hollow + disingenuous. This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. ” 

Sports reporter Jemele Hill wrote, “The NFL tweeting about what happened with George Floyd is the equivalent of when the CIA recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Loved him so much y’all helped to kill him. Get outta here with the bullshit.”

As of now, it seems like people are continuing to push for action from their favorite brands and celebs, arguing that silence is complicity.

Though there have been an overwhelming amount of companies condemning racism, it’ll be important to see which of these groups actually remain committed to supporting the black community in the long run. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Forbes) (Billboard

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Tesla Suspends Bitcoin Purchases Over Environmental Impact, Causing Coin’s Value To Crash 20%

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  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that his electric vehicle company would be ceasing all Bitcoin sales effective immediately, even though it just started using the cryptocurrency in March.
  • The announcement prompted a massive sell-off of Bitcoin, which plunged almost 20% on Wednesday.
  • In his statement, Musk said, “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”
  • Many have since accused Musk of manipulating the crypto market since Bitcoin’s environmental impact has long been one of its most controversial facets. 

Tesla Suspends Bitcoin Purchases

Volatility is essentially a prerequisite for Bitcoin, but Wednesday proved to be an especially bad day for the cryptocurrency after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the electric vehicle company would no longer be accepting the coin as a form of payment.

At the beginning of the day, Bitcoin was trading for around $57,000. Following Musk’s announcement, it had fallen to a 24-hour low of just over $46,000 — amounting to a nearly 20% drop in value. 

“We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk said via Twitter. “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.”

This policy update comes after only months after Tesla disclosed in February that it had bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin. It also comes after the company began accepting Bitcoin as payment for vehicles in March. 

Still, with this sudden about-face, Musk said, “Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy. We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”

Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

Musk tweeted a graph Thursday morning from Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance that shows Bitcoin’s increasing energy use since 2016.

In March, researchers with the Centre reported that Bitcoin’s energy consumption has jumped 80% since the beginning of 2020. 

Bitcoin’s impact on the environment has long been a subject of debate since mining it takes excessive amounts of electrical energy, but that problem has only gotten worse with the coin’s continued growth. 

On Monday, Ars Technica reported that a defunct coal power plant in upstate New York has been restarted to mine Bitcoin. In January, Iranian officials partly blamed Bitcoin for mass blackouts in the country. Researchers have even found that Bitcoin mining uses more energy than places like Argentina, a country with 45 million people.

Is Musk Manipulating the Market?

The overall reaction to Musk’s announcement was less than favorable, with many accusing the billionaire of manipulating the crypto market. 

“[This is] the same guy who’s been pulling the levers on crypto and has everyone following his every move,” Dave Portnoy, the controversial owner of Barstool Sports, said. “He’s sending Dogecoin up. He’s sending Bitcoin down. This is bullshit.

“Elon, you have responsibility when one second you say to buy something and the next second you don’t,” Portnoy added. “That’s playing with people’s futures, their fortunes.” 

Others made similar statements accusing Musk of essentially controlling Bitcoin prices, with MMA fighter Keith Berry saying, “Elon is a smart cookie, do you really think he didn’t know about energy usages on #Bitcoin after he bought 1.5B in BTC in December 2020” 

Still, some argued that recent disappointment in Musk is good for Bitcoin in the long term.

“This is great for #Bitcoin,” one person tweeted. “It should never depend on the thoughts and opinions of a single entity. The Elon Musk effect is being priced out and that’s positive for the cryptocurrency industry in the long run.” 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (CNBC) (The New York Times)

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U.S. Gas Prices Hit $3 Per Gallon, a 7-year High, as Buyers Panicked During the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

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  • The national average gas price has climbed above $3 for the first time in seven years.
  • The increase comes as the country’s largest fuel pipeline remains largely shuttered for the sixth day in a row following a ransomware attack, leading to panic buying and massive gas shortages in some cities. 
  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the company behind the pipeline should be able to make a decision on a full restart of the system by the end of Wednesday.
  • Still, she cautioned that it will take several days for fuel supplies to go back to normal. 

Update: Colonial Pipeline restarted operations at 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. “Following this restart it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” Colonial said in a statement. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period.”

Panic Buying Drives Fuel Shortages

The national average gas price reached $3.008 Wednesday, its highest value in seven years. 

The jump is largely being driven by two factors. The first is that the country’s largest fuel pipeline was forced to shut down last Friday following a ransomware attack by the criminal gang Darkside. That pipeline, owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company, stretches from Texas to New York and supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel.

The second is that panic buying related to the shutdown and fears of fuel scarcity have exacerbated the problem. In fact, Tuesday evening, over 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast ran dry. 

By Wednesday, the situation was even worse. Nearly a quarter of all stations in North Carolina were out of gas, and in urban areas like Charlotte, 71% of stations were empty.  Meanwhile, around 15% percent of stations in both Georgia and Virginia were out of gas, and in the Atlanta metro area, 60% of stations had been depleted. 

Photos and video from affected states show hours-long lines. Some people have reported waiting more than five hours to get to the pump. Others have shared images of “out of fuel” signs. Stretching pumps even thinner are reports that many drivers are simply trying to top off mostly-full tanks or gas cans. 

In one tense situation captured at a gas station near Raleigh, North Carolina, a woman can be seen spitting on a man and hitting a car after she reportedly tried to cut the line. The man fires back a spit of his own, leading to a fight between the two.

When Will the Pipeline Be Back?

On Monday, some (but not most) of the pipeline was brought back manually. Colonial Pipeline officials have also said they hope to restart most operations by the end of the week.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also told reporters Tuesday that Colonial should be in a position to make a decision on a full restart by the end of Wednesday; however, it’s likely going to take several days for fuel supplies to return to normal even after operations recover.

“Much as there was no cause for, say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline,” Granholm said. 

Many analysts have echoed that warning, telling people to fuel up only if they need to and asking them to try to conserve as much gas as possible until the pipeline becomes largely operational again. 

The governors of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia have all declared states of emergency to try to stave off shortages and keep gas prices down. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (MarketWatch)

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GLAAD Report Finds All Top Social Media Platforms “Effectively Unsafe” for LGBTQ+ Users

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  • The LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization GLAAD said in a Sunday report that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are all “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.” 
  • Of the 64% of respondents who told GLAAD they’ve faced anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech or harassment online, 75% said at least some came from Facebook, which performed the most poorly of all five platforms.
  • The report highlights more than just hate speech, as GLAAD notes that “inadequate content moderation, polarizing algorithms, and discriminatory AI” also negatively affect LGBTQ+ users.
  • “This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said while calling the report a starting point for how platforms can change.

Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Speech Rampant on Social Media Sites

The LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization GLAAD has published a report that classifies every top social media platform as “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.” 

That includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

“Of special concern, the prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment stands out as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement,” GLAAD said in the report released Sunday.

The organization noted 64% of LGBTQ+ social media users have experienced harassment and hate speech online, which it said is higher than all other identity groups. 

Of the five platforms, Facebook was far and above the worst offender. In fact, GLAAD reported that 75% of the LGBTQ+ respondents who’ve experienced online harassment said at least some of that harassment happened on Facebook.

Meanwhile, 24% percent of respondents said they have faced similar harassment on Twitter and Instagram each. YouTube came in just below those figures at 21%, and TikTok saw the lowest harassment level of the five at 9%.

GLAAD’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said that while the organization was originally going to give each platform a grade, “What we ended up realizing is that if we started grading, they’d all fail, quite frankly.” 

Content Moderation and AI

It’s not just hate speech. “Inadequate content moderation, polarizing algorithms, and discriminatory AI” were also listed among the specific problems that GLAAD hopes these social media platforms will address. 

The organization even listed several “urgent recommendations,” which read:

  • “Stop allowing algorithms to fuel extremism and hate. Similarly, confront the problem of bias in AI.”
  • “Make it easier for users to report problematic content, be transparent in content moderation, and use more human moderators.”
  • “Employ a dedicated LGBTQ policy lead.”
  • “Respect data privacy, especially where LGBTQ people are vulnerable to serious harms and violence.”

It also called for platforms to more strongly enforce misinformation labels and restrict hashtags/shares of anti-LGBTQ content.

“This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right,” Ellis said, summing up the purpose of the report as a “roadmap” for platforms to begin implementing change.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (NPR) (The Hill)

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