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Sexism In Irvine Activision Blizzard Office Leads To Worker Walkout 

Workers at Activision Blizzard, one of the nation’s leading video game companies, staged a one-day walkout at the company’s Irvine office location over alleged sexism in the workplace. This walkout comes just one day after the company announced a number of steps to address this specific issues. 

“We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”

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“We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team,” Activision continued in a letter addressed to all employees from company CEO Bobby Kotick. 

Activision Blizzard is responsible for launching games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The company is currently facing a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleges a “frat boy workplace culture that includes sexual harassment of women by executives.”

Current and former employees published their own letter this week detailing the allegations, and calling for “official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.” 

Kotick responded to this letter with his own, as mentioned above, which outlined new policies that would be put in place to better protect all employees from harassment. 

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“I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future,” Kotick said in a Twitter post.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone-deaf. It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding,” he wrote.

“We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind,” the letter said.

“We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.”

The letter also detailed how the company will be improving on the way they hire employees as well: “Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.”

General Motors Issues Second Recall Of Chevy Bolt EVs After Vehicle Fires

General Motors (GM) has issued a second recall of its 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs after at least two of the electric vehicles erupted into flames.

According to GM, the company has “identified a second rare manufacturing defect in the EVs that increases the risk of fire.” The recall covers about 69,000 of the cars globally; 51,000 of which are located in the US.

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GM claims that in order to fix the problem the company needs to replace all the defective battery modules in the vehicles. This will be free for the owners, but in general is a costly fix for all companies involved. GM previously recalled the same vehicles for the same reason but claims that this time the repair is different because it’s not a software-based problem.

“We’re working with our supplier and manufacturing teams to determine how to best expedite battery capacity for module replacement under the recall. These teams are working around the clock on this issue.”

GM spokesman Dan Flores said that the company would “notify customers when replacement parts are ready for them.”

In the meantime, GM has asked all affected Bolt EV owners to set up their vehicles to a 90% state of charge limitation using the Hilltop Reserve mode or Target Charge level depending on the specific model of vehicle.

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GM is also asking that all owners avoid depleting their battery below 70 miles of remaining range, and continue to not park their vehicles inside or charge them unattended overnight out of “an abundance of caution.”

One of the recent fires occurred at the home of a Vermont state lawmaker who claims the vehicle was charging at home when it lit on fire. GM has confirmed nine battery-related fires in the vehicles within the US.

Experts claim the battery cell packs in the vehicles have the potential to smoke or ignite internally which could then spread to the rest of the vehicle as a result. If the car is parked inside of a parking garage or any other indoor structure, this could lead to a much more serious issue.

GM says owners with questions should visit www.chevy.com/boltevrecall or contact its Chevrolet EV help line at 1-833-EVCHEVY or contact their preferred Chevrolet EV dealer.

18-Year-Old To Become Youngest Person In Space Alongside Jeff Bezos On Blue Origin Trip 

Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has announced its first paying customer. Oliver Daemen is an 18-year-old Dutch teenager who is about to be the youngest person to ever travel to space. 

Daemen will be joining Jeff and his brother Mark Bezos, as well as pilot Wally Funk on July 20th.

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Funk will also be breaking the record for oldest individual to go to space at 82-years-old. Funk is famous for being a member of Mercury 13, a group of all female pilots who, in the 1960’s, underwent testing to determine whether women could handle space travel or not. Even though the group of women performed just as well as NASA’s Mercury 7, the male counterpart to Mercury 13, they were rejected for being women. 

Funk is breaking the age record previously set by astronaut and senator John Glenn who traveled to space in 1998 at the age of 77. Daemen will be breaking the record previously set by Ghermon Titov, who was just 25 when he went into space for a four month mission. 

The Federal Aviation Administration approved of the Blue Origin launch this Monday, just one say after billionaire Richard Branson flew to the edge of space aboard his rocket-powered vehicle developed by Virgin Galactic. 

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Virgin Galactic, like Blue Origin, plans to start flying paying customers up to the edge of space. Daemen was able to secure his spot on Blue Origin after the individual who won an auction for a seat on the rocket had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts. The original individual paid $28 million for the oppurtunity. 

“We thank the auction winner for their generous support of Club for the Future and are honored to welcome Oliver to fly with us on New Shepard. This marks the beginning of commercial operations for New Shepard, and Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said.

“I am super excited to be going to space and joining Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk on the first Blue Origin crewed flight.”

A Blue origin spokesperson told the media that Daemen “was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” the spokesperson said.

Climate Experts Worried About Misinformation On Fox News’ 24-Hour Weather Channel 

Fox News Media announced that they would be launching their own weather channel this year, an announcement that has many climate experts worried considering how often Fox News reporters criticize science and spreads misinformation regarding climate change. 

Fox Weather will be “a 24-hour channel devoted to all things meteorological, providing cutting-edge display technology with forecasting experts surrounding every major weather event,” according to the press release from Fox Media. 

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Over the years, hosts on Fox News have consistently undermined the idea that climate change caused by human activity is an actual issue worth fighting for. So the fact that the same company that owns that outlet which hires journalists who ignore the actual scientific facts of what global warming is, is creating a weather channel, has many worried. 

“Fox News has access to and is highly trusted by a wide range of conservative Americans – which is precisely the audience that least well understands the serious threats that climate change poses to the safety, security and health of all Americans,” said Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication.

“If Fox chooses to inform viewers about the realities of climate change and its impacts on the weather, it could be a game changer. Conversely, if it opts to perpetuate misinformation to advance political goals, it will be a huge disservice to all Americans.”

Last year Fox News host Tucker Carlson discussed how all the forest and wildfires the west coast has endured within the past two years were not caused by climate change. Carlson’s colleague Laura Ingraham also doubled-down on this ideology by insisting that the planet has a “natural cycle of warming, and climate activists like Greta Thunberg have been brainwashed, and the left’s obsession with climate is a political tool.” 

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“The danger of Fox News running a weather channel is that if they pervert news about the weather anything like how they’ve perverted news about climate change and energy politics, millions of Americans will be further misled about this crisis,” said Geoffrey Supran, research fellow at Harvard University’s department of the history of science.

“It’s been shown that the most important predictors of public support for climate action are understanding that this crisis is real, human-caused, serious and solvable.”

“If Fox News Media’s weather channel downplays the links between global warming and extreme weather, it will only solidify their viewers’ existing biases against climate action. Fox News has been a powerful engine of climate misinformation for years – so powerful, in fact, that its influence has been named the ‘Fox News Effect’,” Maibach said.

One of our studies showed that before Fox News began its attack on the Green New Deal, most conservatives supported its core policy proposals. Six months later – after Fox had relentlessly attacked it and its sponsors – support for those proposals dropped to near zero among frequent Fox viewers.”

“I don’t expect that Fox News will change its ways or its views about climate change anytime soon, but Fox Weather has the opportunity to get the facts right. Let’s hope it chooses to,” Maibach said.

Hackers Demand $70 Million In Single Biggest Global Ransomware Attack 

A Russia-linked gang is being investigated over what is now being considered the single biggest global ransomware attack on record. The gang is known as the REvil gang, and they’re famous for extorting $11 million from the meat processor JBS after a Memorial Day cyber attack. 

This past Friday, thousands of individuals from at least 17 countries became victims of another cyber attack in which thousands of individuals are being locked out of their devices. 

REvil was originally demanding a ransom of $5 million, however, late Sunday afternoon the group posted on their dark web site a universal decryptor software key that would unscramble all of the affected machines throughout the world, in exchange for $70 million in cryptocurrency. 

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 U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Mieke Eoyang testifies during a hearing before Cybersecurity Subcommittee of Senate Armed Services Committee

“While the FBI is investigating the attack, its scale may make it so that we are unable to respond to each victim individually. President Joe Biden had directed the full resources of the government to investigate this incident and urged all who believed they were compromised to alert the FBI,”  said Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger in a statement.

A wide range of businesses and public agencies have been impacted by this latest cyber attack. All continents have reported an issue, specifically in their financial services, travel and leisure sectors, and public sectors. A few large companies have also been impacted. 

When ransomware hackers attack a certain device or server, they work to infiltrate the devices network and install malware that cripples the devices and scrambles all the data. Victims can only ever decode their device if they receive a key, which is only given after payments. ‘

Swedish grocery chain Coop is just one of the many businesses forced to shut down due to the fact that their cash register software supplier was completely crippled by the attack. An unnamed IT service company in Germany reported several thousand of its clients were compromised and unable to access their information. 

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A sign reading “Temporarliy closed – We have an IT-disturbance and our systems are not functioning” is posted in the window of a shuttered Coop supermarket store in Stockholm

“We have been advised by our outside experts that customers who experienced ransomware and receive communication from the attackers should not click on any links  —  they  may be weaponized,” the company warned. 

“The REvil offer to offer blanket decryption for all victims of the Kaseya attack in exchange for $70 million suggests the group’s inability to cope with the sheer quantity of infected networks,” said Allan Liska, an analyst with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future.

Victor Gevers is the member of a team currently investigating how the group was able to hack into all of these systems and how they can better protect themselves in the future. Specifically he discussed the popularity of VPN and VSA technology which works to protect all user information on any device using data. 

According to CBS news, REvil has been “active since April 2019. The group provides ransomware-as-a-service, meaning it develops the network-paralyzing software and leases it to so-called affiliates who infect targets and earn the lion’s share of ransoms. U.S. officials say the most potent ransomware gangs are based in Russia and allied states and operate with Kremlin tolerance and sometimes collude with Russian security services.”

Businessman Stressed

JPMorgan To Bring Employees Back To The Office Regardless Of Vaccine Status

JPMorgan Chase has announced that they are ready to bring their employees back to the office, regardless of their vaccination status. 

In a memo sent out to employees this Wednesday, the company listed a slew of new safety guidelines for getting people back to a regular work schedule by July 6th. 

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JPMorgan said that regardless of vaccination status, employees will be expected to come back in the office for a minimum of 50%, and in some cases 100%, of the time depending on their specific role and what occupancy limits the buildings put into place. 

The company is also telling all employees to fill out a survey regarding their vaccination status, but they will have the option to decline and not disclose that information as well. Vaccinated employees will be able to avoid most Covid-19 health protocols like wearing masks and social distancing while unvaccinated employees, or employees who decline to disclose, will continue to be tested for the coronavirus and must wear a mask and social distance at all times. 

Other major banks throughout the country, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, have mandated that their employees return to all locations. 

People working within the banks have made it clear that they aren’t going to exempt workers from returning to the office just because they’re not vaccinated. While certain allowances will likely be made for individuals who are immunocompromised and at an increased risk, most major financial institutions are requiring their employees to come back to the office. 

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CEO Jamie Dimon recently spoke with the press about how he was initially taking a slow approach when it came to mandating a return to the office. However, he’s now ready to get back to the hustle and bustle of city life. 

“It doesn’t work for people who want to hustle, doesn’t work for culture, doesn’t work for idea generation.” 

“By September it’ll look just like it did before. We are getting blowback about coming back internally but that’s life,” Dimon said. The memo also stresses the importance of getting vaccinated.

“Over the past month it has been terrific to see more of you safely returning to our US offices, and we have been pleased to hear from many of you that our workspaces are better than ever,” the memo said. 

“You’ve commented on the health and safety protocols we’ve put in place, the new technology we’ve rolled out and, most importantly, how good it feels to see your colleagues in person.”

MacKenzie Scott Donates $10 Million To National Latino Educational Nonprofit

Excelencia in Education is a prominent national nonprofit in America that measures how successful colleges and universities are in accepting, educating, and graduating Latino students. Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has made a historic donation to the nonprofit, giving them a $10 million grant. 

This grant marks the largest sum the organization has received since its founding 17 years ago. Deborah Santiago, the co-founder and CEO of Excelencia, spoke on this historic donation to the media this week. 

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“It was very powerful, after years of hard work, to see this validation in our community. That was powerful.” 

In the US, college enrollment among Latino students has actually been on the rise within the past decade. However, the issue lies in systemic issues that prevent this particular demographic from actually completing their education and receiving a college degree. 22% of all Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 39% of the general population. 

Some of the specific barriers that Excelencia works to combat in the US’s educational system include high tuition costs, limited knowledge of college in general, and trying to balance work, family, and education all at once. 

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A number of colleges that Excelencia has worked closely with in the past have also received some funding from Scott, including  El Paso Community College, Florida International University, Long Beach City College, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Santiago said she was “not expecting a $10 million grant when I got an email on a late Friday afternoon asking when I was available to speak over the phone about something important. The donation is invigorating, we’re a small nonprofit and it is not easy to get resources, much less unrestricted resources,” Santiago said.

“To say, here’s $10 million, you pick what you want to do with it, no strings attached, no reports required, allows us to do many things we see our community wants and needs to be able to do that.”

Santiago said she hopes the $10 million “will bring attention to other potential funders — we really want to get the kind of investment that’s going to serve our community.”

Scott has recently made around $2.7 billion worth of charitable donations as a part of her philanthropic journey that she’s been on since divorcing the world’s richest man. Her current net worth is valued at $53 billion; $8 billion of which she’s already donated this year alone.

New York Lifts A Majority Of Covid-19 Restrictions As Vaccination Rates Continue To Rise 

New York officially has 70% of its population inoculated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, meaning the state is now fulfilling its promise of lifting nearly all pandemic restrictions as a result of having such a large vaccinated population. 

All New York City restaurants, bars, and museums will no longer be required to have a limited capacity, enforce social distancing, conduct health screenings, or collect information for contact tracing purposes. 

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All private businesses, however, do hold the right to continue to enforce all of these policies. 

“Not only do we have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America, we have hit 70% vaccination ahead of schedule. We’re no longer just surviving – we’re thriving.”

Vermont, California, Florida, and Illinois are a few of the other states New York is joining in terms of lifting most of their pandemic restrictions. The US in total has administered about 309 million Covid-19 vaccinations, driving down a lot of the daily reports of new cases throughout the nation. 

In New York City specifically about 60% of all adults are fully vaccinated while 65% have received at least one dose of either of the two-dose vaccine options (Pfizer or Moderna). Statewide about 70% of the population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine ever since Pfizer announced individuals aged 12 and up can receive their vaccine. 

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In healthcare settings all pandemic restrictions obviously will remain in place. Public transportation systems and large indoor event venues that can hold up to 5,000 people or more will also be required to enforce restrictions.

 The venues will likely include places like Madison Square Garden or other large stadiums where social distancing would be easy. 

Large event venues, however, have already started allowing vaccinated individuals to attend certain events without a facial covering as long as they remain in designated areas for vaccinated individuals.

 Some venues have even split up their space for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to keep everyone separated. 

Vaccinated individuals have been able to use their proof of vaccine to attend sports games without social distancing or wearing a mask of any kind while unvaccinated fans are required to be in specified sections that allow for distanced seating; facial coverings are also still required as well. 

Abstract Outer Space

Bidder Pays $28 Million To Go To Space With Jeff Bezos 

Jeff Bezos made headlines last week when he announced that he would be going into space with his brother as a part of his space company’s first mission into the atmosphere. Now, one lucky bidder has paid their way to share a seat on the Blue Origin spacecraft set to launch into space on July 20th. 

The bidder, whose identity has not been announced, ended up paying $28 million for a seat on Blue Origin. Initially, 20 active bidders started fighting for the seat with an opening bid of $4.8 million, but bids didn’t really escalate until the final three minutes of the sale. 

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Around 7,600 people from 159 different countries initially registered to bid for the seat. The automated flight is set to be 11-minutes and will be the company’s 16th flight into space. This is, however, the first time the Blue Origin craft will be carrying humans. The capsule will carry up to 6 passengers and will lift off from Van Horn, Texas in July. 

It has not yet been revealed who else would be on the flight besides Bezos and his brother Mark. Bezos made the announcement that he would be entering into space after he steps down as Amazon’s chief executive officer.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

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Bezos has spent approximately $1 billion a year to fund Blue Origin, which initially was founded in 2000. This most recent development in travel marks the first step in what is likely to become a major sector of our economy for the world’s wealthiest in the future; space tourism. 

Bezos has been competing with the likes of Elon Musk and his company SpaceX who has also made it clear that he would like to bring humans to the moon within the next decade. 

In order to take flight on the Blue Origin flight. Passengers must be between 5 foot and 6 foot 4 inches tall, and must weigh between 110 – 223 pounds. They need to be able to climb seven flights of stairs at the launch tower within 90 seconds and be able to stay strapped in the vehicle for up to 90 minutes without access to a bathroom. 

Blue Origin announced that the $28 million bid will be donated to the company’s charity foundation, Club For The Future, which has a mission to “inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the help invent the future of life in space.”

Apple Addresses Privacy Concerns, Says Siri Will No Longer Send Requests To Main Servers 

Apple announced this week that they will no longer be using Siri to send requests to its servers as a means of speeding up how quickly the AI voice assistant is able to respond, as well as addressing multiple privacy concerns from users. 

It was revealed a couple of years ago that Apple’s staff regularly listens in on confidential details spoken to Siri while carrying out quality control for the assistant. The company made the announcement at their worldwide developers conference.

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“From this autumn onwards, Siri will proces audio on device, meaning that a majority of the queries won’t be recorded or uploaded to any of Apple’s servers.” 

“With on-device speech recognition, the audio of users’ requests is processed right on their iPhone or iPad by default. This addresses one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recording. For many requests, Siri processing is also moving on device, enabling requests to be processed without an internet connection, such as launching apps, setting timers and alarms, changing settings or controlling music,” an Apple spokesperson said. 

Back in 2019 the Guardian published an investigative report that revealed “Siri ‘graders’ regularly heard confidential information as part of their job assessing the voice assistant’s responses for quality. The company apologized and, after a three-month pause to the grading program, allowed users to opt out of having their speech analyzed by humans.”

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Apple also announced that they would be introducing a slew of new privacy featured across all of its products to make users feel more secure in their experience using these devices. Mail Privacy Protection is being implemented to block emailers from tracking whether or not users open up an email and consume the content within it. 

Apple will also be making improvements to their FaceTime app as a means of competing with Zoom, Google Meet, and other digital forms of communication that are thriving in this pandemic world. 

Apple recently released a software update as well that forces every third-party app to ask for a user’s permission to be able to track what they do on their device. These tracking features are traditionally used by social media applications to track what kind of products you like so that they can make your advertisements more personalized. 

The goal of all of these updates is to give smart device users the comfort of knowing they are not constantly being tracked and watched by these major corporations.