Tech

US unemployment

Claims climb past one million for second week in a row

One million people filed for unemployment benefits last week in the US as the coronavirus pandemic continued to take a historic toll on the job market.

Fox News

Tucker Carlson defends actions of teen charged in Kenosha killings

The rightwing Fox News host Tucker Carlson has defended the actions of a 17-year-old who was arrested and charged with murder after two people were killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as white vigilante agitators shot at Black Lives Matter protesters.

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Shortnews

Palantir

Valued around $10.5 billion ahead of direct listing

As Palantir gears up for its stock market debut, the company has a long way to go to convince potential shareholders that it’s worth the $20 billion price tag that investors gave it almost five years ago. Palantir held a virtual event for investors on Wednesday. The company, whose software helps government agencies and large corporations make sense of vast amounts of data, also released an updated prospectus, indicating that the number of shares outstanding increased in the third quarter, to 1.64 billion from 1.53 billion in the prior period.

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Palantir

Valued around $10.5 billion ahead of direct listing

As Palantir gears up for its stock market debut, the company has a long way to go to convince potential shareholders that it’s worth the $20 billion price tag that investors gave it almost five years ago. Palantir held a virtual event for investors on Wednesday. The company, whose software helps government agencies and large corporations make sense of vast amounts of data, also released an updated prospectus, indicating that the number of shares outstanding increased in the third quarter, to 1.64 billion from 1.53 billion in the prior period.

Based on an average share price transaction in the latest quarter of $6.45, investors are valuing the company at just over $10.5 billion.

In July, Palantir raised $410.5 million by selling shares at $4.75 a piece, according to the filing, which comes out to a valuation of about $7.8 billion. Transactions during the quarter took place at anywhere from $4.17 a share to $11.50 a share, suggesting a range of $6.83 billion to $18.8 billion.

The math gets even fuzzier when considering that Palantir had a reported valuation of $20.4 billion in 2015, when the share price was $11.38. That price, based on the supplied share count as of Sept. 1, would indicate a current valuation of $18.6 billion.

What’s clear is that most investors see a company that’s worth closer to $10 billion than $20 billion. If Palantir’s direct listing values it at around the average private market price, the stock will trade at about 10 times revenue, a healthy ratio but less than one-fourth the price-to-sales multiple for companies like Zoom, Datadog, Shopify and Zscaler.

In the first half of 2020, Palantir’s total revenue jumped 49% to $481.2 million, with just over half its sales coming from government customers. Costs for sales and marketing and research and development dropped, allowing Palantir to narrow its net loss to $164.7 million from $280.5 million.

But Palantir remains a very expensive product that hardly anyone uses — the opposite of Zoom or Slack. It’s not an easy-to-use application that employees try out with a small team and then convince their colleagues to adopt. Rather, Palantir describes its technology as the “central operating system” that companies use for their data.

American Airlines

Employees may wear Black Lives Matter pins

American Airlines will permit its employees to wear Black Lives Matter pins while on the job, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday. Several Black employees of American Airlines asked if they could wear Black Lives Matter pins after seeing workers at other airlines wearing them. “In light of the appropriate attention to lives of Black Americans, we will allow team members who wish to wear a Black Lives Matter pin to do so if they choose,” American Airlines announced.

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American Airlines

Employees may wear Black Lives Matter pins

American Airlines will permit its employees to wear Black Lives Matter pins while on the job, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday. Several Black employees of American Airlines asked if they could wear Black Lives Matter pins after seeing workers at other airlines wearing them.

“In light of the appropriate attention to lives of Black Americans, we will allow team members who wish to wear a Black Lives Matter pin to do so if they choose,” American Airlines announced.

“Fundamentally, we believe Black Lives Matter is an expression of equality, not a political statement,” she added. “It doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter, rather that in our society Black lives should matter and be valued the same as others.”

The airline will work with Black employees to design the pin.

American Airlines permits its employees to wear up to three pins, including a single Employee Business Resource Groups pin. The airline has developed pins for different groups, including Christian, veteran and LGBTQ groups, among others.

The airline joins several other companies including Delta Air Lines and Starbucks in allowing workers to wear a pin backing the movement.

Starbucks initially banned employees from wearing anything in support of Black Lives Matter in June, shortly after protests erupted over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.

But the corporation backtracked on its decision within a week and developed a T-shirt for its employees to wear.

There was a mixed reaction on the American Airlines’ decision on social media, with several people labeling Black Lives Matter as a “Marxist” or a “terrorist organization.”

President Trump called Black Lives Matter a “Marxist organization” during an interview last week with Fox News host Laura Ingraham and said the movement is “bad for Black people.”

The president had encouraged a boycott against Goodyear Tire after a local NBC News affiliate in Topeka, Kan., reported that the company named “Black Lives Matter” and “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender pride” as an acceptable slogan to wear, while listing “Blue Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter” and “MAGA attire” as “unacceptable.”

Mark Zuckerberg

Failure to take down Kenosha militia group

Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook failed to take down a page and event calling for an armed response to anti-police brutality protests in Kenosha, Wis., despite users reporting them. The Facebook CEO said during a Q&A with employees Friday that was later posted onto this public page that “it was largely an operational mistake. It's because the team that enforces our policy against dangerous organizations is a specialized team,” he explained.

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Mark Zuckerberg

Failure to take down Kenosha militia group

Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook failed to take down a page and event calling for an armed response to anti-police brutality protests in Kenosha, Wis., despite users reporting them. The Facebook CEO said during a Q&A with employees Friday that was later posted onto this public page that “it was largely an operational mistake. It's because the team that enforces our policy against dangerous organizations is a specialized team,” he explained.

“The contractors and the reviewers who the initial complaints were funneled to basically didn't pick this up, and on second review, doing it more sensitively, the team … that's responsible for dangerous organizations recognized that this violated the policies and we took it down.”

Facebook on Wednesday took down a page for the “Kenosha Guard” and an event promoted by the page called "Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives" for violating the platform’s policy against militia organizations.

The night before it was removed, during protests over the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, two people were shot dead and another was injured.

Police have charged Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, in connection with the shooting.

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Hill at the time that there was no evidence that Rittenhouse “followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited on the Event Page they organized.”

Facebook’s failure to take down a page which asked if “any patriots [are] willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” before violence happened falls into a predictable and dangerous pattern for the platform, according to Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson.

“They are never ready for these things,” the head of the civil rights advocacy group told The Hill in an interview. “You’re telling me that they just weren’t ready for this idea of a white nationalist militia rising up?”

Color of Change, along with several other civil rights groups, has been escalating its criticism of Facebook’s handling of hateful and violent content for months.

The organizations put together an advertising boycott that hundreds of businesses signed onto, and have had several discussions with the platform’s leadership concerning concrete steps they say it should take.

Issues with dealing with this content were also highlighted in an independent civil rights audit released last month, which criticized Facebook for failing to develop a mechanism for protecting civil rights and for a hands-off approach when it comes to free speech, even in cases of violent posts.

Internal criticism of Facebook leadership’s approach to violence fomented on its platform has also grown, especially after the platform left up a post from President Trump saying that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

Multiple employees have been publicly critical of Zuckerberg. BuzzFeed News reported that during Friday’s employee Q&A, staffers questioned the CEO’s decision-making and approach to violent content.

“At what point do we take responsibility for enabling hate filled bile to spread across our services?” one employee reportedly wrote in the live chat. “[A]nti semitism, conspiracy, and white supremacy reeks across our services.”

Facebook has taken some steps to address hateful and dangerous groups on its platform.

Earlier this month, it expanded its policy on violent rhetoric to crackdown on groups affiliated with the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory as well as militia and anarchist groups.

For Robinson, those changes miss the heart of the problem.

Facebook needs to change the “incentive structures inside their platform,” he said, hitting the company for prioritizing profit over safety.

Commerce Department

U.S. consumer spending rose more slowly

U.S. consumers boosted their spending in July, but more slowly than in prior months as new coronavirus infections rose and the expiration of enhanced unemployment checks loomed. Spending numbers have come back more than the economy as a whole, with the help of a lot of fiscal support. The question going forward is as fiscal support wanes, to what extent will it weaken.” Personal-consumption expenditures, a measure of household spending on everything from haircuts to new cars, increased a seasonally adjusted 1.9% in July from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Friday.

US Economy

Weekly jobless claims jump back above 1 million

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits last week was greater than expected, raising concern about the state of the economy as lawmakers struggle to move forward on a new coronavirus stimulus package. The Labor Department said initial jobless claims for the week ending Aug. 15 came in at 1.106 million. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a total of 923,000. Initial claims for the previous week were also revised higher by 8,000 to 971,000. Last week’s spike in claims came as Democrats and Republicans struggle to move forward on a new coronavirus stimulus bill.

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US Economy

Weekly jobless claims jump back above 1 million

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits last week was greater than expected, raising concern about the state of the economy as lawmakers struggle to move forward on a new coronavirus stimulus package.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims for the week ending Aug. 15 came in at 1.106 million. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a total of 923,000. Initial claims for the previous week were also revised higher by 8,000 to 971,000.

Last week’s spike in claims came as Democrats and Republicans struggle to move forward on a new coronavirus stimulus bill.

Democratic lawmakers want to keep an additional unemployment benefit of $600 per week that was included in previous aid package. Republicans, meanwhile, have indicated they want to extend the additional benefit at a lower rate.