Justin Bieber has been left behind by the Instagram Rapture.
The “Baby” crooner lost a whopping 3.5 million followers after Instagram purged all the spam and deadweight from its site this week. Fake accounts comprised nearly 15% of Bieber’s Instagram following.
Instagram went after spam in a major way this week, deleting millions of fake accounts in what has become dubbed the “Instagram Rapture.”
It turns out that the celebrities on the Internet are not as famous as we thought. Some of the biggest names in show business shed the largest numbers of fake followers on Instagram, with the Bieb leading the way, according to data compiled by Zach Allia, a software developer.
It seems the key area that was compromised was an online site where people could request information about domain names. ICANN says hackers were able to see all user names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and passwords, though the passwords were encrypted.
“ICANN is providing notices to the … users whose personal information may have been compromised,” the organization said, though it didn’t say how many people were affected.
ICANN says the attack could have been worse if it weren’t for some new security upgrades that had been put in place this year.
“We believe these [security] enhancements helped limit the unauthorized access obtained in the attack,” it said. “Since discovering the attack, we have implemented additional security measures.”
Watch your back, Corporate America, or you could become the next Sony.
The attack on Sony(SNE) Pictures inflicted crippling damage in a way that past hacks have not. Stolen corporate secrets, customer passwords and credit card numbers from previous cyberattacks haven’t left a lasting impact on companies, and they haven’t kept their customers away.
But stopping cyberattacks takes a big investment — one that companies so far have been unwilling to make.
The barrage of cyberattacks is nonstop. Computer alarms go off maybe 5,000 times a day at a large company like Sony, Carpenter said. Every time an employee visits a sketchy website or a new app enters the network, an alarm goes off. In many cases, those must be manually checked by a member of the company’s security team.
The workload outpaces the number of workers assigned to keep companies safe. That’s how hackers slip in unnoticed and start their work. On average, it takes a company 243 days to discover a breach, according to the M-Trends 2013 report by Mandiant, a computer security consultant.
Once upon a time, companies only had to worry about cybercriminals trying to steal credit cards or foreign government spies seeking company secrets to assist competitors.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … two breast implants, a tummy tuck and a rhinoplasty.
That may be a riff on the original, but it’s a tune many are singing this holiday season, as more people are asking Santa to go under the knife.
Holiday gift giving has become a staple at many cosmetic surgery practices, and the popularity has grown over the last several years, according to Tom Seery, Founder and CEO of RealSelf.com, a consumer website for patients considering cosmetic procedures.
Seery said that people are widely more accepting of nips and tucks than they used to be, and the fact that it’s become more mainstream makes people more comfortable admitting they want something done.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 15.1 million people had cosmetic procedures in the U.S. in 2013, up 104% from 2000.
“Because of that, cosmetic surgery is much less of an awkward conversation to have around the dinner table,”Seery said.
The most common plastic surgery gifts to give are anything involving the face — from fillers to lifts — and breast augmentations, according to Dr. Yoel Shahar, a plastic surgeon in New York.
The Christmas season is the busiest time of year for most plastic surgeons, because people have time off to get the procedures and then recover.
This year, Heidi, a mother of three living on Long Island, NY, won’t be looking for the jewelry box her husband usually leaves under the tree. Instead, she’s getting a new kind of gift — money toward the facial filler Juvederm, which she’ll have injected into the area under her eyes at Marotta Facial Plastic Surgery Center.
“I was so excited when he told me, because I’m always complaining that I look so tired and my husband knows this,” said Heidi, who requested that we not use her last name.
Cosmetic surgery is a major splurge, so it’s an obvious choice for a gift wish list. The average cost of breast augmentation surgery was $3,678 in 2013, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The average face lift cost was $6,556 and a tummy tuck was $5,217.
As in Heidi’s case, the majority of these gifts come from a significant other. A survey of RealSelf community members found that, of those who had gotten some kind of a procedure as a gift, 75% received it from their romantic partner or spouse.
But this gift idea comes with a caveat: About one third of respondents said they’d be offended if a family member, romantic partner or a friend gifted them a cosmetic procedure.
It could sound downright Grinch-like to give a gift that implies your loved one could use some work, but doctors say that’s not generally the case.
Dr. Scot Glasberg, a private practice plastic surgeon based in New York City, and president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said he sees procedures being gifted all the time, but usually the patient has already had a consultation and has independently decided to have work done. The third party is only involved in the payment part, not the decision to do it.
Glasberg recently met with a patient that had come to him solo for a breast augmentation. But the check came from her boyfriend, who paid for the procedure as a Hanukkah gift.
“There are a lot of red flags as a surgeon, once you hear the word gift,” he said. “The key is to make sure they’re getting it for the right reasons — to help with body image or self-esteem, not as a way to enhance a relationship.”
The hackers behind a devastating cyberattack at Sony Pictures have sent a new message to executives at the company, crediting them for a “very wise” decision to cancel the Christmas day release of “The Interview,” a source close to the company told CNN.
The email message was received by Sony’s top executives on Thursday night and was obtained by CNN.
The source said that the company believes the email was from the hackers because it followed a pattern of previous messages, sent to a list of particular executives and formatted in a particular way.
A Sony spokesman declined to comment.
Also on Friday, President Obama said he disagreed with Sony’s decision.
“I am sympathetic to the concerns that they face. Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake,” Obama said at a White House press conference.
“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can impose censorship here in the U.S.,” he added.
The FBI has officially linked the cyberattack at Sony to the North Korean government.
“The destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart,” the FBI said in a statement.
The Motion Picture Association of America called the hack a “despicable, criminal act” on Friday.
“This situation is larger than a movie’s release or the contents of someone’s private emails,” said Chris Dodd, CEO of the lobbying group. “This is about the fact that criminals were able to hack in and steal what has now been identified as many times the volume of all of the printed material in the Library of Congress.”
The hacker message is effectively a victory lap, telling the studio, “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
Since the cancellation on Wednesday, the same executives have been wondering whether the leaks of private emails and corporate documents would now stop.
Thursday night’s message implied that the leaks will stop.
In a statement on Wednesday when the film’s release was scrapped, the company said “we stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
Many lashed out at the studio for its unprecedented decision to pull the movie. Others have rallied around Sony’s predicament.
George Clooney, in an interview with Deadline.com on Thursday, revealed that he had circulated a petition earlier in the week saying “we fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands” — but no one was willing to sign it.
“It was a large number of people. It was sent to basically the heads of every place,” Clooney said without naming names.
The petition said, “This is not just an attack on Sony. It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country,” and it concluded, “We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together.”
It’s outdated now, since Sony did cancel “The Interview.” In the interview, Clooney expressed sadness that “as we watched one group be completely vilified, nobody stood up.”
Investing in dividend stocks can be a powerful and effective strategy to obtain superior returns over time.
However, there is much more to successful dividend investing that simply going after companies with big yields. Disney(DIS), Starbucks(SBUX), and TJX(TJX) (parent company of T.J. Maxx) show that investing in businesses with increasing dividends and healthy fundamentals can be the key to outperforming the markets in the long term.
The importance of dividend growth: According data from Goldman Sachs, dividend stocks tend to outperform their nondividend-paying counterparts by a considerable margin over time. A $10,000 investment in nondividend stocks in 1972 would have turned into $26,417 by 2013, while investing the same amount in dividend-paying stocks would have resulted in $413,073.
That staggering difference provides solid evidence in favor of dividend investing. However, that’s only part of the story: Results tend to be even better when investing in companies with consistent dividend growth. A $10,000 position in companies raising their dividends on an annual basis or starting new dividend payments would have turned into an even larger $559,702 by the end of the period under study.
Dividends don’t only provide income to investors, they also say a lot about a company’s fundamentals and financial strength. Sustainable dividend growth demonstrates the business is producing increasing sales and expanding cash flow, and this is can be a powerful return driver over time.
In addition to paying attention to dividend growth, it’s important to understand the fundamentals and competitive strengths behind those payouts to make sure the business can sustain increasing dividend distributions over time.
Disney recently announced a 34% dividend increase for 2014. What started as an annual distribution of $0.39 per share in 2009 has grown to $1.15 per share. The House of Mouse has reported record sales and earnings over the last four consecutive years, and management is optimistic regarding growth prospects in the middle term.
Disney owns tremendously valuable competitive assets in its brand and intellectual properties, and the company is proving its ability to translate those strengths into growing dividends for shareholders. The movie pipeline is full of promising launches, including the next Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” which is scheduled for release in December 2015.
The payout ratio is comfortably low, under 25% of average earnings estimates for the coming year. This means Disney offers substantial room for dividend growth, especially if the company continues leveraging its unique assets to produce rising sales and earnings in the years ahead.
Starbucks is one of the most remarkable growth stories in the consumer sector over the last several years, as the company has built a gigantic global coffee emporium with more than 21,300 stores. Even better, management intends to generate $30 billion in sales by fiscal 2019, almost doubling the $16 billion in revenue produced in fiscal 2014.
Growth plans are clearly ambitious, but Starbucks is benefiting from multiple growth engines and management has proven its ability to capitalize on opportunities in a profitable way. Store base growth, more drink and food offerings, lunch and evening day-part expansion, and mobile payments and delivery are some of the growth venues the company is planning to lever to achieve its targets.
Starbucks started distributing regular dividends in 2010, and the company has raised payments from $0.10 per share quarterly to a much hotter $0.32; this includes a caffeinated dividend hike of 23% for 2014. The payout ratio is also quite safe, in the neighborhood of 40% of earnings forecasts for fiscal 2015.
3. TJX Companies
Fashion is a fickle and competitive industry, but TJX’s smart and differentiated business model has allowed the company to generate consistent financial performance over time. The off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions has delivered growing comparable-store sales over the last 23 consecutive quarters, an impressive track record in such a challenging business.
TJX sources products from more than 16,000 vendors in over 75 countries. The company provides department stores the opportunity to clear excess inventory under favorable conditions; this gives TJX significant bargaining power with suppliers, which it translates into discounts of between 20% and 60% versus traditional retail prices.
These bargains resonate with customers through good and bad economic times, which has allowed TJX to deliver extraordinary dividend growth over the years: the company has grown its dividend an average rate of 23% per year through the last 18 years. The payout ratio is also comfortably low, under 20% of earnings forecasts for the next fiscal year.
When picking the best dividend stocks, investors need to look beyond yields, as companies with rapidly growing payouts and strong fundamentals can be particularly profitable investments. Companies such as Disney, Starbucks, and TJX are well positioned to continue delivering substantial dividend growth over time, which says a lot about the potential returns for these companies’ investors over the long term.
But there comes a time when even the most scrappy of start-ups needs to grow up and embrace the responsibility that comes with creating a new market.
And in the case of companies such as Uber and Airbnb — both now valued at many billions of dollars — that means recognizing when you have become part of the establishment.
Such a transformation is never going to be easy, especially when so many tech firms are started by charismatic youngsters keen to become the next Steve Jobs — if less willing to hold their tongues, as Uber’s CEO learned the hard way.
Not only do such firms need to improve their image, it is also time they gave something back. And they could start with their staff.
For while the so-called “sharing economy” has helped home and car owners make a little money on the side, it hasn’t created many full time jobs. A lot of people employed by these firms are freelance.
So what can be done?
Venture capital, with its experienced investors, could play more of a role in steering such companies towards this goal. Indeed they have a duty to do so, to protect their investment.
Governments around the world should start adapting to the changing landscape such disruptors create, assessing the risks they pose to consumers and smoothing some of their rougher edges through smart regulation.
No one wants a sharing economy if it is not safe or rewarding.
Many of these firms, including Uber and Airbnb, say they are keen to work with authorities to resolve any cracks in the system as they arise.
Today’s new game changers have already altered our daily lives, for which they deserve recognition. But for that legacy to last they — like the tech titans before them — need to mature and learn from past mistakes.
Unilever takes its mayonnaise very seriously. But this time, the global food giant appears to have egg on its face.
In October, Unilever filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek, a San Francisco start-up that makes an egg-free mayonnaise substitute called Just Mayo.
Unilever(UL) owns Hellman’s mayonnaise and Best Foods, and accused Hampton Creek of false advertising and unfair competition.
Unilever dropped the lawsuit Thursday. The company didn’t give a reason why.
The lawsuit claimed that Just Mayo does not meet the legal definition of mayonnaise since it isn’t made with eggs. Unilever also took issue with the Just Mayo label, which contains an image of an egg, and said the vegan sandwich spread was inferior in taste and “performance” to Best Foods and Hellman’s mayo.
Unilever said in a statement that it withdrew the suit so that Hampton Creek “can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities.”
Hampton Creek, which also makes egg-free cookie dough, is on a mission to develop plant-based alternatives to products made with eggs. The company argues that current egg production is unsustainable because it requires farms to produce vast amounts of chicken feed, using up valuable resources such as water and land.
The company recently raised $90 million in funding from private investors, including Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, and Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook(FB, Tech30).
The U.S. government essentially closed the books on TARP with a $15.3 billion profit.
Treasury sold its remaining shares Friday in Ally Financial, its last remaining major stake from the $426 billion bailout of banks and the U.S. auto industry.
The Troubled Asset Relief Program was passed in 2008, in the wake of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, as the nation’s financial system was on the verge of collapse and economists feared another Great Depression. At the height of the bailout, Treasury owned a significant stake in all of the major U.S. banks, such as Citigroup(C) and Bank of America(BAC), two of the nation’s Big Three automakers — General Motors(GM) and Chrysler Group(FCAM) — as well as one of its largest insurers, AIG(AIG).
But with the sale of the Ally(ALLY) stock, Treasury now only holds stakes in 35 small community banks.
Ally Financial was formerly known as GMAC, and had been GM’s finance arm. While it was hurt by the plunge in car sales, its move into subprime mortgages did the most damage. Ally was bailed out as part of the auto industry bailout, since its failure would have left a significant portion of the nation’s car dealers without the financing they needed to stay open.
Treasury received $1.3 billion from its final sale of Ally stock Friday, leaving it with a $2.4 billion profit on the company.
Overall, the auto bailout was the one big money loser for TARP. Even with the Ally sale, taxpayers lost about $9.2 billion.
But opting not to bail out the auto industry likely would have proven far more costly, since GM, Chrysler and many car dealers likely would have gone out of business without the government’s help.
If GM and Chrysler had gone under, it would have cost an estimated $39 billion to $105 billion in lost tax revenues as well as assistance to the unemployed, according to a study from the Center for Auto Research. And the government also would have been on the hook for billions in promised pension payments to autoworkers.
A government labor watchdog has accused McDonald’s and some franchise owners of violating workers rights by retaliating against them for taking part in fast food protests.
The National Labor Relations Board said in several complaints filed Friday that McDonald’s(MCD) and franchise owners subjected workers to “discriminatory discipline” for participating in nationwide protests aimed at raising pay in the fast food industry.
According to the NLRB’s general counsel, the restaurant owners reduced hours and discharged some workers who took part in the movement. The employers also engaged in other “coercive conduct” against its employees, including surveillance, interrogations and restricting worker’s ability to communicate with union representatives.
By naming McDonald’s along with its franchise owners as violators, the government agency also hits at the heart of the company’s franchise model. The vast majority of 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States are owned by franchisees. This has allowed the company to dodge responsibility for low wages and workplace violations at its restaurants.
But all that stands to change, if the agency is able to prove otherwise.
“The complaints issued today underscores what most everyone understands as common sense: That the company is responsible for the workers at its restaurants,” said Kendall Fells, an organizer with Fast-Food Fight for $15, one of the groups leading the protest movement.
Friday’s complaints stem from 291 labor violations charges filed since November 2012, when the fast food protests began. The labor agency’s general counsel found merit in 86 of those cases, which were filed in dozens of cities around the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia, among others.
The complaints are a preliminary step in what is expected to be a lengthy legal battle.
At issue is whether McDonald’s can be considered a “joint employer” with its franchise owners. The NLRB’s general counsel will make that case to an administrative law judge who will determine if McDonald’s can be held liable under the National Labor Relations Act.
That trial will begin in March and will set the stage for the NLRB to issue a ruling that can be used in court.
Worker advocates say the complaints filed Friday suggest that the NLRB general counsel has seen evidence that McDonald’s meets the legal definition of a joint employer.
“Today’s news makes it clear that the NLRB finds merit in the claim that McDonald’s is a joint employer because it exerts substantial power over franchisees,” said Mary Joyce Carlson, an attorney for Fast-Food Fight for $15.
However, activists acknowledged that they are in for an uphill battle against the deep-pocketed and litigious fast food giant.
McDonald’s said in a statement that it will contest the allegations. The company also said that the government agency “improperly and dramatically strike at the heart of the franchise system — a system that creates economic opportunity, jobs and income for thousands of business owners and their employees across the country.”