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Month: April 2019 Page 6 of 12

Snapchat announces new features geared at creativity, collaboration, partner advertising

Snapchat announces new features geared at creativity, collaboration, partner advertising

Snapchat parent Snap Inc. on Thursday announced a slate of new features designed to help it keep pace in a digital environment that values efficiency, revenue opportunities, and cutting-edge creativity.

Why you should care

Many of the new features enhance the core Snapchatter experience, but with it comes key openings for marketers and advertisers.

Dynamic scanning and enhanced AR brings the Snapchat experience to life with improved movement tracking, new interactive templates via Lens Studio, landmark manipulation, and object scanning. From snapping math problems and movie posters to visualizing new perspectives on landmark locations, brands will be able to deliver targeted content in context for deeper engagement with audiences.

New third-party app integrations via Snap Kit allow users on apps like Tinder, Netflix, VSCO, and GoFundme to create custom partner stories directly from Snapchat. Partner apps will be able to display Snapchat stories on their own platforms with the added option of monetizing their content with full-screen mobile ads in the coming months.

Snap Originals is expanding its serialized mobile shows with a range of scripted dramas, comedies, and docuseries targeting a variety of audience interests. Available globally on Snapchat’s Discover page, each episode is approximately five minutes in length and includes six-second, non-skippable ads available for purchase.

The new Snap Games platform allows for multiplayer gaming in real-time with original and partner-developed games made for Snapchat. Snap Games will offer advertisers six-second ad spots in the platform, which is accessed directly from Chat for fast and intuitive gameplay.


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Bezos divorce finalized, with Jeff Bezos keeping 75% of Amazon shares and other business interests

Bezos divorce finalized, with Jeff Bezos keeping 75% of Amazon shares and other business interests


MacKenzie Bezos says her divorce from ex-husband Jeff has been finalized in an agreement that will see him retain 75 per cent of their shares in Amazon, along with complete control of space travel company Blue Origin and influential newspaper the Washington Post.

In a tweet, Bezos said on Thursday that while she will retain one-quarter of the couple’s stake in Amazon, the company they founded out of their garage in 1994, she will hand over all of the voting shares to Jeff “to support his continued contributions with the teams of these incredible companies.”

The couple split earlier this year after more than 20 years of marriage, in a development that some thought could be one of the most expensive divorces in history, given that her ex-husband is the richest man on earth, worth roughly $150 billion US, according to Bloomberg, on top of her own net worth, which is also believed to be in the tens of billions.

According to regulatory filings, the Bezoses own 78,814,170 shares in Amazon, about 16 per cent of the company and worth just under $143 billion based on Thursday’s trading price for the shares. 

The deal means MacKenzie Bezos now owns almost 20 million shares or four per cent of  the company, worth just under $36 billion.

Bezos says she will also hand over her interests in space travel company Blue Origin, and her ownership stake in the Washington Post.

“Grateful for the past as I look forward to what comes next,” she said.





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Sharks hand Oilers 5th straight loss

Sharks hand Oilers 5th straight loss


Brent Burns had a goal and an assist as the San Jose Sharks got a bit of relief from a late season funk with a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

Marcus Sorensen and Gustav Nyquist also scored for the Sharks (45-27-9), who came into the game with losses in nine of their last 10 as they prepare for a first-round playoff matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Leon Draisaitl had both goals for the Oilers (34-38-9), who have lost five straight and will miss the playoffs for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons.

Draisaitl started the scoring two minutes into the opening period when he stripped a puck while shorthanded and went in to send a backhand shot through the legs of Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.

San Jose tied it up seven minutes later when Joe Thornton sent a pass from behind the net to Sorensen, who beat Oilers goalie Anthony Stolarz. With the assist Thornton passed Steve Yzerman (1,063) for eighth-place on the NHL all-time list in that category.

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead just over a minute after that when Burns scored his 15th of the season high to the glove side from the middle of the faceoff circle.

Edmonton tied the game back up early in the second period when Matt Benning made a nice feed across to set up Draisaitl for his 49th goal of the season

Nyquist tipped in a Burns point shot to give San Jose a 3-2 lead with 1:12 left in the second period.

Both teams close out regular-season play on Saturday as the Sharks are home to the Colorado Avalanche and the Oilers head to Calgary to face the Flames.



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Trump says he'll slap tariffs on Mexico if it doesn't stop flow of drugs and migrants

Trump says he’ll slap tariffs on Mexico if it doesn’t stop flow of drugs and migrants


U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to slap tariffs on cars produced in Mexico unless the country does more to stop migrants trying to enter the U.S.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that if the “powerful incentive” but “less drastic measure” doesn’t work, he’ll go through with his standing threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Republican president had threatened last week to close the border this week unless Mexico immediately halted “ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States.” He has since praised the country for doing more.

Trump is also threatening tariffs if Mexico doesn’t halt the flow of illegal drugs across the border. He says he’s giving Mexico “a one-year warning” to comply.

“I’ll do it,” he said. I don’t play games.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the House of Representatives will sue to block Trump’s plan to redirect funds to building a wall along the border with Mexico. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

But he also said Mexico was working to change the situation. 

“A lot of good things are happening with Mexico,” Trump told reporters at the White House. 

“Mexico understands that we’re going to close the border, or I’m going to tariff the cars.”

Trump warned last Friday that he would close the U.S. border with Mexico this week unless Mexico took action to help stop the flow of illegal migrants across the frontier.

Trump said Thursday that media coverage in recent days has prompted Mexico to make moves to curb the flow of immigrants to the United States and to take other actions to ease the pressure on U.S. ports of entry.

At the same time, the U.S. House of Representatives is threatening to sue to block Trump’s transfer of money to pay for a border wall along the border with Mexico, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

Trump declared a national emergency at the border in February to secure the money that Congress refused to give him for the wall.

“The President’s action clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority,” Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said in a statement.



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Canada's failure to fight climate change 'disturbing,' environment watchdog says

Canada’s failure to fight climate change ‘disturbing,’ environment watchdog says


Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand says Canada is not doing enough to combat climate change.

Gelfand delivered her final audits Tuesday before her five-year term expires, looking at fossil-fuel subsidies, invasive aquatic species and mining pollution.

But her final conclusions as the country’s environmental watchdog say it is Canada’s slow action to deal with the warming planet that is most “disturbing” to her.

“For decades, successive federal governments have failed to reach their targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and the government is not ready to adapt to a changing climate,” she said in a statement Tuesday morning. “This must change.”

Gelfand’s rebuke came a day after Environment Canada scientists sounded an alarm that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world, causing irreversible changes to our climate.

Gelfand said neither Liberal nor Conservative governments have hit their own targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Canada is not on track to hit its 2030 target, despite policies like the national price on carbon that took effect this week.

‘Inefficient’ fossil-fuel subsidies

Gelfand’s audit says the Liberals are not keeping a promise to get rid of “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies, which are undermining efforts to combat climate change, encouraging wasteful consumption of fossil fuels and discouraging investments in cleaner energy sources.

Canada has pledged to eliminate inefficient subsidies by 2025 as part of both the G20 and G7 economic groups of nations, and the Liberals also campaigned on a promise to get rid of them.

Gelfand concludes that both Finance Canada and Environment Canada have defined “inefficient” so broadly they can’t decide what subsidies fall into that category.

Finance Canada’s work on the subsidies focused exclusively on fiscal and economic considerations without giving any attention to the social and environmental issues at play. For its part, Environment and Climate Change Canada only looked at 23 out of more than 200 federal organizations when it compiled an inventory of potential subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry, Gelfand found.

Last year Canada began a peer review with Argentina that sees each investigate and report on the other’s fossil-fuel subsidies. Last week Environment Minister Catherine McKenna started a public consultation on the subsidies to aid that peer review.

The draft regulations she released last week say her department has concluded that none of the federal non-tax subsidies for fossil fuels actually is “inefficient.”

The regulations identified just four subsidies at all, including support to help Indigenous communities keep electricity prices down; funding for electric and alternative-fuel vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations; and funding for research on clean technologies for the oil-and-gas sector.

Philip Gass, a senior energy researcher for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said Tuesday using the World Trade Organization definition of subsidies, his organization found several that could or should be phased out.

The IISD list shows more than $1.2 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies from the federal government, and an even greater amount from provincial governments. Gelfand’s audit looked only at federal subsidies.

Gass said the government’s report on fossil-fuel subsidies is a good step toward transparency but that the reasoning behind the conclusion there are no inefficient subsidies is still confusing.

“We need a more ambitious approach and (to) have a better plan,” he said.

Gelfand’s audit is the second attempt to audit Finance Canada’s fossil-fuel subsidy programs. In 2017, the auditor general made an attempt but was blocked when the department refused to cough up the needed documents. Eventually the department gave in, resulting in the audits released Tuesday.

Gelfand also looked at the current impact of invasive aquatic species, most of which are accidentally introduced to Canadian waters on the hulls of ships coming from international waters and many of which harm native marine life after arrival.

She found that although Canada has made commitments to prevent invasive species from taking hold in Canadian waters, neither Fisheries and Oceans Canada nor the Canada Border Services Agency did what they promised to do. She says a lack of understanding of whether provincial or federal authorities are responsible is interfering with efforts to prevent invasive species from getting established.



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Watch today's full question period Live

Watch today’s full question period Live


The House of Commons is not sitting this week. Question period returns next Monday at 2:15 p.m. ET.

About question period:

  • Monday-Thursday 2:15-3 p.m. ET, Fridays 11:15 a.m.-12 p.m. ET
  • Leader of the Opposition asks first questions.
  • All questions are posed through the Speaker. Generally, PM answers only leaders’ questions.



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Chinese woman arrested after getting past Mar-a-Lago security with 'malicious' software

Chinese woman arrested after getting past Mar-a-Lago security with ‘malicious’ software


A Chinese woman who got through security checkpoints at U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida  carrying a thumb drive coded with “malicious” software was arrested on Saturday for entering a restricted property and making false statements to officials, according to a court filing.

Documents filed by the Secret Service on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida say that shortly after noon on Saturday, the woman approached a Secret Service agent screening visitors to Mar-a-Lago seeking entrance to the club.

The woman produced two Chinese passports displaying her photo and said she wanted to go to the pool. Secret Service officers could not initially find her name on an access list for the property, according to the Secret Service affidavit filed with the court.

A club manager said that a man with the same last name was a club member, and even though the woman did not give a clear answer as to whether the man was her father, the Secret Service affidavit says resort officials allowed her on the property on the assumption she was related to a member.

Resort personnel became suspicious after she appeared to have trouble explaining why she was visiting Mar-a-Lago, 
according to the affidavit. 

Event woman claimed to be going to not scheduled

The woman initially said she was there for an event staged by a group called the United Nations Chinese American Association. But resort staff found no such event was scheduled, according to the court filing.

A receptionist then contacted Secret Service personnel who questioned the woman and concluded she did not have “any legitimate documentation” authorizing her entry to Mar-a-Lago, according to the filing.

After detaining her, investigators found in her possession four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive device and a thumb drive, the Secret Service court filing says. Initial examination of the thumb drive determined it contained “malicious malware,” the Secret Service said.

The White House referred questions on the incident to the Secret Service on Tuesday. The Secret Service declined comment, saying the investigation was still open.

In a court filing on Tuesday, a public defender representing Zhang said she was invoking her right to remain silent.

A Justice Department spokeswoman had no comment on the arrest.



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Musk safe for now as U.S. judge urges Tesla CEO, SEC to resolve tweet dispute

Musk safe for now as U.S. judge urges Tesla CEO, SEC to resolve tweet dispute


Elon Musk’s job as Tesla Inc’s chief executive appeared safe on Thursday as a federal judge in Manhattan urged the billionaire to settle contempt allegations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

At a hearing in Manhattan federal court, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan gave both sides two weeks to work out their differences, and said she could rule on whether Musk violated his recent fraud settlement with the regulator if they failed.

Musk declined to comment about the hearing as he left the courthouse, surrounding by reporters, photographers and television cameras.

Nathan had been asked by the SEC to hold Musk in contempt over a Feb. 19 tweet where the regulator said he improperly posted material information about Tesla’s vehicle production outlook without first seeking approval from company lawyers.

The SEC said pre-approval had been a core element of the October 2018 settlement, which resolved a lawsuit over Musk’s tweet last Aug. 7 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 US per share.

That settlement called for Musk to step down as Tesla’s chairman, and levied $20 million civil fines each on Musk and the Palo Alto, California-based company.

Possible drag lifted

Legal experts had said Musk could have faced penalties as severe as removal from Tesla’s board or as chief executive if held in contempt.

But at Thursday’s hearing, the SEC stopped short of recommending such sanctions.

That lifted a potential drag on Tesla’s share price, which recouped some early losses stemming from its Wednesday night report of lower-than-expected vehicle deliveries.

The shares closed down 8.2 per cent, after earlier falling as much as 10.7 per cent.

SEC lawyer Cheryl Crumpton said if Musk were held in contempt, the regulator might ask Nathan to require regular reports about his oversight by Tesla lawyers, including whether they were vetting his statements and if not why.

Noting that Musk had called his $20 million fine “worth it,” she also said higher fines for future violations might be needed to ensure that further backsliding would be “not worth it.”

Crumpton also faulted what she called Tesla’s “troubling” conduct. “Tesla still appears to be unwilling to exercise any meaningful control over the conduct of its CEO,” she said.

The SEC did not accuse Tesla of contempt.

Musk’s lawyer, John Hueston, countered that the “ambiguity” of the settlement made further punishment for his client unfair.

“There simply is not a clear enough standard to use the hard penalty of contempt,” he said.

Musk sat quietly with his lawyers, sometimes staring down at paperwork, during oral arguments.

SEC  calls tweet ‘obviously different’

The battle concerns a tweet that Musk sent to his more than 24 million Twitter followers: “Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019,” meaning 500,000 vehicles.

Four hours later, Musk corrected himself, saying annualized production would be “probably around” 500,000 by year end, with full-year deliveries totaling about 400,000.

The SEC called the earlier tweet “obviously different” from Tesla’s Jan. 30 outlook, when it targeted annualized Model 3 production exceeding 500,000 as soon as the fourth quarter, and projected 360,000 to 400,000 vehicle deliveries this year.

Musk’s lawyers countered that the earlier tweet merely restated a forecast he had given on Jan. 30, and that the SEC conceded during settlement talks that Musk did not need pre-approval for all tweets about his company.

Tesla, which built its reputation on luxury cars, has faced several production challenges with its Model 3 sedan, which it is counting on to reach the mass market, recently offering a version starting at $35,000.

On Wednesday night, Tesla repeated its Jan. 30 vehicle delivery forecast, but said first-quarter deliveries had fallen 31 per cent from the prior three months to about 63,000.

Respect for justice system 

The “funding secured” tweet had sent Tesla’s share price up as much as 13.3 per cent. Musk’s privatization plan was at best in an early stage, however, and financing was not in place.

The legal battle has not stopped Musk from being an outspoken critic of the SEC.

Since it began last September, he has labeled the SEC the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission,” recalling his attacks on investors who sell Tesla stock short, and told CBS’s 60 Minutes he did not have respect for the SEC.

And in the early morning of Feb. 26, after the SEC filed its contempt motion, Musk tweeted: “Something is broken with SEC oversight.”

As he prepared to enter the courthouse. Musk told reporters: “I have a great respect for the justice system.”

Asked whether he also respected the SEC, Musk laughed, before turning to go inside.



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Advisory committee kept out of the loop on veterans' controversial new PTSD form

Advisory committee kept out of the loop on veterans’ controversial new PTSD form


A committee that is supposed to advise the Veterans Affairs minister on mental health issues was kept in the dark about changes to an important disability questionnaire meant to document post-traumatic stress disorder claims by former soldiers.

One member of the committee, Aaron Bedard — a former combat engineer who served in Afghanistan — said he only learned about the changes through CBC News on Tuesday.

“There were no emails, no teleconferences to discuss this. It came out of nowhere,” said Bedard.

“Our job is to advise them on any changes to do with mental health and veterans. Our job is to provide input to make sure whatever they’re doing is thorough.”

Some mental health professionals who treat soldiers and police officers with PTSD worry the newly streamlined form will lead to delays in treatment and disability awards.

Veterans Affairs has a long history of demanding precise information before approving claims. It’s feared the new, more generalized form will trigger unnecessary requests for clarification from veterans who are already fragile.

‘In hindsight …’

The veterans minister’s mental health advisory committee includes both physicians and veterans.

Michel Doiron, assistant deputy minister of service delivery at Veterans Affairs, confirmed the panel was not consulted about the changes and was vague when asked why it was left out of the loop.

“In hindsight, maybe” they should have been told, Doiron said in an interview with CBC News.

He insisted, however, that the revisions were put before another advisory panel responsible for ensuring the department delivers better services.

The operational stress injury clinics that deal with troubled soldiers also were consulted, as were members of the medical community who have been clamouring for shorter, more simplified forms.

“The reality is the form that we did put out was based on comments from doctors and a lot of complaints we had from health professionals when we do town halls, or when we go to medical associations,” Doiron said.

“They come back and tell us our forms are too long, too complicated, we’re asking too much information. Doctors, you know, they’re busy and filling out a lot of forms and long forms is not always very positive for them.”

The department has no intention of engaging veterans in back-and-forth information requests because the new “form provides us all the information we need” and the department trusts the medical diagnoses, Doiron said.

Critics say that remains to be seen.

The federal government’s own diagnostic criteria are quite specific. Physicians often receive letters from the feds that tell them that “recording the frequency of symptoms is very important in determining the extent of the disability” and “failure to provide the frequency of symptoms or the treatment information may result in the disability assessment being delayed.”

‘No discussion. No consultations’

The fact an end-run took place around the advisory committee spoke volumes to former veterans minister Erin O’Toole, who said the department seemed determined to ram through the changes as a way to deal with the enormous backlog of claims before the department.

“It shows that they don’t take the concerns of veterans seriously,” he said.

“No discussion. No consultations. And already physicians are worried that veterans will not get the benefits they need because of this form. They should halt it immediately and come in [to the House of Commons veterans committee] and explain why the changes were made.”

New Democrat veterans critic Rachel Blaney said she is skeptical of the department’s claim that the shorter form will lead to faster service for veterans.

“Perhaps the intention is to try to make this process simpler,” she said, “but what we’re seeing clearly is that the impact could be very detrimental to the people who served our country.”

Blaney said the department should take a step back and reflect on the criticism it has heard, because lives are at stake.



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What you need to know about the new climate change report

What you need to know about the new climate change report


On Monday, a report commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada called Canada’s Changing Climate Report said that, on average, Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Among some of the other findings were:

  • Northern Canada is warming at more than three times the global average.
  • Precipitation is expected to increase across the country though summer rainfall may decrease.
  • Oceans around the country have warmed, becoming more acidic.
  • The warming climate will make extreme hot temperatures more frequent and more intense.

But readers had some lingering questions.

Why did they only use data from 1948?

It might seem strange that the report only referenced data from 1948, since we know that cities have data that go further back. It’s not some way of manipulating the data, but rather it is the time at which national records were kept on a consistent basis.

“It’s a question of the availability of datasets, and Environment Canada’s datasets are quite poor,” said Dianne Saxe, former environmental commissioner of Ontario. “What they look for is continuous record-keeping in the same place over a long period of time, and we don’t have a lot of that.”

Is Canada changing the Arctic?

The effects seen across the Arctic, including shrinking sea ice and and less snow cover, are having a dire effect on global temperatures. Sea ice and snow cover are used to reflect the sun’s radiation back into space, but with more of the dark waters of the ocean exposed, that radiation is absorbed and causes heating and creates what is called a “positive feedback loop.”

Saxe, whose office was shut down by the Ontario government on Monday, said that there are two things to consider when considering what is causing the rapidly melting ice.

An increase of carbon dioxide may be the biggest problem, she says, but it’s the short-term climate forces that need attention.

“The use of diesel in the North in snowy areas has an extraordinary effect at melting snow because it lets out these little soot particles that absorb heat into the air and darkens the snow.”

Saxe says that some solutions would be including filters on vehicles that use diesel and changing out wood stoves.

“The greenhouse gas is the biggest problem, but the short-term climate forces are faster, and we could actually fix them easily.”

How did the report acquire the data?

The report gathered data from existing peer-reviewed studies. It also used model projections that may have not been peer-reviewed. However, all chapters of the report itself were peer-reviewed.

The report also acknowledged that Indigenous observations and knowledge play an important role in understanding climate change and “the ability of human and natural systems to adapt.”

The Arctic ice is melting. Does that mean Antarctic ice is growing?

The Arctic and Antarctic are two different beasts. While the Arctic exists as mostly sea ice, the Antarctic is a landmass that includes sea ice as well as glaciers. The ocean processes that drive them are different as well, and Antarctica has glaciers, an ice sheet and sea ice in the mix.

The signal is loud and clear in the Arctic: sea ice is not only melting, but it’s thinning, which in turn makes it more susceptible to further melt.

In Antarctica, the signal isn’t so clear. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet — which sits atop the Antarctic landmass — is fairly stable. And while West Antarctica is colder, the warming is much higher in the region, which in turn is causing warmer ocean water to thin the ice.

This data image illustrates warming across Antarctica. Red represents areas where temperatures, measured in degrees Celsius per decade, have increased the most during the last 50 years, while dark blue represents areas with a lesser degree of warming. West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, the craggy finger of land jutting out from the continent on the left, have experienced the most warming. (NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio)

A new study published in January suggested that Antarctic ice is melting six times faster than it did in the 1980s.

So while the Arctic is seeing the most dramatic effect of climate change, the Antarctic is also seeing its own effects, though at a somewhat slower pace. And that’s good news since if the entire Antarctic ice sheet melted, it would raise sea level by 57 metres.

Is this new?

“No,” said Saxe. “I didn’t see anything new in this report. However, I’m glad this is getting people’s attention.”

Saxe notes that when you look at the climate data available for Toronto, which goes back to 1841, it shows the city has warmed to almost three times the global average. This is data that was already available.

As well, it was already understood that humans are the main drivers of climate change, though there are natural forces at work. However, the natural forces cannot account for the rapid change we are observing.

Normal can’t come back. We’ve locked in a huge amount of change that is still going to come our way.– Dianne Saxe, former environmental commissioner of Ontario

While people may want a return to normal, Saxe said, that’s not going to happen.

“Normal can’t come back,” she said. “We’ve locked in a huge amount of change that is still going to come our way.”



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