Monday, March 4, 2019

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At least 22 dead after tornado sweeps through Alabama - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 05:20 PM PST

At least twenty-three people, some of them children, have died after a tornado swept through Lee County, Alabama on Sunday, destroying numerous homes and leaving a death toll that could rise as rescuers sift through the rubble.

"Unfortunately the death toll has gone up," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told local media on Sunday night. "Unfortunately I feel that number may rise yet again."

Emergency workers were expected to toil through the night, pulling bodies and the injured out of the wreckage of destroyed homes and businesses.

"We've done everything we feel like we can do this evening. The area is just very, very hazardous to put anybody in to at this point in time."

Jones added that several people remained missing and that an organized search of the area would commence in the morning.

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said the death toll could rise.

"We've still got people being pulled out of rubble," he told the Birmingham News newspaper early on Sunday evening. "We're going to be here all night."

The East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika said in a statement that it was treating more than 40 patients as a result of the tornado and expects to receive more. Some patients have been sent to other hospitals, it added.

Severe weather unleashed one of numerous possible tornadoes that threatened the Southern United States on Sunday afternoon. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Georgia and Alabama through Sunday evening.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned residents on Twitter that more severe weather might be on the way. She said the state was working to help families who had been impacted.

"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today," Ivey wrote on Twitter. "Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected."

She said she was extending a state of emergency for Alabama that was issued on Feb. 23 to deal with flooding.

Video footage from the small community of Beauregard in Lee County showed homes reduced to piles of wreckage, felled trees, and debris from blasted buildings scattered across roads.

Photos on social media from a highway near Smiths Station, about 20 miles (32 km) east of Beauregard, showed a large bar called the Buck Wild Saloon with its roof torn off and missing most of a wall after the storm swept through.

Lee County Schools announced on Twitter that campuses in the county would be closed on Monday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Birmingham, Alabama, said it was sending three survey teams out on Monday to assess damage in Autauga, Macon, Lee and Barbour Counties.

"Please stay out of damaged areas so first responders can do their job," the NWS office said on Twitter.

The storm left more than 10,000 customers without power, the Birmingham News said, citing the utility Alabama Power.

As thousands faced a night without power, temperatures looked set to fall to near freezing following the storm.

"Colder air will sweep into the Southeast behind the severe weather with temperatures dropping into the 30s (1 C) southward to central Georgia and across most of Alabama by Monday morning," AccuWeather meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. "Those without power who rely on electric heat need to find ways to say warm."

Why embracing the lack of meaning in your job could ultimately help you find it - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 07:01 AM PST

Almost every modern employee is engaged in two types of work. There's actual work (the stuff you get paid to do), and then there's meta-work — figuring out why you're doing a particular job in the first place. We're generally able to make it through the day without much meta-work, mostly because the mental gymnastics it entails are exhausting.

But every so often, meta-work seeps through. Maybe you're sending a nonsensical email, or dealing with a pesky client, or writing a boring project report — and suddenly, you're hit with the realization that none of what you're doing matters. Sure, it might be important in that if you don't do it, you'll get fired. But when you think about it, the job doesn't seem essential to anyone's life.

Once it strikes, this existential dread is hard to shake, and you begin to wonder if anyone around you is feeling the same way. Natasha in accounting? Steve on sales? Surely, they must not believe that their daily work is changing the course of human history. Why are we here?

Everyone seeks meaning in their work, but no one knows exactly what that looks like

A recent Harvard Business Review article describes a survey that found nine out of 10 workers would sacrifice a decent chunk of their pay — 23% of their future lifetime earnings, to be exact — if they could have a job that was always meaningful. The survey was run by career-coaching platform BetterUp as part of a broader investigation into meaning and purpose at work.

Of course, "meaningful" is a ridiculously vague term; it looks different to everyone, and people have different expectations around how much meaningfulness they can reasonably find in their work. But it's a concept that appears to be on everyone's mind.

When I started reporting this story, I posted prompts on LinkedIn and Jobcase, a website that bills itself as "LinkedIn for blue-collar workers." I asked people to share why they did or didn't find meaning in their work. Something in the question hit a nerve — the comments and emails poured in by the dozens.

Most said yes, they do find meaning in their work, and many went on to explain that they make a difference in the lives of their coworkers, or their customers, or their students. A responder described a meaningful job as one that gives you "financial and mental stability and freedom." A freight hauler wrote that his current job is a perfect fit, mostly because he's able to travel across the country and see new places. A warehouse associate said he values the feeling of having put in a day of hard labor.

Read more: A Yale professor explains how to turn a boring job into a meaningful career

A smaller group of people said eh, not so much. To them, a job is just a paycheck — or their boss is a lunatic who prevents them from finding any meaning in their work.

I don't think this lopsided ratio, with more folks experiencing meaning than lacking it, suggests that most employees see their work as meaningful. Instead, I suspect that many people are loathe to talk (or tell a journalist) about work they find boring or soulless.

I also suspect that meaningfulness is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Perhaps the most obvious form of meaning is "saving the world," i.e. starting a nonprofit in a developing country, or performing surgery on patients who would otherwise die. But not everyone has the skills, educational background, or — let's face it — desire to do that. And that's where things get tricky.

We need to expand our definition of meaningful work to include options like providing for your family

Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Several experts told me that today's workers are under steadily increasing pressure to find world-saving meaning in their work, largely thanks to the internet.

Keith McNulty, head of people analytics and measurement at McKinsey & Co., mentioned the technology-enabled view we now have into what people are doing around the world, compared to the relative myopia of generations past. Seeing photos on social media of friends vaccinating kids against polio, or building homes for victims of natural disasters, makes you wonder: What should I be doing to make an impact? Suddenly your job — whether it primarily involves filling out spreadsheets or serving hamburgers — starts to look gross in comparison.

Should it?

Ask Rebecca Fraser-Thill, the director of faculty engagement in the Bates Center for Purposeful Work at Bates College and a career coach with the Pivot program, and she'll tell you: "We've set the bar way too high for what constitutes meaningful work." Fraser-Thill shared with me the same thing she shares with her clients and students: Meaningful work is fundamentally about feeling like it's about more than just you. Providing for your family financially counts. Bringing a smile to your coworkers' faces every day counts, too. Fraser-Thill is all but certain that, if we expanded our definition of meaningful work, we'd have a much more satisfied workforce.

Read more: A former Googler and career coach tells clients with boring jobs that it's OK, and it can even be a good thing

Employers need to remember that not everyone is there to save the world

If the first problem has to do with employees' conception of meaningful work, the second problem has to do with the employers' conception. More specifically, too many employers believe that everyone who works for them is there exclusively to make a positive societal impact through the company's products or services.

In their new book, "It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work," Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson caution bosses against falling into exactly this trap: insisting that their company is changing the world, and asking that their employees commit to doing it with them. A better goal, they write, is to "set out to be fair in your dealings with customers, employees, and reality."

Read more: The founders of tech startup Basecamp have a warning for execs who think they're changing the world

Fried and Hansson argue that a major consequence of believing your company's changing the world is that your employees feel pressured to work 24/7. Yet another, albeit less tangible, consequence is that people start to feel bad about themselves. If they go to work every day to become the best programmer or the best editor they can be — or, heaven forbid, to make a lot of money — they must be doing something wrong.

Reading through the BetterUp report on meaning and purpose, I was struck by the different categories of meaningful work, which include personal growth, professional growth, and service. Among their 2,285 respondents, personal growth — "the feeling that work is actively contributing to the development of one's 'inner self'" — was the most commonly cited source of meaning. Asked to describe the most meaningful work they could imagine, one survey participant tellingly wrote, "Would both take advantage of my best skills and incorporate things which I am passionate about." This person added, "It would be visible, demonstrating my competence to others."

I asked Gabriella Kellerman, chief innovation officer at BetterUp, if bosses are generally aware that some people derive meaning from developing their skills and mastering their craft, and not solely from helping others. Kellerman said no, she doesn't believe most managers are trained to know (or to ask) about people's unique motivations for working.

Finding meaning in your work now doesn't mean you'll always see it that way

Luis Alvarez/Getty Images
One of the most memorable messages I received about meaningful work came from Omaste Witkowski, who worked in marketing and technology for 20-plus years. She recently transitioned to an artistic career. "Is meaning found in passion or practiced skills?" Witkowski wrote. "Can we find meaning in tasks we don't enjoy anymore?"

Read more: All that advice to 'find your passion' isn't just cliché — it could be actively bad

These questions don't yield obvious or easy answers. It's possible that we can find meaning in anything, but that whatever self-deception we engage in to convince ourselves that a job is meaningful wears off over time (say, after two decades).

Social scientists use the term "cognitive dissonance" to describe our tendency to try to make our beliefs and behaviors match up. It's why you might think your current partner is "The One" (if you didn't, you'd drive yourself crazy imagining everyone else you could be with). The same thing might be true of careers: If you don't trick yourself into feeling like your job is meaningful in some capacity, you might never get out of bed in the morning.

Then there's another possibility, that even if you don't find your work meaningful at the outset, you might learn to see it that way. A 2015 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that there are two types of employees: those who think they have to find the perfect job fit and those who think they can take any job and grow to become passionate about it. (Spoiler alert: Both groups wind up just as happy in the end.)

Meaning might work similarly, which is to say that one path to job satisfaction could be trusting that you'll find something meaningful about your job eventually. Of course, that doesn't signify you'll feel like this is the ideal job for you, or that you won't wonder about other positions out there. It just means you'll be satisfied for now.

A Jobcase member wrote me to say that she initially wanted to be a psychologist and a writer, but due to personal health issues, ended up working in hospitality instead. "I can recommend exciting events, fun-filled tours, and delicious food," she wrote. "It's empowering to know that you can influence people in a positive way no matter where you are." Yet she admitted to occasional reservations. "I still have to fight with regret and struggle with the feeling I'm not doing enough, or not doing the right thing," she wrote. "But life is a journey and the journey is not done. I know now that there is more than one way to make a difference."

'This is not a threat': Facebook denies it would have pulled investment from Europe and Canada if demands were not met - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 07:13 AM PST

Facebook has denied it threatened to pull investment projects from Europe and Canada if lobbying demands from COO Sheryl Sandberg were not met, the company told Business Insider.

According to court documents seen by Computer Weekly and The Guardian, Sandberg told government officials from the European Union and Canada that if she did not receive certain reassurances then Facebook would consider other "options" for investment and growth.

Canada gave her the written reassurance she sought the same day.

A spokesperson for Facebook, however, told Business Insider "this is not a threat." The company was simply doing the necessary due diligence needed to protect its users' data.

"Before we commit to opening a data centre anywhere in the world, we want to make sure we fully understand the country's laws and privacy protections. This is not a threat to withhold investment, but part of our duty to protect people's data," an official said.

The documents were apparently filed under seal as part of a lawsuit in California between Facebook and an app developer, Six4Three. Confidential documents from the case have leaked online before, in an apparent attempt to embarrass Facebook.

Facebook told Business Insider it would not comment further. "Like the other documents that were cherry-picked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context. As we've said, these selective leaks came from a lawsuit where Six4Three, the creators of an app known as Pikinis, hoped to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app's users. These documents have been sealed by a Californian court so we're not able to discuss them in detail," the company said.

"If we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue we had other options"

In Canada, Facebook was planning to build a datacentre. But before completing it, Sandberg wanted Canada's then minister of industry, Christian Paradis, to send a letter reassuring the company that the existence of the datacentre on Canadian soil would not be used by the country to extend its legal jurisdiction over non-Canadian data held by Facebook. (Paradis was a minister from 2011 to 2013.)

"Sheryl took a firm approach and outlined that a decision on the datacentre was imminent. She emphasised that if we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue we had other options," Marne Levine, then Facebook's vice-president of global public policy, wrote, according to CW.

Paradis agreed to send the letter the same day, CW reported.

An ambush at a party

In the leaked messages, Levine also described how Facebook staff distracted aides to Paradis at a party so that other lobbyists could buttonhole ministers directly. One aide in particular "made us look like real jerks" to the Canadian government, Levine told colleagues, and she was determined to put that right. CW described the stunt like this:

Together with her entourage, Levine was dispatched by car to a Canadian reception for finance trade and foreign affairs ministers "so that we could cut the awful staff person out of the way".

Facebook's team distracted the minister's aide and other officials, allowing Levine to "touch base" with three government ministers and get their mobile phone numbers. "We were out of there in 20 minutes," said Levine.

Facebook believed it had a "great relationship" with Irish PM Enda Kenny

In Europe, Sandberg tried to influence privacy policy via the Irish government. The company gushed over its relationship with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, according to Computer Weekly. The Irish government has historically been very friendly to tech companies, and many — including Apple and Google — have opened operations there as a result. Facebook was happy that Ireland would take on the presidency of the EU in 2013 and could thus influence revisions to the European Data Directive, which preceded GDPR. Facebook believed it had a "great relationship" with Kenny, the documents say.

The next year, according to a separate Freedom of Information request described by CW, Sandberg wrote to Kenny after meeting him in Davos to suggest that changes in data protection or tax rules would prompt Facebook to look at "different options for future investment and growth in Europe." The company believed the directive was "a threat to jobs, innovation and economic growth in Europe," CW reported.

Although the EU did later pass GDPR laws tightening consumer privacy, the documents suggest that prior to that Facebook got its message through to Kenny: "We used the meeting to press them to make the EU Data Protection Directive a priority for their presidency. The prime minister said they could exercise significant influence as president of the EU, even though technically Ireland is supposed to remain neutral in this role," the memo states.

US shutters Jerusalem consulate, merges Palestinian mission with Israeli embassy - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 06:32 PM PST

JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the US Embassy to Israel.

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.

The symbolic shift hands authority over US diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day.

"This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. "It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip."

When first announced by US Secretary Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the US was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move "the final nail in the coffin" for the US role in peacemaking.

The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the US administration's role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Last year the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocated its embassy there, upending US policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

The Trump administration has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as the reason for such punitive measures, although the US has yet to present its much-anticipated but still mysterious "Deal of the Century" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced last month that the US would unveil the deal after Israeli elections in April. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the US of bias toward Israel.

The 3 biggest questions ahead of Lyft's IPO - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 05:30 AM PST

The paperwork Lyft filed Friday for its initial public offering gave us important new details about the company.

But it also left unanswered some crucial questions.

The ride-hailing company beat arch-rival Uber to this initial stage of the IPO process, earning loads of press coverage. While many of us have used Lyft's service for years, the company's documents at long last let us peek behind the scenes at its business and corporate structure.

Among other things, we learned that:

But, even after the filing, there are still many things we don't know about the app-based taxi company. As Lyft moves closer to its expected market debut in early April, here are three big questions it still needs to answer:

1. What, exactly, is Lyft?

Is Lyft an automobile company, an internet company, or something else entirely?

The answer is important because it will determine who is evaluating the company and who owns it once it becomes publicly listed.

Ride-hailing — at least in the way Lyft and Uber offer it — involves a new kind of business model. There isn't a ready -made group of Wall Street analysts who are already covering and familiar with the sector and the nuances of such businesses.

One possibility is that Lyft will be covered by the same analysts as Tesla, a motley crew that consists of auto-industry analysts, tech analysts and analysts who focus on the renewable energy industry.

Lyft will likely want to be grouped together with businesses that have high valuations, said Dan Niles, a founding partner at hedge fund AlphaOne Capital Partners. That means it won't want to be put in the same category as the automobile companies, he said. Instead, it probably will want to be placed in the same group as internet and software-as-a-service companies, he said.

"Nobody wants the valuation that Ford has," Niles said. "You're certainly going to want the highest multiples you can get."

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

2. Who's just along for the ride?

Lyft has some impressive backers that have helped the company get where it is today, including General Motors and Google-parent company Alphabet.

Are those institutions going to stick around for the long haul or cash out at the IPO?

GM's first investment in Lyft was in 2016 in a deal that valued the app-based taxi company at $5.5 billion. Alphabet, whose Waymo subsidiary is considered the leader in self-driving cars, invested in Lyft in 2017 at an $11 billion valuation.

If Lyft debuts on the public market at $20 billion to $25 billion — as some reports indicate it's shooting for — that would be a nice return for both companies.

Alphabet has a seat on Lyft's board. That could suggest it will have a longer-term commitment to the company than GM, which relinquished its board seat in June 2018 amid reports of tension between the automaker and Lyft.

But if those two companies are looking at Lyft purely as a financial play and not as a strategic partner, they could leave Lyft in a tough spot. Many experts expect the next phase of the ride-hailing industry to be built around self-driving cars. The race to design, build, and field such vehicles will likely be costly and intense. For Lyft, having established, deep-pocketed players like GM and Alphabet in its corner — rather than as competitors — could make a big difference.

In addition to investing in Lyft, General Motors owns self-driving car company Cruise.

3. How powerful will Lyft's founders really be?

Lyft's IPO paperwork revealed that its two cofounders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, have special shares that will give them 20 votes per share. That means the two will each have a much bigger say in the company than their financial stakes. Between the two of them, Green and Zimmer own less than 5% of Lyft.

Exactly how much say they'll have, though, is not yet clear. Lyft's IPO filing left blank the percentage of voting control the two founders will have after the IPO. It didn't explicitly say their votes will represents a majority. Instead, it said their shares will let them exercise "significant influence" over the company.

Dual-class stock structures became all the rage in the era of rock-star tech founders like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But not every founder is a Zuckerberg. And even Zuck's power at Facebook has come in for criticism following his social networking company's numerous scandals over the last two years and the feeling among some shareholders and others that his superpowered shares have made him unaccountable.

In that context, investors may not be as eager to entrust Lyft's founders with unchecked power. The difference between "majority control" and "significant influence" could be deeper than the words.

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