This week’s headline quotes Kelly Passek, a middle school librarian in Montgomery County Public Schools. Passek was one of Wing’s first customers when the drone delivery service began operations in Christiansburg, Virginia, and her appeals to the company to take on library book delivery has resulted in a new program to help deliver books to her school district’s students. (The Washington Post "Google-backed drones will drop library books so kids in Virginia can do their summer reading").
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The Washington Post "Google-backed drones will drop library books so kids in Virginia can do their summer reading"
Wing, the drone delivery service owned by Google parent Alphabet, will start delivering books to students in Montgomery County Public Schools, part of the company’s Christiansburg, Virginia, delivery area – middle-school librarian Kelly Passek was one of the first customers of the company’s drone delivery service when it launched last year and petitioned the company to take on library books. See also Government Technology "Report: Drones viable delivery option during health crisis"
Ars Technica "IBM asks Congress for police reform, leaves facial recognition business" and The New York Times "Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition software" and The Washington Post "Microsoft won’t sell police its facial-recognition technology, following similar moves by Amazon and IBM"
IBM announced that it would no longer offer general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software and issued a letter urging Congress to act against police misconduct and regulate the way technology can be used by law enforcement. Amazon announced a one-year moratorium on police use of its Rekognition facial recognition tool and, while it did not explain its reasons for the moratorium, said it hoped the moratorium “might give Congress enough time to put in place appropriate rules” for the ethical use of facial recognition. And Microsoft announced that it will not sell facial recognition technology to police departments until there is a federal law regulating the technology. See also TechCrunch "Amazon won’t say if its facial recognition moratorium applies to the feds" and Fast Company "IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon’s face recognition bans don’t go far enough"
The Verge "Twitter would like you to actually read stories before you retweet them"
Twitter announced a new test feature for Android users that will prompt users to open and read an article if they attempt to retweet it before reading it – the test is the latest in an effort to curb misinformation and encourage meaningful discussions on the platform.
TechCrunch "Starbucks to close 400 stores, speed expansion of Pickup locations, curbside and more"
Starbucks announced that it will expedite the rollout of its new Pickup store concept and expand access to curbside pickup, drive-thru, and walk-up counters in less dense, suburban markets – the company’s plan, however, calls for the closing of up to 400 company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada as it moves away from traditional cafe-like locations in favor of new formats that better cater to convenience orders.
Kidscreen "Demand for diverse kids shows grows 58% in US"
In the U.S., demand for kids shows with diverse characters was up 58.3% in May 2020 versus May 2019, according to Parrot Analytics – the demand for diverse kids shows experienced a larger gain than the demand for overall kids shows in the U.S., which has experienced significant growth during stay at home orders. See also Nieman Lab "Podcasts about race are climbing the charts, and coronavirus shows drop out"
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Wired "OpenAI’s text generator is going commercial"
OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research institute, has launched a cloud service text generator, trained using a collection of almost a trillion words gathered from the web and digitized books, that can be used by companies to improve search, answer factual questions, or summarize documents.
Economics and the Workplace
Engadget "Apple pledges $100 million to foster racial equity and justice"
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, including a $100 million pledge to support education, economic opportunities, justice, and reform within Apple – the company intends to expand on its existing partnerships with historically black schools, forge new partnerships with groups like the Equal Justice Initiative, and launch a Developer Entrepreneur Camp for Black developers ahead of WWDC.
The Atlantic "What big tech wants out of the pandemic"
The coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity for big technology companies to prove their indispensability, becoming essential for everything from education and entertainment to shopping and health services – the moment has led to increased skepticism about the tech industry and growing concern that a handful of tech companies could become more powerful than the government. See also The New York Times "The economy is reeling. The tech giants spy opportunity."
The Washington Post "Fueled by protests, school districts across the country cut ties with police"
For years, civil rights activists have worked to remove police officers from the nation’s public schools, arguing that they pose a greater risk to students of color than the intruders they’re supposed to guard against – now, in the wake of protests against police brutality and the systemic racism experienced by Black Americans, several major school systems (Minneapolis, Minn.; Portland, Ore.; Denver, Colo.; Seattle, Wash.; Oakland, Calif.) have canceled their contracts with police, with still more are under mounting pressure to do the same.
Pew Stateline "COVID-19 could be end of line for some regional colleges"
The coronavirus pandemic has already limited many of the revenue sources that colleges rely on and will likely lead to lowered state higher education funding and declines in enrollments – while some public colleges and universities can raise tuition or seek out high-paying international students to replace state money, regional colleges may be hitting the limit of what they can charge the mostly in-state, low- and middle-income families they serve.
The Boston Globe "Six Harvard graduate schools will hold only online classes this fall"
Harvard’s Law School, Graduate School of Design, School of Divinity, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Kennedy School have announced that they will be online for the fall semester – and the university’s Graduate School of Education plans to be online for the entire academic year – as many universities make plans to limit the number of in-person students on campus by keeping graduate students online.
CNET "EU asks Facebook, Google, Twitter to report monthly on COVID-19 disinformation"
As the coronavirus pandemic has created an active space for disinformation, the European Union's executive body, the European Commission, has issued a request to Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other companies that have signed on to its voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation to provide monthly reports detailing the actions they are taking to promote authoritative content, improve users' awareness, and limit coronavirus disinformation.
Journalism and News
TechCrunch "Facebook News launches to all in U.S. with addition of local news and video"
Facebook News, the social network’s dedicated section devoted to journalism, is officially launching for all users in the U.S. – officially announced in October 2019, the product will now integrate local news stories and employ journalists, in addition to algorithms, to program story selection.
Movies and Media
NPR "Oscars: Future films must meet diversity and inclusion rules"
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a new Academy Aperture 2025 initiative, including a plan to require Oscar nominees to meet certain diversity and inclusion standards – although initially light on details, the Academy said it is creating a task force of film industry leaders "to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards" expected to "encourage equitable hiring practices and representation on and off screen.”
The New York Times "AMC says ‘almost all’ U.S. theaters will reopen in July"
AMC Theaters, the world’s largest cineplex operator, announced that “almost all” of its locations in the United States and Britain would reopen next month, with movie studios scheduled to restart the supply of new films in July – in addition to seating groups six feet apart, some cinemas may designate arrival times for ticket buyers and encourage patrons to order concessions from their phones.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
The New York Times "Just Eat Takeaway to acquire Grubhub for $7.3 billion"
Just Eat Takeaway, a European food delivery service, said that it had agreed to buy Grubhub for $7.3 billion, a deal that would give it a foothold in the United States and create the world’s largest food delivery business outside of China – while food delivery has become more popular during the coronavirus pandemic, profits in the food delivery business have been elusive.
CNBC "25,000 stores are predicted to close in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates industry upheaval"
U.S. retailers could announce between 20,000 and 25,000 store location closures in 2020, according to a tracking by Coresight Research, with nearly half of the closures happening to store locations inside malls – the coronavirus pandemic will accelerate forecasts of up to 15,000 store closures announced by retailers in 2020.
CNET "HBO Max temporarily pulls Gone With the Wind over 'racist depictions'"
HBO Max temporarily removed Gone With the Wind from its streaming platform as it worked to provide historical context for its "racist depictions" – the move came a day after Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley published an editorial in The Los Angeles Times urging HBO Max to remove the film.
Engadget "YouTube will 'amplify' Black creators with a $100 million fund"
YouTube is creating a $100 million, multi-year fund dedicated to Black creators, artists, and their stories, including a pledge to highlight racial justice issues on its Spotlight channel through the month of June.