TIME cities

Ferguson Heads to the Polls in City Council Election

Ferguson Election
Jeff Roberson—AP In this photo made Friday, April 3, 2015, Reginald Rounds, a volunteer with the Organization for Black Struggle, walks door-to-door while canvassing a neighborhood in Ferguson, Mo.

Three seats are up for grabs in first election since Michael Brown shooting

Ferguson is holding its first municipal elections since the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer threw the St. Louis suburb into racial turmoil last summer.

Voters will cast ballots Tuesday to elect three city council members. The town, which is about two-thirds black, has a mostly white council.

Historically, voter turnout has been extremely low in Ferguson, with only 12% of eligible voters turning out for a mayoral election last April. However, ongoing racially charged protests and the recent Department of Justice report outlining systemic racial bias against black residents by the Ferguson Police Department could spur greater political activity during this election.

The three council seats up for grabs include Ward 3, which includes the neighborhood where Michael Brown was shot. The ward’s candidates, Wesley Bell and Lee Smith, are both black.

[USA Today]

TIME Media

How March Madness Showed Streaming TV Isn’t Perfect Yet

Wisconsin v Kentucky
Streeter Lecka—Getty Images Traevon Jackson #12 of the Wisconsin Badgers handles the ball against Tyler Ulis #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Sling TV suffered outages during Saturday's action

Though there’s an ever-growing list of streaming services aiming to bring live television online, there are still plenty of kinks to work out. That was apparent Saturday night when Dish Network’s livestreaming service Sling TV suffered outages during the Final Four men’s college basketball matchups.

As Duke battled Michigan State and Wisconsin squared off against Kentucky, some users weren’t able to reliably watch the games on Sling TV, which carries TBS, TNT, ESPN and a handful of other live channels for $20 per month. The Wisconsin-Kentucy had the highest TV ratings for a Final Four game in 22 years, so it’s no surprise that Sling was getting hammered during the broadcast.

Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch told Re/code that the issues only affected about 1,000 users. Re/code earlier reported that Sling had signed on more than 100,000 users in its first month available.

The Sling TV errors come after similar hiccups during HBO’s stream of the season premiere of Game of Thrones last April and ABC’s livestream of the Oscars earlier this year. Web TV is finally here, but it’s still got a ways to go to achieve the reliability of cable during big events.

TIME Media

How Sprint Could Help Tidal Actually Succeed

Tidal Launch Event NYC #TIDALforALL
Jamie McCarthy—2015 Getty Images Kanye West (L) and JAY-Z onstage at the Tidal launch event #TIDALforALL at Skylight at Moynihan Station on March 30, 2015 in New York City.

A bundle deal of cell phone service and music streaming could help Tidal gain a foothold

Jay-Z’s new music streaming service Tidal is facing a healthy dose of skepticism despite the high-profile list of artists that have invested in the company. However, the startup may have a fighting chance against streaming heavyweights like Spotify (and Apple’s upcoming new service) if it can hammer out a key partnership.

Sprint, the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. with 56 million subscribers, is working on a deal with Tidal to distribute the service to its customers. “We are working together in partnership for the vision of the common cause of reestablishing the value of music,” Sprint said in a statement to USA Today to dispel rumors that the company had already bought a stake in Tidal. “It is NOT a financial investment or exclusive partnership.”

Details are murky, but there is plenty of precedent for deals between music streaming services and wireless carriers. When Beats Music launched in January, it offered a discounted family plan to AT&T subscribers that let up five people to use Beats accounts for a combined $15 per month (five subscriptions would cost $50 per month normally). Sprint itself is currently offering six months of Spotify Premium for free to customers on certain wireless plans.

“Every major digital music service that you might care to name have dedicated senior executives whose mission is to do nothing but bundling deals with mobile operators,” Larry Miller, a music business professor at New York University, told TIME when the Beats-AT&T deal was rolling out.

A bundle deal would be especially helpful for Tidal, which lacks the name recognition of Spotify or the Apple-owned Beats Music. And the more tightly packaged the service is into customers’ wireless plans, the better for Tidal — Spotify has found that customers who sign up for so-called “hard bundles,” in which its music service is included in the standard monthly rate instead of as an add-on, end up keeping Spotify 80% of the time even after the discount period ends.

Tidal will need a lot of other things to go right to gain a toehold in the streaming space. Carrier partnerships can be lucrative, but also fleeting—the heavily promoted AT&T-Beats tie-up ended in October. Eventually, the service will simply have to stand as a better user experience to overcome its competitors.

Read more: How Jay Z’s Tidal Press Conference Showed He’s Out of Touch

TIME Labor

Why McDonald’s Wage Hike Won’t Help Most Of Its Employees (Yet)

McDonald's
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant on Feb. 9, 2009 in San Francisco, Calif.

Just 12% of McDonald's employees could see a bigger paycheck

Facing declining sales and a growing protest movement against its labor practices, McDonald’s announced Wednesday it’s boosting hourly wages for hundreds of thousands of workers. But the change won’t actually affect most of the men and women who wear a McDonald’s uniform.

McDonald’s employees affected by the pay raise will see their hourly earnings rise to at least $1 above the local minimum wage, a rate that will work out to an average pay of at least $10 per hour by the end of 2016. However, the raise only applies to U.S. locations that are owned and operated by McDonald’s itself.

Most of the world’s Big Macs are made at franchised restaurants, properties that McDonald’s owns or leases but hands over to independent businesspeople to operate in exchange for rent and a 4% cut of the restaurant’s sales. Franchised restaurants make independent hiring choices and set their own wages. Because of this business model, just 12% of the 750,000 workers at U.S. McDonald’s locations will qualify for the wage boosts — or the paid vacation time the fast food chain is also implementing.

The announcement, which new McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook called an “initial step,” drew the immediate ire of Fast Food Forward, a union-backed group that’s been organizing a series of one-day fast food worker strikes that started in 2012. The group is planning fresh protests for Thursday, decrying McDonald’s pay increase as a “PR stunt.”

“McDonald’s needs to step up to the plate,” Fast Food Forward director Kendall Fells said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, noting that the vast majority of workers weren’t receiving raises. “We’re going to show McDonald’s that this movement won’t stop until we get what we deserve.”

That McDonald’s chose to make a public statement about its new wage policy illustrates how quickly discussions about low-paying jobs have shifted recently, says Dave Sherwyn, a law professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. That change in the public conversation has been largely driven by those pro-union groups, who, as much as they accuse McDonald’s pay raise of being little more than a savvy public relations move, have themselves done more to raise publicity than actually threaten the daily operations of the country’s fast food chains.

“This is a pretty unique situation,” says Sherwyn. “I can’t imagine if McDonald’s, Burger King or anyone had done this five years ago, they would have made a big announcement about it. It just wasn’t in the public conversation.”

MORE Fast-Food Strike Progress Measured in Pennies, Not Dollars

The spotlight will now be thrown on the franchise owners, who will be watched closely to see if they follow the lead of McDonald’s corporate office. That’s partially because the strikes have helped more consumers learn how McDonald’s franchise structure works, something that might not have been clear to your everyday customer just looking for a Big Mac with fries.

“The franchise arrangement, not obvious to everyone, will now be more obvious,” says Jefferson Cowie, a professor of labor history at Cornell University. “Pressure will boil up from below, putting pressure on the franchises to follow suit with the corporate policy on wages.”

McDonald’s wage increase comes just as the company’s legal obligations to its franchisees are coming under intense scrutiny. The National Labor Relations Board began hearings this week to determine whether McDonald’s should be considered a “joint employer” along with franchise owners. Such a designation could make McDonald’s responsible for hiring practices, wage levels and labor violations at individual restaurants, fundamentally upsetting its lucrative franchise-based business model — a model shared by many of its rivals, too. About 60% of all U.S. fast food restaurants are franchise establishments, according to a 2007 study the U.S. Census Bureau. If the labor board rules McDonald’s is a joint employer, it could spell the end of the franchise system as we know it.

 

TIME policy

Twitter, Yelp, eBay CEOs Speak Out Against Religious Freedom Bills

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2014 International CES
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks during the Brand Matters keynote address at the 2014 International CES at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Critics say the laws could allow discrimination against LGBT citizens

Executives at several large technology companies are banding together in opposition to a controversial new religious freedom law in Indiana and a similar bill in Arkansas that critics say could open the door for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.

“Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states’ civil rights laws,” reads the joint statement signed by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Square founder Jack Dorsey, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and eBay CEO John Donahoe, among others. “No person should have to fear losing their job or be denied service or housing because of who they are or whom they love.”

The group called on state legislatures nationwide to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under state laws designed to protect religious freedoms.

Controversy over those laws erupted last week after Indiana’s legislature passed such a law in the state, while Arkansas’ legislature did the same soon afterwards. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who signed his state’s law, said this week he’s pushing lawmakers to “fix” it and ensure it doesn’t allow for discrimination. Other business leaders across many different sectors have previously expressed concern about Indiana’s law, with some threatening boycotts if the rule isn’t amended.

Read next: Arkansas Governor Asks for Changes to Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

TIME Media

Netflix Is Begging You to Take a Shower in These New Binging PSAs

Special Screening Of Netflix's "House Of Cards" Season 2
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic Actor Kevin Spacey attends a screening of "House Of Cards" at Directors Guild Of America on February 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

This is your brain on House of Cards

“Just say no” to binging — that’s the message behind a new set of Netflix public service announcements conveniently timed for April Fools’ Day.

The PSAs warn of the social, physical and psychological dangers of watching way too many TV episodes back-to-back. If users watch more than two consecutive episodes of a show on April 1, they’ll be greeted with one of 13 PSA’s from stars such as Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper on House of Cards) and Taylor Schilling (Piper Chapman on Orange Is the New Black).

The messages cover a wide range of basic human activities that hardcore Netflix users might often ignore, such as venturing into the outside world, calling their mothers and eating a meal that involves utensils. “Turn off the TV,” Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini says in one ad advocating showering. “You stink.”

Netflix users can see all the ads in one place by searching for “Binge Responsibly” within the service.

 

TIME Television

Comedy Central Calls Criticism of Trevor Noah ‘Unfair’

Network assures that Noah has a bright future at The Daily Show

Comedy Central is stepping up to defend new Daily Show host Trevor Noah after a series of potentially offensive messages were dug up from the comedian’s Twitter account.

“Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included,” Comedy Central said in an emailed statement. “To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central.”

Just hours after Noah was named the successor to Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show, old jokes he made on Twitter began circulating widely online. Some of the tweets making fun of women and Jewish people attracted wide criticism, with some Twitter users declaring they would not watch The Daily Show if Noah hosted. Noah himself made an oblique reference to the controversy Tuesday morning, writing, “Twitter does not have enough characters to respond to all the characters on Twitter.” The tweet was quickly deleted.

TIME weather

California’s Snowpack Reaches All-Time Low During Drought

Low snow levels indicate water supplies will continue to be scarce through much of the year

The snow that typically tops California’s mountains and is critical to maintaining the state’s water supply dropped to a record low level this year.

Because of an abnormally warm winter and little precipitation, the California Department of Water Resources has estimated that the California snowpack level is 8 percent of the historical average, as of late March. A manual survey of snow levels will be conducted in April. The previous record low for the snowpack level, at 25 percent of the average, was set in 1977 and was seen again last winter.

The lack of snow could have big implications for California’s battle against an ongoing drought. A department of water resources official told the San Francisco Chronicle that snowpacks typically provides 30 percent of the state’s water supply after the snow melts in spring and summer. With that resource nearly wiped out this winter, Californians will likely have to continue to limit their water use in the coming months.

TIME Labor

Fast Food Workers Plan April 15 Strike

Fast Food Labor
Seth Wenig—AP People participate in rally in front of a McDonalds in New York, Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

Professors and home care workers will join the protests

U.S. fast food workers are planning a major one-day strike on Tax Day, April 15, their latest action in a two-year campaign for a $15 hourly wage and the right to unionize.Workers will walk off the job at fast food restaurants in more than 200 cities across the U.S. to demand higher pay, and protests will be held in as many as 40 other countries the same day.

College campuses will join in the demonstrations, with 170 universities planning rallies and marches, and adjunct professors will also advocate for their own pay increases. Home care workers, airport personnel and Walmart employees are also expected to be involved. Overall, events will take place in more than 200 U.S. cities on April 15 and as many as 40 other countries.

The movement, supported by the Service Employees International Union, has so far largely not fazed McDonald’s and other fast food giants, who point out that franchise owners set wages for their employees. The companies also say that few workers actually end up walking off the job to participate in protests.

However, retailers such as Target and Walmart have recently announced increases to their minimum wage and a growing number of cities are raising their minimum wage to $10 to $15 per hour. At the same time, the National Labor Relations Board recently determined that McDonald’s corporate office could be viewed as a “joint employer” along with franchisees in addressing some workers’ rights issues.

TIME States

NASCAR ‘Disappointed’ in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law

The sports league joins a growing chorus of critics

NASCAR says it is disappointed by the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say could be used to discriminate against gay people.

“We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance,” NASCAR said in a statement issued to NBC Sports. “We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

The law, which backers say is supposed to ensure religious freedom for people in the state, has come under fire from both gay rights advocates who feel it could be used to deny service to gay people and corporations who fear the law could hurt businesses in Indiana if the state gains an anti-gay stigma. Other sports organizations, such as the NCAA, have also expressed concern over the new law, as have prominent businesspeople such as Apple CEO Tim Cook.

At a Tuesday press conference Indiana Governor Mike Pence said he would push lawmakers to amend the law so that it explicitly states that businesses can’t use it to discriminate against anyone.

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