TIME Google

Google is Testing Hands-free Payments with McDonald’s and Papa Johns

Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Sundar Pichai
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

The tech giant is testing an app that will let you pay at the store without pulling out your wallet or phone

Google is testing a futuristic way for shoppers to pay for what they buy without having to take out their wallet — or even their phones.

The technology, known as hands-free payments, is supposed to make paying in stores that much easier. All a customer has to do is download an app onto their phone. When checking out at a store, all they have to do is stand in front of the cash register and say their name to the cashier. A blue tooth sensor automatically detects whether they have the app and then bills them.

Google revealed the test Thursday at its annual developers conference in San Francisco. Fast food giant McDonald’s [fortune-stock symbol=”MCD”] and pizza chain Papa Johns [fortune-stock symbol=”PZZA”] have partnered with Google to experiment with the technology in the Bay Area.

Details about Google’s payment system are still fuzzy. The company emphasized that it is an experiment. It may rely on Bluetooth technology to sense that your mobile phone is nearby. Shoppers who make a purchase receive a notification on their phone about being billed.

The technology is just one of many ideas involving mobile payments, a particularly hot space in the tech industry. A number of companies like Apple [fortune-stock symbol=”AAPL”] are experimenting with different ways for consumers to pay using their phones under the theory that paying digitally is more convenient than using cash or credit cards.

Google [fortune-stock symbol=”GOOG”] isn’t the first company to tackle hands-free payments. Payments company Square introduced hands-free payments in 2011, but has since retired its consumer-facing app that included the feature. In 2013, PayPal premiered a similar technology using Beacon, a Bluetooth device retailers placed in their stores.

In addition to discussing hands-free payments, Google unveiled a new mobile payments wallet and platform on Thursday called Android Pay.

MONEY Unions

Snarky Journalists Have Crude, Wrenching Public Debate About Unionization

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Mart Klein—Getty Images/Ikon Images

So much for secret ballots.

Last month, some editorial members of Gawker Media, owner of various web properties including Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and of course, Gawker.com, announced they planned to form a union.

Now, with an election scheduled for next week that will decide whether the company will unionize, Gawker writers have made their votes and opinions on the plan public in a post published Thursday. The discussion offers a rare look at how wrenching labor organization can be. Some pro-union writers have been so turned off by the process that they’ve decided to cast their ballot against unionization efforts.

“I am an avid proponent of unions, a leftist, and am perpetually distrustful of those in power—especially those that hold sway over my own employment,” writes Deadspin staff member Kevin Draper. “Yet on June 3rd, I am going to vote against Gawker Media editorial staffers unionizing. That is how f— up this entire process, from start to apparent finish, has been.”

Draper goes on to list a set of grievances that turned him against unionization, including a perceived lack of communication and transparency from union supporters and an election the writer feels was scheduled too soon.

Those issues are echoed by a number of other staffers, including Deadspin columnist Drew Magary, who added that the push toward organization had turned many staffers against one another (“This has created a GALACTIC amount of acrimony within Gawker”). Magary also voiced concerns about the everyday implications of unionization (“I f***ing hate meetings.”). Stef Schrader, an editor for Jalopnik, questioned whether a raise that would include union dues could force the company to cut into other benefits. “I don’t agree that we need to pay an outside entity to negotiate these things for us,” posted Schrader.

Most staff commenters appear to support unionization.

“I am voting yes on the union,” wrote Hamilton Nolan, Gawker’s longest-tenured writer and a major force behind the drive to organize. “This has been a truly ‘grass roots’ organizing process in the sense that we’ve been making it all up as we go along. There’s no doubt all the communication efforts have not been perfect. But I really, really hope that everyone will think about the big picture: a vote for this union is a vote for unity. It’s a vote to meld all of our interests together as one. And beyond the practical benefits for us, it’s a really important symbolic vote for our entire industry. It’s the first step of a movement that could end up helping a lot of people.”

If the pushback against organization by some writers comes as a surprise, it shouldn’t. Online media companies, despite being populated by many young city-dwellers who, as a demographic, tend to skew towards the left, have generally been reluctant to unionize. If Gawker does become a union shop, it would be the first major new media company to do so.

Why is the digital press so reluctant to band together? As the Washington Post explained in January, a combination of generational and economic forces tend to make unionization less palatable to online scribes. Younger workers are typically less familiar with unions and more apt to see themselves as personal brands instead of as part of a collective.

Another reason for web media’s union-phobia may just be that many journalists don’t feel they have it quite so hard. “They tend to think that because of their education and their talent, they don’t need [a union],” said Freddy Kunkle, the co-chair of The Washington Post’s Guild unit, in an interview with the Post. “What they’re doing is not coal mining: It’s not dangerous; it’s not dirty. What are they going to get out of it?”

TIME Amazon

You May Soon Be Able to Buy Amazon-Branded Milk, Cereal and Baby Food

Inside The UPS Worldport Facility Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A package shipped from Amazon.com moves down a conveyor belt during the afternoon sort at the United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) Worldport facility in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

The e-commerce leader is planning to add food to its fledgling line up of house labels, a move that seeks to capitalize on customers' growing acceptance of store brands and its grocery delivery service.

Amazon.com is getting ready to take its fight with the likes of Costco Wholesale, Target and Walmart deeper into the grocery aisles.

The online retailer is planning to expand its private label lineup into groceries like milk, cereal, and baby food, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The newspaper also reported that Amazon filed for trademark protection in early May for more than two dozen categories under its existing Elements brand including coffee, soup, pasta as well as household products like razor blades and cleaning products.

Amazon has approached some private-label food manufacturers to partner including TreeHouse Foods, a major player, according to the Journal’s report. Amazon did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment.

The foray into private-label grocery comes as food is becoming ever-bigger business for major retailers. Groceries can bring higher profit margins despite the lower retail prices some retailers charge because the companies save on the marketing costs.

Such in-house brands are also finding more acceptance with customers, many of whom are increasingly looking for bargains and are more open to buying store brands. A case in point is Costco’s Kirkland brand, which generates $15 billion in sales from coffee, chicken breasts, and cleaning products.

Amazon’s Elements portfolio began last year with diapers, which it has since dropped, and baby wipes that are sold exclusively to members of its Prime subscription service. Among other things, Prime offers unlimited same-day delivery in certain markets and two-day shipping — all for a $99 annual fee.

This would be Amazon’s first try at selling its own line of food, a far more complex business than some of its other private label products because of food safety issues. And Amazon would be going up against experienced competitors that have plans to improve their own brands. Target’s Archer Farms, for one, will undergo an overhaul in the next year.

Still, the move makes sense for Amazon as it looks to capitalize on and built out its Fresh grocery delivery.

TIME FIFA

Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

adidas Starts Production of Brazuca Match Balls
Lennart Preiss—Getty Images for adidas Brazuca match balls for the FIFA World Cup 2014 lie in a rack in front of the adidas logo on December 6, 2013 in Scheinfeld near Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Few want to discuss soccer's most important crisis

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official in the U.S. directed the Qatar question to the company’s headquarters in Korea, where the FIFA sponsorship is managed. We will update the post if we hear back. Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.

TIME real estate

You Can Buy Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch

Neverland Ranch
NBC NewsWire—NBC NewsWire via Getty Images Neverland Ranch

But all the giraffes are gone

The world-famous former home of pop star Michael Jackson is now on the market.

Neverland Ranch, now known more mundanely as Sycamore Valley Ranch, is up for sale for a cool $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Jackson bought the 2,700-acre estate in Los Olivos, Calif. for $19.5 million in 1987 and lived there until the mid-2000s, when financial troubles forced him to leave the location.

Unfortunately, the amusement park rides and zoo animals that made Neverland Ranch famous are now gone, though there is still at least one llama on the premises for some reason. The train station and railroad tracks that Jackson built are also still on the property.

Don’t expect this to become the next Graceland, though. The person selling the ranch is specifically looking for a buyer who doesn’t plan to turn the place into a museum for the singer.

“We’re not going to giving tours,” realtor Suzanne Perkins told the Journal.

TIME Uber

Here’s Uber’s Plan for a New Sci-fi Headquarters

Photo courtesy of Uber

Fast-growing company will be moving into fancy new offices

Ride sharing service Uber is planning a fancy new headquarters to go with its recent stratospheric $50 billion valuation.

Futuristic buildings will be connected by glass walkways, according to designs recently released by the company.

The new headquarters, located in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, is expected to open by late 2017 or early 2018, according to Quartz. It will be comprised of a six-story building at 1515 Third St. as well as an 11-story building at 1455 Third St.

The buildings were designed by Shop Architects PC, a New York City firm. The structures measure approximately 423,000 square feet, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year will triple Uber’s footprint in the city.

Business software giant Salesforce previously occupied the space.

It will be the eighth move for Uber, according to the Chronicle.

Here are a couple more images of the designs:

Uber headquarters
Photo courtesy of Uber
Uber headquarters 3
Photo courtesy of Uber

 

TIME Google

Finally, You Can Get Your Google Maps Directions Anytime

Google Maps Returns To Apple's iPhone
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

No wireless connection needed

You know those annoying moments when your phone goes offline and you can’t get directions to where you’re going? And it’s always at the least opportune moments?

Good news: That will soon be a thing of the past.

On Thursday, Google announced at its annual developers in San Francisco that turn-by-turn directions would soon be available — even without a data connection. All you have to do is save the route while you’re connected and the directions will be there when you need them.

Also, because GPS doesn’t need LTE coverage, it can still track where you are on your route and estimate the time remaining for your trip.

That will be especially game-changing in communities where fast, reliable wireless infrastructure is spotty. It’s one of many offline improvements Google announced at this year’s conference, including saving search results in Chrome and videos from YouTube.

TIME Unemployment rate

Why This is the Only State Where Unemployment is Up

Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.
Andrew Cullen — Reuters Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.

Nationwide, unemployment is declining, but in this state it's on the rise

A few years ago, as the U.S. unemployment rates flirted with the double digits, North Dakota bucked the trend. Its oil and gas boom kept jobless rates as low as 2.7%.

But now North Dakota is standing out for the opposite reason: it’s the only state where unemployment is rising.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’s latest unemployment report Wednesday found that North Dakota was the only state with a significant year-over-the-year increase in joblessness. In April, unemployment there rose 0.4% from the same month in 2014.

Twenty-eight states had statistically significant unemployment rate declines in that period, with Michigan’s 2.1% being the largest. The other 21 states and the District of Columbia had rates that were not appreciably different from those of a year earlier, according to the report.

Though it’s difficult to know for sure, sinking oil prices is likely to blame for North Dakota’s increase in joblessness. The BLS’s current employment statistics database shows that seasonally adjusted employment in North Dakota’s mining and logging sector, which cover some oil and gas jobs, decreased to 28,600 jobs in April 2015, down from 28,800 a year earlier and a high of 32,400 in January.

Because North Dakota is a relatively small state, the BLS does not break down the broad mining and logging sector into more detail. The BLS’s quarterly census of employment and wages is a bit more specific. But data for North Dakota’s oil and gas jobs hasn’t been updated since September, when employment in the industry was still growing.

It should be said that North Dakota’s unemployment rate of 3.1% in April 2015 is still incredibly low. It’s second lowest overall—behind Nebraska’s 2.5% rate—and is considerably better than that nationwide 5.4% rate.

But the fact that North Dakota’s unemployment increased at all is a stark reversal of the state’s boomtown narrative. Remember the stories about man camps popping up to house the state’s exploding population and where oil field jobs garnered staggeringly high pay?

TIME Autos

Watch BMW Test Driverless Cars and Virtual Reality

With tech companies on its heel, the top premium car maker taps the Internet to try and win the next race

Automakers have never had so much in common with Silicon Valley. Car makers are increasingly relying on technology to develop, market and sell cars to consumers. In fact, most of the world’s major auto companies established research and development labs of one sort or another in the Bay Area. BMW and Volkswagen set up shop there in 1998, General Motors in 2006, Toyota and Ford in 2012, Renault-Nissan in 2013. The automotive industry spends some $100 billion globally on R&D annually, about 16% of the world’s total for all industries.

Likewise, Bay Area firms are also increasingly interested in autos. Ever since the dawn of the personal computer, Silicon Valley has been inventing or reinventing new gadgets: the music player, the phone, the computer first as a phone and, later, as a tablet. Amazon remade the mall. Netflix and YouTube remade TV. Elon Musk’s Tesla notwithstanding, the last great remaining American preoccupation that tech hasn’t widely tackled is the automobile.

MORE: See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

But automakers have a significantly more difficult task integrating technology into their vehicles. Where a new version of an Android phone, for example, might be reasonably expected to last its owner two or three years, most cars are on the roads for decades. That means built-in technology has to last over a much longer time fame. Legislation, as the fights over Tesla’s dealership model and Google’s self-driving cars have shown, can be limiting. And some high-tech bells and whistles simply never take. For every innovation like GPS navigation, there’s a numeric key pad.

In this video, TIME looks at how the top-selling premium manufacturer BMW is exploring new technology ranging from self-driving vehicles to virtual reality in an effort to keep pace with the competition.

TIME Media

HBO’s New Streaming Service Is Coming to Android

San Francisco Premiere Of HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 5 - Red Carpet
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau attends the premiere of HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 at San Francisco Opera House on March 23, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Standalone streaming service will be available in Google Play store

HBO’s standalone streaming service is coming to Google devices.

The search giant announced at its annual I/O developers conference Thursday that HBO Now will soon be available for Android devices in the Google Play store.

HBO Now was originally announced as a timed exclusive for Apple TV and iOS. But it was always a given that the service would eventually expand to other devices. Now users of Android phones, tablets and set-top boxes will be able to stream shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley at the same time as they are broadcast on television without the need for a cable subscription. The service costs $14.99 per month.

In other streaming news, Google revealed that its Chromecast device has sold 17 million units so far. Users have pressed the cast button to stream content onto various screens more than 1.5 billion times.

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