TIME Companies

Uber Investigating Executive Over Use of ‘God View’ to Spy on User

After spate of bad publicity

Uber said Tuesday that it’s investigating one of its top New York executives for tracking a reporter without her permission.

The ride-sharing App has a system known as “God View,” BuzzFeed reports, in which the location of Uber vehicles and waiting customers are “widely available to corporate employees.” BuzzFeed reports that an executive used this system to track one of its reporters while she was working on a story about the company that has put it under fire for revelations that an executive raised the prospect of investigating journalists.

Early this November, one of the reporters of this story, Johana Bhuiyan, arrived to Uber’s New York headquarters in Long Island City for an interview with Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York. Stepping out of her vehicle — an Uber car — she found Mohrer waiting for her. “There you are,” he said, holding his iPhone and gesturing at it. “I was tracking you.”

Mohrer never asked for permission to track her.

[BuzzFeed]

TIME Netherlands

Dutch Blackface Tradition Sparks Festive Fury and 90 Arrests

Netherlands Belgium Black Pete
Police detain an anti–Black Pete demonstrator as St. Nicholas arrived in the Dutch city of Gouda on Nov. 15, 2014 Peter Dejong—AP

Revelers donning blackface, Afro wigs and red lips clash with antiracist protesters

A pre-Christmas children’s gathering in the Netherlands, held to celebrate the arrival of St. Nicholas, was broken up by clashes Saturday after demonstrators objected to a blackface character named Black Pete.

At least 90 people were arrested in the cheesemaking town of Gouda, the Associated Press (AP) reports, after scuffles broke out between traditionalists who claim there is no racist intention behind the Black Pete character and protesters who say Black Pete has no place in the modern Netherlands.

Part of the yuletide folklore of the Netherlands and Belgium, Black Pete character is a sidekick to St. Nicholas, carrying presents and giving out candy to children. Revelers who dress up as the character are almost always white. As well as blackening their faces, they wear frizzy Afro wigs and give themselves red lips.

The introduction of supposedly more diverse versions of the character this year — a yellow “Cheese Pete” (representing Gouda’s most famous product), a light brown “Stroopwafel Pete” (named for a Dutch biscuit) and a white-faced “Clown Pete” — failed to placate demonstrators.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told local media the clashes made him “deeply, deeply sad.” He said, “Everybody can debate one another, we can endlessly discuss the color of Black Pete, but we should not disturb a children’s party in this way.”

However, like many Dutch and Belgian liberals, Wouter Van Bellingen, a black Flemish politician, believes the character is an anachronism. “As a majority you have to be sensitive and show empathy for things that are hurtful to a minority,” he told AP.

 

TIME Body Image

Old Navy Explains Why It Charges More for Women’s Plus Sizes

US-ECONOMY-OLD NAVY
An Old Navy clothing store is seen in Springfield, Virginia,/AFP/Getty Images) SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

Almost 20,000 people petitioned the company to stop

Old Navy is under fire for its double standards when it comes to plus size clothing prices. While men pay the same price for regular and larger sizes, women get charged up to $12 to $15 more for plus sized items.

Almost 20,000 people have signed a petition asking Old Navy to change its practices. Renee Posey, who started the Change.org petition, notes that while she was “fine paying the extra money as a plus-sized woman, because, you know, more fabric equals higher cost of manufacture,” she was alarmed that the same standards didn’t apply to men, inciting that “Old Navy is participating in both sexism and sizeism, directed only at women.”

Old Navy’s explanation? A spokesperson for Gap Inc., the retailer’s parent company, issued a statement to TIME (among other outlets):

Old Navy is proud to offer styles and apparel designed specifically for the plus size customer. For women, styles are not just larger sizes of other women’s items, they are created by a team of designers who are experts in creating the most flattering and on-trend plus styles, which includes curve-enhancing and curve-flattering elements such as four-way stretch materials and contoured waistbands, which most men’s garments do not include. This higher price point reflects the selection of unique fabrics and design elements.

So more detail equals more money.

Spokesperson Debbie Felix didn’t respond to questions about Posey’s rebuttal about why the extra cost doesn’t apply to regular women’s clothing that includes the same fabrics and “figure-enhancing elements.”

A look at Old Navy’s petite section shows that the retailer charges the same amount for its smaller sizes as it does its “regular” sizes.

[BuzzFeed]

TIME Culture

Amy Schumer Fought to Say This Word on Comedy Central and Won

The fight for gender equality applies to dirty words, too

Comedy Central comedians can now say the word “pussy” uncensored, thanks to Amy Schumer.

The word was a point of contention between her show, Inside Amy Schumer, and the cable network during the second season. Though certain other references to male sex organs were allowed on Comedy Central, this term for female genetalia was not. Dan Powell, the show’s executive producer, had argued for its use and cited gender inequality.

“Dan decided that it wasn’t fair that they bleep the word ‘pussy,’” Schumer, explained at a Paley Center for Media panel this past weekend, according to Vulture. “Because you are allowed to say the word ‘dick’ on Comedy Central,” added Jessi Klein, head writer and executive producer.

If any show could win that battle, it was Inside Amy Schumer, a sketch show that often comments and criticizes the different standards for women and men. “Halfway through the first season, we started to realize that a lot of the show was addressing women’s issues and gender politics,” said Powell. “I’d written a letter, sort of like write I’d write to my congressman, and I guess it struck a chord.” Schumer called the victory Powell’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment.

The writers embraced the new privilege with gusto. Check out the first sketch where the word isn’t bleeped out.

[Vulture]

TIME Retail

Walmart Apologizes for Advertising ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ on Its Website

"This never should have been on our site," a spokesperson says

Retail giant Walmart caused a stir on Monday, after a listing for plus-size Halloween outfits appeared on their website under the heading “Fat Girl Costumes.”

The retail chain quickly backtracked, issuing an apology before changing the heading to “Women’s Plus-Size Halloween Costumes.”

“This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize,” a spokesperson for the company said. “We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

A Twitter user named Kristyn Washburn first brought the slipup to the public’s attention with this tweet, People reported:

The widespread outrage caused by the ill-advised labeling made “Fat Girl Costumes” a top trend on the micro-blogging site, with several other users expressing their indignation:

Jezebel, which first reported the story, speculated that it might have been an inside joke by the site’s developer that wasn’t corrected before going live.

[People]

TIME vaccines

How Words Can Kill in the Vaccine Fight

Farrow: Right ideas, wrong words
Farrow: Right ideas, wrong words NBC/Getty Images

To own the argument you've got to own the language. At the moment, the dangerous anti-vaxxers are winning that war

Chances are you wouldn’t sit down to a plate of sautéed thymus glands, to say nothing of a poached patagonian tooth fish; and the odds are you’d be reluctant to tuck into a monkey peach too. But sweetbreads, Chilean sea bass and kiwifruit? They’re a different matter—except they’re not. All of those scrumptious foods once went by those less scrumptious names—but few people went near them until there was something pleasant to call them. Words have that kind of power.

That’s true in advertising, in politics and in business too. And it’s true when it comes to vaccines as well—but in this case those words can have a lethal power. The bad news is that in the vaccine word game, the good guys (they would be the ones who know that vaccines are safe, effective and save from two to three million lives per year) are being caught flat-footed by the bad guys (those would be the ones whose beliefs are precisely opposite—and therefore precisely wrong).

The battle plays out on Twitter, with the handy—and uninformed—handle #CDCWhistleBlower repeatedly invoked by virtually every fevered anti-vax tweet like a solemn incantation. The term refers to Dr. William Thompson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who supposedly blew the lid off of the great vaccine conspiracy by confessing to irregularities in a 2004 study that deliberately excluded data suggesting a higher rate of autism in African-American boys who had been vaccinated. Scary stuff alright, except that the study was poorly conducted, the data was left out for purely statistical and methodological reasons, and the paper itself has now been withdrawn. But the hashtag stain remains all the same—with the usually noble whistleblower label being put to low purpose.

Something similar is true with the widely cited Vaccine Injury Court, another frightening term, except that no such thing exists—at least not by that name. It’s true there is an Office of Special Masters which, under a smart 1986 law, hears the claims of parents who believe their children have been injured by vaccines. The panel was created to provide no-fault compensation in all such cases, since drugs that are as vital and are administered as widely as vaccines could never be manufactured or sold affordably if the companies themselves had to pour millions and even billions of dollars into defending themselves against claims.

It’s true too that the court has paid out about $2.8 billion to parents and families since 1989, but those awards are overwhelmingly for relatively minor side effects that are fully disclosed by the ostensibly secretive CDC for any parents caring to look on the agency’s website. And to put that $2.8 billion in perspective: The money went to 3,727 claimants over an approximate generation-long period during which 78 million American children were safely vaccinated, preventing an estimated 322 million illnesses and 732,000 deaths. If you’re crunching the numbers (and it’s not hard to do) that factors out to a .0048% risk of developing what is overwhelmingly likely to be a transient problem—in exchange for a lifetime of immunity from multiple lethal diseases.

But brace for more anyway because October is, yes, Vaccine Injury Awareness Month. Because really, what does a dangerous campaign of misinformation need more than 31 catchily named days devoted to itself?

Still, there’s no denying that catchiness works, and on this one the doctors and other smart folks are going to have to get off the dime. MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow—who either is or isn’t to your liking depending in part on whether MSNBC itself is—has emerged as a smart, persuasive, often brilliantly cutting advocate for the vaccine cause. And on his Oct. 10 show he deftly filleted the arguments of a vocal anti-vax mother whose child is undeniably suffering from a number of illnesses, but who wrong-headedly blames them on vaccines. In this show as in others he invites his audience to learn the truth about vaccines and to connect with him and one another via the handle #VaccineDebate.

And right there he tripped up. For the billionth time (as Farrow knows) there is no debate. Just as there is no climate change debate. Just as there is no moon-landings-were-faked debate. And just as there was nothing to the tobacco company’s disingenuous invention of a “cigarette controversy,” a fallback position they assumed when even they knew that cigarettes were killers and that they couldn’t straight-facedly say otherwise, so the best they could do was sow doubt and hope people stayed hooked.

Little more than 30 seconds spent listening to Farrow talk about vaccines makes it unmistakably clear where he stands—but the very fact that we now live in a hashtag culture means that it’s by no means certain he’s going to get that 30 seconds. So step up your game, smart people. You want to get the vaccine message out, do it in a way that works in the 21st century. And if that means a hashtag, why not #VaccinesWork or #VaccinesAreSafe or #VaccinesSaveLives. Of course, there’s also the more thorough and satisfying #AntivaxxersDon’tKnowWhatThey’reTalkingAboutSoPleaseStopListeningToThem, but that gets you exactly halfway to your 140-character limit. So keep it brief folks—and make it stick.

TIME Music

Katy Perry Will Play Next Year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

Katy Perry "The Prismatic World Tour" - Washington D.C.
Katy Perry performs onstage during "The Prismatic World Tour" at the Verizon Center on June 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

The "Roar" and "Dark Horse" singer had reportedly been shortlisted by the NFL with Coldplay and Rihanna

Katy Perry is going to perform at the Super Bowl. After over a month of speculation, sources confirmed to Billboard that the artist would perform during halftime at Super Bowl XLIX.

Perry was reportedly shortlisted by the NFL in August along with Rihanna and Coldplay, the Wall Street Journal reported. But controversy arose from reports that the league, which declined to comment on the “Firework” singer’s selection, was asking artists for payment in exchange for performing at its marquee event.

Curiously enough, Perry told ESPN last week that she wouldn’t give anyone money for a performance. “I’m not the kind of girl that would pay to play the Super Bowl,” she said.

Some 111.5 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl, which included halftime performances by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, setting a new viewership record.

[Billboard]

TIME Style

Urban Outfitters: ‘We Understand How Our Sincerity May Be Questioned’

Following an uproar, the retailer explains how it ended up selling a 'bloody' Kent State sweatshirt in a statement provided to TIME

On Monday, we wrote about the latest controversy to hit clothing retailer Urban Outfitters: a vintage Kent State sweatshirt that appeared to have blood stains on it, an apparent reference to the shooting deaths of four students by National Guardsmen that took place during a May 1970 protest on the Ohio campus.

Though Urban Outfitters apologized soon after the sweatshirt began to make news, on Tuesday the retailer issued a fuller explanation about the incident to TIME.

The company only had one sweatshirt, it says, which it purchased at a flea market. “Given our history of controversial issues,” the retailer says, “we understand how our sincerity may be questioned.”

Here’s Urban Outfitters’ full explanation of how it came to sell the sweatshirt:

Urban Outfitters would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Kent State University and the Kent State community. We are deeply saddened by the recent uproar our Vintage Kent State sweatshirt has caused. Though it was never our intention to offend anyone, we understand how the item could have been perceived negatively. The tragic events that took place in 1970 are not forgotten and our company regrets that people believe we would intentionally make light of such a horrific part of our nation’s history. To promote such an event is disgraceful, insensitive and in poor taste. To further clarify, despite what has been reported, this is a vintage item and there is only one. Once the negative feedback was brought to our attention we removed the item immediately from sale. Urban Outfitters purchased the one-of-a-kind sweatshirt from the Rose Bowl Flea Market as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on the sweatshirt nor did we ever promote it as such. The discoloration that has been mistaken for blood is from natural fading and sun exposure. With all of that said, this truth does not excuse us from our failure to identify potential controversial products head on. We, as a company who caters to a college-age demographic, have a responsibility to uphold to our customers. Given our history of controversial issues, we understand how our sincerity may be questioned. We can only prove our commitment to improving our product-screening process through our actions and by holding ourselves accountable. Again, we sincerely apologize for this unfortunate misunderstanding and are dedicated to perfecting our internal processes to help avoid these issues in the future.

Read more about read why the Urban Outfitters Kent State sweatshirt caused a controversy here, on TIME.com

TIME Style

Why That Urban Outfitters Kent State Sweatshirt Caused an Uproar

Kent State Shootings
Mary Ann Vecchio kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. John Filo—AP Photo

The blood-like details on the sweatshirt seem to reference the deaths of four students in 1970

A sweatshirt offered for sale by Urban Outfitters on the retailer’s website caused outrage Monday as it seemed to market a bloody shirt from one of the most shocking episodes of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The sight of a faded “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt with red accents, which is no longer for sale, caused many people to notice that the marks on the fabric looked like blood. From there, the conclusion was simple: the sweatshirt seemed to be a reference to the May 4, 1970, Kent State shootings.

The resemblance was mere coincidence, the company later said, in an apology: “There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” Urban Outfitters may not have intended to offend (even though, as a consumer psychology expert told Money this morning, controversy is good for business) and it does seem possible that nobody at the millennial-centric company even thought of — or, perhaps, had ever heard of — a protest that happened more than four decades ago.

So what exactly happened at Kent State?

It took half a century to transform Kent State from an obscure teachers college into the second largest university in Ohio, with 21,000 students and an impressive array of modern buildings on its main campus,” TIME reported shortly after the shooting. “But it took less than ten terrifying seconds last week to convert the traditionally conformist campus into a bloodstained symbol of the rising student rebellion against the Nixon Administration and the war in Southeast Asia. When National Guardsmen fired indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians, killing four students, the bullets wounded the nation.”

On the night of May 1, as students at the Ohio university danced in the street, an unlucky driver attempted to get through the crowd. The mood in the country, amid a wave of student protests over the Vietnam War, was tense, and the confrontation over a traffic jam quickly became more serious, as students in the crowd started anti-war chants. The police used tear gas to get the students back to campus, but the conflict was still fresh when an administration-approved rally began the next day, a Saturday. The protest turned violent, and the local mayor requested help from the National Guard. On Sunday, Ohio governor James Rhodes said that the student protesters were “the worst type of people that we harbor in America” and, despite requests to close the campus, declared a state of emergency instead. When nearly 1,000 students staged a sit-in that night, it was against his order banning all protests.

Though classes started as usual on Monday, the protest ban still rankled students. Many — again, about 1,000 — assembled on campus, flaunting the ban and prompting the National Guard to respond with tear gas. Some students picked up the canisters and threw them back. To the student demonstrators, taunting the Guardsmen was a more serious game of catch. “…Delighted spectators, watching from the hilltop, windows of buildings and the roof of another men’s dorm, cheered,” TIME reported. “Many demonstrators were laughing.”

But then the tear gas ran out. The Guardsmen retreated to the top of a hill, watching the crowd. They fired.

The protest, noisy and chaotic, stopped. Four students were dead. William K. Schroeder, 19, had been a spectator. Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, had been walking to class. Jefrrey Glenn Miller, 20, had called his mother to let her know that he felt he had to take part in the protests. Allison Krause, 19, had recently placed a flower in the rifle of a Guardsman at the protest. Ten others were wounded.

The deaths of the Kent State students inspired another wave of student protests across the country, as well as the Neil Young song “Ohio”:

Read a May 1970 report on the Kent State shootings here, in TIME’s archives: Kent State: Martyrdom that Shook the Country

MONEY Shopping

Why Urban Outfitters Won’t Stop Offending People

Urban Outfitters has made a habit of tasteless products. Can they ever go too far, or is any publicity good publicity?

The world awoke this morning to yet another clothing-related scandal, courtesy of Urban Outfitters. The Philadelphia-based brand, which traffics in try-hard hipster clothing, released what might be its most tasteless creation yet: a Kent State University sweatshirt adorned with what appears to be blood stains. Kent State University was home to the 1970 massacre in which four students were killed and nine others wounded by National Guard soldiers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.25.29 AM

The thing is, this isn’t the first (or second, or even third) time Urban Outfitters has caught flak for selling horrible products. Making extremely offensive clothes has been almost synonymous with the company’s brand. Before Kent State, there was a top covered front-to-back with the word “depression.” Before that, another Urban Outfitters shirt featured a star that appeared nearly identical to the insignia Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. (More recently, Zara pulled a shirt from its shelves for the same reason.) And before that there was the infamous “Eat Less” shirt, which prompted One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush to boycott the store in protest of what she saw as a “pro-anorexia message.”

So is Urban Outfitters run by a bunch of jerks? Perhaps, but—and this is an important but—they’re jerks with business sense. Urban Outfitters Inc, the company that owns Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and Bhldn brands, recently announced record quarterly sales of $811 million. If courting controversy was bad for the bottom line, Urban wouldn’t be doing it. That begs the question: Is any publicity good publicity, as the saying goes, or will the company eventually suffer if it goes too far over the line?

Kit Yarrow, PhD, a consumer psychology expert and professor at Golden Gate University (and MONEY contributor), believes being repugnant is (regrettably) a good business strategy, especially for clothing brands that target a younger audience. “I think they get encouragement to keep doing it because they do get a lot of attention for it,” said Yarrow. “It’s offensive and a little bit tasteless, but shock value just can’t be underrated these days. In some ways it’s a little bit appealing to consumers to connect with a store that’s on the edgier side, and that’s one of the ways the store tells consumers they’re pushing the boundaries and aren’t your parents lame old store.”

Another factor that may reward an offend-first strategy is that millennials, Urban Outfitter’s core demographic, are especially difficult to reach because they’re constantly bombarded with stimulation and advertising. According to Yarrow, it may take something truly shocking to break through all of the noise. A bloodstained sweater referencing an event most young people only vaguely know about might be what it takes to bring the Urban Outfitters brand to the forefront.

Yarrow doesn’t think the company will suffer for its Kent State gaffe. “If they apologize in any way, and a half-hearted apology is their typical pattern, then they’re partially forgiven,” she explained. Sure enough, the company was quick to post a completely unbelievable mea culpa on Twitter soon after the story broke.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.25.45 AM

Short of expressing explicit prejudice (and even then, there are exceptions), it’s hard for Urban Outfitters or any brand to offend so badly as to experience serious financial harm, Yarrow said. She pointed out that Chick-fil-A has persevered, despite its opposition to gay marriage. American Apparel was ultimately forced to demote CEO Dov Charney after repeated allegations of sexual harassment began to interfere with business, but he is still at the company as a consultant and is paid the same salary as when he was chief executive. CNN reports the company’s financials are improving.

The one thing Yarrow thinks consumers won’t forgive is a failure to push boundaries. Abercrombie, another millennial-focused clothing brand, has had its own share of scandals, but she believes its recent sales troubles have more to do with the company’s perceived arrogance and willingness to rest on its laurels. “One girl told me last week ‘They [Abercrombie] haven’t done a thing differently in a decade,’ ” said Yarrow. “Not being daring is more offensive to Gen Y-ers.”

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