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    Students are marching out of their schools today to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. The walkout comes a month after students left their schools in protest over inaction on gun control.

    The student-led protests come in the wake of the February 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead and 17 more wounded, in one of the world’s deadliest school massacres.

    There’s a very good reason why school children are fed up with adult politicians and their lack of action on gun control. According to new data compiled by the Washington Post, at least 206,000 children have experienced gun violence on their campuses since the Columbine shooting.

    A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows that 57% of U.S. teenagers are worried that a shooting could take place at their own school–and one in four are “very worried” about it. About 63% of parents said they were worried that their kids would be victims of gun violence.

    If you’re one of the students walking out today, don’t worry: Robert De Niro has already written a letter to your teacher.

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    As human beings, we’re hardwired to want to reach the finish line. We crave completion. Crossing items off a to-do list and saying we finished and can move onto the next thing.

    However, all this obsession with saying we’re “done” can lead to what’s called completion bias–where your brain specifically seeks the hit of dopamine you get from crossing off small tasks, and ignores working on larger, more complex ones.

    But not everything is so easily measured. Large (and often more meaningful) projects don’t get crossed off in a day.

    To stay committed to the work that matters most, we need to find ways to measure, track, and feel good about the progress we make every single day.

    Related:Here’s What I Learned About Myself When I Tracked Every Hour Of My Day

    Why We Rarely Recognize Small Wins

    When Harvard’s Teresa Amabile looked into the daily habits of hundreds of knowledge workers across industries, she found that out of all the things that can boost our mood and motivation during the workday, “The single most important thing is making progress on meaningful work.”

    Just like we love crossing small tasks off our to-do list, being able to see that we’re even one step closer to a big goal is a huge motivator. The problem is that these “small wins” are notoriously hard to measure. And worse, we tend to ignore them.

    There’s a reason we’re busier than ever but feel like nothing gets done. When all you see is a huge goal looming in front of you, it’s easy to get depressed and feel defeated. And worse, the modern work environment seems to amplify these feelings for a number of reasons:

    • Our days are filled with meaningless busy work. So many of us spend our days in reactive mode–answering emails, chatting on Slack. In the moment, it might feel like you’re doing important work. But only reacting makes it hard to measure any true progress.
    • We’ve lost the ability to set meaningful, effective goals. Few of us set effective goals or have a clear idea of how we’ll reach them.
      We don’t set in place methods for tracking progress: Without an easy, repeatable system in place to clearly see and track progress, it doesn’t matter how much work you do, you won’t feel any closer to the finish line.
    • We’ve lost the ability to handle uncertainty. When you can’t measure progress, large projects can quickly become overwhelming. So we’re more likely to default to the smaller, more short-term tasks we understand.

    All these add up to a day that craves structure. And the easiest way to find this is just to stick to what’s in front of you.

    But to do meaningful work, we need to fight against the feeling of overwhelm that comes from large projects. And that means knowing how to track your progress.

    Here are 5 ways to break the cycle of short-term busy work and start properly tracking your progress:

    1. Break Out Large Tasks Into Smaller Pieces And Visualize Them

    When Jocelyn K. Glei was launching her first podcast, Hurry Slowly, she realized there were too many moving parts to handle at once. She needed to record and edit interviews. Get sponsors and build a website. Research topics. Find music . . .

    So, to track her progress toward the ultimate goal of launching her podcast, she broke out each individual task into the smallest possible piece, and then mapped them out in a visual way:

    Jocelyn’s doc became a map toward the project’s ultimate goal. And as a nice side effect, it gave her lots of little tasks to cross off each day. Meaning she got the hit of motivation from “completing” a small piece of the project.

    Related:What To Do When Common Time Management Tricks Don’t Work 

    2. Set Daily Quotas And Start Every Day At Zero

    There’s a reason you might remember the first step of a big trip and not the 37,568th. Progress gets harder to measure the closer you get to the middle of a project. In that nebulous middle zone, the finish line is still too far away to see. While what seemed so clear at the start all of a sudden becomes fuzzy and uncertain.

    To combat this, LaunchDarkly CEO Edith Harbaugh uses a technique she picked up during a 3,360-mile bicycle ride to Glacier National Park:

    For both cycling and software development, measurement is vital–observing visible progress is motivating. Feeling like you have 80% of the work ahead makes one’s daily contribution to the goal feel insignificant.

    Once your direction is set, begin each day with a blank slate. Starting every day from zero increases team focus, generates a concrete sense of accomplishment and forward motion, and helps prevent complacency.

    In your own work, rather than simply looking at your overall progress on a project, set smaller daily quotas.

    If your goal is especially complex, a quota can be easier to hit than a goal. For example, if you’re writing a book, you could change your progress from “write a chapter” to “write 1,000 words.”

    3. Use Technology To Track Progress On Specific Goals And Projects Actively

    One of the hardest parts about tracking progress is actually actively tracking it. Most methods require you to be conscious of what you’re working on, when, and for how long. Yet it’s all too easy for you to forget to keep track and lose the benefits of tracking your progress anyways.

    RescueTime works in the background, meaning it automatically tracks the progress you make each day. You can even set daily goals and get an alert when you hit it. For example, I have a RescueTime Goal set for spending three hours every day writing.

    Every day, I can see whether or not I’ve hit that goal, or get a hit of motivation when I get my pop-up notification saying I reached it. I can also look back over a longer time frame to see how often I’ve hit that goal and made progress.

    Streaks are incredibly powerful psychological tools. The longer we maintain one, the more pressure we feel to keep up with it. By seeing my productivity streak in RescueTime, I’m more motivated to keep going and hit my progress goal for the day.

    My monthly writing progress tracked on RescueTime.

    4. Track Your Metrics On A Calendar

    If you prefer to track your progress by hand, you can track it on your calendar.

    The idea is simple. Pick a metric (or two) that makes sense for you, and then track how many days you hit it.

    For example, this could be writing a certain word count, making a number of sales calls, or fixing a number of bugs. Your calendar becomes a large, visual reminder of your progress (and also brings in the power of streaks).

    Related:Three Time Management Hacks For Fighting Boredom At Work 

    5. Write In A Diary For 5 Minutes A Day

    You can also combine the benefits of tracking your progress with daily reflective writing. In fact, this is exactly what the participants in Teresa Amabile’s study did.

    At the end of each day, take a few minutes to write about what you worked on. Make sure to note both your “small wins” and any setbacks.

    At the end of the month, flip back through your notes and see how far you’ve come. It’s amazing, the clarity you get from seeing the progress you made over a longer period.

    To get the most out of this approach, try going analog and use a paper notebook, rather than a word doc or your phone.

    Tracking your progress is the easiest way to ward off feeling overwhelmed by large projects. With a system for measuring progress in place, you’ll always know you’re moving in the right direction. No matter how big or complex the project is.

    When you give yourself permission to focus on progress, not perfection, you’re putting yourself in a position to be more productive than ever.

    A version of this article originally appeared on RescueTime and is adapted with permission. 

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    To prove that his company won’t punish cord-cutters if it acquires Time Warner, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson revealed plans for a $15-per-month streaming TV bundle. The service, called “Watch,” will be free for AT&T wireless subscribers, Stephenson said on Thursday, and will keep costs down by omitting expensive sports channels. As CNN reports, the announcement came from the witness stand in federal court, where Stephenson was testifying against the government’s attempt to block the Time Warner deal on antitrust grounds.

    Promising cheap TV as a merger approval tactic isn’t new for AT&T. A few days after announcing its plans to acquire Time Warner in October 2016, Stephenson said the company’s DirecTV Now streaming bundle would cost just $35 per month for 100 channels. But that offer only lasted for a little over a month, at which point the 100-channel price jumped to $60 per month.

    Let’s not herald Watch as a pro-consumer breakthrough before we see what the rules and restrictions are. And in the meantime, let’s keep mulling the longterm implications of yet another mega-merger.

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    Just when you thought J.K. Rowling’s ubiquitous boy wizard couldn’t conquer new territory, Harry Potter is making his official Broadway debut this weekend with the opening of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The show was a huge hit on London’s West End, and it’s already crashing ceilings in New York: In previews, it just set a weekly box-office record for a nonmusical.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of the franchise, which is to say, I don’t really know what a Muggle is and have never bothered to Google it. But given that the Potterverse has endured for more than two decades–and has a dedicated fan base that now spans generations–I was still curious about its capacity as a money-generating enterprise. How much is it actually worth? The most recent estimates seem to have been calculated last year, which marked the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book. The Financial Timesreported that Potter Inc. was a $25 billion business.

    That’s a broad estimate, though. What’s really interesting about the Potter franchise is how it’s managed to dominate every possible medium–from books, movies, and live events, to the more recent stage show–and fans can be very particular about which they most prefer.

    So maybe the better question is: How much is Harry Potter worth to you? That’s a question I can’t answer, but for fun, I’ve rounded up a few stats below to help you think about it:

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    Last week, two black men were arrested in Philadelphia for sitting in a Starbucks. In the face of such apparent racism and growing demands to #BoycottStarbucks, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that every company-owned store in the United States would close on May 29 for “racial-bias education.”

    It’s a bold, necessary move that will cost the company a lot of money. While many customers are thrilled by Starbucks’s decision to confront the situation, some are ticked off that their need for an iced caramel Frappuccino is taking a back seat to these inclusivity efforts–and they are taking to Facebook to voice their complaints.

    Online complaints against corporate giants can often feel like shouting into the void, but Starbucks is taking an interesting tactic. It is actually responding to them, and not with the usual corporate speak. The company’s social media team has not been playing nice, and has not been shying away from stark truths: There was “no reason for the police to be called” and we “cannot deny that this is a race issue, which is why we are implementing this training,” went one response.

    • When one customer complained that millions of people are being denied Starbucks because of “one incident in a country with thousands of locations,” Starbucks replied: “There are countless examples of implicit bias resulting in discrimination against people of color, both in and outside our stores. Addressing bias is crucial in ensuring that all of our customers feel safe and welcome in our stores.”
    • When another griped that Starbucks was punishing customers for a day “because of a handful of employees.” Starbucks replied: “Our goal is to make our stores a safe and welcoming place for everyone, and we have failed. This training is crucial in making sure we meet our goal.”

    Corporate social media is too often a forum for empty lip service, which makes this unflinching approach a refreshing strategy—and definitely a better use of Facebook than reposting old memes.

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    If you order a T-shirt or hoodie from an online store called Toad & Co, the checkout screen now has an extra button that says “reuse.” Choose it, and your order will arrive in a reusable package. When you take your clothing out, you flip the label around and put the bag back in the mailbox instead of in the trash, so the company can use it again for the next customer.

    The company is the first to pilot the new packaging system, made by a startup called LimeLoop. The startup estimates that each lightweight, waterproof pouch–made from durable vinyl recycled from billboards–can be reused as many as 2,000 times, with cleaning and repairs along the way, replacing as many boxes or plastic bags. LimeLoop will work first with apparel companies, but plans to scale up to tackle the larger challenge of packaging from online shopping in general.

    [Photo: LimeLoop]

    It’s a problem that some in the recycling business have called the Amazon Effect (not to be confused with other “Amazon Effects” on retail jobs or groceries or urban planning). In San Francisco, as the local recycling business struggled with growing piles of materials from online orders–from Amazon to meal kit companies–the city was forced to raise garbage rates.

    Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items worldwide last year through Prime alone. LimeLoop used data from USPS, FedEx, and UPS to estimate that around 165 billion packages are shipped in the U.S. each year, and then roughly calculated that the cardboard used would equate to more than 1 billion trees (this calculation didn’t account for the fact that some packaging is not made from paper or cardboard, but it gives a sense of scale). As online shopping continues to grow, so will the impact.

    Few companies have tried to shift to reusable packaging for shipping. In 2010, eBay tested a reusable, trackable cardboard box, but the short pilot soon ended (eBay had no comment on how it evaluated the program or why it was discontinued). Rent the Runway–with a business model that makes reusable packaging particularly logical, because clothing is returned by design–ships the majority of its orders in its patented reusable garment bag.

    [Photo: LimeLoop]

    “We have not seen as much interest in reusable packaging from industry as might be expected,” Kelly Cramer, senior manager at GreenBlue, an environmental nonprofit, wrote in an email. For a reusable packaging scheme to work, current infrastructure would have to change. “In speaking with some retailers and brands about reusable packaging from an e-commerce perspective, they indicated that doing so would require that fulfillment infrastructure be reconfigured–to what extent is unclear. For example, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers who ship online orders from their stores do not currently have space in back of house today to store reusable packaging.”

    The flow of fulfillment processes would have to change. “Right now, speed and efficiency are the primary drivers of e-commerce–companies are just trying to keep up,” she says. “Packaging solutions that arguably compromise either of these drivers may limit adoption, although other drivers like consumer perception and sustainability could make brands more open to it in the future.”

    When she spoke with one large national carrier, Cramer says that another concern they expressed was the challenge of getting consumers to actually send packaging back; if that doesn’t happen, the economics might not work out. If the whole system isn’t carefully designed–if picking up packaging requires extra trips to someone’s house, for example, using extra fuel–there could be new environmental impacts. Still, Cramer thinks that reusable packaging may be becoming more viable.

    “[T]he success of subscription services, the growing sharing economy, and changing social values mean that reusable packaging isn’t as ‘far-fetched’ as it may have seemed some years ago,” she says. “Further, brands are becoming more agile and open to disruption, so I would not be surprised if some are experimenting with reusable packaging now as a pilot, even if we aren’t aware.”

    In Europe, a company called Repack supplies reusable bags to online retailers using a similar model as LimeLoop. The packaging, designed to flatten easily, can be dropped back in the mail, and Repack pays the return cost. When the bag is returned, customers typically get a discount on their next purchase, increasing sales for retailers as it gives customers an incentive to remember to return the package. Others online stores are exploring incentives like planting a tree for each returned package.

    Repack has around 40 customers now and says that demand quickly grew over the last year. “[The] circular economy as a concept made a breakthrough, followed by mass media picking up packaging waste,” says Jonne Hellgren, the company’s CEO. “Many e-commerce companies see that packaging waste is impacting customer behavior now and especially in the future. Packaging has become a strategic question, and companies are searching for solutions as they are looking to future-proof their businesses.”

    In the U.S., LimeLoop hopes to quickly expand, eventually moving beyond clothing–which is relatively easy to ship in something other than a cardboard box–to other products. It plans to announce partnerships with larger brands in the coming months. “We’re looking at this as a full-circle solution for all industries,” says founder Ashley Etling.

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    What: The NoRA Initiative–short for No Rifle Association.

    Who: Celebrities including Alyssa Milano, Amy Schumer, Constance Wu, and W. Kamau Bell, along with activists Tarana Burke and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg.

    Why we care: Nothing makes gun-loving conservatives madder than the outspoken Parkland shooting survivors, with the possible exception of celebrities who are for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. So card-carrying NRA members will hopefully all be sitting down when they find out that celebrities and activists (David Hogg among them) have joined forces to fight back against the NRA. According to Time, the newly formed No Rifle Association is dedicated to reducing the NRA’s influence on American politics, partly through increased visibility on how much money politicians receive from the organization, and how much they’ve received in the past. The project began with Milano, an integral force in the Time’s Up campaign, who was inspired by the relentless student response to the Parkland shooting. The NoRA Initiative’s efforts will include nationwide art campaigns, voter registration drives, demonstrations, boycotts, and–maybe–a lot of extremely worried politicians suddenly rethinking accepting NRA donations.

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    The Democratic Party has filed suit against President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Russian government, and Wikileaks, claiming a broad conspiracy that helped Trump win the 2016 election.

    The multi-million-dollar lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday, The Washington Post reported. The suit alleges that the Russian government conspired with top Trump campaign officials to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, hack the Democratic Party’s computer networks, disseminate material stolen from there, and generally help Trump take the Oval Office.

    The named defendants in the lawsuit include Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law Jared Kushner; former campaign chief Paul Manafort; campaign official Richard Gates; and former Trump advisor Roger Stone. Also named is the Russian Federation; the general staff of the Russian armed forces; a Russian intelligence services hacker known as Guccifer 2.0.; and Wikileaks and its leader Julian Assange; as well as 10 unidentified people.

    History buffs may think this lawsuit sounds familiar: It echoes a similar legal tactic taken by the Democratic Party during the Watergate scandal in 1972. It filed suit against then-President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee seeking $1 million in damages for the break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building.

    Trump has yet to tweet about the suit.

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    What: The mobile docu-series Future History: 1968

    Who: BuzzFeed, and journalists Mikhail Zygar and Karen Shainyan

    Why we care: BuzzFeed is taking one of the most watershed years in American history and putting it through a mobile and social media lens with its new series Future History: 1968. Created and directed by Russian journalists Mikhail Zygar and Karen Shainyan, Future History: 1968 is a three-episode docu-series, distributed by BuzzFeed, that takes a close look at some of 1968’s biggest moments.

    It was the year Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Eartha Kitt was forced into exile after speaking her truth at the White House, and the U.S. and USSR were locked in the Space Race–all of which is chronicled in vertical screen episodes that use Instagram, YouTube, Google Maps, Twitter, and more to add a modern twist to documentary storytelling.

    Future History: 1968‘s 30 episodes will rollout every week on BuzzFeed News, with the first three episodes premiering Saturday, April 21  at 6 am EST on Apple News.

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    You’ve probably heard the saying, “consumers don’t care about privacy,” which I’ve always found to be an odd phrase since it seems like a logical fallacy.

    As a part of my day job as an industry analyst, I spend a lot of time with company executives talking through our firm’s research on consumer behavior with technology, which often touches on issues of privacy. It is in these conversations that I frequently hear the adage “consumers don’t care about privacy.” The reasoning behind this phrase is as follows: Because people post pictures of themselves or their family on social media–sometimes doing weird things–they must not care that much about their privacy. But it’s not that simple. After doing years of qualitative and quantitative studies on this subject, I think we need to reframe how we think about consumer privacy.

    Privacy Is All About Context

    Many consumers say they’re concerned about their privacy, and then post a bunch of personal stuff on Facebook, or Twitter, or Snapchat. But this says more about their feelings concerning social networking services than their overall feelings about privacy.

    Consumers’ beliefs and behavior around privacy are largely contextual. In some situations, they care about privacy; in others, not so much. When it comes to things like banking and finances, or medical-related information, consumer behavior will line up with their stated beliefs in caring about privacy. The reality is, social media may not be one of those places.

    Our findings suggest that consumers fully understand that the content they post on Facebook is public. They treat Facebook as a public forum. Therefore, the expectation of privacy on Facebook is not as high as it is with their bank, medical institution, or insurance company.

    So maybe a narrow version of that phrase, such as “consumers on Facebook don’t care about privacy” may well be true.

    Source: Creative Strategies

    Top Lines From The Research

    After Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg’s recent Congressional hearings, we at Creative Strategies decided it was a good time  to conduct a new consumer study. We performed a broader study last year on consumer privacy and security and felt this would be a good way to update our results and glean new insights. We wanted to ask consumers about their use of Facebook and test some new privacy-related theories.

    After the responses were all in, some important data points stood out.

    • We discovered that approximately 20% of the consumers in our study did not have a currently active Facebook account. The vast majority of that 20% cited privacy-related concerns as a primary reason for not having a Facebook account.
    • 9% of the respondents had a Facebook account and deleted it at some point in the last few years. Again, many cited privacy-related reasons as a motivating factor.
    • 51% of consumers we polled disagreed with the statement that they enjoy using Facebook today as much as when they first started using it. 39% of those polled said they wish Facebook was more like it was when they first started using the service.
    • The top two main motivations for active Facebook users, by a large margin, are to stay in touch with friends or family who don’t live in the area (67%), and to keep up with friends or family they have lost touch with (59%).
    Source: Creative Strategies

    Tracking Behavior Outside Facebook

    Consumers are becoming more sensitive to companies’ aggressive tracking of their online behavior. That tracking is beginning to affect consumers’ expectation of privacy.

    Our research shows that consumers don’t seem to mind seeing ads on Facebook. They even indicated some level of gratitude when they found a new product or service on Facebook that fit their interests. But consumers feel that Facebook crosses the “creepy” line when it targets its ads using personal information it gleaned outside of Facebook. To this point, 58% of consumers in our study said they’re less than comfortable with how good Facebook has become at tracking their general online activity.

    It’s here I believe the technology industry needs to start a broader conversation on privacy. The industry may need provide some protections for consumers who do not want their non-public online behavior to be tracked by companies like Facebook and Google. Any regulation of Facebook and companies like it should focus on this. Perhaps some consumer data should be off-limits to companies like Facebook and Google even if that activity happens on their own platforms.

    Consumers are becoming more aware of the sophisticated tracking and ad-targeting technology used by Facebook, Google, and others have become. That awareness is raising privacy concerns.

    No, people will not leave Facebook in droves. But people may start using Facebook less, as 45% of our study respondents said they were. Or more consumers may change their privacy settings and on-Facebook practices to limit how much information they share. Our survey found that 39% of consumers had already changed their Facebook privacy settings because of privacy concerns.

    And the impact on Facebook’s business is likely to be nominal, at least in the near term. Facebook already controls a massive store of user data. But it may call into question the long-term viability of business models that dispense some “free” service for which the consumer pays with their data rather than their dollars.

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    On Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, just steps from Bryant Park, is MedMen’s first New York City joint, if you will. The California-based cannabis company is ringing in 4/20 today with the opening of its 2,000-square-foot flagship store, one of only three legal dispensaries in Manhattan.

    MedMen makes its debut as marijuana legalization is top of mind in New York. Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon recently declared her support for legalizing recreational marijuana, staking her argument on the stark racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests. Current Governor Andrew Cuomo–who has dubbed marijuana a “gateway drug”–launched a study earlier this year into the impact of legalization in New York.

    Meanwhile, New York’s neighboring states, New Jersey and Connecticut, are en route to legalizing marijuana, and nearby Massachusetts already has.

    [Photo: courtesy of MedMen]
    Adam Bierman, the CEO of MedMen, is convinced his company can help sway the conversation, by redefining the look and feel of a dispensary. “This is about mainstreaming marijuana and destigmatizing it,” he told reporters at an event in MedMen’s Manhattan location on Wednesday night, where state senators from New York and New Jersey were in attendance. “This place is filled with politicians who didn’t understand that marijuana could look like this.”

    Adam Bierman (left) [Photo: courtesy of MadMen]
    “This place” takes the form of a minimalist, open space with endless white walls. A handful of items hang on the walls, while a neon MedMen sign greets you when you walk in. There are also photos of other MedMen locations, and posters for the company’s “Forget Stoner” campaign, the most memorable of which features a grandmother striking a pose in red sunglasses. MedMen’s products–gel caps, tinctures, and vape pens–are displayed on well-lit wood tables, encased alongside iPads that offer details on each strain.

    Cue The Inevitable Apple Store Comparisons

    If all this sounds, well, expensive or exclusive, MedMen’s head of communications, Daniel Yi, insists that MedMen is not peddling luxury wares; the intent is simply to create familiarity and accessibility.

    “The vast majority of Americans have never had the experience of walking into a pot shop,” Yi told me. “But the vast majority of Americans know, even if they haven’t set foot in an Apple Store, exactly what it feels like. You walk in, and it feels familiar … it’s seamless, and as a consumer, you know what you’re supposed to do.”

    [Photo: courtesy of MedMen]
    Still, setting up shop in Manhattan is quite an investment, even for a company reportedly worth $1 billion, when New York has just over 50,000 registered medical marijuana users–a fraction of the potential customer base in California, where marijuana is legal. A Fifth Avenue address doesn’t come cheap, and MedMen reportedly spent $26 million to acquire a company that had one of two dispensary licenses in New York.

    It’s no surprise, then, that MedMen is betting on the legalization of recreational marijuana–and actively advocating for it, by courting politicians like New York State Senator Diane Savino, who sponsored the legislation to legalize medical marijuana in 2014.

    “We cannot ignore marijuana in New York,” Savino said when she took the floor at the MedMen event. “Because if not, New Yorkers are going to vote with their feet. They’re going to drive to New Jersey or drive to Massachusetts.”

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    On Friday, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $1 billion to settle allegations that it engaged in mortgage and loan violations that caused its customers to pay extra fees. The settlement, the largest ever announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, involved claims that the bank charged customers for car insurance without their knowledge and charged some borrowers for extensions on their mortgages despite the fact that customers weren’t responsible for those delays.

    Here’s what you need to know about the settlement:

    • The bank will pay about $182 million to car loan borrowers who were impacted by the scheme, with some checks already going out last August.
    • Mortgage borrowers who were assessed the fees ($98 million in total) from September 16, 2013 to February 28, 2017, will get refunds plus interest.
    • The bank is expected to adjust its first-quarter 2018 earnings to include a $800 million reduction in net income from figures that it previously reported.
    • This is the second big scandal in two years for the banking giant–in 2017, it acknowledged that it created 3.5 million bank and credit-card accounts not authorized by customers. For that, it paid $185 million in penalties.

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    Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues.

    The summer mixers had not done the trick. Last year Oakland, California, which was launching the partnership component of its groundbreaking Cannabis Equity Assistance Program, found that City Hall meet-and-greets between the street-level victims of the war on drugs and those who had gotten rich by growing and supplying marijuana, weren’t going to instantly result in legal-weed dealmaking whoopie.

    As part of California’s 2018 adult-use marijuana legalization, Oakland sets aside half of its marijuana business permits to grow, test, manufacture, transport, deliver and dispense pot to “equity applicants”–newly up-from-the-underground residents who make up to 80% of the city’s median income ($53,000) and either have “a cannabis conviction out of Oakland or [have] lived for 10 of the last 20 years in police beats that experienced a disproportionately higher amount of law enforcement with respect to cannabis.” The city’s cannabis equity program has a tiered qualification system, as do California’s other three existing programs in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

    Oakland’s cannabis equity program may have gotten off to an awkward start, but that hasn’t stopped the idea of equity in adult-use marijuana economies from spreading even beyond the state. However, if this bold concept is to cohere into a concrete approach that can work both statewide and nationally, the challenges of addressing wildly mixed signals at the federal level, relations with the still-illegal cannabis market–whose economy and membership dwarfs legal weed in size—and embedded bureaucratic forces must be overcome.

    “General applicants” (the mostly white entrepreneurs who have conducted business at a remove from Oakland’s worst drug war suffering) gain improved marketplace access by partnering with equity applicants–who are mostly black, but not always. Cannabis Equity bureaucracy most shared asset is physical space–which the moneyed entrepreneurs can offer the city’s disadvantaged pot businesspeople. Cannabis equity can appear to be the nearest thing, conceptually, to reparations in America.

    Still, last year’s City Hall mixers had failed to create much chemistry between the cannabis haves and have-nots. Darlene Flynn, the city’s director of the office of Race and Equity, realized that between the mixers’ interactive awkwardness and municipal government’s usual bureaucracy, Oakland’s cannabis office would have to farm out the matchmaking.

    “We needed some tools for helping people meet,” Flynn would later acknowledge in an email.

    Rising Tensions Between Underground And Above-Board Sales

    No state has a relationship dynamic remotely like the one between California and marijuana. We officially consume 2.5 million pounds of the drug each year, more than any state. California produces approximately 15 million pounds annually. This means that, even before dipping its toes into the uncharted waters of restorative justice, the legal weed market must contend with vast market and political forces. While an illegal market nearly six times the size of the legitimate marketplace comports itself in the shadows, fewer than 10 percent of the state’s adult-use market is legal. Tensions between the cannabis underground and California’s above-board pot sales haven’t been more tense than in recent memory.

    Still, governments had begun to follow Oakland’s lead in assuring that the newly legal marijuana market will be open to historically discriminated-against populations. Oakland earmarked nearly $3.5 million in interest-free loans for those whose experience with pot had been demonstrably more toxic than those of white residents.

    Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland all have cannabis equity programs in development, under those states’ medical marijuana laws. Advocates from all over are studying the approach.

    “I used the work on equity in cities like Oakland, as both a technical starting point and conceptually,” says Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission Shalene Title, “to wrap my head around how to approach the question of equity in the context of the war on drugs.”

    Oakland isn’t the only California city playing in the cannabis equity space. In San Francisco, all new permits, with a few nuanced exceptions, are run through that city’s Equity Program—for cultivation, manufacturing distribution, testing and retail. “Not until 50 percent of each permit category reflects permits from the Equity Program will permits become available for new business,” says Nicole Elliott, director of San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis.

    Los Angeles has started its Cannabis Social Equity program, while Sacramento is preparing to launch Cannabis Opportunity, Reinvestment and Equity. These programs are primed to issue permits before 2018 is done. Among the 34 California legal adult-use cities — 12 percent of the population — is Berkeley, which has a cannabis equity program in development.

    But as the newcomers amended Oakland’s program, the founding municipality was still contending with the matter of hooking up general and equity applicants. Early in the fall Darlene Flynn asked two volunteers with the innovation nonprofit Open Oakland, Richard Ng and Angela Gennino—respectively, a social impact consultant and an information architect—to build a digital tool.

    Last August the pair began developing a back-end software application. Throughout the fall of 2017 there were mock-ups and beta tests.

    “The concept was, really, a dating site,” Ng, told me over breakfast at Awaken, a café just around the corner from City Hall. The code beneath the weed biz interactions was about the same as Craigslist. Functionally, “CannaEquity,” as the site would be called, was brass-tacks eHarmony. Instead of the user’s “Status,” pot entrepreneurs list their Application Stage: “Not submitted yet”; “Submitted”; “Received an inspection card.” On the Partner Search page, rather than the object of consideration’s profession, their type of business is put out there: Cultivation or delivery, dispensary or distributor–you damn sure wouldn’t want to be in bed with someone who doesn’t know the difference.

    “The most important qualities in an equity partner are: honest and open communication and an ability to learn and grow as a partner,” writes CannaEquity user ecooke, a cannabis manufacturer and distributor.

    “I’m The Poster Child For Cannabis Equity”

    Rolling up among the site’s Potential Partner Profiles was Linda Grant, 48. Mother of six, grandmother of two. Purveyor of marijuana since eighth grade. Possessor of one felony. She was looking for a partner in her non-storefront dispensary — a delivery service. The cost of renting space in the East Bay would be the difference between her working legit or returning to the black market.

    “I’m the poster child for cannabis equity,” Grant said in a telephone interview.

    Though educated largely in the local weed trade, Grant clandestinely moved, by her estimation, millions of dollars of the stuff that now fuels the Green Rush, as Wall Street calls it. She started at the age of 12, dealing out of the girl’s bathroom at Elmhurst Junior High School. Instead of advancing through high school, Linda Grant sold weed.

    She worked for her older brother. The cops once busted her for a $5 bag of weed. Of course her brothers were arrested and did time, too. Years ago, she spent time at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail for dealing. She was pregnant. Thereafter, she would pull back on her participation in the marijuana marketplace.

    “I didn’t want to lose my kids,” Grant said.

    The people trying to connect with Grant on shared few such stories. That chasm is an open and ugly secret among Americans who’ve chosen to look. Last year, Oakland produced a report showing that 77% of cannabis-related arrests in 2015 were black people, who in that year made up around 30 percent of the city’s residents. (At the height of the government’s drug crackdown, the city’s population was about 10 percent blacker than it is today.)

    People of color who’ve been anywhere near the $7 billion North American cannabis industry still share Buzzfeed’s 2016 reporting—based on 150 interviews with dispensary owners, sales people and cannabis insiders—about the unbearable whiteness of the U.S. game. About three dozen of the 3,200 to 3,600 American storefront marijuana dispensaries–among the more scaleable categories in cannabis–were black in 2016.

    Three dozen. The prevalence of black celebrity brands and frontmen can make the industry seem racially diverse when it’s actually profoundly exclusive. Since the jazz age, black people have been foundational in the development of American cannabis culture, and that fact makes the low stat especially egregious.

    A Cannabis Industry That Is Overwhelmingly White

    Although she was looking through CannaEquity for a partner to provide her space for an office and inventory storage, Grant already had a partnership with the Hood Incubator, a local nonprofit with Ivy League credentials that at its outset sought only to improve the presence of brown and black people in a cannabis industry that, according to Marijuana Business Daily, is 81% white.

    The aspiring entrepreneur had made the connection with Hood Incubator cofounder Lanese Martin before there was a website or even the City Hall mixers. In 2017 Grant posted on Facebook about a scarcity of grass for purchase on Oakland’s streets. Instead of a mere comment on how to score quickly, she found herself talked into attending an open house for Hood Incubator. It was here that she began seriously entertaining the idea of wading into legit waters.

    “We want you to own a business,” Grant said Martin told her.

    Grant was unsure whether the neighborhoods she’d lived in, going all the way back to Elmhurst, had been city-designated as unfairly policed. Perhaps equity wasn’t for her. She thought longer on the matter, figured she was indeed an eligible resident, and then tracked down records to prove it. More paper chasing followed. For six months Grant attended pro bono legal workshops put on by lawyers affiliated with Hood Incubator. (Beyond the development of marijuana enterprises, Hood Incubator was beginning to expand its scope to include criminal-records expungement clinics and business workshops, as well as policy development for local municipalities. The tech company Haze entered into a million-dollar partnership with the incubator earlier this year.)

    Grant was incubated–given commerce-minded nurturing–twice, by Martin and her crew. The office space and legal access took the street dealer’s concept for a delivery business, Herbin Collective, from sketchy idea to business reality. A journey that began with one “Where the weed at” shoutout had evolved into a credible business plan, one that looked to be finalized in time for California’s adult-use legalization date, January 1.

    CannaEquity had been up and running by December, 2017. A crush of participation followed. Gennino and Ng knew they had a hit matchmaking site on their hands when ancillary businesses—CPAs, attorneys, security companies—began popping up on the site. In the first quarter of the year, 300 equity applicants were currently on, with about 600 suitors.

    Would-be bride Linda Grant linked up with Americann, a B-Corp company that bills itself as “a national leader of sustainable cultivation and processing infrastructure for the medical marijuana industry.” Its flagship brand is Gummi Cares. The edibles company wanted to hook up with Herbin Collective.
    It was something like a love connection. Gummi Cares offered Grant 1,000-square feet near the city’s airport to help get Herbin Collective off the ground. As business rentals in Oakland go for more than $50 per square foot, she was instantaneously with that plan.

    “I wouldn’t mess with anyone else,” Grant told me over the phone. She focused on getting her delivery service in compliant, above-ground business for her March 1 launch. Meanwhile, Americann would get to move its cultivation and processing operations ahead of those outfits that lack newly-privileged partners such as theirs.

    “The incentive was very high for the general applicants,” Gennino said, “because they want to get pushed to the top of the list.”

    “I’m In A Fish Tank Full Of Shit”

    Speed bumps on this road to utopia began popping up in February. While San Francisco was sparking a national trend by expunging felony convictions, Oakland’s earmarked $3.4 million in no-interest loans was failing to materialize. And Linda Grant was scrambling. Yes, she had the physical space provided by Americann and Gummi Cares. Her product would be purchased on consignment, so that wasn’t a primary concern. But there were branding and peripheral startup costs to going legit that were making the March 1 dispensary opening date seem less realistic. On there had been numerous come-ons from general applicants. Yet Grant felt they sought her partnership for her oppressed face, not to fully embrace all that Herbin Collective might become.

    It’s innocent in a way that only those completely outside the cannabis industry can be innocent, the notion that one’s partners have to like you for you.

    Transitioning street dealers, “have the business sense of cannabis, but maybe not of the environment,” Hood Collective’s Martin told me by phone. “You have to understand what the weather patterns will be.

    “You engage white people you don’t like all of the time,” she continued. The trick is figuring how to engage those at least complicit in your social marginalization. Ten thousand dollars short and less than two weeks out from Herbin Collective’s launch date, Grant’s outlook had taken a turn for the fatalistic.

    “I’m in a fish tank full of shit,” she said in a February 18 phone interview.

    No Money To Give Out At First

    When I passed on word last month that the program was, in the words of one critic, “in a slump,” Darlene Flynn’s assistant administrator, Greg Minor, claimed not to know the meaning of that assessment. This month Flynn acknowledged that the $3.4 million in loans that was to sustain the program had not materialized.

    Minor explained that the first loans will come from future cannabis tax revenue, “so there was no money to give out at first.”

    “We wanted a sufficient baseline amount, $3.4 million, which was how much our non-cannabis small business commercial loan program requires to serve 30-35 businesses, for the loans to be meaningful,” he explained in an email. “Now that the cannabis tax revenue has been collected we are working on selecting a consultant to administer the program and begin implementing the revolving loan program later this year.”

    “We are just beginning to put that part of the program together,” Flynn wrote in an email. “It is phase two because it has to be funded by new cannabis revenue and we are getting close.”

    “Close” is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug when one’s trying to ride the 2018 cannabis wave from blueprint into an actual business. In the Trump era, close is a risky thing to be. Some have taken this month’s news that the White House promised to pull back on interference with state marijuana laws as a sign that threat is diminished and improved relations with banking are ahead. Others remain wary.
    “The President has made numerous promises to the the public and then failed to deliver on those promises over and over again,” said Elliott of San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis, “either by walking back his promise or not succeeding in getting Congress to deliver.”

    But there are other considerations, too. One municipal cannabis administrator told me that a strict reading of federal policy could make it difficult for jurisdictions to provide funding through loans to new operators in some circumstances, “because at the end of the day, everything associated with cannabis has a tinge of risk based on the federal government’s stance.”

    “If that funding,” the official continued, “is focused towards meeting the rigorous regulatory standards established by the state, then it could present less of a conflict with federal policy, but loans spent on other things could potentially prove to be a bit more complicated.”

    So, the feds are a hindrance to the empowerment of cannabis entrepreneurs. But what about that overwhelming California weed wealth: The illegal marijuana market. Multiple seasoned—although presently unpermitted— California marijuana figures told me throughout the reporting of this story that the four cities with equity programs are hamstrung by their lack of relationships with black market marijuana. Old illegal pot people know people who know people who can barter goods and services, and Hood Incubator, for all its unique set of skills and great above-ground network, cannot access this tantalizingly low-hanging, multimillion-dollar fruit.

    Struggling Amid The Green Rush

    With too many California legal dispensaries closed or slowed by paperwork, early 2018 was a fine time for unsanctioned pot. That any up-and-comer might be struggling in the midst of the Green Rush would be laughable were it not so sad.

    That’s the take of 20-year cannabis vendor-space vet Chip Moore, owner of the 4&20 lifestyle brand and delivery service. He applied for a dispensary application last year, but didn’t qualify for equity status. Veteran business people like Moore are shouting that California’s storied tradition of pot independence and innovation is being ignored in this process of creating equity. These critics say that a dramatically-improved road to compliance must be established, so that, beyond the loans that entrepreneurs like Linda Grant spent the winter waiting on, pot’s illegal mainstream can contribute ideas and—most importantly—meaningful amounts of space in which to develop their businesses.

    “It can’t just be a thousand square feet. That does not equal equity within cannabis,” Moore told me at his Westside warehouse, his baritone gravelly from years of cannabis enthusiasm. “It creates a sharecropper system for young black people, where I’m giving you a thousand square feet to compete in one of the most competitive cannabis markets in the world.”

    Beyond the malleability of land value in cannabis industry terms, there’s the inherent punishment that comes with rewarding only those who dwelled in demonstrably over-policed Oakland or who managed to elude arrest there. If cannabis equity programs are to ever be more than a fig leaf, this built-in bias will need to be addressed on a statewide basis.

    “This system they created is punishing the cannabis industry, not the police,” he said. “I’m a black man, underfunded, undervalued in the market, but I live in Berkeley [Oakland’s northern neighbor]. I don’t get the point allotments to become an equity applicant and participate in the program. I have to go up against the big-money guys.”

    Open Oakland’s Angela Gennino described the purpose of cannabis equity as being “to right a wrong and change the balance.” The notion is lofty, the means to achievement simultaneously complicated and mundane. By press time, Linda Grant’s Herbin Collective was not yet more than a name on the internet.

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    Here’s an interesting story from The Verge on the future of Android text messaging. For the past couple years, Google has advocated a next-gen texting standard called Rich Communication Services, whose features (full-resolution images, read receipts, expanded group texts, and more) are already standard in modern chat apps like iMessage and WhatsApp. If you have an Android phone, the idea is that RCS would replace SMS texts by default.

    Now, Google is making headway in getting wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T on board with RCS–which it’s now just calling “Chat.” Anil Sabharwal, the Google executive spearheading the effort, says he expects a “large percentage” of Android users to have access to Chat messaging by the middle of next year. Microsoft is also backing the effort, even though it’s not really in the smartphone operating system business right now.

    Still, The Verge‘s report leaves one major question unanswered: Will Apple bother to support the new Chat standard?

    The company could conceivably go either way. Texting an Android user from an iPhone is a subpar experience, with low-quality photos and videos and limits on how many people can partake in a group chat. By supporting RCS-based Chat, Apple could provide its users with iMessage-like features no matter who they’re talking to.

    On the other hand, iMessage is one of the main ways Apple locks people into its own platform. Supporting RCS would mean discarding a strategic advantage. Also, RCS isn’t end-to-end encrypted like iMessage, and Apple might not want to throw its weight behind any new texting standard that doesn’t offer the same anti-snooping protections as its own service.

    In any case, at least Google now has a clear messaging strategy instead of multiple apps that compete with each other.

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    Nintendo’s Labo kits—build-them-yourself cardboard toys that use the Switch console as their brains—go on sale today. They’re among the most inventive, purely joyful playthings I’ve seen in eons, and if you have a Switch, I recommend them unreservedly. But I do have a few tips:

    1. Start simple. The most dazzling Labo creations are the complex ones, such as the Variety Kit’s piano and the Robot Kit’s backpack, visor, and other accoutrements. But before you dig into them, it makes more sense to piece together something that you can complete in one quick session, like the Variety Kit’s insect-like “RC Car.”
    2. Explore the app. Putting together Labo toys isn’t a mystifying experience along the lines of assembling Ikea furniture based on a single sheet of wordless instructions. The Labo app is wonderfully well done, letting you step forward and backward through the steps and rotate 3D renderings of pieces around.
    3. Grab a friend. The Labo construction process lends itself well to teamwork, which is an admirable trait in a product of interest to families. One person can pop out cardboard pieces and fold them while another focuses on later parts of the build.
    4. Take your time. As with any construction project, what counts is doing the job right, not completion time. Make sure you insert the right pieces into the right slots the first time, and don’t force anything. And when the app urges you to fold the Labo cardboard neatly, it isn’t kidding.
    5. Figure out how it works. The “Discover” part of Labo’s “Make. Play. Discover.” tagline is about understanding the ingenious ways the cardboard bits interact with the Switch—such as the infrared camera on a Joy-Con controller inside the piano noticing you’ve pressed a key. It’s possible that this discoverability is the single best thing about Labo.

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    After more than 30 people were hospitalized in 16 states, the CDC is issuing a serious new warning today about an E. coli outbreak. The warning covers all types of romaine lettuce and lettuce products from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.

    Yuma County is the nation’s third largest vegetable producer, so this is kind of a big deal. Basically, if you have any of this stuff laying around your house, throw it away.

    Here’s what the CDC says restaurant owners should do:

    • Do not serve or sell any romaine lettuce unless you can be sure it’s not from the Yuma growing region.
    • Do not serve whole heads or hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, salads, or salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
    • Ask your suppliers about the source of your romaine lettuce.

    Here’s what the CDC says consumers should do: 

    • Don’t buy any romaine lettuce from a grocery store or supermarket unless you can confirm it didn’t come from the Yuma area.
    • If you have lettuce in your house and you’re not absolutely sure it didn’t come from the Yuma area, throw it away—even if no one has gotten sick.
    • Follow basic rules for E. coli prevention, including lots of hand-washing and avoiding cross-food contamination. More on those guidelines here.
    • If you’re experiencing any symptoms of E. coli, talk to your doctor. If you have it, report it to your local health department. This helps officials track outbreaks. More on the symptoms here.

    The CDC has the full details on the outbreak warning here.

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    One of the chief delights of choosing to travel long-haul by train versus plane (apart from skipping the whole airport security thing) is the dining car. Like a moving restaurant, dining cars await passengers needing to stretch their legs and recreate something of a normal daily routine by sitting down to a proper meal. They’re among the few options for non-stressful social spaces for travelers.

    But, of course, they’re also expensive. The Economist reported that maintaining dining cars on all of Amtrak’s lines cost the rail operator $834 million over a 10-year period. Even as Amtrak ridership has slowly regained ground in the past couple years (2017, according to the company, was a record year), it’s still struggling to fill seats on its trains.

    So to cut costs and eliminate onboard preparations, Amtrak is scrapping the dining car on two of its lines–the Capitol Limited from D.C. to Chicago and the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to New York–in favor of what they’re calling “contemporary and fresh dining choices,” but what might more accurately be termed “knockoff airplane food.” For lunch and dinner, customers will choose between chilled beef tenderloin, a vegan wrap, chicken Caesar salad, or turkey club sandwich, and for breakfast, they’ll get an onboard version of a sad motel buffet.

    These options are rolled into the cost of a sleeping car ticket for those who shell out for one, and they’re delivered to those passengers in their “roomettes.” For everyone else, enjoy your trail mix–you’re going to need a lot of it to survive a day-long trip without a dining car.

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    If you’re under the age of 30, you probably don’t remember this, but there was a time, earlier in this century, when Flickr was the be-all, end-all online photo repository and community.

    Flickr was founded by Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield and his then-wife Caterina Fake and bought by Yahoo in 2005. Predictably, Yahoo did its best to drive it into the ground, and it’s survived–barely–because it has some truly passionate users who still believe it’s the best place for quality photography. But in an age where billions of photos a day are shared on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Photos, that’s a quaint notion.

    Now SmugMug, another photo service which caters to enthusiasts, has thrown Flickr one last lifeline. According to USA Today‘s Jessica Guynn, it’s bought Flickr–marooned at sea since Verizon acquired Yahoo last year for the impossible-to-justify price of $4.5 billion–and promises to make it relevant again.

    SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA Today that his privately-run company plans on committing the necessary resources and focus to support Flickr. “Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the Internet,” he said.

    Sure, it’s survived, but it’s nearly impossible to see how it can ever again be a significant player. According to USA Today, Flickr had 13.1 million unique visitors in March,  up from 10.8 million 12 months earlier. Those are tiny numbers in a Facebook/Instagram/Google Photos world.

    Still SmugMug—a venerable paid service for serious photographers—doesn’t need to take on the giants to come out of the acquisition with a larger business than it currently has. And those of us who have enjoyed Flickr over the years owe its new owner a degree of thanks for keeping it alive, and not letting Oath–you know, what Verizon’s Yahoo is called now–just kill it dead. Long live Flickr.

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    Ever since we broke the story about the iPhone X’s $1000 price tag  I’ve wondered what the buying public’s response would be. Today, almost six months after the X’s launch, the verdict may still be out.

    The iPhone X had a very promising first quarter. It looked like consumers really would pay more than a grand for one of those shiny things that have become the organizational center of our lives. “iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November” Apple CEO Tim Cook told analysts after reporting strong results for the holiday quarter. Apple doesn’t break out revenue from individual phone models, but a higher iPhone average sale price (ASP) strongly suggested heavy sales of the X and the iPhone 8 Plus.

    There’s not much doubt that after a year of anticipation, many of the tech-savvy and Apple faithful hurried out to buy an X after it hit shelves in early November.

    Apple will report results for its March-ending quarter on May, and most analysts believe iPhone sales will be fairly typical for the first quarter of the year. But by the second calendar quarter of 2018, signs of stress might be showing in iPhone X sales. That first wave of enthusiastic buyers will have ended, and a very different kind of consumer may be sizing up the iPhone X–and its imposing price tag. (A colleague of mine very recently bought a new 256MB iPhone X with Apple Care and paid a final price of $1450 after taxes.)

    Some supply chain reports this week suggest those consumers aren’t buying in high numbers. Yesterday one of the main chip makers for the iPhone X, TSMC, revised down its full-year revenue forecast based on weak chip orders. Same goes for AMS, which provides 3D sensing technology for the X. This suggested Mirabaud Securities chip industry analyst Neil Campling that Apple had cut back its chip orders for the X

    “With the declines in iPhone X orders and the inventory issue at TSMC at record highs which basically reflect a need to burn off inventory. Why? Because the iPhone X is dead,” Campling wrote in a research note, adding that Apple would likely discontinue the phone this summer. Campling believes its the X’s price that’s preventing people from buying.

    For Morgan Stanley analyst Katie Huberty the soft chip demand was one of several factors that point directly to weak iPhone sales later this year. Accordingly, on Friday she dramatically revised down her team’s estimate of iPhone sales for the June-ending quarter from 40.5 million to 34 million.

    “China smartphone activation data points to a reversal in Apple share trajectory with losses through March that presents a meaningful headwind in the largest smartphone market,” the analyst wrote in the research note.

    To make matters worse, the The Wall Street Journalreported Friday that LG may not be able to provide the pricey OLED displays for high-end iPhones after all. Apple had hoped LG would help it at least offset its reliance on Samsung for the displays, but that seems in doubt.

    It was all enough to spook investors. Apple shares dropped 4% in trading on Friday.

    Doom-And-Gloom Doubters

    Of course Apple watchers have heard these doom-and-gloom stories many times before, sometimes involving other products which turned out to be doing OK. And more than a few people people called out Mirabaud’s Campling for his announcement of the iPhone X’s summer demise.

    Among them was Moor Insights & Strategy principle analyst Patrick Moorhead, with his usual flair:

    “Apple isn’t ‘killing’ the iPhone X–that’s absurd and a reckless thing to say,” he wrote in an email to Fast Company Friday. “Apple sold more iPhone Xs than any other phone last quarter even though it was its most expensive. While the numbers may abate a bit, it’s still hot.”

    “I expect Apple to replace the iPhone X like they do with every other phone with an improved iPhone X,” Moorhead continued. “The suppliers in question are either being cut out of the new model or just haven’t seen the orders yet for the new model.”

    That’s certainly plausible, although when I saw Campling’s comments I quickly recalled an early March survey conducted by Piper Jaffray. The firm asked the following question: “You currently own an iPhone, yet you didn’t upgrade to (what Apple believes is) the best Apple phone yet, the iPhone X. Why?” Most of the answers Piper Jaffray received were at least related to price. 31% said “it’s too expensive,” balking at the iPhone X’s $999 and $1,149 price points. 44% said “my iPhone works fine,” a decision that’s necessarily influenced by the cost of the alternative–upgrading.

    I also remembered the news from earlier this week that Apple may be planning to release a number of far less expensive phones this September. The usually reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said in a research note that Apple would introduce a 6.1-inch dual-SIM iPhone with a price tag of between $650 to $750, along with a single-SIM model that could be priced as low as $550. Apple is also expected to refresh its lowest-priced phone, the $349 iPhone SE, within the next couple of months. In short, there’s evidence that Apple may be about to cater to the many consumers who will never shell out a grand for a phone.

    The iPhone X’s price tag is a particular issue in the world’s biggest smartphone market, China, where iPhone sales have been much dampened by less expensive phones from domestic companies like Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo. Some macro factorsare at play, too. The global smartphone market is contracting. And people are holding onto their older phones longer.

    But no, I don’t think it’s likely at all that Apple would ditch the X this summer. The optics alone would be too negative. Kuo also believes Apple will announce some new high-priced phones this September that bear the “X” brand. These include a second generation of the X with a 5.8-inch OLED display, and a larger 6.5-inch version that might well be called the iPhone X Plus. There’s a good chance both these phones will start at $1000 or more, especially since Apple will likely be paying a premium price for the Samsung displays in them.

    If Apple ends the year with the portfolio of iPhones Kuo has outlined, possibly ranging from $349 to well above $1000, the company would come as close as it ever has to offering something for everybody. And we might have a much better idea about its confidence in the future of the ultra-premium category it established with the iPhone X.

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    A slim hall leads into a dark room, where one enters the soul of the Blaqstar Farms cannabis grow, a 30-light operation rooted in East Los Angeles. On the other side of this warehouse where the lighting is standard, a couple of guys in their forties trim a strain called Birthday Cake and fill bags with the fluffy green nuggets. But it’s in this dark room where Blaqstar begins. Its owner, Bryant Mitchell, 39, shows the soul of his business—a clutch of genetics—prime cannabis plants for breeding.

    Dah-nale,” Mitchell says with his Texas accent, “all these plants here come from those plants back there.” He points to some weed that’s ready to join the guys at the breakdown table. The plants, he says, “come from buddies, from respect, from people trying to see if I could grow their old stuff.”

    If the cannabis equity movement in the U.S. is to ever be more than just Green Rush theater—an inconsequential sideshow to the emerging multibillion-dollar legal marijuana industry—it’s going to need a lot of anomalies like Mitchell. Black people didn’t get our 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War, and we’ve yet to gain the trust and money to be brought into the cannabis industry at a foundational level. A twist on the industry of black celebrities endorsing white-owned cannabis brands, Mitchell, a Texas native, is the rare black grower operating at this size and in the light of adult-use legal scrutiny. Necessity brought Mitchell from dispensary owner to grower after he hired someone who couldn’t repeat what he’d previously cultivated. In only a few years, Blaqstar has earned the endorsement of the popular rap act Migos and the admiration of cannabis equity supporters.

    This grower is not blind to what he represents.

    “This is not something people welcome a lot of blacks into,” says Mitchell, an ever-present twinkle in his eye. “We’re the guy who’s selling it. That’s all we are, and that’s the way they look at us.”

    The guy with a bright spirit that shines upon anyone who dares gaze directly upon him? That guy is this grower. Cross the street from his warehouse for a cup of coffee—where his neighbors “know, but they don’t know”—and the joy folks show from just seeing him is apparent. They won’t let him be, and it’s not just because of the pot.

    Sit down with Mitchell over that coffee and see him let loose a single tear while running through the list of family and friends he’s lost to the War on Drugs. It’s clear that his story has dimensions that the nation’s only beginning to comprehend.

    From Son Of A Cop To Oil Industry Consultant

    Mitchell comes from sales, but in a first-class sense. Operations and strategy are the basis of his training. After graduating from historically black Prairie View A&M University, just outside of Houston, the son of a cop, he received an MBA from the University of Chicago. Mitchell flew around the U.S. pointing out to corporate executives who to fire, telling his clients the time while using their own expensive wristwatches to do so.

    While he was in the Bay Area in his twenties and consulting for Chevron Corporation, Mitchell complained to a colleague that travel aggravated his sciatica, and the colleague introduced cannabis to his world. Not long after, Mitchell began buying and growing for himself, both here in California and at his home in Houston. His oil industry consulting after the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 brought the trove of money that allowed Mitchell to buy and invest in cannabis so heavily. In a sense, that Birthday Cake in East L.A. comes from hours billed to BP, a kind of bonus treat.

    He bought a medical marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley called Valley High. It was a smash hit, but Valley High was raided in 2014. Mitchell says he lost $250,000.

    But he had $600,000 banked, he says, part earned from consulting, part earned from his dabbling in the marijuana market. He’d put another $400,000 into building an indoor grow. But his cultivator was proving unable to repeat the quality dope work he had done for the Valley High dispensary.

    “Here’s my chance to do it,” he said. “I don’t know how to grow at this volume. As a consultant, one thing you learn is how to learn. I’ve got to learn as fast as I can, and I can’t learn from my grower because he doesn’t know how to grow.”

    Despite limited experience, Mitchell resigned from his day job and decided to go all-in on cultivating cannabis, big time. Then he headed to Guerneville in Sonoma County, California, 75 miles north of San Francisco.

    Becoming A Master Grower

    In Sonoma County, the newbie Mitchell unearthed the goods to become a master grower. Most black—and white—Californians couldn’t find Guerneville on a map. Mitchell drove the 450 miles between Los Angeles and Guerneville twice a week. He started off watering plants at a partner’s 78-acre outdoor grow. He also volunteered at Sonoma County wineries, learning, among other facets of horticulture, how distillation practices could be applied to making marijuana concentrates.

    “I’d go out with the Hispanic guys and would be like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna help,'” he says. “They’d say, ‘Come on in.’ No roadblocks. I’d be out for a week and would be one of the best trimmers. Never told ’em I was growing.

    “I wanted to see the plant from start to finish.”

    Back at the East L.A. indoor grow, the first post-Guerneville harvest came in. The first large-scale weed came out larfy—immature and lacking in structural density.

    “You ever cook eggs?” he says. “Easiest thing in the world, right? Ya throw ’em in the pan, you get ’em out. But cook eggs for 200 people, it’s a lot more complicated—even though it’s not that complicated. You’re not going to be consistent.”

    He did a second harvest. The pot came out better. But then the thing that sets this MBA apart kicked in yet again. He learned that he still needed to learn.

    “I’m doing these damn [harvests] every six months,” he says. “I gotta change that shit. Why does everybody do it that way? It’s a project. So why don’t I make every room a project—stagger it, and make sure I can deal with cash flow issues. It was out of necessity, but when I staggered it, guess what? My learning curve turned over so much quicker.”

    It’s a characteristically African-American approach, turning necessity into productivity. Improvisational like basketball if not as innovative as jazz.

    “Bryant represents what we want to see in the culture, someone who’s compliant and doing business the right way,” said Bonita Money, CEO of Women Abuv Ground, a networking organization assisting people of color to enter the cannabis industry. “Most underground growers don’t want to come out. It took me years to find a lot of black growers.”

    Compliance has come because Mitchell’s money is cleaner than most. His techniques are organic, so his marijuana is also compliant. He says that living in the warehouse with his product nudged him toward clean growing; if spraying chemicals made him sick, the stuff could not in the end be good for customers, he surmised. Most black-market growers don’t know what he knows.

    Will Cannabis Equity Programs Create Real Opportunities?

    The legion of small-time growers knows nothing of Guerneville techniques. Certainly, they don’t have multi-acre, outdoor Cali grow money. Which prompts the question: Until California’s cannabis equity programs set aside opportunities for those with no legacy of having land, are we just doing theater?

    “They are; I’m not,” Mitchell says. Cannabis equity programs “don’t know how to make sure social equity is delivered. Not defined, but delivered.”

    The enabling real estate, money and cannabis have not come together for the hundreds of aspiring legitimate cannabis entrepreneurs presently struggling to get in. Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento have defined the strategy of a business initiative, but the means for realizing the goals aren’t yet in place. Help connecting investors and relationships with banks are still missing in action.

    So, too, are relationships with the weed veterans still deep in the black market.

    “You treat it like a business, then forget that there’s been a business here for 35 years,” Mitchell says, growing animated. The fact is that the underground pot market, popularized by people of color, is far, far older than that.

    “Today I’m gonna learn how to do this,” he continues. “And I’m going to share this. We need an ecosystem. That ecosystem doesn’t preclude white people participating. I want to include. But I want them to understand: You’re coming to us, ya dig?

    “We made it because once they got our shit, they had to keep getting it,” Mitchell goes on. “Once you get into a motherfucker’s spot, and they’ve got to have your shit? They’ve got to have it. You turn from a want to a necessity. That’s what I had to position Blaqstar as, a necessity.”

    Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues.

    This is part two of a series of stories by Donnell Alexander, a Los Angeles-based journalist and the author of Ghetto Celebrity (Crown, 2003) and the animated documentary Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No.