Apple just reportedly bought a startup that specializes in helping companies build voice apps
- Apple has acquired Pullstring, a company that helps companies publish voice apps for platforms like Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant, according to a new report from Axios.
- The move could help Apple bolster its Siri virtual assistant, which is far more limited in terms of its features and the products it works with when compared to Amazon's digital butler, Alexa.
- Amazon is considered to be the market leader in the digital assistant space, and that lead only lengthens when you look at smart speaker use specifically.
- A Strategy Analytics report from October suggests that the retail giant accounts for 63% of smart speaker use in the United States, whereas Google accounts for 17% and Apple only accounts for 4%.
- In addition to providing publishing assistance to developers interested in creating voice apps, the company has worked with toymaker Mattel on its talking Barbie doll called Hello Barbie, back when the startup was called ToyTalk.
Mueller has interviewed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders as part of the Russia probe
- The special counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, as part of the Russia investigation, CNN reported Friday.
- Previous media reports have said that a key focus for Mueller in the obstruction probe is the myriad conflicting public statements put out by the president and those around him about events stemming from the Russia investigation.
- That includes Trump's role in dictating a false and misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., put out in the summer of 2017 when it surfaced that he and other top campaign officials had met with two Kremlin-linked Russian lobbyists at Trump Tower in June 2016.
- However, Trump Jr. had to amend the statement several times as more details spilled out and it surfaced that he accepted the meeting because one of the lobbyists, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had made an offer to provide dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Multiple people injured in shooting in Aurora, Illinois, reports say
- Multiple people were injured in a shooting in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday, according to press reports.
- The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post reported that the injured included police officers.
- City officials said the shooter reported at an industrial park has been apprehended.
- Live TV reports showed dozens of first responder vehicles outside a building housing the Henry Pratt Co. An employee at the Illinois company where a shooting has been reported said the gunman is a co-worker.
- John Probst told ABC7 that he ran out of the back door of the Henry Pratt Co. building in Aurora as the shooting unfolded Friday afternoon.
- Aurora is 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
2 brothers were taken into custody as suspects in connection to the reported racist, homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett
- Two men were arrested in connection to a reported hate attack on "Empire" Jussie Smollett that occurred last month in Chicago.
- The Chicago Police Department confirmed to INSIDER that two brothers of Nigerian descent were taken into custody at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as suspects in connection to the attack, in which Smollett told police he was beaten by two men.
- As he was leaving the restaurant, two men approached him and one yelled, "Aren't you that f----- Empire n-----?," sources connected to Smollett told TMZ.
- The source also reportedly told TMZ that the two men were white and wearing ski masks, and after pouring bleach on Smollett, one of them yelled, "This is MAGA country," before the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim's neck, according to police.
NFL officials reportedly are speculating Colin Kaepernick will be paid as much as $80 million in collusion case settlement
- Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and current NFL player Eric Reid have settled their collusion case against the NFL.
- However, NFL insider Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report spoke with several NFL teams, and the speculation from inside the NFL is that Kaepernick will receive $60-80 million as part of the settlement.
- Steve Dykes/Getty This is, of course, just speculation, but it was widely believed by those who were following the case closely that Kaepernick would have only settled without a trial if the offer from the NFL was something substantial.
- That was seemingly confirmed by sources for Charles Robinson of Yahoo.
- Earlier this week, even Kaepernick's attorney, Mark Geragos, seemed convinced that the case would go to trial and that it would happen soon.
People in the video game industry are rallying around the 800 employees laid off by Activision-Blizzard
- In the days following the layoffs, people within the industry responded by building a support network filled with job listings, personal recommendations, and messages of support for former Blizzard employees in need of new opportunities.
- Activision-Blizzard made the layoffs official on Tuesday, February 12, the same day it reported record revenue and earnings per share for both the fourth quarter of 2018 and the year.
- As the news broke, many across the video game industry criticized Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick for boasting about Activision's record revenues as hundreds of people were laid off with no advanced notice.
- Blizzard CEO J Allen Brack said the company will shift its resources to increase its game development staff by about 20%, which will help produce new content faster.
- The layoffs included employees who had been with the company for more than 10 years, and community managers who helped define the culture of Blizzard's massively popular games.
Pot company Canopy Growth posts nearly 300% sales jump
- New York (CNN Business) - Canopy Growth's cannabis business is booming thanks to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada last fall.
- Revenue for its fiscal third quarter surged 282% compared to a year earlier, the company reported Thursday.
- Chairman and co-CEO Bruce Linton attributed the lift to the company's decision to make early, "meaningful" investments that helped it corner a big part of the Canadian market when the law took effect.
- Canopy Growth said in its earnings report that its overall average selling prices fell 12% compared to a year ago, even as prices for medical marijuana rose.
- It wants to market hemp products, which the country legalized as part of last year's farm bill.
- Last month, Canopy Growth announced that it received a license from New York state — where Constellation Brands is based — to process and produce hemp.
These are the potential tax measures federal budget watchers are speculating about this year
- The process culminated in the committee’s 258-page report, released in December 2018, and entitled “Cultivating Competitiveness: Helping Canadians Succeed.” Of the 99 recommendations for the upcoming federal budget, less than half a dozen of them involved personal tax changes.
- During the consultation process, the Business Council of Canada supported increasing the federal personal income tax brackets to “more closely align them with the U.S. tax brackets.” The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association advocated lowering the personal tax rate to “encourage the attraction and retention of a highly skilled labour force.” Accounting firm MNP LLP recommended the personal income tax bracket thresholds should be expanded “based on a higher multiple of the bottom bracket’s threshold” and that the combined federal/provincial marginal tax rate of Canadians should not exceed 50 per cent.
Some on-base military housing is infested with mold, vermin and other health risks, report says
- The Konzens are one of several families highlighted in a report from the Military Family Advisory Network published Wednesday, which found that military families living in on-base housing face dangerous conditions including mold, vermin and poor water quality.
- The military uses private companies to provide and maintain on-base housing for families, but the report shows that substandard living conditions are widespread.
- Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb told CNBC that the military and private housing companies work together to review conditions and address living hazards.
- Megan Konzen, 20, told CNBC she fears her health has been permanently impacted from the mold in her home, but she and Lance, 23, can't move off base to a house in Del Rio, the remote West Texas town of about 36,000 people where the base is located.
The children striking over climate change speak to New Scientist
- Thousands of children across the UK have gone on strike from school today as part of global protests over climate change.
- The organisers, Youth Strike 4 Climate, say strikes are taking place in 60 towns and cities across the country, from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, in the face of “an alarming lack of government leadership” on climate change.
- At the London arm of the protest in Parliament Square this morning, several thousand children and young adults vented their frustration about the lack of climate action and voiced their fears for the future.
- It was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl who protests every Friday outside Sweden’s parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.
- Students in the UK are demanding the government declares a climate emergency and takes active steps to tackle the problem, communicates the severity of the ecological crisis to the public and reforms the curriculum to make it an educational priority.