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‘Time To Act’ Podcast Ep. 5: Recognizing Your Own Bias In D&I Work

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Conversations around diversity and inclusion can be uncomfortable — particularly in the workplace. In this new podcast, host Y-Vonne Hutchinson — CEO and founder of ReadySet, a diversity and inclusion consulting and strategy firm — speaks with business leaders who are driving discussions within their organizations and taking bold action to advance and accelerate change.

Working with CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion — the largest coalition of CEOs who’ve pledged to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace — Hutchinson discusses topics such as allyship, intersectional divides and mental health inclusion with C-suite leaders who are showing their organizations and their industries that now is the time to act on diversity and inclusion.

Transcript below:

Woman on Street #1: Diversity and inclusion is one thing, and then we bring in that third piece of that, which is belonging. And if you really want to see an organization thrive, talk about belonging.

Woman on Street #2: True inclusion and true diversity is about having people from all walks of life being able to come into a workplace and really feel comfortable about being their true selves.

Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Host: This is “Time To Act.” I’m your host, Y-Vonne Hutchinson. I’m a diversity and inclusion expert, and through my company ReadySet, I work with organizations to help them foster a corporate culture that helps provide a sense of belonging for employees.

On this podcast, I’m working with CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the largest coalition of CEOs who have pledged to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Throughout the series, we’ll explore and highlight the recent steps companies are taking to tackle D&I, and I’ll be talking to leaders of industry and diving into why they act as ambassadors for change.

Joining me today is Carin Taylor. She’s the chief diversity officer of Workday, a cloud-based financial and human resources management platform. Carin and I spoke about how creating a culture of belonging often means looking in the mirror first to check our own biases.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Carin. I’m super excited to talk about you and hear about your experience at Workday.

Carin Taylor, Workday chief diversity officer: Thank you. Super excited to be here, Y-Vonne.

Hutchinson: So, I’m wondering if we could just start by you sharing a little bit about your background. So, your career spans 25 years in D&I, which is amazing. And I would love to hear a little bit about your journey.

Taylor: Absolutely. So, it’s interesting because, you know, growing up I always knew I was different. I grew up as the only girl in my family with three brothers and so from a gender perspective I was different. My family always called me “chocolate” because of, you know, the darkness of my skin, and so I also knew that my skin tone was different.

So being different was always a part of my life, but I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t until I traveled around Asia that I realized that other people also looked at me as being different. And so, when I had the opportunity to move into diversity, I knew I had a strong passion for the work, but I didn’t quite understand why.

And so, when I had the opportunity to first move into diversity, I kind of questioned, you know, whether or not this was the right work for me. I was always assuming that it was because of the fact that I was African American that people really wanted me to jump into this space and I had my own issues and was really opposed to doing that. After I, kind of, did some self work, I realized that this was a space that I really wanted to be in, a space that I really wanted to learn in and so I decided that I would jump into it.

I originally started out doing work around employee resource groups and then basically just grew my career from there. And so, I have been doing it what feels like a very long time, but certainly feels like things have evolved, even though we’re still dealing with many of the challenges that we’re dealing with today.

Hutchinson: Can you tell me a little bit more about that evolution?

Taylor: Yeah. I mean, when I first started doing this work it really was only about diversity, and really it was gender diversity, right? How do we get more women into leadership? How do we bring more women into our companies? And then, over time, it started to evolve to this notion of inclusion and more demographics, right? We started being hyper-focused on Black and brown people, people who were LGBTQ, people with disabilities and veterans. And so, we saw this notion of expanding what we were thinking about from a diversity standpoint, but then we also started talking about inclusion and what that meant.

And now today, we’ve evolved to this time where we’re talking about belonging, right, and having to get this new terminology and this new understanding of what it means to impact your employees, and just us in the world, from an engagement and an inclusion and a belonging standpoint. So, it definitely has evolved from just the diversity, to now to this whole wide thing around inclusion, belonging, equity for all, which is definitely a change.

Hutchinson: I’m curious, this question might seem like it’s out of left field, but I get it all the time and I would love to hear your answer, which is, how do I prepare for a career in D&I? I would love to hear your answer to that question just knowing your journey and kind of what you said struck me about you had to really think about if that was the path you wanted to take.

Taylor: I would say, I don’t know if anyone’s ever prepared to go into D&I, especially as I think about where we’re at in the world today. This is really, really hard work. But I would say for people who are getting into this space, find your passion around why you want to do this work. Why is it important to you, as an individual, and what are the impacts that you want to make? Be clear about that.

And then I would also say, find your own voice in this work. I talk about diversity and I talk about “VIBE” for all: value, inclusion, belonging and equity for all. And that “for all” piece to me is really important because I can’t do this work and only do it for women or people of color. I have to include everyone, including straight white men, in the context of what we’re trying to solve for and what we’re trying to do. So, I would just say that as you’re stepping into this work, find the “why” for yourself so that you can always ground yourself back in whatever that thing is for you, to be able to constantly come back to, in terms of how you think about this work.

Hutchinson: And can you give me some examples of how you go about doing that, how you bring everyone along?

Taylor: Yeah, I would say one of the things that’s most critical is being authentic in who you are and sharing some of your own vulnerability. So I’ll share a story with you, and it has to do with bias. So, as I was learning about who I was as an individual, I was at a sales meeting one time and, you know, 150, 200 people in the room — I was one of about 10 women, one of two African Americans and the only African American woman in the room — and the topic of conversation that day happened to be diversity. And there was a typical-looking white executive in front of the room talking about diversity. And I sat there having a really visceral reaction to looking at this person, right, this white guy talking to me about diversity.

And so I went up to him during the break and I said, “Look,” I said, “I really can’t receive your message.” And he said, “Why not?” And I said, “Because of what you look like.” And he said, “I’m gay.” And it was the first time that unconscious bias really hit me upside the head, but it wasn’t until I got home later that evening and realized the lesson that I had learned that day. And that was, as I sat there about to have dinner, I realized that what happened in that interaction had been happening to me my entire life. People had been judging me simply by what I look like, and I, in turn, had started to do it to other people.

And so being able to share stories like that allow this sense of vulnerability and authenticity that then allow other people to step into this conversation differently.

Hutchinson: For me, Carin’s story really demonstrates her commitment to seeing change as a natural extension of her own actions. As a Black woman, she faces some of the most acute discrimination in the country, yet she’s taken it upon herself to recognize the ways in which she uses that same bias against others.

And I’m curious, kind of, to go back to your own journey. You’re a Black woman, I’m sure that affects the way that you engage with this work, the intersectional marginalizations that you faced. I’m wondering, how do you think about intersectionality as you’re doing this work?

Taylor: It’s a great question. So, what I’ve realized is that over the years, it isn’t just one dimension of diversity that makes me who I am. It’s all of those dimensions; It’s my race. It’s my gender. It’s my sexuality. And so I think that those intersectionalities of what makes me me, and the experiences that I’ve had, allows me to shape my thoughts and my experiences and how I approach solving problems or coming up with solutions different than the person who’s sitting next to me. I don’t step in and separate Black Carin from female Carin from lesbian Carin, in terms of how I step into the world. All of those things make me who I am and shaped the way I see the world, and I have to leverage those things as I am learning, growing, teaching, educating in this space.

Hutchinson: I want to talk about the moment that we’re in now, because I think now is an amazing time to be a DEI leader. I can’t think of another time where the conversation, the zeitgeist, has been so attuned to the work that we’re doing. And so I’m wondering, thinking about the social unrest, the social justice movements we’re seeing, the racial justice movements that we’re seeing — also thinking about this is happening against the background of COVID — and I’m wondering, how are you seeing this moment? What have you been learning in this moment?

Taylor: This is probably one of the most fascinating times in my entire life, and we’re in an election year this year as well, right? And so you have all of these complications of things that we have, I think, in most cases, have never experienced this much change in our entire lives. And I know from the seat that I sit in, it is exciting because I do feel like there’s this renewed energy around wanting to address the inequalities that we’re currently dealing with, and I think that that is powerful.

I think what’s also happening, though, is people are feeling much more emboldened about not wanting to jump on the cause of what we’re trying to do here, as well. And I think that, you know, especially as we think about us as an entire society, we know that there are people who do not subscribe to equality, and who do not want things to change, and that’s hard.

I also think about the fact that, as being a Black CDO right now, I really believe that we are one of the most challenged people in the entire world at the moment and I certainly feel a lot of the stress and a lot of the pressure. As I think about my role today, as a chief diversity officer and as a Black chief diversity officer, it’s interesting because, you know, in some cases, you know, your minority employees may have this feeling of, “You’re not acting fast enough. Change is not happening fast enough.“

On the other hand, you may have white employees who may think that you have a hidden agenda, because you want to push the Black agenda, because you’re Black. Your global employees may feel that your initiatives are only focused within the U.S. And so the complexity of all of that and trying to solve for all of that means that there is a lot to balance.

Hutchinson: Hmm. I feel like you just so beautifully named all of the tensions that happen, particularly if you’re a Black DEI professional in this moment. And I want to follow up on that a little bit and ask, in this work, I think we’re best when we bring our identities and our stories and our unique perspectives, but at the same time, we’re bringing all of that to work, right? And I’m wondering, as a Black lesbian woman doing this work, who is leveraging her experience, but at the same time dealing with the emotional fallout of doing that in this moment, how do you think about the relationship between the personal and the professional?

Taylor: Well, right now, I would love to say that I can separate them, but frankly I can’t. And as I think about the intersections of who I am as a person also, and I think about the social influences that are impacting my life today, they are impacting me as Carin Taylor. They are impacting me as Carin Taylor, CDO. They are impacting me as Carin Taylor, Black executive in a company. All of these things, I can’t peel apart all of these things from how I step into this professionally and personally.

And I’ll tell you, sometimes it’s hard, especially if I think about the day after the George Floyd incident. I walked into the workplace with such a heavy heart. I couldn’t separate my role as an executive and as a CDO from who I was as an African American woman. And when I was standing up in front of my company at a town hall, my tears, they just had to flow because I couldn’t separate the two. And so, I think that that’s how many of us are walking into the workplace every single day, having to deal with the complexity of who I am as an individual, who I am as a Black individual and who I am as a part of the company that I work for. And it has been one of the most emotionally challenging and charged times in my life. And so, I don’t even know how to explain how I can separate the two. All I can say is, I can’t.

Hutchinson: I want to turn now, I think, to what Workday is doing. I think Workday, like many companies, has its own challenges. And recently, I think Workday reported that the Black employees there make up less than 3% of the global workforce. So as Workday is thinking about its commitment to community, how are you building off your guiding principles for belonging and inclusion to increase diversity? What are some of the initiatives that you all have going? How are you thinking about the path ahead?

Taylor: The first thing that we’ve done is we’ve taken some quick action, right? So we have committed to allocating $10 million to social justice causes, which is phenomenal. We’re leveraging our Black employee resource group, called The Talented 10th, to help us determine how we’re going to actually spend those funds. We have put together very quickly what we’re calling an accelerator team, which is about 20 people that have come together for 12 months, from all over the business, right? They’ve come from sales, from services, from product, from human resources, to come together to form this team to help accelerate our belonging and diversity efforts specifically targeted on our Black and Latinx employees.

And we’re also placing an additional $45 million focus in this area to do better. Part of that also includes how we’re going to increase representation of our Black and brown communities. We decided to have some specific goals around this. So, increasing representation of our Black and brown communities by 30% and doubling our leadership by 2023 for both of these communities, as well. And so, we’re really putting some intentional efforts around how we’re going to go about this, how we’re going to continue to develop these employees and create opportunities for them to feel like they belong more, like they’re connected to our purpose and like they have opportunities to advance.

Hutchinson: Something that really sticks with me is the sentiment that Workday plays an active role in pushing forward data-driven solutions. And they do so through bold decision-making.

I’m curious if we can just nerd out for a second, because I love data. At ReadySet said we love data. We love data tools. We love working with them. And so I’m curious, when you think about metrics and measurement, how are you approaching that question at Workday? How are you thinking about measuring, belonging, inclusion, diversity? Can we just nerd out over that for a second?

Taylor: Let’s definitely nerd out because data is one of those areas that I’m super passionate about, because it drives just about everything that we do, right? Not just the data, but the stories that come along with the data, as well.

But let me share a couple of things that we’re doing, from a data perspective, in terms of how we’re measuring belonging. One of the things that you may have read about recently, because we just announced this, is two new product enhancements that we’re going to be focused on.

One is called VIBE Central, which brings diversity and inclusion-related data into one central place within our HCM tool and really gives you a snapshot for workforce diversity and representation. The other thing — and this is the one that I think is going to be even more powerful, and this will be available next year — it’s called a VIBE Index. And the VIBE Index will enable organizations to equally measure and compare belonging, equity, diversity and inclusion, to get a better understanding of where parity may be lacking within the organization to allow you to actually focus on how you improve your efforts.

And so, being able to leverage this data, along with the stories, is going to enable companies to really think about how they can do diversity and inclusion better. This will be a powerful tool, both of these will be powerful tools, but specifically the VIBE Index is really leading edge in terms of how we’ve been able to measure diversity and inclusion.

As you know, Y-Vonne, sometimes people measure inclusion, sometimes they measure diversity. But bringing them all together under one umbrella through this VIBE Index, we think is just going to be a powerful way for both Workday and our customers to be able to enhance the experience of our employees from a B-and-B perspective.

Hutchinson: That’s great advice. All right and we’re almost at time so I just have one last question for you. For those folks thinking about using your product or who’ve listened to this podcast and they really want to push to accelerate progress within their own companies, what advice would you give them?

Taylor: I would say, start somewhere. Start somewhere. Start by having a discussion. Start by uncovering what some of your challenges are. Think about how data and insights are going to help you to improve as an organization and think about how you go from just caring that inequities happen, to taking action around addressing these inequities.

And for me, as I think about the difference between sympathy and empathy, sympathy really is, “Oh wow, I really feel for the experience that you’re having,” where empathy takes it that next step, where you want to not just feel for the experience but you want to make sure that you are taking action to improve the experience. And so, I would say continue pushing forward. Continue pushing through the hard questions. Ask and answer the hard questions, right? You can ask them and if they go unanswered, you’re never going to uncover the importance of really what’s happening underneath the sheets. And so, I would say, ask and answer the hard questions as well, and think about the fact that it’s going to take all of us, all of your employees, all of us around the entire world, to continue to pushing forward and making progress. And so, that notion of “for all,” and that notion of “togetherness,” is how we’re going to continue to make progress.

Hutchinson: Awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s been a pleasure. I loved hearing about your journey and I’m excited to see what’s next from Workday.

Taylor: It is definitely my pleasure to have been here today. And thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation.

Hutchinson: I really loved the call-out to learning the idea that diversity, equity and inclusion is not a destination, but it’s a journey. And I think now, that emphasis is more important than ever because just look at the conversation that is going on around us. The conversation about Black Lives Matter, racial justice, a global pandemic. The conversation amongst so many lines has moved so fast that if you’re not learning while you’re practicing, you’re going to get left behind.

And I also love that we got the chance to talk about the external piece, the tools that you use to do this work. Not just about how you approach it as a practitioner, but then thinking about what do I use to do it well? I think the emphasis on data was so important there, because, you know, we didn’t just talk about how to collect data and just sit with it and, you know, that’s the end of it, but we talked about how to leverage it. Because, I think that there’s a trap, so often, we collect the data and we think by collecting the data and presenting the data, we’ve done the work. And that’s only the beginning of the journey, right? So we collect the data. We present the data. But then we need to leverage it and figure out what we want to do, based on what we’ve learned.

So what did you learn today from Carin Taylor about identifying your own biases? Let us know in the comments section, we want to hear from you. We also want to know what you think about the show, so leave us a review. Subscribe to “Time to Act” for free on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. You won’t want to miss upcoming conversations with groundbreakers who are leading the charge to improve diversity and inclusion in their companies and industries. I’m Y-Vonne Hutchinson. Let’s keep the conversation going.

To hear or read more episodes of “Time To Act,” click here:

“Time To Act: A Podcast About Diversity And Inclusion,” presented by PwC and CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, features CEOs and C-suite leaders from multinational brands and regional businesses discussing why diversity and inclusion are defining factors in a company’s growth and success at scale. It’s more than checking the boxes — together, business leaders are listening, understanding and taking action for real change. 

With more than 1,000 CEOs that have taken the pledge, CEO Action is the largest CEO-led business coalition focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the U.S. To learn more, visit CEOAction.

Produced by RYOT Studio and At Will Media. For a deeper dive into corporate diversity and inclusion in action, visit HuffPost.

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Bitcoin

Bitcoin mining has been under a microscope lately. We talked to a crypto expert to understand why blockchain is getting a bad rap.

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If you’ve even casually followed Bitcoin news lately, you may have seen headlines such as these:

“Bill Gates Sounds Alarm On Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption”

“Bitcoin’s wild ride renews worries about its massive carbon footprint“

“Why does Bitcoin need more energy than whole countries?”

These captions are meant to drive clicks and perhaps even plant a seed of doubt in the public’s mind about trending cryptocurrencies. But is crypto trading the energy vampire that the media has made it out to be? 

We spoke with podcast producer and blockchain expert Matthew Diemer, a longtime player in the crypto industry, to get a more balanced view of this issue. Diemer manages The Decrypt Daily podcast, which discusses all aspects of crypto news and information. 

Popular digital currencies

Before we dive into the conversation, let’s start with a quick rewind on some basic cryptocurrency facts. Currently, there are dozens of virtual currencies, also known as tokens, available to purchase and trade. However, the most well-known currency by far is Bitcoin, having been around now for over a decade. 

Other rising stars in the crypto space include Ethereum, dogecoin, and Litecoin. And recently, a wave of interest in NFTs is fueling public demand (however, NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens,” are a type of virtual product that exists primarily within the Ethereum blockchain.) 

To understand how energy use and blockchain (i.e., the technology that allows cryptocurrencies to exist) are intertwined, one has to dig a little deeper into the processes of creating and trading cryptocurrencies.

Proof of Work makes crypto function

Blockchain technology involves a method of tracking every single transaction called Proof of Work (PoW). Essentially, PoW is a publicly documented record, also called a ledger, organized by a group called miners. Miners, predictably, are the ones that mine to create new tokens by recording every transaction for the blockchain. 

As Diemer explains, miners take each “transaction in the data and put it into the decentralized database. Once it’s put in that decentralized database, that one person wins and gets the block reward because they are the first person to do that. Basically, that transaction is now locked within the blockchain. And we call it a blockchain because you can see the chain of transactions all the way back to the beginning, or the genesis, block of Bitcoin.”

Miners repeat these tasks continually as more crypto is bought and sold. So, because this process involves performing extremely complex algorithms repeatedly, mining uses energy, and lots of it. Now that the connection between energy use and blockchain is clear, let’s dive deeper into the energy and mining relationship at the crux of this controversy.

Energy use and Bitcoin mining

Though Diemer is the first to admit that Bitcoin mining “takes a lot of energy, around 170 Terawatts per block,” he also says we should be careful about how we frame up the idea of energy use when it comes to blockchain management. 

Diemer states, “I don’t like the term energy usage because I think that’s disingenuous. We should be thinking about the word carbon emissions, or CO2 footprint.” But, Diemer said, we should “be concerned about the CO2 footprint of any kind of energy consumption.”

To his point, the laser focus on Bitcoin in relation to energy is leaving out a lot of factors. For example, Diemer says, Bitcoin obtains “74% of electricity from renewable sources,” a stat backed up by a 2019 CoinShares report

Based on this data, the topic of crypto energy consumption requires a reframing of sorts. In other words, Diemer states, “do we care about how much energy is consumed, if it’s renewable? No, because it’s renewable.”

Bitcoin as a business

Diemer proposes that when it comes to energy management, crypto miners might be more concerned than most people because it affects their bottom line. “Bitcoin mining is a business proposition. You want to get the cheapest energy to do this business because it takes a lot of energy to mine Bitcoin. Therefore, anything that is not the cheapest possible is a negative against your business.”

“Bitcoin miners purposely set up next to renewable power sources and use their excess energy.” In other words, Diemer suggests mining is using energy that would otherwise be wasted. Indeed, recent reports show as much as 72% of the energy produced globally is lost.

Bitcoin mining unlikely to drive Texas energy prices

The bulk of Bitcoin mining is located overseas, with the vast majority (65%) of that taking place in China, according to Statista. Although China is heavily dependent on coal energy, savvy miners have found a way to harness unused power. 

Diemer explained, miners “actively search out the cheapest, most efficient ways to conduct this business. I had somebody on the show that had a Bitcoin mining firm in Sichuan, and that’s exactly what they did. They flew to Sichuan and found one of the many dams that are there and nestled up next to it and started a partnership with them.”

Currently, less than 8% of mining is U.S.-based. However, that stat is likely to change as crypto continues to grow in popularity, causing miners stateside to look for the best places to expand their pursuits. And one location set to skyrocket in popularity is Texas. 

Crypto mining in Texas

Texas is an attractive hub for would-be miners. The Lone Star State is already ripe for solar energy generation. Texas currently leads the U.S. in solar generation, lagging only behind California. Texas is also a leader in other types of renewable energy, such as wind power, which could be essential to low-cost and efficient mining operations. 

But with Texas struggling through an energy crisis for the first part of 2021, how much more pressure can the southern power grid stand? Will prices skyrocket even more than during the February winter storm, And how much of that cost will be passed onto the consumer? 

Like the situation in China, Texas miners can use energy that would otherwise go to waste. And it is precisely this type of symbiotic relationship that could be a boon for energy production in the south-central region of the U.S. 

A mining facility already exists in west Texas was able to “sell its contracted power supplies back into the grid for a profit,” according to Bloomberg. So, “when power prices in Texas topped $200 a megawatt-hour, Layer1 reaped returns of more than 700%.”

The good news is that if other facilities follow suit, mining may help the Texas power grid retain more of its renewable energy. However, whether or not the excess energy will translate into savings for Texas electricity customers remains to be seen.

Why mining gets blamed for energy consumption

The question still remains that if miners are so strategic about optimizing energy, why has bitcoin mining been getting the brunt of the blame for energy consumption? 

Traditional monetary transactions involving fiat (i.e., government-issued) currency involve significant energy output as well. Consider the number of debit and credit card swipes that take place every second, which totaled over 174 billion transactions globally in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve. With that figure in mind, is the blockchain industry liable for energy gluttony, or are they being scapegoated by the “old guard” in the finance space? 

Diemer states, “I think that it’s an easy narrative, and I think that narrative always trumps research and due diligence. It’s easy to run with a narrative instead of actually digging down on the conversation and trying to understand what’s happening.” 

But Diemer is confident that the same avant-garde thinkers that facilitated the early days of crypto may be the same innovative minds that come up with our next big energy solution. “The interesting thing about the free market is that sometimes they find solutions to problems…that aren’t thought of by the public or the government.”

Perhaps he sums it up best by saying, “The minds in this space are just brilliant individuals that are thinking literally like Sci-Fi novels. And not only thinking like Sci-Fi novels, but they’re also writing the Sci-Fi novel as we speak and then putting it into everyday action. And if that’s not inspiring to you, then I don’t know what is.”

Energy Expert

Lisa Iscrupe is a writer with over 15 years of experience working in the energy and telecom space. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts focused in English Language and Literature from UNC Charlotte.

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Business

Falcons coach tight-lipped about Julio Jones’ future

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The Atlanta Falcons began their offseason training program Tuesday without longtime star receiver Julio Jones, who apparently has no intention of returning to a rebuilding team that is still struggling to get under the salary cap.

Rookie coach Arthur Smith was tight-lipped about the Falcons’ options, but insisted that he doesn’t begrudge Jones for speaking his mind.

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“We encourage our players to speak for themselves,” Smith said during an interview session dominated by questions about Jones’ future. “That doesn’t change anything for us. We understand our plan going forward. We’ve had multiple private conversations with our players. Those conversations will remain private on my end.”

After plenty of questions about the seven-time Pro Bowler who, along with Matt Ryan, has been the face of the franchise for the past decade, Jones brought the situation to a head in a brief interview Monday with former NFL star Shannon Sharpe.

“I’m outta there,” Jones told the host of the “Undisputed” on FS1. When asked where he wants to play, the 32-year-old replied, “Right now, I wanna win.”

That seems unlikely with the Falcons, who are coming off their third straight losing season. Atlanta fired coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after an 0-5 start to a year that ended at 4-12.

Smith and new general manager Terry Fontenot have made it clear that all options are on the table as they attempt to rebuild the roster and deal with several salary cap limitations, which could be eased greatly by trading Jones.

After months of silence from both sides, Jones appears to be pushing for a resolution. In addition to his interview with Sharpe, a photo surfaced on social media of the receiver posing with the fan while wearing a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt.

Asked about Jones’ choice of attire, Smith called it “irrelevant.”

“You can wear whatever you want,” the coach said. “I don’t care.”

While the Cowboys would not seem to be in the market for another top receiver, there are teams that would surely benefit from having a dynamic player who had six straight seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving until he was limited to nine games in 2020 by injuries.

Among the teams that might interested in Jones: the San Francisco 49ers, coached by former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan; the New England Patriots, who have already made a big splash in free agency; and the Jacksonville Jaguars, buoyed by a new franchise quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and more cap space than any team in the league.

Jones’ status has certainly become a hot topic around the league, with Arizona receiver DeAndre Hopkins even sending a tweet — since deleted — implying he’d to restructure his contract if that’s what it took for Cardinals to deal for Jones.

Hopkins was at it again on Monday, posting a picture on Instagram of himself with Jones, receiver A.J. Green and former NFL star Michael Irvin at the 2016 Pro Bowl. He included the message, “Julio u remember what we talked about.”

Smith repeatedly refused to discuss any aspects of the Jones drama, from reports that the receiver privately requested a trade before the NFL draft to whether there’s any chance of a reconciliation with one of the team’s most popular players. The coach did say that every player on the roster has received a playbook and all information related to the voluntary OTAs (organized team activities).

“We’ve got so much respect and appreciation for what Julio Jones has done here with this franchise and what he’s meant to this city,” Smith said “But we have conversations about our roster all the time. We have to have contingency plans.”

Jones’ $15.3 million base salary is guaranteed and he’s set to cost the Falcons slightly more than $23 million against the salary cap next season. If he’s traded after June 1, they would be able to split the dead money over two seasons, which would greatly ease their grim financial situation.

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As it stands, the Falcons still must clear several million dollars just to sign a draft class led by the No. 4 overall pick, tight end Kyle Pitts.

While trading Jones makes sense financially, especially given the emergence of receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, the situation has cast a pall over a franchise that has never seemed to recover from blowing a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl.

Ryan made it clear last week how much Jones has meant to the team’s success.

“I love Julio. I’ve been so lucky to play with him for the past decade,” Ryan said. “He’s an incredible competitor and one of the best to ever do it at his position.”

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Amazon’s Profit More Than Triples As Pandemic Boom Continues

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s pandemic boom isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

The company said Thursday that its first-quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago, fueled by the growth of online shopping. It also posted revenue of more than $100 billion, the second quarter in a row that the company has passed that milestone.

Amazon is one of the few retailers that has benefited during the pandemic. As physical stores temporarily closed, people stuck at home turned to Amazon to buy groceries, cleaning supplies and more. That doesn’t seem to be dying down.

In the first three months of this year, the company reported profit of $8.1 billion, compared to $2.5 billion the year before. Earnings per share came to $15.79, about $6 more per share than what Wall Street analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Revenue jumped 44% to $108.5 billion. Seattle-based Amazon is one of four American companies that have reported quarterly revenue above $100 billion. The others are iPhone maker Apple, oil and gas company Exxon Mobil and retailer Walmart.

Amazon said revenue will remain at that level in the second quarter, expecting between $110 billion and $116 billion. Part of the reason why: It plans to hold Prime Day, its popular sales event, during the quarter. Amazon didn’t specify a date for Prime Day, but said it would happen before the end of June.

Besides online shopping, Amazon’s other businesses grew, too. Sales at its cloud-computing business, which helps power the online operations of Netflix, McDonald’s and other companies, grew 32% in the quarter. And at its unit that includes its advertising business, where brands pay to get their products to show up first when shoppers search on the site, sales rose 77%.

Amazon’s growth comes as it faces activism from within its workforce. Workers at a warehouse in Alabama tried to unionize, saying they wanted better pay and more break time. But a majority of voters batted down that effort.

This week, Amazon announced it was giving more than 500,000 workers a raise of between 50 cents and $3 an hour starting next month to attract new workers. The company already pays at least $15 an hour.

The online shopping giant has been on a hiring spree to keep up with a surge in orders. It had 1.27 million employees at the end of March, adding more than 430,000 people in the last year.

Shares of Amazon.com Inc., which are up 40% in the last year, rose 2.6% in after-hours trading Thursday.



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Watch Consumer Reports Trick A Tesla Into Driving Without A Driver

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Consumer Reports has released a video revealing how a vehicle operator tricked a Tesla into driving in autopilot mode without a person in the driver’s seat to take over in case of trouble.

The demonstration was broadcast just days after two friends died in a fiery crash in Texas in a 2019 Tesla Model S that authorities said had no driver — which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has denied.

Rigging the car to run on its own appeared relatively easy (check out the video above). A small weight was attached to the steering wheel to mimic the touch of a driver’s hand, but the person in the car actually touched nothing and sat in the front passenger seat. The car traveled down the road and emitted no warning that no one was in charge.

Tesla’s Autopilot website warns that its cars are not “autonomous.” Autopilot is “intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time,” the website states.

The site, however, gives mixed messages. In a featured video on the Autopilot site, a car is shown traveling all over town while the driver does nothing and has his hands in his lap. A message at the start of the video notes that the “person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.

Musk has largely shrugged off concerns about the autopilot feature and has insisted it makes the cars safer by helping drivers. Drivers have been known to fall asleep at the wheel, read or text while driving, or simply stop paying attention to the road when using the feature.

The friends in Texas, ages 59 and 69, were killed last Saturday night when the Tesla missed a curve and crashed into a tree, causing a fiery explosion in a residential neighborhood in suburban Houston. Their wives had heard them discussing trying out the car’s autopilot function as they left, according to law enforcement authorities. There was no one in the driver’s seat when firefighters extinguished the car blaze, according to Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman. One man was in the front passenger seat; the other was in the back seat, according to Herman.

It took four hours and 32,000 gallons of water to put out the fire because the car’s lithium battery cells kept reigniting.

After Tesla stock dropped 3.4% Monday after the accident was widely reported, Musk denied the car was driverless. He insisted in a tweet that “data logs recovered so far” showed that the autopilot was “not enabled” in the crash.  He also said the owner had not purchased an “FSD” ― a Full Self-Driving package.

Herman told Reuters that Musk’s tweet Monday was the first officials had heard from Tesla. He said authorities would serve search warrants on the company to obtain any data it had recovered from the vehicle.

“If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn’t told us that,” Herman said. “We will eagerly wait for that data.”

Tesla officials did apologize on Thursday — but not for the Texas crash. Tesla promised to cooperative fully in an investigation into a February multi-car crash in China. One of the drivers in that crash had climbed atop a Tesla at a car show in a protest blaming her Tesla’s brakes for the crash.

“We will work with regulators to conduct a deep-dive investigation with no reservations, and accept society’s supervision with sincerity and openness,” the company said on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, Vice reported.

Tesla offered a “deep apology” for failing to solve the problem, pledged to win back consumers’ support “with genuine sincerity” and promised to cover all the costs of a third-party examination of the protester’s vehicle.

The Communist Party’s powerful corruption watchdog had criticized Tesla as “spoiled and arrogant,” and warned it against “making Chinese people’s money while taking Chinese people’s lives,” Vice reported.





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Union Claims Amazon Tainted Election, Wants Vote Overturned

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The union that lost an election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama this month has accused the company of breaking labor laws during the campaign and asked federal officials to throw out the results.

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed 23 charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Friday alleging Amazon created an atmosphere of fear and confusion surrounding the vote. The union said in a statement that its claims “constitute grounds to set the election aside” and order a new one.

Among other charges, the union alleges that Amazon threatened workers with layoffs or the closure of the warehouse if they unionized, as well as cuts to their pay and benefits. It is illegal for employers to make such threats.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company denies the allegations.

“Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

Workers voted 1,798 to 738 against unionizing in a preliminary tally, although the labor board has not yet certified those results. It’s likely that NLRB officials will hold a hearing on the union’s allegations, offering the union a chance to present its evidence. 

The election results could ultimately be overturned, although such a case could last months or years due to appeals.

Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, told HuffPost after the election that he believed Amazon acted illegally and the results should not be certified.

“We think there needs to be a new election,” he said.

Even if the results are thrown out, the union would have to win a new election at a warehouse where it just lost. Regardless, the hearings could provide the union with a way to air its case against Amazon, which carried out an aggressive and so far successful anti-union campaign.



Amazon urged workers to cast their ballots as quickly as possible, even having a billboard put up on the interstate.

In their filing with the board, the union says Amazon broke the law by having a U.S. Postal Service box placed at the warehouse for the election. An NLRB official had told the company it could not have drop boxes onsite for the mail-in election, but the company asked the Postal Service to install a temporary mailbox.

The union accuses Amazon of surveilling the mailbox and pressuring workers to bring their ballots to work to drop them in the box. Amazon says that it did not surveil the mailbox and that only the Postal Service had access to it.

“It created the impression … that Amazon was conducting the election,” Appelbaum said.

In the filing, the union also accuses Amazon of carrying out “an extensive campaign” of polling and “interrogating” workers about their union support, and holding mandatory meetings in which the company told workers “that the union will go on strike and that employees will lose money.”

That appears to be a reference to the so-called “captive audience” meetings in which consultants delivered talking points against the union. These meetings are a standard feature of anti-union campaigns, and Amazon workers told HuffPost they took place every week in the run-up to the vote.



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CEO Hits Back At Fox News After They Derided Him For Offering $70,000 Minimum Salaries

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The last six years have been a long strange trip for CEO Dan Price.

Back in 2015, the tech entrepreneur shocked the business world by slashing his own $1.1 million pay package to help fund a minimum “living wage” of $70,000 for all workers at his credit card processing company Gravity Payments.

Price’s decision led to him being heavily criticized as a “socialist” on Fox News and Fox Business. In addition, some clients dropped Gravity for reasons that included fears the salary hike would cause their rates to rise.

But in the years since, Price has been hailed as a success by Harvard Business School and Inc. magazine, which noted the number of employees at Gravity has doubled while the value of payments that the company processes has gone from $3.8 billion a year to $10.2 billion.

On Tuesday, Price referenced this success in a viral Twitter thread and video that took aim at his conservative critics, particularly Fox.

It hasn’t all been a smooth ride, Price admitted.

He also explained what inspired his decision to cut his own salary to $70,000 a year and raise pay for workers, saying the discovery that an employee was secretly working a second job at McDonald’s made him realize he was an “awful CEO.”

Although he took a drastic pay cut, Price said he doesn’t miss the “millionaire lifestyle” one bit.





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Why Pause The J&J Vaccine? An Expert Explains The Decision

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The decision by two key federal regulatory agencies to recommend a “pause” in using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine got everybody’s attention on Tuesday, especially since the progress had been so encouraging lately.

The impetus for the recommendation was six reports of medical incidents among the more than 6 million people who have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In a joint statement, the two agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said they were acting out of an “abundance of caution” in order to see whether these incidents were side effects of the vaccine and, if so, what that means for future use of the one-dose shot.  

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is one of three now available in the U.S. under emergency authorization orders. The other two are from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. 

All three vaccines induce human cells to produce the now-familiar COVID-19 protein spikes so that the body’s immune system learns to recognize the virus. But the Johnson & Johnson vaccine operates in a slightly different way than Moderna’s or Pfizer’s, neither of which have generated reports of such incidents.

Biden administration officials said Tuesday that the pause will not meaningfully affect vaccine distribution in the U.S. ― noting, among other things, that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine accounts for less than 5% of the shots that have gone into arms. 

The U.S. is already averaging more than 3 million vaccinations a day, and there are already small pockets of the country where supply is reaching or outstripping demand, with more likely to follow soon. 

Still, officials were hoping the J&J vaccine would boost the supply and provide a version that was easier to administer, because it requires just one dose rather than the two spaced-apart vaccinations that both Moderna and Pfizer require.

These reports are serious, but they are also very rare.
Joshua Sharfstein, Johns Hopkins professor and former FDA official

So what exactly did the FDA and CDC say today? Was that the right decision?What does it mean for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the vaccination campaign more generally, going forward?

Joshua Sharfstein has thought a lot about these issues. He served as principal deputy FDA commissioner during the Obama administration. Before that term, he was health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. Afterward, he served as secretary of health for Maryland. Now he is a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University. (He’s also a friend I’ve known for many years.)

HuffPost asked for his take on these questions. Here is a lightly edited version of our conversation, which took place over email.

Cohn: First thing: Can you translate for the public what the FDA and CDC actually have said and what it means? 

Sharfstein: FDA and CDC are reporting that six people developed an unusual type of blood clots within two weeks of vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All six are women, between the ages of 18 and 48. One died, and a second is in intensive care. These reports are serious, but they are also very rare. More than 6 million people have been vaccinated with this vaccine so far. 

The concern, for FDA and CDC and, of course, the rest of us, is that the vaccine may be the cause of this disorder ― that it’s not just a coincidence. To investigate and respond to this potential risk, the agencies have asked for a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

We should hear more soon, including at an advisory committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow, about what this means for the vaccination program. Today’s announcement reflects that the national vaccine program is working to identify and assess even remote risks quickly.

Cohn: A “pause.” So how long are we likely taking here?

Sharfstein: I would anticipate we’ll know more in days to several weeks. 

Cohn: People want to know if these reports means the vaccine is unsafe. Can you put this into context for us, relative to other vaccines or drugs? 

Sharfstein: When thinking about the safety of a drug or vaccine, I consider three questions.

First, how do the risks compare with the benefits? In this case, the benefits are impressive. Studies have shown that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is quite effective at preventing illness from COVID-19. The vaccine appears to be even more effective at preventing serious illness and death. 

FDA and CDC scientists are working now, first, to assess the likelihood that this unusual clotting problem is actually related to vaccination. And then, if they find it is likely to be related, they will have to weigh the very considerable benefits of avoiding COVID-19 against the potential harms of this unusual clotting problem for different groups of people. With this complication so rare, my expectation is that for all groups, they will find that the benefits far exceed the risks. The chance of a problem appears to be less, for example, than the risk of a severe allergic reaction to any of the COVID vaccines.



Principal Deputy Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein (left) and Acting Associate FDA Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Michael Chappell testify May 27, 2010, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on a voluntary recall of over-the-counter medications.

Second, how do the risks compare with the risks of other medical products that serve the same purpose? Two alternative COVID vaccines ― from Pfizer and Moderna ― have not been associated with this unusual clotting problem. So one question is whether, for people at the highest risk of this complication, it might make sense to recommend alternative vaccines where they are readily available. The agencies and their advisory committees may consider this option. 

Third, how well can the safety challenges be managed? With every vaccine, even the ones that have been around for many years, there’s a risk of a major allergic reaction. It’s very rare, but we prepare for it by having epinephrine handy at all times. Leaders at the FDA and CDC have said that one of the reasons for the pause is to make sure clinicians know about this unusual clotting problem, so they can be prepared to recognize it and provide effective treatment.  

Cohn: So let me press you here. As you say, the side effect has been very rare ― six reported incidents out of more than 6 million doses already in people’s arms. Why pause at all, given the vaccine’s potential to prevent large numbers of death? Why not just say, hey, we’re watching this but don’t see any reason to hold back on the shot?

Sharfstein: I respect that FDA and CDC are asking for a little time to assess the risks and to develop clinical recommendations for managing this unusual condition.

In addition, in public health, as in life, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Here, the public health agencies are showing how seriously they take the safety of these vaccines. They’re going to investigate these cases and then make a responsible decision on how to proceed. 

Continuing to vaccinate could have led people to worry that safety is a secondary consideration, undermining their desire to be vaccinated. Trust and confidence are the most important elements of a successful vaccination program. A loss of credibility now could damage efforts to encourage the use of all COVID vaccines this year and set back the nation’s recovery.

Cohn: OK, let’s talk about people who are reluctant to be vaccinated. Could this pause undermine their confidence further?

Sharfstein: Confidence comes both from the perception of risk and from trust in the vaccination program overall. These rare and unusual cases of clotting were going to be a big news story, no matter how FDA and CDC responded.

The logic of a pause is, in part, that someone concerned about the remote possibility of a clotting problem will hear from the start that public health agencies are taking the concern seriously. They’ll then be more open to the evidence and conclusions. 

Cohn: It sounds like you’re saying the risk of too little caution is bigger than the risk of a little too much caution. For example, if the FDA comes off as in any way cavalier about safety ― or, worse, if it fails to act on something that become a bigger problem ― then the damage to its credibility and ultimately public faith in vaccines could be enormous and long-lasting, and that risk more than outweighs whatever we lose by going through this pause. Do I have that right? 

Sharfstein: Yes. This is the world of “making decisions in the setting of uncertainty.” We do not know at this moment everything that the virus and the vaccines have in store for us. What we do know is that a loss of credibility among those who are on the fence about vaccination could be an enormous setback. Taking a moment to assess the situation is a responsible step. It’s now important for the agencies to move expeditiously, share information transparently and explain their next set of decisions well.  

Cohn: Let’s shift focus and talk science. We’re not hearing about these side effects with Moderna or Pfizer. But European regulators reported similarly rare but serious side effects with AstraZeneca. Is that a clue about what’s actually happening, because both J&J and AstraZeneca use similar delivery methods?

Sharfstein: Both the AstraZeneca vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are derived from a common cold virus called the adenovirus. An important question is whether this unusual clotting problem might be linked to the adenovirus component of the vaccines. 

Cohn: So why wasn’t this picked up in clinical trials?

Sharfstein: Clinical trials for vaccines are unable to detect very rare adverse events. That’s because the trials involve tens of thousands of subjects, but rare side effects may happen at a rate of 1 in 100,000, or even 1 in 1 million people.

To catch these problems, FDA and CDC set up a number of programs to monitor safety as the products gain wide use. This very monitoring identified the clotting cases, and now the agencies are responding. In other words, this recent finding and pause reflect the vigilance of our oversight system. 

Cohn: One reason everybody has been excited about Johnson & Johnson is that it’s just one dose and doesn’t have unusual storage requirements. That makes it a lot easier to deliver in under-served areas here ― and, especially, around the world. What are the global implications for this?

Sharfstein: The global dimension of the issue should not be overlooked. Both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are very important for global immunization efforts, so getting to the bottom of this unusual clotting problem is a high priority. FDA, CDC and other global regulators should be clear about the implications of different policy actions for the use of these vaccines around the world.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus





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