The TV market hasn't been kind to manufacturers as of late, and Toshiba is the latest company making cuts to counteract weak performance. Its underperforming TV division will be slashed by 50 percent (around 3,000 jobs). But trimming its workforce down isn't enough; Toshiba will also halt production at two factories by the end of this fiscal year and bump up outsourced production to 70 percent. Despite a trend of weak demand and millions in losses, the company believes these drastic changes — combined with a stronger focus on 4K and emerging markets — will help its TV division get in the black by the second half of the fiscal year. The fight for your living room is carrying on, but manufacturers like Toshiba and its competitors are being forced to be more cautious in a tepid market.
Technological menace and "hookup culture" are both cultural catnip, so something like Vanity Fair’s "Friends Without Benefits" is a choice coup for an author like Nancy Jo Sales, who also wrote Bling Ring.
"Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and new dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Blendr have increasingly become key players in social interactions, both online and IRL (in real life)," warns the lede. "Nancy Jo Sales uncovers a world where boys are taught they have the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers. What is this doing to America’s young women?"
The topic of teen promiscuity is old, but social media is… well, slightly less old, which means not only are we treated to evergreen standbys like internet pornography and gyrating starlets, everyone in the story is constantly hearting Instagram photos and reading each others’ Twitter feeds. At one point, a group of teens decides to have an "online orgy." It’s easy to make fun of this scare-quotes treatment of new technology, but the real problem isn’t rampant cyberfear. It’s that the whole thing is a sad, facile story that looks at the right problem in exactly the wrong way.
Looking at the right problem in exactly the wrong way
Sales has talked to a large sampling of American girls, assuming LA and New York are the only places in America. They are having apparently unsatisfying sex, occasionally with the help of Tinder and other casual dating apps that get a lot less interesting outside big cities. They are using social media (Sales notes that 81 percent of American teens are doing so, apparently a more important statistic than how many are actually sexually active in high school.) It sometimes makes them feel lonely and sad. And if you mention those things together enough times, they’ll probably seem connected, even if the link is as tenuous as a girl staying home alone and watching YouTube videos instead of a DVD.
Sales does hit on some important points about social media and the internet in general. Most obviously, the internet is a huge amplifier — if you’re being bullied or harassed, it won’t stop when you leave school. If someone wants to reveal an embarrassing secret, the whole world is watching. We often see each others’ carefully constructed avatars, not their messy real lives. And whether or not it’s changing behavior in general, people will say things from behind a screen that they never would in person; one girl in the story refers to a boy who is timid in real life but asks for nudes via text. But it’s a big step from online interaction to a real-world sexual revolution, much less one that people have been warning about since women could walk outside unsupervised.
In fact, the article is mostly a series of salacious stories and broad warnings that could have been written at any time in the last 20 years — just swap in Britney Spears for Miley Cyrus. It quotes a counselor and a researcher, but cites only three pieces of non-anecdotal data: the percentage of teens using social media, the hours a day they spend on electronic devices, and the percentage of adolescents who've seen internet porn. Notably absent: how much sex teens are actually having, and whether that number is going up.
I’m not saying I can prove Sales wrong. I’m just saying there’s no good reason to believe she’s right, either. Collecting "hookup" statistics is complicated: for one thing, hooking up can mean anything from kissing to sex. One group found that internet-era college students were neither having sex more frequently nor sleeping with more people than their counterparts from the 1980s and 1990s.
In case you’re wondering, I just cited more relevant data in one paragraph than Sales has in five pages.
When we condemn 'hookups,' we take aim at sex and give sexism a pass
If you assume the article is accurate, things get worse. In the world of "Friends Without Benefits," it’s not just social media that’s the problem — it’s any non-physical communication. "They don’t even have to be together," Sales gasps before describing a teenage boy "getting a boner" from a dirty text; we’ve quickly moved past Snapchat and Tinder and are now indicting the written word. But even this wouldn’t be so bad if there were even a hint that sex isn’t inherently degrading to women and empowering to men.
There are real, painful stories in the article: girls who have been bullied, girls who feel pressured to be sexy, girls who chafe at a double standard. But "hookup culture" articles aren’t helping. For all their iterations, they seem to deliver only one message: if women are given more options — including hookup apps — men will only take advantage of us. Any action that could lead to sex is painted as a tragedy.
The story is heavy on blowjobs and stripping, our cultural shorthand for things men enjoy and women endure. There’s a quote about all genders having rote sex so they can "update [on social media] about it," but boys in the piece seems to want and enjoy sex for its own sake just fine — it’s just girls who apparently don’t get anything but Facebook likes and the chance of a relationship. The thing is, we’ve been telling this story for decades now. In 2003, it was "rainbow parties," which were complete nonsense but pushed the same narrative: boys get pleasure, girls give. This was, in one survey at the time, not borne out at all; teen girls and boys reported both getting and giving oral sex in pretty similar numbers.
The problem apparently isn't just social media — it's communication, period
Look, once again, I haven’t proved anything. But neither has Sales. All she’s done is tell us that girls might as well give up on enjoying sex altogether, at least in high school and college. There’s no way forward from this. No outliers, no good examples inside the relationships she champions, virtually no exploration of what decent sex at any age might even look like for women. Just some fatalistic hand-wringing that reinforces the very idea it’s supposedly condemning. If physical relationships are going to be terrible for girls no matter what, why should boys bother trying to make things better?
Which is, really, the crux of the problem. Sales promises to expose "a world where boys are taught they have the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers." But for a 6,000-word essay that’s ostensibly about male expectations and male desires, it’s telling that it only directly names and quotes one boy. Three other nameless male teens are given single throwaway lines. One of them, despite the article’s virtually exclusive focus on heterosexual sex, is talking about gay hookups. And that quote isn’t even a firsthand account.
If we were actually interested in looking at how boys are "taught" to expect sex, we might consider asking a few of them. But instead, we treat them like mute forces of nature, incapable of empathy when given access to sexting. We assume that men exploiting women is inevitable the moment we let girls onto the internet or out of the house. Social media amplifies the kind of sexual double standard the interviewees describe, but Sales never seems to consider questioning the double standard itself. If anything, she plays right into it.
If we're worried about what boys are being taught, we might consider talking to them
If you want a real story about how social media hurts girls, look at cyberbullying victim Rehtaeh Parsons. Parsons, 15, was allegedly gang-raped while blacked out at a party by four boys, who took pictures of the incident and posted them online. The case against the boys was dropped for lack of evidence, though it was later reopened and child pornography charges were filed. Parsons, meanwhile, was mocked as a slut by fellow students both online and offline, her parents said. "Her friends turned against her, people harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her, asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends." At age 17, she committed suicide.
Parson’s story underlines a blunt truth: technology and social media can be brutal tools in the wrong hands. But online communication isn't a gun — it has many, many uses that are neither dehumanizing nor isolating, and suggesting that the internet is raising a generation of callow sociopaths whitewashes problems that have always existed offline. When we talk about cybersex or even "hookup culture" in general, we end up taking aim at sex while giving sexism a pass.
The internet created a forum for Parsons’ classmates to shame her. It made it almost impossible for her to escape the comments. But should we really argue that smartphones are a bigger problem than rapists? Should we pretend that boys who assume any non-virginal girl is fair game, or girls who relentlessly police their friends’ sexuality, weren’t just as common 10 — or a hundred — years ago?
Libratone has staked a claim in the speaker market thanks to high-quality speakers that contain unmistakable design language — its tube-shaped Zipp speaker is a perfect example of the unusual but functional designs that the company focuses on. There aren't any black, rectangular boxes to be found here, and Libratone is making sure that remains the case with its latest wireless speaker, the Loop. As you might expect from its name, the Loop is a circular stereo speaker, but its thin profile allows for a neat trick — it's meant to be hung on your wall. In a lot of ways, its design reminds us of the much-loathed Apple "puck" mouse of yesteryear (but since you don't have to use it to control your computer, it can just be appreciated for its style). While Libratone included a kickstand for free-standing playback, you'll get the best sound quality when keeping it on or against near a wall to let the passive radiator bass technology do its work.
At 120W, it's twice as powerful as the Zipp, but doesn't match the larger Live in terms of sheer power — but in our quick listen, the Loop more than held its own. It's not as loud as the live, but has a nice "open" sound quality — and the space-saving design is a major plus for city-dwellers with less room for full-sized speakers. As with the rest of Libratone's recent releases, the Loop supports both DLNA and Airplay for streaming from iOS, Android, Mac, and PC, and it also supports Libratone's PlayDirect technology for streaming music without a Wi-Fi access point. And keeping with Libratone's focus on design, the Loop is also available in three different woolen covers, just like the Live and the Zipp. Default colors include black, grey, and red, and extra covers in yellow, pink, purple, and two shades of blue will be available shortly after launch.
At $499.99, the Loop isn't a cheap speaker — but that's never been Libratone's raison d'être. The company has long focused on combining unique, unconventional designs with pretty great sound quality, and the Loop will actually end up as one of the more affordable products in the company's lineup. It's only $100 more than the Zipp, though it trades in portability; it's definitely designed to be a centerpiece of your living room rather than something that travels with you. While we'll need to put the Loop through its paces before delivering a final verdict, it seems like Libratone might have found a sweet spot between the smaller Zipp and the more powerful Live.
The United Kingdom wants to build up its cyber army, and it's spending and hiring more than ever to do so, according to a Reuters report. On Monday, Britain's Defense Secretary, Philip Hammond, said at a conference held by the country's Conservative party that the government is looking to recruit hundreds into what he called a Joint Cyber Reserve. This new team of hackers, programmers, and cyber experts would be tasked not only with surveillance and spying online, but also bulking up the country's defenses against web attacks. "Last year our cyber defenses blocked around 400,000 advanced malicious cyber threats against the government's secure internet alone," Hammond said in the report. "The threat is real."
"The threat is real."
The defense secretary didn't divulge just how much the UK plans to spend in its escalating cyber warfare push, but he noted that the Joint Cyber Reserve would work alongside multiple British agencies, including the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Ministry of Defense. According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and reported by the The Guardian newspaper, the GCHQ has partnered in the past with the US's National Security Agency to trade information from the two agencies respective surveillance efforts, Tempora and PRISM.
"Building cyber defenses is not enough."
"Simply building cyber defenses is not enough," Hammond said. "Britain will build a dedicated capability to counterattack in cyberspace and if necessary to strike in cyberspace." The defense chief declined to say just who was lodging online attacks against the UK, but Reuters said that sources have told it that China or Russia are believed to be responsible for most of the threats.
A forum post on MacRumors offers what could be the clearest glimpse yet of the next Nexus phone. Nearly a month after a Google employee appeared in a promotional video for Android Kit Kat holding what appeared to be a new Nexus, a single close-up image of a slate-gray phone has emerged. In response to questions from other posters, the author said the phone's back cover has a feel similar to the Nexus 7 and that its display is only "ok."
Days after the Kit Kat video went up, an FCC filing from LG described a phone believed to be the next Nexus. Notably, the device that surfaced at the FCC supports LTE, which could make it the first unlocked, Google-sold Nexus phone to do so. (The Galaxy Nexus 4G, from 2011, was the first Nexus phone to support LTE.) It is 5.19 inches tall, has a 4.96-inch screen, and uses a 2,300mAh battery, according to the documents.
Although it's impossible to say definitively whether the image is genuine, it doesn't bear the hallmarks of a Photoshop job and lines up quite well with what we have been expecting from the device. Assuming it's real, we should be hearing more about Google's next Nexus soon.
J.J. Abrams isn't sorry for the last two Star Trek films, Super 8, or Mission: Impossible III — all of which he directed. But he is sorry for the rampant lens flares streaking across the screen in each of those films. In an interview with Crave Online, the man who will helm Star Wars: Episode VII confessed that there were so many lens flares in early cuts of Star Trek Into Darkness that he hired special effects house Industrial Light & Magic to erase some of his signature embellishments from the film.
"I'm so aware of it now."
"I know I get a lot of grief for that," Abrams admitted. "But I'll tell you, there are times when I'm working on a shot, I think, 'Oh this would be really cool… with a lens flare.' But I know it's too much, and I apologize. I'm so aware of it now." The director tells Crave that he showed his wife an early cut of Star Trek Into Darkness, "and there was this one scene where she was literally like, 'I just can't see what's going on. I don't understand what that is.' I was like, 'Yeah, I went too nuts on this.'"
"This is how stupid it was," Abrams said. "But I think admitting you're an addict is the first step towards recovery." While it's nice to hear the filmmaker own up to his faults, there are still plenty of major pitfalls he should avoid in the next Star Wars film. But at least the next lightsaber duel to hit the big screen will have a better chance of actually being watchable.
Edward Snowden didn't reveal the extent of the US government's domestic spying programs all alone. He entrusted the information he leaked to a number of journalists, perhaps most prominently The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald. Now, after facing persecution from the UK government, which arrested and detained Greenwald's partner for nine hours, and separately destroyed some of The Guardian's hard drives, both Glenn Greenwald and his editor Janine Gibson will host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to answer your questions about the leaked NSA files.