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Groupon CEO Fired and More News

Groupon CEO Fired and More News

In today's Weekly Media Mix, the chances of a horsemeat scandal in the US, plus health benefits of Chinese food

Wikimedia/Aaron Fulkerson

The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.

Chefs and Personalities
The Slanted Door's Charles Phan is planning to open a new San Francisco bar Hard Water next week, focusing on New Orleans-inspired tipples and plates. [Grub Street]

Corporations
Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon, is out after a shaky two quarters. "I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding — I was fired today," he wrote in his goodbye letter. [Chicago Grid]

Food TV
HGTV and Food Network shows will be on Amazon's $79-a-year Prime service, including Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Chopped, Iron Chef America, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. [Mashable]

Horsemeat Scandal
If you're worried about potentially finding horsemeat in your burger stateside, here's a Q&A to quell your fears. [AP]

Except, wait, here's news that the USDA might approve a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico. [NY Times]

Health
Mediterranean food might get the rep of being the healthiest cuisine, but Chinese food has some health benefits, too. [TIME]

Restaurants
Here is LA Weekly's list of the 99 essential restaurants in the city, complete with a helpful Google map. [LA Weekly]

Booze
Apparently Brits are drinking more than they think, underestimating their alcohol consumption by 40 percent. Oops? [NY Times]


Parler’s CEO has been fired

After his social media platform was largely wiped off the web, Parler CEO and co-founder John Matze says he has been fired by his company’s own board of directors, according to a memo obtained by Fox News and The Wall Street Journal and a text message confirmation he sent to Reuters. His LinkedIn page shows an employment end date of January 2021.

Parler, of course, is the social network that found itself wholly deplatformed after its role in the January 6th riots at the US Capitol. Both Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores after being unsatisfied with the company’s attempts to moderate the spread of calls for violence. Amazon decided to terminate the company’s AWS website hosting completely. And though Parler did try to sue Amazon, a judge denied a demand for its website hosting to be reinstated.

On January 10th, Matze told Fox News that all the company’s vendors — and even its lawyers — had abandoned him.

These are the violent threats that made Amazon drop Parler

Why platforms had to cut off Trump and Parler

Today, Matze claims he was terminated by a board led by Rebekah Mercer (of the Mercer family, who are prominent conservative donors), and suggested he was fired due to his “strong belief in free speech” and his product vision, including “what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation.”

It might also have something to do with the company getting run into the ground under his watch. In addition to the difficulties of simply staying up on the internet, it came to light that Parler may have had some privacy issues. Researchers were able to scrape a tremendous amount of users’ content, including their geotagged locations and videos, which were later converted into interactive maps of the Capitol building attack that proved many Parler users were involved.

The House Oversight Committee even called for an FBI investigation into Parler’s involvement in the attack on the Capitol.

Parler does currently have a website again thanks to the hosting services of Epik, a company that also supports controversial websites like Gab and 8chan, and Parler suggested on January 17th that it hoped “to welcome all of you back soon.” But that was over two weeks ago, and the website is mostly a timeline of grievances about how the company has been treated unjustly. Matze hasn’t posted there since Monday, January 26th. His last post was a Bernie Sanders meme with the text “I wish that John guy would hurry up already.”

Apparently, Rebekah Mercer agreed with that sentiment.

Parler didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update, February 4th:Parler confirmed to The Verge that Matze had been fired.


The Guardian view on fire-and-rehire business tactics: change the law

‘And as he sits on the Acas report, Mr Kwarteng has refused to commit to legislative reform in the government’s flagship employment bill, which may be delayed until next year.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘And as he sits on the Acas report, Mr Kwarteng has refused to commit to legislative reform in the government’s flagship employment bill, which may be delayed until next year.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Last modified on Tue 27 Apr 2021 20.01 BST

E arlier this year, it was reported that government discussions had taken place over the possible removal of employment protections enshrined in EU law. Kwasi Kwarteng, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, responded with righteous indignation. Now that Brexit had taken place, he tweeted: “We want to protect and enhance workers’ rights going forward, not row back on them.”

Given the Conservative party’s decades-long commitment to deregulating the labour market and freeing employers from “red tape”, this was a bold claim to make. Coming from Mr Kwarteng, it was doubly counterintuitive. As an up-and-coming member of the party’s laissez-faire wing, he coauthored with like-minded MPs the 2012 book Britannia Unchained, which described British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”. But as luck would have it, circumstances have presented Mr Kwarteng with a golden opportunity to demonstrate the sincerity of his new convictions. In February, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy received a report from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service on the iniquitous practice of “fire and rehire”, an unscrupulous tactic used by employers to unilaterally impose inferior terms and conditions on employees. MPs from all sides of the House of Commons have condemned this abuse of power in the workplace. But Mr Kwarteng has so far resisted pressure to publish the Acas report and done nothing.

This week, the Unite trade union launched a national campaign to outlaw the practice, which has become an insidious feature of the Covid landscape. As the pandemic has placed companies under economic strain, a Trades Union Congress survey found that almost one in 10 workers had been asked to reapply for their job on worse terms and conditions. Predictably, the low-paid, the young and minority ethnic employees have been the most likely to find themselves targeted. Some companies have used Covid as cover and an excuse to force through cost-cutting strategies that predated the virus. Others, faced with genuinely difficult circumstances, have sought to channel the adverse consequences downwards to those with most to lose.

IAG, the owner of British Airways, last year awarded its outgoing CEO, Willie Walsh, an £833,000 bonus. But BA only backed down from using fire-and-rehire tactics after strike action. This month, between 300 and 400 engineers at British Gas were not so lucky. They lost their jobs after refusing to sign new contracts that would have meant longer hours for the same pay. In Manchester, hundreds of bus drivers have been on strike since February on similar grounds, backed by the city-region mayor, Andy Burnham. Many of the companies involved have been recipients of government furlough money, including Centrica, the parent company of British Gas.

That it should be legal to rip up an employee’s contract with impunity, in order to replace it with an inferior one, is an indictment of existing employment law. In Ireland and Spain the practice is outlawed, while elsewhere in Europe tough restrictions apply. Boris Johnson has previously called the manoeuvre “unacceptable”. Even Jacob Rees-Mogg has condemned its use. But when it comes to changing the law, the Conservative party’s laissez-faire instincts prove insuperable. In January, Tory MPs were instructed to abstain on a Labour motion that would have banned fire and rehire. And as he sits on the Acas report, Mr Kwarteng has refused to commit to legislative reform in the government’s flagship employment bill, which may be delayed until next year.

As the end of furlough in September approaches, the need for workers’ rights to be robustly protected will be acute. In the wake of Brexit, this government has sought to reassure employees that it has their best interests at heart. Continued inaction over the bullying tactic of fire and rehire will reveal that rhetoric to be a hollow sham.


Going public

A year after walking away from Google, Groupon went public, pricing its initial public offering at $20 a share and raising $700 million in what at the time was the largest initial public offering by a U.S. tech since Google in 2004. Its valuation at the end of its first trading day was $16.6 billion.

It came back down to earth pretty quickly. Less than two weeks after its debut, shares tumbled and it’s been a bumpy ride ever since.

In June, the company had a reverse stock split, where every 20 shares were converted into one share. The move came after the stock was trading as less than $1 in March, a sum that could have led to a stock delisting by Nasdaq.

On Wednesday, shares closed at $31.40, giving it a market cap of $905 million.


JAMA Editor Resigns Over Controversial Podcast

March 10, 2021 – Edward H. Livingston, MD, has resigned as deputy editor of the journal of the American Medical Association after he and the journal faced significant backlash over a February podcast that questioned the existence of structural racism.

JAMA Editor-in-Chief Howard Bauchner, MD, apologized to JAMA staff and stakeholders and asked for and received Livingston’s resignation, according to a statement from AMA CEO James Madara.

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling for an investigation at JAMA over the podcast, called “Structural Racism for Doctors: What Is It?”

It appears they are now getting their wish. Bauchner announced that the journal’s oversight committee is investigating how the podcast and a tweet promoting the episode were developed, reviewed, and ultimately posted.

“This investigation and report of its findings will be thorough and completed rapidly,” Bauchner said.

Livingston, the host of the podcast, has been heavily criticized across social media. During the podcast, Livingston, who is white, said, “Structural racism is an unfortunate term. Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist.”

The audio of podcast has been deleted from JAMA’s website. In its place is audio of a statement from Bauchner. In his statement, which he released last week, he said the comments in the podcast, which also featured Mitch Katz, MD, were “inaccurate, offensive, hurtful and inconsistent with the standards of JAMA.”

Katz is an editor at JAMA Internal Medicine and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals in New York City.

Also deleted was a JAMA tweet promoting the podcast episode. The tweet said: “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care? An explanation of the idea by doctors for doctors in this user-friendly podcast.”

The incident was met with anger and confusion in the medical community.

Update: @CEO_AMA on important steps being taken in response to JAMA’s harmful podcast & tweet. Additionally, JAMA EIC Howard Bauchner, MD has asked for, received & accepted resignation of the editor who hosted the podcast. https://t.co/TlvHDl7eRw

— AMA (@AmerMedicalAssn) March 11, 2021

Herbert C. Smitherman, MD, vice dean of diversity and community affairs at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, noted after hearing the podcast that it was a symptom of a much larger problem.

"At its core, this podcast had racist tendencies. Those attitudes are why you don't have as many articles by Black and brown people in JAMA," he said. "People's attitudes, whether conscious or unconscious, are what drive the policies and practices which create the structural racism."

Katz responded to the backlash last week with the following statement: "Systemic racism exists in our country. The disparate effects of the pandemic have made this painfully clear in New York City and across the country.

“As clinicians, we must understand how these structures and policies have a direct impact on the health outcomes of the patients and communities we serve. It is woefully naïve to say that no physician is a racist just because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade it, or that we should avoid the term ‘systematic racism’ because it makes people uncomfortable. We must and can do better."

JAMA, an independent arm of the American Medical Association, is taking other steps to address concerns. Its executive publisher, Thomas Easley, held an employee town hall this week, and said JAMA acknowledges that “structural racism is real, pernicious and pervasive in health care.” The journal is also starting an “end-to-end review” of all editorial processes across all JAMA publications. Finally, the journal will also create a new associate editor’s position who will provide “insight and counsel” on racism and structural racism in health care.

Sources

Deanna Bellandi, JAMA spokesperson.

Statement, Howard Bauchner, MD, editor-in-chief, JAMA.

Herbert C. Smitherman, MD, vice dean of diversity and community affairs, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit.


Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015

  • In a statement released to media, Williams announces he is taking a leave of absence from “NBC Nightly News.” “It has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” he writes. “Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.” Lester Holt, William’s backup and NBC’s weekend anchor, steps in as fill-in anchor.
  • Questions are raised regarding Williams’ reporting from New Orleans in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. An NBC News executive tells the Times that Richard Esposito, head of the news division investigations unit, is looking into Williams’ previous reporting to see if there is a pattern of Williams straying from the facts.

Why is Regé-Jean Page leaving Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton?’

Fans of Netflix’s hit period piece “Bridgerton” were shocked by the news Friday that the show’s romantic lead and breakout star, Regé-Jean Page, would not appear in Season 2.

The British actor — who played the dashing and commitment-wary Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings — was crucial to the success of “Bridgerton,” which quickly took off with viewers hooked on this story of romance told through a contemporary lens.

Even the unflappable Kim Kardashian was stunned by the announcement of Page’s departure, commenting with a flabbergasted “Wait. WHAT. ” on “Bridgerton’s” Instagram post.

The explanation offered by people close to the Shondaland production raised additional questions. Page told Variety that Simon’s story, of an aristocrat whose fake courtship with the beautiful Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) becomes unexpectedly complicated, was always going to follow a self-contained, single-season arc. Page was signed to a one-season contract, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Similar to the Julia Quinn novels, each of which focuses on a different Bridgerton sibling and their romantic foibles, Netflix already indicated that Season 2 would follow Daphne’s brother Lord Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and his quest to find a viscountess. Season 2 begins filming this spring,

But surely creator Chris Van Dusen and his writers could have found a way to keep the Simon and Daphne drama brewing.

Regé-Jean Page won’t say if he’s dating ‘Bridgerton’ costar Phoebe Dynevor. But he likes the rumor that he’ll be the next James Bond.

Netflix’s announcement made it clear that Daphne would continue to be part of the show, perhaps an indication that it was ultimately Page who was behind the breakup. And why wouldn’t the companies have sewn up Page’s Season 2 participation in his contract?

Page’s one-year deal may be the latest sign of how talent deals are shifting amid the entertainment industry’s brisk shift to streaming.

For a show on a broadcast network, a typical deal would have “basically infinite options for the studio to exercise after each season, and they can lock in talent for as long as they want essentially,” said Nick Soltman, an entertainment business attorney at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump.

Darrell Miller, an attorney at Fox Rothschild who negotiates contracts on behalf of talent, producers and directors, called the exit an “extremely unique” situation.

“It is a cardinal rule to have options on the lead actors in a series,” Miller said. “This situation is extremely unique and it could blow up the show and turn off many female viewers who loyally watched Season 1 because of Regé-Jean Page.”

Netflix declined to comment beyond an announcement through social media accounts in the voice of “Bridgerton’s” gossip writer character, Lady Whistledown.

Page certainly wouldn’t be the first actor to walk away from a star-making romantic role in a period piece. “Downton Abbey” viewers were traumatized by the dramatic departure of actor Dan Stevens — a.k.a. Cousin Matthew — who left the hit series after three seasons in 2012.

Still, Page’s exit is surprising. Eighty-two million households watched some of the series in its first four weeks of release, making it the most successful original series in Netflix’s history, according to the streamer.

The series instantly turned Page, who previously appeared in the short-lived ABC drama “For the People” and the 2018 remake of “Roots,” into a star. Within days of “Bridgerton’s” debut, Page was rumored to be in the running to become the next James Bond. In February, he hosted “Saturday Night Live,” gamely sending up his heartthrob image and “Bridgerton’s” steamy sex scenes.

The practice of bringing back stars indefinitely can cause conflicts, as in 2019 when “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu publicly expressed dismay that her show “Fresh Off the Boat” was being renewed for a sixth season on ABC, which prevented her from doing other things.

Netflix’s “The Serpent,” about serial killer Charles Sobhraj, had to “pedal back” on several strange details in the case. Here’s what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Having as many episodes as possible makes sense for broadcast shows as long as advertisers are happy with the ratings. Broadcast series also produce a massive windfall if they stay on the air long enough to achieve syndication.

In streaming, however, the goal is to draw paying subscribers and there’s little incentive to extend even the most popular shows for more than a few years. In that case, Soltman said, it wouldn’t be surprising to have a one-year contract for a limited series or a show with a plan to focus on different characters in each go-round.

“In the streaming world, this structure makes a lot more sense and would be a lot more prevalent than in the network world,” Soltman said of single-season talent deals. “Netflix has kept very few shows on for Season 4 and beyond. The streaming world isn’t necessarily built for long-running shows. They tend to get more expensive as time goes on and they don’t bring a whole lot of incremental value beyond the first couple seasons.”

The instant fame that came with “Bridgerton” likely brought new opportunities that would’ve conflicted with shooting another season. Social media quickly speculated about new roles for Page, including in Marvel’s “Black Panther” franchise.

“Bridgerton” is the first series from mega-producer Shonda Rhimes under her lucrative deal at Netflix — and it has been an unqualified success. It is a soapy hit full of over-the-top plot twists, complicated female roles and swoon-worthy declarations of love familiar to fans of the Shondaland dramas “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.

At a time when Hollywood is often criticized for racial and ethnic disparities, “Bridgerton” won acclaim for its modern take on the period costume drama — complete with a diverse cast, including a Black queen.

Netflix broke the news of Page’s departure via “Bridgerton’s” social media accounts.

“We’ll miss Simon’s presence onscreen, but he will always be a part of the Bridgerton family,” read the announcement.

Inside the business of entertainment

The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

Ryan Faughnder is a film business reporter for the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town and the host of the entertainment business newsletter The Wide Shot. Faughnder writes about Hollywood studios, including Walt Disney Co., and has covered such major stories as the Sony hack. An alumnus of USC’s Annenberg School and UC Santa Barbara, he previously wrote for the Los Angeles Business Journal and Bloomberg News.

Meredith Blake is an entertainment reporter for the Los Angeles Times based out of New York City, where she primarily covers television. A native of Bethlehem, Pa., she graduated from Georgetown University and holds a master’s degree from New York University.


On Friday, Twitter confirmed to CNET that it is testing an “undo tweet” feature. In an earlier survey Twitter had asked users about the features they would consider paying for and the ability to take back tweets was one of those mentioned in the survey. Users said that it would be a welcome feature on Twitter.

A work-in- progress interface was also discovered some time back by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong. She found a new “Undo” button below the standard “Your tweet was sent” dialog. The app researcher believes that this could potentially be a paid feature as a subscription screen was also discovered to be attached to the feature.

However, very little information has been given by Twitter so far including the date by which it would be launched. On the surface, it appears to be a money spinner as think of how many professional tweeters who would benefit if they have time to think about what they have tweeted and the consequences of their tweets.

Another feature that would be applauded by many would be an edit feature but there has been absolutely no indication that such a feature would be added to the platform. An “Undo” button is a first step forward and is better than having no such feature at all.

Those who have a propensity to shoot of their mouth should welcome this feature. Although it is still in the development stage, it can perhaps save the skins of potential professional users who fire away tweets without realizing their consequences.

Recently, several politicians, CEOs etc. including former president Donald Trump and My Pillow CEO were offloaded from the platform. If this feature was available, maybe, just maybe we would see a higher quality of tweets and less of rhetoric during all hours of the day and night. Perhaps some of us might miss trying to and failing to figure out what covfefe and similar tweets might mean, if the “Undo” button plays spoilsport and stops the addition of meaningless words to stir our imaginations.


9. A Man With A Hammer Went Berserk in his Workplace

A former employee smashed the office windows, toilet seats, computer monitors, and the sinks with a hammer because he was sacked. He also wrote “Gross Misconduct” in blood on the office wall.

Wayne Crook, an ex-employee of Bristol Flying Centre, was sacked from the company in 2012. In anger, he took a hammer and smashed up every room, causing the company a loss of £175,000. He also damaged many vehicles in anger.

Crook was sacked from his job soon after he moved an aircraft in a hanger without the company’s permission. The company said that despite obtaining an alternative employment, he took revenge against the company. Crook was charged with burglary and criminal damage and was sentenced to jail for 20 months.


California fire that killed four sparked by tree hitting PG&E power lines, officials say

A northern California wildfire that killed four people and destroyed more than 200 buildings last year was sparked when tree branches came into contact with Pacific Gas & Electric power lines, officials have said.

Investigators with the California department of forestry and fire protection have determined that last year’s Zogg fire was caused by a pine tree hitting electrical distribution lines owned and operated by PG&E, the agency said in a statement on Monday.

The investigative report has been forwarded to the Shasta county district attorney’s office, Cal Fire added.

The Zogg fire erupted on 27 September 2020 in Shasta county during high winds. It quickly grew and killed four people in the small town of Igo. It then spread to neighboring Tehama county, scorching more than 88 sq miles (228 sq kilometers) and destroying 204 buildings, about half of them homes.

PG&E officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Monday.

PG&E, the US’s largest utility, emerged from bankruptcy stemming from the financial fallout from several wildfires caused by its utility equipment in recent years. Combined, the fires killed more than 100 people and destroyed more than 27,000 homes and other buildings in 2017 and 2018.

Bill Johnson, PG&E’s then CEO, entered guilty pleas last year on behalf of the company for 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter, admitting that it was the utility’s equipment that started the Camp fire, which wiped out the northern California town of Paradise in November 2018.

The utility was also found at fault for the 2017 North Bay fires, which killed 43 people and destroyed more than 14,700 homes, as well as the 2015 Butte fire, which killed two people and destroyed almost 900 structures.

In 2010, PG&E was found at fault for a 2010 gas line explosion in the Bay Area town of San Bruno that ripped through an entire neighborhood, killing eight and injuring 58 people. PG&E was fined $1.6bn for that disaster, and a federal jury found the company guilty of six felony charges, ordering it to pay $3m in fines.

In 2019, PG&E began conducting widespread preventative power shutoffs during the fire season in regions of California either experiencing extreme fire weather or in danger of wildfire spread.