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The latest news from Business Insider

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    Mark Zuckerberg

    • Facebook has been slammed by current and former fact-checkers for using them as "crisis PR" rather than to genuinely combat misinformation.
    • Two former employees for the fact-checking site Snopes said Facebook threw fact-checkers under the bus when their work prompted a backlash.
    • Some fact-checkers also expressed dismay at the news that Facebook hired the Republican-linked PR firm Definers to smear prominent critic George Soros.

    Current and former fact-checkers for Facebook have slammed the company in interviews with The Guardian, saying it cared more about "crisis PR" than actually combatting the spread of fake news.

    Brooke Bujnowski, a former managing editor of fact-checking site Snopes which has partnered with Facebook for two years, said Facebook, "essentially used us for crisis PR." Binkowski left Snopes and now runs her own fact-checking site, which doesn't partner with Facebook.

    "They're not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck… They clearly don't care," she added.

    Another Snopes alum, Kim LaCapria, told The Guardian that it quickly became apparent that Facebook wanted the "appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything."

    Throwing fact-checkers under the bus

    Former Snopes staffers told The Guardian that there was a noticeable backlash against their work, with an increase in harassment, death threats, and attacks, particularly from far-right users, who accused them of liberal bias.

    Binkowski said when these attacks erupted, Facebook left individual journalists to fend for themselves. "They threw us under the bus at every opportunity," she said. LaCapria said fact-checkers were "collateral damage."

    A Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian that the company has started running journalist safety training for new partners.

    Propaganda machine

    Binkowski described her frustration over the way Facebook handled the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, saying that although she brought it up repeatedly, Facebook was "absolutely resistant."

    "I strongly believe that they are spreading fake news on behalf of hostile foreign powers and authoritarian governments as part of their business model," she said.

    Read more:Facebook says it did not do enough to halt the spread of hate speech and violence in Myanmar

    Binkowski also told The Guardian that on at least one occasion Facebook put pressure on fact-checkers to debunk misinformation that affected advertisers on the platform.

    A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on this when contacted by The Guardian. It said: "The primary way we surface potentially false news to third-party fact-checkers is via machine learning."

    Definers and George Soros

    The news that Facebook hired PR firm Definers to push narratives discrediting billionaire George Soros, who is the subject of numerous antisemitic conspiracy theories, also gave fact-checkers cause for concern.

    "Why should we trust Facebook when it's pushing the same rumors that its own fact checkers are calling fake news?" an anonymous journalist fact-checker told The Guardian. "It's worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?"

    Read more:Sheryl Sandberg reportedly wanted to know if George Soros, who publicly criticized Facebook, was shorting the company's stock

    The journalist added that partnering with Facebook "makes us look bad." Another anonymous fact-checker called Facebook "a terrible company" and added "on a personal level, I don't want to have anything to do with them."

    When contacted by the Guardian, fact-checking partners defended their relationship with Facebook. Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of PolitiFact, called their partnership a "public service."

    Snopes CEO and founder David Mikkelson told The Guardian that he didn't share the concerns of his former employees. "Our work remains the same... It's up to Facebook to decide the relative success of it," he said.

    Business Insider has contacted Facebook and Snopes for comment.

    SEE ALSO: Facebook employees still love Sheryl Sandberg and say she shouldn't be fired

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why NASA blasts half a million gallons of water during rocket launches


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    Window washers in costume

    Here is what you need to know.

    1. We just got the first concrete sign that the trade truce between Trump and Xi is working. China followed through on its promise to start buying US soybeans again, purchasing more than 500,000 tons of the legume, according to Reuters.
    2. China escalates the Huawei fight. The Chinese government has detained a second Canadian citizen, escalating a diplomatic spat that began with Canada detaining Huawei CFO Meng Wenzhou.
    3. 'You can't tariff your way out out of a trade deficit.' Here's why China's exports have held up in the face of President Donald Trump's trade war.
    4. We spoke with Wall Street's 8 best-performing fund managers of 2018. Business Insider spoke with the top eight fund managers in 2018 about how they crushed the market this year and what they're looking for in 2019.
    5. The stock market's 'death cross' is particularly bad news this time around. The "death cross" that just happened in the S&P 500 has a downward-sloping 200-day moving average, meaning its effect will be amplified, according to a team of technical analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
    6. Apple is splurging on a huge new campus in Austin, Texas. The tech giant will spend $1 billion on the campus, which is initially expected to house 5,000 employees, with the potential to expand to 15,000.
    7. Under Armour plunges on investor day. Shares of the athletic-apparel maker fell more than 10% Wednesday after the company's outlook underwhelmed.
    8. Stock markets around the world are gaining ground. Hong Kong's Hang Seng (+1.61%) posted strong overnight gains, and Germany's DAX (+0.29%) is out front in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open up 0.11% near 2,654.
    9. Earnings reporting is light. Adobe Systems and Costco report after markets close.
    10. US economic data keeps coming. Import and export prices and initial claims will all be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is down 1 basis point at 2.90%.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The legendary economist who predicted the housing crisis says the US will win the trade war


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    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the media should focus more on her policies than whether she should run for president in 2020.
    • She was responding to a Vox article saying she should run, even though the US Constitution says the president must be at least 35.
    • Alexandria-Cortez is 29, and wouldn't be old enough to enter the White House until 2024.
    • "The whole country JUST went through an exhausting midterm election. We need a break," she said, asking people to talk about healthcare, wages, and legalizing weed instead.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized the media for talking her up as a potential candidate in the 2020 elections instead of focusing on her policy ideas.

    "How about... no," she tweeted on Wednesday night, in response to an article suggesting that she should run for president in the next election, despite being younger than the minimum age of 35.

    "Sometimes political media is too fixated on personalities instead of policies," she wrote.

    "The whole country JUST went through an exhausting midterm election. We need a break.

    "Can we instead talk about healthcare, a living wage, legalizing cannabis, GND, & other issues?"

    Read More: This is the platform that launched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old democratic socialist, to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress

    GND refers to the Green New Deal, a federal plan to address climate change by investing in infrastructure. The policy is one of her signatures, along with issues like immigration reform, fully funded schools and universities, Medicare for all, and the legalization of cannabis.

    The Democratic representative-elect was responding to an article from Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias that suggested she should run for president despite not yet being 35 years old, a requirement from the US Constitution.

    He said she should start a campaign regardless, and dare the Supreme Court to stop her.

    Ocasio-Cortez is 29 at the moment. Under the 35-year-old age limit, her first opportunity to run would be in the 2024 election cycle. She turns 35 in October 2024, just in time for the November election and hypothetically taking office in January 2025.

    Read More:An early look at the 2020 presidential contenders

    In the Vox article,Yglesias argued that it was "ridiculous" to have an age limit on the presidency, and said that people younger than 29 "are routinely trusted with life-and-death situations."

    "While the law prevents anyone under the age of 35 from becoming president, we currently have a septuagenarian in the White House whose frequent nonsensical diatribes and notoriously scattered Twitter outbursts repeatedly raise the prospect of mental decline," he wrote.

    "Meanwhile, the top two Democrats in national polling — Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden — are 77 and 76, respectively."

    Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, made history in November by becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

    Theodore Roosevelt is the president who took office at the youngest age, entering the White House aged 42 after his predecessor was assassinated.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    Falling

    • Nearly half of CFOs surveyed see a recession even earlier than 2020, saying they expect one by the end of 2019.
    • CFOs have become pessimistic in most regions of the world, says the Duke CFO Global Business Outlook.
    • Next year, CFOs expect "sub-3%" growth for the US economy, with capital spending and employment growth of about 3 percent.

    Some 82% of chief financial officers say they see a recession beginning by the end of 2020, while nearly half see it even earlier, by the end of 2019.

    That's according to a survey of US CFOs in the Duke CFO Global Business Outlook

    “The end is near for the near-decade-long burst of global economic growth,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. “The US outlook has declined, and moreover the outlook is even worse in many other parts of the world, which will lead to softer demand for US goods.”

    CFOs have become pessimistic in most regions of the world: 97% percent of African CFOs say their countries will be in recession no later than year-end 2019, as do many CFOs in Canada (86%), Europe (67%), Asia (54%), and Latin America (42%). The survey, which generated responses from more than 500 CFOs around the world, has run for 91 consecutive quarters. This most recent survey ended on Dec. 7. 

    Campbell Harvey, a founding director of the survey, who teaches a technology innovation course at Fuqua, listed a perfect storm of waning expansion, heightened market volatility, protectionism, and the flattening of the yield curve which tends to predict recessions.

    “CFOs are getting ready for a recession in the next 18 months,” he said. "All of the ingredients are in place."

    Read more:The bond market just flashed a major 'red flag' — and it could be signaling a US recession

    For 2019, the survey suggested a 1-in-10 chance that annual real growth will be 0.6%. In this "worst-case scenario," the report said, CFOs expect their capital spending to fall by 1.3% and for hiring to "remain flat."

    Next year, CFOs expect "sub-3%" growth for the US economy, with capital spending and employment growth of about 3 percent.

    “Their recession projections suggest CFOs believe most of this growth will occur early in the year,” Graham said. “This means there is still time for the government to use the tools at their disposal to soften the fall."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The legendary economist who predicted the housing crisis says the US will win the trade war


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    2017 Healthcare Expenditure

    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

    Relative to many other sectors around the globe, the US healthcare industry has been notoriously slow to embrace new payment systems and processes. 

    For example, approximately 77% of healthcare providers still use paper-based patient billing methods, according to an MGMA and Navicure survey. The lack of urgency to innovate has resulted in confusion, inefficiencies, and security issues among stakeholders. 

    However, this stagnation is enabling payments firms to capitalize on two key trends to disrupt — and capture a piece of — the $3 trillion healthcare industry:

    • The consumerization of healthcare. Consumers are increasingly being urged to play a more prominent role in managing and paying for their own health. In effect, they've become better informed and more critical of the quality of health services. Considering that the billing process is typically the first and last interaction a patient has with a provider, a negative experience could directly impact a healthcare firm's bottom line — only 15% of patients who reported a less than satisfactory billing experience would recommend the hospital to others, according to Becker's Hospital Review. 
    • The digitization of healthcare. Healthcare legislation, rising costs, and a shift from fee-for-service care to value-based care are incentivizing payers and providers to seek out digital solutions that drive down costs and improve services. 

    Now is the time for payments hardware, software, and processing firms to introduce specific solutions that accommodate the shifting landscape. These could include digital payment options, such as online checkouts or point-of-service mobile wallet acceptance, or value-added services that enhance the overall payments and billing experience. However, before payments companies introduce new solutions, they must navigate the highly regulated and complex industry.

    In this report, Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, explains how a typical healthcare transaction is structured, identifies the major players in the industry, and pinpoints the most pressing pain points for stakeholders. We then look at the opportunities available to payments companies, and explore specific solutions that could help them attract partners in the space. 

    Here are some of the key takeaways:

    • Healthcare in the US is a key industry for payments firms — spending increased 3.3% to reach $3.3 trillion in 2016, according to the Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
    • Despite the size of the market, very few new opportunities have opened up for payments companies because of the healthcare industry's slow innovation and the complex regulations around entering the space. 
    • However, two key trends — the consumerization of healthcare and the digitization of healthcare — will put some payments companies in a strong position to capture a larger share of the market. 
    • The payments firms that rise to the top of the market will have to offer digital solutions that accommodate the shifting landscape, such as mobile wallet acceptance — 61% of consumers reported having interest in using mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, to make healthcare payments, according to InstaMed. 
    • Payments companies will also have to introduce value-added services that appeal to healthcare providers while differentiating their offerings from competitors, such as easy-to-understand billing, integrated check-ins, and AI-based engagement tools.  

    In full, the report:

    • Tracks the growth of US healthcare spending. 
    • Identifies subsets of healthcare payments — specifically, where payments are coming from and where they're going. 
    • Explains the intricacies of a healthcare transaction and pinpoints where there are potential bottlenecks. 
    • Details what some of the leading players in the healthcare payments space are doing to differentiate themselves.
    • Lists some specific solutions that payments companies could turn to in order to attract healthcare partners. 

    Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to:

    This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports
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    President Donald Trump speaks to the media

    • President Donald Trump has reportedly canceled the annual White House Christmas party for the press.
    • The annual, decades-old event has previously been a peace-making exercise after a year of tension.
    • The news comes amid Trump's repeated attacks on the press and a reduction in the number of White House press briefings.
    • Last year's party was marked by tension: CNN boycotted the event while Trump and the first lady reportedly broke tradition and did not pose for photographs.

    President Donald Trump has reportedly canceled the decades-old annual White House Christmas party for the media.

    Fox News reported on Thursday morning that Trump had canceled the event. It said the White House didn't announce the cancelation. Fox didn't explain where the information came from.

    The event is intended for members of the press and White House officials to socialize and act as a peace-making exercise after a year of tension. The party is usually held in early to mid-December and is off the record, though it offers the opportunity for journalists to mix with each other and with White House officials.

    The Washington Post reported on December 8 that the fate of the party was unclear as nobody in the White House had scheduled the event, despite Christmas getting close.

    The news comes amid Trump's hostility to the press, and his frequent claim of "fake news."

    Read More:Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump insults female reporters to treat them equally

    He has repeatedly called the media the "enemy of the people" and frequently spars both with individual journalists and with outlets including CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

    CNN boycotted the party in 2017, due to President Donald Trump's "continued attacks" on journalists. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded with a dig at the network, tweeting: "Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN."

    CNN contributor April Ryan was left off the 2017 guest list, the Washington Post reported, and the party was also moved to the afternoon on a weekday, making it harder for reporters to bring spouses or children.

    Read More:Fox News host Chris Wallace says Trump is seen as a 'beacon for repression' as they get into a heated back-and-forth over fake news

    Trump and First Lady Melania Trump also skipped the tradition of posing for photos with reporters, according to the Post. Obama-era parties featured even reporters form minor outlets getting to meet the president and pose for a picture.

    The White House has dramatically cut the amount of time it spends with the press under Trump: just one briefing took place in the whole month of September.

    Trump has also skipped the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner two years in a row.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    Biogen facility Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech

    • An ALS trial failure five years ago was a costly and disappointing setback for Biogen.
    • But today Biogen is becoming a major player again. It just bought a potential drug in a $90 million deal, and has four treatments in development.
    • The company's head of neuromuscular disorders said there's reason to believe this time could be more successful — and it could have bigger implications for the company's pipeline.

    Five years ago, a drug for a rare and deadly disease failed to live up to its promise in a crucial and costly late-stage clinical trial.

    The drug’s developer, the biopharmaceutical company Biogen, abandoned the project, which then-CEO George Scangos would later call “the single-most negative trial I’ve ever seen,” according to a MedCityNews report. The cost was an estimated $75 million to $100 million for the trial alone, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

    It was a devastating development for a disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which has no cure or effective treatments. An estimated 14,000 to 15,000 Americans have ALS, which refers to a group of rare neurological diseases that cause progressive loss of muscle control, affecting patients’ ability to walk, eat and breathe.

    The drug development space has been littered with defeat after defeat for companies tackling ALS. The few drugs on the market now don't work particularly well, and can command high price tags, with one new option costing roughly $150,000 a year.

    But today, Biogen is investing again in treating ALS, including through a recent licensing deal valued at more than $90 million for the ALS drug BIIB067.

    A big bet on treating ALS

    The neuroscience-focused drugmaker believes in taking on these types of risky diseases in new ways, Chris Henderson, its head of neuromuscular and movement disorders, told Business Insider. A succesful treatment for ALS would likely be a blockbuster treatment, generating big profits for Biogen. Success in ALS could also have positive benefits for Biogen's wider pipeline of potential treatments, he said.

    “We’re probably the single company with the biggest interest in ALS currently,” Henderson said. 

    In total, the company is testing four drugs to treat ALS in clinical trials, the most of any company. Biogen also has led the highest number of clinical trials for ALS in the industry, according to a recent report from Datamonitor Healthcare.

    At least 90% of ALS cases are considered “sporadic,” meaning there is no clear cause. The remaining 5% to 10% are connected to genetic risk, according to the National Institutes of Health.

    Biogen's new drug, BIIB067, targets ALS cases tied to a particular genetic mutation, in the SOD1 gene, which Biogen says accounts for roughly 2% of ALS cases overall.

    Growing interest

    Henderson, who also serves as chief advisor to the foundation Target ALS, said that he has seen corporate interest in ALS drug development surge of late. Just five companies came to the group’s first meeting, he said, compared with 65 at the most recent one; he cited Genentech and the buzzy biotech Denali as other leaders in the area.

    There are approximately 26 companies involved in US ALS drug development, according to the Datamonitor Healthcare report, with 28 ALS drugs in clinical trials. 

    Biogen’s bulked-up ALS pipeline is particularly notable given the company’s bumpy history with ALS — and Henderson said that there’s reason to believe this effort could be more successful.

    The biotech decided to license BIIB067 based on an analysis of an early-stage study, which found that those on the highest dose of the drug showed a statistically-significant lowering of SOD1 protein levels in cerebrospinal fluid. There was also evidence in the form of a “numerical trend” suggesting the drug could slow functional decline, according to a Biogen release.

    The population of individuals with ALS being targeted in this trial is notably small, but Henderson said that its results could eventually translate more widely, with success representing the “first big crack in the glass ceiling of ALS.”

    “One reason for thinking the chance of success is much higher here is that we are going after the single genetic cause of disease in these patients,” with a drug that specifically focuses on the disease’s trigger, he said. “We want to gradually go from these rare forms into the whole disease, which would be just an amazing achievement if we can get there.”

    Read more:Stephen Hawking was only expected to live a few years after being diagnosed with ALS at age 21 — here's what the disease is

    There could also be major implications for Biogen's wider pipeline of treatments. BIIB067 is an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO), just like Spinraza, the spinal muscular atrophy therapy that has quickly become one of Biogen’s most important products.

    A $1 billion partnership

    The category of medicine has been a focus of a decade-long, $1-billion partnership between Biogen and the drugmaker Ionis. 

    But Spinraza was tested only on children, which has made use in adults somewhat controversial. If BIIB067, which is being tested in adults, is successful, that could bolster the approach, and lead to big returns on the huge investment Biogen made in it. 

    BIIB067 is next headed into what is the equivalent of a late-stage trial, to see how well it works in individuals with the disease, and Biogen isn’t making a timeline public.  

    Biogen is also partnering with Ionis on another ALS therapy, BIIB078, and bought a number of products, including an ALS drug candidate, from Karyopharm in an up to $217 million deal early this year. 

    There’s also a muscle-strengthening agent that Biogen bought earlier this year, which could have potential in ALS patients as well as those with spinal muscular atrophy.

    Some patients have taken Spinraza and "they're doing well, but not perfectly," Henderson said. "If we can add to that muscle strength...we can then come to a more complete treatment."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A Harvard psychologist reveals the secret to curbing your appetite


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    Nerds

    • Bookkeepers are finding that the emerging marijuana industry can be a boon for business.
    • The complicated, constantly evolving regulations around marijuana in the US — not to mention, the gold-rush aspect of the mostly cash industry — is giving accountants lots of work. 
    • CPAs find they can charge higher fees to marijuana industry clients because of their specialized knowledge on the subject. But it remains challenging to pick and choose who to work with. 

    Nerdy number-crunchers are finding themselves on the bleeding edge of a brand-new, multi-billion global industry: marijuana. 

    Certified public accountants are finding that the patchwork of state laws governing the industry — and not to mention, the specter of federal illegality — is a boon for business in what could be a $75 billion industry. 

    Yet, marijuana presents a number of headaches for those who are willing to take the plunge into the rapidly growing sector. 

    "This isn't an industry you can handle with kid gloves," said Mitzi Hollenbeck, a Boston-based partner at accounting firm Citrin Cooperman who leads its cannabis advisory practice."Things are moving so fast. You need to put in the hours." 

    Hollenbeck was speaking at the New York State Society of CPAs "Navigating the Cannabis Industry Conference" in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, on a panel titled: "Should I take this cannabis client?"

    Read more: A top marijuana CPA says the 'bubble will burst' for weed M&A deals

    While the marijuana industry is quickly going corporate, accountants on the panel discussed the numerous challenges they had in selecting and dealing with cannabis clients. Part of that, the accountants said, is establishing a client acceptance procedure that's unique to the cannabis industry — and making the complexities of the industry a full-time focus. 

    "The biggest concern is 'where's the money coming from,'" said Hollenbeck. Most marijuana startups are funded by family offices and high-net-worth individuals, who may be able to take on more risk than a financial institution. But because many investors lie outside of traditional banks, it's an environment that could be ripe for fraud. 

    "You have to do a background check on the investors. You have to protect yourself and your client from money that's being laundered into the system," she added. 

    John Pellitteri, the New York-based healthcare practice group leader at accounting firm Grassi & Co, said he's seen prospective clients disappear once he started "asking questions."

    Investors based in places like the Cayman Islands, or anywhere the State Department has raised red flags, is a sure sign not to take on that client, Pellitteri said. 

    marijuana

    'They'll whip out a bong in the meeting' 

    Another piece of advice all the panelists shared: be selective with who you take on as a client and get paid up front.

    Larry Lippman, the CEO of the Colorado-based Expo, a non-bank financial institution that serves the marijuana industry, said he's met with clients and felt like he's the "only adult in the room."

    "They'll whip out a bong in the meeting," Lippman said. "I'm not trying to be silly — you need to get everything in writing because they'll forget. Get your money up front in a retainer."

    Some clients have asked Hollenbeck if they could pay her in cash, or in "product," an offer she roundly rejects.  

    "I've heard the excuse, 'my bank account is frozen,'" said Lippman. In some cases, that may be true — minefields abound for investors and entrepreneurs trying to ride the green rush. 

    "Even opening a fund to invest in cannabis can be a trigger to losing bank accounts," said Jason Hoffman, a senior manager at Janover LLC. 

    Marijuana industry startups, whether they cultivate and sell the plant directly or provide ancillary services like software and hardware to the industry, are subject to unique federal tax burdens in the form of Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code. That code prohibits businesses engaged in the distribution, loosely-defined, of a federally controlled substance from deducting things like payroll from their taxes.

    They're also forced to conduct their business on an all-cash basis as most banks won't touch marijuana money — or even provide a loan or a line of credit — as the drug is listed as an illegal, Schedule I substance by the US federal government.

    That means that marijuana companies must figure out a way to deal with all that cash in order to pay vendors, make payroll, and file taxes. 

    states where marijuana legal 4x3

    'There's a lot of backpedaling' 

    Part-and-parcel of the challenges for CPAs in the marijuana industry is the gold-rush aspect. Everybody's piling in.

    "Clients are jumping first because the industry is moving so quickly," said Hollenbeck. "There's lots of backpedaling." 

    But all that risk and complexity has led these few buccaneering CPAs to carve out a lucrative niche for themselves.

    "It's a highly specialized business," Pellitteri said. "You should be able to raise your price above market value and get paid well for your knowledge."

    The accountants all agreed that in order to be in the cannabis industry, you have to be flexible. The rules are constantly changing. 

    Read more: Sullivan & Cromwell, an elite Wall Street law firm, is working with a Canadian pot company on a $1.8 billion M&A deal. Here's why that's 'momentous' for the marijuana industry.

    "To anyone who thinks about getting into this business: you will get that 2 a.m. phone call that your client's bank is kicking them out," said Hoffman.

    But the challenges are worth it — and so is being at the forefront of a brand-new, multibillion-dollar global industry that's set to disrupt pharmaceuticals, consumer-packaged goods, alcohol, and tobacco, the panelists said.

    To Lippman, this work has been some of the most exciting of his career.

    "This industry certainly has its characters, but they're some of the most creative people I've ever met," said Lippman. "Maybe it's the pot?" 

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The legendary economist who predicted the housing crisis says the US will win the trade war


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    KFC Firelog

    • KFC is now selling a log that smells like fried chicken. 
    • The KFC 11 Herbs and Spices firelog goes on sale on Thursday. 
    • The firelog costs $18.99 and can be purchased online while supplies last. 

    KFC is kicking off the holiday season with a log that smells like fried chicken. 

    On Thursday, the chicken chain announced that it is debuting the "KFC 11 Herbs and Spices firelog." When lit, the log will smell like the chain's famous fried chicken. 

    Shoppers can buy the firelogs for $18.99 at kfcfirelogs.com starting on Thursday. The logs will be available as supplies last. 

    "At KFC, we have always been proud of our role in bringing loved ones together at the dinner table around a bucket of our world-famous fried chicken," Andrea Zahumensky, KFC US' CMO, said in a statement.

    "Now, this winter we're bringing all the things we love — family, friends and fried chicken — together around the fire with our scented firelog." 

    KFC is known for its sometimes bizarre marketing ploys.

    Read more:Here are 7 of the weirdest deals and ads in recent fast-food history

    In 2016, the chicken chain gave away 3,000 free bottles of Colonel Sanders' Extra Crispy Sunscreen, which smelled like fried chicken. The lotion quickly sold out.

    The chain has also cast a long list of various actors, singers, and comedians as Colonel Sanders since 2015. Stars include Billy Zane, Darrell Hammond, and Reba McEntire, who served as the chain's first female Colonel earlier this year.

    The chain's advertising strategy is rooted in mixing the chain's history — such as the continued appearance of Colonel Sanders, as well as the emphasis on the 11 herbs and spice — with quirkier applications, like the scented log. 

    "Over the years we've had many, many people try and emulate KFC's successes. ... And no one has ever got close," Tony Lowings, KFC's incoming global CEO, said at parent company Yum Brands' investor day earlier in December. "And part of the reason for that is that our history is real."

    SEE ALSO: KFC is testing even cheaper deals as customers are 'more pinched than ever'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The true story behind the name 'Black Friday' is much darker than you may have thought


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    Long Island City, one of Amazon's next office outposts

    • Asset managers are rushing to offer products to invest in so-called opportunity zones: economically depressed areas that could benefit from new tax breaks.
    • The burgeoning strategy could present a host of problems for investors and managers, including what one private-equity real-estate firm founder described as "shotgun weddings" and projects that take more from the communities than they add.
    • On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to establish a council of government agencies that would streamline federal programs to benefit opportunity zones, among other tasks.

    "Opportunity zone" investments are this season's must-have product for investment firms of all stripes.

    The funds, which target economically depressed areas that could benefit from new tax breaks, are the investment du jour for everyone from Goldman Sachs to Anthony Scaramucci's SkyBridge Capital. Even Amazon is set to benefit — its planned outpost in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, is in an opportunity zone.

    These managers are betting that new tax benefits will draw $1 trillion or more to long-term bets on neighborhoods historically underserved by investors.

    But some industry observers, particularly those in the impact-investing and affordable-housing spaces, caution that the investment comes with significant risk that may be overlooked in the rush to these nascent products. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create a group to address some of these concerns.

    Under the new tax law, an investor can sell an asset — stock, a company, or even a wine collection — and within 180 days reinvest those profits into opportunity-zone-focused investments. The profits are later taxed at various levels depending on how long the capital is invested.

    Read more:Amazon's New York headquarters could mean millions in tax breaks from Trump's tax plan

    Firms can raise capital for individual projects or funds, with most of the latter ranging from $50 million to $1 billion. Scaramucci's $3 billion target is an outlier, said Tony Chereso, the CEO of the Institute for Portfolio Alternatives, a trade group for the alternatives industry.

    Because the strategy is so new, the IPA and other groups, including universities and foundations, are trying to issue guidance as products come to market, the first crop of which are largely focused on real estate.

    As firms scramble to set up strategies to capture capital and as industry organizations work on guidance, here are eight cautionary points to keep in mind about the burgeoning strategy, according to managers already working in the space.

    Inexperienced real-estate managers

    Some firms without real assets experience, like Scaramucci's SkyBridge, are finding real-estate operating partners. SkyBridge's opportunity-zone fund is sub-advised by EJF Capital, a private-equity firm whose founders came from the world of real-estate investment trusts and which hired a real-estate-focused team, some with backgrounds in affordable housing.

    "They do have the real-estate expertise to pull this off,"Scaramucci told Business Insider last month.

    But partnering may not always end well, said Daryl Carter, the founder of the private-equity real-estate firm Avanath Capital Management.

    "It will create a series of shotgun weddings by necessity: people with projects, with managers who have capital, that are hastily put-together partnerships," he said.

    Lack of a history in underprivileged communities

    Daryl CarterEven firms with a long history in real estate could struggle with investing in neighborhoods that look much different from those in their track record.

    Impact investors are concerned that these firms may not engage with community stakeholders and could create projects that lead to gentrification.

    "We believe engaging communities isn't just something you should do — it's essential to mitigating risk and optimizing returns, both financial and impact," said Fran Seegull, the director of the US Impact Investing Alliance.

    Carter, whose firm has long invested in affordable housing, cautioned that a poorly run project might doom future investments.

    "Unfortunately, if not done right, you could have some bad projects that aren't accepted by the market, and it may in fact inhibit attracting capital to some of those markets in the future," he said.

    Long-term exit strategies

    As opportunity-zone investments are in areas traditionally underserved by major capital sources, a strong exit is far from guaranteed. And because managers will hold the investment for a decade or longer to maximize tax benefits, exit strategies are difficult to predict.

    Seegull said one positive exit from an impact-investing perspective would be a buyout by stakeholders in the neighborhood.

    "We hope that when exits occur, the value stays and the wealth is shared with local communities, and it's not net extractive," she said.

    Lack of impact accountability

    Investors have few figures by which to compare opportunity-zone investments, including financially and by social impact.

    Impact investors, including the US Impact Investing Alliance, have asked the Department of the Treasury for public data on capital raised and deployed, as well as projects' efficacy. A Treasury representative could not be reached for comment.

    Challenging timeline for deployment

    Managers have 31 months to deploy raised capital, which could be a tough timeline for funds invested in projects across the country.

    "They have to learn the fabric of the neighborhood, find the opportunity, get all the approvals," Carter said. "The execution alone — whether they have experience in that market or not — is challenging."

    He said his firm was considering forming a vehicle seeded by some of the existing fund's projects as a way around this issue.

    Too much capital, not enough projects

    A working group Carter is participating in has estimated that there is $1 trillion of investor demand for opportunity-zone investments, compared with $300 billion to $400 billion of project demand.

    "It's 3-to-1 capital-to-deals, which can be very dangerous," he said. "Some of these people are looking at buying large-scale, big parcels of land where they're building over many years."

    EJF Capital, which declined to comment, has already closed on two deals valued at $300 million, according to a source familiar with the transactions; the firm plans to do 20 to 30 projects.

    Tax reform doesn't incentivize new deals or jobs

    Impact investors are concerned that opportunity-zone investments may create less local good than marketed.

    Seegull said that perhaps managers "are doing deals that they already had underway, and the opportunity benefit enriches the return profile of deals that would have already been done."

    Fran Seegull"And something that's really important is creating jobs for residents of opportunity zones," Seegull added. "The quality of jobs, who gets the jobs, and the types of jobs are all things we're looking at as potential downsides or upsides."

    Realistic return expectations

    An investor shooting for an 11% overall return needs to see only a 7% to 8% return on an opportunity-zone project — the tax benefits will make up the difference, Carter estimated.

    Chereso recommended investors evaluate a manager, underwrite the real-estate thesis, and only then consider the opportunity-zone benefit.

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    vss unity

    • Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic says it plans to launch a rocket into space for the first time on Thursday.
    • If successful, the flight will ascend to 50 miles above the surface, which is one of several definitions of being "in space."
    • Two pilots will fly the mission, and will experience weightlessness, Virgin said. The ship will carry cargo to simulate a full contingent of 6 passengers.
    • The company says 600 people have already reserved spaces for when commercial services begin. 
    • Here's how Tesla's SpaceX, Amazon's BlueOrigin, and Virgin Galactic plan to take people to space. 

    Virgin Galactic has scheduled a test flight for their six-seater passenger spacecraft which could see them reach space for the first time in the company's history.

    If it works, the space company, founded by Richard Branson, would have demonstrated their technical ability to deliver the commercial space flight product they have been promising for more than a decade.

    VSS Unity (also known as SpaceShipTwo) is due to take off at an unspecified time on Thursday from the company's launchpad in the Mojave Desert of California.

    A statement from the company on Tuesday said: "VSS Unity will soar to a peak altitude of just about 50 miles and the pilots will experience a few minutes of weightlessness."

    50 miles above the earth's surface is one possible definition of being "in space," and is the one used by the US Air Force. NASA considers space to begin 62 miles up, by which definition VSS Unity would fall short.

    VSS Unity on Tarmac 2

    Galactic wrote: "We are at a stage now in our testing program where we want to start simulating the commercial weight distribution in the spaceship represented by our future passengers."

    "Overall the goal of this flight is to fly higher and faster than previous flights," the statement said.

    Virgin-owner Richard Branson's project seems to be advancing and getting closer to taking human passengers into space for the first time in history, but it has suffered several setbacks and missed deadlines.

    vss unity

    Read more: Virgin Galactic just released its first commercial for a trip to outer space

    Richard Branson is well known for setting target launch dates and then missing them. He has previously predicted that space flights would be operational by 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

    If the craft does indeed reach space on Thursday, his prediction in October that Galactic was "weeks away" from launching into space would have been reasonably accurate. 

    The Galactic project hasn't been without serious setbacks.

    A craft crashed in 2014 killing the co-pilot. It took two years to launch the next manned flight in 2016.

    Asides from internal issues, Virgin Galactic is racing against Amazon's BlueOrigin, which has also been developing craft to launch passengers into space, as well as Elon Musk's SpaceX in a close third place.

    VSS Unity can carry six passengers, and tickets costs $250,000. The company says 600 people have already reserved spaces on their first commercial spaceflights. 

    VSS Unity's three previous test flights have not breached the line which is commonly thought of as being the beginning of space. 

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    smart home voice assistant benefits

    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

    The US smart home market has still yet to meet the expectations many observers had in the early part of this decade.

    The same issues Business Insider Intelligence first identified back in 2015 still plague the space — persistently high prices, technological fragmentation, and consumers' lack of a perceived benefit from the devices.

    But the newfound popularity of smart home voice control has revolutionized smart home ecosystems across the country, and convinces more consumers to equip their homes with smart devices on a daily basis. The Amazon Echo, released in 2014, has become immensely popular and capable, awakening users to the utility of both voice control and smart home devices. This has prompted companies to rush to release competing devices and integrate voice control into their smart home ecosystems.

    In a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, we examine the overall state of the US smart home market — both the professionally and self-installed markets. We analyze the factors driving demand for smart home devices and smart home voice speakers, and discuss the future of voice control in the home.

    Here are some key takeaways from the report:

    • Voice control is becoming a key remote interface within the home, a trend that began with the introduction of the Amazon Echo in 2014. Since then, Google, Samsung, and Apple have all integrated voice control into their smart home ecosystems.
    • While progress has been made, prices are still too high and consumers still have yet to show strong demand for smart home devices.
    • The US smart home market is only now entering the mass market phase of consumer adoption and overcoming the chasm that it sat in back in 2015.

    In full, the report:

    • Analyzes current consumer demand for smart home devices based off results from Business Insider Intelligence's proprietary survey.
    • Forecasts future growth in the number of smart home devices installed in American homes.
    • Analyzes the factors influencing the proliferation of voice control devices in the homes.
    • Identifies and analyzes the market strategies of various companies that have integrated voice control into their smart home ecosystems.

    Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to:

    This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports
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    Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos

    • Apple announced on Thursday that it is spending $1 billion on a new campus in Austin, Texas.
    • Its stealthy process of selecting the campus contrasted with Amazon's drawn-out HQ2 beauty parade.
    • Apple CEO Tim Cook said he did not like the idea of creating a contest between bidders.
    • Apple's own HQ2 plan looks like another effort to paint the firm as the responsible bastion of big tech.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a habit of aiming thinly veiled barbs at his rivals, and his latest manoeuvre looks like it could be ripped from the same playbook.

    With little fanfare, the company announced it's going to drop $1 billion on a new headquarters in Austin, Texas on Thursday. It followed a stealthy selection process, which Cook fired the starting gun on in January.

    The difference between Apple doubling down on Austin, where it already has a reported 7,000 staff, and Amazon's drawn-out beauty parade for its second quarters could not be starker.

    And while Apple would probably say its selection process had nothing to do with Amazon, Cook did make a point of outlining the differences in their approaches earlier this year.

    "We’ve narrowed the list a lot," Cook said of potential sites, in a January interview with ABC News. "We wanted to narrow it so we prevent this auction kind of process that we want to stay out of."

    Read more: Amazon is reportedly splitting HQ2 into 2 cities, which would prove the whole contest was a massive sham

    He later doubled down on his remarks, according to CNBC reporter Paayal Zaveri. She quoted Cook as saying: "We didn't want to create this contest, you wind up putting people through a ton of work to select one, that is a case where you have a winner and a lot of losers. I don't like that."

    In an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher, he added: "That's not Apple."

    The resulting process has been supremely hush-hush. The closest we got to a sniff of Apple's plans included reports like Cook meeting officials in Virginia and a secret sit-down with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. Apple also threw ABC News off the scent by saying its campus outside of California is unlikely to be in Texas.

    In contrast, Amazon's process was a public spectacle which began in September last year. In the 14 months that followed, Amazon received proposals from 238 locations, courted attention from governors, mayors, and bureaucrats in a reality TV-style contest, and eventually decided to split its headquarters between New York City and Northern Virginia.

    People were unhappy and the entire process was branded a "sham." One losing bidder said: "Big tech is at a pivotal moment, and Amazon is at the head of the class. It is time for them to aggressively think not just about their bottom line but about ways they can do right by the world."

    No such allegations are likely to be slung at Apple after its Austin announcement.

    During a year in which Tim Cook has consistently sought the moral high ground, on issues including data privacy, Apple's very own HQ2 plan looks like another effort to paint the firm as the responsible bastion of big tech.

    SEE ALSO: Tim Cook mounted his most stinging attack yet on companies like Facebook and Google that hoard 'industrial' quantities of data

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    NOW WATCH: I tried cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner using Google Home Hub and found there are two major flaws with it


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    Trump border wall prototypes

    • President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that "MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!" on the US southern border.
    • Trump now says Mexico will not send the US any money, but instead his NAFTA-replacement trade deal will pay for the wall in time.
    • Top Democrats bashed the idea as a waste of money and a disingenuous use of revenues from the deal.
    • Pelosi previously said funding for Trump's wall is off the table, calling it "immoral, ineffective, expensive."

    President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that he'd come through on one of his first, biggest, and most outlandish campaign promises by making Mexico pay for the US to construct a wall on its southern border.

    According to Trump, the Mexico will send no money to the US for the wall's construction. Instead, Trump said his NAFTA-replacement trade deal with Mexico and Canada will somehow pay for it.

    "I often stated, 'One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.'"Trump tweeted. "This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!"

    Trump's USMCA deal does secure some key gains for the US in its trade relationship with both the Canada and Mexico, but it does not resemble a payment from Mexico to the US.

    Trump voiced a similar sentiment in a testy meeting with House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, which Pelosi pushed back on as a waste and a disingenuous use of revenues from the deal.

    Read more:Trump inexplicably told Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that Mexico would pay for the border wall as part of the landmark new trade deal

    Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi Mike Pence Oval Office

    The USMCA includes clauses that hope to shift car manufacturing to the US from Mexico. For example, 40% of each car must be produced by workers making $16 an hour or more to avoid cross-border duties, likely boosting the US and Canada's prospect to host those jobs as their industries can pay higher wages. Also, Mexico agreed to allow imports of certain US cheeses.

    Otherwise, the USMCA is much the same as NAFTA. And while Mexican industries may now have to pay some duties to the US, the revenue the US could get likely would take the form of taxes levied on workers and goods sold. 

    Read more:The US, Canada, and Mexico's newly signed trade pact looks a lot like NAFTA. Here are the key differences between them.

    Trump has requested $5 billion in funding for the wall, but Democrats, arguing the wall is unnecessary and ineffective to stop illegal border crossings, want to stick to $1.3 billion for border security funding.

    Pelosi previously told Business Insider that funding for Trump's wall is off the table, calling it "immoral, ineffective, expensive."

    When announcing his campaign in 2015, Trump insisted the US needed a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants. He accused Mexico of sending undesirable people such as rapists across the border, and that the US's southern neighbor would pay for the wall.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    tejon ranch 2

    • Los Angeles County's board of supervisors approved a plan to build a massive mixed-use development on land that's eight times the size of San Francisco.
    • The plan was previously met controversy among environmental groups that are concerned about rising pollution levels and the destruction of natural habitats.
    • Now, scientists and locals are worried about wildfire risk, especially in light of the recent California blazes.
    • While developers insist they're safeguarding the territory, wildfire experts say the main cause of fires — human activity — can't be accounted for in the project's design. 

    Los Angeles has approved a plan to build a mixed-use development on land that's eight times the size of San Francisco. Earlier this week, the county's board of supervisors voted in favor of the Centennial project, a sprawling suburban oasis that's being touted as a solution to the region's housing shortage.

    The development could soon introduce about 19,000 new homes LA County, bringing the state closer to its goal of adding 100,000 new units per year. Centennial's business park is also expected to generate about 23,000 jobs.

    Read more:A tug-of-war is ongoing over plans to build a new Southern California town on land that's 8 times the size of San Francisco

    There's one major problem: The development will sit on territory that's extremely prone to wildfires.

    According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the land falls within "high" or "very high"fire-hazard zones, which have seen numerous blazes since the 1960s.

    tejon ranch 3

    Centennial was reminded of this risk in November with the onset of two major California wildfires, which claimed more than 90 lives and destroyed about 19,000 homes — the same amount that the project is expected to deliver. 

    Representatives from the project's developer, Tejon Ranch Co., have said the new construction provides an opportunity to get things right. 

    In a statement provided to Business Insider, the company's vice president of corporate communications, Barry Zoeller, said that Centennial's fire plan had been peer reviewed by experts at Wildland Resource Management and approved by the LA County Fire Department.

    He also pointed out that there have been no fires on the site in the last 15 years, and only four in the last 50 years.

    "From the very beginning of the planning process, Centennial has focused on minimizing fire risk and maximizing fire defense," Zoeller said. 

    But therein lies the issue. Many scientists and locals insist that the development can't be fireproofed, citing evidence that most wildfires are the result of human activities, such as neglecting campfires, flinging cigarette butts, burning debris, or committing arson.

    tejon ranch 4

    According to Marko Bourne, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official who now leads Booz Allen Hamilton's emergency management, disaster assistance, and risk practice, the only real way to minimize wildfire risk is to avoid living in or next to forested areas.

    "The denser we build [in these areas], the more we're going to see destruction," he said.

    Only one out of four local supervisors pointed to this evidence as a reason to curtail the Centennial project on Tuesday. Supervisor Kathryn Barger defended the project's use of flame-resistant materials and said she was relying on the opinion of fire officials who had approved the project.

    The week before, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in to the Los Angeles Times to illustrate the danger.

    "Natural areas that have burned in the past will likely burn again," said scientist Tiffany Yap. "It's only a matter of time before Centennial leads to more human ignitions."

    The Center for Biological Diversity has released its own campaign called "Stop Centennial," which argues that the development would destroy natural wildlife habitats. 

    In a public statement, an attorney for the center called Centennial "one of the most destructive sprawl projects in county history."

    Zoeller responded to these concerns with a statement of his own.

    "It's unfortunate that the Center for Biological Diversity is not satisfied that 90% of Tejon Ranch will be protected as open space," he said. "Given the opposition to new housing development...by groups like CBD, is it any wonder that California is in the midst of a housing crisis?"

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    Bob's Watches

    • Bob's Watches is the world's largest pre-owned and vintage online Rolex watch exchange. The company makes buying and selling luxury watches an easy and comfortable experience by listing true market value for every watch.
    • For the holiday season, the site is holding its first ever 12 Days of Rolex auction event.
    • Every day until December 21, Bob's Watches will auction off one vintage, rare, or sought after Rolex watch. Each auction lot begins at 8 a.m. PST and ends at 4 p.m. PST. 
    • With the ability to place live bids, you can potentially save big while also keeping your budget in check if you're not willing to spend more than a certain amount.

    Most people live under the assumption that they'll never own a luxury watch, let alone be able to buy one as a holiday gift for someone else. Now, the world's first and largest pre-owned and vintage watch dealer is convincing people to get rid of both preconceived notions by offering authentic Rolexes at fair prices.

    For the first time ever, Bob's Watches is holding a series of holiday-themed public auctions with The 12 Days of Rolex. Every day until December 21, the site will auction off a different Rolex, starting at a far lower price than you'd ever expect to pay.

    While you can get a great deal on Rolexes (and a slew of other luxury timepieces) year-round at Bob's Watches thanks to its transparency with buying and selling prices, the ability to bid means you can potentially get a watch for less than its listed market value. 

    On top of that, Bob's Watches doesn't charge a buyer's premium and shipping is free, so you won't find any extra fees tacked on to your purchase.

    Bob's Watches

    Here's how it works: 

    Each auction lot begins at 8 a.m. PST and ends at 4 p.m. PST. During that time, you can place live bids on the watch, which, like every watch Bob's sells, is guaranteed to be authentic with only genuine Rolex parts. Although there's plenty of room for savings, you shouldn't expect to steal a watch at auction for a few bucks. To make sure serious potential buyers are bidding, each watch has a starting bid and a reserve price to meet.

    Some of the watches that will go up for auction during The 12 Day of Rolex include vintage Rolex Sea-Dwellers and Submariners, race-inspired Rolex Dayton as, an unworn Rolex Cellini, the iconic Rolex President Day Date, and more.

    Whether you're looking to treat yourself with an end-of-year splurge or you and your family are chipping in to buy someone special the ultimate holiday gift, there's no reason not to check out the auctions.

    Even if you're interested in buying a watch outside of the auctions, you can receive it before Christmas when you order by December 20.

    To participate in The 12 Days of Rolex auctions, register here>>

    Learn more about buying and selling luxury timepieces at Bob's Watches here>>

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    elon musk tesla spacex boring

    • Tesla CEO Elon Musk apparently has a quite sensitive nose, according to WIRED.
    • The billionaire once complained the smell from a heating vat of silicon could kill people. 
    • Job candidates have even been told to avoid strong perfumes or colognes, the magazine said. 

    Job candidates at Tesla are told to avoid strong-smelling perfume when meeting CEO Elon Musk, according to a new profile in WIRED.

    In another instance, Musk said the vapors from a vat of liquid silicon — which smelled like plastic when heated —"were going to kill people."

    It's an ironic anecdote from Wired's essay, given accusations of unsafe work conditions from watchdogs and investigations by California's division of Occupational Safety. In one instance, former workers alleged the company sent major injuries to the emergency room in private cars — and that Tesla hired a new in-house clinician to help avoid documenting injuries that would otherwise be seen by regulators.

    It’s far from the chief executive’s strangest quirk. From flamethrowers to rockets, the billionaire knows how to make a splash. Of course, that ambition to change the world hasn't come without backlash.

    Read more: Tesla's new in-house clinic may have helped the company avoid reporting some injuries: Report

    SEC settlements aside, experts have criticized his management style and expectations of much more than a 40-hour work week. At one point, he defended the rigorous schedule and a habit of sleeping at Tesla’s factory, saying that "nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week." Without the time commitment, Tesla would not be able to exist, he said.

    Read the full WIRED profile here.

    Now read:

    Do you work at Tesla and have a story to share? Reach this reporter at grapier@businessinsider.com.

    SEE ALSO: Tesla's new in-house clinic may have helped the company avoid reporting some injuries: Report

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    man covered in grease

    • A man was trapped in the grease vent of a vacant Chinese food restaurant in San Lorenzo, California, for two days.
    • He was found after a passerby "heard a faint voice calling for help."
    • When responders found the 29-year-old man, he was covered in grease and oil and could not move.
    • After the hour-long rescue mission, the man was transported to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration and exhaustion.
    • It's unclear why he was in the vent, and authorities are investigating the situation.

    A 29-year-old man was rescued after spending two days trapped in a grease vent in California, according to a news release from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office

    Emergency responders in San Lorenzo, California, responded to a call at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday after a man named Igor Campos was walking by and "heard a faint voice calling," according to the release.

    Read more: People in a small Pennsylvania city are using a Christmas tree to fill a persistent pothole

    First responders were able to track the sound of the man's voice to a vent atop Chef Kwong’s Chinese restaurant that led from the roof to the kitchen, per authorities.

    rooftop vent

    After locating the man, authorities cut away at the sheet metal inside the vent and were able to rescue him after around 30 minutes. 

    man covered in grease

    Firefighters worked for an hour to extract the man from the duct, according to the release. After he was out of the vent, the man was transported to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration and exhaustion.

    trapped in vent

    “We checked, and he was not Santa Claus,” Alameda County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Ray Kelly joked to The Mercury News.

    Police have not yet released the name of the man, and authorities say they are investigating the situation for trespassing and vandalism. The case will also be submitted to the district attorney, according to the news release.

    Visit INSIDER's homepage for more.

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    Tim Cook

    • Apple announced a new campus in Austin, Texas that will support 5,000 employees.
    • Unlike Amazon's HQ2 process, Apple stayed quiet during the selection process, and CEO Tim Cook said he didn't want it to be a "beauty contest."
    • But ultimately Apple did the same thing as Amazon — choosing to expand in a rich and highly-educated area where it already had thousands of employees.

    Some news from Apple this morning: It's expanding! Apple said in a midnight press release that it's building a new campus in Austin, Texas.

    Details about the new Apple office complex include:

    • An investment from Apple of $1 billion.
    • A location in Williamson County, Texas just outside of Austin. 
    • 5,000 employees to start. 
    • Room to grow for as many as 15,000 employees in divisions including research and development, finance, sales, and customer support. 
    • Incentives from Texas include as much as $25 million in taxpayer-funded grants, and a 15-year property tax abatement possibly worth tens of millions of dollars, according to the Austin Statesman

    It's the new campus that Apple teased back in January. "The company plans to establish an Apple campus in a new location, which will initially house technical support for customers. The location of this new facility will be announced later in the year," Apple said in press release

    Apple CEO Tim Cook tried to draw contrasts between Apple's search for a new location and Amazon's "HQ2" contest, which drew international headlines. 

    “We’re not doing a beauty contest kind of thing,” Cook said in March. “That’s not Apple.”

    Apple was drawing a contrast between Amazon's publicity-heavy approach, and Apple, which put out a press release at 2 a.m. central time. 

    But there's significantly more in common between the two campus selection processes than Apple would like to admit.

    Both companies basically did the same thing. They announced they were building a new office, and got municipalities to come to them with various incentives, grants, and waived taxes— and then ultimately, both companies chose areas that they already had major operations in. 

    Apple's biggest campus outside of Silicon Valley is its existing Austin campus, which is about a mile from this new development. Apple has such deep history in Williamson County that it sparred with elected officials back in 1993 over whether it could offer health insurance and other benefits to same-sex couples that worked at Apple. (Apple ended up getting $1 million in tax incentives to build its first Austin campus.)

    "At 6,200 people, Austin already represents the largest population of Apple employees outside Cupertino," Apple said in its Thursday press release. 

    Apple's new campus process turns out to be pretty similar to Amazon's HQ2 process, in which the company founded by Jeff Bezos got scores of cities and counties to offer it packages of various incentives, only to turn around and choose Queens, New York, and Arlington, Virginia as locations for HQ2 — rich, educated, urban areas where it already had huge operations.

    Ultimately, the difference between the two processes is surface-level. Both tech giants ended up doing the same thing. 

    If there is a difference between the two approaches, it deals with the goals the various companies had for their new offices. Both are growing prodigiously, and would have probably needed new offices anyway to account for their swelling workforces.

    But while Amazon was interested in getting the top incentives packages as well as collecting information to inform its future expansion, Apple's goals were more political.

    Apple first revealed its new campus back in January, as part of an announcement after it had received $38 billion in tax benefits stemming from Republican tax reform.

    In what seemed to be a quid-pro-quo to Republican politicians and President Donald Trump, Apple said in its announcement that it planned to spend $350 billion in the United States and create 20,000 jobs — talking points that Trump and his administration repeated. Tucked into that announcement, Apple said it would announce in 2018 an "Apple campus in a new location."  

    Much of Apple's January announcement was centered around money it would've spent and jobs it would've created anyway — and this new Austin campus is no different. Apple needs more U.S.-based call centers to maintain its high level of customer support, so it would have had to build them eventually.

    By calling its planned expansion in an area which it already employs thousands a "new campus," Apple gained goodwill from politicians and some key tax breaks. 

    Ultimately, that's not too different from what Amazon did. 

    Got a tip? Contact the author at kleswing@businessinsider.com or Twitter DM. Secure messaging available upon request. 

    SEE ALSO: Everything I love and hate about the 2018 Mac Mini

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    Bowery farm

    • Less than two years after its launch, the indoor agriculture startup Bowery has raised $90 million in funding led by GV (formerly Google Ventures).
    • The New Jersey-based company will use the funding to open multiple vertical farms in new cities by the end of 2019.
    • Though vertical farming alone cannot solve the global food crisis, it could deliver fresh, healthy produce to more areas of the world. 

    As the popularity of vertical farms continues to rise, investors have taken note.

    Less than two years after its launch, the indoor agriculture startup Bowery has raised $90 million in Series B funding led by GV (formerly Google Ventures). Other investors include the global investment company Temasek, restaurateur David Barber's Almanac Insights, and the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi.

    The company previously raised $27.5 million in 2017.

    Read more: This giant warehouse farm says it can grow 100 times more greens per square foot than traditional farms

    The new funding will help Bowery scale its operations beyond its giant warehouse in New Jersey, which produces eight types of leafy greens and is testing dozens more. 

    The company's products are currently available at select Whole Foods, Sweetgreen, Dig Inn, and Foragers locations in the greater New York City area. They also appear on the menu at two restaurants owned by Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, who is one of the company's advisors. 

    bowery farm

    Like many vertical farms, Bowery uses zero pesticides and 95% less water than a conventional farm.

    Part of what makes the company unique is its proprietary software, called FarmOS, which uses machine learning to monitor plants as they grow. If a certain batch of lettuce needs less light or a cooler atmosphere, the software can adjust the conditions in the warehouse.

    This makes for a more efficient system that allows the company to grow 100 times more greens per square foot than the average industrial farm.

    In a statement, Bowery's CEO, Irving Fain recognized the need for solutions to the food crisis, which has left an estimated 124 million people without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. 

    "We deeply believe in the power of technology to make drastic, necessary improvements to the food system," Fain said.

    Bowery   Farm 8

    Though the expansion of vertical farms will not solve the problem on its own, it could help certain communities gain access to fresh, healthy produce. 

    With its latest round of funding, Bowery plans to open multiple farms in new cities by the end of 2019. The company will also add more employees and invest in new technology.

    Fain previously told Business Insider that the company intends to expand internationally — a move that could distinguish it from its competitors.

    Already, the greater New York area is home to multiple vertical farms, including AeroFarms, a 69,000-square-foot warehouse in Newark, New Jersey, and Square Roots, a Brooklyn-based urban farm created by Kimbal Musk (Elon Musk's brother).

    Bowery's expansion into new territories could help deliver more produce to urban areas.

    "These are problems that aren't unique to New York, let alone the US," Fain told Business Insider. "We're going to see populations and cities continue to grow, and getting fresh food to these environments in a way that's more efficient and sustainable is even more important."

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