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The latest news from Business Insider

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    Xinjiang

    • The Associated Press reported last month that a Chinese clothing factory used cheap or free labor from people held in oppressive Chinese interment camps.
    • Beijing has been criticized around the world for its treatment of the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who are intensively surveilled and frequently detained.
    • Badger Sport, which makes team clothes for US universities like Texas A&M, cut ties with the Chinese factory after reports of its use of forced Uighur labor.

    An American company severed its ties to a Chinese manufacturer that was reportedly making clothes using forced labor from an oppressed ethnic minority.

    Badger Sport, a North Carolina firm that makes custom sportswear for institutions like the University of Pennsylvania and Texas A&M, ditched the supplier Hetian Taida Apparel this week.

    Hetian Taida is a privately-owned company located inside an internment camp in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, the epicenter of China's well-documented oppression of the Uighur minority.

    Xinjiang is home to some 11 million Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority currently subjected to unprecedented and invasive surveillance techniques by the Chinese state. The region is also known as East Turkestan.

    china xinjiang hetian taida factory

    Beijing is accused of detaining up to 1 million Uighurs in prison-like detention camps, relying on flimsy excuses for doing so.

    China justifies its crackdown as a counterterrorism measure. It has called the internment camps "free vocational training" where Uighurs "have realized that life can be so colorful."

    Activists have found evidence of Chinese authorities tracking Uighurs' cellphone activity. Beijing has also invested billions of yuan into covering Xinjiang with facial recognition cameras.

    Read more:Shocking footage purportedly shows cells inside prison camp where China oppresses Muslim minority

    xinjiang camp yingye'er

    In a Wednesday statement on its website, Badger Sport said it will no longer work with Hetian Taida, nor import any products from Xinjiang.

    It said the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution and to eliminate any concerns about our supply chain given the controversy around doing business" in Xinjiang.

    The company said it "will not ship any product sourced from Hetian Taida currently in our possession," which it said previously accounted for about 1% of its total annual sales.

    uighur

    Badger Sport's decision follows a December report from the Associated Press (AP) that Chinese authorities were forcing detained Uighurs to making clothes for Hetian Taida for little or no pay.

    It did not say which items were made by these workers.

    Universities stocking Badger Sport clothing also removed items from their online and physical stores in light of the AP report.

    It appears to be a sign that that businesses are reacting to international pressure and reporting on the crackdown.

    US bipartisan lawmakers introduced an act last month urging the White House to consider imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the Uighur crackdown, as well as banning exports of US technology that could be used to oppress Uighurs.

    China's foreign ministry told the AP that Badger Sport's decision to cut ties with Hetian Taida was "a tragedy for its business." It said that AP report on forced labor used "such wrong information."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: MSNBC host Chris Hayes thinks President Trump's stance on China is 'not at all crazy'


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    andy murray 1

    • Andy Murray, one of Great Britain's most successful athletes, has announced he will retire from tennis this year.
    • The former world number one tennis player was at his peak in 2016.
    • It's thought he will retire with a fortune of $165 million, most of which comes from endorsements and sponsorships.
    • Here's how Murray makes and spends his money.

    Sir Andy Murray, one of the most successful British sports stars of all time, just announced he intends to retire from tennis after Wimbledon this year— although he may be forced to do so earlier, after the Australian Open.

    The athlete has been struggling with hip pain for almost two years, which has prevented him from playing at his best.

    However, Murray's impact on the tennis world is far from over.

    He has made a name for himself as a champion of equality in the sport, regularly speaking out aginst sexism in the industry.

    Read more: Touching tributes are pouring in for Andy Murray, who just announced his retirement from tennis in a tearful press conference

    A successful playing career has also afforded the Scotsman the opportunity to work with sponsors, which often brings in more money than winning Grand Slams.

    In fact, Murray, 31, has earned $61 million in prize money and just over $100 million in earnings from endorsements, bonuses, and appearance fees over his career, according to Forbes.

    But unlike other world famous athletes like Usain Bolt, the Scottish tennis champion is frugal with his money, preferring to invest in small businesses and property to develop his multi-million pound fortune.

    From luxury hotels to book deals and salad chains, here is how Murray makes and spends his $165 million fortune.

    Edith Hancock contributed to an earlier version of this article.

    Tennis great Andy Murray has announced he will retire from the sport this year — and he'll be leaving with a net worth of $165 million.

    Source: Forbes.



    While $61 million of this fortune has come from prize money, just over $100 million is from endorsements, bonuses, and appearance fees.

    Source: Forbes.



    2016 was Murray's most fruitful year, winning nine titles. He picked up a cool $2.5 million after winning his second Wimbledon men's singles title alone.

    Source: Telegraph



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Venus Williams and Serena Williams

    • Serena Williams has said there were not a lot of role models for her to look up to when she first started playing tennis.
    • This meant she took on that role herself and, thanks to life lessons from her parents to always love the way she looked, she has never been "afraid" to be black in tennis.
    • Williams is currently preparing to compete in the 2019 Australian Open which begins on Monday. She takes on Tatjana Maria in the first round on Tuesday.

    Serena Williams has said that neither she or her sister Venus Williams were ever "afraid to wear braids" or "be black in tennis."

    Williams is regarded as the most dominant women's tennis player ever. The 37-year-old has held the world number one rank for a total of 319 weeks, the third best all-time record. She is a 23-time Grand Slam champion, and has earned over $88 million in career prize money.

    But speaking to Allure, the American said weren't many role models for her to look up to in the sport when she first started playing.

    She said she had to adopt that role herself and that as soon as she and her sister Venus became famous around the world as wildly-talented teenagers, their parents ensured they remained body-positive and knew how to love the way they looked.

    Read more: The cartoonist who turned Serena Williams into an angry baby doesn't think his drawing is racist and says 'the world has just gone crazy'

    "Venus and I started out being successful, continued to be successful, and we were also unapologetically ourselves. We were not afraid to wear braids. We weren’t afraid to be black in tennis. And that was different," she said.

    It is also something she wants to teach her own daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

    "My mom instilled in us to be confident women, to really believe in ourselves, be proud of our heritage, our hair, and our bodies. That was something that was really important for her to teach us. I’m definitely teaching it to my daughter."

    Williams is currently preparing to compete in the 2019 Australian Open, a competition she won whilst eight weeks pregnant the last time she played in it two years ago.

    Williams has been drawn as a 16 seed and could face her 2018 US Open final opponent Naomi Osaka in the semi-final stage if both athletes make it that far.

    Williams famously lost in straight sets to Osaka at Flushing Meadows last year, after getting slapped with three code violations for coaching (which she denied), smashing her racket (which cost her a point), and calling the umpire a "thief," which cost her a game.

    The Australian Open begins on Monday. Williams takes on Tatjana Maria in the first round on Tuesday.

    SEE ALSO: The cartoonist who turned Serena Williams into an angry baby doesn't think his drawing is racist and says 'the world has just gone crazy'

    DON'T MISS: Serena Williams' Reddit co-founder husband Alexis Ohanian slams controversial 'angry baby' cartoon for being 'racist and misogynistic'

    UP NEXT: The newspaper that published the 'angry baby' Serena Williams cartoon ran a hit piece saying she is 'no feminist hero' — here's why they're dead wrong

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is 35 — here's how he became one of the world's scariest dictators


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    Aphria Vic Neufeld

    • Aphria on Friday announced that its cofounder Cole Cacciavillani and its CEO, Vic Neufeld, would transition out of their executive roles.
    • The company reported mixed quarterly results Friday morning.
    • Aphria shares were down 2.8% early Friday.
    • Watch Aphria trade live.

    The Canadian cannabis producer Aphria reported mixed quarterly results Friday morning that were overshadowed by news that its cofounder Cole Cacciavillani and its CEO, Vic Neufeld, would transition out of their executive roles in the coming months.

    The two will remain in their roles for now, working with Aphria's board chair, Irwin Simon, and the company's president, Jakob Ripshtein, on a succession plan, the company said.

    "Now with legalization and globalization, including a huge market opportunity with positive developments in the US, Aphria's next generation of leadership may take the reins," Neufeld said in a statement.

    "Building and leading a company like Aphria, which exploded from an idea in late 2013 to our many successes to date, has been an incredible journey, despite the toll it has taken on health, family, and personal priorities."

    For its fiscal second quarter, Aphria lost an adjusted 0.01 Canadian dollars a share as net revenue grew 63% versus a year ago to 21.67 million Canadian dollars. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were looking for adjusted earnings of 0.02 Canadian dollars on revenue of $28.77 million.

    On December 3, the company was accused by the short seller Quintessential Capital Management's Hindenburg Research of being a "shell game with a cannabis business on the side." Quintessential accused Aphria of announcing acquisitions in July that it called "largely worthless" and said were used to divert as much as $700 million, or nearly half of its total net assets. Aphria denied the allegations. 

    On December 27, Green Growth Brands announced plans to launch a takeover bid for Aphria, offering 1.5714 Green Growth shares for each Aphria share — a 45.5% premium to the previous day's closing price. Aphria rejected the offer, saying it undervalued the company.  

    Aphria shares were down 2.43% to $6.40 a share early Friday.

    Aphria

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The equity chief at $6.3 trillion BlackRock weighs in on the trade war, a possible recession, and offers her best investing advice for a tricky 2019 landscape


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    Dorval_Steve

    • John Dorval, head of innovation at insurance giant John Hancock, said startups and financial firms could do a better job of working together more efficiently. 
    • One issue is around startups lacking an understanding of the underlying issues financial firms face, despite having technology capable of offering a solution.
    • Large financial firms, meanwhile, could do a better job cutting down on the red tape involved with testing fintech products. 

    The growth of the financial technology sector has exploded in recent years as startups look to solve problems for large, slow-moving financial firms in innovative ways. But one executive at a nearly $500 billion insurance firm said both sides could be working with each other even more efficiently.

    Steve Dorval, head of innovation and advice at Boston-based John Hancock, told Business Insider in an interview Thursday there are several issues startups face when trying to solve problems for big banks and insurance companies.

    Dorval, who is also the president of John Hancock's personal financial services, said entrepreneurs don't always see the benefits their products might offer large, complex financial firms because they lack a full understanding of the problems these companies face.

    "There are a lot of companies and startups out there that don’t realize that they have solutions that could feed the needs of what we want in terms of how to help make us more efficient," Dorval said. "You're a 25-year-old PhD coming out of MIT and you haven't worked in a large financial services industry [firm]. You might have no idea that XYZ is hard when it seems like it should be just routine for someone like us."

    Startups have done a good job of addressing issues visible to the general public. Dorval pointed to reduced trading fees and renters insurance as examples of fintechs developing ways to do something in the industry cheaper and more efficiently through technology. It's a common origin story in the space, he added, of an entrepreneur looking to address an issue he or she personally faced. 

    However, financial firms face other challenges not seen by outsiders that young startups might not even understand.

    "There are still large financial services organizations that are dealing with faxes," he said. "There are probably entrepreneurs that have never seen a fax machine. How do you know to solve a problem for an issue that you didn’t even realize existed in the world anymore?"

    Financial firms carry some of the blame as well, Dorval said, as they could do a better job of interacting with startups early on. The way large organizations are structured require fintechs to jump through multiple hoops just to allow the firm to test their solution. 

    As a result, Dorval said some of the most sought after fintechs are hesistant to get involved with legacy financial or tech firms. 

    "We have heard horror stories with startups where they spend six to nine months working with a large company trying to just implement a proof of concept,"Dorval said. "Many entrepreneurs, especially the ones with the most exciting technology, are suspicious of partnering with large companies like us."

    As a result, Dorval said John Hancock has tried to dramatically reduce the friction costs for startups to begin doing business with them, whether it be through a proof of concept or even a validation of an idea. 

    John Hancock and Dorval will get that opportunity through their involvement in the MassChallenge's accelerator program in Boston in which financial firms in the area have the opportunity to work with local fintechs. John Hancock, which has around $483 billion in assets under management, has invested an undisclosed amount to be involved in the program for the next three years, Dorval said. 

    The insurance company could end up working with as many as 10 startups through the accelerator, he added. 

    "We try to think about it more as being almost like a venture capital portfolio that you are probably going to have a not normal distribution of outcomes," Dorval said. "There are going to be a lot of different things we try or a lot of companies that we talk to and see if we can do something. Many of them will either not work or won't be real, and we will realize that, hopefully fast. But if one or two of them can meaningfully change the cost curve or improve our customer experience then we will have considered this entire relationship to be a rousing success."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Bernie Madoff was arrested 10 years ago — here's what his life is like in prison


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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.

    the best OLED tv

    • The LG C8 is the best OLED TV you can buy because it shows off how powerful OLED technology is with excellent black levels, an attractive design, and a slew of features.

    OLED TVs have been very popular among home theater enthusiasts for the past few years, and the continually dropping price point of this premium product means there's never been a better time to invest in one. If you want the best streaming, gaming, and movie watching experience, there's no substitute for an OLED TV.

    OLED stands for "organic light emitting diode," and while that just seems like technical jargon, it has serious implications for your TV watching experience. Instead of using a traditional backlight, OLED screens use a carbon-based film between two conductors that creates light when an electric current passes through. That means when there's black in an image, the TV won't display light at all, making for the highest dynamic range of any TV technology.

    Like any high-end technology, though, there's a lot of confusion surrounding what you should buy. LG, Samsung, and Sony each have their own marketing lingo, which makes it difficult to know if you're even buying an OLED in the first place.

    We've scoured the internet and tested some of the premium options on the market so you can find the best OLED TV in our buying guide

    Here are the best OLED TVs you can buy:

    Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

    The best OLED TV overall

    Why you'll love it: With a reasonable price tag and excellent image processing, the LG C8 is the best bang for your buck in the OLED TV market.

    Based on buyer reviews, commentary by experts online, and my own hands-on testing, the LG C8 is where you should look first if you want to invest in an OLED TV. It includes the best features from LG's TV line while maintaining a reasonable price tag. As the mid-tier option in LG's line-up, it's also the centerpiece of most sales.

    OLED TVs also rely on processing power, and the C8 is no slouch in this regard. It uses the a9 processor, which is the same processor used in LG's super expensive W8 series of TVs. The processor provides the C8 TV with the best color accessory and sharpness. LG's C8 even earned an "excellent" rating from Consumer Reports for its picture quality.

    The C8 also supports HDR content which, unlike with many cheaper TVs, isn't just a flat marketing point. The TV supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, and Advanced HDR by Technicolor, meaning you can take advantage of just about any HDR content that's available. It's great future proofing, as HDR content is ever growing.

    When dropping this kind of money on a TV, though, none of that should come as a surprise. The C8 may differentiate itself with excellent image quality, but the ThinQ AI is what sets it apart from the pack. It integrates with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so you can watch anything just by yelling at your digital assistant from across the room.

    Furthermore, the C8 comes with Gallery Mode, which will cycle paintings and photographs across the screen to avoid the dreaded OLED burn-in. It's also got Dolby Atmos support and access to nearly every streaming platform available — though HBO is oddly omitted.

    Pros: Excellent image quality, ThinQ AI, relatively inexpensive

    Cons: No HBO support

    Buy the LG C8 55-inch OLED TV on Amazon for $1,897 (originally $1,996.99)



    The best OLED TV for less than $1,600

    Why you'll love it: LG cut some corners to bring the B8 to a lower price point, and while it's not as good as our top pick, it gets damn close for about $300 less.

    The LG B8 is mostly the same TV as the C8. Like its more expensive sibling, it uses LG's WebOS, supports a range of HDR content, and comes with the same integration with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The only thing that's different is the image processor.

    It uses the now dated a7 processor, which LG only uses in this TV. While it would be great to say there isn't a difference between this processor and LG's flagship one, there is. The higher-end a9 processor helps bring colors to life more and bumps up the sharpness, but only by a thin margin.

    In a side-by-side comparison with other LG OLEDs, the a9 processor reigns supreme. However, when put against competitors, the a7 still shines. The difference between the two is really splitting hairs. The a7 processor helps the B8 beat out TVs that are double its price.

    Believe it or not, the largest difference between the B8 and C8 is the stand. LG opted for the narrow, angled stand seen on 2017's C7 instead of the wider, curved version seen on the C8. When put on a wall, though, the B8 and C8 look identical.  

    Pros: Cheapest true OLED TV on the market, Google Assistant integration

    Cons: Older image processor, no HBO support

    Buy the LG B8 OLED TV on Amazon for $1,597 (originally $1,796.99)



    The best high-end OLED TV

    Why you'll love it: Sony may not have the chops to compete with LG's inexpensive OLEDs, but it pulls ahead in a high-end market with the excellent app support and truly impressive audio quality of the A9F Master Series TV.

    Sony TVs have always had one word associated with them: expensive. The A9F Master Series is no exception to that, touting a price tag that's around $1,200 more than LG's competing top-tier OLED TV. Even so, Sony justifies the price with a unique spin on built-in audio and a wide range of applications.

    TV speakers are notoriously bad, but you should listen to the A9F before blowing money on a speaker system. Sony essentially turned the TV into a soundbar, utilizing the surface area of the panel to distribute sound throughout the room. It's called "Acoustic Surface Audio+," and it's impressive.

    There are six actuators behind the panel that pour sound into the room, with two dedicated woofers handling the bass. It sounds so good that I recommend using the A9F as a center speaker while connecting other bookshelf speakers for a surround setup, which Sony, thankfully, supports.

    You're paying for that tech, mostly. The image quality is about on par with LG's mid-tier OLED TVs, despite Sony's new X1 Ultimate image processor. The colors and sharpness are mostly the same, though Sony falls behind LG when fast-paced action is on screen.

    Movie watchers will be fine with either TV, but gamers should seriously look twice at the A9F. It makes a perfect pairing with the PS4 Pro, handling the detailed and chaotic graphics of AAA games with grace. The PS4 Pro supports 4K HDR gaming, too, which the A9F can handle.

    Pros: Excellent audio quality, wide app selection, great gaming experience

    Cons: Expensive, not the best movie watching experience

    Buy the Sony A9F Master Series OLED TV on Amazon for $4,498



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    U.S. personnel provide security during an independent patrol outside Manbij, Syria, Aug. 11, 2018. These independent, coordinated patrols are conducted with Turkish military forces who stay on the opposite side of the demarcation line.

    • The US started withdrawing troops from Syria on Friday, the Department of Defense said.
    • The US-led coalition against ISIS has "begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," a spokesman said.
    • President Donald Trump said on December 19 that he wanted to pull troops out of Syria.
    • Since then, there has been a flurry of mixed messages over the extent of US withdrawal, what troops would leave, and when.

    The US has started withdrawing troops from Syria on Friday, despite the Trump administration saying as recently as this week that they planned to handle it totally differently.

    The US-led, 79-nation coalition against ISIS has now begun "our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the alliance, said in a statement cited by Reuters and The New York Times.

    "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements," he added, according to Reuters. INSIDER has contacted the Department of Defense for comment.

    The news comes after weeks of chaotic mixed messages, which began when President Donald Trump announced his plan to pull the 2,000 US troops out of Syria on December 19.

    He said, inaccurately, that it was because ISIS had been "defeated."

    Read more:Trump just radically upended US Syria policy despite repeated warnings that doing so could be disastrous

    Donald Trump Iraq

    The president said he wanted the troops out in 30 days, but later rowed back his comments. His administration later lengthened the timeline for withdrawal.

    The US was hoping that Turkey would remain in Syria to fight the remnants of ISIS, which is not totally defeated, either in Syria or elsewhere.

    That plan hit a snag earlier this week when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly insulted US National Security Advisor John Bolton, and said he would not play ball with the US plan.

    john bolton erdogan

    Washington wanted assurances that Turkey would not attack Kurdish militants — alongside whom the US had been fighting, but whom Turkey considers terrorists — after the US leaves.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the US would carry out with its withdrawal plans despite Erdogan and Bolton's disagreement, Reuters reported.

    Unnamed defense officials also told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday: "Nothing has changed. We don't take orders from Bolton."

    The decision to withdraw from Syria has been controversial even within the US government.

    Jim Mattis, the former US defense secretary, and Brett McGurk, the top US official leading the coalition against ISIS, both resigned over it.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The US Air Force refuels combat jets in midair with a 'flying boom system' — watch it in action


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    Mobility Market

    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.

    Automakers are on the verge of a prolonged period of rapid change to the way they do business, thanks to the combined disruptive forces of growing on-demand mobility services and self-driving cars, which will start to come to market in the next couple of years.

    By the end of 2019, Google spinoff Waymo, Uber, and GM all plan to have fleets of autonomous cars deployed in various US cities to provide on-demand rides for passengers. By eliminating the cost of the driver, these rides are expected to be far cheaper than typical Uber or Lyft rides, and even cheaper than owning a car for personal transportation.

    Many industry experts are predicting that such cheap on-demand autonomous rides service will result in a long-term decline in car ownership rates — PwC predicts that the total number of cars on the road in the US and EU will drop from 556 million last year to 416 million in 2030.

    This decline in car ownership represents an enormous threat to automakers’ traditional business models, forcing them to find alternative revenue sources. Many of these automakers, including GM, Ford, and Daimler, have plans to launch their own on-demand ride-hailing services with fleets of self-driving cars they will manufacture, potentially giving them a new stream of recurring revenue. This could set them up to take a sizeable share of a market that is expected to be worth trillions by 2030.

    However, competing in the on-demand mobility market will pit legacy automakers against ride-hailing services from startups and tech giants that have far greater experience in acquiring and engaging consumers through digital channels. To succeed in what will likely be a hyper-competitive market for urban ride-hailing, automakers will have to foster new skill sets in their organizations, and transform from companies that primarily produce vehicles to ones that also manage vehicle fleets and customer relationships.

    That will entail competing with startups and tech giants for software development and data science talent, as well as reforming innovation processes to keep pace with digital trendsetters. Automakers will also need to create unique mobile app and in-car experiences to lure customers. Finally, these automakers will face many overall barriers in the market, including convincing consumers that self-driving cars are safe, and dealing with a complex and evolving regulatory landscape.

    In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, delves into the future of the on-demand mobility space, focusing on how automakers will use fleets of self-driving vehicles to break into an emerging industry that's been dominated thus far by startups like Uber and Lyft. We examine how the advent of autonomous vehicles will reshape urban transportation, and the impact it will have on traditional automakers. We then detail how automakers can leverage their core strengths to create new revenue sources with autonomous mobility services, and explore the key areas they'll need to gain new skills and capabilities in to compete with mobility startups and tech giants that are also eyeing this opportunity. 

    Here are some of the key takeaways:

    • The low cost of autonomous taxis will eventually lead car ownership rates among urban consumers to decline sharply, putting automakers’ traditional business models at risk.
    • Many automakers plan to launch their own autonomous ride-hailing services with the self-driving cars they're developing to replace losses from declining car sales, putting them in direct competition with mobility startups and tech giants looking to launch similar services.
    • Additionally, automakers plan to maximize utilization of their autonomous on-demand vehicles by performing last-mile deliveries, which will force them to compete with a variety of players in the parcel logistics industry.
    • Regulatory pressures could also push automakers to consider alternative mobility services besides on-demand taxis, such as autonomous on-demand shuttle or bus services.
    • Providing these types of services will force automakers to make drastic changes to their organizations to acquire new talent and skills, and not all automakers will succeed at that.

    In full, the report:

    • Forecasts the growth of autonomous on-demand ride-hailing services in the US.
    • Examines the cost benefits of such services for consumers, and how they will reshape consumers’ transportation habits.
    • Details the different avenues for automakers to monetize the growth of autonomous ride-hailing.
    • Provides an overview of the various challenges that all players in the self-driving car space will need to overcome to monetize their investments in these new technologies in the coming years.
    • Explains the key factors that will be critical for automakers to succeed in this emerging market.
    • Offers examples of how automakers can differentiate their apps and services from competitors’.

    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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    Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry
    And more!
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    wall street stealing tech talent 2x1

    • The trend of Wall Street talent fleeing to Silicon Valley to chase riches, influence, and a better lifestyle appears to be slowing, if not reversing.
    • Banks and money managers, who eagerly court comparisons to giants like Amazon and Google, are spending tens of billions of dollars on aggressive technology projects that they're betting are the future of the industry.
    • Companies like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan say they're luring more tech talent, and having an easier time doing it. 
    • No single dynamic is driving the trend. Rather, a combination of cultural changes, compensation, and ambitious projects and challenges on Wall Street are making it more attractive to technologists. 
    • Wall Street's tarnished reputation following the financial crisis has also improved, while tech giants have taken a public whipping in recent months. 

    Alex Sion is the classic boomerang hire — from Wall Street, to tech startups, and back to high finance.

    He worked at Citigroup from 2006 to 2009 developing an early robo-adviser concept, then left for a decade before rejoining last summer to run an internal start-up incubator for Citi's Global Consumer Bank.

    Much has changed in the intervening years, a large chunk of which Sion spent in the start-up world building and running a mobile-banking platform called Moven.

    During his last run at Citi, technologies such as the Apple iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter were in nascent stages. Instagram didn't exist. To most, artificial intelligence (AI) was a Hollywood trope, not a flashy corporate buzzword that threatens to upend the labor market.

    Wall Street was crawling its way back from the abyss of the financial crisis and licking its wounds by the time Sion left in 2009. Waves of other talented employees also jumped ship amid the carnage, to companies like Google, Apple, or the multitude of start-ups attracting piles of venture capital.

    But the trend of Wall Street talent fleeing to Silicon Valley to chase riches, influence, and a better lifestyle appears to be slowing, if not reversing, according data and interviews with bank executives and headhunters. The finance and technology industries have converged, and tech's competitive advantages have thinned.

    "In the past 10 years, there was an incredible shift in terms of what technology means to the (finance) business," Sion, who heads up a program similar to "Shark Tank" at Citi called D10X, told Business Insider. "Back then, tech was a source of cost effectiveness. Today, it's very well understood that technology is the business."

    Copycat, Silicon Valley-inspired workplaces and billion-dollar budgets for high-impact projects

    Today, banks and money managers eagerly court comparisons to giants like Amazon and Google, and they're spending tens of billions of dollars on aggressive technology projects that they're betting are the future of the industry.

    As a result, Sion said many of his colleagues in the start-up world are taking the same route as him — boomeranging back to Wall Street, which they now view as the best place to scale their visions and create impact, after years accruing valuable knowledge in the trenches of the tech world.

    JPMorgan Chase 17

    "We have seen many instances of Citi employees who leave for tech firms or startups and boomerang back to Citi," Vanessa Colella, who is the head of Citi Ventures and hired Sion, told Business Insider. "They take their learnings from their experiences elsewhere and bring them back into Citi with the aspiration to transform financial services with the support and network of the global bank."

    Citigroup, which spends $8 billion a year on tech, is far from alone. Wall Street has developed a voracious appetite for tech talent, and it's feeding off Silicon Valley to fill its needs.

    Oliver Cooke, a managing director and North American head of recruiting firm Selby Jennings, said his company noticed a surprising and significant uptick in candidates joining Wall Street from big tech firms in 2018.

    Of the nearly 145 technologists his firm placed at banks, hedge funds, asset managers, and trading firms, 62% came from outside the financial industry — up from 43% in 2017 and 32% in 2016. The most common firms candidates decamped from were Amazon, Google, Oracle, Snap, and Twitter. 

    Cooke said the extent of the shift was surprising, adding that no single dynamic is driving engineers, developers, and data scientist to financial services.

    "They want to work on cool stuff. They want to build cutting-edge technology systems, and they want to be paid well," said Cooke, whose firm focuses on mid- to senior-level talent. "And finally, they want to do it in a cool and fun environment."

    Big banks have ramped up tech spending

    Goldman Sachs — the only big US bank that doesn't reveal its annual tech spend — said applications for engineering positions increased by more than 50% in 2018. The proportion of applicants accepting an offer extended by Goldman is up, too, according to George Lee, the cochief information officer for the firm. 

    Lee, who spent decades at the firm as a San Francisco tech banker, attributed Goldman's increased standing among engineers in part to cultural changes — efforts to mold the work environment to what's customary in Silicon Valley, including the modern tools, open and transparent communication, and a relaxed dress code.

    Such copycat culture efforts are becoming status quo in finance. The $40 billion hedge fund Two Sigma, which brands itself as a tech company and says it's "calling all data scientists, engineers, and academics"on its website, recently opened new offices in Manhattan, complete with arcade games, computing memorabilia, gyms, a hacker space, and a music room.

    JPMorgan, which has a glistening tech hub in Hudson Yards with similar perks and features, now has 50,000 technologists on staff and a nearly $11 billion annual tech budget.Two top executives at the firm have bragged in recent months of their success in hiring from Silicon Valley.  

    Asset management president Chris Willcox, whose $1.7 trillion division is betting big on AI, told Business Insider in December that technologists "are enthusiastic about being in our industry." He helped poach Apoorv Saxena, Google's head of product management for AI, last summer to head up AI at JPMorgan. They added Facebook engineer Yang Wang in September as executive director of applied AI engineering.

    Gordon Smith, copresident and consumer banking chief at JPMorgan, said the bank has "honestly had no problems attracting that talent at all," adding that luring engineers has "actually been very easy."

    They may be requisite now, but ambiance and culture get you only so far. Additionally, developers are attracted to the challenges that can be tackled in finance, as these companies execute their visions for the digital age.  

    Ambitious projects, such as Marcus, the Goldman's digital consumer-lending effort, and Marquee, its commercial app store, have earned currency and intrigue from the engineering world. 

    "Engineers are drawn to hard problems, big challenges, and opportunities to use their skills in unique and different ways. I think Wall Street provides that for people," Lee said.

    He added: "In the past you might've said, 'Look, if I want to work on leading-edge technologies, I need to go to a leading-edge technology firm.' I think the reality today on Wall Street is that if you come here, you'll be working on leading-edge technologies like AI, and machine learning, and natural-language processing."

    'An enormous opportunity to have impact'

    The rapid pace of markets means some developers can see their labor create impact and bear fruit much more quickly than it might in Silicon Valley.

    Quants and data scientists working on commercial space rockets and autonomous vehicles face years of waiting to see the impact of their work take root; working on trading algorithms at a bank or hedge fund, they may contribute meaningfully to the bottom line in a matter of weeks.

    "A lot of these people will sit in the front office and work with traders in developing trading systems and libraries and help enhance the trading infrastructure," Cooke said. "A lot of engineers are actually pretty exposed to the revenue generation piece."

    Two Sigma offices

    In consumer banking, unleashing new features or fixing problems on a mobile app can make life easier for tens of millions of customers. That scale of impact has helped Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which spends $10 billion on tech, in poaching tech executives, such as Tommy Elliott, who left Apple last year to run digital payments at the bank.

    Another factor that has likely leveled the playing field: the onslaught of scandals that have battered the reputations of tech giants, undercutting the long-unchallenged sentiment that their work uniformly improves the world. 

    Tech platforms such as Facebook, Uber, and the iPhone, in their infancy or nonexistent a decade ago, have become dominant economic and cultural forces across the globe, generating massive wealth and accruing immense influence in the process. But over the last two years, they've taken a public whipping as concerns over privacy, detrimental health effects, platform abuses, and other externalities previously ignored or overshadowed by their dazzling promise and convenience have taken center stage. 

    To be sure, many tech giants remain among the most desirable places to work in the country, so the two industries will likely battle over talent with increasing intensity. And trying to change the world and build a unicorn via entrepreneurship will remain alluring to many. 

    But to some, the sins of Wall Street 10 years after the financial crisis have faded from memory. A big tech company in 2018 may not seem all that different than a big bank. 

    For people who believe, as Sion does, that we're still in the early innings of the fintech age, working at a place with massive scale and resources like Citi is among the most exciting opportunities out there right now.

    "A lot of the solutions being cooked up here are just as advanced and just as sophisticated, if not more-so, than the solutions I saw outside in the fintech space," Sion said. 

    "It's an enormous, enormous opportunity to have impact," he added.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    green cannabis lawyers 2x1

    With the rapid spread of marijuana legalization in the US, lawyers are discovering that the tangled web of regulations guiding the rapidly growing industry is a boon for business.

    After last year's midterm elections, some form of cannabis is now legal in 33 states, and many in the industry say it's only a matter of time before legalization sweeps the nation.

    Big money — and big law — has followed. The opportunity could be huge: some Wall Street analysts say marijuana could become an $80 billion market in the US alone in the next decade, with the global market hitting close to $200 billion. 

    There are several key reasons lawyers are attracted to the marijuana industry. For one, as cannabis companies grow, merge, and start getting the attention of Fortune 500 corporations as acquisition targets, they need more sophisticated advice on financing, tax planning, corporate structure, and M&A.

    Publicly traded cannabis companies were on a dealmaking tear in 2019, scooping up competitors and signing multibillion-dollar tie-ups with pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco corporations. It's a trend heating up in 2019.

    Read more: Big law firms are building out specialized pot practices to chase down a red-hot market for weed deals

    In addition, many marijuana companies still directly flout US federal law, despite being publicly traded and posting multibillion-dollar valuations.

    That's an opportunity to a select group of lawyers who have cut a trailblazing path into the industry. Once reluctant, some of the biggest law firms, like Duane Morris, Baker Botts and Dentons, are building out specialized cannabis practice groups as the industry continues to grow in profitability and complexity.

    And even some of the most world's most prestigious law firms, like Sullivan and Cromwell, have gotten in on the marijuana mergers-and-acquisitions action.

    Business Insider has pulled together a list of the top lawyers who've worked on the largest deals in the past year in the growing marijuana industry.

    Here's the list:

    SEE ALSO: The top 12 venture-capital firms making deals in the booming cannabis industry that's set to skyrocket to $75 billion

    Patricia Olasker, Brian Kujavsky: Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg

    Firm: Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg

    Location: Toronto and Montreal

    Davies, one of the largest Canadian law firms, first got involved in the cannabis industry at the request of an important client in October 2017.

    That client was Bank of America, which had provided financing for the beer maker Constellation Brands' initial purchase of a stake in Canopy Growth, a publicly traded marijuana cultivator.

    "We were really led by our clients into this space," said Patricia Olasker, a capital-markets partner in Davies' Toronto office. "We had to get smart about the opportunity very quickly."

    Since that first deal, Davies has ramped up its M&A work in the sector, particularly after Canada legalized marijuana federally last year.

    "There were a lot of internal discussions as to how comfortable we were advising companies in the space, and how to get comfortable," said Brian Kujavsky, a partner in Davies' Montreal office.

    The firm then provided regulatory advice to Canopy on Constellation's subsequent $4 billion investment into the marijuana cultivator last summer.

    Davies also represented investment bank Lazard's Canadian arm on the deal that saw Altria, the tobacco maker behind Marlboro, sink $1.8 billion into a 45% stake in marijuana cultivator Cronos Group in December.

    The firm now advises marijuana cultivators, like Canopy and Cronos Group, at the "senior end" of the market, Olasker said.

    "When a major client like Altria wants to enter the space, you're going to say, 'Yes, we're here to help you,'" Olasker said.

    Looking forward, Olasker said consolidation will slow in the cannabis industry, but she expects to see a lot of deals on the radar. Expect to see tie-ups with consumer packaged goods, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies either through joint ventures or strategic acquisitions, she said.

    And since the passing of the Farm Bill, which legalized hemp in the US in December, Canadian marijuana companies are looking southward.

    "The holy grail for Canadian [marijuana cultivators] is how to get exposure to the US market and not be offside stock-exchange requirements and anti-money-laundering regulations," Olasker said.



    Jonathan S. Robbins: Akerman LLP

    Firm: Akerman LLP

    Location: Fort Lauderdale

    Jonathan Robbins first got exposure to the cannabis industry in 2014 after a real-estate client called him up to ask questions about leasing space to a medical-marijuana company.

    After that call Robbins saw the writing on the wall. "I approached the CEO of the firm the following day and told him we'll be kicking ourselves if we miss this opportunity," he said.

    That was at the outset of Florida's medical-marijuana program, which has now blossomed into a big business, with many US marijuana retailers vying for a piece of the market.

    Robbins is now the chair of Akerman's Cannabis Practice Group, which he says is one of the first cannabis practices at a national US law firm.

    Many of the firm's clients, either private-equity funds, family offices, or high-net-worth individuals, provide a lot of the financing for the cannabis industry as traditional financial institutions like big banks remain wary of working with marijuana businesses, Robbins said.

    In the past year, Robbins has helped Green Growth Brands, an Ohio marijuana retailer, acquire valuable grow facilities in Nevada and helped Surterra Wellness, a marijuana company backed by the Wrigley family, make strategic acquisitions in the Sunshine State.

    "Just as you're starting to see more sophisticated law firms dip their toes in the water, we're seeing the same thing with more established, sophisticated businesspeople," Robbins added.

    He said that the size and complexity of the deals he's worked on have dramatically increased as well.

    "We're routinely working on $100 million deals, $200 million deals, public offerings, and complex cross-border transactions," he said.



    Christopher Barry, Mike Weiner, Kevin Sam: Dorsey and Whitney

    Firm: Dorsey and Whitney

    Location: Seattle, Toronto, and Denver

    Dorsey and Whitney's first involvement in the cannabis industry came through a serendipitous phone call to partner Christopher Barry.

    On the other end of the line was a representative from a multibillion-dollar Asian investment fund looking for advice on investing in marijuana after the fund's regular counsel turned it down.

    Since then Barry has found his expertise in cross-border transactions — he's the head of Dorsey's Canada Practice Group — which has dovetailed perfectly with the cannabis industry.

    Barry has helped US marijuana retailers, like MedMen and Green Thumb Industries, go public in Canada via a reverse merger on the Canadian Securities Index. Barry helped Canopy Growth, a publicly traded marijuana cultivator, cross-list on the NYSE in May.

    For Barry, who was instrumental in building out Dorsey's cannabis practice alongside Mike Weiner and Kevin Sam, being at the forefront of the new industry is what keeps him going.

    "This is more fun than a barrel of monkeys," Barry said. "Look, I'm 71 years old. I've been practicing for over 40 years. If I weren't having so much fun with this I'd be retired."



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    Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez missed out on a crucial finance committee appointment on Thursday.
    • The spot on the House Committee on Ways and Means went to Tom Suozzi, a Democrat more conservative than Ocasio-Cortez.
    • The committee oversees most of the US economy, including Medicare funding, a key part of Ocasio-Cortez's platform.
    • Ocasio-Cortez's representatives said she "hoped to be on it, but we're excited to see what committees she does get." 

    Top Democrats have Congress kept Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez off a prominent finance committee she had hoped to use to advance her progressive agenda.

    Nancy Pelosi's Steering and Policy Committee on Thursday gave the spot on the House Committee on Ways and Means to 56-year-old Tom Suozzi, a Democrat more fiscally conservative than Ocasio-Cortez.

    Ocasio-Cortez's representative, Corbin Trent, told Fox News and the New York Post in a statement that Ocasio-Cortez "hoped to be on it, but we're excited to see what committees she does get."

    He added, however, that she was "certainly not" upset by the decision.

    Read more:The inside story of how, in just one year, Sandy the bartender became a lawmaker who triggers both parties

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    The committee oversees most of the US economy, including spending, taxes, and revenue. It would have been a high-profile arena for Ocasio-Cortez to advocate her progressive agenda, which includes Medicare for All.

    Two of the 29-year-old's key manifesto pledges, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, needs the committee's approval to become law.

    First-year members of Congress are rarely given seats on high-ranking committees. However, representatives from New York City — where Ocasio-Cortez's district is — usually have at least one reserved seat on the Ways and Means committee.

    Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

    A petition championing Ocasio-Cortez for the role reached 90,000 signatures before the committee appointments were announced.

    Progressive groups like the Justice Democrats, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Democratic Socialists of America supported her appointment, The Hill reported.

    Read more:Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the millennial, socialist political novice who's now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress

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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.

    dreamcloud mattress review, 1

    • Not all beds in boxes were created equal, and here to prove that is the DreamCloud, the luxury option you and your insomnia have been waiting for.
    • This mattress is nothing like the foam-only options that you've seen from rival companies in the past.
    • Rather, with eight layers (featuring one with micro-coils and another with cooling gel-infused memory foam), this is the mattress you thought you had to go to a mattress store to find.
    • It's not cheap, but when compared to other luxury mattresses on the market, it's still a great price.

    I thought I'd slept on every bed in a box in the land. I had unrolled and awaited re-flation of so many mattresses that I thought nothing short of a bonus kitten in a box could surprise me.

    This isn't to say that there wasn't some variation among the many different brands currently crowding the space. Some are better for side sleepers; some are better for athletes; some really hang their hat on being prettier than the rest (though, please, for sanitation's sake, don't sleep on your mattress sans sheets). But when it came down to it, the standard deviation in the bed-in-a-box set just wasn't that large. That is, until the DreamCloud came my way.  

    Let it be known that it is, in fact, the case that not all beds delivered to your doorstep are created equal. And the DreamCloud really wants to prove that (and itself) to you. It's unclear whether the "dream" or the "cloud" aspect applies best to the mattress — it's certainly comfortable enough for you to begin dreaming almost instantly, and while I've never slept on a cloud, I imagine that if they felt the way they looked and weren't just unsupportive piles of condensation, they'd feel a lot like this mattress.

    The DreamCloud manages to differentiate itself first and foremost with its eight-layer hybrid construction, which features a combination of gel-infused memory foam, natural latex, and most importantly, a patent-pending coil technology that somehow survives being rolled up and shipped from a warehouse to your front door. And because the DreamCloud boasts eight full layers, it's decidedly thick, which is, of course, an excellent quality in mattresses. It comes in at 15 inches, which is notably thicker than the other options on the market.

    36976626_622489974789612_5240491538621923328_o

    The topmost layer of the mattress is a TrueTufted Cashmere Blend EuroTop. Plenty of adjectives, but all your really need to know is that it's remarkably soft, and surprisingly breathable.

    If you're accustomed to waking yourself up mid-summer in a pool of your own sweat (no shame), you should get some respite from that fate with this mattress. The second layer, a gel-infused memory foam, should help, as it both offers cooling qualities as well as that body-conforming aspect that makes memory foam, well, memorable.

    Then, there's another layer of memory foam that is unique to DreamCloud, and is apparently responsible for the luxurious feel of  the bed. You'll then find a layer of Supreme Natural Latex, a hypoallergenic layer that adds a bit of extra bounce. I wouldn't recommend using this mattress for all your bed-jumping antics, but it'll do the trick if you're so inclined.

    The fifth layer is a supportive memory foam that promises deep contouring support, and the sixth is... yes, the fourth memory foam layer  thus far, which is both dense and soft, and helps support your body throughout the night. A quick note on this — as a side sleeper, I'm perpetually concerned that I'll awake the next morning with pain in my shoulder and hips. But thanks to the infinite number of memory foam layers on this bed, this was not an issue.

    Finally, we make our way to the most unique layer of them all — the  so-called BestRest Coils. This encased pocketed micro-coil compression system makes the DreamCloud feel much more like something you'd buy from a brick-and-mortar store, and not something that you found online. It also adds a bit more support throughout the bed, which again, is often lacking in bed-in-a-box purveyors. The last layer is, naturally, the final high-density memory foam you'll ever hear me speak of — it serves as the foundation, providing the base upon which you will enjoy a delightful night's rest.

    36933380_622489904789619_298756095453691904_o

    Setting up the DreamCloud isn't terribly difficult, especially if you opt for the white glove service (an additional $149), which involves DreamCloud specialists unpacking your mattress for you and taking away that old mattress that you never want to see again.

    Of course, if you'd rather exercise your independence, that's fine, too. The DreamCloud is pretty heavy, so I'd recommend grabbing a friend or a sleeping partner to help you unroll the mattress. After all, you'll both be reaping the benefits.

    If you're not entirely convinced about the DreamCloud, don't worry — no hard feelings. But trying is believing, and as such, the company offers a 365-night trial. Yes, that's a full year for you to make an assessment as to whether or not you are, in fact, sleeping on a cloud. In fact, it might even be enough time for science to help us determine exactly what sleeping on a cloud feels like. In addition, DreamCloud offers an Everlong warranty, which is to say that the company guarantees the construction, materials, quality, and durability of DreamCloud for the original purchaser forever.

    All that said, the DreamCloud doesn't have the dreamiest of prices. There are, in fact, beds in boxes that you can order for less than the $1,199 starting price that DreamCloud offers for a queen. But to be honest, you'd be hard pressed to find one that is quite as comfortable. And I'm still trying to decide if you can really put a price on sweet, sweet repose.

    Buy the DreamCloud mattress for $200 off right now: $599 (twin, currently sold out), $799 (twin XL, currently sold out), $999 (full), $1,199 (queen), $1,299 (king/California king)

    SEE ALSO: The best sheets you can buy for your bed

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    china far dark side moon landing panorama wrap around orthographic change 4 lunar mission cnsa

    • China recently landed the first space mission ever, called Chang'e 4, on the far side of the moon.
    • The mission's landing spacecraft and Yutu-2 rover were sent to probe the moon's geology, seek out water, study the night sky, and even grow silkworms on the lunar surface.
    • Both spacecraft recently woke up from a "noon nap" to survive searing-hot temperatures.
    • The lander took a 360-degree, wrap-around picture of the landing site after waking up on Friday.

    China has released a detailed panoramic image taken by the first-ever spacecraft to land on the half of the moon we can't see from Earth.

    The mission, called Chang'e 4, touched down on the moon's far side ("dark side" is a misnomer) on January 3. The car-size lander and smaller rover it deployed, called Yutu-2, are designed to probe the region over the next six months.

    Shortly after the lander and rover began their work, however, the China National Space Administration put the two spacecraft into a planned three-day "nap," as Space News reported. This helped the mission survive the equivalent of high noon on the moon, during which lunar surface temperatures can reach more than 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The noon nap ended on Thursday and both spacecraft "were in stable condition," the CNSA said on its website, allowing the Chang'e 4 mission to resume in earnest.

    One of the first tasks performed by the lander was taking a series of images of the landing site on Friday morning. The CNSA stitched the images together into a 360-degree panorama and released two depictions:

    china far dark side moon landing panorama wrap around change 4 lunar mission cnsa

    The picture at the top of this story is known as an orthographic projection. This stretches some parts of a panorama and shrinks others to create a single, fish-eye-lens-like image.

    The horizontal image above is a cylinder projection, which is essentially a 360-degree, wrap-around image cut at one point and flattened.

    The cylinder projection was the most detailed of the image pictures released by China, and shows the clearest image yet of the desk-size Yutu-2 rover traipsing toward across the lunar surface toward at the edge of a small crater.

    china far dark side moon landing panorama wrap around change 4 lunar mission cnsa original

    Earlier on its mission, the lander sent back the first photos from the surface of the moon's far side, and the images show Yutu-2 along with the tracks left by its six wheels.

    Scientists in China hope to learn vital clues about the moon's formation, scout for water ice, scan the night sky for radio signals, and even grow silkworms in a self-contained ecosystem.

    The first landing on the far side of the moon

    The mission is exploring a larger impact site called Von Kármán crater, which stretches about 111 miles in diameter.

    The crater is located inside a feature called the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The basin is thought to be the site of a cataclysmic impact with the moon some 3.9 billion years ago, where deep-down material splattered and remains on the lunar surface for study.

    "It's possible this basin is so deep that it contains material from the moon's inner mantle," Tamela Maciel, an astrophysicist and communications manager at the National Space Center in Leicester, England, tweeted after the mission's launch on December 7.

    "By landing on the far side for the first time, the Chang'e-4 lander and rover will help us understand so much more about the moon's formation and history."

    far dark side moon china change 4 lunar mission landing site location illustration south pole aitken basin von karman crater shayanne gal insider

    Read more: 'This is more than just a landing': Why China's mission on the far side of the moon should be a wake-up call for the world

    The mission will again have to take a nap around January 21, when there is a full moon and lunar eclipse (colorfully known as a "super blood wolf moon") since the far side will be completely dark and temperatures may dip to -290 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The name "Chang'e" in the mission's name is that of a mythical lunar goddess, and the "4" indicates that this is the fourth robotic mission in China's decade-long lunar space exploration program.

    No country or space agency, including NASA and Russia, had ever made a soft landing on the far side of the moon until Chang'e 4 on January 3.

    SEE ALSO: 'This is more than just a landing': Why China's mission on the far side of the moon should be a wake-up call for the world

    DON'T MISS: There is a 'dark side' of the moon, but you are probably using the term incorrectly all of the time

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: China just made history by being the first to ever land on the far side of the moon


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    Harbin Ice Festival China 2019

    China's Heilongjiang Province isn't always a big destination for tourists, but when winter rolls around, the region rolls out the red carpet to millions of visitors from across the globe. The city of Harbin hosts one of the world's largest winter celebrations, called the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, which features painstakingly crafted ice sculptures and gargantuan snow statues.

    The festival, which includes four separate theme parks, kicked off its 35th year on January 5 and runs until the end of February. Last year's attracted more than 18 million visitors, according to NBC News.

    The festival's colored lights make the ice creations look even more striking, and each year weddings also take place there in abundance.

    For those unable to travel to Harbin this winter (presumably that's most of us), take a look at these stunning images from the festival so far.

    SEE ALSO: A fitness guru who goes by 'Iceman' says exposure to extreme temperatures is a lifesaving third pillar of physical health

    The 2019 Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival's opening ceremony kicked off with fireworks on January 5.

    The festival's four theme parks are the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, Harbin Ice and Snow World, Harbin Wanda Ice Lantern World, and Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair.



    Lin Renlong, a 22-year-old visiting from Hebei with his girlfriend, told Reuters that it's like “Disneyland in winter.”

    Despite the sub-zero temperatures, tourists like Renlong flock to Harbin from around the world and all over China.



    Harbin Ice and Snow World — one of the four theme parks — grows larger every year; this year's covers more than 750,000 square meters, according to the festival website.

    That's an area larger than California's Disneyland.

    Visitors can enjoy Harbin's Ice and Snow World for about $48.

     



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    Resident Evil 2 Licker

    • The latest game in the Resident Evil franchise is "Resident Evil 2," a remake of the 1998 classic arriving on January 25th, 2019.
    • "Resident Evil 2" is rebuilt from the ground up, blending the horror elements of the original with the action-oriented gameplay of newer "Resident Evil" games.
    • "Resident Evil 2" takes gore to another level, using an updated graphics engine to show the damage done to zombies in real-time.

    Picking up Capcom's remake of "Resident Evil 2" for the first time, I thought I knew what to expect. I've beaten the 1998 original, and I still remember the parts that scared me out of my seat. But less than 10 minutes into the new demo, I felt myself gripping the controller in fear all over again.

    A special 30-minute demo of "Resident Evil 2" is available now in the PlayStation Network store and on Xbox Live. Capcom is calling it the "1-shot" demo because you'll only have 30 minutes total to try the game, whether you survive to the end or get caught by zombies. The demo arrives two weeks before the full game, which is due out on January 25th.

    For me, returning to the monster-infested Raccoon City Police Department as rookie cop Leon Kennedy felt surreal; the setting was immediately familiar, but the remake's overhauled graphics and camera angles offer a new perspective. Even with my memories of where to go, it took some time to navigate the dark hallways, as the game's dynamic lighting left me relying on Leon's flashlight to guide the way.

    Resident Evil 2

    By the time I encountered my first zombies, I was fully on edge, despite carrying a full clip of pistol ammo. I could see their bodies falling to pieces as I fired, but they just kept coming, with some even attacking from the floor. Damage done to the zombies and monsters appears in real time — this "Resident Evil 2" remake benefits from the fresh game engine Capcom developed for "Resident Evil 7." Before I could find a way to restore power to the dimly lit hallways, I was forced to run for my life back to the main lobby and look for another way to escape.

    The "Resident Evil" series is credited with coining the term "survival horror" to define the unique genre the games pioneered in the late '90s. "Resident Evil" made players feel vulnerable by stealing away their sense of control and limiting their resources, a stark contrast from the superheroic protagonists of most action games.

    Resident Evil 2 Cerberus Dogs

    Building from the success of the first game, the developers of "Resident Evil 2" understood how to manipulate the technology of the time to build a terrifying experience. Fixed camera angles made the game feel less focused on the player, instead emphasizing the horrific setting and leaving the potential for surprises lurking off-screen. With difficult controls and limited weaponry, each confrontation was a stressful choice between fight or flight. Surviving the game meant properly managing items, solving puzzles under stress, and staying aware of your surroundings.

    This changed with "Resident Evil 4" and its sequels, as Capcom shifted the game to an over-the-shoulder camera and more action-oriented gameplay. While the run-and-gun style of the newer games found an audience, fans of the earlier games complained that "Resident Evil" had abandoned survival horror to become a more generic action franchise.

    RE2 Old NewThe redesigned "Resident Evil 2" strikes a healthy balance between the two styles of gameplay, giving players greater control with the over-the-shoulder camera, but continuing to limit resources as they explore the constant dangers of the police department. Using the updated RE Engine, "Resident Evil 2" completely recasts the game's visuals, creating a dark and frightening environment to match the suspense of the gameplay.

    The game's storytelling has also been revamped, expanding short conversations into full-blown cutscenes. Leon's story is one of two campaigns in "Resident Evil 2." The other story belongs to Claire Redfield, who we've seen battling the mutated Doctor William Birkin in earlier demos of the remake.

    Dr. Birkin pursues Claire through the tunnels beneath the police department and Claire is forced to flee and search the area for ammo to defend herself. While the fight is rather basic in the original game, the remake makes the updated boss battle feels suspenseful in all the right ways. Birkin's behavior has been improved to make him a true threat, and the improved controls give Claire more of a fighting chance.

    In the original game, the two story campaigns were interconnected and the order they were completed impacted the course of the story, as well as the items you can obtain in the game. Capcom said the storytelling in "Resident Evil 2" has been modified to make the plot more cohesive, though the two campaigns remain separate.

    Even as someone who finished the original game, the "Resident Evil 2" remake feels like a refreshing experience and achieves a wonderful balance between classic survival horror and modern gameplay. "Resident Evil 2" will be released for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on January 25, 2019, you can check out the story trailer below.

     

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    NOW WATCH: British Airways has a $13 million flight simulator that taught us how to take off, fly, and land an airplane


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    JCPenney

    • Macy's, JCPenney, and Kohl's reported weaker-than-expected sales results for the holidays, sending their stock prices down sharply and casting doubt over whether these stores can thrive in a new era of retail. 
    • Macy's said that same-store sales, including licensed departments, were up 1.1% during November and December. It lowered its sales growth and profit forecasts for the year. 
    • Meanwhile, Amazon announced record-breaking sales for the holiday season.

    Department stores apparently didn't have customers biting this holiday shopping season. 

    This week, Macy's, JCPenney, and Kohl's all reported weaker-than-expected sales results for the holidays, sending their stock prices down sharply and casting doubt over whether department stores can thrive in a new era of retail dominated by Amazon. 

    "The holiday season began strong — particularly during Black Friday and the following Cyber Week, but weakened in the mid-December period and did not return to expected patterns until the week of Christmas," Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette said in a statement to the press on Thursday.

    Macy's said that same-store sales, including licensed departments, were up 1.1% during November and December. It lowered its sales growth and profit forecasts for the year. 

    Department stores have struggled in recent years thanks to the rise of e-commerce and declining foot traffic to malls. Meanwhile, online rivals such as Amazon are thriving.

    Amazon announced a record-breaking holiday season and said that more items had been ordered worldwide than ever before. 

    Analysts have pointed out that Macy's results were especially concerning given that it seemed to have turned a corner in its previous quarterly earnings results, when it reported stronger sales growth. 

    "Macy's was not up against particularly challenging prior year comparatives. As such, its comparable sales growth is rather disappointing," Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, wrote in a note to clients on Thursday. 

    He continued: "The weak holiday performance now raises a big question mark over Macy's recovery strategy. This had been gaining traction, but it has been let down by Macy's inability to get the basics of retail right across all parts of its business."

    JCPenney's results were gloomier. On Tuesday, the department store reported that same-store sales were down 3.5% on a shifted basis and said that it would be looking to trim its store fleet this year

    Read more:Macy's and JCPenney are kicking off 2019 with a string of store closings

    Kohl's, which has been considered somewhat of an industry anomaly as it has reported strong sales growth and avoided store closures, saw its stock tumble more than 6% on Thursday after reporting a 1.2% increase in same-store sales in November and December.

    But some analysts say this reaction may be overblown. 

    "The main takeaway from Kohl's numbers is not that growth has come down a bit. This is to be expected. Rather it is that Kohl's is executing and delivering in a consistent way with some good progress on both the top and bottom lines," Saunders wrote. 

    Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass said that the team was "delighted" with the results.

    "The organization once again delivered a very strong holiday that topped last year's exceptional holiday season," she said. Kohl's reported 6.9% growth during the holiday season in 2017.

    SEE ALSO: Amazon announces record-breaking holiday sales with more orders than ever

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    NOW WATCH: How Columbia House sold 12 CDs for as little as a penny


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    mary barra general motors

    • At its Capital Markets Day in New York, GM predicted that 2019 auto sales in the US and China could hold up.
    • GM also told Wall Street that it could beat its 2018 earnings guidance, and it guided markedly higher than consensus for 2019.
    • The company also announced that Cadillac would become its lead electric-vehicle brand.


    The global auto industry is entering a defensive crouch in early 2019. But General Motors is a notable exception.

    On Friday, The largest US carmaker by sales kicked off its Capital Markets Day in New York with a bullish outlook for 2019 and a better-than-expected look back on its 2018 financial results, which the company will report in February.

    GM doesn't anticipate a collapse in the US sales market; after four years of record or near-record sales above 17 million, the company guided Wall Street to a number in that range for 2019.

    The company also expects the Chinese market — a source of concern for investors amid macro-economic pressures and the Trump trade war — to hold up, totalling approximately 27 million in vehicle sales for 2019.

    Read more: How GM went from a government bailout and bankruptcy to being one of the world's best-run car companies a decade later

    Ahead of its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings announcement, GM also said it should exceed its previous 2018 guidance of $5.80-$6.20 per share on a diluted, adjusted basis. It also guided significantly higher for 2019's bottom line: a range of $6.50 to $7 per share, above Wall Street's anticipated consensus of around $6.

    Adjusted free cash flow for 2018 should beat $4 billion, and GM guided toward an improved range of $4.5 billion to 6 billion for 2019. On a conference call in New York, CFO Dhivya Suryadevara indicated that GM's restructuring process in 2018 could contribute between $2 billion and $2.5 billion to the company's profit outlook.

    On the product front, GM said that it would begin rolling out new vehicles in China this year. CEO Mary Barra added that a strong portfolio of SUVs and full-size pickups will drive the positive expectation for the bottom line.

    Reuss Cadillac XT5 debut

    Big news for Cadillac — it will become GM's main electric-vehicle brand

    In other news, the company said Cadillac would become its lead electric-vehicle brand, spearheading a plan to introduce 20 new electrified vehicles by 2023.

    A number of new electric vehicles are coming to market this, from brands such as Jaguar, Audi, and Porsche. GM has been selling a long-range, mass-market EV in the Chevy Bolt, but the Cadillac move could signal that the carmaker wants to make a more aggressive stand in the luxury EV space, currently dominated by Tesla in the US.

    Morgan Stanley analysts have suggested that carmakers would use the Detroit auto show, opening next week, to provide lower guidance. Booming sales are under stress as automakers grapple with a transformation to electric propulsion of the arrival of disruptive new mobility businesses.

    GM is bucking that prediction, based on Barra and her leadership team's efforts over the past few years to exit underperforming markets, invest in electric and autonomous transportation, and most recently, idle underused factories and proactively reduce employee headcounts. (In response to a media query, Barra said that the company isn't planning to idle any additional factories.)

    Investors have been skeptical, however, despite years of steady profits. GM shares have declined 21% over the last 12 months. On Friday, the stock was trading flat pre-market, at $35.

    FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

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    NOW WATCH: Chevy has built a $37.5K all-electric car capable of a 238-mile range


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    Verily Jessica Mega

    • Verily, the enigmatic life-sciences company formerly known as Google Life Sciences, recently raised $1 billion and appears to have its hands in a wide range of health initiatives.
    • The company is building advanced contact lenses; releasing hordes of bacteria-infected (and thus sterile) mosquitoes in Fresno, California; and building a watch that helps researchers gather data for clinical studies.
    • Verily's chief medical officer told Business Insider there's one thread that unites all of its projects: information.

    From an outsider's perspective, the researchers at Google-affiliated health-tech company Verily seem to have their hands in a little bit of everything.

    They're working on contact lenses for people with age-related vision issues; superior versions of the devices that help people with diabetes track their blood sugar; and a watch that helps researchers gather data for clinical studies.

    In addition to all that, they're also setting loose hoards of bacteria-infected (and thus sterile) mosquitoes to wipe out the ones that carry disease; hunting for more personalized cures for Parkinson's; and helping people fight diabetes on their phones and computers.

    Not to mention, Verily just raised a fresh $1 billion to fund its projects, after taking in $800 million about two years ago.

    Subscribe to Business Insider's weekly healthcare newsletter Dispensed.

    According to Jessica Mega, Verily's top scientist and chief medical officer, there's one thread that unites all of these disparate projects, and will help guide how the company uses its cash.

    That thread is information, she told Business Insider during a recent interview on the sidelines of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

    A cardiologist by training and a graduate of Stanford, Yale, and Harvard, Mega has watched as clinicians, providers, and patients deal with a mushrooming cloud of data — from smartphone metrics on steps and heart rate to the detailed patient insights contained in an electronic medical record. That dataset is only going to continue to grow.

    Overall, healthcare data is expected to swell 36% each year through at least 2025, according to a recent report from market intelligence firm International Data Corporation. That's a higher rate than what's anticipated for other fields like manufacturing or media and entertainment.

    "We reached a point where we realized the inflection in data — we're going from gigabytes to terabytes of health data. That's a 1,600-fold increase," Mega said.

    As part of its efforts at bracing for that data wave, Verily recently raised $1 billion in a mammoth funding round led by technology-investment firm Silver Lake. 

    In a statement released with the announcement, Egon Durban, Silver Lake's managing partner and an oncoming Verily board member, said he looked forward to working with Verily to "use cutting-edge science and technology to change the paradigm of care delivery and improve clinical outcomes.”

    Mega agreed.

    "What we're trying to do with things like that investment is trying to stay ahead of the infrastructure you need to handle this next wave of data," she said.

    "That's where I see our big value."

    SEE ALSO: Alphabet's life-science company just raised another $1 billion for a mysterious bet on healthcare

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    GM self-driving bolt

    Tech companies and auto companies are all racing to be the first to roll out self-driving cars onto the road.

    The stakes are high for everyone involved. The self-driving revolution and the prevalence of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft threatens to reduce individual car ownership, which would eat into a sizable piece of automakers' core business.

    Meanwhile, tech companies are jockeying for a piece of the self-driving-car market, which Apple CEO Tim Cook dubbed"the mother of all AI projects." These companies are all looking to deploy self-driving cars as part of a commercial ride-hailing service that would operate similarly to how Uber and Lyft do now.

    In a new free report, Business Insider Intelligence — Business Insider's premium research service — takes an in-depth look at the most expansive self-driving-car tests taking place in the US, and offers insights on the leaders in the self-driving-car race.

    To get your copy of this free report, click here.

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network.

    1

    • American Express has been tied to travel and experiences since launching a travel division more than 100 years ago.
    • The company has built on its years of experience and its knowledge of customers' preferences, to offer an unrivaled set of experiential and travel benefits for its premium card members.
    • The Platinum Card from American Express offers a lot of tangible value (for example, I got more than $2,000 worth of value in my first year), as well as access to exclusive events, awesome travel perks, and unique experiences.
    • So what kinds of experiences, services, and benefits are available for Platinum card members today? Read on to see.

    It's interesting how credit card have become inextricably tied to travel (and tangentially, experiences) in our minds. Google search trends show that more people search for "travel credit card" than just about any other type of card or reward scheme, while people are fixated on the flight benefits, miles, and exclusive access to events and experiences they can get through their credit cards. 

    It's partly because the first credit card rewards were exclusively frequent flyer miles, tied to co-branded airline credit cards. The very first frequent flyer program was launched by Texas International Airlines in 1979, while the three biggest programs in the United States today — run by American Airlines, Delta, and United — launched in 1981. Within a few years, those co-branded cards offered customers a chance to earn extra miles as a reward for spending, according to the Policy & Economic Research Council. The first cash-back credit card came a few years later, and credit card-specific rewards programs started to pop up in the late-1980s — Amex launched its program as "Membership Miles" in 1991, according to the company.

    Meanwhile, over the past decades, travel has become a part of a larger "experiential" mindset that people look for.

    If there's one brand that illustrates the link between credit (and charge) cards and travel, it's American Express.

    As opposed to competitors Visa and Mastercard, which process payments on behalf of lenders and were formed in the late-1950s–1960s, American Express has been around since before the American Civil War. Originally a shipping business, American Express began issuing money orders and travelers checks before the turn of the century, and issued one of the first charge cards in 1959. 

    By the time Amex began issuing travelers checks just before 1900, travel and movement had become a key part of its philosophy and strategy, leading the company to launch a dedicated travel division in 1915, which served as a travel agency and provided a range of other services. By the time Amex launched the plastic charge card in 1959, travel services were deeply tied to the company's target market and reputation, and therefore linked to the marketing for the new transactional tool. When it launched its premium Platinum card in 1984, "unparalleled access to experiences, and unparalleled service" were the essential offerings, according to Janey Whiteside, EVP of global premium products and benefits at Amex, during a recent conversation with Business Insider. 

    Today's American Express is similarly focused on experiences and travel, as well as a degree of service that it has used to differentiate itself from competitors.

    Massimo Bottura Amex BIO Event in Hong Kong_2 (American Express)

    In the years since the Platinum card launched, it's also evolved into the premier travel service product within its class. Along with access to airport lounges, credits to cover airline fees, and access to a well-resourced concierge and travel service, the Platinum card offers cardholders exceptional value — I've previously written about how I got more than $2,000 worth of value in my first year having the card.

    When Amex re-launched the premium Platinum Card in 2017 with a new suite of benefits (which partly offset an increased annual fee), it solidified its positioning within the market as a product for those who seek adventure, experiences, and new things. In the years since the card's launch, according to Whiteside, "[Amex has] stayed true to [its] origins, and as we've learned more about and from our card members, and seen their taste and interest evolve, we've strived to evolve as well."

    "Now in 2018, we see that our Platinum card members are passionate about travel, entertainment, superior service, and have evolved in how they undertake that," said Whiteside. "When we thought about the re-launch, we kept that at the forefront of our strategy."

    So what kinds of experiences, services, and benefits are available for Platinum card members today? Read on to see.

    Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum Card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

    American Express Platinum House at the Parker Palm Springs_2 (Getty for American Express)

    Platinum Houses

    Over the past few years, American Express has offered exclusive "Platinum Houses" and pop-up lounges at major cultural events that align with the composite interests of the general card membership, according to Whiteside. These events range from major sporting events like the US Open to the annual Coachella music festival, as well as other events like Art Basel in Miami, the Aspen Food and Wine festival,  and more. 

    Access is complimentary for Platinum card members (as well as those with the exclusive invite-only Centurion card, also known as the "Black" card), as well as a few guests. According to Whiteside, these spaces are designed as a respite, a chance to relax, and a chance to enhance the event with exclusive extras.

    There are typically areas to rest and relax during downtime between events, wellness-focused programs such as SoulCycle and yoga classes, fashion displays, pop-up shopping opportunities, and, typically, complimentary food and cocktails.

    There's also generally exclusive entertainment. For example, during Art Basal last December, Drake played a secret show in the Platinum House for just 400 fans, all cardholders. At Coachella, a number of artists performed at the space, including Julia Michaels, Justine Skye, Duckwrth, and more.

    Occasionally, these spaces are also open to all Amex card members, although there are usually extra amenities for Platinum and Centurion members. 

    Exclusive dining at seasonal hotspots offered by Eleven Madison Park

    Over the past couple of years, American Express has worked with Eleven Madison Park, the legendary Michelin-starred restaurant that last year was named"best restaurant in the world," to open exclusive dining experiences for American Express cardholders.

    Last summer, Eleven Madison Park's Manhattan location closed during the summer for renovations, and opened a temporary pop-up restaurant in the Hamptons. Dubbed "EMP Summer House," the restaurant's dishes were designed by star chef Daniel Humm, the star behind the main location. American Express and Eleven Madison Park recently announced that it would open the EMP Summer House again this year — even though the main restaurant is staying open.

    Instead of a prix fixe menu like the main restaurant, which usually runs around $300 per person, the EMP Summer House features an à la carte menu featuring a seamless blend of fine dining with light, local season fare, according to Whiteside.

    Additionally, Amex and Eleven Madison Park announced a new EMP Winter House, set to run from December through March, 2019, in Aspen Colorado.

    EMP Summer House in partnership with American Express_Fish Tacos

    While this is less of a Platinum event, as its open to all Amex card members, it's representative of the broader efforts of American Express to provide experiential benefits to its membership. There will also be an exclusive event for Platinum card holders on June 1, and, according to Whiteside, possibly other special events during the summer.

    An Amex card will be required in order to make a reservation, and Amex will be the only accepted payment method. Reservations open on Tuesday, May 1, and can be made at empsummerhouse.com.

    By Invitation Only

    American Express offers hundreds of events each year with exclusive access or benefits for card members. Some of these are things like early access to concert tickets, or preferred seating at shows, but Amex also has about 100 "By Invitation Only" events around the world each year — these can be exciting.

    By Invitation Only events, which are exclusive to Platinum and Centurion card members, include things like backstage tours at concerts, special trips, VIP access to events like the Monaco Grand Prix, access to cocktail parties with thought leaders and insiders across a range of industries, and more.

    At the time of publication, there were eight events open to registration, including tickets to a small, intimate insider's discussion with designer Christian Louboutin (and a shopping credit), VIP access to the Cannes film festival (including private lunches with prominent film critics, access to talks by film industry insiders, and a VIP invite to the American Pavilion gala), an intimate wine tasting and dinner at the famous Per Se restaurant with chef Thomas Keller, and an incredible, curated weekend away during harvest season in Napa Valley.

    Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum Card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

    Concierge and travel planning

    One of the most underrated benefits of the Amex Platinum is access to a full in-house concierge service. To be completely honest, when I first opened my card, I figured this was a benefit I would never use. However, as my (then) fiancée and I were planning our honeymoon in Japan, we realized that we had a free night in Tokyo.

    Platinum Card from American Express

    By then we were a little "planned out," and knew that it could be difficult to make restaurant reservations in Japan without a local phone number, so we decided to try the Amex concierge. I called, and gave them an idea of what we were looking for, and within a day, the service had gotten back to me with a few recommendations. We chose one, and they made the reservation for us. Dinner was incredible, and it couldn't have been easier.

    Despite the incredible amount of information we have at our fingertips, it's still helpful, on occasion, to have the concierge. Whether you're trying to get tickets to a show or concert when they go on sale, or you need to send a gift to a client and just haven't gotten around to it, or you need suggestions for a restaurant that can accommodate a large group at the last minute, the Platinum concierge can help. 

    Centurion Lounges

    One of the most useful benefits of the Platinum card for travelers is access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. These include lounges in the Priority Pass network, as well as Delta SkyClub lounges, but Amex's proprietary Centurion Lounges are widely considered to be the best.

    Centurion Lounges are only accessible to Amex Platinum cardholders (and people with the invitation-only "Black" card). Cardholders can also bring two guests for free, and can purchase day passes for any additional travel companions. The lounges feature a ton of complimentary amenities including food and alcoholic drinks designed by top chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers, soft drinks and coffee, lots of comfortable seating, fast Wi-Fi, sound-dampening workspaces, showers, spa treatments in some locations, newspapers and magazines, kids areas, and more.

    Hong Kong Centurion Lounge

    There are currently nine Centurion Lounges. The most recent two opened last fall in Philadelphia and Hong Kong — the only international location. This year, Amex has announced new lounges at two additional airports — New York-JFK and Denver International Airport— and rumors are swirling about new locations, including in Los Angeles.

    "Watch the space over the coming months for more announcements and information," said Whiteside, the EVP at Amex, about whether the company is planning future locations.

    Bottom line

    As competition in the premium card and rewards space has grown fiercer, between new, stripped down and straightforwards rewards programs, and high-earning, high-value cards from issuers like Chase, American Express has doubled down on what it knows best — travel, experiences, service, and exclusivity. 

    In building and enhancing the Platinum card, the company has continued to create a product that not only offers more than enough tangible value to outweigh the annual fee, but also provides opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime experiences and elevated travel.

    Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum Card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

    SEE ALSO: I got more than $2,000 worth of value from the American Express Platinum credit card in my first year — despite its $550 annual fee

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