pulling the plug
October 8, 2019

China has suspended the broadcast of NBA preseason games as the league scrambles to deal with the aftermath of one tweet about Hong Kong.

Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets' general manager, tweeted his support Friday for the pro-democracy, anti-Beijing Hong Kong protests, a tweet he quickly deleted as it sparked outrage from China. The NBA subsequently distanced itself from Morey's tweet, which in turn sparked outrage in the United States among those who said the NBA was kowtowing to China to maintain its business interests there.

Now, the fallout from the tweet continues with CCTV, China's state broadcaster, announcing Tuesday it will "immediately halt" the broadcast of NBA preseason games, with this coming ahead of a Shanghai game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets scheduled for Thursday, CNN reports. Tencent also won't live stream the games.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in an interview Monday insisted the league is supporting Morey's freedom of expression, also saying at a news conference Tuesday, "I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences," The Associated Press reports. Silver additionally said in a Tuesday statement that it's "not the role of the NBA to adjudicate" the "differences" between people around the world.

But China has taken issue with these latest responses from Silver, with CCTV expressing Tuesday its "strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Silver's stated support of Morey's right to free speech," also promising to "immediately examine all other cooperation and exchanges with the NBA." Brendan Morrow

September 20, 2019

The largest retailer in the United States is ending the sale of e-cigarettes.

Walmart said Friday it will no longer sell e-cigarettes at its U.S. stores, citing "growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty," CNBC reports. The company plans to sell off its current inventory, after which it will "complete our exit."

This comes a week after President Trump announced his administration plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes. Walmart already announced it would stop selling fruit and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes earlier this year at the same time that it raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21, The Associated Press reports.

When Trump made his announcement last week, there had been reports of six deaths of lung disease tied to vaping, and that number has since risen to eight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday there have been 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use. Brendan Morrow

January 30, 2019

Facebook is shutting down an iOS app that gave the company access to users' private data in exchange for gift cards.

TechCrunch on Tuesday reported that Facebook for the past three years has been paying up to $20 a month to people between the ages of 13 and 35 who downloaded a VPN on their phone. Users who agreed to do so were giving Facebook "nearly limitless access" to their devices and data, including to private messages, emails, and web activity, the report said. Users were also asked to send screenshots of their recent Amazon order history.

Facebook may have violated Apple's policy with this program, the report explained. An extremely similar app from Facebook, the Onavo Protect, was already banned from the App Store last year, and Facebook was bypassing Apple's review process by having users "sideload" this new app outside of the App Store. Facebook was also using a system that TechCrunch explains Apple only intends for developers to utilize for corporate apps, not for apps distributed to the general public.

Just hours after the report was published, Facebook told TechCrunch it is discontinuing the iOS version of the program, although for now, it remains on Android. Facebook pulled the plug surprisingly quickly, especially considered it initially said it was simply a research program and that "people can stop participating at any time." The company also said less than five percent of the program's users were teenagers and that they had to obtain their parents' permission.

TechCrunch says it is waiting for a response from Apple about whether Facebook violated its policies, although the company said it was aware of the issue. Brendan Morrow

July 8, 2015

Sarah Palin Channel, we hardly knew ye.

Starting August 1, you'll no longer have to shell out $9.95 a month for the musings of the former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee. Her subscription-only online channel is shutting down, just a year after it launched last summer. Palin promised to discuss "important issues facing the nation" and delivered videos titled "Gun Free Doesn't Equal Crime Free" and "Moose Meat: It's What's for Dinner!"

The channel made its announcement on July 4, Variety reports, and said all of Palin's content will now be available for free on her political action committee site, SarahPac.com, as well as her Facebook page. The move ends her partnership with Tapp, an online video startup. For super fans who forked over $99.95 for a whole year of the Sarah Palin Channel, Tapp will offer refunds of remaining subscriptions, or let the user apply it to another one of its channels — Alive with Joan Lunden (focusing on breast cancer patients and survivors), New Life TV (a Christian relationship show), and K-Love TV (a Christian music channel). Catherine Garcia

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