Review Category : Business

Facebook Is Changing How Your News Feed Works

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The key to getting visibility in a Facebook News Feed is no longer just about how many likes and comments a post receives.

The social network is now relying on user feedback to help it deliver a more meaningful News Feed experience to its 1.6 billion users, according to a blog post from Facebook software engineers Cheng Zhang and Si Chen.

“The actions people take on Facebook — liking, clicking, commenting or sharing a post — are historically some of the main factors considered to determine what to show at the top of your News Feed. But these factors don’t always tell us the whole story of what is most meaningful to you,” they wrote.

The changes in Facebook’s algorithm come from survey feedback Facebook has received from a focus group of more than 1,000 people who were asked to rate their experience on the site and suggest how Facebook can improve the content they get in their News Feed. Facebook’s team also surveyed tens of thousands of people around the world every day, asking them to rate stories they see in their News Feed from one to five stars.

Facebook’s engineers said they were able to use this information to understand what stories matter the most to people, even if they choose not to click, like or comment on them.

The result is an updated algorithm that will weigh the level of engagement on a post as well as the likelihood a user may want to see it at the top of their feed.

Facebook also made key changes to News Feed last summer when it began allowing users to take control of their News Feed preference, allowing users to select group of pages and friends whose posts Facebook promises to always share first at the top of a user’s News Feed.

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Diamonds and Gold: Bernie Madoff Jewelry Goes Up for Auction

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Six pieces of jewelry from the collection of notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and his wife Ruth are going up for auction Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service said, more than seven years after Madoff’s $64 billion scam was uncovered.

The pieces, to be put up for auction hosted online from Texas later Tuesday, include what appears to be a diamond bracelet, a gold piece of jewelry in the shape of a paperclip, a necklace, a pendant and two sleek, gold watches, according to the Marshals Service.

Though Madoff was arrested more than seven years ago, officials are still attempting to track down the money he stole in his decades-long Ponzi scheme — including recouping some losses from major auctions. Previously, Madoff’s houses and yachts were sold or auctioned off for tens of millions.

Check out the pieces of jewelry said to be up for auction below and click HERE for more information on the event:

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Americans Still Paying Less for Gas, Says Energy Department

Zoonar/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Gas prices across the U.S. continue to get cheaper.

The average price of regular unleaded gas is now $1.82 per gallon, down about three cents in the past week, according to new numbers out from the Energy Department. The latest price drop is 25 cents less than what drivers were paying a year ago at this time.

With the current price at $1.59, drivers in Texas are paying the least to fill up their tanks. Though prices in California are falling the most, drivers there are still paying more than anywhere else in the country — $2.55 a gallon on average — up 11 cents compared to a year ago.

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Former Yahoo Employee Sues Over Performance Review Ratings System

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — Yahoo’s performance review system is going to be challenged in court after a former employee filed a lawsuit Monday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit, filed by ex-Yahoo employee Gregory Anderson in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, alleges that the ratings system was rigged and sparked fierce competition to the point of violating employment laws.

The quarterly ratings system, designed by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, ranks employees on a scale of 1 to 5.

“The [reviewing] process was opaque and the employees did not know who was making the final decisions, what numbers were being assigned by whom along the way, or why those numbers were being changed,” the filing said according to WSJ.

News of the lawsuit comes as Mayer is expected to announce a new plan for the company that will likely include deep job cuts.

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Google Parent Company Alphabet Boasts Strong Earnings

CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)(NEW YORK) — Google is on track to becoming the world’s most valuable company.

On Monday, Google parent company Alphabet released its fourth-quarter earnings report and completely topped Wall Street expectations.

Alphabet reported $21.3 billion in revenue, up 18 percent from the same period last year. Despite analysts predictions of hitting $8.09 EPS, the company exceeded expectations with $8.67 EPS.

What’s driving sales?

Advertising. According to the report, paid clicks are up about 31 percent.

Shares soared in after hours trading with the stock hitting over 6 percent.

If things stay the way they’re going for Alphabet, the company will be worth roughly $570 billion, surpassing Apple Inc. for the most valuable company in the world (currently worth about $535 billion).

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Stocks End Lower as Oil Drops Nearly 6%

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks slid Monday as the price of oil fell below $32 a barrel.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 17.12 to close at 16449.18.

The Nasdaq gained 6.41 to end the session at 4620.37, while the S&P 500 closed at 1939.38 down 0.86 from its open.

After last week’s Crude oil gains, the price dropped nearly 6 percent and hovered around $31 a barrel.

Shares for Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. soared in after hours trading once quarter four earnings were released. For the first time reporting financials under its new name, Alphabet reported $21.3 billion in revenue, up 18 percent from the same period last year. Despite analysts predictions of hitting $8.09 EPS, the company exceeded expectations with $8.67 EPS. In after hours trading, Alphabet’s stock was up over 6 percent and it could surpass Apple Inc. in becoming the most valuable company in the world.

Mattel also exceeded quarter four expectations with worldwide sales up 7 percent in the fourth quarter and up 2 percent for the year. In a statement, Mattel Chairman and CEO Chris Sinclair attributed the success to driving “significant momentum across the majority of our core brands, most of which saw stronger retail sales and shipping, and we continued to make headway in key emerging markets like China and Russia.” The company’s stock was up over 7 percent in after hours trading.

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s stock jumped over 4 percent at the close after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the end of the food chain’s E. coli crisis. On Monday, the CDC said the “two oubreaks appear to be over” after the most recent illness was reported on December 1. Chipotle said Monday that they had modified its food handling and preparation since the scandal and in a statement said they were “confident that the changes we have made mean that every item on our menu is delicious and safe.”

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Microsoft Tests Underwater Data Center that Uses Ocean’s Cooling Effect

Microsoft(NEW YORK) — Microsoft is experimenting with a data center under the sea.

The software company gave details Monday of its rationale for going underwater, explaining the idea, called Project Natick, would cut costs when it comes to keeping the data center cool, as well as be environmentally friendly and more responsive to customers.

Data centers are a large group of networked computer servers that can store, process or send data. Google, Facebook and many other technology companies tend to choose cold weather locations for their data centers, helping to cut what could otherwise be a costly bill to keep the servers cold.

A Microsoft post Monday said the first data center to be submerged was the Leona Philpot, which was operated less than a mile off the Pacific coast of the United States from August to November.

“Project Natick is focused on a cloud future that can help better serve customers in areas which are near large bodies of water (where nearly 50% of society resides),” the company explained. “The vision of operating containerized datacenters offshore near major population centers anticipates a highly interactive future requiring data resources located close to users. Deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling, renewable power sources, and a controlled environment.”

The data centers are designed to last underwater for five years. Microsoft’s plan then calls for them to be recovered and the computers replaced before submerging them again. The company said its still in the research phase but if all goes well, this could be the way of the future.

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GE to Stop Selling CFL Bulbs by Year’s End and Switch to LED

Zoonar/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The future for Compact Fluorescent Lights is not looking too bright.

General Electric announced on Monday that by the end of the year, the company will stop selling CFLs and switch exclusively to LED light bulbs.

Over the years, the quality of LED lights has improved and perhaps, more importantly, the bulbs have gotten cheaper. Meanwhile, CFLs have long had the reputation of being slow to light, difficult to dim, and fewer are qualifying for the Energy Star rating.

GE took a playful approach in announcing the news, releasing a Valentine’s Day-inspired break up letter to CFLs, saying: “LED is my future.”

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Samsung Sets a Date for Likely Galaxy S7 Reveal

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — It’s a safe bet that Samsung’s big reveal later this month will be new Galaxy S7 smartphones.

The electronics company announced it will hold its annual Unpacked event on Sunday, Feb. 21, before the start of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While Samsung isn’t saying what they’ll be unpacking before the live audience, the company released a video showing its Gear VR headsets and teasing a mysterious box.

Last year, Samsung released the Galaxy S6 and the curved Galaxy S6 Edge one day before the Mobile World Congress began. This year’s iterations of the company’s flagship device are expected to look similar to their predecessors, but will have several internal upgrades, according to various reports, including better battery capacity and camera improvements.

Samsung needs a hit to spark demand and help Samsung regain some of its lost market share. Financial results published last week show smartphone sales have begun to level off for the company, an issue Apple also expects to face for the next couple of months.

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Recovered Madoff Money Now over $11 Billion; More Hidden Away?

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The amount of money recovered for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme has now topped $11 billion, bankruptcy lawyers announced Monday.

“We now have $11,079,000,000,” said Irving Picard, who heads the team of bankruptcy lawyers appointed by the court to sort out the financial mess left when Madoff was arrested and his firm collapsed in 2008.

Based on the $17.5 billion that investors originally put into Madoff’s hands, victims would recover about 63 cents on the dollar for every approved claim of their principle investment.

“We’re hoping that we can collect another $3 to $4 billion so we could be in the $14 or $15 billion range,” Picard told ABC News.

At the time of Madoff’s arrest, his clients thought they had a total of some $64 billion based on profits over the years. The victims will be compensated only for the amount of money they originally invested, not the fictitious profits that Madoff created.

Some victims have already cashed in their claims by selling them to financial traders who initially offered to pay about $0.30 for every dollar of their claims. The amount being offered went up substantially after some of Picard’s biggest recoveries.

But the biggest winner could be Picard’s law firm, BakerHostetler, which will earn fees estimated to be almost $1 billion.

“As a number it’s high, but in the context of what’s going on in this case, I don’t think so,” said Picard.

The legal fees are being paid by the Securities Investment Protection Corporation (SIPC) which is funded by Wall Street firms.

“The results are a billion dollars in administrative expenses and $11 billion dollars in returns,” said Stephen P. Harbeck, the president of SIPC. “That is the measure of whether spending a billion dollars was wise.”

Picard and his firm have filed more than 900 lawsuits to get money from some investors who took out more over the years than they originally put in, creating a separate controversy.

“I would say he has been very cruel in what he has done,” said Helen Chaitman, a lawyer who lost her life savings to Madoff and also represents investors who Picard has targeted for what are called “claw backs” of the money took out of the Madoff account over the course of the investment.

Ironically, in her efforts to fight against Picard, Chaitman has enlisted the help of Madoff, who communicates with her from his prison cell in Butner, N.C.

“In a lot of ways, Madoff is more honest than Irving Picard,” Chaitman told ABC News. Chaitman claimed Picard has padded his legal bills. The court has rejected her claim.

She says she overlooks the fact that Madoff cost her and her clients their savings.

“I would not say my ally is Bernie Madoff but I am in touch with him and I do ask his assistance, if I can help the victims through what he can tell me,” she said.

Picard says he appreciates the irony that some victims have transferred their anger from Madoff to him.

“I know and I’ve chosen to ignore it and move on and do the job that I was retained to do,” he said.

Picard’s lawyers say they continue to search for any money that could be returned to the victims but have not found any secret accounts set up by Madoff overseas.

“No money hidden overseas,” said David Sheehan, Picard’s partner at BakerHostetler. “There’s money that went to Israel and we’re suing and pursuing that, but there’s been no money that we’ve found where there’s a bank account hidden away for Mr. Madoff or for his wife or for his children.”

TUNE IN Wednesday and Thursday this week for the ABC miniseries “Madoff” followed Thursday by an hour-long ABC News Investigative Unit special on the real-life Madoff story. To get caught up, check out ABC News’ in-depth coverage of the Madoff scandal by clicking HERE.

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