New Year, New Us

in January 25th, 2021

We started Below the Fold with a simple idea and logo hacked together in PowerPoint. Over the past year, we’ve heard what this newsletter means to you in your own words, pointing us in the direction of what this community really is: a place for healthful news experiences, deeply researched storylines, and a shared love for staying informed beyond what’s on the front page. 

We took your voices and transformed our brand to represent the values we all share. We hope this redesign resonates as strongly with you as it does us. From 2021 onwards, we'll post our week's worth of stories in one archived post by the Monday after sending. All stories will delivered first to email subscribers, but by the following week be published here.

Here's what we emailed out the week of January 18, 2021.


TRAFFIC

Should you be interacting with police at a traffic light?

Wed Jan 13

There’s a growing movement to separate traffic enforcement and police. Police were first assigned to traffic duty in the 1930s when new motorist laws were constantly being violated. The wealthy White drivers of the time were not used to being reprimanded by the police, so the idea of discretion was introduced. Since then, police have been left to determine how a traffic situation should be handled: issue a warning, write a ticket, ask to search the vehicle, or “escalate the situation further.” 

But as Black drivers grew in number, that discretion became discrimination. Flashforward 80 years to today, and Black drivers are 20% more likely to be stopped than White drivers while up to twice as likely to be searched.  

And in 2015 alone, 11% of all fatal shootings by police occurred at traffic stops. Now, advocacy organizations and local governments are calling for a disentanglement of traffic enforcement from police.

  • Stanford Law Review recommends creating separate traffic agencies, with police only intervening for certain violations such as hit-and-runs or a stolen vehicle. 
  • Some suggest installing automated cameras and speed monitors to enforce speed limits and parking restrictions, though many drivers oppose this approach.
  • Meanwhile Berkeley, California passed the creation of BerkDOT, a department of transportation that will handle traffic and parking laws through unarmed agents. 

The Berkley proposal still has details to iron out, though, such as how to handle drunk drivers and getting police union leaders on board with the new direction. 

To read more directly from our sources, check out: CNNUSA TodayNBC News


#FINANCE

TikTok is giving terrible financial advice

Fri Jan 15

We’ve all picked up a kitchen hack or two from TikTok. And now, self-proclaimed financial experts are flocking to the platform to provide accessible advice to young learners and under-served communities.  

Problem is, there’s no way to verify who is actually an expert, unlike other social media platforms that verify creators. As a result, there’s a rapid spread of misinformation — often reaching millions of viewers in a matter of hours. Examples of false claims include:

  • Misleading TikToks, such as one claiming how you can pay less for hotels by buying with points without mention of the terms of those point purchases. 
  • Risky TikToks, such as one example of options trading telling viewers to “just buy Tesla calls!”
  • Illegal TikToks, such as one video asserting that starting an S Corporation means you don’t have to pay taxes (this is very much false). 

A simple search of #FinTok or #StockTok will reveal endless uploads, sharing everything from helpful tips to dangerously misleading information — and no one to hold culpable. With only 60-seconds to take in the information, this is an important reminder to practice news literacy and verify any information shared.

To read more directly from our sources, check out: Financial PostVoxWallaroo Media


WORK CULTURE

China's gig economy sees fatalities from exhausted workforce

Wed Jan 13

A delivery worker in China recently set himself on fire in an effort to protest demanding work hours and low pay. Taking place outside one of the corporation’s offices, witnesses were able to smother the flames and rush him to a hospital where he’s being treated for third-degree burns. 

Just how bad are work conditions where self-immolation is a consideration?

The demanding working conditions that app-delivery workers experience stems from China’s white-collar, tech company culture as a whole. But delivery workers, who are independent contractors, are under even greater strain with:

  • Low compensation for each delivery, sometimes under $2
  • A fine of up to $77 if their delivery is late
  • Pressure to work the tech culture’s 996 — aka from 9 am to 9 pm 6 days a week, without any of the benefits and rights of being a full-time employee

These conditions have led to deaths by exhaustion and suicide. Worse still, indemnity clauses are sometimes written into workers’ contracts, which absolve a company from responsibility if the employee dies on the job.

Closer to home, California recently passed Proposition 22, which defines rideshare and delivery drivers as independent contractors, meaning they aren’t entitled to employee benefits. After spending $200 million to pass Proposition 22 with the promise of a few benefits for these independent contractors, these companies are passing costs to consumers via a “Driver Benefits” fee. Some members of Congress have noticed and are requesting an investigation into these “highly consolidated food delivery services” for potentially “excessive fees and commissions.”

To read more directly from our sources, check out: AP NewsBallotpediaWSJ


DATING

Women use dating app to gather riot evidence for the FBI

Mon Jan 18

Swiping right could have some serious consequences — especially for the male rioters who used their time at Capitol Hill to also meet women. These men took to Bumble, a dating app where women make the first move, to match with potential dates. 

In response, the women started sending their profiles to the FBI. Here’s what happened:

  • In the two weeks surrounding the riots, women started noticing a surge of conservative men on the platform.
  • These women matched with the men to trick them into sharing more information about why they were in town, with some even updating their own profile settings to “conservative” to lure more matches.
  • The conservative men proudly uploaded photos of themselves in MAGA hats, and some even sent their matches pictures and videos of their participation in the riots as a “flex” — in other words, to brag. 
  • The women screenshotted all this information and turned it over to the FBI, who received over 100,000 digital media tips during the first week of January. 

Now, Bumble is reviewing their platform practices. The company at first took a neutral stance, but then followed up a week later with a promise to remove users who were confirmed riot participants. Two days after that, they temporarily removed the political affiliation feature of the app. Some criticized this move, claiming it protects the insurrectionists.

Where did we learn about this? Check out our sources: BBCLaw And CrimeThe VergeWashington Post


ENERGY

Ethanol is fueling a debate over labeling

Fri Jan 15

Turns out ethanol can be intoxicating to more than just humans. A corn-based biofuel, ethanol is an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels that, when used in gasoline, is also more corrosive. This means it can be damaging to engines, especially in small engine machines, boats, and vehicles made before 2001. To ensure drivers pump the right fuel into their vehicle, gasoline that contains ethanol is clearly labeled.

Now ethanol lobbyists want those labels removed, citing them as “useless” in a world where 95% of vehicles on the road are not at risk. Many are even pushing to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline from 10 to 15% to help a now struggling industry. Roughly 40% of the U.S. corn crop is refined into ethanol, but as the pandemic has more people at home and off the roads, demand and prices have dramatically dropped. 

Meanwhile small engine makers and boaters are urging the opposite. One advocate even introduced a bill in 2020 requesting that the labels be made larger, include the word “warning,” and switch from orange text to red. 

In recent reports, the Environmental Protection Agency said they’re considering making unspecified changes to the labels, though it remains unclear who these changes will favor.

Where did we learn about this? Check out our sources: FortuneReutersWSJSuccessful Farming


SPONSORED STORY

Instant coffee got a 2020 glow up

Fri Jan 8

Instant and delicious are two words that haven’t always gone together. But in a pandemic-driven world, investment in ready-made food and beverage is exploding. As a result, more options are emerging that take into account flavorful, quality ingredients and responsible packaging. 

Coffee is among the fastest growing drinks in the space, with lockdown-driven demand for something special without additional effort. Overall, businesses and consumers alike are turning to ready-to-drink coffee, an industry expected to grow massively by 2026.

  • RTD drink sales are already increasing as distribution to convenience and grocery stores further expand and carbonated drinks fall out of favor.
  • Consumer demand for both greater environmental and corporate responsibility makes room for differentiation with features like glass bottle packaging, non-dairy creamers, and ethical sourcing.
  • The market is already competitive with major players such as Starbucks, Hershey, Coca-Cola, and now even Chobani, known for their industry-changing Greek yogurt.

Meanwhile coffee shops are innovating on what it even means to be a shop. Major players like Starbucks and Dunkins saw hundreds of stores close in 2020. As they begin opening again, Starbucks is expected to open more shops than they closed, emphasizing a new store experience through improved walk-thru and drive-thru designs.

And while we picked this story ourselves to meet our editorial commitments to you, it is sponsored by Explorer Cold Brew. Unlike RTD drinks, Explorer Cold Brew is a unique hybrid: a super concentrate in individual bottles, either for taking on the go or to make your coffee any way you want (in 4 caffeine levels no less!).

Where did we learn about this? Check out our sources: BevindustryBloombergBusinesswireReutersSB WireCNBCThe Conversation


ASCII Art of the Week
ASCII-of-the-week-Michael-J-Penick