Disney’s ABC Television Group begins long-rumored layoffs; high-level jobs spared


Long-rumored layoffs have started to happen at ABC Television Group, mostly in roles outside of content development and creation. The cutbacks, which began on Thursday, are likely to impact 100 to 200 of the company’s 9,000 employees, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The number of employees impacted was less than originally rumored, according to a source with knowledge of the situation who pointed to early September reports that 3 percent of the work force could be let go.

ABC divisions cutting staff includes ABC Entertainment, ABC Studio, Disney Channel, DisneyXD, Disney Junior and Freeform. ABC News has not been impacted at this point.

No high-level positions in TV production and development are expected to be eliminated, according to the Times.

While staffers have been laid off, an ABC insider claims that there will be “hiring opportunities” across Disney and ABC in the near future as it attempts to shift resources to address future business needs as cord cutting plagues the industry and more viewers consume content online.

Disney and ABC have been dramatically impacted by changes in the way viewers consume content. Disney Channel and Freeform have lost about 4 million subscribers over the last three years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Disney CEO Bob Iger smiles as he arrives for the the annual Allen and Co. media conference Sun Valley, Idaho July 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTX1JH73

Disney CEO Bob Iger smiles as he arrives for the the annual Allen and Co. media conference Sun Valley, Idaho July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake – RTX1JH73

The Disney-owned ESPN laid off several high-profile employees earlier this year and the sports network’s subscriber loss has been a hot topic among industry watchdogs. Many point to ESPN getting too political for its drop in subscribers. President Trump has even mocked the network on Twitter.  

Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger is often rumored to harbor 2020 presidential aspirations. The New York Times recently said he is “emerging as a credible contender in the 2020 presidential speculation game,” while the Washington Post recently listed Iger as a top contender to land on the Democratic ticket and CBS published a headline pondering, “Is Bob Iger considering a presidential run?”

Meanwhile, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” took a shot at Trump on Thursday night, the latest in a series of examples that the broadcast network leans left. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” has made political monologues a regular feature and the network also has been criticized for several shows that mock conservative values such as “The Real O’Neals” which made fun of Irish Catholics and “When We Rise” which was widely criticized for portraying Middle America as homophobic.

ABC’s entertainment division also has come under fire for canceling Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing,” after the star expressed conservative views, although ABC president of Entertainment Channing Dungey told reporters that “politics had absolutely nothing to do with it.” 

ABC declined to comment when reached by Fox News.  

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News.

Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.


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Branson’s Virgin Group invests in Hyperloop One


Hyperloop OneImage copyright

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Hyperloop One claims its pod-based system is more “sustainable” than current transport options

The Virgin investment group has taken an undisclosed stake in Hyperloop One, one of several companies trying to create a pod-based transport system.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, is joining the Los Angeles-based firm’s board as part of the deal, and it is rebranding itself as Virgin Hyperloop One.

One expert suggested the tie-up would help raise the company’s profile.

“This is unproven technology and there’s a long way to go before it ever finds itself in use in the real world,” commented Prof David Bailey from Aston Business School.

“But this deal will certainly help in terms of marketing and potentially attract further investors to come into the operation.”

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Sir Richard is joining Hyperloop One’s board

Hyperloop One recently tested a prototype pod in the Nevada desert, which reached a speed of 310km/h (192mph) within a 500m (1,600ft) low air-pressured tube.

Its eventual goal is to reach 1,046km/h (650mph).

The system uses magnetic levitation and electric propulsion to cause pods to glide, and is pitched as a more eco-friendly mode of transportation than many of today’s alternatives.

The firm says it is working on several projects to bring the technology to the Middle East, Europe, India, Canada and the US.

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Media captionWATCH: Hyperloop One tested a passenger-sized pod in August

In a press release, Virgin suggested the system could eventually cut journey times from Edinburgh to London to 50 minutes.

Hyperloop’s inventor, Elon Musk, has previously signalled his intention to build a separate Hyperloop system via his tunnel-digging Boring Company.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, TransPod Hyperloop and Dinclix GroundWorks are among other companies to have announced rival projects.

‘Complicated tech’

“The combination of our proven technology and Virgin’s expertise in transportation, operations, safety and passenger experience will accelerate the commercialisation phase of our company’s development,” said Hyperloop One’s co-founder Josh Giegel in a written statement.

Virgin already has investments in rail companies, cruise liners, airlines and a nascent space tourism operation.

However, Prof Bailey questioned its potential.

“I remain sceptical about using Hyperloop technology in places where there are high land values or dense population,” he explained.

“But it may be more appropriate in places like the United Arab Emirates.

“It’s a complicated technology and there’s a long way to go.”


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Family held captive by Taliban-linked group released


An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have been released after years held captive by a network with ties to the Taliban.

U.S. officials say Pakistan secured the release of Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle. The two were abducted five years ago while traveling in Afghanistan and have been held by the Haqqani network.

Coleman was pregnant when she was captured. The couple had three children while in captivity.

The family’s current location, however, was unclear. And officials declined to say when the family planned to return to North America.

The U.S. has criticized Pakistan for failing to aggressively go after the Haqqanis.

A U.S. national security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing operation, commended Pakistan for their assistance.


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Alibaba Group will invest $15B into a new global research and development program


Alibaba Group announced today that it plans to invest more than $15 billion over the next three years into a global research and development initiative called Alibaba DAMO Academy. The Chinese tech giant said the program, which is currently recruiting 100 researchers, will help it reach its goal of serving two billion customers and creating 100 million jobs by 2036, while also “increasing technological collaboration worldwide.”

DAMO Academy (the initials stand for “discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook”) will be led by Alibaba Group chief technology officer Jeff Zhang and start by opening labs in seven cities around the world: Beijing and Hangzhou in China; San Mateo and Bellevue in the U.S.; Moscow, Russia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Singapore.

Alibaba’s researchers will collaborate closely with university programs such as U.C. Berkeley’s RISE Lab, which is developing technologies that enable computers to make secure decisions based on real-time data. DAMO Academy’s current advisory board also includes professors from Princeton, Harvard, MIT, the University of Washington, Columbia University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Peking University and Zhejiang University.

Research will focus on a wide array of areas, including data intelligence, the Internet of Things, financial tech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction. More specifically, Alibaba Group said researchers will look at machine learning, network security, visual computing and natural language processing.

Alibaba joins other major Chinese tech firms in setting up labs and working closely with technology researchers and universities in the U.S. and other countries. These programs give companies the benefit of dipping into new talent pools without having to convince potential hires to move to China (and also potentially luring them away from rivals like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple).

For example, Baidu’s research lab in Silicon Valley, which works on big data, deep learning and artificial intelligence, is recruiting from top American research universities, while Tencent (the maker of WeChat) announced plans in May to set up an AI research lab in Seattle. Huawei also set up an AI research partnership with U.C. Berkeley last year with initial funding of $1 million.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images


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Acro Dance Gymnastics Dance Competition Group Performance – Mini Wonders

http://www.fitforafeast.com/dance.htm . 9 year old acro dance group. This competitive acro dance routine was performed by us at a dance competition and called …


Discovery-Backed Group Nine Media Hires Ad Vet Adam Shlachter – Variety


Adam Shlachter, after working for more than 20 years at ad agencies, has joined digital-media roll-up venture Group Nine Media as chief marketing officer for advertising and creative services.

In the role, Shlachter heads up the marketing-solutions division of Group Nine. The company was formed last year with a $100 million investment from Discovery Communications, combining three startups backed by Lerer Hippeau Ventures — Thrillist, NowThis Media and the Dodo — with Seeker (formerly Discovery Digital Networks).

At Group Nine, Shlachter will oversee creative services; branded-content production; positioning and packaging; and ad strategy and innovation for the company’s ad clients.

Shlachter most recently was president of global innovation for PMX, the investment arm of Publicis Media. Prior to that, he was president of VM1, the dedicated media agency for Verizon within Zenith and Publicis Media; and was chief investment officer at DigitasLBi North America. Earlier in his career, Shlachter held various marketing roles at MEC, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Lowe & Partners and JWT.

With more than two decades on the agency side of biz, Shlachter’s experience “working with such a vast spectrum of brands and deep understanding of the needs of those brands will be incredibly valuable to us as we grow and evolve our marketing solutions division,” Group Nine Media CEO Ben Lerer said in announcing his hire.

Across all its properties, Group Nine Media claims to generate close to 5 billion monthly video views, reaching a youth-skewing audience. The company’s competitors include other digital-centric media companies including BuzzFeed and Vice Media.


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The Group That’s Climbing Mountains For World Peace



There’s a reason that mountains make for good metaphors.

Fred Ptucha knows this. It’s why the Vietnam veteran decided to launch the organization Climbers for Peace, a project that brings individuals of different backgrounds, beliefs, and nationalities together to reach summits and, just maybe, levels of understanding that cross cultural chasms.

Ptucha, a US Navy Veteran, has dedicated his post-war life to peace activism. He’s headed organizations like Veterans for Peace and participated in the Moscow International Peace Marathon in 1989, after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In 1997, Ptucha was brainstorming ways to help advance the cause of world peace over a few beers with fellow activists and adventure lovers in Northern California. He wanted to do something attention grabbing, something that would let people have a good time, and something that would have an impact. Mountain climbing came to mind.

The symbolism is ripe, sure. A group of diverse people, scaling physical peaks, while also trying to overcome their differences. But Ptucha had a much simpler explanation for why mountains became his vehicle of choice for driving positive change.

“You might say, ‘Well why didn’t you do beach volleyball or something?’” Ptucha says. “The answer is: There’s something kind of magical that happens when you add a certain element of risk. With a mountain, there’s always the risk of the fall, so if you’ve been through some tough times together, and pulled through, it creates a bond much quicker than if you just got a bunch of people sitting in a room and talking.”

Ptucha chose the highest mountain in Europe for the group’s first climb. Mt. Elbrus — located in the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia — holds that title, but considering diplomatic relations with Russia weren’t exactly friendly during the late ’90s, Ptucha needed help organizing the expedition. He decided to send an email to sitting president, Bill Clinton.

“We really were flying by the seat of our pants,” Ptucha says.

With the help of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and former Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin — both of whom were contacted by the White House — and The Ukrainian Federation of Alpinism, Ptucha was able to lead 12 Ukrainians and a handful of Americans to the top of Mt. Elbrus.


The climb was supposed to be a one-off, but when the three-week trip came to an end and Ptucha and his fellow climbers said their goodbyes through tears on a sidewalk in Ukraine, they decided to organize another excursion. And another, and another.

The two groups climbed Mount Olympus in Greece, trekked the Tartar Mountains in Slovakia, spent two weeks hiking the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and conquered Mt. Shasta in California. Each expedition brought new people into the fold. Ptucha says he’s climbed with adventurers from Sweden, Spain, Austria, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the U.K., the Middle East, and America over the years.


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