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One Downward Retail Trend That’s Not All Amazon’s Fault





Working a retail job was once a rite of passage for teenagers. It was stitched so deeply into the fabric of adolescence that stores were the obvious setting for period cult movies (Think: “Clerks” and “Empire Records”).

And working retail didn’t just come with decent wages. Some jobs also offered invaluable social currency. Getting hired at Abercrombie & Fitch during the late ’90s and early aughts, for example, meant you were inarguably conventionally pretty.

But after the year 2000, employment rates among teenagers ― and in the retail space in particular ― started to drop, steeply, according to a report released last year by Pew Research Center. While employment figures are usually tied to the health of the economy, recessions weren’t the key driver of the decline. Neither was the rise of Amazon or e-commerce. Fewer teens now work over summer break mostly because for many, it’s not worth it. They also have better things to do: They take summer courses, get internships or volunteer to support organizations and communities in need, experts say. 

Up until 2000, about half of 16- to 19-year-olds in the U.S. worked some sort of job over the summer, according to Pew. By 2017, that figure dropped to a third of teens. The retail space has seen some of the more dramatic declines among young people. In July 2000, more than 2 million teens had retail jobs. In July 2017, just over 1.3 million teenagers did ― marking a 35 percent decline.

Retail is no longer as alluring as it once was. Wages began to stagnate in the early ’80s and are no longer keeping in step with inflation, said Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet, a group that advises retail brands. Because middle management jobs have been drastically reduced, it’s much more difficult to get promoted in the retail space, he added.

“Retail ― as a career ― made sense for a young person to pursue,” Stephens said. “That’s no longer the case.”

In July 2000, more than 2 million teens had retail jobs. In July 2017, just over 1.3 million teenagers did ― marking a 35 per

g-stockstudio via Getty Images

In July 2000, more than 2 million teens had retail jobs. In July 2017, just over 1.3 million teenagers did ― marking a 35 percent decline.

Employment among teens changed dramatically in 1991 when, the economy recovered from a recession, but employment rates for this demographic didn’t, as it had in years past, Pew noted in its report. A number of economic and sociological factors that affected teen employment had taken hold and remain in place today. 

For one, there’s more competition for low-skill, entry-level jobs. Baby boomers are retiring later and taking jobs in retail and service industries that were once reserved for teenagers. Teens are also competing with young, underemployed college graduates and immigrants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And the jobs themselves have changed as well. Stores have cut back on sales jobs, and now hire more employees to help in the backroom, in warehouses and with logistics to keep up with the online ordering demand, said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger Grey, a job placement firm. 

“There are still jobs,” he noted. “They’re just different jobs.”

Teenagers, in general, are also getting paid less, which is factoring into their decision-making. In 2014, the median hourly wage for teens was $8.43, down from $9.09 in 2002, according to BLS. So, even though college tuition costs have skyrocketed in recent years, teenagers have found that part-time work won’t make that much of a dent in their mounting debt, according to the BLS. Many, instead, are opting to apply for financial aid, tax credits or deductions. More parents are borrowing to pay college tuition, too.

Young people are also motivated to volunteer for causes they care about in order to try and change the world around them.

After her sophomore year of high school, Alanna Miller, now 18, spent her summer working at T.J. Maxx. But the Dallas-Fort Worth teen said her priorities shifted dramatically last winter when she was assigned to research the issue of universal background checks for firearms for her debate team. Miller has grown up in an era of mass shootings and has been undergoing routine lockdown drills since kindergarten. 

When Miller learned about the grassroots movement Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America as part of her debate research, she decided to join the group’s youth chapter, Students Demand Action, as a local leader. 

When she was hired to work at a retail store called Beauty Brands last summer, she decided to delay her start date, so she could commit the entirety of June and July to volunteering for the organization. She said it was a sacrifice for her to give up the $10 an hour wages for that period of time, but she felt it was worth it. 

“It feels a little bit like a responsibility and also honor to do this work,” Miller told HuffPost. “I’ve seen changes in my community and there’s hope in that.”

During the school year, Miller balances her volunteer work with her sales job and academics.

Miller said volunteering has become a trend among her peers. So much so, that it’s considered an extracurricular just as much as, say, football and other more traditional high school activities. 

Growth in volunteering among U.S. teens coincided with the decline in summer employment. The percentage of teenagers who volunteer more than doubled between 1989 and 2005, from 13 percent to 28 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. The organization released a new report in October, which found that 28 percent of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 volunteered last year, a figure that’s remained pretty steady since the organization started tracking rates in 2002.

This demographic is involved in a range of volunteer efforts; 43 percent fundraise or sell items to raise money for causes, and 33 percent mentor youth.

“This generation does more philanthropic work. They’re spending summers building houses in hurricane-stricken areas,” said Challenger. “It really helps on their college applications in a way that scooping ice cream at Dairy Queen doesn’t necessarily do.”

In addition to making a difference in their communities, young people also feel pressure to pursue opportunities that will spruce up their résumés for college and beyond. 

Mel Spiegel, 22, a recent graduate of Colgate University, spent every summer in college doing a combination of interning and volunteering. While on break each year, Spiegel had at least three internships and also budgeted time for volunteering with New York Cares, a nonprofit that facilitates both long- and short-term volunteer projects for New Yorkers. Before heading off to an internship, Spiegel would often prepare and serve breakfast at a soup kitchen in New York City.  

“Young people are more motivated now to give back than ever,” Spiegel said. “Our generation feels like we need to take action to change the status quo in our communities.”

Growth in volunteering among U.S. teens coincided with the decline in youth summer employment. The percentage of teenagers wh

Kir Siththi Thxng Chit / EyeEm via Getty Images

Growth in volunteering among U.S. teens coincided with the decline in youth summer employment. The percentage of teenagers who volunteer more than doubled between 1989 and 2005, from 13 percent to 28 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Changes in school schedules and academic rigor also interfere with teenagers’ ability to work. The school year for many students starts before Labor Day, making it difficult for teens to commit to summer jobs. More young people take Advanced Placement courses and other classes to prepare for college.

Still, taking an unpaid internship over an hourly-wage gig remains a privilege for teens who can afford to forgo the steady extra income. For teenagers who do work over the summer, it’s unlikely they’ll be spending their days folding T-shirts or peddling jeans. They’re also not getting as many jobs in manufacturing or construction, which has declined among this demographic since 2000. There’s been a “modest” uptick in the number of teens who get jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation. In 2017, 8.7 percent of teens worked in that industry, compared with 7.5 percent in 2000, according to Pew.

But the employment rate among teens isn’t going to increase anytime soon, experts say. By 2024, there should be an even lower teen participation rate in the workforce, according to BLS. 

“It’s a huge drop,” said Challenger of the decline in youth employment rates. “It’s not that teenagers are lazy. They’re making a rational choice that the world around them has changed.”

This is part of our five-story series spotlighting the current state of retail in America


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U.S. Charges Chinese Tech Giant Huawei, Top Executive





WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is filing charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

A 13-count indictment was unsealed Monday in New York charging Huawei, two of its affiliates and a top executive at the company.

The charges include bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

A separate case filed in Washington state charges Huawei with stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1. Prosecutors allege she committed fraud by misleading American banks about Huawei’s business deals in Iran.

Prosecutors charge Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies.

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24 Million Mortgage And Bank Loan Documents Leaked Online





A trove of more than 24 million financial and banking documents, representing tens of thousands of loans and mortgages from some of the biggest banks in the U.S., has been found online after a server security lapse.

The server, running an Elasticsearch database, had more than a decade’s worth of data, containing loan and mortgage agreements, repayment schedules and other highly sensitive financial and tax documents that reveal an intimate insight into a person’s financial life.

But it wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access and read the massive cache of documents.

It’s believed that the database was only exposed for two weeks — but long enough for independent security researcher Bob Diachenko to find the data. At first glance, it wasn’t immediately known who owned the data. After we inquired with several banks whose customers information was found on the server, the database was shut down on January 15.

With help from TechCrunch, the leak was traced back to Ascension, a data and analytics company for the financial industry, based in Fort Worth, Texas. The company provides data analysis and portfolio valuations. Among its services, the Ascension converts paper documents and handwritten notes into computer-readable files — known as OCR.

It’s that bank of converted documents that was exposed, Diachenko said in his own write-up.

Sandy Campbell, general counsel at Ascension’s parent company, Rocktop Partners, which owns more than 46,000 loans worth $4.4 billion, confirmed the security incident to TechCrunch, but said its systems were unaffected.

“On January 15, this vendor learned of a server configuration error that may have led to exposure of some mortgage-related documents,” he said in a statement. “The vendor immediately shut down the server in question, and we are working with third-party forensics experts to investigate the situation. We are also in regular contact with law enforcement investigators and technology partners as this investigation proceeds.”

An unspecified portion of the loans were shared with the contractor for analysis, the statement added, but couldn’t immediately confirm how many loan documents were exposed.

TechCrunch has learned that the vendor is New York-based company OpticsML. Efforts to reach the company were unsuccessful. Its website is offline and its phone number was disconnected from service.

In a phone call, Campbell confirmed that the company will inform all affected customers, and report the incident to state regulators under data breach notification laws.

From our review, it was clear that the documents pertain to loans and mortgages and other correspondence from several of the major financial and lending institutions dating as far back as 2008, if not longer, including CitiFinancial, a now-defunct lending finance arm of Citigroup, files from HSBC Life Insurance, Wells Fargo, CapitalOne and some U.S. federal departments, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some of the companies have long been defunct, after selling their mortgage divisions and assets to other companies.

Though not all files contained the highly sensitive and personal data points, we found: names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank and checking account numbers, as well as details of loan agreements that include sensitive financial information, such as why the person is requesting the loan.

Some of the documents also note if a person has filed for bankruptcy and tax documents, including annual W-2 tax forms, which are targets for scammers to claim false refunds.

But the database stored documents in a random order, and were not easily followable or presented in an easy to read or formatted way, making it difficult to follow from one document to another, said Diachenko.

We verified the authenticity of data by checking a portion of names in the database with public records.

“These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report,” Diachenko told TechCrunch. “This information would be a gold mine for cyber criminals who would have everything they need to steal identities, file false tax returns, get loans or credit cards.”

Although the documents originate from these financiers, one bank — Citi, which helped to secure the data — said it had no current relationship with the company.

“Citi recently became aware that a third party, with no connection to Citi, was storing certain mortgage origination and modification documents in an unsecure online environment,” said a Citi spokesperson. “These documents contained information about current or former Citi customers, as well as customers from other financial institutions. Citi notified law enforcement, initiated a thorough forensic investigation and worked quickly to ensure the information could no longer be publicly accessed.”

Citi confirmed that “third party is a vendor to a company that had purchased the loans and we have found no evidence that Citi’s systems were compromised.”

The bank added that it’s working to identify potentially affected customers.

Dozens of other companies are affected, including smaller regional banks and larger multinationals.

A Wells Fargo spokesperson said the data was obtained by Ascension from other entities that purchased Wells Fargo mortgages. HSBC said it was investigating if any of its customers’ data, including past customers, and confirmed it had “no vendor relationship with Ascension since 2010.” When reached, CapitalOne did not comment at the time of publication. A Housing and Urban Development spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. The department is currently affected by the ongoing government shutdown. If anything changes, we’ll update.

It’s the latest in a series of security lapses involving Elasticsearch databases.

A massive database leaking millions of real-time SMS text message data was found and secured last year, as well as a popular massage service and, most recently, AIESEC, the largest youth-run nonprofit for working opportunities.

Updated at 5pm ET: with comment from HSBC and additional details regarding OpticsML.

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Brandon Truaxe, Founder of Deciem Skin Care Company, Is Dead At 40





Brandon Truaxe, the former CEO and founder of the skin care company Deciem, has died at age 40.

An executive at the company confirmed Truaxe’s death in an email to Vox, which also obtained the email sent by acting CEO Nicola Kilner to Deciem’s staff.

“I can’t believe I am typing these words. Brandon has passed away over the weekend. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to how I, and how I know many of you will be feeling,” read the email, which also indicated that the company’s “offices, warehouses, factories and stores” would all be closed Monday to “take the time to cry with sadness, smile at the good times we had, reflect on what his genius built and hug your loved ones that little harder.”

A spokesperson for the Estée Lauder Cos., a minority investor in Deciem, told HuffPost: “Brandon Truaxe was a true genius, and we are incredibly saddened by the news of his passing. As the visionary behind Deciem, he positively impacted millions of people around the world with his creativity, brilliance and innovation. This is a profound loss for us all, and our hearts are with Nicola Kilner and the entire Deciem family.”

Representatives of Deciem did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, but they did post a heartfelt message about Truaxe on their Instagram page.

“Thank you for every laugh, every learning and every moment of your genius. Whilst we can’t imagine a world without you, we promise to take care of each other and will work hard to continue your vision. May you finally be at peace. Love, (forever) your DECIEM,” they wrote.

The Toronto-based company, nicknamed “The Abnormal Beauty Company,” was called Deciem after Truaxe’s intention to launch 10 lines under the brand’s umbrella, though the brand has now exceeded that. Arguably its most famous line, The Ordinary, has gone on to achieve near-cult status for its affordable prices and ubiquity. The line is currently sold at Sephora.

As for Truaxe, he has had a multitude of highs and lows with the company. On the heels of a near-rave review in The New Yorker in early 2018, Truaxe began to appear erratic on social media and use the company’s pages to post bizarre messages and videos. By the end of the year, Estée Lauder took legal action against him, and Truaxe was ousted by a judge as CEO. Kilner has been the acting CEO ever since. Additionally, Truaxe was issued a restraining order by several executives at Estée Lauder.

While the cause of Truaxe’s death is currently unknown, a report published in Canada’s Financial Post in December 2018 indicated that he’d been previously hospitalized for mental health issues several times and had problems with drug use. 

The response on social media has been widespread, as many fans of his skin care brand mourn his death:

This article has been updated with comment from Estée Lauder Cos. and a message posted by Deciem.

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