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Google CEO pens letter to LGBTQ+ employees & promises to work on harassment policies

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Google has struggled to address harassment in the workplace, especially when it comes to cases of sexual harassment brought against some of its higher ranking executives.

It’s something that higher-ups at the company have been grappling with, and now Google’s LGBTQ+ employees are also coming into focus, with a recently penned letter by CEO Sundar Pichai doing the rounds thanks to The Verge.

A handful of Google execs have already spoken out about their embarrassment over how LGBTQ+ employees have been treated by the company to date but, as Engadget points out, this new letter from Pichai carries extra weight given his position.

The letter, pasted in full below, sees Pichai apologise and pledge his support for LGBTQ+ employees at Google, but more importantly notes that the firm is going to take measures to ensure that changes happen at the company to make it a more inclusive environment.

Whether said steps will indeed to be taken remains to be seen, but at the very least it’s clear that Google is beginning to understand that as an organisation, it serves as a bastion for equality in the workplace. The same goes for the platforms it owns, such as YouTube, which too is wrestling with how it handles creator abuse on its site when it comes to gender, race or sexual orientation.

The cynical view on the recently released letter is that it’s simple politicking, and no tangible changes will come out as a result.

That said, we’re still cautiously optimistic that if Pichai has no stated his stance on the matter, something can begin to be done.

Pichai’s full letter to Google employees is as follows:


“Hi everyone,

I want to thank the Gayglers Americas Steering Committee and [email protected] for the good discussion yesterday.

It was important for me to hear directly from LGBTQ+ Googlers to better understand the full range of experiences. One thing that came through very clearly is the LGBTQ+ community has felt a lot of pain and frustration over recent events.

Yesterday, Susan apologized publicly for the pain some of these issues have caused. I share that feeling and especially regret that this happened during Pride month when we should be celebrating the incredible LGBTQ+ community you all have built at Google.

Our Gaygler and Trans communities have always been a core part of Google culture. You are a source of pride for us as Googlers, and also a source of hope for people globally who don’t feel comfortable being out in their own workplaces and communities. It’s important to me that we continue to work hard to ensure Google is a place where everyone feels included.

With respect to YouTube, Susan and the team are already taking a hard look at the harassment policies and will do this in consultation with many groups, including people who have themselves experienced harassment. We’re also thinking through ways to engage more with our LGBTQ+ community at important moments and get input from our ERG leads and representatives.

Our discussion yesterday was a great starting point. It was a tough conversation at times — and I really appreciate the honestly and rigor you brought to it. Thank you again for your candor, your ideas, and your commitment. Look forward to continuing the conversation. I am committed to taking action and working with you all to make our workplace more inclusive and to ensure our products work for everyone.

– Sundar”


[Source – The Verge]

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In new headache, WeWork says it found cancer-causing chemical in its phone booths

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cash-strapped WeWork, the office-sharing company that is trying to negotiate a financial lifeline, has a new problem that may prove costly. It has closed about 2,300 phone booths at some of its 223 sites in the United States and Canada after it says it discovered elevated levels of formaldehyde.

FILE PHOTO: A WeWork logo is seen outside its offices in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kate Munsch/File Photo

The company, which abandoned plans for an initial public offering last month after investors questioned its mounting losses and the way it was being run, said in an email to its tenants on Monday that the chemical could pose a cancer-risk if there is long-term exposure.

After a tenant complained of odor and eye irritation, WeWork began testing and based on the results took 1,600 phone booths out of service, the company said in the email to tenants, which it calls members.

An additional 700 booths are closed while more testing is conducted, it said. All the phone booths closed were installed over the past several months, WeWork said.

“The safety and well-being of our members is our top priority and we are working to remedy this situation as quickly as possible,” WeWork said in a statement.

More costs are the last thing needed at the company, which some analysts say is fast running out of cash. WeWork declined to comment on the cost of testing and replacing the booths.

It is currently in talks for a multi-billion dollar rescue deal that could lead to its largest shareholder, Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T), taking control, two people familiar with the matter said. WeWork is also talking to JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) over a possible debt package, they said.

WeWork declined to identify the manufacturer of the phone booths.

“Long-term exposure to formaldehyde, such as that experienced by workers in jobs who experience high concentrations over many years, has been associated with certain types of cancers,” WeWork told tenants in the email.

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. Some studies since then suggested that formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A tenant, who did not wish to be identified, said she was worried about the risk of cancer as she had spent hundreds of hours inside phone booths at a San Francisco WeWork that has the problem.

Phone booths are popular in WeWork’s open-plan offices as they provide privacy and noise reduction, the tenant said.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Martin Howell and Lisa Shumaker

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Trump demands whistleblower testify, as ex-aide talks to Congress

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Donald Trump demanded on Monday that a whistleblower whose warning about the US president’s call with Ukraine triggered the impeachment inquiry against him be identified and testify before Congress.

As the president menaced the person who exposed his potential wrongdoing, Trump faced a new setback with his former top Russia advisor, Fiona Hill, sitting for a closed-door deposition on Monday before Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Hill served in the National Security Council but left the administration shortly before Trump’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

Democrats expect her to share her concerns about Trump’s involvement in the Ukraine scandal, including his ouster of the US ambassador to Kiev Marie Yovanovitch, who testified to Congress last week.

Hill, under a congressional subpoena according to her lawyer, made no remarks to reporters as she entered the secure meeting room in the US Capitol for a deposition expected to last several hours.

With the impeachment inquiry charging ahead, Trump lashed out at House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff after the Democratic lawmaker suggested the whistleblower might not testify out of concern for their safety.

Trump has repeatedly pushed for the unmasking of the unidentified author of a complaint that said Trump may have abused his power on the call by urging Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rival Joe Biden.

Whistleblowers are protected by US law, and revealing their identity is a crime.

“Adam Schiff now doesn’t seem to want the Whistleblower to testify. NO! Must testify to explain why he got my Ukraine conversation sooo wrong,” Trump tweeted.

“Did Schiff tell him to do that? We must determine the Whistleblower’s identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA.”

Trump repeatedly characterises his Zelensky call as “perfect,” but the whistleblower’s complaint noted how some White House officials were so concerned about Trump’s actions on the call that they sought to severely restrict access to its record.

The White House memo of the call shows Trump sought a “favor” from Zelensky. Democrats say it was a demand to investigate Joe Biden – the president’s potential 2020 election rival – and a Ukrainian firm that hired Biden’s son Hunter.

House Democrat Jamie Raskin said he believes Hill could shed light on what he described as “a very powerful shadow foreign policy being operated out of Ukraine by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani” that bypassed normal channels in order to apply coercive pressure on Kiev.

“I think that she would have a comprehensive overview of that whole situation,” Raskin told MSNBC.

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Bulgaria v England: Euro 2020 qualifier temporarily halted due to racist behaviour from fans

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England’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Bulgaria in Sofia was temporarily halted twice in the first half with fans warned about racist behaviour.

The first pause came in the 28th minute with England leading 2-0.

A stadium announcement then condemned the abuse before stating the match would be abandoned if it continued.

However, the game was stopped again in the 43rd minute before restarting after discussions between the referee and England manager Gareth Southgate.

The Levski Stadium was subject to a partial closure for this match after Bulgaria were sanctioned for racist chanting during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

Uefa has a three-step protocol in place for dealing with racism at matches.

For the first step, the referee will speak to the stadium announcer and demand the halting of racist behaviour.

If it continues, the referee can take the players off the field into the dressing rooms for a period of time and the stadium announcer will make another address. If it still continues, the match will be abandoned.

Southgate held a meeting with his players in the build-up to the game to underline the Uefa protocol in dealing with such incidents – but the subject has provoked an angry response from the Bulgarian football authorities.

More to follow.

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