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Facebook Confirms Mysterious Oculus Building X

Published in Blog

Facebook Confirms Mysterious Oculus ‘Building X’ in Bellevue's Spring District.

With tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon calling the Seattle area home, it's safe to say the region has become headquarters for some of the most successful companies in the world. Little wonder that another big league company is gearing up to put roots down in this amazingly vibrant city.

Facebook is the newest tech giant to call Seattle home. The tech company recently announced plans to lease "Building X," a component of their new Oculus campus, and recently rented space in the Spring District, bringing the company's space occupancy to a staggering 2.7 million square feet, most of which is located in Bellevue, Washington.

Building X will replace two previous buildings with a total of 689,000 sq. feet. The building will be equipped with office space, laboratory space, skylights, and an atrium. Gearing up to fill up that space, Facebook has listed a total of 415 new job opening throughout the Seattle and Redmond areas combined. The company paid $20 million in December 2017 for the property located on Willows Road.

Although no official building designs have been submitted yet, project planners Gehry Partners hopes to break ground around June this year with an estimated completion date by 2022. Keeping in line with ethical concerns, Building X will attempt LEED silver certification, meet Redmond's Green Building Incentives and Salmon-Safe certification in an effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Additionally, Facebook is leasing a 338,000 sq. foot building located in the Spring District neighborhood. The new Spring District neighborhood built around a future light rail station and REI headquarters will also be the site of the Global Innovation Exchange a graduate program created by the University of Washington.

The 11-story office building is expected to be completed by early 2020 and will house the company for the next 13 years. The mixed-use building will be used for both office and retail space and will showcase creative offerings of the Spring District.

Known as Block 16, this tremendous building will also include views of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, public park spaces for an engaging pedestrian experience. Speaking of the pedestrian experience, the Spring District will also have access to the future East Link light rail system that will connect the neighborhood with other busy areas including downtown Seattle, University of Washington, Bellevue and Sea-Tac International Airport.

Up until 2016 Facebook's imprint on the Seattle, the region was minimal, employing only 3,000 people. With the development of the Oculus campus, the company hopes to increase its workforce using the stellar tech talent located in the region. By all estimates, the company hopes to increase its workforce between 10,000-13,000 people in the next few years.

The Oculus campus has led to speculation about Facebook's possible venture into the virtual assistant realm currently dominated by Amazon's Alexa. Lead by Ira Snyder, the company has confirmed researching and developing AR/VR projects extensively but has remained tight-lipped about a virtual assistant project.

Although the company has increased job openings and continues to build its sprawling Redmond campus, Facebook faces challenges should the company enter the virtual assistant market, a market that is remarkably crowded already. The leading competitors, Amazon and Google command 97 percent of market share leaving very little room for the social media giant.

Despite those challenges, the Oculus campus is expanding, without any signs of slowing down. Unsurprisingly, Facebook has kept quiet about the final size of the campus but some speculate the final occupied space will be large. The Oculus project will require research and laboratory space mostly, so experts estimate that the campus could reach as large as 1-1.4 million square feet including Building X and other spaces rented throughout the area such as the Spring District.

Although Facebook's rapid expansion in the Seattle area puts it among the largest office users in the area, it still doesn't match the spaces occupied by Amazon and Microsoft which is 15 million and 13.5 million square feet respectively.

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Trailhead Direct Returns with More Routes

Published in Blog

A new estimate shows that roughly 1,000 residents rely on the trails of King County, Seattle. For this reason, an initiative was launched, which gives hikers access to more routes.

Every resident can achieve something different and will have access to different starting points. Some will walk to school, work or enjoy a bit of exercise with the family dog. The city’s mayor looks forward to how things will play out. She thanks local voters “for being open minded.”

What the community has worked together to achieve isn’t limited to walking. With the help of King County, its Trailhead Direct shuttles will pick hikers up in an effort to cover more ground for them. The transit, a few designated locations and a set schedule offer rides directly to trail locations. A few bus models will hold as-much-as-27 passengers and even allow your dogs to board. Cash, Transit Go Mobile and the ORCA card are your paying options.

Working Together with the Commuter in Mind

King County Metro is working with King County Parks to make this project possible. There’s a simple objective that the two want to achieve: a reduction in traffic and a better flow of it. Getting over I-90, whether by avoiding it or crossing it, is even possible on holidays. Surprisingly, 10,000 trips were achieved last year in 2018, and this year promises even more commuters.

April 20th, of 2019, was the day the program officially launched, and it will continue on into October. The service areas, which shuttles now loop through, start from Mt. Baker, to East Sunset, to Margaret’s Way and back around to Eastgate station. You’ll only pay $2.75. Shuttles operate on both Saturdays and Sundays for a reliable weekend service.

Service for Tukwila and Renton with Mailbox Peak Added In

King County managed to add in new trails to the loop. Access points can also be found at local rail stations, which are set within walking distances. The Twin Falls Middle School benefits as the shuttles take hikers away from the school’s trails. King County’s initiative is being dubbed as Seattle’s very own “transit-to-trail service.” The forested mountains of the county are now entered into with greater ease.

It’s OK if you don’t own a car or if you want to avoid the train. Hikers only need to choose the location, to wait for a shuttle or to immediately access the closest trail. The entire system works with park-and-ride centers—if you need to leave the car behind.

How the Initiative Helps and What Residents Can Do:

More Use: Expect more-entry points with more trails to get acquainted with.

Greater Safety: The design of the new-access ways provide you with more safety. Trails are closer to public areas also.

Easier To Get To: Getting to each trail is easier because of the new entry points. When you don’t want to walk, a shuttle can then pick you up.

Less Crowding: The spacing of new trails reduces traffic and adds in more space.

The Geography Covered

The natural terrain, which you can expect to uncover, consists of:

- Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
- Issaquah Alps
- Mailbox Peak
- Mount Si
- Little Si

Stations, Shuttles and Access Points

You’ll find a local list of stations and services to fit your needs. Consider these:

- Tukwila International Boulevard Station
- Eastgate Freeway Station
- North Bend Park-and-Ride
- Renton Transit Center
- Issaquah Transit Center

 

Trailhead Direct is a transit van pilot project sponsored by King County Metro’s Community Connections program and King County Parks that seeks to ease vehicle congestion, reduce safety hazards and expand access to hiking destinations in the Issaquah Alps and along I-90. 

More information including Schedules, Fares, and Destinations: www.kingcounty.gov/trailheaddirect

 

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College Admissions Scandal

Published in Blog

The college admissions program has always been one of the most complex and mysterious parts of the U.S. education system. However, a window into the actions of the elite members of society in America was opened in March 2019 when the FBI made a series of arrests regarding an alleged bribery scandal.

Among an exclusive list of celebrities, CEOs, and prominent professionals allegedly involved in the case was "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman and her husband William H. Macy. Huffman was arrested and bailed for $250,000 in Los Angeles Federal Court while Macy is said to appear on tape agreeing to take part in the bribery scheme. 

Authorities are claiming the full extent of the college admissions bribery scandal has yet to be uncovered but the alleged ringleader, William "Rick" Singer profited to the tune of $25 million. Dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues", the investigation by the FBI began with a tipoff from an informant during another investigation. The case revolves around a series of bribes paid by Singer's college admissions consulting company to SAT proctors and college coaches at some of the top colleges in the U.S. 

The basic plan behind the scheme created by Singer was to allow students to obtain false information which would ease their passage through the admissions process into colleges such as Yale, Georgetown, USC, and UCLA. Parents were advised by Singer's company to use a variety of tactics to assist their children in the admissions process, including faking learning disabilities to obtain extra time for entrance exams. 

William Singer has already pleaded guilty to the offenses he is accused of and stated some parents paid as much as $6.5 million to obtain entrance to top schools for their children. The scandal used a number of friendly witnesses to record discussions about the plans of Singer, including Huffman and Macy who were recorded discussing details of the work of William Singer before agreeing to take part in the bribery plans. "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin are both accused of bribing officials with Loughlin's husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli spending $500,000 to secure admission for their children to the University of Southern California. 

The two daughters of Loughlin and Giannulli are reported to have been part of sports coaching bribery network where parents paid for their children to be named to various sports teams at a specific college. In the case of Loughlin, her two daughters were named to the USC rowing crew despite not taking part in any activities. Another parent is reported to have secured a captain role on Yale's women's soccer team despite not playing the sport. The women's soccer coach at Yale is reported to have been paid $400,000 for their role in the scandal. 

Singer would also use employees of his company too as imposters sitting exams for various students to secure favorable SAT scores. In some cases, parents would ask for their child to attend a specific SAT testing facility because of family commitments where officials had been bribed to allow others to take tests or proctors would alter answers after the test was completed. 

So far, no students have been charged with any crime as there has been no link made to any child knowing of the plans of their parents. In total, the scandal has seen 33 parents charged with various offenses including mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. A further 13 sports coaches and employees of William Singer have also been charged. 

You may wonder how this affects the everyday parents of students looking to secure scholarships, but for many, this is the latest sign of the imbalance of the U.S. education system tilting further to the white, rich class of society. On social media, many feel the scandal highlights the elitist nature of certain schools, but no school has yet to find any evidence of monies paid to them by Singer or his associates.

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Trash Tag Challenge Accomplishing Something Positive

Published in Blog

Finally, a Viral Challenge That Is Accomplishing Something Positive

Over the last few years, a number of viral challenges have taken the Internet by storm. While some of these challenges have been dumb but harmless — such as the Cheese Challenge, where people toss pieces of cheese toward animals and babies — others have been dangerous. This includes the Bird Box Challenge based on the popular Sandra Bullock film, in which people attempted to do things blindfolded such as drive a car, and the Tide Pod Challenge, in which teens dared each other to eat detergent pods.

But a new challenge has gone viral, and this one could actually improve the lives of everyone. It is called the #Trashtag Challenge, and it challenges people to clean up badly littered areas near them. Participants are encouraged to first find a heavily littered place and then clean it up. They are also encouraged to post before and after pictures on social media.

Many people across the world have been doing just this, cleaning roads, parks and beaches. They have also helped raise awareness of the problem of litter.

How The Challenge Started

The challenge itself is not actually new. In 2015, an outdoors company called UCO Gear initiated the challenge as a way of collecting 10,000 pieces of wilderness trash by 2016. The idea came about when Steven Reinhold, who is the People Ambassador for UCO, accidentally allowed a paper receipt fly out his window. Feeling guilty about it, he challenged himself to pick up 100 pieces of garbage as retribution. He then decided to challenge others as well.

But the concept did not really take off until last week when a man named Byron Román made a post on Facebook, in which he called on bored teenagers to take photographs of areas that need cleaning and then clean it.

Since then, in excess of 25,000 posts just on Instagram have appeared with the hashtag as well as variations of it, such as #trashchallenge and #trashtagchallenge. Some have even translated the tag to other languages. For example, in Spanish it is called the #BasuraChallenge. People have been posting about it on other social media platforms as well, including Twitter and Reddit.

Many of these posts are from far off. A group in Novosibirsk — deep in the heart of Siberia — posted about how they had collected nearly 225 bags full of litter. They further noted that three-quarters of the garbage would be recycled. Not to be outdone, 40 teenagers in Norway spent an entire week collecting trash from a beach, gathering an incredible 12,400 kilograms (27,335 pounds) of garbage. While closer to home in Asheville, North Carolina, 500 people volunteered their time to collect an impressive 8,000 pounds of trash from nearby parks and rivers.

How the Challenge Could Have a Lasting Impact

While most things viral, including viral challenges, typically have short lifespans due to people generally having short attention spans, this viral challenge could be the exception to the rule.

Mark Butler, who is the policy director of a Canada-based environmental charity called the Ecology Action Centre, voiced hope that the challenge could lead to long-lasting changes that would eliminate single-use plastic containers. He further said that, without making fundamental changes to the way we use plastic, there will just be an endless cycle of waste and cleanups.

At the very least, this challenge should not be sending anyone to the hospital (or morgue), and there is no limit to the positive impact it could have on the world.

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