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Facebook illegal crosswalk showed early ‘Hack’ ethic

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In the middle of Facebook’s Menlo Park campus there’s an open courtyard with the word “Hack” written in enormous letters. This area is known as Hacker Square.

Above “Hack” are nine large, thick, gray stripes.

To the naked eye, the stripes are inconspicuous. But to those who know, especially early Facebook employees, these stripes serve as a monument to the company’s original spirit of “move fast and break things.” They’re a memorial to events that transpired in the summer of 2007.

A view of Hacker Square on Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook

At the time, Facebook was still a small company with no more than 300 people, and its headquarters was a trio of buildings in downtown Palo Alto, according to three former Facebook employees who spoke with CNBC.

The company operated out of 156 and 154 University Ave., but Facebook’s cafeteria sat a block away at 164 Hamilton Ave.

The two buildings are separated by a three-minute walk, but Facebook employees could shorten the distance by cutting through a tiny alleyway perpendicular to Hamilton Avenue that was directly across the street from the cafeteria. To cross, employees had to walk to either end of the block or risk a jaywalking ticket because there was no crosswalk connecting the alleyway and the cafeteria.

At least there wasn’t one until Facebook held an overnight hackathon during the summer of 2007.

During these hackathons, Facebook employees would bring to life the ideas they’d kept in the back of their minds but hadn’t yet had a chance to execute. Usually the nights resulted in new software features for the company’s website, but the aftermath of this particular hackathon was more tangible.

The following day, there was suddenly a crosswalk connecting the alleyway and the Facebook cafeteria.

For the most part, the hack went unnoticed — the crosswalk was so convincing, people actually started using it. The white stripes had been spray painted in measurement drawn to city specifications.

A screenshot of a photo uploaded to the “Facebook Archivist” Facebook group of a crosswalk painted in Palo Alto in 2007 near the company’s headquarters at the time.

Provided to CNBC

It wasn’t until that afternoon that the authorities finally noticed. A Palo Alto police officer riding on a bicycle stopped, took his helmet off and put it under his arm and stared at the crosswalk. Finally he slapped his forehead, realizing the crosswalk didn’t belong there, according to one former Facebook employee who witnessed the event.

The officer questioned Facebook staffers about the crosswalk, asking them if they knew who had painted it. It wasn’t until this moment that most of the company began to realize what had been done.

People laughed, but it wasn’t cool, another former employee told CNBC. The crosswalk was disrespectful to the city of Palo Alto, and Facebook did not want to disrespect the local government since it needed to be on good terms with the city, that employee said.

Over the next few days, the city erased the crosswalk by sandblasting and paving over it, leaving a darker shade of black on the road where the white stripes had been, the former Facebook employees said.

The city may have removed the crosswalk from its road, but former Facebook employees still talk about it.

“‘Somebody’ painted a cross walk in the middle of Hamilton Ave. so it’d be easier to get to lunch in Building 164. Classic,” wrote a member of the “Facebook Archivist” Facebook group, where former employees post about their memories and experiences working at the social network.

A screenshot of Hacker Square on Facebook’s Menlo Park campus as seen from satellite view of Google Maps.

The gray stripes at Hacker Square are the most prominent reminder.

If you ever been to Facebook’s campus, you may have seen or walked on the stripes without noticing them. They sit just south of Facebook’s Building 14 and Building 16. They are large enough to be visible from the satellite imagery of Google Maps, and you can clearly spot them if you do an image search of “Facebook Hacker Square.”

The story of the crosswalk is often told to Facebook employees during new-hire orientations, according to the former Facebook employees, to give them a sense of the company’s original culture.

That culture can be summed up in the phrase: “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” one of the former employees said.

Facebook declined to comment.

WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off

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US-UK trade deal within a year of Brexit will be tight, UK PM Johnson

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It will be tight to meet the United States’ desire to do a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain within a year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

Johnson, who took office last month, had his first bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump earlier on Sunday at the G7 meeting in France and the two discussed a range of issues including trade.

In interviews with British television media afterwards, Johnson said the United States wanted to do a deal within a year of Britain leaving the EU on Oct. 31.

“Years and years is an exaggeration, but to do it all within a year is going to be tight,” he told BBC TV.

Johnson also said the chances of Britain agreeing a Brexit deal with the EU were improving but it would be “touch and go”.

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Hong Kong police briefly turn water cannon on protesters, fire tear gas

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Protesters gather in Kwai Fong in Hong Kong on August 24, 2019.

LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA | AFP | Getty Images

Hong Kong police briefly fired water cannon and volleys of tear gas to force back brick-throwing protesters on Sunday after violent clashes a day earlier during which police also fired tear gas for the first time in more than a week.

At least one petrol bomb was thrown by protesters. The water cannon, which had not been used in years of anti-government protests, soon pulled away.

The Chinese-ruled city’s MTR rail operator suspended some services to try to prevent people gathering but protesters made it to a sports stadium in the vast container port of Kwai Chung, from where they marched to nearby Tsuen Wan.

Some dug up bricks from the pavement and wheeled them away to use as ammunition, others sprayed detergent on the road to make it slippery for the lines of police. Clashes spread in many directions.

Police had warned earlier they would launch a “dispersal operation” and told people to leave.

“Some radical protesters have removed railings … and set up barricades with water-filled barriers, bamboo sticks, traffic cones and other objects,” they said in a statement.

“Such acts neglect the safety of citizens and road users, paralysing traffic in the vicinity,” the statement said.

Activists threw petrol bombs and bricks on Saturday in the gritty industrial district of Kwun Tong, on the east of the Kowloon peninsula.

The vast majority marched peacefully on Sunday.

‘Last Chance’

M. Sung, a 53-year-old software engineer in a black mask emblematic of the many older, middle-class citizens at the march, said he had been at almost every protest and would keep coming.

“We know this is the last chance to fight for ‘one country, two systems’, otherwise the Chinese Communist Party will penetrate our home city and control everything,” he said.

“If we keep a strong mind, we can sustain this movement for justice and democracy. It won’t die,” Sung said.

Protesters say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement under which the former British colony returned to China in 1997 with the promise of continued freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

The protests, which started over a now-suspended extradition bill and evolved into demands for greater democracy, have rocked Hong Kong for three months and plunged the city into its biggest political crisis since the handover.

They also pose a direct challenge for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, who are eager to quell the unrest ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.

Beijing has sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills just over the border.

Transport to the airport appeared normal on Sunday, despite protesters’ plans for a day-long “stress test” of transport in the international aviation and financial hub.

Police said they strongly condemned protesters “breaching public peace” and that 19 men and 10 women had been arrested after Saturday’s violence. More than 700 have been arrested since the demonstrations began in June.

The neighbouring gambling territory of Macau, a former Portuguese colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1999, elected former legislature head Ho Iat Seng as its leader on Sunday – the sole approved candidate.

Ho, who has deep ties to China, is expected to cement Beijing’s control over the “special administrative region”, the same status given to Hong Kong, and distance it from the unrest there.

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At G-7, Trump says he is not happy about North Korea missile tests

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SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ, France — President Donald Trump said Sunday he was not happy after North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend.

“I’m not happy about it but again he’s not in violation of any agreement,” Trump said when asked about the recent string of tests from the North’s Kim Jong Un.

“I discussed long-range ballistic and that he cannot do and he hasn’t been doing it and he hasn’t been doing nuclear testing. He has done short-range, much more standard missiles, a lot of people are testing those missiles, not just him. We are in the world of missiles folks, whether you like it or not,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea’s test was in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

On Saturday, North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, the South Korean military said, the latest in a series of launches in recent weeks amid stalled denuclearization talks.

North Korea, the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons this century, spent most of Trump’s first year in office perfecting its nuclear arsenal. The newest member of the world’s exclusive nuclear weapons club has stopped testing of its nukes for now as the U.S. and international community offer the possibility of relief from crippling economic sanctions.

Under the third-generation North Korean leader, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.

Since 2011, Kim has fired more than 90 missiles and had four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than what his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.

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