Shared posts

09 May 18:53

Uber and Lyft Leave Austin Over Fingerprint Requirement

by Matthew Feeney

I want to pay using BTC.

The ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft have withdrawn from Austin, Texas after voters there failed to pass Proposition 1, which would have repealed regulations requiring Uber and Lyft to include fingerprints as part of their driver background checks. This is a disappointing result, especially given that fingerprinting is, despite its sexy portrayal in forensic TV shows, not a perfect background check process and needlessly burdens rideshare companies.

Austin’s ordinances require rideshare companies to implement fingerprints as part of their background check system by February 2017. Under the rules the fingerprints would be submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which would then send the records to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As I pointed out in my Cato paper on ridesharing safety, the FBI fingerprint data are hardly comprehensive: 

Some have faulted Uber and Lyft for not including fingerprint scans as part of their background checks. However, fingerprint databases do not contain a full case history of the individual being investigated, and in some instances an FBI fingerprint check may unfairly prevent a qualified taxicab driver applicant from being approved. The FBI fingerprint database relies on reporting from police departments, and other local sources, as well as other federal departments and is not a complete collection of fingerprints in the United States.

Critics of the FBI fingerprint database point to its incomplete or inaccurate information. In July 2013 the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a study on the FBI’s employment background checks and found that “FBI records are routinely flawed.” Also, while law enforcement agencies are diligent when it comes to adding fingerprint data of arrested or detained persons to the federal data, they are “far less vigilant about submitting the follow-up information on the disposition or final outcome of the arrest.”

This lack of vigilance is significant because, as the NELP study goes on to point out, “About one-third of felony arrests never lead to a conviction. Furthermore, of those initially charged with a felony offense and later convicted, nearly 30 percent were convicted of a different offense than the one for which they were originally charged, often a lesser misdemeanor conviction. In addition to cases where individuals are initially overcharged and later convicted of lesser offenses, other cases are overturned on appeal, expunged, or otherwise resolved in favor of the worker without ever being reflected on the FBI rap sheet.”

A Wall Street Journal article from 2014 made similar findings:

Many people who have never faced charges, or have had charges dropped, find that a lingering arrest record can ruin their chance to secure employment, loans and housing. Even in cases of a mistaken arrest, the damaging documents aren’t automatically removed. In other instances, arrest information is forwarded to the FBI but not necessarily updated there when a case is thrown out locally. Only half of the records with the FBI have fully up-to-date information.

“There is a myth that if you are arrested and cleared that it has no impact,” says Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown Law. “It’s not like the arrest never happened.”

Relying on fingerprints to paint an accurate picture of a driver applicant’s criminal history is misguided. Uber and Lyft do carry out background checks via third parties that look at court records and sex offender registries in order to determine whether a driver applicant meets their criminal background requirements, which are often stricter than those that govern taxi driver applicants. In fact, Austin is one of the cities where Uber’s and Lyft’s safety requirements are more stringent than those imposed on taxi drivers.

As R Street Institute’s Josiah Neeley has explained, Austin doesn’t prohibit taxi driver applicants who have been convicted of “a criminal homicide offense; fraud or theft; unauthorized use of a motor vehicle; prostitution or promotion of prostitution; sexual assault; sexual abuse or indecency; state or federal law regulating firearms; violence to a person; use, sale or possession of drugs; or driving while intoxicated” to work as taxi drivers provided that they have “maintained a record of good conduct and steady employment since release.” 

In contrast, Uber and Lyft disqualify driver applicants if they have been convicted of a felony in the last seven years. Uber and Lyft also include features that make drivers and passengers safer than they would be in traditional taxis.

Rideshare transactions are cashless. This removes an incentive for thieves to target rideshare drivers. Taxi drivers, who make a living out of picking up strangers, on the other hand can be more reliably assumed to be carrying cash than rideshare drivers. 

In addition, both the rideshare driver and passenger have profiles and ratings. The rating system provides an incentive for riders and passengers to be on their best behavior, and the profiles make it comparatively easy for investigators to determine who was at the scene of an alleged crime in a rideshare vehicle. It would be very stupid for an Uber passenger to try and get away with robbing an Uber driver, just as it would be unwise for an Uber driver to assault an Uber passenger. This, of course, doesn’t mean that rideshare background checks and safety features will deter all criminals, but they do compare very favorably to the safety procedures in place for taxis.

Perhaps too many Austin residents have watched CSI:Crime Scene Investigation and exhibited something similar to the “CSI effect” in the voting booth last weekend. The FBI fingerprint database may sound like a sensible resource to use for background checks, but it is not up-to-date and could result in otherwise qualified driver applicants being denied the opportunity to use Uber or Lyft.

09 May 13:56

SBA Student Scores Perfect 36 on ACT


i would get an Agent !

SBA Student Scores Perfect 36 on ACT
11 Apr 15:51

Editor in Panama Papers says published in the public interest

BERLIN (Reuters) - The editor of the German newspaper that broke the Panama Papers story said on Monday he did not know exactly where his team's source got the information but defended his decision to publish on the basis of the public interest.

24 Mar 21:50

Comedian Garry Shandling dead at 66

by (Fox News Online)
25 Jan 22:05

'NEVER SURRENDER!' Donald Rumsfeld debuts 'Churchill Solitaire' app

by (Fox News Online)
11 Jan 18:45

THIEF NABBED Woman arrested in string of jewelry heists

by (Fox News Online)

Patty Hearst

30 Oct 20:07

How a selfish world can still avoid catastrophic climate change


each country go it alone....

We can still avoid 2°C of global warming even if nations can't agree on a fair way to share the burden of emission cuts – someone just has to take the lead

13 Aug 19:15

Bitcoin’s Dark Side Could Get Darker


Finally, Uber-Airline!

Investors see riches in a cryptography-enabled technology called smart contracts–but it could also offer much to criminals.

Some of the earliest adopters of the digital currency Bitcoin were criminals, who have found it invaluable in online marketplaces for contraband and as payment extorted through lucrative “ransomware” that holds personal data hostage. A new Bitcoin-inspired technology that some investors believe will be much more useful and powerful may be set to unlock a new wave of criminal innovation.

03 Aug 13:54

India orders clampdown on Internet porn, sparks censorship debate...

India orders clampdown on Internet porn, sparks censorship debate...

(Second column, 19th story, link)
Related stories:
23 Jul 15:08

ButtonMasher: The gamers who only want to explore virtual worlds


the future, taking photo's of computer generated game scenes.

Bigger and more complicated games have spawned a new way of playing – where finding and sharing images is more important than completing a mission

23 Jul 14:41

An Unnecessary Indictment of Dylann Roof

by Jonathan Blanks

Today, the Justice Department indicted Dylann Roof on 33 federal hate crime charges for the killings of nine people at Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston last month. This indictment is entirely unnecessary.

Hard as it may be for some to imagine now, there was a long time in this country when racially and politically motivated violence against blacks was not prosecuted by state and local authorities. Or sometimes, as in the case of Emmett Till—the young boy from Chicago who was lynched in Mississippi for allegedly being too forward with a white woman—prosecution was a farce and the perpetrators were acquitted.

But in the present case, South Carolina authorities moved quickly and effectively to catch Roof and did not hesitate to charge him with nine counts of murder. This was South Carolina’s duty and their law enforcement officers have appeared to perform professionally and competently. 

The Department of Justice should be more judicious with its funds and resources. The opportunity costs of a duplicative prosecution takes resources away from crimes that fall more appropriately in the federal purview, such as interstate criminal enterprises and government corruption. Today’s indictment is federal meddling in a case the state already has under control.

Even if some wholly unlikely chain of events leads to Roof’s acquittal, the DOJ could push forward with their prosecution at that time. But, in reality, that isn’t going to happen and no one at DOJ thinks it will. By not waiting for the outcome of the state’s prosecution, the timing strongly suggests the DOJ wants to assume jurisdiction for Roof’s prosecution. Thus, this indictment is an unabashed political move.

While the murders were rightly condemned as a national tragedy, it was a tremendous blow to the community of Charleston and the state as a whole. As such, the primary responsibility for prosecuting Dylann Roof belongs to South Carolina. Neither national grief nor DOJ politics should stand in the way of South Carolina’s prerogative to deliver justice on its own terms.

UPDATE: Shortly after this post went live, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a statement on the indictment. Notably, she referred to the state and federal cases as “parallel prosecutions.” But Roof cannot be in two courtrooms at the same time and so one proceeding will have to take place before the other.

It is hard to identify any justice interest served by federal prosecution. Rather, this appears to be for the institutional interests of the Justice Department. 

16 Jul 13:55

Tiny Pluto sports big mountains, New Horizons finds


should-a crashed into it or jupiter. We all want to see surfaces, not circles.

LAUREL, Md. (Reuters) - The first close-up views of Pluto show mountains made of ice and a surprisingly young, crater-free surface, scientists with NASA's New Horizons mission said on Wednesday.
08 Jul 18:04

Harry Shearer returning to 'The Simpsons' with new deal

by (Fox News Online)

thank you!!!

03 Jul 02:34

REPORT: Schools implant IUDs in 6th grade girls -- no parental notice...

REPORT: Schools implant IUDs in 6th grade girls -- no parental notice...

(Third column, 6th story, link)

02 Jul 15:08

Chronic fatigue breakthrough offers hope for millions


any non-pill way to remove white-blood cells?

Misunderstood and neglected for more than 25 years, there is suddenly new hope for people diagnosed with what was once cruelly called "yuppy flu"

29 Jun 17:44

Paris Hilton thinks 'she's going to die' in morbid prank


laugh with people, not at them. This is mean.

Screaming Paris Hilton thinks 'she's going to die' in morbid prank on Egyptian TV
26 Jun 17:02

Google’s self-driving cars are now on the streets of California

by Mike Murphy

Walter White would SOOoo crash into them.

On the road.

“OK Google, drive me to work.”

Google announced today that its panda-shaped self-driving cars are now puttering around the streets of Mountain View, California. Quartz first reported in March that Google was likely to start trialling its cars this year.

The cars can only travel 25 mph and will have drivers behind the wheel the entire time, for safety reasons—although the company has previously blamed humans for the accidents in which its cars have been. The driverless car team’s post on Google+ said that the cars will have “a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed.”

Google’s modified Lexus and Toyota Prius self-driving cars have been on the streets for years, and have now racked up over 1 million miles of experience. The computational system that powered those cars is in Google’s purpose-built cars now driving around.

Although the cars will have drivers and steering wheels in them while they’re being tested, Google said ultimately they’re intended to be steering-wheel free, giving the human passengers more time to check their email or watch a movie, or whatever else we like to do on our commutes when we don’t have to concentrate on the road.

25 Jun 18:40

Flying the Confederate flag on public property may violate America’s 14th Amendment

by Alfred L Brophy, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

bullshit Quartz. I quit reading the christiansciencemonitor and i am about to quit reading quartz....

A way of life, or symbol of hate?

The tragedy in Charleston has revived the movement to take the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

On Monday June 22—just five days after the shooting in the AME Emanuel Church—South Carolina governor Nikki Haley called a press conference to announce that, “it is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds.” “This flag,” Haley said, “while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.”

This is a particularly sensitive issue because the flag is on state property. What message, exactly, is the government sending?

The case against flying the Confederate flag

For those who want the flag to come down, it remains a symbolic reminder of white supremacy and the war fought to maintain slavery. States have been taking Confederate flags and monuments down for years now, and refusing new requests to fly them.

Just this term the Supreme Court in Walker vs. Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans permitted Texas to reject a specialty license plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans featuring a Confederate battle flag on it.

 For those who want the flag to come down, it remains a symbolic reminder of white supremacy and the war fought to maintain slavery.  Justice Breyer concluded that what appears on the license plate is a form of government speech and that Texas could decide for itself what speech to permit. When Texas decided that it did not want to include the Confederate battle flag, Breyer concluded the Sons of Confederate Veterans had no First Amendment right to display the flag.

Integral to the conclusion that Texas can keep Confederate battle flags off their license plates are the twin ideas that the government is speaking through the license plates and that Texas can control its own speech. Such principles were also used to justify the 2009 decision of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, to reject a monument from the Summum church for display on public property.

Writing for the majority in City of Pleasant Grove vs. Summum, Justice Alito said “the display of a permanent monument in a public park” is likely to be perceived as the government’s speech. The city could reject a religious monument, because observers would think the government was endorsing that monument.

So far, so good: The state can (and many of us believe ought to) reject the display of the Confederate flag on government property.

Understanding the state’s intent

But what happens when the opposite happens, and a state government decides to put a Confederate battle flag or a monument to the Confederacy on its property (or permitting others to do so)?

Take, for instance, the Confederate monument in front of the Sussex County, Virginia Courthouse, which includes the inscription: “The principles for which they fought live eternally.” That makes me suspicious of the quality of justice that African Americans can receive inside that courthouse. Indeed, many people now see the rise of the use of the Confederate flag during the Civil Rights movement as a response to the increasing claims of African Americans to equality.

And as Justice Alito recognized in the Summum case, monuments on public property will lead observers to “routinely—and reasonably—interpret them as conveying some message on the property owner’s behalf.”

A violation of the 14th amendment

That in turns leads to the question, then, of whether government speech that tells African Americans they are inferior—and perhaps that the era of slavery was right—violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

This is a stretch of current equal protection doctrine, which is concerned with tangible questions like funding rather than speech. However, if a state legislature passed a statute proclaiming African Americans are inferior I can imagine that such a bold and vicious statement might rise to the level of a violation of the 14th Amendment’s promise that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Does government speech that tells African Americans they are inferior violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment? 

Now take a further step: Does the Confederate battle flag or a monument to the Confederacy tell African American citizens that they are inferior? And if so, does that violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment? While the answer to the latter question may not be clearly yes, I don’t think it is clearly no, either.

Ultimately, this is really more a question of whether a state—and its politicians—want to continue to fly a flag that is so closely associated with a war begun to maintain slavery. Many supporters of the flag say that the meaning for them is about southern heritage, not race hatred. And in this I am inclined to believe their statements about their motive.

But at this point in American history the flag has become closely associated in the minds of many with white supremacy, slavery, and Jim Crow segregation. Whatever its meaning once was—or still is in the minds of some—in the minds of many it is time to realize that this is a symbol that is sending the wrong message to US citizens.

Before this becomes a lawsuit, the Confederate flag should be taken down from in front of the South Carolina State House.

The ConversationThis post originally appeared at The Conversation. Follow @US_conversation on Twitter. We welcome your comments at

25 Jun 13:59

Many big companies live in fear for their future in digital age...


uber air. Thats what I want.

Many big companies live in fear for their future in digital age...

(First column, 14th story, link)

24 Jun 15:58

Flag Sales Skyrocket 3,620 Percent On AMAZON...

23 Jun 14:41

Study: If you always use a specific number when you negotiate, you’re doing it wrong

by Max Nisen

thanks God for Carmax.

The speed-money tradeoff.

Salary negotiations have plenty of artistry, but research is showing there’s also an underlying science.

The starting number can have a huge impact on getting what you want and how long striking a deal will take.

It’s been shown that putting forth a very precise number ($109,000 versus $100,000, for example) is effective in ultimately getting what you want. The thinking is that you’ve put a lot of thought into that number and are unlikely to budge.

However, if you want to get a deal done quickly, you’re better off with a round number, according to a new NBER working paper from researchers at Cornell, UC Berkeley, and eBay’s research lab.

The authors analyzed millions of two-way eBay auctions as a proxy for salary and other negotiations. Such auctions have both a “buy it now” and “make an offer” option.

The research found that round listings get lower initial offers and sell for 5% to 8% lower than similar precise listings. But they get offers more quickly, sell six to 11 days faster, and are 3% to 5% more likely to sell overall.

There’s a pretty simple reason behind those results, the authors think. A round price is what’s called a “cheap talk” signal. People signal that they have a weak bargaining position with a round number in order to attract buyers and sell more quickly. It’s a sign to buyers that they’re willing to move down.

Without that signal, people on both sides are more likely to play hardball to get the best deal. That makes bargaining more likely to go wrong, with significant negative consequences. A failure can derail everything from an important deal to a relationship with a boss.

A round number offer eases things along from the start.

It wasn’t just savvy buyers taking advantage of novice sellers. Some of the most experienced sellers in the study consistently used round numbers. The thinking about specific numbers was also borne out in the research. People using them were far less likely to accept first offers at any price, and made much more aggressive counteroffers:

This kind of tradeoff has been shown elsewhere. Another recent study on salary negotiations found that starting with an extremely high number leads to higher salaries, but it was also much more likely to end talks entirely.

22 Jun 16:52

Oculus finally unveils its consumer virtual reality headset

by Alice Truong

looks like marketing, no product. Microsoft has a product and Google-cardboard is fun....

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe

The Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus today showed off a streamlined version of its gaming headset, Rift, that will be available to consumers in the first quarter of 2016.

Oculus first excited the gaming world three years ago when it launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the development of its headset. It easily blew past its $250,000 crowdfunding goal and ended up raising $2.4 million. Then in 2014, Facebook acquired the startup for $2 billion, based on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that virtual reality will represent the next major computing platform.

Oculus Rift consumer version
The consumer version of Oculus Rift will ship in the first quarter of 2016. Oculus has not revealed the price yet.(Alice Truong/Quartz)

“Oculus Rift is going to deliver the magic of presence,” Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe said today at a press event in San Francisco. “This isn’t science fiction. This is reality, and it’s happening today.”

Oculus has yet to reveal the cost of Rift, but Iribe said it will be at an “affordable price.” As part of a partnership with Xbox, Oculus Rift will ship with a wireless Xbox One controller and be able to stream Xbox One games.

oculus touch
A way to touch virtual objects.(Alice Truong/Quartz)

The company also introduced new handheld sensors called Oculus Touch.

“One of the first things people do [when they put on Rift] is they reach out to this virtual world,” said Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. Touch will be able to recognize hand gestures, such as waving or pointing, and enable people to hold and interact with virtual objects, such as a gun in a shooting game. It will be sold separately and available shortly after Rift launches.

Revealed ahead of the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles next week, the new headset has been slimmed down and wrapped in fabric so it’s more comfortable for people to hold and wear. The company says it has also improved eye tracking so the experience is less jarring and nauseating for wearers.

“Really, for the first time it feels like a consumer product,” Iribe said. But while Oculus is finally getting ready to ship its first consumer product, it’s still far from achieving Zuckerberg’s vision of becoming a mainstream computing platform. “I think that’s going to realistically take a while,” Iribe tells Quartz. “I do absolutely think that will happen, but it will just take time.”

For now, the focus is clearly on gamers, as evidenced by the debut of Oculus Touch and the preview of upcoming titles for the headset.

The adoption of Rift among gamers—and eventually everyday consumers—will hinge on a few factors: price, experience, and especially developers producing content. “Developers need years with an input device,” says Iribe. “They just do, to make compelling content.”

21 Jun 19:11

Biotech’s Coming Cancer Cure


ugh, Bezos investment. Hopefully this isn't just marketing.

Supercharge your immune cells to defeat cancer? Juno Therapeutics believes its treatments can do exactly that.

When Milton Wright III got his third cancer diagnosis, he cried until he laughed. He was 20 and had survived leukemia twice before, first when he was eight and again as a teen. Each time he’d suffered through years of punishing chemotherapy.

10 Jun 19:37

The pope is finally getting rid of bishops who covered up sexual abuse

by Hanna Kozlowska

Good job. Well needed.

Francis scores another point.

Pope Francis has announced a tribunal to investigate and remove bishops who failed to protect children who were sexually abused by priests. The decision comes after years of scandals in which senior Roman Catholic clergy were accused of covering up molestation and rape cases.

To date, no bishop has ever been removed, or even punished, for allowing abusive members of the clergy to commit their crimes. One US bishop was allowed to resign earlier this year for failing to report a suspected child abuser.

The United Nations released a scathing report last year detailing the “code of silence” surrounding abuse cases, alleging that the church systematically implemented policies that endangered children, and that in some countries clergy obstructed investigations in criminal or civil cases.

The new tribunal will be formed under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican said in a statement. It will hear complaints related to “abuse of office” by bishops, making it the first official mechanism to judge these cases. The measures were recommended by an advisory panel on sexual abuse, and approved by the pope.

One case of an abusive priest and the effort to cover up his crimes is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated 2006 documentary “Deliver Us From Evil.”



10 Jun 18:20

Silence of the drones: How to quiet that annoying aerial buzz


One word, Dyson.

Noise may be a problem when fleets of delivery drones start operating in urban airspace. But a team from NASA has developed a way to silence them

04 Jun 16:21

TX Doctors Do World's First Skull-Scalp Transplant...


that would be a good use of a robot, in connecting the millions of tiny blood vessels.

TX Doctors Do World's First Skull-Scalp Transplant...

(Second column, 12th story, link)

04 Jun 16:00

NTSB says no mechanical problems in Amtrak crash

02 Jun 21:57

Your First Look at Oculus’ Adorable New Filmy-Gamey Thing

by Peter Rubin


Your First Look at Oculus’ Adorable New Filmy-Gamey Thing

This morning, Oculus Story Studio unveiled its latest interactive film project.

The post Your First Look at Oculus’ Adorable New Filmy-Gamey Thing appeared first on WIRED.

02 Jun 20:32

Adult Swim will send you a free Google Cardboard viewer… if you fax them a form

by Stephen Hall

couldn't find cardboard fax #. Must be taken down.

Google Cardboard

All of the attendees of Google I/O this year (myself included) got the latest version of the Mountain View company’s Cardboard virtual reality headset for free—and now it looks like you can too. To promote their “Adult Swim Virtual Brainload” app, Adult Swim is trying to put a free Cardboard viewer in the hands of as many people as they can. But there’s only one catch: You have to fax them a form.

To learn more about the promo, you can head over to the company’s trippy VR promo page. The Virtual Brainload app “will test your mind as well as your body and the person who emerges may not be anyone you know,” Adult Swim says. And if you want to experience this, the company is giving you the chance of a lifetime to get what is assumably an Adult Swim-themed viewer.

The details of promotion say that it’s valid through June 7th, and that those who actually take the time to fill out and fax the form will have to wait 4-5 weeks for delivery. The offer is open to US residents only, and there’s a limit of one per person. The Virtual Brainload app works with HTC One M8, LG G3, Moto X, Google Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy S6 and running Android KitKat and Lollipop.

Here’s the form with all of the details.


Filed under: Android, Tech Industry Tagged: 9to5toys, adult swim, Android, Android Wear, Cardboard, deal, free, Google Cardboard, Virtual reality, vr

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01 Jun 18:24

Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht is sentenced to life in prison—the harshest possible punishment

by Adam Pasick

he will get out in a few years. This will not stand.

The man who once styled himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind of the illicit online marketplace Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison today for narcotics trafficking and other charges.

Federal judge Katherine Forrest handed down the sentence for Ulbricht’s role in facilitating the sale of drugs including heroin, cocaine, and LSD on Silk Road, using hard-to-trace technology tools like the Tor browser and the digital currency bitcoin. Prosecutors said that the creation of Silk Road was a “blueprint for a new way to use the Internet to undermine the law and facilitate criminal transactions,” and that the now-shuttered site has since spawned a number of copycat services.

Ulbricht was convicted in February, several months before two law enforcement agents were themselves arrested for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin in the course of their undercover investigation of Silk Road.