Uber Hit With $8.9 Million Fine In Colorado For Allowing Drivers With Felonies And Motor Violations To Work

A Colorado regulator on Monday fined Uber with a nearly $9 million penalty, after an investigation revealed that 57 people with criminal and motor vehicle offenses were allowed to drive with the ride-hailing company.

States across the U.S. have been considering laws to require additional background checks for individuals who drive for Uber and competitors like Lyft. In Colorado, the state’s Public Utilities Commission investigated the company’s drivers after an incident this past March, reported The Denver Post, when a driver dragged a passenger out of a car and kicked them in the face.

The commission said it found 57 drivers had issues that should’ve disqualified them from driving for Uber, including felony convictions for driving under the influence and reckless driving, while others had revoked, suspended or canceled licenses.

A similar investigation was conducted on Lyft, the Post reported, but no violations were revealed.

An Uber spokesperson told the Post the situation stems from a “process error” that was “inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations.” Following that, the spokesperson said, Uber “proactively notified” the commission.

“This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action,” the company said in a statement to the Post. “Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans.”

Maryland was set to implement a regulation that would require Uber drivers to submit to fingerprint-based background checks, but later eased up on the proposal. The state later found that 4,000 drivers didn’t meet state screening requirements. A similar situation unfolded in Massachusetts, which found more than 8,000 drivers who should’ve been disqualified from driving for the companies had actually passed Uber and Lyft background checks, including 51 sex offenders.

At the time, Uber and Lyft particularly took issue with the Massachusetts finding, with Uber saying thousands lost access to economic opportunities as a result of the decision. Indeed, those with petty charges over driving violations should be reconsidered in the process, but there certainly seems to be a disconnect between state guidelines and what the companies do for background checks.

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YouTube TV now has a picture-in-picture mode on Android phones

If you’re going to watch YouTube TV on your phone, there will probably be a point when you’ll want to do something else. But how will you keep watching? If you have Android Oreo, it’s now relatively easy. An update is rolling out that adds picture-in-picture support on Oreo devices. All you have to do is tap the home button and your show will float on top of whatever app you’re running. You can turn it off if you’d rather not have a broadcast grab your attention.

The feature gives YouTube TV an advantage over Hulu and other TV services that have yet to take advantage of Oreo’s picture-in-picture feature, although you probably won’t want to pay $35 per month just for the privilege. This is more of a perk that could give you a reason to stick with YouTube TV when you might otherwise consider an alternative.

Via: 9to5Google, The Verge

Source: Google Play

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Do-It-Yourself ‘Ghost Guns’ Bypass Background Checks And Firearm Registration

An ATF agent poses with homemade rifles, or “ghost guns,” at an ATF field office in Glendale, Calif in Aug., 2017. There’s a growing industry of companies that sell gun kits, instructions, and do-it-yourself components online to help people build their own guns.

Jae C. Hong/AP


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Jae C. Hong/AP

An ATF agent poses with homemade rifles, or “ghost guns,” at an ATF field office in Glendale, Calif in Aug., 2017. There’s a growing industry of companies that sell gun kits, instructions, and do-it-yourself components online to help people build their own guns.

Jae C. Hong/AP

When Kevin Neal went on a deadly shooting rampage last week in California, authorities say he was armed with at least two semi-automatic rifles, known as “ghost guns,” that he didn’t buy in a store or from a gun dealer.

“These arms are manufactured illegally, we believe, by him at his home,” said Tehama County assistant sheriff Phil Johnston, during a press conference on Nov. 15.

Neal was banned from buying guns and reportedly had to surrender a firearm because of a court order. But it turns out there’s a growing industry of companies that sell gun kits, instructions, and do-it-yourself components online to help people build their own guns. It’s a legal system that bypasses background checks and firearm registration.

A quick online search found companies offering kits that promise firearm parts that are already 80 percent complete. Just a bit of work in the garage or on the work bench, some final assembly, and you have a fully functioning pistol, assault rifle, or shotgun.

The videos also offer helpful tips.

“You can actually make your own gun exactly the way you see it here,” promised Mark Serbu in a YouTube tutorial promoting his brand of instructions for making unregistered pistols. He joked with a co-host about how easy it is, no special tools required.

“He doesn’t have basically anything, maybe a file.”

It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much. In fact, there are a lot of different ways to build ghost guns. Some involve 3-D printers and sheets of metal, but most require only a few basic shop tools and pre-ordered components. One do-it-yourself gun project online demonstrated a crude working shotgun that can be made from a few lengths of steel pipe.

“Guys love guns, these are like the coolest little toys for them,” Serbu says, adding that the ghost gun hobby is gaining fast in popularity and describing it as a family activity. “To me it’s like joy and inspiration.”

But last week, the fun and games were eclipsed by horror. Neal drove through a rural town in Tehama County, Calif., hunting people, targeting a school. He murdered five adults and wounded seven children before being shot to death. His weapons were homemade military-style assault rifles.

Given Neal’s criminal background, it was clearly illegal for him to possess these guns once they’d been assembled.

But for the companies making and selling these kits, it’s a different story. They often market kits — even for semi-automatic rifles — that are as much as 80 percent complete. Just a few final steps and they’re ready to shoot. However, unlike most arms sellers, these companies don’t have to do background checks. They don’t have to find out if their customers are mentally ill or have histories of domestic violence or criminal records.

The guns don’t have to be registered. In fact there are no serial numbers on gun components that come packed in these kits.

“What is it going to take? We have known that this poses a real problem and yet we haven’t done anything about it,” says Adam Skiff with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. He says the violence in California shows it’s time to close what he describes as a deadly loophole.

“The trick is regulating this ghost gun workaround, just like we do fully functioning firearms,” Skiff says. “Make sure that [gun components sold in kits] are serialized, that those manufacturing them have appropriate licensing and make sure that for people to buy them they have to pass a background check.”

But so far, Congress has shown zero interest in regulating ghost gun products.

“We don’t want gun crime, we don’t want people getting shot,” Serbu says.”But most people realize that ultimately there’s nothing really that we can do about it.”

There is research suggesting that gun regulation can limit violence and reduce fatalities. But Serbu doesn’t buy it. He thinks requiring background checks for ghost gun kits would just anger hobbyists like himself without stopping a single criminal.

“How many laws are you going to stack in front of them before it’s going to work?” he asks. “Unfortunately we just have psychopaths out there who are going to do this kind of thing.”

For now, hobbyists such as Serbu along with criminals and terrorists can all order as many of these weapon kits online as they want, no questions asked.

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London Bus Runs On Coffee

London Bus Runs On Coffee




© bio-bean limited.

The famous red buses of London could soon use coffee grounds as a fuel source. Sadly – or thankfully depending on your viewpoint – the buses won’t emit a coffee smell.

The test is part of a wider project to reduce pollution from the thousands of buses in the British capital, with increased use of biofuels and hybrid engines.

As an experiment, one bus will, for the next year, be powered by a blend of diesel and coffee oil, which is produced from used grounds. The manufacturers, bio-bean, already use coffee grounds to make burnable logs to use for fireplaces and stoves.

Although in its raw form the coffee oil does have a distinctive aroma, this is heavily reduced by the processing and distillation and then effectively wiped out when combined with diesel.

It’s at least a more pleasant prospect than another British ‘green’ bus: a service that runs between Bristol Airport and neighboring Bath and is powered entirely by biomethane. That gas is produced at a local treatment center that handles both sewage and food waste, meaning many passengers will have made a quite literal contribution to the operation.

































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I’m Completely Hypnotized by These Strutting Randomly-Generated Monsters

If you scroll through your phone, you’ll undoubtedly find a bunch of novelty apps you rarely use. The same fate could eventually befall a simple PC and Mac app called Random Access Character that generates an infinite number of bizarre characters using random shapes and textures—but only if you somehow get tired of watching them sassily stroll across your screen.

We totally understand if you’re hesitant about installing a random app on your computer, and if you’d rather play it safe, the procedurally generated characters are uploaded to an ever-growing Imgur album that will give you hundreds of reasons to waste time at work today.

The randomly-generated objects these characters are built out of include everything from throw cushions, to televisions, to Slinky-like springs. And there’s something inexplicably fascinating about watching a character try to walk with TVs for legs. If nothing else, this app could churn out your next Halloween costume if you play with it enough.

[Random Access Character via Prosthetic Knowledge]

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FCC chairman reveals plan to kill net neutrality

As expected, tomorrow, the FCC will release its plan to undo the net neutrality protections put in place during the Obama administration. Despite plenty of opposition, the FCC and Chairman Ajit Pai will go forward with the proposal, which will be voted on by the commission on December 14th. In a statement released today, Pai said, "Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet."

The ACLU has already released a statement opposing the FCC and Chairman Pai’s plan and ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said, "Internet rights are civil rights. Gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online. Without it, gateway corporations like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will have too much power to mess with the free flow of information."

Senator Brian Schatz also shared his thoughts on the plan saying, "If adopted, the FCC’s plan will change the way every American gets information, watches movies, listens to music, conducts business and talks to their families. By repealing basic net neutrality protections, the FCC is handing over full control of the internet to providers, leaving the American people with fewer choices and less access."

In addition to his announcement, Pai also penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The plan includes reversing the rule that currently treats broadband as a utility, removes protections that keep ISPs from blocking or slowing service and will shift some oversight power over to the FTC. The proposal, which will be up for public view tomorrow, is largely expected to pass with the vote splitting along party lines.

Source: FCC

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Foxconn Reportedly Used Illegal Student Labor to Manufacture iPhone Xs

Workers at a Foxconn facility in 2010. (Image: AP)

Hon Hai Precision Industry, more commonly known as Foxconn, came into the public consciousness earlier this decade when a salvo of exposés described the degrading and often dangerous conditions its poorly-paid workers endured to build expensive trinkets like the iPhone. Today, the Financial Times reports that illegal labor practices persist.

Six students, ages 17 to 19, claimed they’d regularly worked 11-hour days at a Foxconn-run factory as part of workweeks over 40 hours, violating Chinese labor laws concerning overtime for student interns. Both Apple and Foxconn confirmed to the Financial Times that students worked overtime. These six claimed to be part of a group of 3,000 student workers assembling parts for the brand new, $1000 iPhone X.

The students were reportedly sent to Foxconn by the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School as part of a mandatory, three-month “work experience” program. The relevance to future employment in the rail transit industry is unclear. Ms Yang, a student who complained of being forced into work that “has nothing to do with our studies,” said she has been assembling iPhone X cameras, up to 1,200 every day.

While illegal overtime may be a far cry from installing suicide nets on buildings to keep overworked assemblers from ending their lives on the job, Foxconn remains one of the largest employers in the world, and, in this instance, acting on behalf of one of the richest technology companies. It seems unlikely either will experience lasting repercussions of any kind.

We’ve reached out to Apple and Foxconn for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

[Financial Times]

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