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Mobile Technology News, May 8, 2015

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • FACE IT: A Lost Love Need Not Be Human
    We hear often about couples meeting and falling in love online. But what could be more modern than a love affair between a woman and the very thing that makes that coupling, and so much more, happen? Yes, this is a story about loving, and almost losing, an iPad.

    Margo’s story began on January 25th, after a return flight from Paris to JFK when, jet lagged and exhausted, she discovered that she had left her trusty mate on the plane. No, not her husband — with whom she had just spent eight glorious days celebrating 44 years of marriage — but the shiny and multi-purpose gadget that never left her side.

    “Dare I say I might have been less upset had I left my husband behind?” Margo says. She continues with her saga. “I, after all, had gotten used to long hours without another human around, my artist- spouse often in his studio or galleries. But my iPad was always there: next to me at the breakfast table, in my classes at school (where I am a returning student) and, of course, at night in bed. It was loyal and reliable, a silent partner in late night reading and a secret one in daytime binge-ing. It never complained about its aches and pains and never passed judgment. (Unless you count auto-correct).”

    Okay, it didn’t have Scarlett Johanssen’s voice, but for Margo, the iPad was HIM

    So, you can imagine the emotions she felt when she realized she had abandoned it on a cold plastic ledge behind someone’s chair, alongside a generic airline magazine and a vomit bag. But once the hours of guilt, anger, incredulity and frustration passed, she was fueled to action. The following hours, days, and weeks were filled with her tenacity, mixed with caring patience and guidance from her new friends at 1-800myapple. (Leading me to wonder: Is phone-tech the new phone sex?)

    Margo continues: “First, of course, I called the airline security office, which claimed the iPad had not been located, but urged me to keep checking back. I did, but to no avail. So then the mission became to protect my material, including all those passwords I could never recall without that now-missing list of passwords. Not to mention all my contacts, schoolwork, photos and bills. That’s when the geniuses at Apple took over.” Margo, like many of us, was familiar with pie a la mode, airplane mode and even lock mode. But this was a whole new world.

    “They told me how to put the device in “lost mode,” she explains. “By connecting to another app, on my home computer, I was able to find a list of my devices, with their serial numbers. I was advised to list my contact numbers on a virtual screen connected to my “friends,” so that when anyone tried to open or get into the iPad, they would see my information.” Margo has occasionally accused her husband of being distant, but now, she was experiencing the joyful miracles of what can be done by another’s magical hands from afar. (Is ‘remotely’ the new foreplay?)

    This helped, but still she couldn’t sleep, racked with fear that someone else’s fingers might be stroking HIS keys. Then, on February 8, exactly two weeks after the flight, she got a phone call from an area code and a name she didn’t recognize. Surely, another pollster or fundraiser checking in just as dinner was coming out. “For some reason, I answered,” says Margo, “and here was a man introducing himself as Dave. My heart started pounding as this heaven-sent Samaritan was explaining that he had found my iPad in the hamper of a sanitation truck, having been tossed from a garbage can in front of a library on Rockaway Blvd.”

    Who needs Paris when we have Rockaway?! Yes, through the rain and the snow and the sludge, her iPad had survived with minimal damage. Her long-lost love would soon be in her arms again. At least if this was for real. “My New York cynicism and suspicion were not entirely MIA,” says Margo, “so I did what any decent girl would do when an unfamiliar man materializes. I Googled him! And there I found sweet pictures of Dave with his baby daughter in tow. He saved me a trip by mailing the iPad overnight and asked only to be reimbursed for the postage.”

    I could now bore you with more dorky details and more of Margo’s hard- earned lessons: Like putting your contact information on the first screen of any device and regularly backing up your devices. Not to mention common sense, like don’t get distracted getting off that plane. But this is really about what we do for the things in our life we are sure we can’t live without. And about how there truly are good people amid the garbage. Real people, not the virtual variety.

    The iPad is, after all, just a machine: As Margo now acknowledges, “It doesn’t stroke my hair, It doesn’t make me a home-cooked meal when I am studying for finals.” If she needed a final reminder that the human touch still has the final power, she got it a few days after her affair with the iPad resumed. “That’s when my two-year-old granddaughter grabbed the keyboard, froze the screen, and accidentally deleted an important, opened- but-unsaved document. Neither the Apple geniuses nor Dave could rescue me that time.”

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • VIDEO: Self-driving truck allowed on roads
    BBC Click’s LJ Rich looks at some of the best of the week’s technology news.
  • Why tech is getting in the way of work
    Why we’re getting less and less done at work
  • Briefly: Apple cash mountain, still top dog in US smartphone market
    Apple, which is closing in on holding some $200 billion in cash, is well known for being one of the richest companies on the planet. A new report from Moody’s Investors Service release on Thursday notes that the iPhone maker actually held more cash on hand at the end of 2014 — when it had $178 billion — than most US industrial sectors put together, surpassed only by the whole of the tech sector, the financial sector and the medical industry.

  • Complaint Claims University Where Student Was Killed Failed To Act On Relentless Yik Yak Threats
    Editor’s note: This story contains graphic language that some readers may find disturbing.

    The University of Mary Washington’s campus in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was hit by a spate of violent threats against a feminist student group for months leading up to the alleged murder of a group member in April. Documents provided to The Huffington Post show the administration was keenly aware of the continued harassment, which was posted on the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, but a federal complaint filed Thursday alleges the public university failed to act on this knowledge and permitted a hostile environment against female students.

    Police have not revealed a possible motive for student’s killing and the complaint does not state the school is responsible for her death, nor does it explicitly connect the threats to her killing.

    The online harassment started in November 2014, the complaint says, after Feminists United Club president Paige McKinsey spoke at a student senate meeting and criticized fraternities and the university’s response to sexual assault. The harassment continued and escalated in the spring, when complaints from club led the university to suspend its club rugby team over a sexist chant some of its members had performed at a party.

    Grace Mann, a Feminists United Club member who had been subject to Yik Yak threats of physical and sexual violence, was killed on April 17 by asphyxia by strangulation. Steven Vander Briel, Mann’s roommate and a former member of the rugby team, was arrested later that day and charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.

    The complaint filed Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleges UMW permitted a sexually hostile environment. It was filed by attorneys Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks on behalf of students in the Feminists United Club, which is a chapter of the national group Feminist Majority Foundation.

    “All we are in a position to say at this point is that to the University’s knowledge, no known reports of direct threats of violence and/or sexual assault have gone unheeded,” UMW spokesperson Anna B. Billingsley said in a statement. “The University of Mary Washington’s No. 1 priority has been and continues to be the creation and maintenance of a safe environment where all students can learn and grow.”

    There are currently 110 colleges and universities under Title IX investigations for sexual violence. However, this complaint alleges a different category of violation: that the school violated the gender equity law Title IX over sexual harassment. The Education Department has so far declined to name the schools under Title IX reviews for sexual harassment, but confirmed to The Huffington Post last month that 137 colleges and universities are under such investigations.

    The complaint references a chant performed by some rugby club members that joked about rape and necrophilia. It was performed at a Nov. 23, 2014, party hosted by rugby players, but only eight were in attendance, according to a lengthy story by Erin Ryan at Jezebel, which included audio of the chant:

    Also at the Nov. 23 party, the complaint alleges, a member of the rugby team shouted he wanted to hit a woman. A male who told the rugby member that was not an appropriate joke allegedly was then bullied by rugby team members who called him a “pussy,” according to the complaint. A copy of the complaint and dozens of related emails and screenshots were shared with The Huffington Post.

    Feminists United provided a copy of the audio to the administration in late November, emails show. Frustrated the school still hadn’t done anything two months later, McKinsey published an op-ed, “Why UMW Is Not a Feminist-Friendly Campus,” on Jan. 29 of this year alluding to chant publicly for the first time. This opened the floodgates for an onslaught of harassment, largely on Yik Yak and in the student newspaper’s comment sections, the complaint said.

    uwm yik yak

    Yik Yak is an app where users within a 1.5 mile radius can post brief text messages anonymously. The app is the latest in a series of anonymous gossip forums that have plagued college campuses for the past decade, prompting a debate over how a school can address vitriolic content published by students while maintaining First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

    McKinsey emailed the university on Feb. 20 explaining that the president of the men’s rugby team approached her and said he’d be happy to speak with her. When McKinsey replied that all she wanted was for the team to stop using the song, she said, he walked away.

    The Feminists United group emailed university president Richard Hurley on March 17, after he made remarks about how the University of Oklahoma leadership quickly punished its students for a racist chant caught on video:

    You said that while you might not have expelled the students like Oklahoma’s administration did, but that you would have quickly suspended them and then decided on any further action, in the even that such an incident occurred here at Mary Washington. But President Hurley, what happened at the University of Oklahoma has happened here, and yet, months later, not only has no one been suspended, but most of the student body does not even know about the incident, and certainly not what is being done, either punitively or constructively.

    A day later, Hurley emailed the campus and referred to “recent situations in which our own students (groups and individuals) have engaged in behaviors that I find repugnant and highly offensive.” He didn’t say anything about the rugby team, Hurley told the FUC members, because he thought he was not allowed to share what punishment they would receive. After the group leaked audio to several news outlets on March 18 and a UMW alumna posted the lyrics to the chant on Facebook, Hurley publicly said the entire club team had been suspended.

    There is no timestamp on the Yik Yak posts included in the filing to the federal government, but the complaint says they are largely from March, around the same time the rugby team was on the verge of being punished for its sexist chant. Posts on Yik Yak said that if that the team were to be punished, “there will be no survivors” and everyone would “burn” with them.

    On the app, students also joked that McKinsey “makes her boyfriend sleep in a dog crate,” feeds him pepperonis through the wires, and that she does meth. Yik Yak bans certain keywords that are typically assumed to be offensive, but posters found a way around that to threaten to rape members of the Feminist United Club:
    uwm yik yak threat

    Julia Michels, a club member, emailed the UMW administration on March 25 to explain how members were threatened “with both physical and sexual violence, and have had countless derogatory and misogynistic slurs directed at us.” The club had collected 200 examples of violent posts on Yik Yak directed at them, Michels said. A week later, that number grew to 700.

    On March 27, the campus received an email noting the university “has no recourse for such cyber bullying,” but urging students to report direct threats. One student sent a response on March 30 stating, “We have evidence of these posts and have showed them to administrators, and your response is to ‘report them to yik yak’? an app that was created by two fraternity guys? We have been trying to do this for months and this approach clearly has not worked in the slightest.”

    uwm yik yak1
    yik yak uwm

    In an emailed statement, a Yik Yak representative told HuffPost that “guarding against misuse” is something the company takes “incredibly seriously.” “Such instances are disappointing and don’t represent what Yik Yak is about,” the statement said. “We’ve put a number of safeguards in place like filters, pop-up warnings, reporting, and moderation within the app, and we’re constantly working to enhance these measures, for example by incorporating natural language processing and machine learning.”

    The students argued in emails to administrators that the threats rose to a level not experienced on other campuses due to the sheer volume of posts and the numerous direct references to them, including threats using their names.

    Hurley told the group members on April 1 he was speaking with experts for advice. He cautioned that because the university is a public institution, it has to respect the First Amendment, but he “certainly understands concerns about threats and feelings of safety on campus.”

    But students said online bullying continued. The group participated in discussions with the administration, according to the complaint, but there was still no movement to intervene with the Yik Yak.

    The UMW rugby club team did not return a request for comment.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Geologist Discovers Plant That May Only Grow On Top Of Soil Laden With Diamonds
    There she grows!

    A picky plant found in West Africa may grow only on top of mineral deposits often loaded with diamonds, according to research soon to be published in the journal Economic Geology. Stephen Haggerty, a professor at Florida International University in Miami and the chief exploration officer of Youssef Diamond Mining Company, said the discovery could be a game changer for the region.

    The thorny plant, Pandanus candelabrum, only grows atop deposits of kimberlite, a type of volcanic rock found in giant underground “columns” around the world. Diamonds, formed hundreds of kilometers deep by intense heat and pressure, are pushed upward with the kimberlite during subterranean volcanic activity, resulting in gem-rich veins of rock.

    Pandanus candelabrum, left, is seen in the Liberian jungle.

    Until recently, there was no reliable way to locate these concentrated deposits of diamonds, which can be just a few acres in size and buried in thick, remote parts of the jungle.

    Haggerty made the discovery in the bush of Liberia after venturing to the country in 2010 to continue research he began in the 1970s. He told The Huffington Post that Liberia, infamous for its trade in so-called “blood diamonds,” had extensive mining operations in place, but the miners had no real way of knowing where to look for the gems. The region is covered in dense forest “so inaccessible, you can’t see more than 10 feet in front of you,” he said.

    Moving through the jungle and taking soil samples with an 8-foot steel rod, Haggerty eventually discovered a kimberlite “pipe” about 500 by 50 meters, or 1640 by 164 feet. Four diamonds, two of them around 20 carats apiece, have already been found in the soil above the pipe, according to Science magazine.

    Aside from the pipe itself, Haggerty’s most interesting observation was the discovery of Pandanus candelabrum, which thrives on a unique mixture of minerals found in the kimberlite soil. “For reasons that we don’t yet know,” he said, P. candelabrum appears to grow only atop these diamond-rich deposits.

    Various plants have been used as discovery elements for other metal-laden soils, Haggerty said. Scientists uncovered some eucalyptus trees in 2013 that contained gold in their leaves, having tapped into mineral deposits deep underground with their far-reaching roots.

    Haggerty said he hopes to use satellite mapping of the plants (via their spectral signatures) to help unearth new pipes of kimberlite throughout Liberia.

    “That’s the way geology works. We don’t operate in singularities,” Haggerty said. “If there’s one pipe, there have to be others.”

    Still, not all kimberlite deposits contain diamonds — in fact, only about 1 percent of the world’s known kimberlite pipes “are rich enough in quality diamonds to be worth mining,” writes Eric Hand at Science.

    But if the mapping goes as hoped, it could pave the way for new diamond exploration in the country that could help boost local economies without harming the environment. Whereas a lot of current diamond mining involves unearthing and discarding all kinds of substances, some of them terrible for the environment, the main by-product of mining at kimberlite sites would be the kimberlite itself — which is basically composed of the same nutrients as garden fertilizer. In a country still battling Ebola and malaria, Haggerty said, that could be a saving grace.

    “That’s what Liberia needs, and that’s what West Africa needs,” he said.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Nintendo Joins Forces With Universal Parks And Resorts To Bring Video Games To Life
    Nintendo fans, rejoice! Mario and Luigi have a new home. According to a press release, Nintendo and Universal Parks & Resorts are teaming up to create what might be the greatest rides imaginable. Get your Game Boy ready because it’s time for a road trip.

    Though the announcement didn’t have concrete details on the future attractions, Wii can’t wait to see which characters (hello, Yoshi and Princess Peach) and video games make an appearance. Hopefully, there will at least be a real-life Mario Kart racing track with the ability to throw banana peels and red and green shells at other racers.

    The move comes at an important time for Nintendo, as the press release stated the company is trying to expand “the reach and popularity of its characters and intellectual property.” It’s pretty surprising that this partnership hasn’t happened sooner. Now if only we had a Bullet Bill to speed up the construction process.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • The Secret Productivity Weapon in My Water App
    The app community has provided us countless tools for monitoring health related stats. Track how many steps you take each day. Track your sleep each night. My personal favorite is the app that reminds me to drink enough water over the course of the day.

    I get a little notification when it’s time to grab another glass of water. It’s set up based on the hours I’m awake each day and my goal for water intake. The reminders are very subtle but I have found them to be effective. I’ll admit I particularly like the smiling cartoon at the end of the day when I’ve hit the goal.

    What I didn’t expect from my water app was the secondary effect of increasing my productivity.

    That increase isn’t because I’m less parched. I’m sure there are articles out there that tie sufficient water intake to better concentration. My observation here isn’t about extolling the need to be fully hydrated.

    It’s about mindfulness.

    Most app notifications reduce our productivity. They may be necessary. However, they interrupt the flow of our work. They break into our focus and our personal time. Many of us believe we are great multi-taskers. The reality is there is no such thing as multitasking. It is a constant shifting of our attention from one task to another. With no one task getting our full attention, both suffer. App notifications play into the worst elements of that.

    Amazingly, my water app notification has had the opposite impact on my day. When the alert arrives, I know it does not require immediate attention and therefore doesn’t pull me away from what I’m doing.
    At the next natural opportunity after my alert, however, I take a break to get that glass of water. That creates for me a mindful moment away from all other work or personal tasks to clear my mind. I disengage from my last item and before moving to my next, I have the chance to reorient myself before picking up the next thing.

    I purposefully do not keep more than a 12 ounce glass of water at my desk. The need to get up to refill the glass is part of this new ritual. Stepping away from my computer and my phone, that few minutes every few hours provides the mental break I need to re-order my thoughts. I take another look at my to do list for the day and make notes or adjustments. When I click the notification to update the app, I’m ready to dive back into my day.

    We live and work in the midst of technology with the flashing, buzzing, vibrating and chiming reminders of all the responsibilities demanding of our attention and energy. You can find ways for them to bring out back to mindfulness for a few moments.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Justice Holmes, Meet Dr. Turing: Law Is Computation
    In his famous work of legal theory, The Common Law, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. memorably declared: “The life of the law has not been logic.” This pronouncement sums up a deeply held tenant of American legal theory. Most lawyers in the United States believe that there is an element of irreducible human uncertainty that is somehow an indispensable ingredient in law. This assumption is running squarely into the developments of legal technology and computational law. Justice Holmes, meet Dr. Alan Turing.

    Turing was a British mathematician famous for a number of foundational accomplishments in computation theory, only hinted at in the recent bio-pic The Imitation Game. Computation theory, as expounded by Turing and other math wizards, is not just about computers. Rather, a “computation” is any rule governed, step-wise process. These processes are surprisingly common in both the natural and human-constructed worlds, including such diverse examples as many biological functions, the manufacturing assembly line, and games ranging in complexity from Chutes and Ladders to poker or chess. Computation theory provides a means for specifying such processes in a formal way, a bit like how the alphabet and writing allow the specifying of language formulations in print for current storage and later reconstruction.

    Using a computational approach, a step-wise process like a board game can be fully described in its stages, inputs and transitions. This careful specification both clarifies and records its elements. The terms of that description can be in words, in computer code, in the gears of a mechanical calculator, or even in pictures, like a flow chart. And here comes the really potent next step: a computation specified in one mode of description (including in a “natural language” statement like the written rules for poker) can also frequently be specified in some other mode, like the binary code used by our digital computers. Put a few programming steps in between, and you get internet poker.

    The Turing Machine, a formal proposition rather than an actual physical construct, is posited as having the capacity to describe any computable process. Digital code and computer processing may not have quite this reach, but they do a lot of computational work. They have enabled us to take many of the computational processes in the world and embody them into the on/off descriptions of binary code which our actual machines can then read and implement. From self-driving cars to cell phone apps, the astonishing tech-driven advances of our time all depend on this transformation.

    Which brings us back to law. Legal rules, whether set out in contracts, regulations or judicial decisions, often look like a Chutes and Ladders game writ large. They have the same kind of stepwise branching logic, although the Internal Revenue Code has orders of magnitude more chutes and ladders than the board game. Complexity matters, but it doesn’t contradict the core point: law is computation too. And because it is computation, we can represent it in software as well. Not emulate it in software, but represent its logic and process directly in the code.

    The legal technology industry has already picked some of the low hanging fruit of legal sub-processes, like company formation, will drafting, and legal research. Once we express legal formulations themselves in computational terms, figuring out the implications for a particular set of facts becomes a quick exercise in technology. If the credit card companies had to file a computer code version of their contracts, you could press a couple of keys and find out what happens when you miss a few payments and the rates triple. Want to contract to sell your house? There’ll be an app for that. That nasty Internal Revenue Code? TurboTax, H&R Block, and the IRS itself are on portions of it already.

    An even more comprehensive approach to “computational law” has begun to embed the rules directly into the objects they govern. I recently tried to sync up my phone to the Bluetooth in a rental car — the technology made me stop the car so that I could proceed more safely with the process. Imagine a “smart security,” like a share of stock that knows who owns it and will implement any legal rules about selling it directly into the proposed transaction. If you imagine it carefully enough, computer engineers can make it happen.

    Not all of these developments will be welcome — the cellphone cop in my car may have been correct, but it was also annoying. Furthermore, none of this will squeeze all of the uncertainties out of law. There will still be places for human interpretation, where good software will stop and ask a person for guidance. On the whole, however, an explicitly computational approach to legal design will serve to make the law more available, transparent, and predictable, and put a bit more logic back into the system. Even Justice Holmes should approve of that.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Our Conversation on the Challenges and Possibilities of the Next 10 Years
    On Monday night we celebrated The Huffington Post’s 10-year anniversary with a party at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City. I spoke about our global editorial initiative on What’s Working. And since HuffPost and Goldman Sachs have partnered for nearly three years to spotlight solutions around the world, we had a conversation about what we’ve learned and what’s in store for the next 10 years. Here is a lightly edited transcription of our conversation.

    Arianna: Lloyd, as you’ve built up 10,000 small businesses to support and empower small businesspeople and female entrepreneurs, you’ve been to nearly every city to talk with these small businesses’ owners, and you’ve seen the difference mentoring and funding make. What have you learned, and how can we help scale and replicate what’s already working?

    Lloyd: First of all, let me say we found these entrepreneurs; we didn’t invent them. And that segues nicely into what I’ve learned. What I’ve learned is that there’s huge talent, huge energy and tremendous people. The people that we have met in these programs look good against any backdrop, including the people that we have in our firm. People come with energy, and they come with a lot of native intelligence and a huge work ethic, but they have families, and they may have the pressure of debt, sometimes mortgages, or they don’t have the education or the experience. And what we’ve done is tap into other resources to help them. We’ve gotten community colleges, like LaGuardia, to come and contribute people who’ve set up the curriculum. We’ve created, in effect, a mini-MBA and a counseling program to give people the background and also the confidence, which is what many lack, and in some cases a little bit of help acquiring financing. And then they do the work.

    Arianna: I was at the first graduation, and it was so moving and inspiring. And now, as we look around and we see the economy recovering but inequalities growing, what would you recommend that we do to actually accelerate the recovery, but also to make sure that it’s more evenly spread?

    Lloyd: Any economic system has to do two things: It has to create wealth, and it has to distribute it. I was asked the other day, “What’s more dangerous: not creating it, or not distributing it well?” And the implication was that not creating it is the most dangerous, but actually not distributing it well has the potential to be much more dangerous, because not distributing it well creates the instability, and a lot of very bad things occur if things get too unstable for too long. One of the important elements that we have to recognize is that we have to be competitive. This is an iron law that we have nothing to do with. But within this context you have to recognize that there are elements of the market today that are creating inequality. I sometimes get asked to defend inequality. I don’t know anybody who wants inequality. I recognize that the people who are the beneficiaries of the way the economy is stacked up are not themselves necessarily the cause of it. They don’t necessarily like it. In some cases the causes of it are the very things we celebrate, like technology. In other words, you go out and you create great technology, and as a result of that, we need 30,000 fewer cabs in New York City, or 30,000 fewer employees, or 10,000 fewer. Well, guess what: There’s tens of thousands of fewer people with jobs, which hurts labor, and the companies that created those new technologies and the venture capitalists behind them discover they have market caps of billions of dollars. As a result, some people have lost their job; some investors have made money. That’s a migration of wealth and value from labor to capital. But would you not have the technologies and lack the benefits? No. There are other things you can do. And one of them is investing in those things that help people in general, that wealthy people get all they want but others don’t have access to. And the big one, of course, is education, and we put a lot of focus on secondary education. We work a lot with junior colleges, and to me there’s no greater engine for bringing people into and through the middle class than community colleges.

    Arianna: And we definitely see that with LaGuardia Community College and what you’ve done with them. So let me just end by asking you: Leadership is ultimately about seeing opportunities before others see them, so what do you think are the opportunities and the potential that remains untapped that we are not really seeing clearly enough to turn them into something that can transform many of the problems we are facing?

    Lloyd: We can’t ignore gravity or the laws of nature. And in the same way we have to embrace technology, but then we have to get together and work to alleviate the stresses and the strains and the friction of those changes. So investing in education is one opportunity that we’ve tried to grab onto in all the investments that we make, and that, as a country, we need to be prioritizing, because if we invest in early education or training prisoners, any investment would have an enormous return. There are opportunities in getting public-private partnerships together, where people are willing to making socially useful investments in areas like education, anti-recidivism programs, insulating people’s homes. These projects have enormous returns. There’s a lot of things the private sector can invest in that are socially very useful that government, which is really, really screwed up at the moment, can’t do, whereas the private sector can.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • U.S. Airlines Made More Than $6.5 Billion In Baggage And Reservation Fees In 2014
    Airlines made a lower percentage of net income from ticket fares in 2014 than ever before, according to a report released earlier this week by the Department of Transportation. In contrast, airlines recorded over $6 billion in profits from baggage fees and cancellation and change fees — continuing a major income stream that started in 2008.

    According to the Airline Financial Data report, airlines collected $3.5 billion in baggage fees, up from $3.3 billion in 2013 and $3.4 billion in 2012. Delta, United, American and US Airways were the top earners in terms of baggage fees. Industry-wide, the large chunk of change from baggage fees resulted in 2.1 percent of total operating revenue.

    Reservation change fees brought in roughly $3 billion, or 1.8 percent of total operating revenue. Again, Delta, United, American and US Airways made the most money from change fees. Delta did not respond by time of publication to an inquiry from The Huffington Post.

    Charlie Leocha of the advocacy organization Consumer Travel Alliance told the Associated Press that he’s in favor of a proposed federal rule that would require airlines to more fully disclose how much hidden fees will increase a passenger’s total charges. It’ll be tough to make airlines more transparent about ticket fees unless the government steps in, as it did with shrinking seat sizes on planes.

    In the meantime, pack light and use carry-ons rather than checking luggage every chance you can, and try to avoid changing your ticket once it’s booked. May the odds — and airlines — be ever in your favor.

    H/T Flyer Talk

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Grand Ambitions: Cuban Coders Looking to Energize a Nascent Startup Scene With First Regular Meetups

    The dilapidated byways of Havana, with its crumbling facades and weather-worn doorways, would seem among the world’s most unlikely places for a technology startup. Internet access is abysmal when it even exists, many of the computers in use are almost as old as their users, and bootstrapping is not just a turn of phrase — it’s a way of life.

    But an ambitious group of young Cuban programmers wants to change that and is trying to energize the island’s technology entrepreneurs by organizing its first tech meetup. Alex Medina, a 35-year-old coder from Camaguey, and a group of friends have started the Merchise Startup Circle and hope to hold the first meeting later this month in Havana. The ultimate goal, according to Medina, is to garner enough interest for regular, monthly meetings on the island.

    “We can learn from each other, do some interesting projects, recruit, get recruited or at the very least have a seriously geeky conversation with others who actually understand what we’re saying,” reads the shout-out on meetup.com.

    Tech and entrepreneur meetups have been a staple of the U.S. and European technology sector for decades. Many are informal and involve groups of like-minded folks gathering in bars or coffee shops for chit-chat and networking. They usually connect via a myriad of websites set up to facilitate such camaraderie. Other are more formal, with agendas and speakers and a specific task or hack project. The White House hosted it’s first tech meetup last month.

    Cuba has never had anything of the sort. There are regular, government-sponsored symposia on all manner of topics, including technology, but they tend to be one-sided affairs and offer little of the give and take and shared knowledge that make more informal meetups valuable elsewhere in the world.

    In an email from Havana, Medina admits that the group’s challenges are significant. “Struggling with getting sponsors, securing the venue and dealing with all the logistics has been a nightmare for us,” he says. “We are all tech guys and are not used to doing this kind of stuff.”

    Medina got the idea after spending some time in London watching a British friend get a startup there off the ground. He learned first-hand how stressful the task can be — fundraising, endless meetings and no small amount of actual work — and thought anyone back home contemplating such an adventure could benefit from hearing about life in the trenches. Five decades without a private sector to speak of can put even the most determined entrepreneur at a disadvantage.

    At the moment, Medina describes the startup scene on the island as small, sparse and disorganized. Most people who do manage to get a project off the ground tend to hop a plane to locales more welcoming of their ambition — Canada, Chile, the United States and Europe — as soon as they can. There is little work for IT professionals in Cuba outside the state sector, and government jobs that pay on the order of $50 a month are hardly worth the effort.

    After a series of fits and starts dating back to the early 1990s, the Cuban government began allowing people to legally work for themselves in earnest in 2011 and the sector has taken off. There are now some half a million so-called “cuentapropistas” in Cuba, and computer programming is among the categories of approved occupations. Most self-employed programmers work on a contract basis for foreign companies, however, so little of the intellectual property generated stays on the island.

    Most expert observers of the island say it has tremendous potential in the tech arena. “You have a highly educated workforce, excellent programming talent and a huge amount of opportunity for companies that want to invest in the knowledge economy,” Faquiry Diaz Cala, CEO of Tres Mares Group, a private equity investment firm in Miami, said at a recent Wharton School confab about Cuba. “There’s already demand for these programmers. There are full-blown projects that are being done in Cuba by guys who are working underground because they haven’t really opened up the sector yet.”

    Encouraging that potential is one of the main goals of the meetups, says Medina. “What we hope to do is inject a bit of entrepreneurship into a tech community that basically has never seen startups as a viable option before.”

    Scott Norvell is founder and curator-in-chief of CubaNotes.com, an independent and non-partisan source of news from and about Cuba. He has been visiting Cuba since 1991.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Listen To These Eerie 'X-Files' Sounds Recorded At The Edge Of Space
    What does the edge of space sound like? Pretty darn strange. Just have a listen to these acoustic signals recorded in the stratosphere some 22 miles above Earth’s surface (above).

    At frequencies below 20 hertz, these so-called “infrasounds” are too low for the human ear to hear. But sped up by a factor of 1,000, they sound “kind of like ‘The X-Files,'” Daniel Bowman, a graduate student in geophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the leader of the recording effort, told Live Science.

    Up, up, and away. For the research, conducted as part of NASA’s High Altitude Student Platform program, Bowman attached microphones to a helium balloon and then sent it on a 9-hour flight above New Mexico and Arizona, according to Live Science. The flight took place on Aug. 9, 2014.

    It’s not the first time recordings of atmospheric infrasound have been made. But in many previous efforts, the recordings were made on the ground — and extraneous noise was a problem.

    “I decided to try putting microphones on balloons to reduce the wind noise (the balloon moves at the same speed as the wind) and to see if I could find sounds that don’t make it down to Earth,” Bowman told The Huffington Post in an email.

    Decoding the mystery. As for what the new stratospheric sounds could be, Bowman and his colleagues are still working to interpret them — though they do have some guesses.

    “We think that they are probably a combination of thing happening far away (commercial aircraft, waves in the Atlantic ocean, air turbulence, even air conditioners in buildings) and things happening nearby (cables vibrating on the balloon and cosmic rays hitting the sensor),” he said in the email.

    If you were hoping the signals might be evidence of aliens, you’re out of luck.

    “There is no evidence to suggest that these signals are from extraterrestrial sources,” Bowman said. “Sound cannot travel through space, so whatever is generating it must be located within about 140 km (approximately 90 miles) of the Earth’s surface.”

    The research was presented in Pasadena, Calif. on April 23 at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America.

    alien signals

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • 5 Innovations From The Past Decade That Aim To Change The American Classroom
    Many symbols we still associate with classrooms and learning, like chalkboards, pens, notebooks — even classrooms themselves — are quickly becoming outdated. American schools are going high-tech, and a few companies are leading the charge.

    “[Teachers] can focus on great instruction and then look for the tools and resources that allow you to do that efficiently and effectively,” Scott Kinney, senior vice president of Discovery Education, a company that helps integrate technology into classrooms, said.

    As this week marks The Huffington Post’s 10th anniversary, we took a look at some products that have been introduced to classrooms in the last decade and have the potential to change the educational landscape in years to come.

    1. New Types Of Chalkboards

    classroom smart board

    Traditional chalkboards have been increasingly replaced with interactive digital screens called smart boards. In 2005, an early iteration of today’s smart board was used in about 150,000 classrooms. Now, over 2 million classrooms — or about 60 percent of all classrooms in the country — are equipped with interactive whiteboards, said Laurie Long, a spokesman for SMART Technologies, a company that provided about 1.2 million of those boards. This product lets a teacher save his or her notes and send them to students, as well as to show instructive videos without having to set up another device and projection screen.

    2. Remote Learning

    video class

    Some schools are cutting down on snow days, thanks to technology. Rather than giving kids the day off when weather conditions are too dangerous for commuting, these schools are asking students to follow classroom lessons online.

    Although kids hoping for a snow day may not particularly appreciate these advancements in digital learning, house- or hospital-bound students do — online lessons allow these kids to complete their coursework and still interact with peers. Some students with medical conditions can “go” to school via video conferencing or even with the help of robots enabled with video chat that they can control remotely.

    3. eBooks

    obama e books

    Companies like Pearson, Amazon Kindle, Chegg and CourseSmart offer eBooks, which are more mobile and cost-effective than traditional textbooks. These eBooks also allow students to highlight, take notes, save passages and search for certain words or phrases. Apple iBook offers interactive digital textbooks from Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill and Pearson. Other groups, like A Beka Book and Trunity offer digital textbooks with features like video, a search function and a personal dashboard.


    Discovery Education has been replacing traditional textbooks with original “techbooks,” which are interactive and can be personalized, for six years. These “techbooks” can also be switched to Spanish or French, Kinney said, which allows some parents who don’t speak English help their kids with their homework.

    4. Computer-Based Testing

    common core computer

    Testing is increasingly moving from Scantron sheets to screens. Exams associated with the Common Core State Standards are now being administered on computers and tablets in 29 states and the District of Columbia, though the rollout process hasn’t been without its faults. Last month, three states suspended Common Core exams taken on computers when a server issue affected testing.

    5. Educational Games

    Argubot Academy Overview from GlassLab on Vimeo.

    In-class gaming options have evolved beyond the classic Oregon Trail to include more educational options. GlassLab, a nonprofit that was launched with grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates and MacArthur Foundations, creates educational games that are now being used in more than 6,000 classrooms across the country. Some of the company’s games are education versions of existing ones — for example, its first release was SimCity EDU, which came out in November 2013 — while others are originals. Teachers get real-time updates on students’ progress as well as suggestions on what subjects they need to spend more time perfecting.

    computer classroom

    The Internet and other digital tools have some drawbacks. They’re often distracting — meaning teachers have to push students to stay on task — and they can help students cheat almost as easily as they help them learn — although there are tools, TurnItIn, that can help teachers catch that as well. But most developments have exciting implications for the future. Over the last 10 years, technological innovations have made education more interactive, immediate and personalized — and have shown us the potential for more accessible and effective classrooms.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Amazon Removes 'Boys' And 'Girls' From Toy Categories
    It appears that Amazon is finally “letting toys be toys.”

    As techie Twitter user Jack Danger pointed out in a tweet, Amazon made a small change to its website that could put an end to “the gendered taxonomy of toys.”

    This week Amazon eliminated the gendered taxonomy of toys: http://t.co/fn8Afi7Kvq
    There are no more “boys” and “girls” sections!

    — Jack Danger (@jackdanger) May 2, 2015

    Indeed if you look at the category sidebar on the Toys & Games section of Amazon, you’ll notice that the option to sort toys by gender is no longer there — while a cached view of the site shows it previously included “boys” and “girls.”

    On the left are Amazon’s prior search result categories. On the right, the option to select either “boys” or “girls” has been removed:


    This is not to say that all traces of gender categories have disappeared from Amazon’s Toys & Games section. There are still multiple links to pages for “Boys’ Toys” and “Girls’ Toys” at the top of the home page.

    Jack Danger said in later tweets that he learned about this change through a friend who works on Amazon’s taxonomy team. In response to other Twitter users’ comments that boys’ and girls’ toy pages still existed in some parts of the site, he said he believes the removal of gendered categorization is “only partially complete.” He tweeted, “The Amazon index is huge … This isn’t a simple system.”

    Here’s hoping that this small change is only the first step in an even bigger movement to remove needless and harmful gender stereotypes from the categorization and marketing of kids toys.

    And while they’re at it, maybe the folks at Amazon can do something about Amazon Mom.

    H/T Jezebel

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  • Okay Nexus 9 Owners, NOW you can get Lollipop 5.1

    Earlier this week I posted that Nexus 9 owners were teased with an update to Lollipop 5.0.2 and how it was a bit silly that other Nexus devices were seeing the 5.1.1 update like the older Nexus 7.  Well it seems that Google has been on the ball behind the scenes – or has been shamed at least – getting the 5.1 update ready.  It is dropping today and you should see the update on your device via an over-the-air update. The 5.1 update appears to have been released by Google for the Nexus 9 at the time I’m posting

    The post Okay Nexus 9 Owners, NOW you can get Lollipop 5.1 appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Open Data for California?
    California is at a crossroads. Sacramento continues to get failing grades for transparency. Our state government is not taking advantage of tech tools developed locally that are changing the world. But, there’s a bill with strong bipartisan support in front of our elected officials right now that could help improve the way our government works and save lives.

    Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at a California State Senate hearing in favor of Senate Bill 573. Introduced by Senator Richard Pan, this new piece of legislation would establish the role of a statewide Chief Data Officer, who would be tasked with creating an open data portal for the state. This site would be a one-stop shop for government information. The bill contains many of the critical building blocks that could be the foundation of a more modern, user-friendly government for years to come.

    I’ve seen first-hand the benefits open data policies can provide for citizens and government. My company’s technology platform has helped hundreds of state and local governments streamline their operations and realize significant cost savings. Our technology allows citizens to engage with governments through mobile devices, like they have come to expect from leading private sector companies like Amazon, Yelp, or Uber.

    We partner with a growing number of civic technology companies who are creating tools that use open data. In order for these new tools to work universally, California needs a robust, statewide open data policy.

    The Results are in. Open Data Works.

    In Evanston, Illinois, people can now conveniently access restaurant health inspection scores on Yelp, because of open data.

    We worked with Evanston to automate the release of the City’s restaurant inspection data, allowing citizen facing websites and apps like Yelp to easily display the restaurant scores to diners as they choose where to eat. It even updates in real time as scores change.

    Instead of perhaps seeing the inspection score once you’ve already picked where to eat, we’ve used the power of open data to put this information at residents fingertips when it matters most.

    Government’s goal in inspecting restaurants and publishing scores is public health and safety – using open data technology we’re taking the labor intensive work of a public health department, and with the click of a button, making it dramatically more valuable to its citizens.

    Just think of the possibilities with California’s data sets.

    Open Data to the Rescue

    Hurricane Irene hit New York City in August 2011, but because of forward thinking open data efforts at the state level, emergency responders were able to locate citizens who desperately needed help when a disaster struck.

    Long before the storm reached New York, the state had already been requiring agencies to make their data publicly available. One of these open datasets happened to be nursing home locations. With that information at their fingertips, first responders were able to quickly and easily evacuate nursing home patients from facilities at risk for power outages and flooding — finding empty beds in unaffected nursing homes where they could move seniors

    When the state of New York enacted its open data policy, it didn’t know that nursing home data would be helpful for emergency crews. But, they did know that the state had powerful information that needed to be made publicly available. And they were right.

    So what does all of this have to do with open data?

    Open data can give city and state agencies the ability to better track building violations, and in a sense, put out these tragic fires before they start. Just look at what Chicago did when they had a similar situation. They created a “bad landlord” dataset and made this information public.

    Open data enables one department to see what the other is doing, quickly and easily. By making building inspection data and violation history available online for both citizens and government officials, we can keep our children safe and prevent devastating future incidents like this from ever happening in the first place.

    Seeing examples such as these, a few California state agencies have forged ahead and started to release their data sets. We’ve seen several recent examples of what’s possible when California opens up its data.

    The California Department of Health and Human Services last year started releasing its data sets.

    Using that data, civic technology developers in Sacramento created WICit, a real-time mapping application that helps families easily locate grocery stores where their federal WIC nutritional benefits are accepted.

    The Fresno Bee has an ongoing investigative health series using the state health data that is being released.

    The first article highlighted the significant health risks facing residents in the San Joaquin Valley.

    Through open data, the reporter brought to life that residents in Fresno are more likely to either suffer or die from chronic diseases than anywhere else in California.

    Because this state health information is now publicly available, we can start to figure out why residents in the San Joaquin Valley are suffering, create solutions to fix the problem, and ultimately save and improve lives.

    Open Data Creates Jobs and Saves Taxpayers Millions

    A statewide open data portal would also help spur economic development in California’s communities. A recent report found that civic technology spending in the U.S. will reach $6.4 billion this year.

    Having access to open data empowers civic tech startups to create new technology that serves both government and its citizens.

    We work with many young civic technology companies that are eager to grow their businesses here in California and rely on the flow of open data to enable the technology tools they are creating.

    One of these civic startups is a company called OpenCounter. They have created a beautifully designed one-stop shop for business licensing so there is more transparent access to business information across a city. In doing so, cities like Palo Alto are able to project economic growth using data to make informed decisions on transportation and traffic, building and development, and budgeting for services.

    Along with creating jobs, and designing a better city an open data program can save our state money.

    In the U.K., the government started publishing infection rates from hospitals on their open data portal. By making this information easily accessible, hospitals started seeing infection rates drop through the exchange of best practices. Opening up this data helped lead to an estimated £34 million in savings.

    Open data programs are helping others states save millions. In New York City, a single Freedom of Information (FOIL) request costs the city around $300. Every year, there are around 50,000 such requests — costing the city roughly $15 million annually. But, thanks to open data efforts, these requests can now be automatically processed. According to an open government advocacy group based in New York, the new automated process saves taxpayers $10 million every single year.

    We are only at the beginning of this revolution – and, California, the birthplace of many of the world’s great technology breakthroughs, should be leading.

    Open data increases government transparency, accountability, and provides improved service for a better citizen experience.

    As I told our elected officials, a comprehensive open data policy at the state level will:

    • Save money. Open data increases government efficiency and reduce costs.
    • Create jobs. There is a growing industry that relies on publicly available government data.
    • Save lives. We don’t exactly know which open data set will be useful. But as we have seen it can literally save lives.

    The evidence is overwhelming, which is why I urged the California State Senate to enact this new open data legislation. Senator Pan’s bill passed out of committee 7-1. Next up appropriations and then the entire State Senate. By calling on the Governor to appoint a Chief Data Officer and creating a statewide open data portal, California can be a leader in this new movement that is changing the way government works for the better.

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  • US phone data collection 'illegal'
    A US appeals court rules that bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency is illegal.
  • Germany 'cuts help' for NSA searches
    Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND, is cutting down the level of spying it carries out for the US, according to German media reports.
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