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Conservative News

Graham: Horowitz report shows Crossfire Hurricane akin to resurrecting J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI; Horowitz rebukes Comey: What we found vindicates no one; Update: “Don’t know” if political bias played a role

So much for vindication! Lindsey Graham complimented Michael Horowitz and his team to start off the Senate Judiciary hearing into Operation Crossfire Hurricane. “You were able to uncover and discover abuse of power I never believed would actually exist in 2019,” Graham declared about the Horowitz report. “It was as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life,” Graham added, noting that this is … not a compliment:

Horowitz showed up to testify about his findings today, but the Inspector General is generally a cautious and meticulous man. Like Robert Mueller, we probably can’t expect Horowitz to depart in any meaningful manner from his report, which means we’ll get few juicy quotes out of his testimony. His opening statement, published in non-PDF form by Politico, essentially restates the report’s executive summary without adding a jot or tittle.

Any fireworks from this hearing will come from the committee members, especially Graham. The Senate Judiciary chair came out breathing fire, but that may be because he needs to reestablish his credentials with Trump supporters after operating out of an abundance of caution on impeachment until now. Graham has demurred from opening his own hearings to compete with the Adam Schiff circus next door, a decision that now appears wise after the complete lack of traction Schiff gained with voters over his histrionics. With the Horowitz report now out, Graham has lots of room to riff off of it rather than deal with witnesses who might provide unpleasant surprises.

The Hoover reference might be a little over the top, but Graham at least has company in the argument that Horowitz’ report is no vindication of the FBI. Ad not just on the right, either, unless Matt Taibbi and Rolling Stone have switched sides:

The Guardian headline reads: “DOJ Internal watchdog report clears FBI of illegal surveillance of Trump adviser.”

If the report released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz constitutes a “clearing” of the FBI, never clear me of anything. Holy God, what a clown show the Trump-Russia investigation was.

Read it all, as Taibbi has a detailed and devastating riposte to three years of Russia-collusion “nonsense” and the Steele dossier in particular. Taibbi concludes that not only is the Horowitz report a massive indictment of the FBI, the US national media at least qualifies as an unindicted co-conspirator as well:

The impact was greater than just securing a warrant to monitor Page. More significant were the years of headlines that grew out of this process, beginning with the leaking of the meeting with Trump about Steele’s blackmail allegations, the insertion of Steele’s conclusions in the Intelligence Assessment about Russian interference, and the leak of news about the approval of the Page FISA warrant.

As a result, a “well-developed conspiracy” theory based on a report that Comey described as “salacious and unverified material that a responsible journalist wouldn’t report without corroborating,” became the driving news story in a superpower nation for two years. Even the New York Times, which published a lot of these stories, is in the wake of the Horowitz report noting Steele’s role in “unleashing a flood of speculation in the news media about the new president’s relationship with Russia.”

No matter what people think the political meaning of the Horowitz report might be, reporters who read it will know: Anybody who touched this nonsense in print should be embarrassed.

Jonathan Turley has another count to add to the media indictment — fraud in how it reported on the Horowitz report:

Horowitz finds a litany of false and even falsified representations used to continue the secret investigation targeting the Trump campaign and its associates.

This is akin to reviewing the Titanic and saying that the captain was not unreasonable in starting the voyage. The question is what occurred when the icebergs began appearing. Horowitz says that investigative icebergs appeared rather early on, and the Justice Department not only failed to report that to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court but removed evidence that its investigation was on a collision course with the facts. …

Despite this shockingly damning report, much of the media is reporting only that Horowitz did not find it unreasonable to start the investigation, and ignoring a litany of false representations and falsifications of evidence to keep the secret investigation going. Nothing was found to support any of those allegations, and special counsel Robert Mueller also confirmed there was no support for collusion and conspiracy allegations repeated continuously for two years by many experts and members of Congress.

In other words, when the Titanic set sail, there was no reason for it not to. Then there was that fateful iceberg. Like the crew of the Titanic, the FBI knew investigative icebergs floated around its Russia investigation, but not only did it not reduce speed, it actively suppressed the countervailing reports. Despite the many conflicts to its FISA application and renewals, the FBI leadership, including McCabe, plowed ahead into the darkness.

Contra James Comey, this is no vindication — at least not of the FBI and Comey. It might be a vindication of Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

Update: When asked about Comey’s claim of vindication, Michael Horowitz had a very different take on his report than the former FBI director did:

Update: The sound you now hear is a million ledes from the last two days being rewritten:

This is a point that got a lot of attention when Robert Mueller said he found “no evidence” of collusion, but got lost when Horowitz used the same construct in his report. In the former, Democrats were quick to claim that Mueller hadn’t vindicated Trump, but equally quick to claim that Horowitz had vindicated the FBI. But in both cases, “no evidence” means absence, not conclusory proof.

To be fair, Republicans have argued it both ways in both instances too, but Mueller’s scope was much broader than Horowitz’ was.

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Conservative News

Lefty Dems rip moderates for floating censure in lieu of impeaching Trump

If we’re going to have a Republican civil war over whether Trump should be allowed to call witnesses at his trial, it’d be nice to balance it with a Democratic civil war over whether the party should censure Trump instead of impeaching him.

Impeachment: Bringing people together since 1868.

Read this post as background if you missed it yesterday. Short version: Some moderates in Pelosi’s caucus are watching the polling and the attack ads being run by Republicans in their home districts and getting cold feet about going nuclear on Trump. They’re caught between angry Republican voters who demand that they oppose impeachment and angry Democrats who demand that they support it. They’re going to alienate people no matter what so they’re looking for a way to split the difference, some middle-ground option that’s designed to please everyone and in reality will just, er, end up alienating everyone.

The obvious move is censure, a formal condemnation of Trump’s behavior towards Ukraine that falls short of full-bore impeachment. But whispering about censure on the day that House Dems finally released their draft articles of impeachment was a terrible bit of messaging at the start of a bruising political battle. It’s effectively a no-confidence vote in the Democratic case at a moment when the party line is that Trump’s actions are so intolerable that he’s left them no choice but to impeach. “B-b-but there is a choice,” nervous Democratic moderates mumble. Now here come the progressives to slap them around, with AOC leading the way by calling censure a “slap on the wrist” compared to how even minor criminal offenses are punished:

“I have 15-year-olds in my district that get sent to Rikers because they jump a turnstile and they can’t afford $2.75,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) called censure a “boneheaded idea.”

“That’s just frankly one of the dumbest ideas I’ve heard in a long, long time,” Huffman said. “If this were a president lying about a blow job, that’s a censure issue. This is a president fundamentally misusing his office and obstructing Congress, involving our national security and the integrity of our democracy. If you can’t move to impeachment on something like this, frankly, we just shouldn’t take your ideas seriously.”…

“We’re talking about somebody that’s a sitting CEO in the White House that’s violating the United States Constitution every single day,” [Rashida] Tlaib said.

I thought long and hard about it last night and … I still don’t see why moderate Democrats would want to start whispering to reporters about censure. What do they gain by it? It’s one thing to go to Pelosi behind closed doors and ask for it to be put on the floor, or to threaten to vote no on impeachment if it isn’t. But now that this has gone public, they’ve pissed people off needlessly and limited their options on the impeachment vote. Now, if they’re forced to take an up-or-down vote on impeachment and they grit their teeth and vote yes, they’ll be accused of cowardice by letting Pelosi bully them into supporting a nuclear strike on the president which they clearly doubted was justified.

It makes me suspicious that maybe it’s not the moderates who are whispering to the media, it’s progressives and/or caucus leaders who got wind of their interest in censure and knew that exposing it would bring down heat on them. Maybe Team Nancy leaked it, knowing that the lefty threats to primary these guys would begin immediately.

I wonder what would happen if centrist Dems somehow pulled together 18 members of the caucus — enough to foil a majority — who are willing to vote for censure but not for impeachment. Would Pelosi bow to their demands and yank the articles of impeachment before they hit the floor, knowing that losing a vote of this magnitude would incinerate her prestige and possibly force her to resign as Speaker? Or would she call their bluff by putting the articles of impeachment on the floor anyway and daring them to vote no? That would be a destructive act for the caucus, as forcing the moderates to take ownership of their plot to sabotage impeachment would likely cost them their seats next fall. But maybe she’d do it just to teach a lesson about party unity on a big vote. She’s not going to sink the impeachment ship for them to shield them from repercussions from lefties. They’ll have to do it themselves, if they dare.

One Democrat, Jamie Raskin, told HuffPost that “he would support censure in addition to impeachment,” which … also sounds like a terrible idea for Pelosi. Why would she want to tempt moderate Dems to vote for the less draconian sanction by giving them the option? She really might fail to get to 218 on impeachment if the members of her caucus who aren’t gung ho to impeach but are willing to go along for the sake of party loyalty suddenly have a more politically attractive alternative on the menu. For Pelosi, it has to be impeachment or bust — unless she’s concluded that impeachment has become so serious a liability to Democrats that she needs to look for an emergency exit here.

One percent chance of that happening, I’d estimate. Although a few days ago I’d have told you there was no chance at all.

I wish they’d put censure on the floor just for the fun of seeing how many House Republicans are willing to vote for it, formally endorsing the idea that Trump did do something seriously wrong by trying to squeeze Ukraine for Biden dirt even if it’s not quite a high crime or misdemeanor. I think they’d get Francis Rooney to go for that — and possibly no one else. Trump demands full vindication from his caucus, after all, not some “bad but not impeachable” mushy acquittal. Besides, most of the House Republicans who come from purple districts and might be interested in a middle-ground option like censure got wiped out in last fall’s elections. All that’s left are people from red districts who demand slavish loyalty to the president.

In lieu of an exit question, enjoy this story about progressive groups grumbling that the articles of impeachment Pelosi revealed yesterday aren’t nearly harsh enough. Where’s the stuff about obstruction of justice? Where’s the material on emoluments? This is why I think Pelosi will follow through on impeachment even if it gets really bad for Democrats: Her base is so eager to complain that leadership hasn’t gone far enough on whatever the issue of the day is that to disappoint them on something as momentous as impeachment, after months of hype, would be unforgivable. It could wreck the party next fall.

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Technology News

PayPal’s exiting COO Bill Ready to join Google as its new president of Commerce – TechCrunch

In June, PayPal announced its Chief Operating Officer Bill Ready would be departing the company at the end of this year. Now we know where he’s ending up: Google. Ready will join Google in January as the company’s new commerce chief, reporting directly to Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP, Ads, Commerce and Payments.

Ready’s role at Google will not involve payments, which means he won’t be directly involved with PayPal’s competitor, Google Pay. Instead, as Google’s new president of Commerce, Ready will focus on leading Google’s vision, strategy and delivery of its commerce products. However, the role will see Ready working in close partnership with both the advertising and payments operations.

Google’s prior head of ads, commerce and payments, Sridhar Ramaswamy, left the company in 2018 after more than 15 years, which is when Raghavan stepped in. But Ready’s role is a new one, as it will focus on commerce specifically.

“Bill’s exceptional track record building great experiences for consumers and deeply strategic partnerships makes him a powerful addition to our team. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of commerce at Google,” said Raghavan, in a statement.

Added Ready, “I’ve long admired how Google has enabled access to the digital economy for everyone. Google has been making world-class commerce capabilities universally accessible to partners of all sizes, and I look forward to furthering that mission,” he said.

Ready joined PayPal in 2013 when it acquired his startup, the payments gateway Braintree, for $800 million (he became CEO of Braintree and Venmo). Today, Braintree powers payments for businesses like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook and Jet.com, while Venmo sees more than $25 billion in transaction volume on a quarterly basis.

Once at PayPal, Ready moved up the ranks to become EVP and COO in 2016. In this role, he was responsible for product, technology and engineering at PayPal, as well as the end-to-end customer experiences for PayPal’s consumer, merchant, Braintree, Venmo, Paydiant and Xoom businesses. He was also co-chair of PayPal’s Operating Group, which focuses on delivering on revenue and profit goals for the company.

At PayPal, Ready was behind a number of the company’s biggest moves, including the introduction of its most-rapidly adopted product ever, PayPal One Touch, as well as Pay with Venmo, the redesign of the PayPal mobile app, PayPal Commerce and the expansion of Braintree’s global reach.

PayPal announced Ready’s plans for departure this summer, saying he was planning to engage in other entrepreneurial interests outside the company.

Heading up commerce at Google will be a big task for Ready, given commerce’s close proximity to parent company Alphabet’s main source of revenue, which is advertising. In Q3 2019, Google’s ad revenue was $33.92 billion out of total revenue of $40.5 billion.

Today, many consumers visit Google first to shop for products, which allows it to charge top dollar for its ads. But over the years, Amazon has been steadily chipping away at Google’s lead as more consumers go directly to its site to hunt for products.

To address this challenge, Google has begun to transform its Shopping business.

At Google Marketing Live this year, Google unveiled a new look and feel for its shopping properties, which included rebranding its Google Express app as the new Google Shopping app. The goal with the changes is to better serve the way consumers now shop online. Today, people often start “shopping” by doing things like browsing Pinterest for inspiration or seeing what influencers are posting on Instagram, for example. Instagram capitalized on this trend with the launch of Instagram Shopping in March, which allows users to checkout right in its app.

PayPal is also now moving in this direction. The company recently made its largest-ever acquisition with a $4 billion deal for shopping and awards platform Honey. With Honey’s integrations, PayPal will be able to target shoppers with personalized promotions and offers earlier on in their shopping journey, then direct them to PayPal’s checkout as the final step.

Google’s commerce plans are similar in that regard.

It envisions a universal cart and new ways to shop across its platform of services, including Search, Shopping, Images and even YouTube and Gmail. This will allow Google to also capture shoppers’ attention as they engage with Google properties — like browsing images for product ideas or watching YouTube videos, for example.

As a part of the Google Shopping revamp, the dedicated Shopping homepage was updated to allow consumers to filter products by brands they love and features they want, as well as read product reviews and videos. Shoppers could add items to a universal cart where purchases were backed by a Google guarantee, as well as receive customer service and make easy returns, as before with Google Express.

Google’s travel business also falls under commerce, and similarly received new attention this year with updates designed to simplify the experience of trip planning on google.com/travel, and more features around tracking flight price drops and predictions. 

On the advertising side, Google’s highly visual Showcase Shopping ads were expanded outside of Google Shopping. And Shopping Actions — customers’ ability to shop directly from Google surfaces, like Google Assistant — are making their way to new services, like YouTube.

Google is also ramping up its ability to serve smaller and local businesses with features aimed at driving in-store pickup traffic to brick-and-mortar stores.

Critical to making Google’s new Shopping platform successful is being able to forge retail partnerships — as, unlike Amazon, Google itself is not really in the business of selling directly to consumers, outside of its own hardware devices.

Ready’s experience will prove valuable here, too. At PayPal, he was able to build strategic partnerships with a number of unlikely players — including Visa, Mastercard, Apple, Walmart, Samsung and even Google.

What Ready’s strategy and vision will more precisely entail for Google will have to wait until after he’s on board, however.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Bill to Google as we continue our work to create more helpful commerce experiences and build a thriving ecosystem for partners of all sizes,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet.

Image Credits: Getty Images — Bloomberg/Contributor; Ready: Google

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Conservative News

TIME’s Person of the Year: Greta Thunberg. Will she accept the award?

The annual guessing game is over. Teen climate alarmist Greta Thunberg is TIME’s Person of the Year. The announcement was made this morning on NBC’s Today show by TIME editor in chief Edward Felsenthal. Given her declaration that “Environment doesn’t need any more prizes” and her refusal to accept the 2019 Nordic Council Environment Prize in October, will she accept this recognition?

The 16-year-old environmental scold was chosen for being a global community organizer, let’s be honest here. She is a victim of adult propagandists, though, not the victim of an environmental emergency as she often claims. Her dreams and childhood were “stolen” by her parents who began indoctrinating her at a very early age. By age eight she was showing signs of mental distress over climate change alarmism. That’s on her parents, not politicians.

“She embodies youth activism,” Felsenthal said. “Her rise in influence has been really extraordinary. She was a solo protester with a hand-painted sign 14 months ago. She’s now led millions of people around the world, 150 countries, to act on behalf of the planet, and she’s really been a key driver this year taking this issue from backstage to center.”

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” As a local Meteorologist here in Houston tweeted, Thunberg’s hyperbole often reveals the absurdity of her claims. She hasn’t been sold into sex slavery or put to death for her religion. She has a home and now lives the life of a celebrity. She’s fine.

Thunberg has been wildly successful in getting her message out. Her Fridays for Future campaign which gives school children an excuse to play hookey once a week to protest with adults continues to grow. One reason she gave for not accepting the Nordic Council’s award was that the Nordic countries have not taken enough action to counter climate change. She’s a Swedish citizen. She criticized the Scandinavian countries’ emissions record, in particular, Norway’s oil policies. She continued to criticize Norway and also Canada at the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid. She and fifteen other activists sent a letter to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg demanding that Norway lead in providing a model for other countries to move away from fossil fuel production.

“Norway must honor its responsibilities to children everywhere,” Thunberg and the 15 other activists said in the letter to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “It must demonstrate how a major fossil fuels producer and exporter can transition away from these pollutants, blazing a trail for other fossil fuel-reliant economies to follow.”

The same 16 petitioners, including children from Nigeria, the U.S. and the Marshall Islands, filed a legal complaint with the UN in September against France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey for not doing enough to tackle climate change. Their latest missives coincide with the UN’s COP25 meeting in Madrid, where Thunberg arrived last week after sailing back across the Atlantic following her trip to the UN Climate Climate Action Summit in New York in September.

Greta Thunberg is the youngest person designated as Person of the Year. Before this year, 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh held that distinction. He was selected as the most influential man of 1927, the same year TIME began the recognition.

COP25 is a long conference – eleven days in all. Miss Thunberg spoke to the participants and her message was as it usually is – no one is doing enough. She chided the world leaders on “finding loopholes” instead of solutions.

“The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR,” Thunberg said.

“Finding holistic solutions is what the COP should be all about, but instead it seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition,” she added, to wide applause.

The four others who made the cut to the Final Five were President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the CIA whistleblower, and the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. There are no runners-up this year. Instead, there are four additional categories.

The U.S. women’s soccer team, which captured the World Cup title in the summer, earned Athlete of the Year honors, while Grammy-nominated singer Lizzo was named Entertainer of the Year.

Disney CEO Bob Iger was named Businessperson of the Year after the successful launch of the streaming service Disney+ and a record of more than $10 billion in box office receipts for Disney films.

TIME also named “Public Servants” as the Guardians of the Year, which included the anonymous CIA whistleblower and “all of the career public servants who took great professional risks in pursuit of the truth.” That group also included Marie Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor, Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman, all of whom are current or former government officials who have played a role in the impeachment proceedings.

A piece in Washington Post calls out the history of the honor as sexist.

In the remarkably sexist history of the honor, men have been chosen 66 times, groups of people 21 times and nonhuman entities twice (“the Computer” and “the Endangered Earth”).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe were also on the shortlist of potential winners. Had one of them been chosen, she would have been the first American woman in more than 80 years.

The last American woman selected, in 1936, was Wallis Simpson — a woman famous for getting divorced and then getting married. Granted, she married the king of England, who abdicated his throne for her in what was a juicy but somewhat singular accomplishment.

Mostly the piece reads as a disappointment that Pelosi wasn’t chosen. Swamp creatures stick together, you know.

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Technology News

Intel’s latest RealSense lidar camera is designed for inventory logistics – TechCrunch

Intel today introduced the latest addition to its RealSense line. The L515 is roughly the size of a tennis ball, targeted specifically for warehouse logistics — a hugely important and increasingly automated aspect of global trade.

Other potential applications for the new camera include retail, healthcare, 3D scanning and robotics. The little hockey puck is capable of scanning a scene and creating a point cloud with millions of depth points a second, per Intel — a fairly impressive spec, given its size.

Per Intel:

The L515 is in a class of its own, providing consistently high accuracy over the supported range of 0.25m – 9m. It also provides over 23 million accurate depth pixels per second, with a depth resolution of 1024 x 768 at 30 frames per second. The Intel RealSense lidar camera L515 has an internal vision processor, motion blur artifact reduction and short photon-to-depth latency. The lightweight L515 consumes less than 3.5 watts of power, enabling easy mounting on handheld devices with the flexibility of long battery life. Always ready to use, the L515 retains its depth accuracy throughout its lifespan without the need for calibration.

The new RealSense finds the company expending its operations to the massively profitable world of logistics, following similar cameras designed for drones, robotics and a slew of consumer hardware applications, including AR and VR.

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Technology News

Childcare benefits startup Kinside launches with $4 million from investors including Initialized Capital – TechCrunch

Childcare is one of the biggest expenses for American parents and it’s not just families who are taking a hit. Childcare issues cost the United States’ economy an estimated $4.4 billion in lost productivity each year and also impacts employee retention rates. Kinside wants to help with a platform that not only enables families to get the most out of their family care benefits, but also find the right providers for their kids. The startup announced the public launch of its platform today, along with $3 million in a new funding round led by Initialized Capital.

This brings Kinside’s total raised since it was founded 18 months ago to $4 million. Its other investors include Precursor Ventures, Kairos, Jane VC and Escondido Ventures.

Founded by Shadiah Sigala, Brittney Barrett and Abe Han, Kinside began its private beta with 10 clients while participating in Y Combinator last summer. Over the past year, it has signed up over a thousand employers, underscoring the demand for childcare benefits.

“Getting meetings with employers has not been the hard part,” Sigala, Kinside’s CEO, tells TechCrunch. “Any subject line that says ‘do you want childcare for your employees?’ immediately gets a response. We a hit a nerve there and when we talked with them, we found that the biggest pain they expressed was that their employees were having a hard time finding childcare.”

Kinside co-founders SShadiah Sigala, Brittney Barrett and Abe Han

Kinside co-founders SShadiah Sigala, Brittney Barrett and Abe Han

The U.S. is the only industrialized country without a national law that guarantees paid parental leave. Companies like Microsoft, Netflix and Deloitte offer strong family benefits in order to recruit and retain talent, but offering similar packages remains a challenge, especially for small- to medium-sized businesses. As a result, many employees, especially women, leave their jobs to care for their children, even if they had planned to continue working.

“The worst case for bigger, more mature companies is a delayed return to work, which has a real impact on the bottom line because of lost productivity, but the deeper pain is when we lose the women,” Sigala says. “It’s documented that 43% of women in the professional sector will leave the workforce within one to two years of having a baby.”

Other startups focused on early childhood care that have recently raised funding include Winnie, for finding providers, Wonderschool, which helps people start in-home daycares and preschools and London-based childcare platform Koru Kids.

Before Kinside, Sigala co-founded Honeybook, a business management platform for small businesses and freelancers. When she got pregnant, Sigala began developing the company’s family benefit policies and became familiar with the hurdles small companies face.

While in Y Combinator, Kinside focused on streamlining the process of using dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSA), or pre-tax benefits for caregiving costs, after its founders saw that the complicated claims process meant only a fraction of eligible parents get full use of the program. Kinside still helps parents with their accounts by partnering with FSA administrators. Now their app also includes a network of pre-screened early childcare providers ranging from home-based daycares to large preschools across the country.

The startup pre-negotiates reserved spots and discounted rates for its users and gives them access to a “concierge” made up of childcare professionals to answer questions. Parents can search for providers based on location, cost and childcare philosophy. Sigala says the startup’s team found that many childcare providers have a 20% to 30% vacancy rate, which Kinside addresses by helping them manage openings and find families who are willing to commit to a spot. In addition to its app, Kinside also plans to integrate into human resources systems.

Initialized was co-founded by Alexis Ohanian, also a founder of Reddit, and a vocal advocate of paid parental leave. One of the areas the firm focuses on is “family tech” and its portfolio also includes startups like the Mom Project, a job search platform for mothers returning to work.

In an email, Initialized partner Alda Leu Dennis said the firm invested in Kinside because “we have this fundamental problem of gender inequality which can be partially attributed to imbalances in the workplace and at home. We have a gender wage gap and domestic responsibilities, still, largely falling on the mother. By solving a problem that men and women have—access to affordable and high-quality childcare—we can improve this situation.”

Dennis added, “the business model innovation that Kinside brings to the table is to involve employers in the process of bringing peace of mind and stability to their employees’ home lives and in turn making their employees more productive.”

Sigala says Kinside sees itself as part of the benefits equity movement, including paid parental leave and, eventually universal childcare, for all working parents. The platform’s users are split equally between men and women, highlighting that the need for caregiving benefits cross gender lines and impact an entire household.

“It’s a complex issue. Our infrastructure and society is still designed for single breadwinner households and yet the economy means that for most households, being able to pay the bills depends on having two parents working,” she adds. “I see this as a movement. It’s the right time.”

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Technology News

ACLU sues Homeland Security over ‘stingray’ cell phone surveillance – TechCrunch

One of the largest civil liberties groups in the U.S. is suing two Homeland Security agencies for failing to turn over documents it requested as part of a public records request about a controversial cell phone surveillance technology.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in federal court on Wednesday after the organization claimed the agencies “failed to produce records” relating to cell site simulators — or “stingrays.”

Stingrays impersonate cell towers to trick cell phones into connecting to them, allowing its operator to collect unique identifiers from the device and determine their location. The devices are used for surveillance, but also ensnare all other devices in their range. It’s believed newer, more advanced devices can intercept all the phone calls and text messages in range.

A government oversight report in 2016 said both CBP and ICE collectively spent $13 million on buying dozens of stingrays, which the agencies used to “locate people for arrest and prosecution,” the ACLU said.

But little else is known about stingray technology because the cell phone snooping technology is sold exclusively to police departments and federal agencies under strict non-disclosure agreements with the device manufacturer.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2017 to learn more about the technology and how it’s used, but both agencies failed to turn over any documents, it said.

The civil liberties organization said there is evidence to suggest that records exist, but has “exhausted all administrative remedies” to obtain the documents. Now it wants the courts to compel the agencies to turn over the records, “not only to shine a light on the government’s use of powerful surveillance technology in the immigration context, but also to assess whether its use of this technology complies with constitutional and legal requirements and is subject to appropriate oversight and control,” the filing said.

The group wants the agencies’ training materials and guidance documents, and records to show where and when stingrays were deployed across the United States.

CBP spokesperson Nathan Peeters said the agency does not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy. A spokesperson for ICE did not comment.

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Technology News

BMW says ‘ja’ to Android Auto – TechCrunch

BMW today announced that it is finally bringing Android Auto to its vehicles, starting in July 2020. With that, it will join Apple’s CarPlay in the company’s vehicles.

The first live demo of Android Auto in a BMW will happen at CES 2020 next month and after that, it will become available as an update to drivers in 20 countries with cars that feature the BMW OS 7.0. BMW will support Android Auto over a wireless connection, though, which somewhat limits its comparability.

Only two years ago, the company said that it wasn’t interested in supporting Android Auto. At the time, Dieter May, who was then the senior VP for Digital Services and Business Model, explicitly told me that the company wanted to focus on its first-party apps in order to retain full control over the in-car interface and that he wasn’t interested in seeing Android Auto in BMWs. May has since left the company, though it’s also worth noting that Android Auto itself has become significantly more polished over the course of the last two years.

“The Google Assistant on Android Auto makes it easy to get directions, keep in touch and stay productive. Many of our customers have pointed out the importance to them of having Android Auto inside a BMW for using a number of familiar Android smartphone features safely without being distracted from the road, in addition to BMW’s own functions and services,” said Peter Henrich, Senior Vice President Product Management BMW, in today’s announcement.

With this, BMW will also finally offer support for the Google Assistant after early bets on Alexa, Cortana and the BMW Assistant (which itself is built on top of Microsoft’s AI stack). The company has long said it wants to offer support for all popular digital assistants. For the Google Assistant, the only way to make that work, at least for the time being, Android Auto.

In BMWs, Android Auto will see integrations into the car’s digital cockpit, in addition to BMW’s Info Display and the heads-up display (for directions). That’s a pretty deep integration, which goes beyond what most car manufacturers feature today.

“We are excited to work with BMW to bring wireless Android Auto to their customers worldwide next year,” said Patrick Brady, vice president of engineering at Google. “The seamless connection from Android smartphones to BMW vehicles allows customers to hit the road faster while maintaining access to all of their favorite apps and services in a safer experience.”

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Technology News

Wotch is building a creator-friendly video platform – TechCrunch

The team at Wotch has created a new social video platform — but wait, don’t roll your eyes quite yet.

“Obviously, we’re very used to someone creating a new internet video-sharing platform,” said co-CEO Scott Willson. “It must be very irritating for everyone to hear that.”

And yet Willson and his co-founder/co-CEO James Sadler have attempted it anyway, and they’re competing today as part of the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin. They’re only 22 years old, but Sadler said they’ve been working together for the past few years, with past projects including the development of e-learning platforms.

They were inspired to create Wotch because of YouTube’s recent problems around issues like demonetization, where many YouTubers lost the ability to monetize their videos through advertising, and other controversies like an attempted overhaul of its verification system.

Willson said YouTube has been “leaving out creators in terms of communications,” and as the controversies grew, the pair thought, “there has to be a better way of doing this.”

The key, Sadler added, is giving video creators a bigger say in the process: “We’re very hands-on with these creators. We’re not just sending them an automated email.”

In fact, they’re giving creators an opportunity to buy equity in Wotch to get a stake in the company’s success. They’re also appointing a creator board that will be consulted on company policy.

Wotch creators will be able to make money by selling subscriptions, merchandise and ads — not the standard pre-roll or mid-roll ads (which Willson described as “irritants”), but instead partnerships where they incorporate brand products and messages in their videos.

Asked whether this might create the same tension between advertisers and creators that YouTube has been struggling with, Willson argued, “What it comes down to is correctly matching advertisers with creators.” Some advertisers don’t mind working with video-makers who are “pushing the boundaries” — they just need to know what they’re getting into.

Sadler also said that Wotch will be providing creators with more data about their viewers, like identifying their most loyal fans, their most engaged fans and their first “wotchers.”

And the site will take a different approach to content moderation, using technologies like video frame analysis to identify “risky” content, as well as relying more on community moderation. Sadler said it will be a “consensus” approach, rather than the “dictatorship” of other platforms.

“We’re rewarding users for helping to cleanse these platforms,” he added.

Wotch isn’t identifying any of the big creators who he says have signed on, but Sadler told me that the company is largely focused on emerging markets and has already recruited 25 of the top creators in Brazil (where YouTube has an enormous audience, to sometimes detrimental effect) and throughout South America. Those creators won’t be posting on Wotch alone, but they will be creating exclusive videos for the service.

Sadler said it’s those creators who will draw the viewers: “Consumers are loyal to the creators and not the platforms.” And once they’re drawn in, they’ll also experience “a more social platform — see the things your friends are ‘wotching,’ see the things that your favorite creators are ‘wotching.’”

The startup has raised funding from Dominic Smales, the CEO of influencer marketing company Gleam Futures; Bidstack co-founder Simon Mitchell; and Melody VR founder and COO Steve Hancock. Smales is also leading the creator board.

While a beta version of Wotch is already live, Sadler and Willson plan to launch a revamped version of the service early next year. You can get an early preview of the changes by using the promotional code “TECHCRUNCH.”

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Conservative News

Don’t call them homeless encampments. They’re “curbside communities”

As part of their continuing coverage of the homelessness crisis in the San Francisco bay area, CBS produced a profile of one woman who has been living out on the streets in Oakland for at least a year now. Obviously, if you want to understand the problem from the street level (so to speak), this is a worthwhile approach. But some of the opinions expressed by Ms. Mavin Carter-Griffin are curious, to say the least. And they seem to be popular points of view among other homeless citizens.

They’re commonly referred to as homeless encampments, but Mavin Carter-Griffin would prefer you call them “curbside communities.”

She’s lived on Wood Street in Oakland for more than a year now and has a lot of ideas about what could help the homeless in the midst of a housing crisis. For example, she’d like to see the showers at Raimondi Park be open to the homeless community, believes all homeless people need a pit bull, and loves Oakland.

She says if it were any other community, she might not have survived this long. We talked to her about what she calls “this ever evolving changing new face of homelessness.”

Much of what she’s saying is certainly understandable. If there are public showers available in a park, that’s something that homeless people could really benefit from. And I’m sure everyone could use a, um… I’m sorry. Did you say a pit bull? We might have to circle back to that one.

She discusses the unique challenges of being a woman in the homeless encampments. This has been highlighted in the media before and it’s a real concern. The rates of rape and sexual assault among homeless people in California are off the charts compared to the rest of the population. Personal security is a definite issue and law enforcement is overwhelmed with cases, leaving them unable to keep up with the workload.

And how did she wind up living on the streets? One big factor she cites is that her previous two-bedroom apartment costs $5,000 per month in rent. I’ve heard of worse rates in New York City, but not by much. That’s an insane amount of rent to have to pay unless you are doing very well financially. Anyone working a job that pays closer to the national average couldn’t possibly keep up. In fact, the median family income in this country (gross) is actually less than the rent on that apartment.

Carter-Griffin’s description of the encampments as “curbside communities” is also interesting. It probably helps highlight the gap between how local property and business owners see the masses of homeless people and how they see themselves. This woman is asking people to recognize and accept that they are all members of the community just like those living with roofs over their heads. But the locals understandably have a hard time seeing past all of the problems that the homeless encampments bring with them in the form of higher crime rates, drug abuse, trash and human waste clogging up the streets. It’s not as easy to be “welcoming” under those circumstances.

Charitable institutions do what they can to help the homeless, but in the end, it’s the city’s responsibility to address this problem. And trying to treat these encampments like a 21st-century version of “communities” isn’t the answer. That’s just accepting the crisis as the new normal and throwing in the towel. Living in a tent on the sidewalk is not a lifestyle choice. The only real solutions are going to come from identifying what’s driving so many people into the ranks of the homeless, changing those conditions, and then getting these people off the streets and into places where they can get help and rebuild their lives. But thus far, most of California’s cities are still failing miserably in this task.