Saturday, March 18, 2017

The co-founder of $31 billion Airbnb expects a 'revolution' in air travel next

The co-founder of $31 billion Airbnb expects a 'revolution' in air travel next

For now, he's busy mastering the home-sharing business. But Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky said he expects to see a total "revolution" in the way people travel next.
"It feels like there's a pretty big revolution coming" to the airline industry, Chesky said in an interview on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist.

Featured Overnight Code: EXPLORE3

"We have looked at where to stay — we now have [Airbnb] experiences, which is what you do. Probably down the road we will be looking at how you get there — aviation," Chesky said.

The airline industry hasn't changed in decades, the Airbnb co-founder emphasized. "I went on a plane in the 80's, I go on it today, it's very similar."

Chesky told Geist he doesn't know what role Airbnb will play in this so-called "revolution," but added: "In my lifetime, for sure, there's going to be a completely different way to travel."

Uber hires Obama's attorney-general to review its workplaces

Uber hires Obama's attorney-general to review its workplaces

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has appointed Eric Holder, once United States attorney-general under Barack Obama and now a partner of law firm Covington & Burling, to conduct a review of the “specific issues relating to the work place environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly.”
Fowler, a former Uber engineer, penned a post alleging rampant sexism, buck-passing and policy-ignoring among managers and a generally toxic atmosphere that saw women flee the company.

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Kalanick's widely-circulated memo on the subject says Holder will work alongside fellow partner Tammy Albarran, Uber board member Arianna Huffington, chief of human resources Liane Hornsey and associate general counsel Angela Padilla. The CEO says “I expect them to conduct this review in short order.”

The CEO also argues that Uber is plenty diverse, saying that “If you look across our engineering, product management, and scientist roles, 15.1% of employees are women and this has not changed substantively in the last year.” He goes on to say the comparable number at Facebook is 17 per cent, 18 per cent at Google and 10 per cent at Twitter.

Twitter and Google, however, beg to differ. The avian network says its number is 15 per cent and Google says it is at 19 per cent.
Perhaps Kalanick is offering alternative facts? If so they're unsourced. Maybe they came from Sweden?

The memo wraps up as follows:
“What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what's happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace. It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.”

Would replacing the drivers Uber now says are enjoying their best-ever jobs with robo-cars be an injustice? Over to you, readers. ®

Lyft drops $27m on the table to make annoying driver lawsuit go away

Lyft drops $27m on the table to make annoying driver lawsuit go away

A federal judge has accepted a proposed $27m settlement to resolve a dispute between ride-sharing service Lyft and more than 200,000 current and former drivers in California.

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The drivers sued Lyft in 2013 arguing that they should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors – the same issue that has dogged rival Uber in courts around the country.

By classifying drivers as independent contractors, Lyft and Uber shift the expense of payroll taxes, overtime, and worker benefits to drivers. With lower operating costs and venture funding, they are able to offer transportation at a price that's often below what taxi companies can afford to charge.

The settlement provides drivers with greater protection against being removed from the Lyft platform. Lyft has agreed to alter its Terms of Service so that it can no longer deactivate driver accounts for any reason. Instead, it will enumerate specific infractions that may lead to termination.

It will also pay for driver arbitration costs in the event of a dispute, and implement a pre-arbitration process to resolve issues without entering into a more formal process.
What's more, the settlement calls for creating a way for passengers to "favorite" a driver, resulting in benefits of some sort. And Lyft has agreed to provide more passenger data to drivers before they have accepted ride requests.

The settlement, however, leaves issues of employment classification unresolved.
In April last year, US District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco rejected a proposed $12m settlement on the grounds that drivers might win more than 10 times that amount were a jury to determine Lyft's drivers should be designated employees.
In accepting the revised offer, Chhabria acknowledges that the compromise leaves issues unresolved. "The agreement is not perfect," he wrote in his order [PDF] approving the settlement on Thursday. "And the status of Lyft drivers under California law remains uncertain going forward. But the agreement falls within a range of reasonable outcomes, given the benefits it achieves for drivers and the risks involved in taking the case to trial."

"We are pleased the Court has taken the final step and approved the settlement agreement, which will preserve the flexibility of drivers to choose when, where and for how long they drive with Lyft, and enable consumers to continue benefiting from convenient and affordable transportation," a Lyft spokesperson told The Register.

In a statement emailed to The Register, Shannon Liss-Riordan, a partner at labor law firm Lichten & Liss-Riordan, PC, likewise expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
"We are very pleased to be at the end of this process," she said. "The settlement provides substantial benefit to Lyft drivers – both monetary and non-monetary."
Liss-Riordan said the settlement will pay thousands of dollars to Lyft drivers who have logged the most miles, amounting to around $1-2 per hour for every hour driven, or $2-4 per hour for those who drove full-time for Lyft.

The non-monetary benefits, she said, provide better job security and a grievance process for day-to-day issues, among other things.

"The question of whether the drivers are appropriately classified as employees or independent contractors will have to wait for another day," she said.

similar lawsuit filed against Uber by its California and Massachusetts drivers remains unresolved after a judge last year rejected that company's proposal to settle for $100 million. ®

Featured Lyft Code: PA1

Uber and Lyft’s potential return to Austin may threaten new ridehailing startups

Uber and Lyft’s potential return to Austin may threaten new ridehailing startups

While the annual Austin gathering for startups, tech firms, and innovators traditionally focuses on the latest trends, one of the biggest storylines from this week’s South by Southwest festival was how hard it was to get a ride.
Tech media sounded off about service disruptions last Saturday night, when two local ridehailing companies went down for hours with tech issues , arguing that the Texas city—which set itself apart last year when Uber and Lyft decided to leave the market—hadn’t quite filled the gap left by the multibillion dollar transportation network companies (TNCs).

Featured Lyft Code: PA1

But the outcry over a temporary service disruptions obscures the bigger transportation story out of Austin: legislation introduced in the Texas State Legislature this week that might help bring back Uber and Lyft, creating a big challenge for the startups still in town and threatening an experiment in independent ridehailing.
Hearings in the state senate Tuesday debated the merits of a series of similar bills, all of which would establish statewide guidelines and overrule the city ordinance that requires ridehailing drivers to be fingerprinted (which is why Uber and Lyft left). Early reports from Texas Senate hearings suggest legislators seem to favor a more overarching approach.

“Our team is encouraged that the Texas Legislature is considering a statewide solution to ridesharing,” says an Uber spokesperson Travis Considine. “Texas is at the forefront of innovation, but lags behind more than 37 states that have already passed statewide ridesharing laws.”

According to Joe Deshotel, the communications manager with Ride Austin, a new nonprofit transportation network company (TNC) that formed after the big players left town, the new laws reveal a trend in Texas politics: pre-emption of Austin’s liberal laws by much more conservative state legislators. These bills are pushed by an army of lobbyists working for Uber and Lyft; Texans for Public Justice says the companies are now spending a combined $2.3 million on 40 lobbyists.
“There’s a little bit more steam this legislative session about going after cities,” he says. “State legislators love to beat Austin over the head.”
Ride Austin, one of the largest TNCs to emerge last year, has been growing at a significant pace, says Deshotel, despite the SXSW hiccup. Since launching nine months ago, the company has recruited more than 4,800 drivers (99 percent of which are fingerprinted, per the new Austin rules), provided more than 1.2 million rides, raised more than $100,000 for charity (riders can “round up fares” for donation), and now averages roughly 50,000 to 60,000 rides per week.

Last week, during the opening of SXSW, the company ramped up to provide 100,000 rides, and by Saturday night at 7 p.m.—cold and rainy weather that night also increased demand—the system was overwhelmed. As explained in a company Facebook post, a database error led to the crash, which lasted five hours. Another competitor wth significant market share, Fasten, also experienced a temporary disruption that same night, adding to the confusion.
“The situation was ripe for Silicon Valley folks to come over and tell us that our city isn’t working because we don’t have Uber or Lyft,” Deshotel says. “It puts the elite nature of theses folks into context. They’re early adopters; the latest stats suggest that only 15 percent of Americans have taken an Uber or Lyft.”

The SXSW disruptions came at a particularly inopportune time, says Deshotel, when the city was under the spotlight and with legislation pending. Ride Austin doesn’t have the money to compete with Uber and Lyft on the lobbying front, so they’re attempting to educate lawmakers about the issues impacted by potential legislation. But they’ll get another chance to show they can handle prime time traffic this weekend, during the music portion of SXSW, when demand should be even stronger. For Ride Austin, he says, it’s “a rare chance to redeem yourself.”

Supporters of a statewide system of regulation have a flawed argument, says Deshotel. They’re basically removing the city’s right to regulate its transportation market, part of the pattern of pre-emption impacting Austin, and scores of other blue cities in red states. That stance is shared by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who told the Austin Chronicle that, “Austin voters chose a system which fostered ride hailing competition and innovation and which delivered the safety choices they wanted. It’s working well and the people’s will should be respected.”

“We built Ride Austin from the ground up, with the city’s rules in place, as a nonprofit,” Deshotel says. “We have a mandate from the community, and want to build an asset to the community.”
April Mims, a Lyft representative, testified at the senate hearing, according to the Texas Tribune, arguing the patchwork approach created a headache for ridehailing companies.
"Some of these cities are within 30 miles of each other and no two policies are the same," she said. "This regulatory structure is not sustainable and is contrary to Lyft's mission to build an effective network across Texas."

While Ride Austin opposes the laws in their current form (they want data-sharing requirements), Deshotel believes they have a strong chance of passing. Uber and Lyft could return to the city as soon as June. But he feels the company has more than a fighting chance against the big players. While many, including Uber spokesperson Trever Theunissen, argue that the city currently has fewer drivers without Uber and Lyft in the market, the startups suggest otherwise (and unlike Uber, offer data to back up their claim). In a Medium post about SXSW, Andy Tryba, Ride Austin’s CEO, argues the market has actually grown:

Though Uber & Lyft are almost always secretive about their rideshare data — based on what Uber published in 2015 — we believe they did a combined 350k rides last SXSW (Uber at 250k and Lyft at 100k). RideAustin will do between 175–200k alone (2x Lyft) and we are ~40% share. This implies a total market of 437k to 500k.

“We believe that since we’ve taken the community’s input from the beginning, we have an advantage,” Deshotel says. “We think Uber and Lyft will take the tourist market. Local riders and drivers have been our focus from day one, we intend to maintain that market.”

I Tried Lyft’s Scheduled Rides and It Made Early Morning Travel Tolerable

I Tried Lyft’s Scheduled Rides and It Made Early Morning Travel Tolerable

Being able to schedule a Lyft ride in advance has been an option for a while, and it’s now available in 25 cities throughout the country. I hadn’t bothered to try it until recently when I was stuck with an early morning flight and had to get to the airport. Here’s how my experience compared to what Lyft promises.

The night before my flight, I was going back and forth over whether to use the scheduled rides feature. I had to be at the airport at 6:45am, which meant I’d have to leave my apartment at 6am to take public transportation (which often smells like a toilet...usually because someone has used it as a toilet). Or I could schedule a ride and be picked up between 6:20 and 6:30am, which meant more time in my warm bed. Since I’m not a morning person, I decided to give the scheduled ride a try.
First, Lyft went a little overboard on the text notifications reminding me that I’d scheduled a ride and that my driver was on the way, and then that he was getting closer (but that might be helpful if you don’t want to check the driver’s status on the app). My driver arrived slightly early (I could see his car out my window), but he waited until my selected time slot before he called me to let me know he was there. That was nice because I’ve had drivers who call before they even arrive and are pretty impatient for you to get in their car and get going. True to Lyft’s description of service, the price I was charged matched the quote I was given when I scheduled the ride.
Overall, the experience went smoothly for me, and because of the time it saved me, was worth the extra cost (versus the couple bucks I’d pay for public transportation). I prefer being able to schedule my ride ahead of time rather than try my luck requesting a Lyft the morning of my flight, which I’ve done before and didn’t enjoy the anxiety that came with it.

Donald Trump fuels diplomatic row with Britain after apology from US officials over GCHQ wiretapping claims

Donald Trump fuels diplomatic row with Britain after apology from US officials over GCHQ wiretapping claims

Donald Trump remained unrepentant amid a diplomatic row with Britain on Friday, hours after US officials made a formal apology for accusing GCHQ of helping Barack Obama spy on the then presidential candidate.

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Sean Spicer, the president's press secretary, repeated a claim on Thursday evening – initially made by an analyst on Fox News - that GCHQ was used by Mr Obama to spy on Trump Tower in the lead-up to last November's election.

The comments prompted a furious response from GCHQ, which in a break from normal practice issued a public statement: "Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."

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Claims GCHQ wiretapped Trump 'nonsense' - NSA's Ledgett

Claims GCHQ wiretapped Trump 'nonsense' - NSA's Ledgett

The claim that GCHQ carried out surveillance on Donald Trump during the election campaign is "arrant nonsense", Rick Ledgett, the number two at the US National Security Agency (NSA) has told the BBC in an exclusive interview. 
A commentator on Fox News had claimed that GCHQ had carried out the activity on America's behalf, but Mr Ledgett said the claim showed "a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works".

Each side, he said, was prohibited from asking the other partner to carry out acts that they were prohibited from doing. He also said the huge risks to the UK in carrying out such an act would completely outweigh any benefits.

"Of course they wouldn't do it. It would be epically stupid," he told me.
GCHQ had also dismissed the allegation as nonsense.Mr Ledgett's comments came in a wide-ranging - and long-scheduled - interview in his office at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. He acknowledged that these were unusual times when it came to the political maelstrom surrounding America's intelligence agencies and their relationship with the new administration.

Trump denies claiming UK behind 'wiretap'
Did Obama wiretap Trump Tower?
A peek behind the curtain at GCHQ

"Our job in the intelligence community is to be apolitical. Our job is to speak truth to power," he emphasised. The origins of much of the tension lie in the assessment by the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the presidential election, and the subsequent reaction from Donald Trump.
Mr Ledgett said the evidence of Russian involvement was "extraordinarily strong" and "irrefutable" and that the NSA had played a key role in establishing the case.

Mr Ledgett said he was "dead solid 100% confident" that the Russian state was behind the attempts - although he said it was not for the intelligence community to evaluate the actual impact of those attempts on the vote itself. There has been speculation that Russia will interfere in upcoming European elections, but the NSA deputy director said it was hard for him to talk about any evidence supporting that.
There has been a shift towards more aggressive action in cyberspace in recent years - from Russia but also other states - with some commentators claiming that "cyber war" is breaking out.
Low-intensity conflict rather than war is a better description, Mr Ledgett said.
"Cyber war is going to look very different - you are going to see massive failures of key infrastructure systems in the countries that are being targeted in a way we have not seen yet."
The problems in attributing attacks and the lower barriers for entry mean that this trend may well continue, though. The US last week indicted a group of Russian hackers as part of a broader strategy of trying to develop layered deterrence. Chinese and Iranian hackers have been indicted in the past.
"Our assessment is that it does cause actors to pause," Mr Ledgett said, while acknowledging it did not provide absolute deterrence.

The spread of internet-connected devices in the home is another concern.
Wikileaks: CIA has tools to snoop via TVs
"It's a truism that the more things you connect to a network, the more vulnerabilities you introduce," Mr Ledgett argued, adding that he did not have what are called "Internet of Things" devices in his own home. Last week there were claims that the CIA - along with Britain's MI5 - had found vulnerabilities in some "smart" TV sets which allowed them to be turned into bugging devices.
Mr Ledgett emphasised that the mission of the NSA was to focus on foreign intelligence and not domestic.

He said that 90% of vulnerabilities in systems that the NSA spotted were reported to companies so they could fix them. And any vulnerabilities that the agency sought to leave in place to exploit for intelligence gathering needed to be approved by other government agencies.

"There's a fringe narrative out there that the US and UK and all these other governments are willy-nilly just exploiting every vulnerability in every device they can in order to gather information into a big pile and then root through it for interesting things. That's not what we do at all."
He acknowledged that the debate around the NSA's power was healthy, but said the way it came about was bad, referring to the Edward Snowden revelations.

He said that while he would not point to specific terrorist attacks or deaths as a result of disclosures, the NSA had seen one thousand "entities" (such as terrorist groups or foreign military units) which had tried to change behaviour to avoid surveillance.

Mr Ledgett is due to step down in the coming months after a 40-year career in national security. Twenty-nine of those years were spent at the NSA, where he ended up as its most senior civilian.
He acknowledged that the current environment - with the intelligence agencies drawn into political debate - was unprecedented.

"It is an uncomfortable place to be," he said. "Intelligence needs to not be politicised to be at its best."

 Featured Uber Code: FIRSTTIME

Uber board has full confidence in CEO Kalanick, Huffington says

Uber board has full confidence in CEO Kalanick, Huffington says

Uber board member Arianna Huffington says the ride sharing company’s board of directors “absolutely” has full confidence in CEO Travis Kalanick to lead Uber despite several controversies in recent months.

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Huffington also indicated the search for the newly-created Chief Operating Officer role is narrowing.
On March 7, 40-year-old Kalanick said in a statement that Uber is “actively looking for a Chief Operating Officer: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey,” following allegations of sexual harassment and sexism inside the company by former employees.
“We have an amazing amount of incredibly successful, brilliant women who have applied for the COO job,” Huffington said. “We cannot share the names but it is really an indication of how excited people are to help lead Uber into the future.”

Uber is in the midst of an “urgent” internal investigation of sexual harassment and sexism inside the company, spurred by a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler on Feb. 19. Fowler said a direct supervisor attempted to convince her to “have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line,” and detailed instances when Uber human resources allegedly swept it under the rug. Uber has hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to investigate the claims.

Soon after, founder and CEO Kalanick was caught on video arguing with an Uber driver, Fawzi Kamel, on Super Bowl Sunday. In a video provided to Bloomberg News, Kalanick argued with Kamel about falling fares.

It resulted in a heated exchange, ending with Kalanick saying, “You know what? Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s***. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!””

“Sometimes companies – like human beings – have to go through a crisis for major changes to take place but that’s what’s happening at Uber,” Huffington told NBC News on Friday.
Related: Uber Driver Explains Why He Argued With CEO Kalanick

Kalanick apologized to his staff in an email saying, “to say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement” and vowed that “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
Huffington, who has served on Uber’s board since April of 2016, said she recently met with all women employees at Uber’s self-driving car center in Pittsburgh. She said Uber is taking immediate measures to improve the culture for women inside the ride-sharing company as the investigation continues.

“We’re already putting in place many changes, including many small changes like family rooms where women with young children can pump milk,” Huffington said. “There are often small changes that make a difference in the lives of employees and along with bigger changes.”
Last week, Uber also issued a statement pledging not to use “Greyball” technology against regulators who are investigating the company.

“Greyballing” was first reported by the New York Times. According to the Times report, Uber deployed the technology to target regulators in cities where the service was either restricted or banned. In a statement to NBC, Uber said Greyball was used for “many purposes” including marketing, fraud prevention and protecting drivers from physical harm.

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Uber is forcing drivers in Seattle to listen to anti-union propaganda

Over the past few years, Uber has been fighting to avoid acknowledging its drivers as employees, as doing so would cost them a lot more money than it does now to keep its ‘partners’ on its platform.
But as things begin to come to a head in Seattle, where drivers are inching closer towards forming a union, the company is struggling to find ways to dissuade them. Its latest tactic: forcing drivers to listen to Uber podcasts about voting rights, collective bargaining and city council hearings, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Drivers must reportedly listen to the company-run programming before they can begin accepting rides each day. In addition, they’re also receiving text messages and invites to meetings that may help convince them to ditch unionization plans. It hardly sounds like the dream freelance gig the company touts for its ‘partners’.
In December 2015, Seattle’s City Council voted unanimously to grant Uber drivers the ability to unionize. That would allow them to collectively bargain over working conditions and pay.
Of course, Uber wants none of that. According to The Stranger, it’s previously run TV ads urging drivers to avoid unionizing, over concerns that doing so would erode their freedom to work flexibly, accepting rides on the platform only when convenient to them.
However, the Teamsters labor union, which is working to organize Uber drivers, says that it has no interest in negotiating fixed schedules The situation is still in limbo, as Uber sued Seattle in January to block an ordinance allowing drivers to unionize and the hearing is yet to take place.
The tussle underlines Uber’s refusal to take responsibility for the welfare of its drivers, who it repeatedly says are crucial to the company’s success, but doesn’t care to spend on. Last April, it paid $84 million to settle lawsuits in California and Massachusetts to the 385,000 plaintiffs in cases brought against it in 2013, over whether its drivers should be classified as employees (and therefore receive benefits like fuel and vehicle maintenance costs being taken care of).
The news comes soon after a former Uber engineer detailed numerous instances depicting sexism within the organization; the company’s culture has since been under scrutiny and an internal review is underway. CEO Travis Kalanick also noted last week that he is looking for a new Chief Operating Officer to partner with him in writing “the next chapter in our journey.” Whoever’s eyeing that role better have a strong stomach.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

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Free New Coupon Codes Update
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