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06.30.16 | 6:14 am

After condemning Wall Street for years, Elizabeth Warren turns on Silicon Valley

It's not just big bankers and finance companies the popular and powerful Massachusetts senator is gunning for, now she's turned her sights to Apple, Amazon and Google, reports Recode. In a speech in Washington yesterday the Senator said:

"Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and … they deserve to be highly profitable and successful. But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again."

Specifically, here's how Warren said the three companies were trying to "snuff out competition":

Apple: "has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services" that compete with Apple Music

Google: uses "its dominant search engine to harm rivals of its Google Plus user review feature"

Amazon: "uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers."

05.24.17 | 3 hours ago

Trump wants to be able to hack your drone

The Trump administration wants federal agencies to be able to track, hack, or even destroy drones that pose a threat to law enforcement and public safety operations, The New York Times reports

A proposed law, if passed by Congress, would let the government take down unmanned aircraft posing a danger to firefighting and search-and-rescue missions, prison operations, or "authorized protection of a person." The government will be required to respect "privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties" when exercising that power, the draft bill says. But records of anti-drone actions would be exempt from public disclosure under freedom of information laws, and people's right to sue over damaged and seized drones would be limited, according to the text of the proposal published by the Times. The administration, which would not comment on the proposal, scheduled a classified briefing on Wednesday for congressional staff members to discuss the issue.

The proposed rules come after repeated reports of drones behaving badly at locations like airports and sporting events, and after a drunk federal employee crashed his drone on White House grounds. ISIS has also been using civilian drones as weapons in Syria and Iraq, and there's no reason to think terrorists wouldn't try similar things in the U.S. (Given those concerns, last month the Pentagon restricted civilian drone flights over military bases.) The new White House proposal could also address the existing upheaval around who, if anyone, regulates hobbyist drones, and would likely be a boon to the growing industry dedicated to hacking drones out of the sky

[Photo: DroneDefender Battelle]

05.24.17 | 4 hours ago

Tesla replaces head of HR amid claims of poor working conditions 

On Tuesday, Tesla announced the hiring of a new head of people, Gaby Toledano. She replaces Arnnon Geshuri, who has been in charge of human resources for the last eight years. The change comes shortly after reports surfaced that Tesla's factory workers are allegedly being put in harm's way to meet production demands.   

[Photo: Flickr user Maurizio Pesce]

05.24.17 | 12:30 pm

You can now book your Cuban vacation on Expedia 

U.S. travelers can now book hotels in Cuba on Expedia, making finding lodgings and paying for them a bit easier, the New York Daily News reportsWhile U.S. travelers can't book flights or vacation packages on Expedia yet, the hotel booking feature is up and running. Options aren't limited to state-approved hotels, either, but include guest rooms, so-called casa particulars, and a few apartments, which could cut into Airbnb's business in Cuba. 

The move comes after President Obama eased Cold War-era travel and trade restrictions with Cuba, making it possible for visa-holding travelers to visit the island nation. The Trump administration, however, is reportedly reviewing the U.S.'s relationship with Cuba. According to the Miami Herald, Trump's Cuba policy review was supposed to be announced by Saturday, but it was postponed as it has not yet been completed and the president is traveling out of the country.

05.24.17 | 12:30 pm

Tourism taking a big hit in the age of Trump 

Donald Trump claims he wants to make the U.S. borders impervious to "bad hombres," but turns out he's making the borders nearly impervious to just regular old tourists, too. A new study by Foursquare reveals that since October 2016, tourism has tumbled in the U.S. by as much as 16%. Foursquare analyzed visits by international tourists to the U.S. and found that the decline in tourism began in October 2016 (aka right before the election). Its decline continued through March 2017, when it dropped all the way to -16%. According to Foursquare, there is no sign of recovery. It's not just Foursquare, either. Earlier, reported that international air searches to the U.S. were down by 12%.

The decline comes in the wake of the Trump administration's crackdown on undocumented immigrants with or without criminal records, deportations of lawful immigrants, laptop bans, and the so-called Muslim ban that was widely denounced and thrown out by the federal courts (twice). Those policies have made tourists from the Middle East and Central and South America think twice about coming to the U.S., because why risk being turned away at the U.S. border when you could rent the entire country of Sweden.

[Photo: Flickr user hjl

05.24.17 | 12:17 pm

DJI’s new Spark drone is made for the masses, with a budget price, and it’s controlled by hand gestures

DJI's new Spark consumer drone promises to make the technology a plaything for even non-techies, with a budget price ($499) and ease of use (you can control just by waving your hand). The company says it's the first drone controllable by hand gestures alone and is made for everyman, even if you've never flown a drone before.

In a glitzy event at New York City's Grand Central Terminal, executives introduced the drone, which weighs just 10.6 ounces (less than a can of soda, they note), is ready to launch within seconds, and comes in five colors: Alpine White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Lava Red, and Sunrise Yellow.

"Spark's revolutionary new interface lets you effortlessly extend your point of view to the air, making it easier than ever to capture and share the world from new perspectives," said Paul Pan, senior product manager at DJI.

In terms of specs, it can achieve speeds up to 31 mph, comes with a camera with 1/2.3" CMOS sensor that captures 12-megapixel photos, shoots stabilized HD 1080p videos, and a 2-axis mechanical gimbal that reduces shake.

05.24.17 | 11:40 am

Taiwan could become the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage

Taiwan's highest court has just paved the way for the country to become the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. In their landmark decision, the court held that Taiwan's current law preventing same-sex couples from marrying was unconstitutional.  

In a press release following the ruling, posted by The Straits Times, the court said that "disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders" constituted a "different treatment" with "no rational basis" and was "incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality." Taiwan's parliament can now choose to either amend the law in the next two years or same-sex marriages can go forward, according to The Straits Times. Marriage equality supporters may not wait that long, though, and will push for new laws to allow same-sex marriage now, which has the support of Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen.

[Photo: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images]

05.24.17 | 11:19 am

Save the Children is making an Amazon Dash-like button for charitable giving

The U.K.-based children's charity—known for its compelling PSAs—is working with agency Iris Nursery on a donation button prototype (a la Amazon Dash) to give young people a more engaging donating experience beyond the passive direct debit model. 

Save the Children's senior innovation manager Sarah Fitzgerald O'Connor told The Drum, "They want to feel they're actively contributing, in real time, in response to world events and this solution gives them that physical, tangible experience."

[Photo: Save The Children]

05.24.17 | 9:45 am

Viome is a new service that analyzes your spit and poop to help you not get sick

Naveen Jain, founder of space startup Moon Express, has big ideas about how to change the future of health care. Rather than improve medicine and hospitals that treat people when they get sick, he wants to better understand why we get sick in the first place. And the answer, it seems, can be found in our gut, which plays host to 100 trillion microbes.

His newest company, Viome, is a service that allows people to do at-home tests that collect data about their gut, then receive personalized recommendations about diet and exercise through an app that will help optimize energy and well-being, while maintaining a healthy weight. The company is led by a team of AI experts, doctors, research scientists.

05.24.17 | 9:32 am

Wikimedia has been cleared to sue the NSA…if they dare

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Wikimedia Foundation has grounds to sue the National Security Agency over its warrantless surveillance tools. Now Wikimedia has to decide whether or not to sue the NSA, which based on extensive viewing of Scandal and House of Cards could be a risky proposition.

They were suing the NSA over their use of the "Upstream" surveillance program, which monitored international internet communications by tapping the internet with the help of companies like AT&T and Verizon. Back in 2015, A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, on the grounds that they hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on them, which was a challenge because much of the Upstream program is considered classified. The appeals court has now ruled that Wikimedia was able to show that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently, according to Slashdot. After that ruling, Wikimedia's case can move forward, if they're up for the challenge. At least the ACLU has their back. 

[Photo: Dmgultekin via Wikimedia Commons

05.24.17 | 9:30 am

Sphero’s Cars 3 Lightning McQueen just made every other toy racing car obsolete

For generations, toy racing cars have stayed essentially the same—they may have added more flashing lights, cooler designs, and faster speeds but were essentially different versions of a hunk of plastic and metal. But the geniuses at Sphero, the company behind the BB-8 Star Wars ball bot and a series of educational tools, just destroyed that paradigm with the Cars 3 Lightning McQueen. "It's the most advanced robotic toy ever," says CEO Paul Berberian—and it's hard to argue with that after seeing the car in action.

Tied to the upcoming Disney movie, the toy brings to life the character with an animatronic mouth (that tells jokes and carries on conversations in the voice of Owen Wilson) and "emotive" suspension that responds to motion and touch. The remote-controlled toy was designed by a team of 40 engineers and designers and sells for $299 in the United States. Believe me, your kid is going to be requesting this for Christmas or their birthday or just about any other day of the year.

05.24.17 | 8:44 am

John Oliver wants you to contact the FCC to support net neutrality again 

John Oliver has made net neutrality his pet project. After dedicating a segment of Last Week Tonight to the FCC's proposed rollbacks of Obama-era safeguards of net neutrality, he directed viewers to the FCC's website to comment in support of an open internet. He then alerted viewers to the fact that he FCC had stopped taking comments and now he wants people to know that it's once again time to head to and tell the FCC you support net neutrality. The FCC is accepting comments until August 16 and will make a final decision some time after that.

Hopefully the FCC's website will be able to withstand the flow of comments this time. Previously it claimed its website was shut down from a DDoS attack or perhaps spambots, which some people doubt. Ars Technica has a good breakdown of the arguments.

05.24.17 | 8:35 am

The Fashion Tech Forum goes to L.A., America’s new fashion capital

The Fashion Tech Forum is an annual gathering of business leaders to discuss the future of the fashion industry. In the past, it's been held in New York, but in a telling move, the event is being held in L.A. this year on October 6th.

Fashion startups like Buck Mason and Reformation have been increasingly making L.A. their home, and the garment district in L.A. is a thriving hub of American clothing manufacturing. Future-thinking designers like Rebecca Minkoff and Tommy Hilfiger have also eschewed New York Fashion Week in favor of alternative events in L.A.