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10.09.16 | 10:33 pm

Who is Sidney Blumenthal, the Clinton ally whom Trump keeps bringing up?

Sidney Blumenthal is like the Zelig of the presidential debates. In the first debate on September 26, Trump mentioned Blumenthal's name three times, and was actually scolded by moderator Lester Holt for avoiding a question about racial healing with a reference to Blumenthal. And during tonight's debate, Trump brought up Blumenthal again, claiming that he had been the one responsible for sending pictures of then-candidate Obama dressed in Muslim garb, raising questions about his place of birth.

So just who is Blumenthal? He is a journalist and former Bill Clinton campaign aide who still advises Hillary Clinton. During the impeachment saga in 1998, he was called to the grand jury by independent counsel Kenneth Starr to testify on what Bill Clinton had told him about Monica Lewinsky. He helped Hillary during her 2008 presidential campaign but due to his role in spreading negative stories about Obama in the primary, he was barred from working at the State Department when she became Secretary of State. Though he was in private practice, she did rely on his counsel. Of the thousands of emails recently released by the State Department, there are hundreds of messages from him to the candidate, many of which she forwarded to her aides. 

04.26.17 | an hour ago

IBM patents ability to transfer packages between drones

Big Blue thinks one of the sticking points for companies interested in drone delivery is the limited distance over which packages can be sent. Its solution? Develop technology that makes it possible to hand off packages from one drone to another.

Today, IBM announced a patent for technology that achieves just that. The idea, of course, is that with a series of drones ready to go when needed, packages could make their way through the skies, from a distribution center to their destination, traveling much further than is possible with a single drone. As for when this will manifest, the company isn't yet saying.

04.26.17 | an hour ago

Juno is terminating its stock program for drivers

Today, Gett confirmed that it is acquiring Juno for $200 million. In a letter to Juno drivers announcing the deal, Gett said it would be suspending the restricted stock units program and replacing it with cash bonuses. One Juno's early differentiators was that it offered drivers shares of the company based on the number of hours they worked. Half of the company's founding shares were reserved for drivers, so that even as the company eventually embraced automation, drivers would be taken care of. According to an email Juno sent to its drivers today, they're now only eligible to collect $100.   

Independent Drivers Guild isn't happy about it. In response, the group released the following statement: 

"Given the actions of driving apps to date, it comes as little surprise that Juno is cashing out, leaving the drivers who helped build the company with next to nothing. This latest bait-and-switch underscores the need for industry-wide protections to ensure a living wage for drivers in the face of deceptive tactics, empty promises and manipulation from ride-hail apps."

04.26.17 | an hour ago

FCC chair Pai proposes plan to reverse 2015 net neutrality ruling

Ajit Pai today introduced a proposed plan to roll back an Obama era ruling that broadband service be regulated like a public utility. The new ruling will be opened for public comment and voted on next month by the FCC commissioners. Pai decided not to immediately reverse the 2015 ruling: "This is not a declaratory ruling," Pai said. "This decision should be made in an open process."

The proposal suggests regulating broadband as a Title 1 information service, as it was before the FCC's 2015 ruling. It would also revoke the FCC's new power to impose an "internet conduct standard," which Pai says allowed the commission ad hoc authority to investigate things like zero-rating. Pai adds that unlike the 2015 proposal, the new proposal will be released in full to the public (tomorrow, actually), well before an FCC vote.

Pai says the result of all this will be greater availability of internet service to poor and rural communities, more jobs for building out new broadband infrastructure, and a better path toward protecting the privacy of web users. 

04.26.17 | 2 hours ago

Alphabet Earnings preview: How did YouTube TV, Pixel, Daydream, and AI do in Q1?

Tomorrow, Google parent Alphabet announces its first-quarter earnings, which are expected to be quite good. Analysts are predicting the tech giant to report earnings of $7.40 per share on revenues of $24.19 billion

Here's what we're looking for tomorrow: It would be great if Google CEO Sundar Pichai gives us any insight (as in, subscriber numbers) into how its brand-new YouTube TV service has done since launch, although it may be too soon for that, given that it only launched at the beginning of the month. We'd also like to hear more about how Google's Pixel phone has been selling, how its Home service has been doing, and any further thoughts on how the company plans on making money from its many artificial intelligence efforts. Further, are there any signs that Alphabet's Other Bets initiatives (among them, Nest, Waymo, and Verily) are producing more than just rounding-error revenues?

[Photo: SEASTOCK/iStock]

04.26.17 | 2 hours ago

Report: Chinese ride-hailing company Didi is raising $5 billion

Not quite a year after acquiring Uber's China business, ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing is said to be raising between $5 billion and $6 billion in funding. The new round will help the company expand and brings its valuation to $50 billion, according to Bloomberg. Didi has grown rapidly since merging with competitor Kuadi Dache in 2015, extending its reach through partnerships with local ride-hailing providers in foreign markets. Now it's poised to not only put money behind market growth, but new technologies—like those being tested in its recently launched Mountain View lab. Read more here

04.26.17 | 3 hours ago

$3 billion has been pledged to Kickstarter projects

One of cool things about Kickstarter is the way it lets anyone help out a creative project with a minor investment of money. In fact, the most common pledge is just $25. But those small signs of support add up: The company is announcing that a total of $3 billion has been pledged over its eight-year history.

Of that figure, $2.68 billion in pledges were made to projects that met their campaign goal, which means that the creators got the dough. Another $338 million was for campaigns that fell short and weren't funded. And a third of the $3 billion was for campaigns launched by repeat creators—a sign that the site is having an ongoing impact on the way inventive types turn their ideas into reality.

04.26.17 | 4 hours ago

Muji wants to sell you a tiny house to fill with Muji products

The Muji Hut is a minimalist's dream, at least until it's filled to the brim with all those adorable Muji products. The Japanese retailer has just unveiled the diminutive house, which clocks in at less than 100 square feet (or roughly the same size as one of their body fit cushions). The Muji Hut is priced at ¥ 3,000,000 (USD $27,000) and, sadly, will only be for sale in Japan.

The very tiny house features sliding glass windows, plywood interiors, a corrugated roof, and a "Shou Sugi Ban" wood exterior, sourced from Japan. It does not have plumbing, heating, or exhaust, though, so plan accordingly (as in, put it next to a real house that has all of those things). As Core 77 points out, the Muji Hut does not include plans for electricity, despite the fact that a (Muji) lamp is featured in the photos. Ponder that mystery as you sit in your minimalist and chic tiny hut in the backyard. 

[Photo: Muji]

04.26.17 | 4 hours ago

Amazon’s Echo Look is a smart selfie cam for deciding what to wear

Amazon has a new Echo device on the way, and this time it has a camera. The $199 Echo Look sits on a table or dresser, and can snap photos and videos with Alexa voice controls. Results then appear in a companion app, where users can check themselves out and share photos. The app also taps fashion experts and algorithms to help users choose between outfits, and provides recommendations on more clothing to buy. For now, the Echo Look is available to Amazon Prime customers by invitation only.

Online clothing sales have been booming in recent years, and became the top online shopping category in late 2015, according to ComScore. The Echo Look could motivate users to build their wardrobes through Amazon, while potentially spreading Amazon's Alexa assistant to more rooms of the house. Amazon isn't the only company building algorithms to help you pick out your next outfit: fashion's quickly becoming an emerging focus in artificial intelligence.

[Photo: Amazon]

04.26.17 | 11:41 am

J.Crew’s longtime head of menswear is out, amid widespread cuts

Frank Muytjens, who has been the head of J.Crew's menswear design since 2008, is leaving the company amid 250 job cuts, Business of Fashion reports. He's had a central role in shaping the look of the men's collections, helping to mainstream pieces like heavy boots and lumberjack shirts in urban environments. He also made the slimmer suit fashionable with the popular Ludlow line. 

Three weeks ago, it was announced that Jenna Lyons, the company's president and creative director, would also be leaving. Somsack Sikhounmuong was named the chief design officer and will be overseeing men's, women's, and children's. 

[Photo: Wendell Teodoro / Contributor/Getty Images]

04.26.17 | 10:51 am

Uber just updated its rating system to make nice with drivers

Uber today announced changes to the way customers can rate drivers. Those who ride with UberPool now have more ways of describing what went wrong—because a bad experience is very often not the driver's fault. Poor route, bad co-rider behavior, and problems with navigation, in addition to inadequate driving, are among the descriptors riders can choose to rate their ride.

Another big update: The app will now show riders how drivers are rating them. Average ratings will appear below each profile name. The change follows the release of a video showing CEO Travis Kalanick berating a driver. Uber has been accused of paying drivers too little and selling them on exploitative car lease terms, among other complaints. Now it seems it's keen to keep drivers happy—or at least try to—so they don't defect to other services. 

[Image: Uber]  

04.26.17 | 10:48 am

This white-collar crime map will have you clutching your 401ks a little tighter when you see a finance guy on the street

White-collar crime doesn't get much attention in the USA (although, ironically, it gets quite a bit of attention on the USA Network). Back in 2015, researchers at Syracuse University found that American prosecutions of financial and other white-collar crimes were at their lowest levels in 20 years. As The Atlantic points out, only one banker went to jail after tanking the economy during the 2008 financial crisis. Aside from Bernie Madoff, it's hard to even name another white-collar criminal. 

This stands in stark contrast to criminal prosecutions in the U.S., particularly prosecutions of poor people of color, which have resulted in what the Washington Post calls the highest incarceration rate in the world. 

To help balance the scales of justice,  The New Inquiry has written a white paper on predicting financial crimes and made an interactive map of "White Collar Crime Risk Zones" available online or in an app. Simply enter your zip code and you'll find out about potential white-collar criminals lurking in dark alleys around your neighborhood hoping to lure your children into credit default swaps or breaches of fiduciary duty. While the map could use a little more Matt Bomer, it raises important questions about law and justice.

[Photo: New Inquiry]

04.26.17 | 10:41 am

Now you can order room service and work out on a Peloton bike all at the same time

Indoor cycling startup Peloton said today it has reached a deal with Marriott-owned Westin Hotels & Resorts to bring its high-tech interactive bikes directly to guest rooms. The deal is part of a larger push by the five-year-old company to expand into the out-of-home market, something I wrote about earlier this year. Peloton, whose bikes let users pedal along at home to high-intensity workouts, launched a commercial-grade version of its cycle meant for hotels, gyms, and anywhere people work out. With the Westin partnership, customers will have access to the bikes at select Westin fitness studios and guest rooms throughout the United States. You can see a list of participating Westin locations here.

[Photo: Peloton]