Updates from April, 2019 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Sentencing date set for former Backpage exec 

    Sentencing date set for former Backpage exec

    Backpage founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey

    We’ve previously discussed former Backpage executive Dan Hyer here. Back in August if last year, Hyer pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to facilitate prostitution. At the time it was reported that Hyer’s plea deal could see him be fined $250,000 and a possible jail sentence of five years. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors would drop fifty charges of facilitating prostitution and 17 money laundering charges.

    Hyer was originally supposed to be sentenced last November but the wheels of justice can move slowly. Hyer’s sentencing date has now been scheduled for July 29th of this year. Hyer was among many who were initially indicted last year but so far was the only one indicted to plead guilty. Backpage co-founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey are set to go to trial next year. While not named on the indictment, former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has also pleaded guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering and is expected to testify against other Backpage executives. Ferrer is looking at a maximum of five years in prison and forfeiture of his corporate assets. Ferrer’s sentencing has also been scheduled for July.

    Meanwhile, Backpage founders Lacey and Larkin are continuing to defend Backpage’s role in human trafficking as free speech. Previously, they have portrayed themselves as freedom fighters and political prisoners without any hint of irony. It’s hard to argue that they fight for freedom when so many of Backpage’s alleged victims had their freedoms violently restricted while Backpage earned close to half a billion dollars in prostitution-related revenue.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Craigslist to start charging $5 for cars, Kids in Ubers and Lyfts, and no trafficking in Robert Kraft case 

    Craigslist to start charging $5 for cars, Kids in Ubers and Lyfts, and no trafficking in Robert Kraft case

    What a $5 car may look like

    As of today, craigslist will start charging $5 for car listings. So as of tax day if you’re selling your car on craigslist it will cost you a fiver. While craigslist has not publicly stated the reason for the change, many speculate that the move will cut down on scam listings. It will be interesting to see if craigslist users will balk at the new fee and if scammers will be willing to pay the fee. Not to mention that it’s almost ironic that craigslist is now starting to act like so many newspaper classifieds that they helped close down.

    ***

    KATU in Portland, Oregon is reporting on a new safety concern when it comes to using ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber. Their investigation found that many minors are using the ridesharing services even though their terms of service require a passenger to be at least 18. Some drivers will refuse the fare if they know the passenger is under 18, however, there are many drivers who either don’t know the rules or don’t care. According to KATU, some parents are even ok with their older kids using an Uber or Lyft. If you’re a parent, would you be ok with letting your kid use an Uber or Lyft alone?

    ***

    Lastly for today, it was recently reported that the investigation that allegedly caught New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft using a massage parlor did not find any evidence of human trafficking. Critics have dismissed this investigation as a witch hunt of sorts and that police were just looking to arrest workers and johns. However, in many cases, those being trafficked are unwilling to testify against their traffickers due to fears of reprisal or threats of violence against their families. To refer to human trafficking as an overblown problem is to dismiss the safety and welfare of all those being trafficked against their will who are treated as slaves.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Amazon fighting porch pirates, Amazon Go to accept cash, and Amazon taunting Walmart 

    Amazon fighting porch pirates, Amazon Go to accept cash, and Amazon taunting Walmart

    Previously, when we’ve discussed packages being stolen from your porch or property we’ve been told to notify the police but in the long run, there’s not much they can do about the thefts. That is unless Amazon themselves get involved. According to Motherboard, Amazon worked with a number of police departments during last years holiday season in order to combat those who have been dubbed ‘porch pirates’. While these Amazon assisted sting operations didn’t take place in major cities like New York or Los Angeles, they did take place in fairly prominent urban areas such as Albuquerque and Jersey City. However, Motherboard was unable to uncover how many arrests actually took place during these sting operations.

    ***

    If you’ll recall, Amazon Go was supposed to be a completely cashierless store. Customers were supposed to just walk into the store, grab what they needed and have their purchases billed to their Amazon accounts through their smartphones. No cash was ever supposed to change hands. But as the saying goes the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Many state and local governments have come out in opposition to cashless stores as they feel it further disenfranchises low-income families who may not have access to a bank account. New Jersey and Philadelphia recently outlawed cashless stores and San Francisco may be doing the same. More recently, it’s been reported that Amazon Go stores in certain locations will, in fact, accept cash for transactions. In these markets will cash transactions reduce Amazon Go to just another convenience store or will they still mostly attract those who would prefer to pay without cash?

    ***

    Lastly today, it seems the country’s two largest retail giants, Amazon and Walmart, have engaged in an almost schoolyard-like exchange of dares. It started out with Jeff Bezos publicly challenging WalMart to give their workers a better starting salary.

    “Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage,” Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders.

    “Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”

    WalMart has long been criticized for underpaying their employees but they didn’t take this lying down.

    On Thursday, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, tagged Bezos in a tweet which said: “Hey retail competitors out there (you know who you are 😉) how about paying your taxes?”

    This was in reference to the fact that Amazon has been accused of structuring their company in such a way and getting significant tax breaks that they pay little to no federal corporate income tax.

    Meanwhile, both companies have been long criticized for allegedly treating their most hard-working employees down in the trenches unfairly. Both corporations have been accused in the past of abusing their low ranking employees by creating a climate of inadequate pay and benefits combined with a climate of fear where employees are afraid to make any concern known without losing their jobs.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Canberra, climate change, , drones, Nipsey Hussle, , , Wing   

    Australian drones, craigslist funeral scalpers, and Amazon employees on climate change 

    Australian drones, craigslist funeral scalpers, and Amazon employees on climate change

    In the Australian capital of Canberra, a fleet of commercial delivery drones has officially been launched for service. The drones are owned by Wing, a subsidiary of Goole’s parent company Alphabet. The drones were tested in the area for a year before officially launching. At first many in the areas surrounding Canberra complained about the noise the drones made, however, the new fleet of drones are said to be quieter. That doesn’t mean that there have been safety restrictions applied to the drones’ usage. The drones can only fly during the day starting at 8am and are forbidden from flying over busy roads and crowds. So far, the drones have been only making small deliveries such as coffee and takeout orders. Are we one step closer to drone delivery becoming an everyday occurrence, or will they be more of a nuisance if deployed on a larger scale? Only time will tell.

    ***

    If you follow entertainment news at all, you may have heard about the unfortunate murder of L.A. based rapper Nipsey Hussle. He was gunned down outside of his own clothing shop in L.A. towards the end of March. The rapper was so beloved that there will be a memorial service for him at the Staple’s Center arena. The tickets to his memorial were given out free on a first come first serve basis. That hasn’t stopped scalpers from trying to sell the free tickets on craigslist for upwards of $500 a piece. Craigslist themselves have removed the ads scalping the tickets to the memorial. While we applaud craigslist for the move we have to wonder why craigslist doesn’t use this power more often when it comes to other questionable items for sale on their platform. If you did happen to buy a ticket to the memorial service on craigslist you may be out of luck. The tickets’ distributor says that the tickets are being distributed through a mobile app and are non-transferrable.

    ***

    A group of Amazon employees that number in the thousands have called on the retail giant to do better when it comes to affecting climate change in Amazon’s daily business. While Amazon has promised to “reach 50 percent of all Amazon shipments with net zero carbon by 2030” some Amazon employees say that’s not enough. 4,520 Amazon employees have signed an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking for better environmental protections during Amazon’s daily proceedings. If you scroll through the names of the signatories of the letter you might notice that the majority of them are technical engineers and managers and not many warehouse workers. Amazon has been widely criticized in recent times for their alleged mistreatment of workers in their distribution centers. One has to wonder where the open letter is for that.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    YouTube’s livestream of hate speech hearings was flooded by hate speech 

    YouTube's livestream of hate speech hearings was flooded by hate speech

    In the wake of the deadly mass shooting that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand by an alleged white nationalist, the US House Judiciary Committee held a hearing about hat speech online. If you’ll recall the gunman in the Christchurch shooting that left 50 victims dead not only livestreamed his attack on Facebook but also posted a hate-filled manifesto online. Facebook and Google were called before the committee to address what steps they were taking to combat the problem. Both Facebook and Google defended the practices they use in order to prevent online hate. However, Google, who owns YouTube, may have spoken too soon.

    The hearing was being livestreamed on YouTube and about 30 minutes into the livesstream many YouTube users were leaving racist and anti-Semitic comments in the stream’s live chat and comment section. At that point, YouTube shut down the chat and closed the comments section but by then the damage had already been done. Committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, was handed a sampling of the hateful comments and read them aloud during the hearing. “This just illustrates part of the problem we’re dealing with,” Nadler said.

    Unfortunately, just because YouTube clamped down on one livestream doesn’t mean the hate speech went away. Instead, they just relocated to other livestreams of the hearing. At least one recognized hate group ran their own livestream of the hearing and even raised money for themselves through YouTube’s own platform. Because of social media, there hasn’t been a surge in hate groups like this since the days of the civil rights movement. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are over 1,000 organized hate groups in the US alone. Violence committed by some of these groups has also been on a sharp rise in the past few years as well.

    What remains to be seen is if these social media platforms can actually develop effective safeguards to screen for hate speech or will it just remain business as usual? Hate speech has been a problem since the early days of the internet and no major platform has been able to tackle it convincingly.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FDA, glucose meters, hate groups, , , , test strips, , video doorbells   

    FDA warns about test strips, video doorbells being stolen, and Airbnb to ban hate groups 

    FDA warns about test strips, video doorbells being stolen, and Airbnb to ban hate groups

    If you happen to have a condition where the use of glucose meters and test strips are required, the FDA has issued a warning about using pre-owned test strips that you may find for sale online. While there has not been a report of these strips impacting anybody’s health negatively yet, the FDA warns against the practice of purchasing pre-owned strips as they could potentially give out incorrect readings which could lead to imbalances in the delicate measurement of medicine required to aid in keeping your condition under control. While it may seem like a way to save money, the FDA is also saying that some of these strips have been banned from the US as they’ve been known to cause infections. The mixing and matching of meters and test strips is something the FDA has been trying to discourage for years.

    If you have a video doorbell designed to keep thieves away from your front door, you may be facing a new issue lately. it’s now being reported that a rash of video doorbell thefts have been occurring in many major population centers across the US. Even though the higher-end doorbells have been recording the thefts, there haven’t been an equal amount of arrests. This is due to the fact that either police do not have the resources to track down every doorbell thief or that the thieves are disguising themselves before stealing the items. As can be expected with most stolen items, they can end up for sale online. Both of the major manufacturers of these types of doorbells, Ring and Nest, both have programs to assist customers whose devices have been stolen. However, it is always recommended that you contact the police first.

    Gizmodo is reporting that Airbnb is actively trying to dissuade and in some cases outright banning hate groups from using their service. A convention being held by hate groups as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center later this year. Gizmodo brought it to the attention of Airbnb that many attendees of the convention had planned to use Airbnb while participating at the convention. Airbnb has said that these hate groups violate their community standards and will look to enforce that policy and have already banned several well-known members of these groups. How Airbnb will choose to keep these groups from using their services in the future remains to be seen.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: car wash, Colorado Rockies, , , , , , ,   

    Fake cash in a safe zone, phony opening day tickets, and an app to report human trafficking 

    Fake cash in a safe zone, phony opening day tickets, and an app to report human trafficking

    When dealing with classifieds transactions, we often recommend using safe zones at local police stations. While safe zones go a long way in helping to ensure your safety, you can still be ripped off if you’re not careful. In Pennsylvania, a pair of suspects were said to have paid $500 in ‘Motion Picture Money’ for a PlayStation 4 at a local police station’s safe zone during an OfferUp transaction. While police were able to apprehend the suspects quite easily, this does show that you should be on your guard at all times even when using specially designated safe zones.

    Meanwhile, in Colorado, a couple found themselves out of $300 after trying to purchase opening day tickets for the Colorado Rockies. They had set up a ticket purchase through craigslist and had met the seller in the parking lot of Coors Field on opening day. The couple even took a picture of the man selling the tickets and his driver license in hopes that this would dissuade the man from selling them fake tickets. Unfortunately, it didn’t as the couple were turned away from the gate for the tickets being invalid. The tickets themselves appeared to be legitimate but what scammers do in many cases is they buy the tickets using stolen credit cards. Once the cards are reported stolen the tickets are canceled but the scammer already has physical tickets that were valid at one time. This particular scammer reportedly even taunted his victims after they tried to contact the seller over the phony tickets.

    Lastly, in the UK, an app has been developed to report possible human trafficking at car washes. The app was developed by an anti-slavery arm of the Church of England and shows users a checklist of signs of human trafficking at hands only car washes. A number of the victims at UK car washes turn out to be people displaced by immigration issues, mental health issues, or being in abusive situations. The app refers any possible sightings of trafficking to the UK’s National Crime Agency who decide if it warrants an investigation. While apps like this have been attempted in the US many don’t show the user how to recognize the signs of trafficking. An app like this designed by the FBI and suggested to the industries where human trafficking mostly takes place could be a boon in the fight against all forms of human trafficking. In the meantime, if you or someone you know could be caught up in trafficking you can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 or at their website.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Samantha Josephson,   

    Ridesharing safety at the forefront after murder of college student 

    Ride sharing safety at the forefront after murder of college student

    The safety of ridesharing users, especially women, has been a topic of concern lately after a University of South Carolina student was murdered by a man allegedly posing as her Uber driver. Last weekend 21-year-old Samantha Josephson got into a car that she thought was her Uber. Instead, the man who picked her up had no affiliation with Uber and is accused of stabbing her to death and leaving her body in a wooded area. While the tragedy that befell Ms. Josephson may be the most high-profile incident of assailants posing as Uber drivers it is unfortunately far from the first.

    The New York Times has collected a number of incidents that happened to female passengers who thought they were getting into Ubers or Lyfts before being assaulted by the driver. In some instances, their attackers had the sticker in their car windows in order to make it appear as if the attacker was a legitimate driver. These phony rideshare drivers tend to lurk around places where most rideshare services are requested such as bars and hotels. At one point in 2017, Uber even had to issue a statement warning customers about people posing as their drivers.

    If you’ve never used one of these services before you download the app of whichever service you want to use. The service requires you to upload a picture of yourself so the driver can recognize you and also for their safety. Conversely, the passenger will receive a profile of their driver that includes their name, what make and model of car they’re driving, their picture, and their license plate number. When your service arrives, make sure the driver tells you who they’re supposed to pick up and if they don’t know your name that’s a red flag not to get into the car. It’s also recommended that you message someone trusted that you’re about to get into an Uber or Lyft. Above all else, if you ever feel unsafe for any reason ask your driver to stop and if they won’t don’t hesitate to call 911.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Officer Daniel Webster   

    Another police death linked to Armslist 

    Another police death linked to Armslist

    Previously, when we’ve discussed Armslist, better known as the craigslist of guns, we’ve talked about two different police shootings. One happened in Boston that left the officer with considerable medical issues, and the other one that happened in Chicago resulted in the death of a police commander. Now the controversial online firearms marketplace is back in the news linked again to the death of another police officer. The controversy surrounding Armslist is that the guns sold through their platform fall under a loophole in the law that doesn’t require any kind of background check between a private seller and a buyer. In too many cases, not even an ID is asked for. This loophole is known as the gun show loophole since it first allowed private sellers at gun shows to sell their firearms without having to conduct a background check.

    An unfortunate incident occurred in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2015 when Police Officer Daniel Webster was shot by an assailant who had purchased the murder weapon through Armslist illegally. During the trial, the seller of the gun testified that the gun in question was supposed to be recalled since it had a problem of occasionally firing when dropped. Instead of turning the gun in the seller decided to make some money instead. He sold it to a man who contacted the seller through Armslist. The sale took place in a restaurant parking lot and the buyer claimed he had no ID on him. An ID is supposed to be required to sell a gun privately in order to trace the gun if needed. Instead, the seller allowed the buyer to just write any name down on a bill of sale. The accused gunman used an alias on the bill of sale and walked away with the firearm. The gunman was also a previously convicted felon who was banned by law from owning a gun.

    Armslist doesn’t help matters when they use what we call the ‘Backpage defense’. Armslist contends that they’re well within their First Amendment rights to facilitate the sale of guns between private citizens and also try hiding behind the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Much like Backpage tried to defend their profiting off of human trafficking as free speech. While Armslist doesn’t physically sell firearms to people, they do very little to discourage the illegal sale of firearms outside of making users click on a button that says they’re over 18 and they’re legally able to purchase a gun. That’s not exactly what should be called reasonable steps to help prevent illegal gun sales. That seems to be enough for Armslist through as they continue to make money off of the blood of shooting victims which includes fallen police officers.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Illegal ivory trade online in America 

    Illegal ivory trade online in America

    When most people hear about the illegal ivory trade they usually think of it taking place in remote destinations overseas, far from the coasts of America. What if we told you that the Pacific Northwest was home to such activity? While endangered animals are not being killed in places like Seattle or Portland, the products of these illegal killings are being sold in the Northwest. While it may not be the largest market for illegal animal product sales the states felt that it was enough of a problem that a law was passed in both Washington and Oregon that outlawed the trade or sale of products made from certain endangered animals, such as elephants, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, and rhinos. Both states passed the laws after voters backed the measures in overwhelming margins.

    With the Northwest being a gateway to countries where these items are sought they are often brought into the country here such as furs, boots, skin cream, and even elephant tusks. Recently, two Washington men were the first to be charged under the new law for allegedly selling ivory. One man was charged after caught trying to sell carved ivory on eBay. While eBay forbids the sale of ivory, traders use code words to try to disguise the fact that the item is illegal.

    The second man was allegedly selling ivory on craigslist which makes us wonder if those ads were disguised at all, knowing craigslist’s reputation. The man was said to be in possession of close to 2,000 different ivory items at the time of the initial investigation. While neither suspect has been jailed, they’re both facing a potential five years in prison, a $10,000 fine and a $4,000 criminal wildlife penalty paid to the state.

    If you live in Washington and you happen to be in possession of a piece of ivory that was obtained before the 2014 ban you can give them to state law enforcement where they’ll be used in education programs to combat wildlife trafficking.

     
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