Uber/Lyft Strong Arm Austin by Straight-Up Leaving after Passing of Proposition 1

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The Guardian– Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft are suspending operations in Austin, Texas, after the city’s voters rejected a proposal that would have allowed the companies to self-regulate their drivers.

Instead, the voters upheld stricter regulations that the city council passed in December: ride-sharing drivers are required to pass fingerprint-based background checks, clearly mark their cars with the ride-sharing company’s logo, and not pick up or drop off their passengers in certain lanes of the city’s streets.

Uber and Lyft wanted those regulations to be repealed, and if Proposition 1, which went to the polls on Saturday, had passed, they would have had their way. Instead, despite combined spending of nearly $9m against opposition of just over $100,000, voters rejected the proposition 56–44.

Huge news out of Austin, Texas this morning as Uber and Lyft have declared they are suspending all of their operations in the popular city. This measure comes after local voter’s rejected a Proposition that would have let the companies better regulate their own drivers. By now, almost everyone understands how popular and useful these companies are, providing safe rides to millions of riders across the country and world. Recently, as Uber and Lyft have moved to expanding their positions throughout the US, they have been moving to gain more regulatory power over their own operations. To the dismay of taxi corporations throughout these cities, the ride-sharing companies have successfully been able to negotiate many rights in these areas. This has taken away business from many of these taxi services that have profited from slow service, unsafe conditions, and high charges along with questionably racist practices in pickup selection.

Local pollsters (lets face it, probably an average age of 55 here) went out to the voting booths this weekend and upheld the council regulations passed in December, which call ed for fingerprint-based background checks, better designations of Uber and Lyft cars, and the limitations on pickup within city lanes. Without question, this would take away some of the power that these companies have shown to have over the big cities. If these companies say they are going to leave if government officials begin to regulate them, they need to follow through or they will lose out on their main bargaining chip. It seemed to work out last year in New York City at least, where Uber was able to fend off Mayor de Blasio’s attempts on capping the amount of Uber’s in the city limits.

At the end of the day, Uber and Lyft have proven that they will follow through on their pledges to stay under their own regulations. Of course, we all love the services the companies provide, but all of these drivers are still “taxi” drivers. Who is to say that these drivers should not be held to the same standards that every other driver in the city and in the US is subject to. We seem to put a ton of faith into Uber and Lyft to background check and screen their employees, yet we seem to not trust taxi services where the drivers are even more strictly screened. The City of Austin offered to even pay for the fingerprint testing for the drivers, which seemed to be the most contentious point for the companies. Regardless, there probably needs to be some sort of compromise between the cities and Uber/Lyft before we see a mass exit from cities across the US. For now, the companies are most likely paving the way for the complete removal of all drivers in favor of autonomous vehicles, which will keep profits in the hands of the companies and truly revolutionize the industry.

-KJ

New Apple Campus 2 Footage

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FortuneIt’s that time again: a look at how Apple Campus 2 is coming along.

Matthew Roberts, one of a few drone owners who has uploaded videos to YouTube each month showing the progress Apple AAPL 1.64% is making on its new headquarters, has published his latest May update. The drone flyover depicts a campus that is still far from complete, but it appears to be making progress quite rapidly.

In the flyover, the reel pictures construction workers hard at work, putting in the frames and solar panels that will ultimately power the facility. In addition, the last curve of the round Apple Campus 2 is being constructed to complete the circle. Glass and canopies are being mounted on both sides of the main building, and a “mountain of dirt” is now standing alongside the campus that’s about as tall as the new headquarters itself.

Each month, Roberts, along with another videographer, Duncan Sinfeld, have been flying their drones over Apple’s “spaceship” headquarters to showcase what’s been done to this point. Both videographers use unmanned aerial vehicles with high-quality lenses to snap videos and stills of the construction’s progress.

This guy Matthew Roberts has been flying his drone over the new Apple Campus 2 construction and so far has been providing some cool sights. Without question, this new campus will be one of the slickest buildings in Silicon Valley, and the entire tech industry for that manner. I worked with the original general contractor for this job, and I can say without a doubt that the building will be tremendous when complete.

My big question is, how do they let this drone just fly freely around the site? Apple has been know throughout its time as one of the most secretive organizations, yet this dude is allowed to openly fly his drone around the site and spy on all of the construction? I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if we no longer hear from Mr. Roberts in the coming months. Apple doesn’t fuck around with these kinds of things, and I don’t think they will enjoy having their campus spoiled for the entire world to see. What I can see them enjoying is the 100% renewable energy production, 1000+ bikes on site, 70 million dollar wellness center, and 60,000 square foot cafeteria. Meanwhile, I’m over here worrying about what if I have enough money to buy pizza for dinner (Shocking, I know).

-KJ

 

Carl Icahn Sells his Entire Stake in $APPL, Is it the Next Nokia?

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The Guardian– Carl Icahn, the billionaire activist investor who has long been one of the most prominent voices declaring the company to be undervalued, says he has sold his entire stake in the technology firm, citing the risk of China’s influence on the stock.

After years of high growth, reaching triple-digit percentage points in 2015, Apple now sells more in China than it does in the whole of Europe. But sales in the country are now shrinking, with revenue dropping 26% year-on-year in the company’s latest quarterly earnings. Icahn’s concerns aren’t related to the China slowdown, however. Instead, the investor is concerned with the barriers to trade that China’s authoritarian regime might put in place.

“You can’t go into that business unless you’re like Samsung which is really like a country backing it,” Icahn told US cable television network CNBC. “A lot of people tried, a lot of people failed … In China, for instance, they will come in and make it very difficult for Apple to sell there. They could theoretically, you know … They’re basically in some senses I would say, perhaps benevolent but a benevolent dictatorship. I don’t know if benevolent is the right word.”

For those that do not know, Apple released their Q1 earnings report this past week. Analysts had been warning that this quarter would be the one where Apple finally falls from its insane climb, and the earnings seemed to match this sentiment. This is the first quarter in 13 years that Apple has recorded a YOY negative growth, in part because of declining sales for their iPhone line and troubling outlooks for their new Apple Watch line. The Guardian reported today that Carl Icahn, a mega-investor worth over $23B, has pulled out his entire $APPL position over scares of Chinese influence over the stock.

This is big news for APPL investors because when Carl Icahn pulls out of an investment, you pull out of an investment. It will become increasingly difficult for Apple to gain more traction in China, one of their biggest potential market growth areas. Fear of government regulations combined with declining interest of Apple products in favor of cheaper and more “fashion-friendly” phones have begun to gain market share. All technology shares seem to follow the Nokia bell curve of dominance, where they slowly rise to an insane market growth and maintain for a few years, only to then quickly fall out of grace. Although Apple has become synonymous with the cell phone and computer industry, do not think for a second that they can maintain this growth forever. Sales dropping over 26% on the quarter is a big signal that $APPL can no longer just put out another marginally-changed product and rake in billions. Without another huge innovation on Apple’s part, perhaps into the VR world, Apple may fall from its spot as world’s top tech stock. All I know is that I don’t think I have ever pulled out of something as fast as I have $APPL (Cromartie could learn a thing or two here).

-KJ

 

SpaceX to Send an Unmanned Spacecraft to Mars as Early as 2018, Breaking the Monopoly of Big Name Defense Contractors on the Industry

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The Verge– SpaceX plans to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, the company announced today — marking a major first step toward CEO Elon Musk’s goal of sending humans to the Red Planet. The company didn’t say how many spacecraft it will send, but hinted it would conduct a series of these Dragon missions and that it would release more details soon. In a tweet, the company indicated that the capsules would fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a bigger version of its Falcon 9; the rocket will launch the capsules to the planet to test out how to land heavy payloads on Mars. If successful, the endeavor would make SpaceX the first private spaceflight company to land a vehicle on another planet.

SpaceX is sending what it calls the Red Dragon, a modified version of the spacecraft that the company uses to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. The Red Dragon is equipped with eight SuperDraco engines that allow the capsule to land on solid ground, a technique known as a propulsive landing. The engines are meant to turn on during the Dragon’s descent toward the Martian surface, slowing down the vehicle’s fall and allowing it to land on ground in a controlled way. It’s similar to how SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets post-launch.

Big news out of the space industry today as Elon Musk and his SpaceX team has announced plans to send their new Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. For those of you that are unaware (assuming the majority of people here), Elon Musk has been hard at work not only on his new Tesla Model 3 but also on a spacecraft that can eventually help transmit humans to Mars. Today marks a step closer to a Mars human colony as the SpaceX team will now be working on landing heavy equipment and modules on the planet. If SpaceX can figure out how to land their equipment through the Mars atmosphere which happens to be almost 1/100 of the pressure of Earth’s, it will be a major success for the industry and will be the largest thing to ever land on the surface of the red planet.

This step will prove significant in getting people to Mars because it will allow for equipment and supplies to be present before the humans arrive. Having these things in place before arrival will prove crucial to the success of the program. Although NASA is also working on an initiative to send people the Mars, the program is not privately funded like SpaceX is and will not even be sending a rocket to Mars until at least 2020. Knowing NASA’s history of timelines (poor at best), this shows how advanced SpaceX is compared to the rest of the industry.

The fact that a man like Elon Musk can come in and break up the government contract monopoly that mega-corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing had on the industry speaks volumes to how powerful his technology is. Only time will tell how successful the program will be, but judging by the recent successes of SpaceX in landing their rocket on a barge for reuse, this launch may just prove to be a success. If SpaceX can get a rocket to Mars by 2018 without failure, we will certainly see humans on Mars before the end of the next decade. The future is now folks.

-KJ

San Francisco Moves to Mandatory Rooftop Solar Panels, Sets a Goal of 100% Reliance on Renewable Energy by 2020

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The Guardian– San Francisco has this week passed landmark legislation requiring all new buildings under 10 storeys in height to be fitted with rooftop solar panels.

The city’s San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the new rule on Tuesday, making the metropolis the largest in the US to mandate solar installations on new properties.Smaller Californian cities such as Lancaster and Sebastopol already have similar laws in place, but San Francisco is the first large city to adopt the new standard.

From January 2017 all new buildings in the city with 10 floors or fewer must have either solar PV or solar thermal panels installed. The measure builds on existing Californian state law which requires all new buildings to have at least 15% of their roof space exposed to sunshine, in order to allow for future solar panel use.

Great for the city of San Francisco here, and great for the country as a whole. The city is moving towards the mandatory installation of solar thermal or PV cell solar panels on buildings with 10 floors or fewer. With a target of 100% energy from solar technology for the city by the year 2020, a hard stance on solar is a must. The city is taking these steps today by passing the landmark legislation, the first of its kind to be knowledge in the US. The State of California has always been ahead of the technology and carbon-reducing curve, but this is a major step forward and will help the movement toward a reduction on reliance of gasoline and other fossil fuels.

What sucks is that a state like California can get legislation like this passed, yet a state like New York is stuck in the fossil fuel past. It is past the time for New York to get it together on the energy front, and although they are making strong pushes in wind and solar energy systems, they are way behind California. On Long Island specifically, there exists some optimal wind patterns to develop some serious power-producing wind turbine farms, yet state legislators can not get any  bill to even be talked about without the endless assault from the “not in my backyard” crowd. It is time for Americans to take a step back and realize that an energy crisis will be upon us in our lifetime, and steps like this one in San Francisco will ensure that we remain sustainable in the long-term. With dropping pricing in the photo-voltaic industry, other states should be looking at what California is doing and follow suit.

-KJ

Mitsubishi Admits to Cheating Fuel Efficiency Testing, Who Isn’t These Days?

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The Verge– Japanese automaker Mitsubishi has admitted manipulating fuel economy data related to some 625,000 vehicles. The company announced the news at a press conference this morning, apologizing for the deception and saying it is investigating the employees involved. The manipulated data covers four vehicle models that fall under the Japanese category of kei car. This is a classification that covers minivans, trucks, and passenger cars, but is reserved for vehicles that meet economical fuel consumption standards and are consequently taxed at a lower rate.

The models affected include the eK Wagon and eK Space, manufactured and sold by Mitsubishi, and the Dayz and Dayz Roox, manufactured by Mitsubishi and supplied to Nissan for sale. According to Mitsubishi, it was Nissan’s in-house testers that discovered the discrepancy between the cars’ published fuel efficiency data, and their real-life results.

Mitsubishi today announced that they have been manipulating fuel economy data in their Japanese vehicles in a similar manner to which Volkswagen did with their vehicles back in late 2015. At this point, it should honestly surprise no one that these companies are actively faking this test data to push out cars that do not meet the stringent environmental standards set forth by the local governments. For those of you that do not know how the testing works, the companies have an agent come in and test the cars on a roller than simulates driving. What these companies like VW and Mitsubishi have done and have been presumably getting away with is that they have the car output less emissions when hooked up on these rollers. When driving on the road, the cars output more carbon emissions that are over the specified limits yet still pass the tests based on the faked results. It all boils down to a code implemented that actually changes the amount of emissions based on if the car is being tested or not. Savvy move if you ask me.

Regardless, Mitsubishi stock plummeted 15% the day after the news, and other car companies should be quick to take note. I know that most of these cars are not being sold in the US and this news should not affect most, but be weary that any company is liable for these type of emissions cheat codes. As the US government moves to increasingly stricter measures and a possible limiting of gasoline product, these companies will continue to find new ways to get their cars to the US market.  Don’t think your car manufacturer of choice is off the hook (unless you’re Ford or GM, then the government will take extra care of you to make sure this doesn’t happen).

-KJ

SunEdison Files for Chapter 11, Gamblers Rejoice (Or Cry)

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WSJ– Solar-power company SunEdison Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday, pledging to curb a debt-fueled global expansion that pushed the company’s stock to great heights before fueling its rapid collapse.

The filing caps a dramatic decline for a company that was worth nearly $10 billion last summer, when it nurtured plans to become a global clean-energy giant. SunEdison used a combination of financial engineering and cheap debt to buy up renewable-power projects around the world before the market turned sour last summer and investors soured on its business model. 

SunEdison said it would use the bankruptcy process to reduce its borrowings, which stand at more than $16 billion, including the debt of two publicly traded subsidiaries, TerraForm Power Inc. and TerraForm Global Inc. Those subsidiaries—separate entities known as yieldcos that buy operating projects from developer SunEdison and pay out cash flow to their shareholders—didn’t file for bankruptcy and said in statements that they have sufficient liquidity to continue to operate, though much of SunEdison’s value is derived from its controlling stake in them.

In a move predicted by almost everyone, SunEdison ($SUNE) filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection today in hopes of saving its bloated debt and sinking equity. For those of you that frequent high-volatile stocks, $SUNE should be almost all too familiar to you. Investors have been riding the highs and lows of this stock for much of the past four years. From a high of over $30.00 to a low of $0.30 today before the SEC halted trading, $SUNE has been an absolute clusterfuck of a stock to own.

Investors have been weary recently as $SUNE released their financial numbers to the public, showing that they have been hiding a large amount of debt that almost seemed insurmountable to sell off or mitigate. However, wall street bettors have been clamoring over both shorting and picking up stock, flipping their mind back and forth as news from the company shifted. Between 2013 and 2016, the company acquired over $18 billion in assets from various companies in an attempt to become the world’s leading solar power conglomerate. However, over the last 12 months, their stock plummeted to lose over 99% of its value. The SEC is currently looking into the company to see if SunEdison was honest with their investors in their financial assessments.

Some are arguing that once the stock returns to the market under the $SUNEQ designation, it will quickly plummet to zero dollars. Others are arguing that the company will be able to get enough outside help to cover its initial debts and get through the tough times. Personally, I am running the hell away from this stock as soon as it comes back, but only because I have been burned so badly in the past. Only time will tell.

P.S. Prince and $SUNE on the same day… I’m going to need a minute.

-KJ

 

In the Least Surprising Headline of All Time, Outrage Sparks over Snapchat’s 4/20 “Bob Marley” Feature

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CNN– Snapchat thought it had found a way to have a little fun on Wednesday, April 20, with a Bob Marley themed graphic. But the company went a little too far, according to irate users online.

To acknowledge 4/20, known as “Weed Day,” Snapchat created a special “lens” that morphed people’s faces into Bob Marley, the late reggae icon. 

The lens added dreadlocks, a crochet slouch cap, changed the shape of eyes and noses, and darkened skin color. 

People flooded Twitter with accusations that Snapchat had created a blackface filter.

For those of you unfamiliar with the latest in the Snapchat world (I would assume most of you over the age of 25, including those who only use Snapchat to follow the GanjaGirls on BarstoolSports..), Snapchat released a Bob Marley “filter” in which one could jamaica-fy their face with various Bob Marley insignia. The posts add Marley’s signature dreadlocks, a beanie hat, and a flag bearing a Bob Marley logo to one’s face. For some reason the Snapchat folks decided to add this filter on the same day as one of the biggest weed smoking holidays of the year, which caused outrage across America.

….Just kidding, everyone is upset because the app literally black-faces your face. It’s like the creators of Snapchat read that German Soccer Blackface article a few weeks ago and thought “Man, I wish there was an easier way to photoshop in blackface”. If we look on the bright side, college kids across America will no longer have to put in the hard work and time it takes to blackface themselves before a “culturally insensitive” themed party and can simply turn to their trusted Snapchat applications that have never once let them down…

The problem I have with this outrage is that it is honestly too predictable. The second I saw this filter pop up on my snapchat, I knew instantly that someone would cause a huge commotion about it. I don’t know how this didn’t pop into the heads of the people over at Snapchat headquarters before putting this out, but something tells me these Silicon Valley guys weren’t exactly in the best frame of mind at the time….(4/20 joke for all those still high out of their minds).

 

-KJ

Netherlands Set to Move Towards a Petrol and Diesel Ban by 2025

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The Guardian– Dutch politicians have voted through a motion calling on the country to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars starting in 2025.

The motion has only passed through the lower house of the Netherlands’ parliament, and would need to pass through the Dutch senate to become legally binding. But its success in a majority vote puts the earliest date yet on just when a major country might begin phasing out polluting transportation.

The leader of the PvdA, Diederik Samsom, says that the proposal would be feasible – and that the energy agreement wouldn’t conflict with it. “That agreement runs until 2023, we are free in what we do after that. We are ambitious, perhaps other parties are less so”, he said. Electric car sales in the Netherlands currently stand at just under 10%. 

Power moves from the Dutch here. We will see if this passes through Dutch Parliament, but banning all diesel and petrol is a great move for the Orange and a great move for the “Go Green” campaign. The United States is slowly catching on to the electric car craze, but countries like the Netherlands have been already moving forward for years. Although 10% of market share doesn’t seem like a lot of share, it is over ten times the US EV market share of 0.66% in 2015.

Moving forward, more and more countries will look to sever ties with the oil industry as lithium-ion batteries and solar panel technologies become cheaper to manufacturer. Combining this fact with Obama’s pledge for 1 million “advanced technology” vehicles on the road back in 2008 have rapidly developed EV technologies here in the US. Hopefully, by 2050 US can follow Netherlands into the diesel and petrol ban that will free us from many political issues in the Middle East and allow us to continue to reduce our carbon emissions. This step will evidently coincide with autonomous vehicle adoption which could reduce a US car accident death toll of over 32,000 people per year.

-KJ

Apple Set to Launch New Retina Macbooks ahead of June’s WWDC

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9 to 5 Mac– Apple has today released an update to the 12 inch Retina MacBook line, with new Skylake processors, overall better performance, and a new color: Rose Gold. The new internals have also allowed Apple to grab an extra hour of battery life out of the same sized product. The MacBook refresh keeps the same thin chassis, the same edge-to-edge keyboard and the same single USB-C port design as the original Retina MacBook, released about a year ago. The new Retina MacBook costs the same as before, starting at $1299.

The lineup means Apple now offers the MacBook in the same colors as its iOS devices, Space Grey, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. For the 13 inch MacBook Air, Apple has also made 8 GB RAM the standard spec across every configuration. More specs after the jump.

The new MacBooks include sixth-generation Intel Core M processors, with clock speeds from 1.1 GHz to 1.2 GHz. The new integrated graphics are up to 25% faster than the previous generation. The USB-C port appears identical and does not support Thunderbolt 3 as some rumors had suggested. The MacBook comes in two configurations. For $1299, you can get a Retina MacBook with a 1.1 GHz processor, 8 GB of memory and 256 GB storage. A more expensive $1599 configuration is also available with a faster processor and 512 GB of flash memory.

In a somewhat surprising move ahead of Apple’s WWDC conference announced for June 13th, Apple has today released an update to its Retina Macbook line. The computer boasts the new Skylake m7 processor that Apple has been recently touting, as well as 8GB standard RAM. This new macbook also comes with a new color addition for all of the Rose Gold fanatics of the recent iPhone 6s. At a pretty steep price-point, the cheaper $1299 model seems a bit lacking with only 1.1 GHz of processing power and 256GB of internal storage. 

Overall, the update seems kind of boring compared with the MBP upgrades that Apple fans have been waiting for. Although most people predict an upgrade for the aging Macbook Pro line in the WWDC in June, buyers still were upset to hear that the new Macbook line was updated again before the MBP refresh. Others are upset to find that this most likely means the end of the Macbook Air line. This new Retina Macbook will pack a punch for its small 12-inch frame, but only time will tell if this model will be picked up in favor of the WWDC additions.

-KJ